Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Plant Societies

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An interesting morning here on the mountain with a sunrise above Peacham Pond that offers just a bit of encouragement that rain and snowflakes will give rise to a few days of warmer weather. It's 29° right now and there's a consistent 3 mph wind. Karl the Wonder Dog and I just returned from our morning walk and as he led me through the back field this morning, the frozen grasses crunched and we startled Mrs Doe Deer and her twins from under the unknown apple tree.

Our weather folks predict the weather will change today and now through Monday we will have sun and 40s, even 50s. This is great news as there are many chores still incomplete. But by Tuesday, rain will return and here at 1530 feet we sit on the threshold of rain vs. snow. November can offer up teasing moments of 50s and 60s but it has a history of dropping piles of snow, especially around Thanksgiving time.

As temperatures drop and cold and snow prevail, gardeners have to retreat from their gardens if they live in the northeast. For me, one of my winter activities is catching up on the various plant societies Gail and I belong to. There is some active association for about every plant that exists although once in a while you have to hunt a bit. Over the past twenty five years we have belonged to 12-15 societies and have left some and joined others as our plant interests have changed.

Plant societies are no different than any social group. They change over time and they experience membership fluctuations. Recent economic troubles and an aging population have seen the decline in many organizations and budgets are often reviewed all too regularly to figure out what else can be cut or replaced.

In yesterday's mail I received a notice from the Pacific Northwest Lily Society which I have belonged to for many years. Four years ago I was in Seattle and decided to slide down to Vancouver, Washington and attend a meeting. Part of my goal for the trip was to visit the species gardens on Mt Hood but weather problems had devastated the crop and although my hosts offered the trip anyway, I decided to wait for a better time.

The mail was not good news but not a surprise either. The society has had membership issues for a few years and even ran without a president recently. Even with reduced newsletter publications they continued their incredible lily bulb sales that offered members new and unusual bulbs at great prices. The news described two alternatives: merge with the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon or dissolve and cease to exist. Voting is due in December and I will vote to merge.

The PNWLS has been one of many independent but regional arms of the North American Lily Society. It is actually situated in America's prime lily production land and from Vancouver, Washington on the Oregon border to Port Townsend, Washington on the north, there is an abundance of special lily growers and collectors. It is a great organization with some extremely knowledgeable and generous members.

Here at home I recently attended a Vermont plant society meeting. About 25 people appeared for the annual meeting and potluck dinner out of a membership of about 210. The membership in this group has been quite stable from year to year but the group operates without a president or a formal event committee and the newsletter editor consents to continue from year to year while suggesting that there must be someone else with interest. Regardless, this is one of the best little groups you'll ever find and it offers 10-12 garden tours or botanical forays per year as well as several presentations. But as Gail and I sit in a meeting, we are some of the youngest members and that is the problem that associations face.

If you as a gardener have a special interest, Google away and I guarantee you will find a plant society to match your special interest. Resources abound and the friendships that develop will be strong and lasting. Try to get your friends involved and if you have kids or grand kids, teach them about gardening too. America is reinventing its interest in vegetable and flower gardens and plant associations will be part of that. If you are having trouble deciding where to start, we have listed some of the societies we belong to on the Very Good Links page of Vermont Flower Farm.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the morning sky brightens and the birds flock in for their breakfast buffet.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Facebook for interested social networkers as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm

Social networking may be tomorrow's replacement for today's plant societies.

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