The Texas Garden Club, Inc., started in 1928, and has it’s State Headquarters in Fort Worth.
On April, 2011, TGC Headquarters building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and the garden club movement and headquarters were recognized as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark! Ground was broken on June, 1959 and the stone & stucco building was completed in December, 1959. What an accomplishment!
The building is home to TGC’s staff and also functions as a garden meeting center. The Headquarters is located on the grounds of the beautiful Fort Worth Botanic Gardens, across the parking lot from the Garden Center and Conservatory. One of the largest private Horticulture library west of the Mississippi is located at TGC’s Headquarters. Members may check-out books from among the thousands of titles from Birds to Youth, as well as, over 200 videos on all phases of gardening.
1920s & 1930s
The tapestry that became Texas Garden Clubs, Inc. did not arrive fully woven on the American scene, as so many of the masterpieces of the era did. It was created from the warp and weft of the American grassroots, with strong threads, bright colors added here and there as the need arose. It was a collage that grew out of those times and such times they were. Women, no longer confined to the home and a tight community, had acquired the vote in 1920 and were eagerly looking for ways to demonstrate their new found place in the world. Social consciousness developed when Henry Ford’s newfangled contraption carried the home bound out onto rutted mud roads that would gradually be replaced by macadam and concrete. Sharp eyes and keen minds envisioned beauty, found needs to champion and ways to exert their exciting freedom.
In March 1928, Marion Scruggs, founding president of the Dallas Garden Club, traveled to New York City to help start our parent organization. Filled with enthusiasm, she returned home and in November invited all Texas garden clubs to meet and unite as the Texas Federation of Garden Clubs, Inc. As a result eight clubs joined the federation, with 11 more following in May 1930 and 14 in 1931. Marion later became president (1935-1937) of the Nation Council of State Garden Clubs, Inc. (Now known as National Garden Clubs, Inc.)
Since those formative years, TGC has divided the state along geographical and ecological criteria into ten distinct districts. Early on, leaders knew that the future success of the garden club movement would depend on the children. During the administration of Nellie Trigg (1931-33), the conservation program gave rise to development of the Junior Garden Clubs, with 180,000 children enrolled in the George Washington tree planting celebration.
Presidents Mary Daggett Lake (1939-42) and Adele Beavers (1942-45) served at the end of the Depression and through WWII. Great growth began in the garden club movement during the war years as we learned to garden for Victory. In the establishment of these gardens, we sponsored gardens in rural areas to feed the poor, and recognized and helped returning service men. At this time, Blue Star Memorial to honor all servicemen and women was designated along Highway 81 from Gainsville to Laredo.
In searching for aesthetic beauty in the 40s, flower show judges set up standardized schools for horticulture and design. This movement over the years has developed many accredited judges for flower shows. Of the first three National judging certificates awarded in 1942, Texans earned two.
In March 1941 we revised our name to Texas Garden Clubs, Inc. That year over 500 gardeners attended the state convention representing 347 clubs. An unbelievable 543 flower shows and 34 schools were held in 1949-1950. We were on the move!
In 1949, Texas Garden Clubs, Inc. was recognized with the prestigious NCSGC Bronze Seal for the establishment of Audubon Nature Camp of Texas in Kerrville. Texas legislature was lobbied to provide a horticulture center at Fair Park in Dallas and an arboretum in Austin. Texas Department of Transportation credits TGC with the policy of preserving and planting wildflowers along Texas highways and byways. Our interest in wildflowers grew. Cora O’Neal served as first chairman of the Texas Highway Beautification Program.
Church gardens and gardens for the blind were popular. In 1950 Gertrude Windsor (1949-51) organized a garden club at Goree State Prison Farm for Women at Huntsville to teach inmates job skills in horticulture and floral design. Restoration projects involving old homes and gardens were instigated, including the French Embassy in Austin.
The first Texas anti-litter campaign “Don’t Be a Litterbug” was adopted during Gertrude Wilson’s term (1953-55).
In 1955 a TGC flag was designed of silk with a Lone Star in the middle with our name surrounding it.
