LAKE PLACID — The Essex County Adirondack Garden Club was founded the same year Georgia O’Keeffe painted "Calla Lilies with Red Anemone."
After 90 years of green thumbing, the Adirondack Garden Club, its name today, remains a sphere where novices and Master Gardeners can share their passion, ideas and camaraderie.
The club's mission is “to stimulate the knowledge of gardening, aid in the protection of native plants and birds, and to encourage civic planting and the conservation of our natural resources.”
The club was founded by 13 women in Essex County in 1928.
“Who really got together because they knew one another and their interests in gardening were definite as well as their interests in sharing their gardening expertise among others including the community,” said Nancy Howard, president of the club.
“It was a seasonal club at the time, and we still are. However, we are very busy throughout the year."
There are approximately 50 members and 40 active members.
An affiliate, an honorary group, is not required to fulfill regular club duties.
Generations of Howards have summered nearly 100 years at a cabin east of Keeseville on Lake Champlain.
“When I was engaged, I was introduced to Lake Champlain and this cabin,” Nancy said.
"It was love at first sight. What's not to love about coming up on a late, spring day? We spent and raised our children in other places, but we always spent either the month of August, or more recently two weeks of ours, because there are many other people sharing the cabin.”
Her husband, Norman, is a mountain climber, so trekking, tennis, swimming and sailing filled the family's days.
“No gardens involved,” she said.
“Maybe a few geraniums on the deck, but that's not why you come on vacation in my opinion back then anyway.”
A GARDENER IS BORN
When Norman retired from the travel industry and their last child was off to college, they accepted an offer in a resort partnership in the Adirondacks.
“That's when my interest in gardening and the Adirondacks particularly was stirred by a woman I met,” Nancy said.
“The resort was on Upper Saranac Lake, but I volunteered at the library in Saranac Lake and met this woman (Barbara Parnass), who was a member of the Garden Club. She had an herb garden that fascinated with me. I wanted to have representative native plants particularly at our resort.”
Parnass was working on a book for the club, a project called “River Study,” which ended up winning awards 20 years ago.
“She asked me to work on it,” Nancy said.
“The people in this Garden Club were just fabulous and interesting and interested. So, I stuck with it.”
The conservation aspects of the club attracted her.
Now, she lives in Westport, where she is reclaiming a garden closer to the familial cabin.
“We inherited a garden that has not really been tended for a number of years,” Nancy said.
“We're having a great time now. All we did last year was clip it back. It's a work-in-progress. It always looks wonderful because it was designed I think for simplicity but it certainly hasn't been because it's been mostly weeding. And I'm not a spring chicken, and my husband isn't, either, and he's so desperate for a little vegetable garden that he actually planted two tomato plants.”
Every club meeting has a theme or a speaker.
Earlier this season, club members got a primer in floral arrangement from two club members.
Last week, the club met at at the East Branch Organics in Keene.
“We were literally hearing about pruning everything,” Nancy said.
“The Coffins (Tom and Heather) at the nursery were just terrific. We set up our meeting there. We set up a tent. At all of our meetings, members are welcome to invite guests. Very often they are interested in joining, so that's fun.”
Next up, Dr. Curt Stager lectures on “Gardens: Weather or Not” on July 14 at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Lake Placid.
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
The club is a member of the Garden Club of America, which has a large conservation component.
Every year, the organization holds a National Affairs and Legislation Conservation Conference in Washington, D.C.
“Three hundred delegates strong,” Nancy said.
“Those delegates, of which I was one, every year go on a field trip somewhere in the country. We go to Washington and hear about the issues that the garden clubs feel are important — many of them water and farming issues.”
On the last day of the conference, the delegates head up "The Hill" to talk to and listen to elected officials.
“We do have a full day on the hill,” she said.
The Adirondack Garden Club hosted a field trip in 2013.
“Seventy delegates came from all over the country to learn about the Adirondacks and conservation here," Nancy said.
"Curt was one of the speakers. He does a great job, and I think he is really special in not only his research but his perspective on what can be done and what we should pay attention to including citizen science.”
Members are motivated by the club's mission and accomplishments with invasive species and the Nature Conservancy.
“In recent years we have been working on their Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program,” Nancy said.
“It's been very gratifying. Our committee even won an award at a zone meeting. New York state has 24 Garden Clubs of America, and we meet once a year. New York state is its own zone because we have so many Garden Clubs. We won a wonderful award for our exhibit. Those invasive plants, they pop right out of the garden and go where they shouldn't go. We all need to know about them because that's important.”
Email Robin Caudell:
WHAT: The Adirondack Garden Club invites the public to its meeting 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 17, at the Crowne Plaza Resort, 101 Olympic Drive, Lake Placid. Professor Curt Stager will give a lecture entitled, “Gardens: Weather or Not,” followed by a question-and-answer session and light refreshments.
Stager is the Draper-Lussi endowed chair of paleoecology and lake ecology at Paul Smith’s College as well a research associate with the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute. Copies of his books will be available for sale. Reservations are required. To obtain reservations or for further information, phone 518-359-2630.