by Sarah Peterson
A garden club that began in 1954 with 15 charter members, the Soil and Sunshine Club was recognized in March with Minnesota State Horticultural Society’s Garden Club of the Year Award.
The Garden Club of the Year Award is given annually to a garden club of the society that
demonstrates a leadership role in its community by improving public gardens, educating children and mentoring other gardeners.
The Soil and Sunshine Club now has about 45 registered members – family members, neighbors, gardeners and master gardeners throughout Anoka County – who come from the north metro suburbs.
Charlene Eckenroth of Circle Pines, the club’s president as of January 2012, attributed the March award to the club’s involvement in community projects.
The club members help maintain the gardens around the Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts in Fridley, the gardens at the Blaine Senior Center and the tranquility garden in the memory care unit at the Presbyterian Homes in Arden Hills.
Club members also make appearances at Banfill-Locke’s annual Arts at Rice Creek festival to share information about gardening and the club and at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, where members sell garlands as a way to raise funds for the garden club. A plant sale fund-raiser is also set for Friday and Saturday, May 11-12, in Blaine.
With the funds it raises, the club sponsors an annual scholarship for a student in the Department of Horticultural Science at the University of Minnesota. The Soil and Sunshine Club has been a supporter of the Horticultural Society and contributes annually to the MSHS Library for the purchase of new books.
Volunteering in gardens is not required for club membership, but the gardeners who do offer their time and skills are likely inspired by the “satisfaction of bringing gardening to the public,” Eckenroth said. Other members who might not contribute to other gardens go instead to garden shows to share information on how to join the Soil and Sunshine Club, she said.
As a member of the Soil and Sunshine Club, individuals also become members of the Federated Garden Club of Minnesota, and, if they choose, a member of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society, which allows access to other resources.
The Soil and Sunshine Club meets the second Monday of the month in Blaine for guest speakers, demonstrations and activities like garden tours or community projects. Sometimes the guest speaker will be one of the club’s membership who has become a master gardener through Anoka County’s program, Eckenroth said.
To be called a master gardener, an individual is interviewed to be approved for training at the University of Minnesota and then must complete 50 hours of volunteer work. After earning the title of a master gardener, the individual must continue volunteering in the community for at least 25 hours per year, Eckenroth said.
At the meetings, after a presentation by a master gardener or other guest speaker, the group has refreshments and access to books from the horticultural society’s library on the night’s topic, she said.
To learn more about the group or to become a member, visit a club meeting. The next meeting is 7 p.m. Monday, May 14 at the Blaine Senior Center, 9150 Central Ave. N.E., and master gardeners will discuss container gardens. For more information, call Lynn at 763-786-5458.
About the award
Each year the Minnesota State Horticultural Society recognizes individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to horticulture and greening efforts in public gardens, community projects and through exemplary community achievements.
Individuals, projects and activities of neighborhood groups, governmental organizations, garden clubs and communities that have meritoriously contributed to gardening and rejuvenating communities through plants are honored each year.
Twelve award winners were nominated by fellow community members from across the state for their outstanding contributions to horticulture and greening efforts and recognized by the Minnesota State Horticultural Society.
The 2011 winners were announced at the state awards and recognition event held at in the Heritage Room at Bachman’s Garden Center in Minneapolis on March 24.
Editor’s note: Sarah Peterson is a community editor for Sun-Focus Newspapers.
Sarah Peterson is at firstname.lastname@example.org