In Furor Hortensis

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All the clubs also contribute through their dues and through special fund-raising drives to a broad range of national conservation projects. Certainly the single largest and most costly rescue effort has been devoted to the Redwood forests of California. Beginning in 1930 the GCA channeled more than $500,000 in special member contributions to the Save-the-Redwoods League for purchase of a redwood grove of some five thousand acres within the Humboldt Redwood Parks System in northern California.

The GCA also has made itself a sort of Dutch aunt to the National Park Service; a National Park Committee created in 1934 is charged with keeping watch over federal legislation concerning the funding, care, and use of parks. One of the committee’s continuing concerns has been the commercialization of such heavily used parks as Yosemite, and it has successfully argued for the preservation of “forever wild” tracts and against high-speed roads through large parts of the national parks system. Highway beautification, water conservation, solar energy, endangered species, the use of certain highly toxic pesticides and herbicides, all are issues sure to draw a GCA delegate to Washington to observe hearings and report back to the membership. Though the Garden Club must be careful not to slip over into the area of lobbying for or against legislation, it can and does produce a huge outpouring of informed and often influential pressure from individual members. The fact that many are married to substantial campaign contributors is not lost on the legislators, nor, to be sure, on the members themselves, who can inundate a “misguided” congressman with several thousand telegrams on a few days notice.

Now sixty-five years old, the GCA is no longer just a forum for ladies to exchange horticultural ideas; members today are also aware that it adds an essential stimulus to their lives. “Sure, it’s social conscience and concern for the world our children will inherit and a lot of other altruistic motives,” says one middle-aged member, “but I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say that charity begins right here at home—with me. Through my local club and the GCA, I have an almost limitless opportunity to get involved with real-life things outside my household and even my community. Sometimes my ‘causes’ put me at loggerheads with my husband, but at least he doesn’t have to worry about me going to seed when the pressure of the children eases off. I will have plenty to do and I know I can be useful.”

Obviously the Garden Club of America is having no trouble adjusting to the modern world or finding areas of relevance for itself as an organization or for its members as individuals.