In 1927, Tampa resident Genevieve Stringer was having tea with friends when she suggested they form a garden club. Her friends agreed, and the Tampa Garden Club was born. More than 90 years later, the club is still growing strong. Originally founded in a little house on Platt Street, the club has occupied its now-famous Bayshore Boulevard headquarters since purchasing the enviable piece of property back in 1964. The 3,200-square-foot building can accommodate parties of up to 1,300 people, and thanks to its beautiful landscaping and stunning views of the bay, the facilities are booked years in advance. If you’ve lived here long enough, chances are you’ve been there for a wedding reception or special event. But what you might not realize is that proceeds from the building’s rental help support the club’s mission to educate, beautify and preserve.
With more than 400 members across the city, “there is a wide range of opportunities to develop your interests,” says Tampa Garden Club president Kitty Wallace. “We have monthly meetings, special events, and classes, and [we] usually work on one to two large service projects each year.” Recent projects that have been funded by the club’s event rental fees include renovating the landscaping at South Tampa’s American Legion Post #5, installing a reflection garden for Metropolitan Ministries, and re-landscaping Hyde Park’s Peter O. Knight house with historically accurate plants.
Anyone interested in gardening can join one of the 10 garden circles that make up the club. Some, like Town ‘n’ Country and Village Garden, have formed because of proximity, but others cater to more specific needs — like the Moonlight circle, which holds its meetings in the evening so gardeners who work 9 to 5 can attend. “Each circle sets up its own programming and chooses its own service project and runs fundraisers to support it,” says Wallace.
In addition to providing a place where like-minded plant lovers can get together to practice flower arranging skills or discuss gardening challenges, the Tampa Garden Club also cultivates a love for gardening and the environment with young horticulturists. They sponsor photography and scholarship competitions for teens and summer camps for elementary school children. Though the club was originally formed as more of a social endeavor, Wallace explains that its aims have shifted to focus more on the environmental benefits of gardening.
“The Tampa Garden Club is committed to providing opportunities to the youth of our community to explore their interest in the environment and all aspects of nature. We have recently revised our mission statement to more clearly express our dedication to education,” said Wallace. “The revised mission is, ‘To promote an interest in gardening, floral and landscape design and civic and environmental responsibility by providing education, resources and opportunities for our members, youth and the community.’ Our recent scholarship awardees have all completed their education. Several of them have completed advanced degrees and are making a difference in areas of environmental conservation and horticulture. More than 2,000 youngsters have attended our summer camp. We have teens who came to the camp in elementary school who now come back to volunteer as counselors.”
Wallace, who joined the club after retiring from the Hillsborough County school system in 2004, says the best part of being a member of the club is the people she’s met. “Gardeners are very interesting people who care about the environment.”
All events held at the Tampa Garden Club (2629 Bayshore Blvd.) except the garden tour (locations TBA).
GreenFest and National Garden Club Standard Flower Show
March 28 & 29, 9 a.m.
More than 65 plant-related vendors will be at GreenFest selling any and everything you might need for your garden, including plants, tools and decorative items. The theme for this year’s flower show is “The Sporting Life.” Wallace says they expect about 400 entries.
Kids in the Garden
Registration begins March 1
The nature related mini-camp is open to elementary school children in grades 1 through 5.
Earthly Paradise Garden Tour
April 5, 12 p.m.
Take a tour of five private gardens and then enjoy the Musical Tea Party, held at the gazebo in Fred Ball Park.
Floral Design Interest Group
Classes on floral design are open to the public. Registration is required.
Valentine Table Designs
February 12, 10 a.m.
May 20, 10 a.m.