Sixteen years ago, when we moved back to our hometown, Berkeley, there was a flier in a local nursery for a Berkeley Garden Club meeting. The nurseryman, knowing I was a garden designer, encouraged me to go—he said I would enjoy it. He was right!
Who wouldn’t love going to a meeting in a room full of avid gardeners whose passion for plants and gardening matched my own. In our search for more knowledge, we were all drawn to meetings with excellent programs on succulents, rose pruning, pest control, fruit tree planting, vegetable growing, and as a bonus at the September meeting, a tomato tasting!
As much as I was attracted to and still love the programs, what I’ve found the most rewarding is the community of women and men I have met through the club. And even though the once-a-month general meetings (usually 45-60 members strong) are instructive and inspiring, the heart of the club is in the study groups that also meet once a month.
I started out in Floriculture study group—we shared garden books that each of us loved, we would go on field trips to local gardens and events, we would share plants that we were passionate about. But most of all I valued having a smaller group of gardeners to relate to. They have become some of my best friends and, for the most part, the people I enjoy being with the most.
I’ve really wanted to find time to meet with the Flower & Garden Photography group. You should see the amazing photographs that the members have taken. There is a range of experience in the group—from a professional photographer, to two amazing quilters and the rest with a keen eye towards composition, color, texture and a desire to capture beauty in the medium of photography.
I know nothing about Bonsai, but when I see the intricate bonsai creations that that study group grows, I know I have a lot to learn from them. Especially their patience and understanding of the aesthetics and structure of the miniature plants in this ancient practice. Best of all, the members are all willing to share their knowledge and expertise.
Since our annual plant sale is our main source of revenue, after our membership dues, propagation is essential to the lifeblood of the club. So of course, we have a Propagation study group. They are not only a source of plants for our yearly plant sale, they are always learning and experimenting with the best ways to propagate the various plants: from seed, cuttings, divisions, layering . . . . When you visit each of the participant’s gardens, you are treated with wide range of unusual plants that they have learned about and reproduced. When I’m in their gardens I always come home with a cutting or seeds of a much coveted plant. Propagators are very generous gardeners.
Herbs and Spices is another study group that meets on a monthly basis. They are totally into herbs and spices—not only growing them, but discovering their culinary uses. I remember one year they studied the Silk Road, and each month they would study and then bring a dish for their lunch that featured a specific region on the Silk Road. I would have loved to participate that year!
A new group that just formed this year is the Succulent study group. Who doesn’t love succulents! And there is so much to learn about them: sun? shade? how to propagate? what kinds of soils? what grows well in containers? how often should they be watered? What other garden plants do they do well with? Do the deer eat them? What pests and diseases are they susceptible to?
The subjects and focus of the study groups are diverse, but what they all share in common is the desire to dig deeper into the gardening/plant world. With the monthly meetings rotating in each member’s home, we have a chance to experience each member’s home and garden and bond over a shared passion.