Their first meeting was held in 1929 after Mrs. J.H. “Susie” McGee placed a notice in the Gwinnett Journal.
The notice served as an invitation to the very first Garden Club meeting held on March 15 at 3:30 p.m at the McGee residence. And soon enough, women from all over the county began flocking to these meetings, usually held at one of their homes.
“Mrs. McGee lived on Clayton Street in a big white house with a big yard and pasture. She was an avid gardener, and I’d see her even in her 80’s raking in the yard,” longtime Club member Rachel Bronnum said of McGee, who was known to buy flower bulbs in bulk and plant them in Female Seminaries and along local highways.
“Over the years, things changed a lot. Garden Clubs did a lot of flower shows in the 50s. Now we focus on community service, growing and doing plant swaps and sales and classes for those who want to learn how things grow. We do a pruning class, and one on how to attract butterflies are examples of informative programs,” Bronnum continued.
The saying, ‘The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’ is true of Bron-num, who has been in connection with the Club nearly her entire life. Her mother, Margaret Tanner, had been a vital member to the Club during the 50s when it underwent significant changes.
By then, they had grown to a whopping 60 members, and the Club was too large for its own good. So, they underwent a division, the second in the club’s history, forming three smaller groups —The Cherokee, The Dogwood, and of course, the Lawrenceville Garden Club (LGC), according to literature shared at the LGC’s 90th birthday celebration.
On March 8th, 2019, members commenced at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse to remember their Club’s history as one of the first federated clubs in Georgia. Barbara Bourque, President-Elect of Garden Club of Georgia, presented them a certificate of appreciation and spoke to the gathering which included Tim Daley from the Gwinnett UGA Extension and Judy Jordan Johnson, the Mayor of Lawrenceville.
During the ceremony, the women planted two Georgia Native You-pon Hollies at the entrance of the Historic Courthouse. It’s not the first contribution they’ve made — every 5 to 10 years they add something — a bench, a bush, a tree — towards the improvement of the city.
But most of their resources are spent on their regular operations — planting flowerbeds, pruning bushes and manicuring the grounds of libraries, the Hope Clinic, and local nonprofit Creative Enterprises.
“There have been a lot of people involved in keeping it going,” said Club President Jane Matthews. She and other members devote their energy towards Garden Therapy Projects, making Easter gift bags for nursing homes, and on their upcoming food drives for the Lawrenceville Co-Op to be held in June and Decem-ber.
In the past, they’ve sponsored school activities such as the importance of trees essay contest at Dacula Middle. And every year, they contribute to the Garden Club of Georgia’s Scholarship fund which amounted to $75,000.00 for 2018-2019 and was awarded to 31 students, according to the GCG website.
Simply put, a love of beauty is what brings most Garden club members together. Their motto is to stimulate interest in, and knowledge of, the different forms of gardening, particularly the building of private gardens and general improvements in the city and environs.
“I grow Day Lilies and Irises; I have at least 100 of them,” Matthews said of the work she does in her own garden.
Of her personal reasons for joining the club, Bronnum said, “Although I first joined the club when my mother, Margaret Tanner, invited me, I have grown to value the importance of gardening and beautification. Just a few specific benefits include: where and how to plant and care for daylilies, roses, herbs, and trees; how to rid gardens of pests in healthy ways; how to leave our environment better than it was before our work.”
To preserve their history, the women have donated their archives, which consists of newspaper articles, scrapbooks, and other memorabilia to the Female Seminary which serves as a Gwinnett County Museum.
Tim Daley of the UGA Extension office in Gwinnett tipped his hat to these fellow green fingers saying, “The Garden Club has been around for a very long time, and they have made many positive and significant contributions promoting the value of horticulture in the community.”
Following the precedent McGee set 90 years ago, the women still meet in their homes. To expand their mission, they hope to recruit new members and keep the Club growing and active. For more information visit their Facebook page: “Lawrenceville Garden Club”.