The Garden Clubbers

By Mary Beth Schwartz

For those who love to garden and socialize, the Lehigh Valley offers a bunch of garden clubs to join.

According to the National Gardening Association, gardening is the number one hobby in America. Every April, the National Gardening Association (NGA) celebrates National Garden Month. According to the NGA, gardeners know, and research confirms, that nurturing plants is good for us: attitudes toward health and nutrition improve, kids perform better at school, and community spirit grows. So it should come as no surprise that garden clubs are growing, especially here in the Lehigh Valley.

Garden clubs allow gardeners to gather together and share their knowledge. Members share a love of gardening, and an interest in making new friendships. Long-time members often have extensive gardening experience, while newer members offer fresh perspectives.

Statewide, there are over 6,000 garden club members. Garden clubs are classified as federated and non-federated. (Federated clubs belong to The Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania and receive benefits such as a magazine subscription, convention information, etc.). Pennsylvania federated clubs belong to The Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania (GCFP)—a charitable, volunteer organization of women, men, and youth who share interests in gardening, civic beautification, floral design, conservation of natural resources, and local environmental and legislative issues. The GCFP is a member of National Garden Clubs, Inc., the largest volunteer gardening organization in the world.

The Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania is divided into 11 districts. The Lehigh Valley federated clubs of Allentown, Bethlehem, Emmaus, and Parkland fall under District II/III. Each club has regular meetings, develops a schedule, awards scholarships, and has community projects and activities. A popular activity for garden clubs is bus trips. Many host an annual pilgrimage to the Philadelphia International Flower Show. This year’s show, which took place March 4-11, had a Hawaiian theme and was a huge success, as always. Guest speakers at programs cover a wide range of topics on horticulture, floral design, conservation, birds and butterflies, how-to crafts, and more.

Each club requires members to pay annual dues with part of the club membership paying for a quarterly subscription to The Keystone Gardener, a GCFP magazine. Gardeners can belong to more than one federated club—membership is not restricted to a residential address. In addition, gardeners can belong to a number of non-federated clubs, such as Catasauqua Garden Club, Coplay Garden Club, Indianland Garden Club, Lower Macungie Garden Club, Moorestown Garden Club, and Nazareth Area Garden Club.

According to Rosemary Gish Ebersole, Director of District II/III in The Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania, a real treasure for federated members is the annual convention. Held this year at the Hyatt Regency Philadelphia, April 22-24, the three-day event includes notable speakers on horticulture, floral design, and related topics. Tours and workshops also are part of the busy schedule. Ebersole will be teaching a floral design class March through November at Emmaus Moravian Church. Open to federated and non-federated clubs, the class is the last Tuesday of the month. Classes are from 1-3 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. The charge is $4 per class—lecture and demonstration only.

Local Garden Clubs

Emmaus Garden Club

Meets on the first Tuesday of the month, March through December

12:30 p.m.

Faith Presbyterian Church, Emmaus

According to outgoing president and active member Ellen Wilson, the club was founded in 1936 and has 70 members. “We take care of and maintain the three municipal gardens in Emmaus and have road trips to nurseries and places of interest. We present garden awards throughout the growing season,  have monthly tournaments, as well as hands-on workshops, slide presentations, design studies—there is something for everyone. And, we have refreshments at every meeting,” Wilson notes.

Parkland Garden Club

Meets the second Monday of each month

7:30 p.m.

Jordan Lutheran Evangelical Church

5103 Snowdrift Road, Orefield

Organized in 1955, the club has 62 members. Special projects for the club include an Arbor Day planting at the Lehigh Valley Zoo, care of the butterfly garden at Wehr’s Mill Dam, and maintenance of plantings at Ironton Rail Trail, which is where the Parkland Garden Club Garden Tour is held. Celebrating its 14th year, the tour will take place on July 14. Tickets to see the private gardens can be purchased in advance, or on the day of the event. (Rain or shine event.)

Allentown Garden Club

Monthly meetings the second Thursday of each month, February through May, and then from September through December.

12:30 p.m.

Allentown Public Library (lower level)

This club began in 1948 by eight women who wanted to introduce gardening and horticulture in the community. Today there are 113 members, including junior garden club members.

Special projects for the federated club

• Maintaining flower boxes at America on Wheels

• Care of Allentown’s Fragrance Garden

• Weekly flower care at Lehigh Valley Hospital

• Garden therapy programs at Good Shepherd and Phoebe Home

• Decorating the Allentown Public Library Christmas trees with homemade natural ornaments.

Special club events include a May 12th public plant sale, teas, mini field trips, and an annual greens sale. “Join a club and immerse yourself in the experience. Volunteer to be on a committee or be a part of an activity. You learn more, and you get to make friends. Gardening covers all age groups. America’s garden clubs are growing—you could say they are springing up all over the place,” Club President Janice Geider says.

In honor of Allentown’s 250th anniversary, the Allentown Garden Club, in conjunction with Tree City USA, plans to plant a tree in the city’s honor.

Bethlehem Garden Club

1 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month, March through December

Advent Moravian Church


President Elizabeth Lorenz is in charge of this 200-member federated club.  In its heyday, the members of the club wore hats and white gloves and had tea served with silver and fine china. Today’s club members are more interested in conservation and native plantings.

Special projects for the Bethlehem Garden Club include:

• Care of the 1810 Heckewelder House for the Bach Choir

• Maintenance of the Garden of Serenity at the Bethlehem Area Public Library

• Decorating the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts

• Horticulture therapy programs at Cedarbrook Nursing home

• Maintenance of the Victorian-era 1870 Miller’s House Garden.

• In July of this year the club will host a flower show at the Hotel Bethlehem.

A Little Something Extra

For enthusiasts looking for even more ways to share the love of gardening and all things horticultural, check out the following:

Historic Bethlehem has its annual “Rooms to View House Tour” on June 2. In its 20th year, the distinctive house tour will feature outdoor kitchens, gardens, patios, and extravagantly landscaped pool areas. A preview party on June 1 from 6 to 8 p.m. will give supporters an exclusive look at a legendary American style home. Tickets may be purchased at the Historic Bethlehem Welcome Center. All proceeds from the tour support Historic Bethlehem’s mission to bring history to life by educating the public about Bethlehem’s rich history, collect and preserve artifacts, and preserve historic sites.

The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley host their annual Community Plant Exchange on May 19. This leisurely morning is perfect for garden enthusiasts at any skill level. Registered participants can bring a minimum of three healthy plants with identifying tags or labels to The Promenade Shops on May 19 in exchange for plants that other participants have brought. Participants may bring a mixture of annuals, perennials, herbs, bulbs, shrubs, trees, vegetable plants, houseplants, and even gently-used gardening books. Plants can be seedlings, divisions, rooted cuttings, or transplants. The plant drop-off begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 9:45 a.m. The exchange begins at 10 a.m. and will follow a “three-at-a-time, then-back-in-line” rotation, until all the plants are gone.

Follow @LehighValleyMarketplace on Instagram