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Chestnut Oak seedlings
The Legacy Tree Project at Furman University
American Chestnut (Castanea dentata)
Prunus sargentii park planting
The GCA Centennial Tree Project
GCA leadership has been planning for its Centennial Celebration since 2005. A key goal of the centennial was to create a horticultural project that would involve all member clubs, honor the purpose of the Garden Club of America, and provide lasting benefits to the local clubs, their communities and the nation as a whole.
As the project was refined, trees became its focus. The theme, Preserving the Past, Growing the Future, was identified to commemorate GCA’s centennial with a celebration of trees. Guidelines were broad and projects could involve history, preservation, beauty or uniqueness of certain trees, sustainability or environmental value – and the concept allowed for the selection of a topic of particular significance to each club.
During the development of their projects, GCA clubs were encouraged to study their tree or trees, propagate, promote knowledge, utilize photography or other art forms, develop educational activities for their club and communities, form partnerships with local, non-profit, government and/or educational groups, and to document the process. Clubs could work alone, join forces with another GCA club, work with a community organization, or a government agency. By the end of 2009, the clubs had defined their projects and the centennial celebration was under way!
The resulting projects are as varied as is the broad geographical distribution of GCA clubs. They range from a reforestation project that utilizes tree seeds original to the site to the development of a botanical garden; partners include city governments, a “Friends” group, and neighborhood associations. There are several propagation efforts where clubs are experimenting with grafting, seeds, cuttings, and layering, while other projects focus on disease and blight-resistant trees. Some clubs are working to restore trees in historic gardens, and others have planted trees in parks, land preserves and ecologically important sites. Creativity is pervasive and has resulted in a children’s book on botany as well as a documentary film. One club has partnered with local elementary schools to educate children about propagation and after 2 years, distributed 2-year old Katsura trees to students to take home and plant.
The GCA is understandably proud of the ongoing value and success of the Centennial Tree Project. More than 23,500 trees have been planted. Every GCA member club participated in the effort – one that will have a lasting impact on the GCA, at least 200 communities nationwide, and on all the garden club members who participated. The 2013 Centennial Tree Project succeeded in preserving the past and growing the future, and in so doing, celebrated the momentous occasion of the Garden Club of America’s Centennial.