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News: This Month in GCA History


May 07, 2018

The idea for The Garden Club of America took shape in the garden of Elizabeth Martin in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, where she and her friend and neighbor’s daughter, Ernestine Goodman, hatched an idea that was to shape history. They invited various garden clubs to attend a meeting on May 1, 1913.

Elizabeth and Ernestine had founded The Garden Club of Philadelphia nine years earlier and envisioned an association of garden clubs which could share ideas and knowledge. Twelve clubs attended the May 1 meeting and decided to join forces, forming what they initially and very briefly called The Garden Guild.

The association began its long history of growth and influence. The GCA grew consistently, adding four clubs in its first year and growing to eighty-nine by 1931. Today, the GCA has 200 member clubs and nearly 18,000 members throughout the United States. The founding principles have changed little over time, “To stimulate the knowledge and love of gardening among amateurs; to share the advantages of association through conference and correspondence, in this country and abroad; to aid in the protection of native plants and birds; and to encourage civic planting.”

Initial endeavors of the GCA included helping to establish the country’s conservation movement. As early as 1914, the GCA led efforts to eliminate the billboard menace on U.S. highways and protect wildflowers and native plants. In 1920, the following resolution was adopted: “One of the specified objects of our association is to encourage the preservation of all woodland things, that the natural beauty spots of our country may not be destroyed.”

Establishing its first scholarship in 1928, the GCA remains a leader in education in the fields of horticulture, botanical arts, photography, floral design, and conservation. What was planted 105 years ago in a Philadelphia garden has born fruit for generations.


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