Albemarle Garden Club's Design Forum digs into preservation - The Daily Progress: Entertainment/Life

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Albemarle Garden Club's Design Forum digs into preservation

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Posted: Friday, October 12, 2012 7:00 am | Updated: 3:58 pm, Tue Jan 22, 2013.


One after another the nine women, likely a bit dusty, stepped from their horse-drawn carriages or primitive automobiles.

Each of the ladies had traveled to Morven farm in southern Albemarle County for the same reason. Each was eager to gain gardening knowledge and beautify her little part of the world.

When this initial meeting took place, the 20th century still was as fresh as a just-turned furrow. The information highway was far in the future, and know-how on growing plants and flowers, as well as conditioning the soil, wasn’t easy to come by.

So the women got together to “associate into a garden club, of which the general purpose shall be the study and culture of flowers.” With the establishment of the Albemarle Garden Club in 1913, that goal became a reality.

In celebration of its upcoming centennial, the club plans to plant a lot of flowers. It also will provide a number of opportunities for people to add to their gardening knowledge.

“We have planned a year of lectures and events, which focus on both our proud heritage and the tremendously important role garden clubs will play in our next 100 years,” said Brooke Spencer, president of the Albemarle Garden Club.

“The Albemarle Garden Club independently focuses on issues at the local, state and national level. We believe the great efforts and successes of those members who have come before us will inspire current and future members to think big.

“Our long affiliation with the Garden Club of Virginia and the Garden Club of America permits us to draw upon an incredible national network of expertise, and to collaborate nationally when we need to effect big changes in public policy.”

One of the projects the club has planned to commemorate its 100th birthday is the creation of a public garden. The site has yet to be determined, but fundraising has begun.

A major part of the fundraising effort is the third annual Design Forum, which will be held Thursday at Farmington Country Club. The speakers are renowned gardeners Renny Reynolds and Jack Staub, owners of Hortulus Farm, Garden and Nursery in Bucks County, Pa.

Reynolds has a degree in landscape architecture and also is a nationally respected expert on entertaining. He is the author of “The Art of the Party,” which has been called “the party-planners’ bible.”

Staub is an expert on edible plants and vegetable garden design. He is a frequent contributor to publications such as Garden Design, Fine Gardening, Country Living Gardener and Food and Wine.

The main focus of their talk will be their beloved farm. Since purchasing the nearly derelict property 33 years ago, they have transformed it into a wonderland of natural beauty.

“I’ve loved gardening since the age of 8,” Reynolds said during a recent telephone interview from the farm. “What we have here is an 18th-century farm with 22 gardens and a nursery.

“We have lots of perennials and somewhere around 45,000 square feet of greenhouses. We have all different types of gardens, including a woodland walk, a French garden, herb garden and vegetable garden.

“We feel it’s such a special property in terms of the 18th-century buildings, the forest, five ponds, stream and rolling fields. So what we wanted to do was preserve it in perpetuity.”

To that end, the owners created a foundation that will transition the 100-acre farm into a public garden after they’re gone. They have been aided in this effort by the Garden Conservancy, which helps preserve important and historic gardens throughout the nation.

During the past century, the Albemarle Garden Club has quietly restored and maintained some of the most important gardens in this area. An early club project was re-establishing the gardens at Monticello after a long period of decline.

More recently, members designed and installed the bog gardens at Washington Park in Charlottesville. Club members also created the garden and picnic area at the Boys and Girls Club and the wildflower meadow at Martha Jefferson Hospital.

Every holiday season, club members continue a tradition of making more than 100 Christmas wreaths. Almost magically, the wreaths appear on doors of not-for-profit facilities, such as Region Ten and Ronald McDonald House.

The club also played a role in helping acquire land for the Ivy Creek Natural Area. The list of accomplishments is so extensive that the nine founding members likely would be astonished by what has grown from their initial idea.

Today, the founders’ vision of adding beauty to life can be seen throughout the county and beyond.

“The importance of an organization like Albemarle Garden Club is that they are beautifying everybody’s area,” said Staub, author of “Sowing Goodness.”

“They’re taking it upon themselves to not only be responsible for the gardens and doing the work, but are funding it as well. That’s very important in helping preserve public gardens.”

The third annual Design Forum fundraiser will be held Thursday at Farmington Country Club. Renowned gardeners Renny Reynolds and Jack Staub will be the featured speakers. Registration is at 9 a.m., with presentations beginning at 9:30 a.m. Tickets are $75 and can be purchased online at For questions telephone 293-4605.

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