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Book Review: The Garden Club of America – 100 Years of a Growing Legacy

Book Cover.140Written by William Seale
Published by The Garden Club of America, 2012

Reviewed by Kathy Sargent-O’Neill

For those curious about the history of one of the plots (Philadelphia) where the seeds of the American gardening and landscape movement were sown, The Garden Club of America – 100 Years of a Growing Legacy by William Seale is a good read.

Written in 2012 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Garden Club of America (GCA), this book chronicles the history of dedicated volunteers who contributed to beautifying America. At the turn of the last century, mostly woman made up the ranks of volunteers, although some local clubs have males on their rosters these days. Seale chronicles the achievements of women who become involved in “pursuits outside the home” to the betterment of their communities.

The book is full of information about the events that unfold during the Club’s first 100 years and provides the stories of the movers and shakers who founded the GCA. Though the founders were among the ranks of proper society ladies of the early 1900s, the women at the heart of the Garden Club of America were nonetheless no shrinking violets. Seale tells the reader that the founders, and those who remain dedicated to the Club’s mission, discovered that though they were involved with the “business of gardening, not politics, yet…at times gardening…required some politics.”

One such foray into politics occurred in 1930 when the Garden Club got involved in the movement to protect the redwoods in California. If you’ve ever visited these mighty giants you have the Club, among others, to thank for the tall trees’ continued presence in the forests of California. As you continue to read, you’ll see many other examples of how the Club was and continues to be a key force behind much conservation work, the preservation of forests and open lands, as well as other civic activities that benefit many towns throughout the U.S.A.

If a bit slow in places, 100 Years of a Growing Legacy is worth a read for some insight into an institution that’s done much good and continues to attract members with a mission that is as relevant today as it was when the Club was first founded.

A belated Happy Anniversary GCA.

About the Author

Kathy Sargent-O’Neill is a Certified Landscape Designer with a practice in Buzzards Bay, MA. In addition to an interest in all things gardening she is a past president of ELA and is an active member of the ELA Conference Planning Committee. She looks forward to bringing another interesting and informative 2014 conference to Springfield, MA, on Feb. 26-27th and hopes to see you there! Kathy may be reached at