“Ugliness is so grim. A little beauty, something that is lovely, I think, can help create harmony which will lesson tensions.” Lady Bird Johnson.
Growing up in Kennett in the 60s,and having a mother who was a member of the Seedlings Garden Club probably said more about my tribe than what Church or Synagogue we went to or even our politics. Kennett Square was a town around 3,000 souls with Longwood Gardens as a resource. It had four Garden Clubs; Four Seasons, Spade and Trowel, Seedlings and Unionville.This must have made us the Garden Club Capital of the World
Today, Chester and Delaware County is District 1 of 11 districts in the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania. There are 10clubs in our district. The Seedlings and Unionville have gone fallow, probably due to the change in demographics with a lot fewer stay- at-home moms and dads, but gardens and clubs are still a big part of Kennett.
I remember my mother planting flowers as a member of the Seedlings garden club in downtown Kennett and now my wife, Jane, is doing it as part of Spade and Trowel (S&T) along with the other 34 members of her club. This last week Jane was working on the Waywood Beverage Garden that you see coming into town and then she was going out to the Barnes Brinton House on Route 1 north of town to weed the irHerb Garden.
I interviewed Sue Soraruf who had been president of the S&Tclub and then became Director of District I for the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania. Sue has been a member of her club for 40 years and talked my wife into joining as Jane had been bitten by the orchid bug from the annual orchid extravaganzas at Longwood.
Sue says she gets great satisfaction from studying, doing and sharing all things “garden.”I asked her what the focus of the club is and she said almost half is about projects and programs to bring beauty to the community, another 35% is education as they bring in lecturers to the meetings. The last 10 to 15% is social; it is just nice to get out and share your love of gardens, plants and living things. The website address for the club is:https://www.spadeandtrowelgardenclub.com
S&Twas founded in 1939 and I talked to their President, Debbie Ferrell, about what else they are doing. It includes providing over 100 arrangements during the holidays for Heartland Hospice Services. They introduce the kids at the YMCA Montessori School and Head Start to gardening and support the Beautification Committee of Kennett. This year they gave away 150 native dogwoods. They used to send arrangements to Pocopson Home. They are getting back into face to face meetings after a year of Zoom.
I help at After the Bell (ATB), the after-school program at the Kennett Middle School that keeps the kids learning between the time that school is out and their parents come home from work. The Four Seasons Garden club teaches flower arranging for ATB. The teacher this spring, Dorothy Siegfried who also has her own flower business (Flowers from the Heart), talked about the programs her club is resourcing. On top of introducing gardening to young people with ATB they support Kennett Beautification.
Beth Miller, President of the Club, has a contagious enthusiasm for horticulture. She sees the club as focused on service to the community. They maintain the garden in the traffic island in front of the Country Butcher and Beth talked about their work on the flower garden for the Food Cupboard and theirpollination garden in Anson Nixon Park. During the year, the club had a workshop on “Salad Bowl Container Gardens”, presentations on how to photograph your flowers, and the Dahlia Society.
In early Maythe garden clubs and Pratt’s Nursery had the annual fund raiser for the Kennett Beautification committee. The members of the clubs were asked to bring plants from their gardens to sell and Pratt’s Nursery added 20% of the revenues from the weekend’s sales. It takes a village.
I reached out to Marge Grant of the Seedlings Club and asked her about the old club. She and Diane Cannon are the last of the Mohicans as their club is winding down. Marge said she wasn’t really into women’s clubs, but it was just a lot of fun to be a Member of Seedlings. She enjoyed working on the Kennett Beautification Committee and all the flower shows and learning about every kind of plant. Another club from District 1 folded during the pandemic and I wish someone would pick up the baton and continue where the Seedlings have left off. Most women today have a family and career to attend to so you really have to love gardening to make room for it with all the pressures in our lives.
Kennett is still well served, with two great clubs and Longwood. I asked what should we do and they said; Get out and garden. Enjoy the plants, flowers and outdoors.