Year-old gardening club bearing fruit

The fledgling Gardeners by the Sea gardening club has yet to celebrate its first anniversary (Sept. 9), but the membership is getting full, and the club has already signed on to help out a local charity.
Coastal Point • SAM HARVEY: Gardeners by the Sea member Mary Martinez stands beneath the shade of a grand old oak at her home in Savannah’s Landing.Coastal Point • SAM HARVEY:
Gardeners by the Sea member Mary Martinez stands beneath the shade of a grand old oak at her home in Savannah’s Landing.

Club member Pat Brennan said they’d burst out of the gates in September 2004. North Fenwick resident Lisa Arni (club president) came up with the idea, posted flyers in the post office and various places around town and reserved the conference room at the South Coastal Library for what would be the monthly meetings, Brennan explained.

And then, people started gathering at the appointed time and place. And gathering, and gathering. By the time foot traffic trickled to a halt, more than 30 gardeners had assembled at the library.

“I think everyone was shocked at how many showed up,” Brennan recalled. “It just goes to show what kind of interest there is.”

They’re an organized bunch, though, and quickly subdivided into constituent committees — hospitality, programs, ways & means, etc.

The membership would not just be lolling around the library with no direction — this gardener’s club meant business.

Affiliated with the Delaware Federation of Garden Clubs and National Garden Clubs, Inc., Gardeners by the Sea members focused on the common denominator of civic development and service at the Aug. 5 meeting.

In their first-ever charitable effort, the local gardeners have temporarily branched into crafts, for the benefit of Delaware Hospice.

Delaware Hospice holds its biggest annual fundraising event every year in early December — the 2005 Festival of Trees. This will be the 18th year for the event, and Gardeners by the Sea will do their part by dressing up a Christmas tree for auction.

Arni took a straw poll on which decorations club members liked best, and how many of each they should start crafting. She recognized everyone who’d brought materials, and gardeners around the table started right in, painting and sewing and gluing.

As Arni pointed out, funds from the group’s (internal) fundraiser would purchase any additional materials they might need to complete their ornament list.

(Gardeners by the Sea sold tickets to ride along to the Philadelphia Flower Show in March, and Brennan said they’d filled the bus.)

Actually, this will be the fledgling group’s third civic outreach. Gardeners by the Sea also delivered potted plants (Wax Begonias) to seniors at the Pyle Center in Roxana, this early summer — and funded a scholarship for an Indian River graduate going on to study natural resources at the University of Delaware.

Brennan said they hoped to continue that academic support, and their work with seniors, on a year-to-year basis. In other activities, she noted inspirational work on the part of the program committee. Over the past year, committee members have arranged for visiting lecturers (well, club members in some cases) on such varied topics as (1) orchids, (2) hydrangeas, (3) topiary, (4) growing and preserving herbs and (5) crape myrtle.

For the coming year, she said they’d already booked for (1) roses, (2) container gardening, (3) hydrangeas again — specifically, propagation, this time and (4) water gardening.

Membership has continued to grow, and covers a broad area — ranging as far north and west as Rehoboth Beach and Georgetown, down to Selbyville and Fenwick Island.

Brennan said they had planned from the beginning to max out at 45 people, and were approaching that. While the space at the library could accommodate that many, there were very few other places that could, she said (at least, very few rent-free places).

“Keeping it at 45 keeps it nice and comfortable, and allows every person to become involved on a committee,” Brennan added.

Arni said they were still looking for a few gardeners to round out the group, and that it would be nice to fill the roster and start settling into their projects.

And when Gardeners by the Sea fills up, Brennan said they’d be more than happy to help other people start their own clubs. She remarked again at how much response Arni’s initial flyers had generated — as someone new to the area, Brennan said the club had been a great place for her to meet people with a common interest.

“I think all of us have made great friends,” she said. And their gardening is coming along nicely, too, although Brennan said her home in Ocean View (Briarcliffe) still had a way to go. “It used to be a chicken farm, so was completely flat, no trees,” she pointed out.

Her flower and herb gardens are underway, though, and she reflected on the simple pleasure of stepping out back to pinch a bunch of basil for some homemade pesto.

For her part, Arni said she’d taken a special interest in transforming the phragmites around her house, replacing the nuisance reed with flowers, trees — and a view of the Little Assawoman Bay.

Other club members had transformed wetlands on their property as well. Master Gardener Mary Martinez pointed out the woodland path back to a creek behind “Shangri-La,” the Martinez’s home in Savannah’s Landing (Ocean View), where a quiet patio overlooked shade-tolerant varieties amid the holly trees.

Bev Shubert, right around the corner, pointed out the annuals and perennials — and seven windowboxes — around her Savannah’s Landing home.

In front she noted coneflowers, verbena and impatiens, around the shady side of the house Japanese iris and hostas, and along the back, a hedgerow of acuba. She said she’d received it as a gift, five years ago — a bouquet that put out roots.

Shubert said she’d taken a landscaping course some years prior, and when she and her husband moved to Ocean View, she got out her notes. Together, they created a plan, with different areas blooming at different times — “A steady progression all year round,” she pointed out.

Shubert said she was a relative newcomer to Gardeners by the Sea, having joined in April, but she’d been enjoying herself so far. “I knew several people who were already members, and I’m meeting more all the time,” she said. “It’s a very interesting group.”

Arni noted the upcoming milestone with some satisfaction. “I think we’ve accomplished a lot, for being around less than a year,” she said. “I think the area needed this.”

They did still have a few memberships, Arni reminded, and advised anyone interested in learning more about Gardeners by the Sea to call 537-6238 for more information.