Texas Garden Clubs, Inc. erected its headquarters on the grounds of the Fort Worth Botanic Garden in 1961. A tremendous fund raising drive and dedication of half the Life Membership monies brought the project to fruition. We were the first in the nation to have our own headquarters. Later, funds were found to develop an impressive library. Member Marion Campbell sold magazine subscriptions to fund many of the books in the headquarters library, known as the finest garden club library west of the Mississippi.
Mary Kittel, president 1963-65, made conservation a strong part of her term and carried it into her term as the second national president (1973-1975) from Texas. Highly visible and vocal in behalf of our causes, her voice was heard on presidential appointments and her Stepping Stones carried conservation into public schools.
In 1970, TGC received a prestigious NCSGC Bronze Medal for Welma Aikin’s (1965-67) project of landscaping the grounds of the Governor’s Mansion in Austin.
Teacher curriculum manuals were set up and Smokey Bear contests sponsored. A successful movement was begun to name the mockingbird the state bird. In 1976 our Trident Prairie Nature Conservancy Project near Paris was adopted. We were named tops in the nation for our “Keep America Beautiful” campaign. During the 1979-81 term of Mary Louise Michie, TGC created courses of Gardening Study, which were adopted by NCSGC. Mary Louise became the third Texan to become national president (1995-97).
Nita Harmon, a past president, was chosen Garden Club Woman of the Year, an honor later designated to all retiring presidents and in alternate years to deserving club members.
Environmental Education courses were added during Ina Brundrett’s term (1997-99). We have celebrated the first Wildflower Day in Denton and supported the Wild Basin Wilderness project in the Hill Country.
In our golden anniversary year we celebrated with a “Golden Gardeners” book at Headquarters. Funds were also raised through the Crown Jewel project commemorating our 75 year history. The time capsule was opened and its contents inspected and replaced, to be opened again at our 100th celebration.
In 2000, Barbara Baker’s (1999-2001) “Just Passing Through” project of the distribution of educational materials on migratory birds and the monarch butterfly received the prestigious National Garden Clubs Award of Excellence and Bronze Seal.
Throughout our 75 years, Texas Garden Clubs, Inc. has been a force for good as we continue to add timely projects to make our world a better place because we were here. Over the years our scholarships have made it possible for many young people to enter the fields of horticulture, floral design and related fields. Our doors are open for new members who share our interests and would like to learn more through our programs.
Following the 75 years celebrations of the Golden Anniversary, Texas Garden Clubs, Inc., continued with the legacy of weaving the “Tapestry”. Our members interlace with delicate but sturdy hands the different threads of horticulture, design and service provided to our communities.
Linda Kay Whetsell was installed in Tyler as President; her theme “Our Planet- Keep it Clean and Green”. During her presidential period this native Texan became known as the Iron Lady, having to face illness with great aplomb and at the same time enthusiastically leading TGC. The development of State projects was a priority for Linda Whetsell, including the commitment to assist Marbridge Farms and Brookwood Community, important training centers for the functionally disabled. The sponsorship of Keystone Heritage Park located in El Paso, a preservation center for archaic Native American artifacts and a new Botanical Garden. Providing continuous support for Camp Tyler, the nature school for city children and the pristine location where the TGC Environmental Schools are held.
“Seeds for Life” (SFL), a new State project, was established as a World Gardening program, presenting more than 9,000 seed packets to the needy in Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Peru, El Salvador and later receiving numerous awards at State and National levels. NGC, INC. programs were continued; Piney Pines, Arbor Day, Woodsy Owl Posters, Nature Conservancy and America A–Blooming and seven Blue Star Memorial Markers were installed in our State.
Educational opportunities were constantly offered; all the categories of the NGC, Inc. schools, including a Tri-Refresher were held in our State. Particular recognition is to be given for the establishment of TGC web site, a mayor success; it received a National Award and has developed into our main center of communication. A new Awards Brochure was printed in order to facilitate the awards procedures. In spring of 2005 at the Dallas Convention, a State Standard Flower Show was presented by the Flower Show Judges Council of Texas, later receiving a National Award.
