Think Spring: Join Takoma Horticultural Club

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photo by Veronica Melendez


A hardy perennial since 1916

Takoma Horticultural Club (THC) is fast approaching its 100th anniversary and is believed to be the second oldest garden club in the nation.
 
Most of the current 120+ members of the THC are in southern Montgomery County, the bordering areas of Prince George’s County, and northwest Washington DC.

The club usually meets the third Wednesday of the month at the Takoma Community Center space near downtown Takoma Park, MD. The meetings are free and open to the public. Attendees are asked to bring a snack to share. The meeting programs consist of extremely brief business and introductions followed by a talk by an invited expert garden speaker on various subjects. Past topics have included native plants, shade gardening, and designing a rain garden.



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A fascinating history

The Takoma Horticultural Club (THC)
was patterned after the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. The first
meeting was held in the Takoma DC Public Library on March 1, 1916 and
consisted of employees of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Service
who lived in the Takoma area. Mr. D. N. Shoemaker was elected President
and the club was then named the Takoma Park Horticultural Improvement
Club. Membership was originally restricted to men. After three years
they discovered the indispensability of women and in 1919 the
Constitution was modified to admit women. This preceded by one year the
nineteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The aims of the
Club have not changed over the years, although several activities have
been curtailed, many still continue. The Club originally offered
detailed landscaping services free to members. Collective buying of
plants, seeds, bulbs, and lime was a popular service. Pruning
demonstrations were held as was a large plant exchange where members
shared surplus plants.

Flower shows had a prominent place in the
early activities of the Club as a way to stimulate the acquisition of
new varieties. The first Narcissus, Dahlia, and Rose shows were held in
1916. Tulip and Iris shows started in 1917. (An early Iris enthusiast
was B. Y. Morrison, who went on to found the National Arboretum and
develop the Glen Dale azaleas.) In 1923, the first Gladiolus Show was
staged. Peony shows began in 1925. In the fall, a combined fruit,
flower and vegetable show was held.

During World War I, the
THC concentrated on the production of vegetables. It purchased and
distributed seeds, obtained and developed garden sites, and sponsored
the Boys and Girls Garden Club, which was a forerunner of the 4-H
Clubs.

Through its collective buying, exchange sales,
information services, lectures, and demonstrations, the Takoma
Horticultural Club has influenced the planting of thousands of trees
and shrubs, and millions of bulbs and plants.

Club benefits the community

The clubs’ main methods of communication is its Yahoo group email list, which is open to anyone interested (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/takomahort/), and its newly revamped web site, www.takomahort.org.
A few years ago, the THC did away with its printed newsletter. The cost
and time savings from no longer printing and mailing the monthly
publication was considerable. The club leaders recommend that other
area garden clubs think about moving in that direction as well. The THC
still has a monthly newsletter; it is just sent via email and posted to
their web site.

THC membership is $12 per year. Membership
benefits include the aforementioned newsletter and web site, club
meetings with expert garden speakers, as well as members-only events
including a yearly Potluck Dinner and Indoor Plant Exchange in January,
twice yearly Garden Plant Exchanges in spring and fall, a Club Picnic
each summer, free garden consultations, and wholesale bulb order.

Many
local Takoma Park residents have purchased premium bulbs for their
gardens at the THC bulb booth at the Takoma Park Street Festival, which
takes place annually on the first Sunday of October. The bulb sale
booth is the club’s biggest annual fundraiser. For the last few years,
the club has used the proceeds from the bulb sale to purchase gardening
books for the City of Takoma Park, MD library and the Takoma branch
library in Washington, DC. 

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About the Author

Kathy Jentz
Kathy Jentz is editor of Washington Gardener magazine and is a long-time DC area gardening enthusiast. Washington Gardener is all about gardening where you live. She can be reached at @WDCgardener on Twitter and welcomes your local DMV gardening questions.