In the dead of winter, when snow blankets the ground and gray days are short and cold, a small group of dedicated gardeners meet in a greenhouse at Manito Park.
They’re dreaming of spring and preparing plants, seedlings and cuttings for their annual plant sale.
Founded in 1933, Associated Garden Clubs of Spokane is a consortium of independent garden clubs. For more than 30 years, the organization has been beautifying the community by sponsoring grants for community garden- related projects within Spokane County.
Those grants are made possible by the yearly plant sale, and the plants are made possible by the small but dedicated group of green-thumbed gardeners who meet twice a week to nurture the seedlings through the winter months.
“It’s wonderful to be here in the greenhouse when it’s snowing outside,” said club member Jennifer Ogden.
Julie DeLis nodded.
“We have so much fun,” DeLis said. “Norma always makes sure we take a coffee break and brings homemade cinnamon rolls. She’s also an amazing wizard with plants!”
Longtime AGC member and current co-president, Norman Gavin, smiled.
She believes anyone can garden.
“The only way to learn is to do it,” she said.
Gavin is proud of the club’s history, noting that AGC was responsible for Spokane becoming the Lilac City.
In 1938, the organization hosted the first Lilac Festival flower show and a small parade. The group still presents the Lilac Luncheon each May.
Anyone can attend the three general AGC meetings held each year in March, April and May. The meetings are on the fourth Friday at noon in the Manito Park meeting room near the Conservatory. Each meeting features a guest speaker and a light lunch.
Last week, the greenhouse was bursting at the seams with with flowers including geraniums, petunias and pansies.
“We try to focus on things that grow locally,” Ogden said.
Hanging baskets, houseplants, customized container plantings and herbs also will be offered at the event.
Last year, the Associated Garden Clubs of Spokane donated more than $15,000 to grant recipients and has donated more than $275,000 over the years.
Previous recipients include North Hill Neighborhood Council for a nature-inspired mural by Daniel Lopez; Excelsior Youth Center toward creation of a certified arboretum; and Spokane Woman’s Club Community Garden Project to fund a transitional housing vegetable garden.
“We tend to take care of smaller organizations that can fall through the cracks,” Ogden said. “It’s social service through gardening.”
ACG recently opened its 2019 funding round for community gardening-related projects within Spokane County. The deadline application is May 15.
After their coffee break, the small group of volunteers put their fingers back into the soil, readying plants for the sale.
“I just enjoy plants,” DeLis said. “I don’t get tired because we’re having so much fun.’
Some of the seedlings and plugs they were working with came from Gaiser Conservatory in Manito Park.
“They give us their extra,” Ogden said. “People can take home a little bit of Manito Park at the plant sale.”
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