“I give my pledge as an American
To save and faithfully defend from waste
The national resources of my country
Its forests, water and wildlife.”
— Conservation Pledge for the Golden Gardeners
One of Golden’s oldest social and civic clubs is slowly diminishing and could vanish completely if new members don’t step in to preserve the history and traditions started by a group of local residents who wanted to share their enthusiasm for gardening.
The Golden Gardeners have been meeting to discuss their passion for gardens, plants and floral for 61 years, often meeting at the First United Methodist Church of Golden on the 4th Monday of the month. But recently, the group decided to start meeting at member’s homes.
“There’s getting to be so few of us,” said Willa Childerston, president of Golden Gardeners. “At our last meeting we decided to meet at people’s homes.”
The club has 14 members, all between the ages of early 70’s to early 90’s, who have begun to wonder what will happen to the club as they continue to age, and worry that there has been little to no interest from younger Golden residents to join.
“We are almost folding as a group,” Clare Taylor, vice president of Golden Gardeners said. She joined the group in 2004 after moving back to Golden, her mother Elsie Ryland, was a member for many years, she said. Other members can trace their family tree to Golden Gardeners to grandmothers who first served in the club back in 1952.
The Golden Gardeners organize the city’s annual flower show with another local group of gardening enthusiasts; the Table Mountain Garden Club. Nurturing the President’s Rose Garden is also part of the club’s activities, a tradition which started in 1956 in which retired club presidents planted a rose. There have been 52 presidents, including current president, Willa Childerston, who have led the club.
“It’s just that we’re getting old,” Childerston said.
She acknowledges the limits of her body’s capability when it comes to garden tending such as kneeling down or standing up to dig. “I just can’t do it anymore.”
Members theorize reasons for why the Golden Gardeners is not a popular choice among women who may not want to meet to discuss gardening and hold holiday luncheons.
Among these opinions include modern times with women working more to technology which provides access to gardening tips. “Now you can get anything you want to know about gardening on your iPhone,” Jean Williams, Golden Gardeners member said. Williams spoke with a close friend in Michigan, a former president of a Michigan garden federation, who reported that clubs that once had 120 members now have 40, and not all of them are active.
“There may indeed be a shift from flower gardens to community gardens, in which having private property is not a prerequisite,” said Linda Marangia, sociology professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver in an email. “As homeownership for younger adults becomes more of a dream than a reality, having a flower garden isn’t feasible or a top priority,” she said. “People are financially strapped these days.”
Yet, Marangia reports there is a lot of interest among younger populations in growing produce, and whether they look to urban agriculture as a way to satisfy this interest, learning to grow in patio pots and window sills is gaining momentum, she said.
“People still appreciate flowers, but time and money are limited.”
For now, members of Golden Gardeners have decided to only tend to the President’s Rose Garden. They will donate their annual tree, traditionally on Arbor Day, to the Community Garden nestled on the west side from the Golden community center. Although they would like nothing more than to see the next generation of women become part of a long history of tradition, they would also like the public to be aware of the imminent end of an organization that has brought a long line of members together in a shared affinity for nature and humanity.
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