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A club for plant, flower eccentrics

Columbia Garden Club seeks new members to join


by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Gary Law shows off his dahlias at the Columbian Garden Club meeting in Corbett.Black satin, Sugar cane, Wicky woo, Thomas Edison, French doll.

If plant names excite you or you feel at home among plants and plant people, a garden club in Corbett is looking for new members.

Established in 1946, the Columbian Garden Club meets at 10 a.m. the second Wednesday of every month at the Corbett Fire Hall to share plant knowledge and plan beautification projects.

The club held its first meeting in September with 14 members in attendance.

Garden Club President Gary W. Simone said membership is down from years past. Drawing a mostly retired crowd, many former members can no longer make it to the meetings due to old age.

Simone is hoping to bring in new members, young whippersnappers especially.

“The smaller our rank and file becomes, the more we have to do,” he said.

It costs $6 to join for the year.

Garden club history

The first garden clubs in the United States were formed by women in the 19th and early 20th century. In 1913 a national federation of garden clubs was established, and by the 1930s, garden clubs had taken root in many communities throughout the country.

Their purpose was not only to improve members' private gardens, but to beautify their industrialized surroundings by planting trees and maintaining flower beds along streets and other public spaces. Clubs later began sponsoring flower shows and plant sales, and networking on a state and national level.

In 1946, a group of women started a garden club in Corbett.

“It was more of a social club,” said Adrienne Clausen, membership chair of the Columbian Garden Club. Ladies who liked plants and flowers got together for tea and to talk about them, she said.

Back then, “It was very fashionable for ladies to belong to a garden club,” Clausen said.

Today, the Columbian Garden Club isn't just a bunch of ladies wearing prissy hats and sitting around with their pinkie fingers stuck in the air.

Members, not just from Corbett, are dedicated to the garden club's mission: to teach its members and the public about gardening, landscaping, and horticulture; to promote conservation of the environment and beautification of its communities.

Flower power

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - A Garden Club member brings flowers from her garden to share.Club members put on two annual fundraisers-- a holiday wreath sale and spring plant sale. Many of the plants come from members' own gardens and greenhouses.

The garden club also does landscaping for Corbett schools, the historic Springdale school as well as the Corbett post office and the Multnomah Falls Blue Star memorial highway marker.

The non-profit organization also donates to programs including 4-H, Head Start, Corbett Fire Hall, Vista House, the Oregon Garden and national cemeteries.

Corbett resident Gary Law, who owns the dahlia shop in Springdale along the Historic Columbia River Highway and brought a bouquet in to share, said he joined the garden club for its health benefits.

“Volunteering is good for the health,” said Law, already known around Corbett for his numerous volunteer efforts.

His wife Bev Law is also a garden club member.

The two recall celebrating the millennium by giving 2,000 daffodil bulbs to each student at Corbett grade school to plant in the school's front yard.

“Two thousand daffodils bloomed,” said Bev Law, “It was beautiful.”

Doctor of Horticulture

Columbian Garden Club President Gary W. Simone calls each meeting to order, followed by the small group addressing each item on the agenda.

There's a pledge of allegiance and conservation pledge, roll call, review of minutes and a report from the treasurer. That's followed by a recitation of a witty plant annotation or quote, local Audbon update and horticulture presentations.

“I've always been a plant person,” Simone said. A giant orange flower from his garden — Angel's Trumpet — sits in a vase on the table in front of him.

As a child he took responsibility of his mother's flower and vegetable gardens. In high school, Simone worked in nurseries and at a retail garden center before going on to earn a degree in biological science from the University of Connecticut, and a master's degree and doctorate in plant methodology from the University of Illinois.

Employed as a plant disease expert for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Simone also taught at the University of Florida, where he and his wife, Debbie, lived for 24 years.

When Simone retired, the couple moved to Oregon to escape the tropic heat.

Gary Simone joined the Columbian Garden Club in 2000.

This is his second two-year term as club president.

Debbie later joined and is now the garden club's secretary.

The two are committed to making the club a success.

Show and Tell

Michelle Abrahamson is giving a presentation on how to build a garden that will attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. She talks about the history of window boxes, reads from articles about the importance of bees in our ecosystem and gives members a hand out on plants favored by hummingbirds.

At every garden club meeting, a member lectures on a horticultural subject of their choice.

The next month's lectures include quirky bird habits and winter storage for dahlias.

This year garden club members will tour a Vancouver nursery that breeds irises and orchids. Each year the club budgets for garden tours, monthly educational programs and state flower shows.

The Columbian Garden Club is in the Multnomah District of the Oregon State Federation of Garden Clubs, and is a members of the Pacific Region and National Garden Clubs.

The end of meetings are a free-for-all for members to talk plants and share flowers they've brought in.

Law, who turns 74 next week, recites the names of dahlias he's grown for 20 years and sells by the dozen in Springdale at the intersection of Bell Road and East Historic Columbia River Highway.

He knows three dozen kinds, but his favorites? Ryan, Juanita, Bodacious, First Kiss, Marry Me, Hizzy Frizzy, Swan's Olympic Flame.



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