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You might think garden clubs consist only of genteel ladies sipping mint tea while discussing wisteria and roses. But throughout their history, garden clubs have made a major impact on the environment. They’ve addressed such issues as groundwater runoff, billboard advertisements and littering. 

In the New Orleans area, we have numerous clubs specializing in everything from irises to roses. They meet in traditional settings and online.

One traditional garden club is the Old Metairie Garden Club. It was formed in 2017 by Carmen Waring with the intention of beautifying the community. Its motto is, “Old Metairie Garden Club, cultivating community.”

“In quick order, we have established a community of volunteers and have hosted in excess of 20 or more events annually which are mostly free to the public,” says Denise Oliva, president of the club.

The club recently funded a parklet on Canal Street Parkway, which consists of a bike rack, bench and trash receptacle.

“We were recently approved for, and will be adding to our parklet, a seed library designed by Kellyn Queyrouze,” says Oliva. “Additionally, we are very excited that Canal Street Parkway is the venue for our annual Spring Arts Festival. We are always looking for volunteers and someone to suggest and own the next great idea.”

There is much the government can do and should do to improve the environment. But even more important is the individual who plants a tree or cleans a corner of neglect. For it is the individual who himself benefits, and also protects a heritage of beauty for his children and future generations

– Former First Lady of the United States, Lady Bird Johnson

The virtual clubs include the Facebook group, “How NOLA Grows Dat! Growing food and gardening tricks for everyone.”  It’s a space for information sharing, education and materials trading. It has more than 2,000 members.

“Facebook groups are much like garden clubs, especially for the younger generation of gardeners,” says Anna Timmerman, a horticulture extension agent with LSU AgCenter. “We don’t have time to go to physical meetings due to work, school, kids ecetera, but find community online easily.”

Her Facebook group is “The 504 Community Garden Share Project.” It was started to address problems arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. She kept hearing from people worried about food or trying to start to garden with few resources. So she produced transplants and gave out seeds for free and announced this on her Facebook page.

Timmerman helped 75 families through Green Light, 400 families through SPROUT NOLA and about 300 mostly beginner gardeners and out-of-work service industry folks through her free plant table.

“Growing your own food is the most radical thing you can possibly do, especially if you share with others. Build community, grow food.”

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