When we think about garden club memberships, we should always keep our focus on our future, which includes finding ways to bring in younger, more diverse members. Oftentimes that means stepping out of our comfort zone, doing away with some traditions, and conducting our meetings differently.
Even beyond that, we need to think about the far-reaching future and reaching our children/youth. If we do not educate the next generation, can garden clubs survive?
We need to promote early gardening education in children’s lives. That includes encouraging awareness of and creating a love for our environment, gardening, and plants. This can be accomplished in so many ways. NGC started publishing youth books in Sandy Robinson’s administration to help educate and reach children.
The lessons in The Frightened Frog are that frogs are endangered, and they function as bioindicators of our environment. I once heard the 2017 Award of Excellence winner, Pearl Fryar, say that most children do not understand where seeds come from and the life cycle of plants. Another book was conceived and The Saved Seed, introduced in Nancy Hargroves’ administration, teaches these lessons by using a pumpkin, something that children are familiar with. The latest youth book, Network with Nature, encourages children to put down their electronic devices and play outdoors. This goes along with the theme of our current president, Mary Warshauer, “Plant America…Play Outdoors.”
You can purchase these books for your children, grandchildren, and special children in your lives at the store on the NGC website. Donate them to libraries and schools. Read them to children or have them read to you. Not only should you make sure the books are read, but you need to act upon the lessons of these books - take the children in your lives fishing; go on a wildflower walk with them; play kickball with them or cheer them on as they play; collect bugs and let them go; carve a pumpkin, save the seeds, and plant them the next year; and visit ponds and look for egg masses, tadpoles, and frogs but don’t touch them.
There are also three youth activity booklets for children: Play Outside Activity Log, Ecological Warriors Workbook, and Pollinator Power Book. These are free and can be downloaded and printed from the NGC website, under Youth Publications. Because children love to be rewarded when they complete the work, be sure to give the NGC Certificate, at the end of the Play Outside Activity Log. Put that certificate on the refrigerator. Most children will love spending time with you.
Our grandsons love to dig and explore, and we always encourage those activities when they visit us. As they dug, we checked out worms, salamanders, and other insects. At one point we had a large, three feet deep hole in our backyard which we later turned into a fire pit. Our grandchildren love to explore small streams, looking for bugs or crawdads. Allow the children in your life to help you plant, allowing for their imperfect planting methods. Show them and have them taste the fruits of those plantings or have them make a bouquet to give to someone special. Expose youth to plants by taking them to botanic gardens and conservatories. When on these trips I always mentally noted when they were interested in specific plants. For Ben it was bonsais and Ficus benjamina. For Josh it was the Joshua Tree. Keep them interested by giving them related gifts. That year I purchased Ben a Ficus benjamina bonsai. When planting indoors use fun planters. What child would not like to care for a plant in a dinosaur, mouse, or gnome?
Promote NGC’s youth activities, contests, and scholarships. Entering these will usually take an adult’s encouragement. I persuaded a grandson to enter, and he won the Recycled Sculpture contest at NGC about ten years ago. Encourage those children in your lives to enter the Smokey Bear/Woodsy Owl contest or the Poetry contest. Even if they do not win, they love receiving certificates and recognition. Check the NGC website to see what NGC offers youth.
This year gift our children/youth with the future of our planet in mind. Give them the gift of sharing your gardening knowledge and most importantly give them the gift of time spent with you. It is an investment in the future.
National Garden Clubs, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) organization that aims to promote the love of gardening, floral design, and civic and environmental responsibility. There is a local club near you, click here to find one and join. Subscribe to the NGC’s blog by entering your e-mail here. You will receive an e-mail when there is a new blog article on the NGC website. You do not have to be an NGC member to subscribe.