Sunflower photoCP&GC Partners with Roxbury Sunflower Project and Prospect Hill Academy

In 2020, with in-person activities and community outreach on hold due to the COVID lockdown, the Cambridge Plant & Garden Club (CP&GC) looked for novel ways to engage with the community and, specifically, with local students remotely, during the pandemic. The club’s hope was to inspire in students a closer connection with nature, public spaces, and knowledge of the plant world.

woman working in a sidewalk gardenCP&GC members were inspired by Boston artist and community activist Ekua Holmes whose Roxbury Sunflower Project has planted hundreds of sunflowers in the historically Black neighborhood as symbols of hope, resilience, and empowerment. (In Spring 2021, Ms. Holmes expanded her sunflower planting with Elizabeth James-Perry, an Aquinnah Wampanoag artist, activist, and tribe member, on the grounds of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.) Together with Ms. Holmes, the club forged a partnership with the Prospect Hill Academy (PHA), one of the oldest and largest charter schools operating in Massachusetts. (PHA is a tuition-free, college preparatory school with a student body drawn from racially and socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods.)

CP&GC created an after-school curriculum for study of the sunflower, with a dynamic and diverse team, including Ms. Holmes, Carmen Mouzon from the Farm School, and Molly Edwards, a PhD candidate at Harvard University’s Kramer Lab and producer of the educational Science in Real Life (IRL) on YouTube. Eight lessons were held remotely during the winter of 2020–21 with a group of middle school girls. The sessions included looking at the sunflower through the lenses of art, botany, mathematics, farming, and social justice.

At the end of the program, the young women designed a garden full of sunflowers and other annuals to be planted in the spring when they could comfortably and safely meet outdoors. Happily, the team met in person in late May to plant that garden at the entrance of Prospect Hill Academy building in Cambridge. The results were enjoyed through the summer and the beginning of the school year, and we look forward to a continued partnership.

Mass Horticultural Society Medal for the Cambridge Plant Club, 1931“What’s in a Name?” or “Is This the First Garden Club?”

There is often controversy surrounding the honor of being first established – whether in the realm of schools, colleges, hospitals, or special-interest clubs. Garden clubs are no exception. The first women’s garden club was a Cambridge club – the Garden Street Garden Club, founded in 1879. After the Plant Club was founded in 1889, the Garden Street Garden Club gave way to the younger club. The third oldest women’s club was the Ladies’ Garden Club of Athens, Georgia, which held its first meeting in 1892. Around 1930, a controversy arose between the Cantabrigians and the Athenians concerning which of the two clubs was an older and truer garden club.

The dispute is laid out “What’s in a Name?’ or ‘Is This the First Garden Club?’” – written by CP&GC historian Annette LaMond and originally published by the Cambridge Historical Society (now History Cambridge). The paper includes a number of images drawn from the archives of the CP&GC. Read a PDF of the article here.

A History Reclaimed: The Society for the Protection of Native Plants and the Cambridge Plant Club

Members of the Cambridge Plant Club developed an interest in the conservation wild flowers in the 1890s, and became subscribers of the Society for the Protection of Native Plants soon after its founding in 1901. This paper by Annette LaMond gives a history of this early conservation organization, and its subsequent transformation into the New England Wild Flower Society. The paper, which includes many illustrations, also gives new recognition to the roles of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and The Garden Club of America in supporting the protection of native plants. Together, the two organizations encouraged a succession of ardent gardeners, including our club’s members, to dedicate their volunteer energy to the New England Wild Flower Society, paving the way for today’s vibrant Native Plant Trust. Read a PDF of the essay HERE.