Capitol Hill Garden Club Spreads Garden Love

Capitol Hill Garden Club members enjoying their annual December holiday greening event. Left to Right: Anthony Pontorno, Edie Hogan, Donna Brauth. Photo credit: Joseph Purdy.

Introducing the Capitol Hill Garden Club: it’s local, it’s free, and it’s a fun way to share your love of gardening with other people in person. You don’t even need to live on the Hill to participate.

After the customary two-month summer hiatus, the club’s new year kicks off this month and continues through June with a monthly speaker series, social events, community service greening activities, and a spring neighborhood walking tour.

Membership dues are a modest $35 per year, though anyone may attend the club’s free monthly meetings, usually held at the Northeast Neighborhood Library at 330 Seventh St. NE.

The club welcomes people of all ages, ethnicities, and any level of gardening experience. It has nearly one hundred members and is actively seeking new garden lovers to join and help shape its future. Information on the club, including a great newsletter archive, may be found online at

Who Belongs?
Meet Teri Speight, a DC native living just over the line in Prince George’s County. Her parents lived on the Hill, close to where she now works. She joined the Capitol Hill Garden Club three years ago after shopping around and finding the Hill’s group especially welcoming. She is taking up the role of newsletter editor for the club (“I’m in training,” she clarifies). Speight is a true garden evangelist. When not occupied in her very full-time day job, she coaches friends, neighbors, and residents of her housing development in gardening. She hosts a blog,, and has just been elected Region II Director of the Association for Garden Communicators, She believes the Capitol Hill Garden Club will help introduce newcomers to the joys of growing and sharing plants and stories.

Ed Peterman is a Virginia Tech-trained horticulturalist with a senior position at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). He sold family-grown produce as a child on a Blacksburg, Va.-area farm that has been in the family for 200 years. Since moving to the Hill in 1996, he has practiced community horticulture.

Peterman is responsible for planting cherry trees (of the eating kind) in Garfield Park that he tends and helps harvest. His efforts on the Hill are part of a large movement of appropriating public lands for fruit trees. More on that is available from the Orchard People, created by Susan Poizner, author of “Growing Urban Orchards,” Peterman is vice president of the Capitol Hill Garden Club.

Speight and Peterman exemplify the maxim, “If you want something done, assign it to a busy person.”

Other club members include beloved and still active centenarian Marie Hertzberg, who celebrated her 100th birthday with club members ( She isn’t an original club member, but she does have a long institutional memory.

Carol Edwards is a member of the club’s Garden Design Consultation Committee and is the club’s resident rose expert, or rosarian. She was featured in an earlier column on the Hill’s Potomac Rose Society (

Filmmaker and Hill resident Sharon Ferguson has presented to the club about her front garden design and has served as an organizer of the annual May neighborhood garden walk. She recounted her experiences redesigning her front garden at one of the club’s popular annual meetings, where members share their personal garden trials and tribulations ( Vice President Peterman says that the annual program is one of the most popular.

Some Capitol Hill Garden Club members have gone through training to become master gardeners while others are garden newbies.

Garden Club Speakers in 2017-18
Watch the club’s website for more details, but the new season’s meetings and exciting speakers are now set. The September gathering is a business meeting where new officers are elected. This might be a nice meeting to attend to meet people as the new season gets going.

Subject-area talks begin with the Oct. 10 meeting, devoted to fragrance in the garden and led by Baltimore-area designer and writer Claire Jones. Her informative and entertaining blog is called “The Garden Diaries, the Ups and Downs of the Gardening World” ( No stranger to the Hill, Jones has decorated the White House for Christmas on more than one occasion.

On Nov. 14, I will speak with the club on how to work with nature, not fight it. My talk, “Cooperative Bio-Balance – Seeing from the Tree’s Point of View,” is based on work I’ve done with Jim Conroy (the “Tree Whisperer”) and his partner Basia Alexander. For more on their approach see I have personally found more peace in my garden and within myself having learned their approach.

The Dec. 5 meeting is a holiday “Deck the Halls Greens Workshop,” which promises to be festive and fun. The January meeting is devoted to selected members sharing stories of their own gardens.

Guest speakers resume with the February meeting, which will be about water features for small gardens. It will be presented by a staff member of the nationally recognized landscape architecture firm OVS, whose offices are located right on Eighth Street SE (

In March, Virginia author, columnist, and master gardener Marianne Willburn will share her organic approach to garden-making, based on her recent book, “Big Dreams, Small Garden: A Guide to Creating Something Extraordinary in Your Ordinary Space.” Check out her blog, “The Small Town Gardener,”

The April program will feature garden perennials old and new, presented by Eastern Shore resident Ruth Clausen. She is a British-trained horticulturalist and author of several popular books including “Perennials for American Gardens,” “Dreamscaping,” and “50 Beautiful Deer-Resistant Plants,” and co-author (with Thomas Christopher) of “Essential Perennials, the Complete Reference to 2700 Perennials for the Home Garden.”

The club goes outside for its May meeting with a very local tour featuring members’ gardens. This past May the tour was organized by E.J. Truax and included five Northeast neighborhood gardens, with refreshments served at the last garden stop. The June meeting, a members’ party, ends the season to allow time for summer gardening and long-distance garden touring.

Peterman emphasizes the educational aspect of the Capitol Hill Garden Club, and also its community-service history. For example, the club has been instrumental in raising money and caring for Turtle Park, across from Eastern Market ( Unlike some garden clubs, he says, “We don’t do floral arrangements or judging. You won’t see cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off.” Peterman looks forward to greater interaction between the garden club and local government, citing the Capitol Hill connection with former Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, now director of the Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE). Other exciting programs are in the works.

Consider becoming part of the Capitol Hill Garden Club’s future yourself. The next meeting is on Sept. 12.


Cheryl Corson is a landscape architect and writer practicing on Capitol Hill and beyond. She is also a Tree Protector,, and looks forward to sharing this aspect of her work at the November Capitol Hill Garden Club meeting.