In their 10th year as an area garden club, Gardeners by the Sea have expanded their membership from 45 to 55, to allow more community members to join.
“We decided we would increase our membership this year, because I think there are many people out in the public who have moved here and have no idea that we even exist,” said Lisa Arni, founder of Gardeners by the Sea and first-vice-president of the Delaware Federation of Garden Clubs. “I think it was a good opportunity for newcomers who have the time and interest to join a garden club.
“We started in 2004, and we advertised to the public by putting out flyers. We had 33 people come to the very first meeting at the library; it was surprising. I knew then there was a reason for this because people wanted to join. The reason why I started it — there was no club you could join in the area as a newcomer to the area. There just wasn’t a club that had open membership like this.”
There is no application process to join, she said. It is simply first come, first served.
Arni said if there was a great interest in the club that would exceed the new membership limit, they would look into possibly starting a second club.
“I’m looking for people who are new to the area, perhaps, who have an interest in gardening. We are an active club, we work a lot, we do a lot in the community, so we want an active member,” she said. “It’s educational; We do a lot of programs, so they don’t have to have a background in gardening per se, but they will learn.”
Members must be active on at least one committee, attend five out of 10 monthly meetings (the club doesn’t meet in July or August) and pay yearly dues of $35. The club meets the second Friday of each month at the Ocean View Presbyterian Church Hall.
The club does a great deal of community outreach, such as participating in annual beach clean-ups, sponsoring and working at a home for the Beach & Bay Cottage Tour, landscaping at Lord Baltimore Elementary School and decorating a tree with handmade ornaments for the Delaware Hospice’s Festival of Trees.
“We work with Habitat for Humanity. We’re going to be planting at a home that will go to a veteran,” said Arni. “We have a Sunshine Committee that makes little cards and notes to be put on the Meals for Wheels trays before they are sent out. And this year we’re trying to get a volunteer to help decorate at the White House at Christmastime.”
The club also offers garden therapy at the Cheer Center in Roxana.
“The committee does flower arranging with the seniors there. They bring their arrangements back to their homes or rooms. They always make something to take with them, which they love doing. We’ve been doing it for a long, long time. We have the same people coming every time.”
The club is also working on starting a new youth program, through which they hope to go into area elementary schools and work with the children.
“We’re going to work with the National Federation of Garden Clubs on their Frightened Frog project. The frogs are the early signs of environmental mishap, so we’re going to be starting a new youth program this year,” she said. “We’ve already contacted the local elementary schools, and they’re open to us coming in and doing a program with them.”
The club also offers an annual scholarship for students studying horticulture, with this year’s award to be $2,000.
“Right from the beginning, year one, that was my president’s project, to have scholarships, because I thought that would be one of the most beneficial projects we could do — to support a student who had the desire but maybe not the financial support to go into some form of horticulture,” said Arni. “We’ve had the scholarship every year since the beginning of time and it’s only gotten bigger. We started out with $100 and now we’re up to $2,000 a year.”
Over the years, the scholarship program has benefitted 17 students, with approximately $14,000 awarded.
“It’s amazing when you think about it.”
To support all of their efforts, the club holds various fundraisers throughout the year. Their annual Baby Hydreangea sale on Mother’s Day has been a hit in the last few years. Arni said that, to change it up, the club is planning a Downton Abbey Tea in the spring.
She said the club has been active in the community because of its members.
“We’ve all been busy in our professional lives, and it’s time to give back now. I think that’s sort of where we are. This is such a nice area, and we’re happy to be here,” she said.
Arni noted that it’s also because of their association with the Delaware Federation of Garden Clubs.
“They’ve been in existence for over 60 years. They have different programs and awards to the individual garden clubs for some of these achievements we do in the community. I think when you belong to an organization like that, it makes you a better club, because they have a history, a background of what you might do that you may not even think about yourself.”
Arni said one of the biggest assets of having the club form through open membership was the mixture of membership they were able to acquire.
“This whole group would never have come together and met… We never would’ve known each other, ever, because it wasn’t formed from friends of friends. Since it was open to the community, when we have varying levels of gardeners … we’ve got an eclectic mix of people.”
She said those who have an interest in gardening and want to be an active member should consider filling one of the club’s open spots and make a few friends, as well.
“I think the biggest impact was, if you were new and you didn’t know anyone, you could come here. I think that was the biggest asset at the time. I know there are people out there now that are in the same position. They don’t know anybody; they don’t know where to go to find people to be friends with. This just opens up an avenue for friendship. In the end, ultimately that’s what came to be.”
To learn more about Gardeners by the Sea or for inquiries regarding membership, call (302) 537-6238.