In today’s hyper-busy world, any volunteer group that has lasted 75 years is one to be recognized. This is especially true in the world of gardening. In 1944, the B.C. Council of Garden Clubs was formed to act as a liaison for all the garden clubs in B.C. It proved to be a great resource for sharing gardening news, ideas, fundraiser details and other related gardening events.
At that time, when there were few landline phones, no emails, no TV and no computers, connecting with others was largely carried out by mail or personal contact. Today, of course, we have many ways of keeping in touch and sharing information, but the importance of the council remains strong for over 190 garden clubs and community gardens.
I asked Gillian Davis, trustee and chairwoman of the BCCGC Scholarship Trust Fund, what role the council plays today. She assured me that they do a number of things that are very helpful to local garden clubs and associations. For example, when public events are held, there is a need for insurance. The B.C. council is the umbrella through which individual clubs can secure better rates. Also, all garden clubs like to invite speakers to visit, and the council maintains a comprehensive list of speakers who are qualified to give presentations on various topics.
One of their real success stories is the funds that the council raises for nine scholarship awards. Through their efforts almost $10,000 is raised each year to help those students who the council believes will add new skills to the horticultural industry and who will contribute to the betterment of gardening in our province.
“It certainly makes a difference in many young folks’ lives,” said Davis. “We have ongoing communication with the universities and recipient students of our grants, and we are endeavouring to connect with younger people interested in horticulture.”
A floral art division that helps train judges in individual clubs is also part of their mandate. I have spoken at some of their sessions and I can confirm that they take judging very seriously in order to maintain high standards and to ensure consistency in judging. I’ve also seen BCCGC certified judges come to individual garden clubs to judge not only floral art, but also cut and potted flowers and vegetables. I love their attitude of not focusing on what’s wrong but always on how to improve the presentation in order to achieve a higher level of quality.
One of the questions I asked Davis was concerning membership and if it was stable or in decline.
“There’s a lot of grey hair out there,” she conceded with a chuckle, “and yes, there is a decline, but we are now focusing on this issue.”
After speaking with Davis, I received a delightful call from Eric Hees, who is the second vice-president. Hees was very enthusiastic about the future of the council, and he said they are now looking at, perhaps, a new vision for the group, one that will be even more relevant not only to garden clubs and associations, but also to younger generations.
“We welcome younger folks who are involved in any aspect of gardening, but we also know we need to understand their interests and which parts of nature and the environment are important to them,” Hees said.
The council also knows that they need to work more with local authorities and districts to collaborate on green spaces and the greening of cities. Hees believes that, aided by the wealth of experience and knowledge of members in their many associated clubs, it’s possible and imperative to be relevant in today’s changing world and to be engaged with more folks in the various genres of gardening.
A few years ago I had the pleasure of speaking to the Edmonton Garden Club on their 100th anniversary, and they, too, like the council, realized the need to reach out to younger generations. They were very collaborative in working with the City of Edmonton in planning and fundraising for more green spaces and parks in the city.
It’s great to see this growing awareness and commitment among garden clubs and associations to re-evaluate and renew their purpose and aspirations.
The council has 11 members on their board, and they always welcome new members and input from individual clubs. They meet twice a year, once in spring at their annual general meeting, and again in the fall with 100-120 members attending.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had the honour of speaking at some of their meetings and I have always come away impressed by their commitment and their ability to bring so many different clubs together in a co-operative fashion.
After 75 years of volunteer service to the gardening world, this organization deserves a round of applause and a bouquet of thank-you’s.
I have no doubt they will re-vision and discover innovative ways to be more relevant as the nature of gardening changes and evolves in new directions. Check out your local garden club and get involved. Contact bcgardenclubs.com for more information.