Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
February, 2008
Regional Report

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Members of the Woman's National Farm & Garden Association plan this June's annual meeting in Ambler, Pennsylvania, where the organization first met in 1913.

Eat, Drink, and Talk Gardens

With each doorbell ring, someone brought something delicious to complement hostess Susan Yeager's bubbling turkey mushroom tetrazzini. White beans with rosemary, roasted peppers and portobellos, chili and cheese, Asian noodles, sweet and syrupy baked beans, white and red wines.

No, this hasn't turned into a food column. Beyond the appetizing potluck dinner, these women had gardens to share and a mission to accomplish. They were determined to make this June's Woman's National Farm & Garden Association Annual Meeting the best ever, in tribute to the group's first 1913 gathering in Ambler, Pennsylvania, at what used to be called the School of Horticulture for Women, now Temple University.

Full plates slid onto the wooden table surrounding a bowl of yellow, purple, and pink primroses as chapter president Jorie Nailor raised pen to agenda. This mix of past and present comprised a dynamic baker's dozen of neighbors and good friends, landscape professionals and avid gardeners, old and young, with backgrounds ranging from horticulture to computer technology.

They look to Jenny Rose Cary, who stirred resurrection of this Ambler Keystone chapter of WNFGA. Cary, director of Temple's Landscape Arboretum, brings a lively, deep love of the rich history of women and gardening. Vice president and Temple-Ambler horticulture student Dawn Pritchard moves everyone forward as she develops the chapter's Web site. Kathleen Welsh Beveridge connects the past with possibility -- passing around the Chronicle, the association's seasonal magazine she revamped for the contemporary eye.

On May 17, 1913, the original Ambler Keystone chapter hosted the first WNFGA meeting in the red hewn timber barn at the School of Horticulture for Women, Cary explained. Women walked the 18 miles from Philadelphia! Others came by carriage. Michigan and Indiana members traveled by train.

That was groundbreaking (literally and figuratively) for women to make their own way there seeking job opportunities. "Many early members were actively earning their living in horticulture and agriculture," Cary added. "Others advocated for schoolyard gardening, vacant lot use, farmed poultry, and greenhouse gardening."

Though today's transportation is less arduous -- many of this year's attendees will come by chartered bus -- the logistics will be challenging. Garden tours and Michael Tooley's talk about Gertrude Jekyll will take place on June 5. June 6 will combine business with a Flower Show. All this before going to Cary's garden, Northview, for dinner.

Savoring warm, homemade Welsh cakes with raisins and sprinkled with granulated sugar, we listened while Sharon Lee described the Progressive Women In Horticulture garden tour. Members will visit The Highlands Mansion and Gardens; Wyck Historic House, Museum, and Garden; and Temple's Arboretum. Lee's tour will focus on highlighting visionary women and the difference gardening made in their lives. Women wanted to educate themselves, which they did through gardening and garden clubs, Lee explained. "This is where Farm and Garden came from. They are coming back to their roots."

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