GARDENING GODDESS: The first century

IMAGE: The Takoma Horticultural Club’s Centennial Committee gathers at the end of the celebration party. Front row: Nancy Newton, Carole Galati, Taffy Turner. Back row: Diane Svenonius, Jeffrey Trunzo, Wendy Bell, Kit Gage, Katherine Lambert, Kathy Jentz, Eileen Schramm, Mary Lane Renninger. Photo by Jim Turner.

GARDENING GODDESS • BY KATHY JENTZ

Takoma Horticultural Club was founded in 1916 and is one of the oldest continuously operating garden clubs in the United States. I have been on the club’s board in some capacity for about 15 years and served as president for two of them. This year, I took on the duties of spearheading our Centennial Committee. At first, we planned small—a reception for leaders and a perennial planting somewhere in the town, but as talented and energetic volunteers came forward, plans expanded.

The small reception grew into a big party open to all. We decided to use the occasion to raise funds for various projects and solicited member donations. We have just secured a $1,000 grant from the Takoma Foundation for a Centennial Park at the corner of Piney Branch and Sligo Avenues and, we researched the history of the club. In that research, we found out extraordinary things! Among our past club leaders were men and women of significance in local and international horticulture.

The first woman to serve as president of the club was Margaret Caldwell Lancaster, a garden planner and landscaper who was a vigorous and effective part of the larger Garden Club movement which appeared early in the 20th Century.

Dr. William Stuart (1865 – 1951), a founding member of THC, was also known as “the Potato King,” for his role in advancing the potato industry.

Wilbur H. Youngman (1896 – 1986), perhaps best known as the author of the Washington Star garden books, was also an early member of THC, joining in 1928, shortly after he moved to the DC area to work for the USDA as a seed specialist.

Winn T. Simmons joined THC shortly after its founding, served as its third president, and later held every other club office. Mr. Simmons was also an iris hybridizer, registering four varieties of tall bearded iris. His home on Aspen St., NW, was the site of one of the area’s earliest small-scale nurseries, specializing in irises.

Tenth president of the club, Benjamin Y. Morrison (1891–1966), was a pioneer in horticulture and the first director of the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC. A scientist, landscape architect, plant explorer, author, and lecturer, Morrison is known for his development of the Glen Dale Azaleas.

Many of his hybrid azaleas can be found across the community, thus Takoma Park’s reputation as “Azalea City.”

I am proud to be in such company and to continue the legacy of this club and hope you too find a local garden club to join and support.

Learn more about the club at TakomaHort.org and at our upcoming events:

THC History Panel Discussion

Wednesday, September 21, 7:30 – 9: p.m., Historic Takoma, 7328 Carroll Ave, Takoma Park MD 20912

The Centennial Party may be over, but we’ll keep on celebrating the pastimes and gardening exploits of the founders and members of the Takoma Horticultural Club.

Please join Nancy Newton and former THC Presidents in a dialogue about the past and the future of the THC. Learn more about the changing face of THC as it maintained its original mission… add your own memories… and best of all, offer your ideas about what the next decade should bring. Free and open to the public.

Bulb Sale

Sunday, October 2, 10 a.m – 5 p.m. at the Takoma Street Festival on Carroll Avenue in Takoma Park. Open to all, but members get a 10% discount on beautiful imported bulbs of many kinds and colors, so check your dues status with Carole Galati.

Doug Tallamy, noted author and ecologist on “Bringing Nature Home to Takoma Park”

Saturday, October 15 at 4 p.m .at the Takoma Park Community Center. Dr. Tallamy is professor and chair of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware, and his book Bringing Nature Home has become an important guide for helping citizens take action to strengthen biodiversity in their own yards and communities. Copies of Dr. Tallamy’s book will be available for sale and signing after his talk. This event is being co-sponsored by the City of Takoma Park and members of Natural Takoma, a collaborative effort including the Friends of Sligo Creek, Historic Takoma, the Takoma Horticultural Club and the Takoma Park Tree Commission. This event is free and open to the public.

Fall Plant Exchange

Sunday, October 16 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Heffner Park, on Oswego Avenue. For Members Only!

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.

1 Comment on "GARDENING GODDESS: The first century"

  1. Very interesting article — I’m inspired to join the Hort Club!
    But please note that the website may be found at http://www.TakomaHort.org, not “.com”

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