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This Month in GCA History, October


October 02, 2018

The GCA Demonstrates a Commitment to Education

Since its founding in 1913, The Garden Club of America has often used the power of the written word as a means to promote its message on a wide range of gardening and conservation-related issues. From the creation of the Bulletin in 1913 to the addition of its more recent publications, the GCA has utilized the expertise of its club members to reach a broader audience through publications and books.

In September 1925 the newly formed Committee of Special Publications began work on what would become the two-volume classic, Gardens of Colony and State. In addition to being the first book published by the GCA, the book was groundbreaking as it was comprehensive in scope, covering not just colonial garden heritage from the first 13 colonies on the East Coast, but historic gardens across the country -- Spanish mission gardens, Mississippi Valley French gardens and others. Widely considered the best reference on garden-making in the colonies and the Republic, the landmark publication traces the development of uniquely American garden design, exploring early garden literature and its effect on colonial craftsmen, as well as pre-1800 account books of nurseries and seed houses. Fascinating stories of early horticulturists who inspired the establishment and patronage of botanical gardens for research, plant exploration, education, and public enjoyment are also included. The impressive collection of early prints and photographs of gates, statues, benches, pergolas, and landscape designs was commissioned at great expense, underwritten by the GCA and other generous benefactors. Gardens of Colony and State was reprinted in 2000 and is still sought after by collectors here and abroad.

Another example of the GCA’s commitment to education is the two-volume set, Plants that Merit Attention. Working with the Smithsonian Institution, the first volume, Plants That Merit Attention: Trees, was published in 1983, stimulating lectures, other books, and films about the native plants it covers. The Conservation Committee published a series of postcards—horticultural “baseball” cards—of endangered species. Negotiation for a companion issue of postage stamps for Volume 1 was successful and selected plates from the horticultural book were adapted for the U.S. postage stamps. The book, cards and the stamps have become objects of interest to collectors worldwide. Volume 2, Plants That Merit Attention: Shrubs was published in 1996. While not overtly marketed as conservation books, Janet Poor, co-author and editor, described the educational purpose of these books: “So important are plants in the web of life that it is estimated that each plant that becomes extinct causes the extinction of 10 to 30 dependent species of insects, higher animals and other plants.”

Now into the twenty-first century, GCA club members continue the tradition of writing books and articles on gardening, conservation, floral design, and horticulture to captivate readers and often highlight the important work of The Garden Club of America.


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