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Brashinger: Green thumb not required to join a garden club

Updated: April 25, 2013 6:17AM



If you have the perception that garden clubs are social tea times for ladies in hats and gloves who sit and watch their roses and delphiniums grow in large backyard gardens, be prepared to change your mind.

The Lincoln-Way area garden clubs are reaching out to residents with any level of interest in gardening to join them, especially at this time of year when thoughts turn to spending time outdoors.

Not only are the clubs definitely not for ladies only — many men are involved as active members — but members of all ages and levels of interest and/or expertise are welcomed and appreciated.

“We have so many different gardeners,” said Linda Malmborg, a member and publicity committee co-chair of the Mokena Garden Club. “We have master gardeners, and we have people who just want to play in the dirt. That’s what I love about it.”

Malmborg said a gardener doesn’t need “tons of acreage” or a hefty budget any more than they need gardening expertise. Club members can work on community projects at Yunker Farm or the village library, for example, and fulfill the need to plant and nurture — and they can do it among friends.

“We have always been a more intimate group of gardeners who share a love of not only our gardens but all things in nature,” Malmborg said.

Renee Crowley, of New Lenox, agrees with Malmborg that the relationships formed are as important as a love of gardening. Crowley, who has been president of the Frankfort Area Garden Club for 15 years, has enjoyed her membership from the beginning.

“I’ll probably be there for life,” she said of the club.

Crowley said she initially joined because she thought it would be a less expensive way to get information about gardening than taking college courses, but she has stayed, in large part, because she “found out how much fun it is.”

“Gardeners are nurturers,” she said, a great group with whom to spend your time.

Crowley, a tropical plant technician in Chicago for 18 years before moving to the suburbs, agrees that gardening does not require a lot of space. She said she can help gardeners with very little space to become happy club members, too.

“I actually gardened in the city in containers for years,” Crowley said. “You can jam a lot in a small area.”

She said the Frankfort club’s presentations address many different and interesting aspects of gardening. For example, upcoming meetings include a speaker from Homer Tree Service discussing the merits of treating ash trees affected by the emerald ash borer, a plant exchange, information on invasive plants and the club’s annual summer picnic.

Members of the Joliet Area Garden Club, formed in 2001, also believe in variety for their club members. Ginna and Ron Jones, of Joliet, among the founders of the club, joined because they have a “beautiful garden,” Ginna said, but she knows not every member has the same reason for joining.

She believes that her sister, Linda Deiss, is the poster girl for anyone who’s thinking about joining the club but has no gardening interest or experience.

“She doesn’t know a petunia from a Pontiac,” Jones said.

Nevertheless, at her sister’s urging, Deiss attended a meeting to give a donation and became a member. For the past two years, Deiss has been president of the club.

The goal of the club is to have presentations that cover “all aspects of gardening at the homeowner level,” according to its website. A secondary goal is to offer everyone a pleasant social experience, Jones said.

She said meeting presentations may be discussions by master gardeners, flower photos of someone’s vacation travels or hands-on activities.

Those who enjoy the social aspect of the club can participate in occasional day trips by bus to areas of interest to gardeners, ice cream socials, a Christmas program and “the most amazing food” at all of the events, Jones said.

“People who couldn’t get on their hands and knees if their life was in danger are members because they just love watching and learning,” Jones said. “There’s something for everybody.”

For more information about the Mokena Garden Club, visit Mokena Garden Club at www.yahoogroup.com or call the public library at (708) 479-9663.

To learn more about the Frankfort Area Garden Club, visit www.frankfortgardenclub.com or call the Founders Community Center at (815) 469-9400.

For the Joliet Area Garden Club, visit www.jolietgardenclub.com or call the Joliet Park District at (815) 741-7275.



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