Get the Dirt on Garden Clubs

By Bethany Browning

For many people the act of gardening is a solo occupation. Time spent digging around in the backyard is a time not only for individual expression in plant form, but also for reflection, quiet time, inspiration… Often, weeding the garden is tantamount to weeding out the mind. Those Sunday afternoons poring over the Sunset Western Garden Book are the time we set aside for learning and improvement, and the nice folks at our local nursery are our main resource for questions.

Solo gardening has its benefits. But garden clubs all over Sonoma County are quietly gaining members as go-it-alone gardeners come out of their backyards to participate in the community gardens, public demonstration meetings and volunteer opportunities our local garden clubs offer.

Most of my experience has been with the Windsor Garden Club, and, as a beginner, I can vouch for their effectiveness at building community, providing an invaluable resource for the continually confused or providing advanced learning for even the most skilled among us. In fact, the Windsor Garden Club is being closely watched by other garden clubs in the state for its innovative use of technology for building a following, not to mention their visible, active, enthusiastic presence throughout the Windsor Township.

I sat down with Windsor Garden Club President Mary Mariani for a casual chat about the benefit of garden clubs in our community and was delighted to learn even more about how we can all collaborate for the betterment of our backyards and the community.

Launched in 2009, the Windsor Garden Club was a grassroots organization in the truest sense of the word. “It was a small group of people interested in sharing the joy of gardening,” Mariani explained. “None of us had any experience with garden clubs, none of us had been a president of a garden club. We just wanted to serve as a resource and example to people to help them learn to garden.”

Once the bylaws were established and this small group of gregarious gardeners agreed on their mission, their efforts really took root. They were granted a space in front of the Windsor Civic Center for a bee- and hummingbird-habitat garden that flourishes under their volunteer care. They hold twice-yearly plant sales to raise money for the club and for their scholarship program that benefits Windsor High School students seeking careers in horticulture, gardening, conservation or agriculture. The Windsor Garden Club also oversaw the planting of hundreds of daffodils that signal the start of spring when their happy blossoms blanket the Town Green. They even released a cookbook filled with fresh, seasonal fare called “Delicious.”

But probably their most impressive accomplishment is the installation and oversight of Windsor’s Community Garden, a thriving, 72-bed garden that brings together gardeners of all skill levels and interests in one central location.

“Members of the Windsor Garden Club are always in the garden and available to help anyone who has questions,” said Mariani. “We’re there to help you know when to plant, what to plant, and – just as importantly – when to tear out your plants for the overall health of the garden.”

Garden clubs throughout the county certainly provide a deep and knowledgeable resource for anyone who wonders about weeding or is perplexed about pruning. And all of this information can be had for a price that won’t bust your budget. In fact, membership in the Windsor Garden Club is a scant $15 per year, and offers members access to free demonstrations, discounted or free admission to several gardens around the state, and trips with like-minded gardeners to events all over the Bay Area.

“We plan visits to the Russian River Rose Company, and the Flower Show in San Mateo every year,” she said. “These trips are free. We just all set a time, meet up and drive down together. We keep it easy. Also, we host monthly demonstration meetings that cover everything from flower arranging to container gardens and more. These are free and open to the public, and we raffle off the demonstration piece at the end.”

“This is the first garden club I’ve been a member of, and we estimate that we have volunteered over 3400 hours over the past year,” she continued. “I encourage people to join their local club to meet some great people, learn about gardening and help other people and the community beautify their spaces.”

Sonoma County’s great garden clubs provide a simple, easy way for people with and interest in gardening (with our without a green thumb) to gather together and get better. Check out your local club today to learn more about how you can grow fabulous flowers and vibrant veggies all year ’round.

Garden Clubs & Groups 

California Native Plant Society
Milo Baker Chapter meets at the
Luther Burbank Art and Garden Center
2050 Yulupa Ave., Santa Rosa
www.milobaker.cnps.org
Check website for meeting times. 

Daily Acts
PO Box 293, Petaluma
707-789-9664
www.dailyacts.org
Our mission is to transform our communities through inspired actions and education which builds leadership and local self-reliance. Check website for complete listing of community projects and opportunities to volunteer. Classes include greywater, rainwater catchment, and lawn to food transformations. 

DIGS (Digging In Gardens in Sonoma)
Garden club made up of master gardeners and garden enthusiasts. We get together for fellowship and to further our own knowledge of gardening.  We meet the first Thursday of each month at 7pm at Garden Valley Ranch in Petaluma. For further information contact Jilda Hellinga 415-686-0886 or email JildaJayne@hotmail.com.   

Green Thumb Garden Club
President: Genie Mills, Cloverdale
genismills@comcast.net

Healdsburg Garden Club
Healdsburggardenclub.org
The Healdsburg Garden Club is a volunteer organization that meets on the 3rd Monday of each month, September thru June, at the Villa Chanticleer Annex, 1248 N. Fitch Mountain Rd. Check website for details and events. Spring Plant Sale May 4th – see Plant Sales section for details.

