Learn tips, share stories, build friendships at local garden clubs
Plenty of gardeners like to get together with others who share their passion so they can learn from programs, perhaps give away some of their bounty and, of course, socialize and snack. Now that the new year has arrived — and springtime is on the way — gardeners might be considering joining one of many clubs in the area with people who have a similar fondness for growing plants and other aspects of gardening.
In Central Texas, many clubs for zealous gardeners cater to a range of interests — from those who adore growing roses or begonias, to folks who are especially keen on gardening organically. Other groups are comprised of garden-lovers who simply live in the same vicinity.
About 30 groups, primarily garden clubs, gather regularly at the Austin Area Garden Center at Zilker Botanical Garden. In addition to the Austin Herb Society, clubs listed on zilkergarden.org include the Iris Society of Austin, the Austin Daylily Society, the Garden Club of Austin, Austin Organic Gardeners and more. Some groups have plant swaps, plant shows and plant sales, too. As well, groups might have membership fees.
On a recent Tuesday morning, members of the Austin Herb Society milled around, filling their plates to sample eats before the meeting began. Then they sat intently, taking notes and raising hands for questions during a presentation on immunity boosters and herbal products given by Autumn Schulze, co-president of the society. Afterward, folks lined up to taste items such as ginger honey.
Part of the club’s mission is to “provide education and encourage the cultivation and use of herbs for their beneficial purposes: medicinal, culinary, aromatic, as well as landscaping,” according to austinherbsociety.org.
The society has about 95 members, who are mostly women. At the latest meeting, in addition to Austinites, some members drove in from Dripping Springs, Pflugerville, San Marcos and elsewhere.
“I think we’ve got a good group as far as vitality,” said Aline Guillot, 71 — a member for at least 10 years who enjoys growing herbs. “I’ve got dill right now, tarragon, and always oregano because I can’t kill it,” she said.
Future programs include Phytonutrient Gardening and 24 Unusual Herbs for Austin, according to a club brochure. Norise Jastillana, 62 — who attends with her mother — said the topics usually vary from growing herbs to cooking with herbs, as well as history and folklore of herbs, among others.
Beyond the meetings, members also volunteer regularly to maintain the Zilker Herb Garden; they “prune, plant, weed, water” and more, said Jastillana. The society also has periodic field trips for garden tours and elsewhere. As well, the society has a culinary group and an herbal product group that have separate meetings.
Annette Seppanen, a member for about nine years, said she appreciates “such a wealth of information” that the group offers.
Meghan Shoop, 25, was attending her first meeting. Shoop works at a restaurant and takes care of the herb garden there, she said. “I’ve always worked in the restaurant industry, and I really enjoy the edible part of gardening.” She loves to cook with herbs.
A member since about 2007, Jastillana said she’s always had an interest in herbs. “I read something in the paper, and I came (to a meeting).” Overall, she has found that “we are a friendly group. We always try to make new people feel welcome.”
Another group, the Austin Organic Gardeners, has more than 100 members, president Mary Kraemer estimated. “We’re a big club,” she said. “Everybody is passionate” about organic gardening.
However, the number of members who attend meetings varies. “We fill the room sometimes,” she said.
Some visitors, she said, are curious about organic gardening and want to find out: “What do I do and how do I do it?”
The meetings have speakers and also can include some “freebies,” she said, from participants who might bring vegetables from their gardens, seedlings or more to share.
This is the group’s 75th year.
Many other garden clubs are in the Austin area and beyond. The Lago Vista Garden Club has about 60 members who convene monthly from September through May for a program, as well as snacks and a door prize, said club president Sue Weatherly.
Program speakers cover a variety of topics, such as bulbs and native and adapted plants for bees, she said.
The group is made up primarily older women, with a few men, but “we welcome anybody,” she said. “I invite everybody I see. It’s fun.”
Statewide, Texas Garden Clubs, headquartered in Fort Worth, is a nonprofit organization for “promoting the love of gardening across the state of Texas,” according to its website at texasgardenclubs.org. Along with its educational programs, the organization can assist people who would like to start a club, and more. The website also helps gardeners locate clubs they might like to join.
About 240 garden clubs and their members around the state belong to the Texas Garden Clubs, said Peggy Moreland, president of the organization.
“We do get new members,” she said. “People like to be in groups where they have similar likes.”
Garden clubs are popular, she said, because they help people “get educated on how to do it and do a better job. … and share your knowledge.”
And, she added, “People enjoy the friendships they make.”