The Men's Garden Club of Houston, Texas HISTORY AND ACTIVITIES

In 1927 Mr. Leo Nack won a top prize of $1,000.00 given by a leading newspaper for the best garden in Chicago. This event led to his realization that a number of other men were interested in gardening. On February 28, 1927 sixteen other amateur gardeners met in Chicago to discuss some sort of organization wherein they could meet to talk over their mutual interest in gardening. On March 15, 1928 the first men's garden club was established.

Ding Darling, the famous cartoonist, next organized a club in Des Moines IA. The third organization was Ft Wayne, IN, followed by Aurora IL. W. R. "Wild Bill" Lathrop, the founder of the Aurora Club, hit upon the idea of bringing the four clubs into, an affiliate organization. On September 26, 1932 there was a meeting to organize the Men's Garden Clubs Of America. The first National Convention was held in Chicago during the Century of Progress Exposition, July 29, 1933.

Then in the 1930's before Houston was the metropolis it is today, and before the present wide spread interest in gardening, a small group of Houston men, encouraged by the success of men's garden clubs emerging in a few other cities, got together for the purpose of learning more about Houston gardening and to contribute to the beautification of their growing city. The Men's Garden Club of Houston, Texas was organized October 10, 1938, then on January 2, 1941 the affiliation with the Men's Garden Clubs of America was established. On February 3, 1941 they obtained a charter from the then nine year old Men's Garden Clubs Of America, thus allying the Houston Club with a growing organization which today consists of over 127 clubs with some 7,000 members. The MGCA membership includes gardeners from all walks of life, all who meet on an equal level, exemplifying friendliness through gardening and aspire to making the world a more beautiful place to live.

These ideals have guided the Men's Garden Club of Houston for the past 55 years and have inspired many activities and achievements. A regular activity throughout the history of the Houston Club that has been received by the community, is the annual Spring and Fall Flower Shows where a many array of horticultural specimens are exhibited. Additionally, the Houston Club has participated in the national shows and co-sponsored a number of flower shows with the City Of Houston, the Chamber Of Commerce, local garden clubs, florists, an nurserymen. It actively supported movements to help preserve the beauty of Buffalo Bayou Banks, the Big Thicket, the Grand Canyon of Colorado and the Redwood trees of California. Members of the Men's Garden Club Of Houston were first to promote the idea of an arboretum for Houston and took out a charter for the Houston Botanical Garden Arboretum. The Club landscaped the chapel grounds of the Burnett-Bayland Home and furnished plants and bulbs for the Veterans Hospital. In 1988 a rose garden was planted at the Sheltering Arms Day Center. Funds have been donated by the Club for the Garden Of The Blind, the Perennial Garden at the Garden Center, the San Jose Clinic, the beautification of the Civic Center, and more recently, for live oak trees on Main Street, and to Friends Of Bellaire Park for the purchase of the Henshaw Estate which is now Pittman Park. Since 1976, each year the Club has donated funds for horticultural scholarships at Texas A&M University and Sam Houston State University, or made grants to the horticultural programs of area schools. Carrying out the Club's aim of stimulating gardening knowledge is accomplished mainly at the meetings held every third Thursday of the month, except July and December, from 7:30 P.M. to 9:30 P.M. at the Garden Center in Hermann Park. In July we have had watermelon parties, but in 1986 we changed to a barbecue, which the Club now supports the July barbecue for the future.

In December we have a Christmas party and the presentation of the Bronze Awards. At the regular monthly meetings, members and visitors are able to increase their gardening knowledge by hearing experts speak on a variety of topics. Also at this time, it is possible to discuss current triumphs and problems with fellow members. The Club tradition for each member to wear a flower to the monthly meetings also stimulates conversations leading to an exchange of information. Time is provided at each meeting for members to show and tell about new or unusual or outstanding plants they have grown. The Club also has a complete library of horticultural books which may be checked out at each meeting for home use. The national bimonthly publication, "The Gardener" and monthly club bulletin "The Yardner" are a source of additional gardening information. Another way, learning by growing, is provided at each meeting by the plant exchange: the drawing of names to receive surplus plants brought by members. Providing opportunities for enjoyable fellowship is another major concern of the Club. A time for socializing as refreshments are served is an integral part of each monthly meeting. The parties in July and Christmas Season, both include the member's family and guests. The parties are the traditional annual fun times of the club. Many lasting friendships are made as members work together on the club committees, projects, and show preparations. In case of sickness of members or their wives, they are cheered up with flowers, cards and/or visits. Some of the members enjoy attending the National Conventions, the Southwest Region Conferences, and the Southwest Region Board Meetings held in various cities.

During the year of 1984, the club worked with two of Houston's elementary schools, especially with Berry Elementary School. There, we assisted the students with their vegetable gardens and also sponsored a sunflower contest. At the end of the year in lieu of a scholarship or a grant to a high school, a grant was made to Berry Elementary School. This project continued through 1986 but only with Berry School. Then taking up where we left off from Berry, we initiated a program of cylinder gardens with some two dozen of HISD elementary schools which has been very successful with the VIPS program of the HISD, growing to where in 1988 some sixty schools participated. Also in 1988, we received a $5,000 grant from the Margaret Cullinan Wray Charitable Lead Annuity. In 1992 we began working the cylinder gardening program jointly with the Harris County Master Gardeners Association and County 4 H Youths thus serving more schools. In 1994 we received a grant from Panhandle Eastern Corporation of $1,490.08 for demonstration gardens to illustrate cylinder gardening. The history and current activities of the Men's Garden Club of Houston clearly shows that membership has invested its time and talents well.


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Page Prepared by;
Milton L. Pierson

Last Modified September 26, 2001