Like the plants the members tend, the Somerville Garden Club has grown immensely since it was founded in 1994 by a few like-minded residents. It now has more than 200 members–with about one-third coming from outside the city–and monthly meetings, a very popular annual plant sale and a garden tour on tap for this summer.
Lisa Dezmelyk joined the club shortly after moving to Somerville in the early 1990s. She had purchased a home and was outside doing yard work when a neighbor walked over and told Dezmelyk about the club, which she has used as a resource and source of encouragement ever since.
“It’s a great way to know other gardeners,” said Dezmelyk, who is now the club’s publicist. “There’s no experience or garden necessary. Providing information and encouragement is really what it’s about.”
For $25 a year, Somerville Garden Club members receive a monthly newsletter full of articles that delve into the nitty-gritty as well as those of a more personal, reflective bent. There are also private garden visits, special programs and field trips and a club scholarship that provides partial reimbursement for members who take horticulture courses.
At the heart of the club’s activities are its meetings, which are held on the second Wednesday of each month from 7 p.m.-9 p.m. at the Tufts Administration Building (167 Holland St., second floor). But you don’t have to be a member to attend, anyone can go to these free events.
“There are a wide range of members, from novices to experts,” Dezmelyk said. “It really is the sharing that’s so nice. It’s not competitive. It’s community-oriented. People are very friendly”
In addition to the meetings, where gardening tips and recipes are shared and special programs on topics like composting are conducted, the Somerville Garden Club maintains several garden sites in the city. The club beautifies the Powderhouse Rotary, the Central and West Branch Libraries, the Somerville Museum and the Milk Row Cemetery. The club offers many volunteer opportunities, but none of the events or activities are a requirement for members.
“You can participate as much or as little as you want,” Dezmelyk said.
The garden club’s biggest annual event is the fall plant sale (pictured above), which usually takes place on the third Saturday in September. The club’s members work tirelessly for days leading up to it to prepare more than 1,000 plants to be sold in mere hours on the big day.
“I can’t get over how our members have come through on that,” Dezmelyk said. And the community comes through too, helping the club to nearly sell out even during a low-level hurricane a few years ago.
The plant sale is a fundraiser for the garden club, but it’s also much more than that.
“The community gets an incredible assortment of plants at a great price,” Dezmelyk said. “We rarely have much inventory left. And the few plants we don’t sell go to the Community Growing Center or Groundwork Somerville. Nothing gets thrown out.”
And this year, the club is hosting a garden tour. It will take place on Sunday, June 9, and visit 15 to 20 club members’ gardens. Those attending will receive a map and write-ups to take themselves on a self-guided tour of some of Somerville’s most beautiful yards.
“There’s an incredible variety of gardens,” Dezmelyk said. “There a few gardens in town that are large and jaw-dropping. You’ll be able to meet the gardeners who made 100% of the garden. They did the back-breaking labor. People love being able to talk to the gardeners.”
Dezmelyk’s own garden (pictured above), which is full of roses and herbs, will be one of the stops on the tour. That may have surprised her family years ago because as a child growing up in a rural area, her least favorite chore was helping with the garden. But after buying her own property, Dezmelyk wanted it to look nice and she now uses gardening as a way to relax and stay in shape.
Having been a Somerville resident for 20 years, Dezmelyk has seen the city–and it’s focus on urban agriculture and the arts–grow right along with the garden club.
“We’re very lucky the community-government-nonprofit symbiosis is great here,” Dezmelyk said. “The city is very supportive. It’s been a neat thing to see the changes. It’s a great little active city.”
Images courtesy of the Somerville Garden Club.