NGC, INC. members honored during this period were; Mary Louise Michie, obtaining the State Arbor Day Award for “The Millions of Trees for the Environment”, a project stated during her NGC, INC presidency (1995-1997). Joyce Cochran received the valued NGC, INC. Award of Honor. Mary Poythress won a Silver Award for her design at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show in England. The recipients of the Garden Club Member of the Year were former President Sue Durrett and Jean Mills. President Whetsell also honored a number of TGC members for services rendered: Kathy Cox, for the design and establishment of the TGC web site; Nell Zeigler for the continuance of the Landscape Design Schools; Margaret Jones, Ann Nette Pearce, and Idalia Aguilar for the founding of the SFL program; Barbara Baker and Nell Denman for obtaining financial support for the web site and Wilma Smith for the “wish list” funds for Headquarters renovations.
At the “High Plains Hoedown” in the Lubbock Convention, National Garden Club, Inc. President June Wood congratulated President Whetsell for her leadership and the commended the members of Forney Garden Club, Giddings Garden Club, New Century Garden Club, and Hemphill Garden Club for grants obtained from the Principal Financial Group in support of Historical Gardens.
Linda Whetsell’s Presidential period produced noteworthy and abundant donations, that ranged from 5,000 seed packets sent the needy in far away countries, $10,000 for purchasing a defibrillator, to the impressive $1.3 million for the restoration of an old Texas historical court house. TGC members continue with high spirits weaving with threads of service, a never ending tapestry.
The 77th Spring Convention at Addison, Texas, was the setting for Carol Russell to become the 38th TGC President. Introducing her theme as “Today’s Challenge for Tomorrow’s Change”, her presidency was an example of a total commitment to the mission of continuing support for existing State and National programs. The two major goals introduced by President Russell were to increase membership and promote donations for scholarships. In the quest to stimulate an increase in membership, President Russell worked closely with Kathy Cox, third Vice-President designing a membership brochure. The colorful brochure provided unique information about the ten individual Districts of our State. This important membership tool produced a renewed awareness of Texas Garden Clubs, Inc.; new Garden Clubs have been formed and important affiliations were achieved with several Plant Societies and the Fort Worth Botanical Garden. The brochure later won at National the prestigious Tommy Donnan Certificate of Merit. Strides were also made in our web site service, outstandingly managed by Wilma Smith and Tricia Bradbury; relevant material was posted to facilitate members the necessary information in the development of projects and awards.
Scholarships were amplified, the ten Districts working in accordance with the President, collected the amount of $11,150.00. A memorable donation for scholarship was added with the $25,000.00 was provided from the estate of past member, Frances Arnold Ellis, who is remembered for her outstanding labor benefiting our State. President Russell’s commitment to increase donations was evident at the end of the Presidential term TGC had an outstanding total of $31,575.00 available for scholarships. Another important promotion to create interest in the Garden Club movement was a three year calendar with printed reminders of TGC and South Central Region important events.
After attending a presentation by the Senior editor of the Southern Living magazine on “Wave of the Future, Pocket Gardens in the Landscape”, President Russell implemented the idea of adapting Pocket Gardens to the properties surrounding TGC Headquarters building. The idea evolved into a program of pocket gardens sponsored by Districts, Garden Forums, and Councils enhancing Headquarters, honoring the donors and educating the public.
NGC, INC. Schools were held throughout the State and an important facet of promoting education occurred when President Russell offered the generous opportunity for International Judges from Monterrey, Mexico to attend the TGC Design Seminar at the Benz School of Floral Design at TAMU. Since then four Judges have become Design Consultants and twenty-one more are actually attending the Seminar, which has an International waiting list for attendance.
At the Fort Worth Convention a memorable visit to Headquarters permitted members to admire improvement of the installations and attend two important celebrations. An Arbor Day ceremony, the planting of a Freedom Tree, honoring public service and military personnel and the presentation of a Blue Star Memorial by District X.
The kindness of TGC members was evident during this period; donations were sent to “Greening the Gulf Coast” the NGC, INC. program installed to help the States destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. In our own State, an emergency program called “Cross Plains Tree Rescue” was organized to provide funds for the members of the Cross Plains Garden Club to assist their fire ravaged town.
