The Outdoor Gardeners' members Dottie Mariotz of Fort Washington (left) and Elaine Bell of Flourtown (right) received "Laurel Awards" recently from District XI of the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania for outstanding club service. Kay Morrissey of Blue Bell (center), TOG president, received on behalf of The Outdoor Gardeners a "Seeds of Service Award" given for the club's outstanding work with senior residents in the community.

The Outdoor Gardeners’ members Dottie Mariotz of Fort Washington (left) and Elaine Bell of Flourtown (right) received “Laurel Awards” recently from District XI of the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania for outstanding club service. Kay Morrissey of Blue Bell (center), TOG president, received on behalf of The Outdoor Gardeners a “Seeds of Service Award” given for the club’s outstanding work with senior residents in the community.

by Mary Nearpass and Len Lear

For 57 years The Outdoor Gardeners, a non-profit garden club in Chestnut Hill and surrounding communities, have been beautifying our community and spreading the gospel of horticulture. “We meet September through June on the first Thursday of each month at noon at The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill,” said Jean Kriz, of Oreland, one of the group’s members. “We have 60 members who come from Chestnut Hill, Flourtown, Erdenheim, Oreland, Fort Washington, Lafayette Hill, Plymouth Meeting, Blue Bell, Wyndmoor and other nearby communities, and we enthusiastically welcome new members.”

It would take a lot more space than we have here to mention everything the club does to beautify the community, but it is worth mentioning several of their activities. In addition to their monthly meetings and programs, they do a great deal of charitable work and hold workshops. The current president is Kay Morrissey, of Blue Bell.

“In December we decorate the Center in the Park in Germantown,” said Kriz. “Poinsettias are provided for Meals on Wheels at Christmas. Pansies are provided for Meals on Wheels at Easter. We provide judges and five botany/ecology awards of $25 each to students in middle school for the Montgomery County Science Research Competition. We recently had three design workshops and a workshop to make hypertufa troughs. We also operate three booths on Chestnut Hill Day in the spring. We sell floral baskets, crafts, herbs, hypertufa troughs and perennials from our own gardens.”

More than just getting their hands dirty or having a green thumb, this group of women connect with people, plants and programs that provide inspiration, information and valuable resources.

They are of all ages, backgrounds and interests.

Each monthly meeting of the club starts with refreshments and socializing and moves on to a business meeting and then an informative program, with guest speakers and programs of timely interest. Last month’s presentation was all about creating hypertufa troughs, (weathered looking containers you make yourself out of cement, peat moss and sand), many of which are sold at the annual Chestnut Hill Days. Each meeting has a mini-flower show so members can bring in items from their gardens. A nominal annual dues as well as a monthly newsletter, “The Dirt,” are also a function and benefit.

They are also members of the National Garden Clubs, Inc. (and sell its beautiful calendar at their monthly meetings), the Central Atlantic Region and District XI in the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania, which meets annually in September. The rewards of joining a local club within the National Garden Clubs umbrella go far beyond the pleasures of growing things. Becoming a member almost anywhere in the U.S. or affiliated international locations is simple and inexpensive. Membership opens the door for anyone to explore a wide range of common interests with people around the world and across the generations.

The local club held their every-18-month Standard Flower Show, “OLYMPUS, Garden of the Gods,” on Nov. 6 at Cathedral Hall in Cathedral Village, near the Andorra Shopping Center in upper Roxborough. This year’s theme was all about the Greek goddesses, complete with costumes, fully decorated stage and hall.

Some members have been with the club for as little as a few months to as long as 47 years, and they are all passing along their own passion and know-how to new generations of gardeners.

According to Liz Snowdon, of Wyndmoor, a club member for 12 years and president from 2009 to 2011, club members are very proud of the fact that “during the day, we answer many, many questions dispensing a lot of horticultural knowledge, and we have provided and planted shrubs for three Habitat for Humanity homes in Upper Dublin, Montgomery County. We have worked with the residents providing them with care information … Most everyone pitches in for one or more of our projects. Because we enjoy working together on tasks, it is easy to get volunteers. In the last few years we have had an increase in membership brought on by my word-of-mouth enthusiasm about the club.”

Roberta Robinson, a Fort Washington resident, a member for 13 years and the group’s president from 2007 to 2009, added that “we started out in 1957 as a small group of women interested in gardening and horticulture in general. By 1967 we had expanded our membership and joined The Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania and affiliated with National Garden Clubs, Inc. This association enabled us to send members to judging school and become accredited national judges. We presently have eight accredited judges in our club.

“Our interest in design has evolved over the years with the addition of members interested and schooled in floral design. Programs on flower arranging and workshops with hands-on practice have educated many of our members in the art of floral design to the point that many people have entered the Philadelphia Flower Show and won ribbons. Our monthly meeting flower shows and our larger standard flower shows … have also heightened our skills and brought us recognition.”

For membership information or to learn more, email or find The Outdoor Gardeners on Facebook.