Capitol Hill Garden Club in 2024

1383
The Capitol Hill Garden Club touring the National Cathedral gardens. The club meets most months at the NE Library located at 330 7th St. and shares tips and inspiration.

Think garden clubs, and you might dig up a 1950s memory of a group of well-groomed ladies who lunch and fiercely compete in floral arrangement contests. In that era, membership was by invitation only. Fast forward to the 1970s and 1980s when the Capitol Hill Garden Club was known for selling daffodil bulbs at Eastern Market on Saturdays in the fall. 

The daffodils were an extension of Lady Bird Johnson’s Capitol beautification project. Covid took its toll on Capitol Hill club membership, but creative leadership kept it afloat. Today, the Capitol Hill Garden Club is an active part of the Hill gardening community, and far from being your grandma’s garden club.

The Capitol Hill Garden Club’s mission is to bring together Washington area people interested in gardening, landscaping, and the environment. The club is a nonprofit organization and part of the bigger network of National Garden Clubs. The parent organization is in Saint Louis, Missouri adjacent to the Missouri Botanical Gardens. 

Today individual clubs have a lot of latitude to organize their members to reflect their interests and locations. Long gone are the competitive flower shows for the Hill club.

Monthly Meetings

Currently the Capitol Hill Garden Club has 65 members according to Patricia Hindin, a volunteer responsible for 2024 membership. Annual membership costs $50 for an individual and $75 for a couple. Dues are collected in October each year, and you can join online at the club’s website, www.capitolhillgardenclub.org.  The club meets monthly from September through the end of May. In the winter months, the meetings are held virtually through Zoom, and the in-person meetings are held at the Northeast DC Library located at 330 Seventh St. NE at 6:30 p.m.

Daffodil sales were a fundraiser for the club back in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Lady Bird Johnson started the tradition of beautifying the city by planting the colorful flower during her White House stay.

The Capitol Hill Club is a group of like-minded gardeners who enjoy learning more about the environment around them, and tips on how to improve their own home gardens. Melanie Dann, current President of the Club, says she is impressed with the thoughtfulness and inspiration that the membership brings to the meetings. “I think we have really provided an interesting variety of speakers and field trips for our members,” says Melanie. 

In 2023, the gardeners have visited several local gardeners, the Hill Center, and the National Cathedral gardens.  “It is reassuring as a fairly new gardener to hear from professional gardeners that everyone has failures,” Melanie notes. “We learned at the Hill Center that original designs have had to be adjusted because changes like trees needing to be removed, making a shade garden suddenly a sunny one.”

The club has maintained three community projects for many years, including keeping “turtle park” near Eastern Market looking beautiful and inviting.

The membership is a diverse group. “Some members join having moved here from other cities where they had been a member of a garden club. They enjoy finding a community like their old ones,” says Patricia. “Others are first time members looking to connect with other gardeners.”  The average age is somewhat older, as in many traditional institutions, but the leadership is hoping the great variety of speakers will bring in younger Hill residents.

Community Projects

The Capitol Hill Garden Club has sustained three community projects for years.

Turtle Park, a pocket park at Eastern Market, is one of the long running gardens maintained by the group. It is described as a legacy project honoring Edee Hogan and Muriel Martin Wein.  “Several times a year, the club cleans up the park often joined by boy scout groups, that provide much appreciated muscle power,” says Melanie.  “We are currently working with others to address the recent issue of homeless camping in the park.” 

The Peabody Pollinator Habitat Garden is yet another example of a community project organized by the Hill club.  Mary Blakeslee is spearheading the effort, and recently gave the club a tour of the garden, explaining why certain plants have been chosen to fill spaces in the garden.  The garden has been around long enough to make it a great sample of a pollinator garden.

A third project is spearheaded by Vira Sisolak, long time club member and Master Gardener.  A pocket park off Massachusetts Avenue near the old Verizon switching station building is tended by Vira and other club members.  Their work takes a neglected space and brings beauty to the Hill.

Melanie says the club is always open to considering projects that members are interested in helping with. “Many hands make light work,” says Melanie.

Upcoming Events

April 9th, the monthly meeting will feature one of the club’s new members, Karin Edgett.

Karin will be sharing her interest and knowledge on edible flowers. Karin says she liked the synergy of the Capitol Hill Garden Club and found it a convivial collective. She feels it will be a club that is welcoming to an eclectic gardener like herself. 

Karin loves using flowers and herbs in her cooking and recently shared a great Cherry Blossom Lemonade drink that was both beautiful in presentation and taste. She is self-taught and keeps discovering new edible blooms and flowers all the time. Her latest find is forsythia blooms.

Karin Edgett, new member to the Capitol Hill Garden Club, will be the April speaker at the monthly club meeting and will share her expertise on edible flowers. She recently served a cherry blossom lemon-ginger-ade that was a delicious taste of spring.

In May, the club hosts an annual garden walk for members only. Patricia Hindin is organizing this year’s walk. She reports there are so many wonderful gardens to choose from that the walk will be a great treat for members.  Having moved in two years ago, Patricia notes her own front garden is a work in progress, “I am excited about learning more about shade gardening which is new to me, and I plan to experiment with a lot of containers this summer,” says Patricia, “but it isn’t ready for a tour.”

If you have been wondering where you could meet other gardeners on the Hill, the club is your opportunity to network with like-minded people.  Not often do you experience as much joy and comradery as the Capitol Hill Garden Club is inviting you to enjoy in 2024.

Rindy O’Brien loves connecting gardeners to one another and encourages new gardeners to give the club a try. Rindy can be  reached at rindyobrien@gmail.com