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Founders Fund Current Winner

2021 Founders Fund Winner

Rhododendron Glen: Healing a Historic Stream and Engaging All Ages in Urban Water Ecology in Seattle, Washington

Proposed by the Seattle Garden Club, Zone XII
Seconded by Tacoma Garden Club, Zone XII

Seattle Garden Club (SGC) proposed the winning transformative project in Seattle’s Olmsted Brothers-designed Washington Park Arboretum, a free, centrally located botanical garden that draws visitors from across the city, region, and world. The shovel-ready, collaborative project not only acts upon key GCA positions on Oceans and Clean Water for future generations, it also lends vital support to an ambitious local initiative that will be highlighted during 2022’s Olmsted 200 Celebration.

Rhododendron Glen is an integral part of a larger watershed that carries surface water through the Arboretum from multiple sources, out to Lake Washington and ultimately, Puget Sound. SGC’s project will focus on the lower reach of a stream that descends through the historic Glen to a pond bordering Azalea Way, the Arboretum’s most visited, iconic attraction. Unfortunately, the stream has deteriorated over time, along with the ravine’s ericaceous plant collection and picturesque ponds. The Arboretum is committed to returning its entire watershed to a more natural and healthy condition. Rhododendron Glen restoration serves as the pilot for this ambitious, multi-year endeavor. 

This project will fulfill several objectives, including:
• model ecological restoration of a heritage water feature;
• enhance the horticultural richness of new plantings;
• improve stream access for people with limited mobility;
• expand environmental education and experiential learning opportunities for visitors of all ages, ethnicities, and physical abilities.

The Founders Fund grant will ensure that stream restoration extends all the way to the lower pond, which will be the focus of the project’s next phase. Proposed improvements will halt silt flow into the pond, remedying its primary problem. Grant funds will enhance bare-bones ecological improvements to the stream, with more extensive water-tolerant plantings, functional and aesthetic improvements in the bottom reach of the stream, and an accessible interpretive loop trail and viewpoint to engage visitors who encounter this magnetic place.

Rhododendron Glen improvements will showcase Seattle’s rich Olmsted heritage and its enduring relevance in the twenty-first century. Equally this innovative project will demonstrate how plants can purify runoff and protect urban watersheds. This reclaimed historic stream will draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, to explore urban water ecology at an approachable scale and learn by example how stream restoration can benefit the most endangered and interdependent species in the Pacific Northwest, orca whales, and wild salmon. Stimulated by this project, GCA clubs across the country can explore similar opportunities to restore American waterways and safeguard our most precious finite resource—water.

The Founders Fund project grew out of extensive, donor-funded planning, to which SGC contributed $7,500 in seed money in 2018. Implementation is well underway, proceeding from top to bottom of the ravine. In the initial phase, skilled Arboretum staff are rejuvenating upper paths and aging plant exhibits. The second phase will restore and re-vegetate the deteriorated stream channel. The project will extend stream restoration to its outlet adjoining SGC’s Centennial Garden, a $100,000 gift to the Arboretum in 2017.

Two runners up were each awarded additional grants of $10,000 by The Garden Club of America. 

The Garden Club of Houston (GCH), Houston, Texas, will use the funds to restore and ensure the sustainability of Houston Hospice: Family Terrace and Commemorative Garden. The centerpiece of the plan is a terrace that gives patients and families full access to the garden and a commemorative garden where families can come to memorialize loved ones in a beautiful space under a majestic live oak. 

The Garden Club of Halifax Country (GCHC), Ormond Beach, Florida, will use the funds to partner with the City of Ormond Beach to transform Vadner Park into Going Native: A Public-Private Partnership Transforms Forgotten Land into an Oasis of Native Plantings with exciting opportunities for education, preservation, and conservation. The design will include a wildflower garden, a small amphitheater plus rooms and vistas. 


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You may download the Word Document versions of the GCA's official press release for each of these projects below:

Winner - Rhododendron Glen: Healing a Historic Stream and Engaging All Ages in Urban Water Ecology, proposed by the Seattle Garden Club, Zone XII

Runner-up - Going Native: A Public-Private Partnership Transforms Forgotten Land into an Oasis of Native Plantings, proposed by The Garden Club of the Halifax Country, Zone VII

Runner-up -  Houston Hospice: Family Terrace and Commemorative Garden, proposed by The Garden Club of Houston, Zone IX 

The Founders Fund was established in 1934 to provide annual monetary awards to civic improvement projects proposed by GCA member clubs. The award initially was endowed in memory of the GCA’s first president, Elizabeth Price Martin (Mrs. J. Willis) of Philadelphia, who served from 1913-20. Generous gifts from clubs and individuals since have augmented the fund.

The first award of $700 was presented in 1936 for an English-language publication of the oldest known American herbal, the 1552 Badianus Manuscript, by Johns Hopkins Press. Since then, two-hundred seventy-two Founders Fund winners and runners-up have received more than $1.5 million to save thousands of acres of land and innumerable trees, restore historic landmarks, establish civic plantings, and conduct research and educational projects across the country