Men’s Garden Club of Santa Rosa
President: Chet Wilson, Santa Rosa, CA
chet36@comcast.net

Petaluma Garden Club
Meets at the Petaluma Veterans Memorial Building 2nd Mondays September through June at 10 am. Potluck lunch served. Business meeting followed by speakers on various garden topics. Call Diana for more info 707-762-2845

Santa Rosa Flower Arrangers Guild
Co-President: Susan Coolidge, Petaluma, CA
susancoolidge07@gmaile.com
Co-President: Carol Mayo, Petaluma, CA
cmayoangelsnsg@sbglobal.com

Santa Rosa Garden Club
707.537.6885 or email gardenclubevents@yahoo.com
“The purpose of the Santa Rosa Garden Club is to stimulate the knowledge and love of gardening, horticulture and floriculture among the membership and general public and to promote and participate in the restoration, improvement, and protection of the environment through programs and actions in civic improvement and conservation.”

Sonoma County Herb Association
(707) 824-1447
Email: herbexch@sonic.net
www.sonomaherbs.org
“We are an eclectic group of herbalists: herb growers, medicine makers, educators, practitioners, gardeners and students. Our membership is concentrated in Sonoma County, but includes herbalists throughout Northern California and beyond.” Website details all activities and resources provided by this group or send email to be put on email list. 

Sonoma County Master Gardeners
133 Aviation Blvd, Ste 109
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
707-565-2608
M-F 8-11 and 1-4 Except Holidays
www.sonomamastergardeners.org
Classes held by Master Gardeners. Please visit our web site for information and schedules. ALSO: see the Gazette monthly Gardeners Calendar where our classes are listed.

Sonoma County Master Gardener Program
Master Gardeners are volunteers trained and certified by the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) in the fields of gardening and horticulture.  Since 1981, they have been providing information and technical assistance to gardeners in Sonoma County. There are approximately 250 Master Gardeners in Sonoma County. The purpose of the Master Gardener program is to provide research-based, scientifically accurate information about horticulture and pest management, so that the home gardener can make informed choices. Some of the projects include:
Information Desks:  Master Gardeners staff desks at their Santa Rosa and Sonoma offices to answer phone calls and personally help clients with gardening questions.
Library Workshops: In cooperation with the Sonoma County Regional Libraries, Master Gardeners lead a series of workshops on subjects of special interest to the home gardener.
Farmers Markets, Fairs and Exhibits:  Master Gardeners set up information booths at weekly Farmers’ Markets throughout the County. They answer question, identify plants and pest problems and hand out UC-developed leaflets on a range of topics.
Other projects include: Sudden Oak Death Specialist  (SOD); Composting Program/Pesticide Use Reduction Education (PURE) Program; Speakers’ Bureau; Community Gardens and Other Projects; Food Gardening Specialists; Sonoma County Master Gardener website: www.sonomamastergardeners.org. 

School Garden Network of Sonoma County
PO Box 6274, Santa Rosa
(707) 874-1557 x301
Email: info@schoolgardens.org
www.schoolgardens.org
“We are a collaboration of garden coordinators, classroom teachers, parent volunteers and community partners dedicated to the creation and support of sustainable garden and nutrition-based learning programs for students in Sonoma County. The School Garden Network (SGN) provides students with opportunities to establish a life-long dedication to the environment and their communities, to develop a healthy understanding of nutrition, and to further their academic achievement through hands-on learning.” 

Valley of the Moon Garden Club
842 Towne St., SonomaEmail: georgepaul05@yahoo.com
Phone: 707.935.5939
An enthusiastic mix of gardeners in the Sonoma Valley who meet first Thursday of each month to share knowledge and learn more about plants and gardening from featured speakers on a wide variety of gardening topics; also plant and maintain public gardens. Membership is open to anyone with an interest in gardening. Dues are currently $15 per year. Volunteers Needed, Classes, Master Gardener Program Publishes a newsletter with club news and gardening tips. Annual picnic in summer and dinner in winter 

West County Community Seed Bank
www.westcountyseedbank.blogspot.com
Check website for meeting times and classes.
The Community Seed bank is a network of seed savers creating a repository of free, locally grown, open pollinated, organic, non GMO seed. We meet monthly to share seed saving techniques, swap plants and seeds, and exchange ideas and information. Everything is offered for free, everyone is invited. 

Western Hills Garden
16250 Coleman Valley Road
, Occidental (1.3 miles from the corner of 
Bohemian Highway and Coleman Valley Road)
www.westernhillsgarden.com
Open for tours Saturdays 10am to 4pm And by appointment: (707) 872-5463 or Stacie@westernhillsgarden.com
Three acres of beautiful gardens.  Visit website for complete information on tours, membership, and volunteering. A limited selection of plants are available for purchase.

Windsor Garden Club
PO Box 892, Windsor
www.windsorgardenclub.org  
The Windsor Garden Club manages the Town Green Community Garden. Check website for details.

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