Tulsa Garden Club celebrates 90 years
For 90 years, Tulsa Garden Club has helped make Tulsa one of America’s most beautiful cities, while teaching others about all things horticulture.
Members of the 90-year-old Tulsa Garden Club gather at Tulsa Garden Center. Seated, left to right, are Fleta Haskins, secretary; Patty Freese, first vice president; Josie Driskill, president; Pat Haswell, treasurer; Nancy Morer, historian; and Judy Weaver, second vice president. Others pictured are: Joanna Holliman Potts, Beverly Barry, Joanna Chapman, Peggy Helmerich, Jesllda Dos Santos, Joyce Barrow, Brenda Johnson, Ann McKellar, Liz Enochs, Cindy Rochebucher, Brenda Michael-Haggard, Sheila Gist, Amy Riddle, Paula Virtue, Vickie Sherwin, Mary Jo Neal, Kathi Blazer, Orpha Harnish, Laura Chalus, Suzette Birch, Sue Hicks, Charlene Wells, Judy Grotts, Nancy Gleeson, Brenda Erwin, Pam Larkin, Sue Lovelace, Carol Puckett, Linda Vance, Jan Maloy, Judy Carter, Marillyn Lay, Pat Williams, Rose Shultz, Deanna Keegan, Cindy Davis, Sandy Farris and Deletta Washburn.
Bob McCormack Photography
Green-thumbers know annuals are planted every growing season, while perennials come back each year, often fuller and more plentiful than before. That’s what makes Tulsa Garden Club a perennial local favorite — literally and figuratively — as it celebrates its 90th anniversary.
In 1929, the same year the stock market crashed, 23 women planted the seeds of what is now Oklahoma’s second oldest garden club, and the state’s largest with 91 members. The original purpose of Tulsa Garden Club was to promote the love of gardening by teaching members about botany and bringing more gardens to Tulsa. That hasn’t changed. It has just expanded.
The original members were mostly wives of executives who were new to Oklahoma — women who wanted to learn what they could grow and how to make plants flourish “in this new wild world,” says club president Josie Driskill.
The fact this area is now called Green Country speaks to their success.
Becoming a Tulsa Garden Club member in 2001 was an easy choice for Driskill. She later became a Master Gardener, as are many other members.
Having a sprawling yard of greenery and blooms is not a prerequisite for membership. Who can join? “Oh my goodness, people who have a garden no matter how big or small,” Driskill says. “Anyone with a patio or container can be a gardener. Anyone wanting to do an herb windowsill.”
For member Brenda Michael-Haggard, it was lifelong learning that appealed to her.
At the ripe young age of 90, the club spearheads visible projects around town, including the annual residential garden tour, Tulsa’s longest-running educational tour. Proceeds from the event go toward the operations and endowment of Tulsa Garden Center.
The organization also supports local conservation and beautification through Up With Trees, and features speakers on such topics as how to grow a particular bloom, arrange flowers or judge a flower show.
Tulsa Garden Club also provides scholarships for inmates at Dick Conner Correctional Center, a medium-security prison in Hominy, Oklahoma, helping them to avoid re-incarceration with horticulture education.
The club’s scholarships also benefit students at Oklahoma State University. “We had a 57-year-old man visit one of our garden tour homes in May, and he thanked Tulsa Garden Club for our support for his scholarship to OSU, which helped him become a landscape architect,” Driskill says.
In its heyday, the club was known for its rose gardens in Woodward Park. Before disease ravaged the bushes, the club’s rose-filled terraces were featured in Better Homes and Gardens and received the magazine’s highest award for design.
The Rose Book, however, remains a fixture in the Tulsa Garden Center library. Anyone can make a donation in honor or memory of a loved one, and that name is added to the book.
Although getting hands dirty and growing beautiful things are powerful lures, most say the real advantages of membership are learning and creating together, which lead to friendship and leadership opportunities.
“Most of us become lifelong friends and socialize outside of the club,” Michael-Haggard says. Also, each year, a number of members represent Tulsa in leadership roles for garden clubs on national, regional, state and district levels.
Sow. Reap. Repeat. Ninety years and counting.