San Francisco Zone XII and “How the West is One.”
The Garden Club of America Annual meeting was challenging, inspiring, entertaining and absolutely educating. Across the country came 600 delegates from the 200 GCA clubs to learn more about the Garden Club of America, and 400 members who volunteered to help with this meeting. WOW! On our first day we enjoyed a glorious welcome party and saw the exquisite “Wonders of the West” flower show. On our next day we listened to numerous speakers from CGA committees and four impressive guest speakers. One of my favorites was the Keynote speaker Thomas Woltz, a landscape architect from Charlottesville, VA and NYC. The depth of his work integrates the beauty and function of built form and understanding of complex biological systems and restoration ecology. Click here to hear his inspiring talk.
Sam Hodder spoke about his work at the Save the Redwoods League. With his slides and commentary we were transported into the ancient redwood forests. It was particularly impressive to learn that the GCA has supported and funded efforts to protect and preserve the Redwood forests, which date back 200 million years, since the early 20th century.
Jonathon Foley, Executive Director of the California Academy of Sciences, spoke about climate change and the sustainability of our planet’s resources. He referred to the “inflection point,” the crisis facing our global environment as the population increases, food production decreases, food is wasted, and need for water grows. His vision for the future, however, was positive. Gardens, museums, teachers and natural and state parks are important and accessible ways to reach people and educate them about how to solve our global environmental problems.
Joanna Nelson, Ph.D, addressed the group and shared her work researching freshwater estuaries and coastal-ocean habitats. In 2009 she was the recipient of GCA’s award in coastal wetlands studies, researching ecosystems in salt marshes and harmful effects from fertilizer and nitrogen run off.
We then went into breakout sessions geared to club presidents and delegates. Later that evening we were treated to a spectacular and delicious Zone dinner at a private women’s club in downtown San Francisco. How wonderful it was to sit among our Zone X presidents and delegates and see what our Zone does on so many levels.
The Sunday business meeting included short reports from each zone representative who shared her creative ideas on pollinator programs, conservation, fundraising and community outreach. A memorable activity occurred after the hurricane in Nashville. The water was rising but there wasn’t any water to drink. Water bottles were brought in but the problem was what to do with the empties. The garden club of Nashville set up a recycling station via social media and thus educated the community in waste management. Another high impact project was ridding the beach in Carmel of plastic straws, which led to a new law whereby restaurants must use biodegradable straws.
The winner of the 2018 Founders Fund was a “therapeutic garden: nurturing plants and enriching minds” in Chicago. This project will transform a concrete courtyard into an accessible horticulture therapy garden for hands-on gardening for school groups and the community.
Sunday afternoon we all had optional tours. Mary Bruce and I opted to visit the Botanical Garden and the Japanese Tea Gardens. What an afternoon it was! After our long winter, it was special to see the lovely blooms of the Mediterranean Climate Habitats, Australian Garden, Chilean Garden and the Andean Cloud Forest. The Japanese Tea Garden was over five acres featuring classical elements such as an arched drum bridge, pagodas, stone lanterns, native Japanese plants, koi ponds with huge koi and a Zen garden. Cherry blossoms were blooming everywhere. Just spectacular!
The GCA Presidents reception and dinner later that evening awarded ten distinguished recipients of GCA medals. We were inspired by the meaningful work they have done. Chipper Wichman received the horticulture award for the gardens and native species preserves that he and his family have created in the Hawaiian Islands.
Also, Stephen Byrns received an award for outstanding work in the field of preservation of historic gardens, specifically nearby Untemermyer Gardens in Yonkers. Former first lady Laura Bush received the Achievement Medal in recognition of her advocacy of the aims of the GCA. The final and 10th award for innovative work in landscape design was awarded to Thomas Woltz. He received a standing ovation.
I am humbled and honored to have been a delegate from SLGC to this year’s GCA 2018 Annual Meeting. I look forward to sharing all the magnificent information gathered.