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Gardening, Garden Clubs and May Flowers

Monday 09 April 2018 at 4:44 pm.

This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for May 3, 2018, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

            These splendid days of springtime are my favorite time of year, with Vacek’s Hardware getting in huge supplies of beautiful plants, and members of the Wharton Garden Club getting ready for their May 5 plant sale. Ordinary people suddenly become avid horticulturists. As the old adage says, “April showers bring May flowers.” And May flowers bring much joy to many people.

            The Wharton Garden Club is not solely made up of members from the flagship city of Wharton County, but consists of East Bernard residents also, including the newly elected Club President for the next term, Peggy Spitzenberger, and Master Gardener, Patti Daniel. Many folks have the mistaken notion that Garden Clubs are vaporous organizations for bored, retired ladies, but this is far from the truth. Recently, the Wharton Garden Club presented the City of East Bernard with a check for $1,000, to be used for the Butterfly Garden at the City Park. They also gave checks this past week to both the East Bernard and Wharton branches of the County Library, to be used for their summer reading programs. Such clubs throughout the country are involved in community action and are not frivolous.

            The Wharton Garden Club Plant Sale, to be held this Saturday, May 5, from 10 a.m. until 12 Noon, will be selling plants outside the Wharton County Library, 1920 North Fulton, Wharton. These are healthy plants, member-grown, at very affordable prices. Adding excitement to the sale is a potting table raffle. You can conclude from my previous comments about the Club’s gifts to worthwhile causes, that the money they earn will be used wisely.

            Back in Dime Box, in the 1930’s and 1940’s, everybody had vegetable gardens and flower gardens, but there was no formal club, though my mother and her friends would share cuttings and seedlings with one another. While Dime Box had no formal organization in those days, the first garden club in America was founded in January of 1891 by the Ladies Garden Club of Athens, Georgia. In 1929, a national garden club was founded, which, today, has 165,000 members. Other countries, such as Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, etc., have garden clubs, too.

            I don’t know about those organizations in other countries, but in the United States, historically they were women’s organizations. If any of you, like me, have followed the doings of Crankshaft in the comic strip, Crankshaft, you know that this cantankerous, retired old man, who drives a school bus and backs into mailboxes, also is a member of the local garden club. Many humorous situations arise out of the fact that he is the only male member of an otherwise, all-female group. Not only that, but he is decidedly unrefined and appears like a bull in a China closet; however, in spite of his crude behavior, he always has something worthwhile to teach the ladies about gardening.

            In the years before World War II, there were a lot more folks living a rural lifestyle in rural America than there are today. Growing gardens and raising chickens and cows were widespread, but the post-World War era changed that. Now, in the 21st Century, we are seeing a return to the old ways. Grit Magazine, which in the 30’s and 40’s was read mostly by folks living on farms and in small, rural towns, today has become very popular with a younger generation of urban dwellers who are moving out to the country and attempting to grow their own produce and raise animals for fresh milk and eggs. Many of them are learning horticulture, and Grit has much to teach them.

            There are male members of the Wharton Garden Club who are very knowledgeable about horticulture and are avid gardeners, so I guess Crankshaft paved the way for male membership. My father and mother worked together in both their vegetable and flower gardens, my father enjoying it as much as my mother. You see, it’s not just a “woman thing,” so, here at the beginning of May, whether male or female, grab your hoe and a bag of manure, and plant those plants. And be sure to buy some from the Wharton Garden Club.

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Ray Spitzenberger is a free-lance writer and artist who lives in East Bernard with his beautiful wife Peggy and spoiled cat Gatsby.

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