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  • Writer's pictureMeredith Baker

Lynchburg Garden Party Celebrates Black Garden Heritage!

What a serendipity! Earth Day coincides with the 90th anniversary of the Negro Garden Clubs of Virginia, and this year gardeners celebrated this historic event at the Anne Spencer Museum and Gardens in Lynchburg, VA. In April, 1932, Hampton University hosted the founding meeting that federated the state's Black garden clubs into a powerhouse institution that would transform redlined neighborhoods, register voters, train female leaders, address food insecurity, and bring art and beauty to thousands of lives. When I say the day was perfect, I mean warm breezes, blue skies, flowers blooming, mimosas and pastries in Anne Spencer's cozy workshop---everything you'd want for a garden party!

What did the anniversary celebration include?

  • In honor of the thousands of Black garden club members who advocated for conservation, registered members to vote, and beautified their neighborhoods, Lynchburg Mayor MaryJane Tousignant-Dolan declared April 23rd "Ethel Early Clark Day" after the first president of Virginia's Negro Garden Clubs. (See proclamation below!)

  • The local AKA chapter generously donated $1000 to the Spencer gardens.

  • The Garden Club of Virginia's Hillside Garden Club introduced a daffodil variety named after Ethel Early Clark.

  • Shaun Spencer Hester remarked on the nearly 100 years of cross-racial cooperation between garden club women in Lynchburg, from the days her grandmother Anne Spencer was a member of the Progressive Garden Club to today, when Hillside members maintain the Spencer gardens.

  • Author and gardener Teri Speight of Cottage in the Court signed her gorgeous new book "Black Flora."

  • I shared some research about Ethel Early Clark and the role of garden club women in shaping the state. Also I had a table to demonstrate making dollar roses--we know from a paper in the 1950s that Ethel Early Clark received a corsage of dollar roses after two decades of service to garden clubs!

  • Abra Lee of Conquer the Soil, the foremost voice in advocating for Black horticulture history, organized some amazing swag bags including donations from generous sponsors like Corona Tools, All-America Selections, UpShoot, Proven Winners.

  • Award-winning horticulturalist Wambui Ippolito shared insights on Anne Spencer's garden design

  • Tours of the house and gardens as part of the Garden Conservancy Open Days Tours

The day was gorgeous. What a special opportunity to be a part of this group dedicated to cultivating beauty and remembering the unsung women in Black history who made Virginia a better place in so many ways. And special thanks to the Spencer family for creating a matchless space to honor them.

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