Sunday, January 21, 2018
News Roundup

It's a new day for an old friend —Tampa Garden Club

There's so much to do this weekend! Garden writer Monica Brandies is hosting her annual Open Garden. Vicki Parsons is offering tours of her Neem Tree Farm.

And get out! The Tampa Garden Club is planning its annual Holiday Market — on a Saturday.

Thank goodness Monica and Vicki have two dates for their tours. If you can't make it to Brandon tomorrow, you've still got Nov. 10.

The Holiday Market's another story. It's a one-day event with about 30 plant and other vendors, along with club members selling baked goods and crafts at the clubhouse on Bayshore Boulevard. I'm going because, for the first time, it's not scheduled for the middle of a weekday when I'm at work.

That little change is significant: It's the first of many the Tampa Garden Club plans to get more involved in the community — and get the community more involved with the club.

"This Holiday Market is more of a friend-raiser than a fundraiser," says first vice president Kathy Lewis, part of the new generation of leadership that took office in April. "We want the public on that property. We want to be the hub of gardening activity."

Adds new second vice president Kitty Wallace:

"To move the Holiday Market to Saturday acknowledges that there are a whole bunch of people who can't come out on a Thursday because they work. It's a more modern approach."

Tampa Garden Club is mission control for 10 garden circles and their 420 members; it's part of the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs.

Created in 1928, the club has a long history of uniting garden circles to achieve incredible feats of civic good, from beautifying public spaces with trees and gardens, to environmental education, to providing college scholarships for garden-related studies.

"We're carrying on a history of traditions set by the leadership of the past," Kitty says of the club's new officers, most of whom are in their 50s. "We're just tweaking them to take the club in a new direction.

"At some point, the older generation turns the reins over to the next generation. It's how an organization stays alive."

This new direction in no way suggests that the old guard had it wrong, adds Kathy. The reason the club has thrived for 84 years is because each new generation of leaders brings with it fresh ideas.

"I'm still in awe of the women in the 1960s who built this building," she says, referring to the clubhouse and its 3 acres overlooking Hillsborough Bay. "That was huge."

So, besides a Saturday Holiday Market, what can we expect from these kids?

They want to become more relevant by becoming more hands-on and accessible to nonmembers, and they're taking their cues from member circles. Kathy and Kitty both laud Town 'N Country Circle — my 'hood! — and its 59 members, two of whom helped launch the Town 'N Country Youth Council, an award-winning community service organization for teenagers.

That circle has planted trees and gardens at Town 'N Country's new library, maintains flower-filled medians and addresses local environmental issues with meaty educational workshops. They are everywhere.

The Tampa Garden Club officers also want to get more involved with community gardens, a project close to Kitty's heart. She's the coordinator for Tampa Heights Community Garden, which celebrated its first anniversary in September.

"At the groundbreaking, we had 17 gardens" tended by families and individuals, she says. "At our one-year celebration, we had 59, and we now have a waiting list of six."

In addition to the household beds, there's one just for kids, currently full of beans, radishes, squash, broccoli and collards. Another two are tended by families of wounded soldiers, living here temporarily while their loved ones are treated at James A. Haley Veterans Hospital.

Community gardens get people of all ages out in the dirt, especially if you keep it fun, Kitty says.

"We celebrate everything. We have potlucks and special events — anything we can do to make it a good time," she says.

Other items on the club's to-do list: a long overdue survey of members to find out what they want, improvements to the clubhouse, expansion of the wedding garden.

The new board aims to promote its "member at large" option for individuals, and to give those members more benefits.

"I've had people stop me in the grocery store and say it's so hard to join," Kathy says. "We want to make it easy."

Back at the clubhouse on Bayshore Boulevard, members have been getting together for some down-to-earth, hands-on gardening, something both Kathy and Kitty love.

"We have work days with our gloves and our hoes," Kitty says. "We can talk about our begonias. These are women who care about whether your lavender is alive or dead. Not everybody cares about that!

"And sometimes, that's all I want to talk about."

In the end, isn't that what a garden club is all about?

Reach Penny Carnathan at [email protected] For more local gardening news and stories, visit her blog, www.digginfladirt.com. To join in Florida garden chat, stop by Facebook, Diggin Florida Dirt.

 
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