President Russell acknowledged Garden Club members with outstanding dedication; Roseann Reece, for the District X Memorial Marker; Kathy Cox, for the Membership Brochure; Ginny Salter for the three year calendar; Renee Blaschke, who was elected NGC, INC. first Vice President. Dottie Sivess and Joyce Cochran were selected and honored as the Garden Club Members of the Year. In addition well deserved recognition was given to the ten District Directors for their active participation during President Russell’s period.
We continue weaving the tapestry, but not all is work; memories will linger of the El Paso Convention, when TGC members joined NGC, INC. President Kitty Larkin and President Russell dining under the stars and dancing to a Mariachi band.
In April of 2007, new and multicolored tropical threads were woven into our TGC Historical Tapestry at the 79th Convention held in South Padre Island, as Judy Keillor became TGC’s 39th President. A testimony of Judy’s Garden Club dedication was her theme “Living the Challenge, Let’s get Growing”. We learned to understand what her theme meant, for she taught us that any challenge if met with a smile, could become a reality. In her inaugural speech, she pledged to continue TGC campaign for increasing membership and to encourage the love of gardening in the State of Texas, reminding us to have fun in our Garden Clubs. Judy surprised us by immediately having at hand colorful bumper stickers for sale: “Flower Power, Texas Garden Club”.
With no delay, President Keillor began enhancing the Garden Club image by cultivating additional memberships. New Youth clubs, men’s evening Garden Clubs, Plant Societies, Master Gardeners and any others who share a love for gardening were invited to join TGC, Inc. This membership campaign resulted in adding ten new Clubs and ten new Affiliates, boosting the total membership of Garden Club members in Texas to 11,996 by 2009. During her presidency, numerous members received National and State Scholarships; likewise several Garden Clubs were recipients of National Grants.
To further maintain and nourish the membership Judy became an advocate of NGC, Inc. Schools, inviting the members to broaden their horticultural and design knowledge. She herself attended all the schools throughout her tenure. A most significant contribution in the field of education was the new partnership established with Dr. Novak and A&M University to launch the re-installation of the Gardening Studies Schools in Texas. In the field of education, an important addition was having Anna Archer and Linda Whetsell begin to study to become new Flower Show Schools Instructors.
Judy Keillor promoted Seed of Life World Gardening project to become a TGC Program. Since 2004 SFL successfully provided seeds and monetary donations to Africa, Iraq, Central and Latin America and obtaining a NGC, Inc. award for a publication done in partnership with A&M Borlaug Institute for a Visual Design Manual for women of the Guatemalan highlands.
Important and time-consuming functions of this administration were the actions taken concerning an essential revision and change to the Bylaws, Standing Rules and Policy. An elected committee successfully served and provided a necessary update to our organization. Two new awards were added to TGC Award Manual; the Garden Tour Award and the Pocket Garden Award. Chosen as Garden members of the year were Joyce Cochran and Sudie Blackburn.
TGC members receiving National honors during this period were Rene Blaschke, installed as NGC, Inc. President; Linda Whetsell, installed as South Central Region Director, Sue Durret, Pat Graber and Guynieth Priem for the organization of the NGC, Inc. 2009 Convention in Houston, Judy Schafer receiving the National Award of Excellence at SCR and NGC, Inc. Nell Denman, Lucy Hendy, Jim Johnson and Trevor McGuire, winner of the National High School Speech Contest, also received presidential citations. Also honored was The State of Texas with two new affliliations to NGC, Inc., the Grapevine Botanical Garden and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, a treasured landmark that honors Lady Bird Johnson; First Lady and a champion of the beautification of America.
TGC members have honored President Judy Keillor with ten unique pocket gardens planted at our Headquarters. Each garden has plants and trees representative of those that grow in the ten districts of Texas Garden Clubs, Inc. Judy Keillor guided us well during her term as president. Her theme of Living the Challenge encouraged us and resulted in growth of our organization.
Texas Garden Club Headquarters building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and the garden club movement and headquarters were recognized as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark! Ground was broken on June 1959 and the stone and stucco building were completed in December 1959. What an accomplishment!