The Forest Hills Garden Club has been in existence since 1941 and is still going strong even though you might never have heard of it. Its mission today is the same as it was then for members to learn about plants and gardening, and to foster and maintain the bucolic bliss we enjoy in our neighborhood and our greater community.
Though the FH Garden Club keeps a low profile, its efforts through the years have reaped large rewards for both Forest Hills and Durham. Club members Brenda Brodie and Carol Kurtz were key volunteers at Duke Gardens, where they helped plan, design and raise funds for the Doris Duke Center; served on the Duke Gardens board for multiple terms; served as docents and started the gift shop and Craft Guild, among other things. Lest you think their work was all "gentile," understand that in those days Duke Gardens had few employees, and volunteers did everything from crawl around in the dirt looking for old plant ID tags to removing ivy from buildings.
Brenda also started South Eastern Efforts Developing Sustainable Spaces, Inc.(SEEDS), which has been transforming Durham neighborhoods and the lives of the underprivileged through gardening since 1994. The SEEDS program originally taught the homeless to grow food and turned vacant lots into productive, community-controlled spaces that produced sustainable organic meals for the poor (the SEEDS program, incidently, was instrumental in the creation of the Durham Farmer's Market that many of us enjoy every Sat morn). Most recently, SEEDS has grown to serve the next generation, with after-school programs and camps for children and youth that provide constructive, wholesome activities, feed people, and teach earth-friendly values as well.
Other projects over the last 65 years include supporting the Durham Council of Garden Club's efforts in re-landscaping the Durham Rescue Mission; various projects at the Friendly Rest Home; donating flowers for display in the chapel at the VA hospital; picking up litter in the neighborhood; buying plants and plaques for various FH garden beds and locations; and planting and maintaining the Memorial Garden Bed at the bottom of Oak Drive, at the corner of WFH and University.
The Memorial Bed was first planted in 1959 to honor Garden Club founder Amy Carr (also known as Mrs. George Watts Carr Sr), who lived at 15 Oak Drive. The bed was primarily made up of plants that were given to her family in her memory. In 1982, upon the death of another Garden Club stalwart, Mary Anne Stockton, of 1124 WFH, another memorial garden, funded by Mary Anne's own will, was planted right next to it. From 1985 to 1997 the two beds were lovingly cared for by Garden Club member and then-resident of 15 Oak Drive, Ava Hobgood, who planted bulbs and let the two beds grow together. Today the beds are indistinguishable from each other and make a lovely vista for those walking the trail along WFH. And who do you think is watching over that bed with special care? That's right the current resident of 15 Oak Drive, Garden Club member Mindy Solie.
FH Garden Club President Mildred Teer (who may have moved out of the neighborhood, but she hasn't given up the Garden Club!) says the club has many goals for 2008 chief among them is to strengthen communication with the FH Board, the FH Trees and Parks Committee and Forest Hills residents. We are considering moving our meetings from one weekday morning a month to an evening so as to make membership available to more people. Two of our members, Mary Brogden and Carol Kurtz, are master gardeners, and past meetings have included instruction on flower arranging, dividing perennials, and making boxwood wreaths, as well as touring Fearrington Gardens. Planned upcoming meetings include instruction on herb gardens and a field trip to the Sandhills Horticultural Garden in Pinehurst. If you are interested in being a member of the Forest Hills Garden Club, please contact Kim Van Horn by email.