It’s a significant accomplishment for an organization to keep functioning and growing for 70 years, its members loosely held together by a shared interest. Our Constitution states:
To encourage and stimulate the love of gardening and kindred subjects by mutual assistance in the collection and distribution of all information relating to the care and culture of fruits, flowers, vegetables, etc.
That sounds a little stiff, about 70 years old, actually, but it’s still valid. We belong to the View Royal Garden Club (VRGC) because we love
- to grow things,
- to share the experience with others
- and to learn and improve our abilities as gardeners.
Our motto is “Growing Friendships,” and that is our biggest reward – being able to talk about an activity we love with people who get what gardening does for us.
- The Town of View Royal donated $500 toward the events.
- Our theme for the year was ‘Growing Food Sustainably in Urban Gardens and Small Spaces”.
- In June we had a party with historical displays and a wonderful cake. Lindsay Lewis from Garden Works talked about growing edibles in the garden and demonstrated by creating a planter that included edibles and ornamentals, then donated the planter as a door prize.
- In August, Linda Gilkeson, a well-known entomologist and organic gardener, addressed us (and members of the public) on creating gardens that are resilient to the effects of climate change.
It is significant and regrettable that this topic would not have occurred to us even 10 years ago.
The View Royal Garden Club entered this last decade with a membership of 107, but circumstances saw that number gradually decline into the ’60s and ’70s. In 2017 our numbers dipped as low as 57. That may have been the result of the move of 2016 from Shoreline School to Wheeley Hall at Esquimalt United Church. The shift was difficult for some members, especially when driving at night in the winter. The hall, however, has been a significant improvement over the school, and our numbers have begun to climb again. In 2018 we had 65 members, and we’ve just reached 83 in 2019. We think this has a lot to do with those friendships we keep growing!
Executive: A very dedicated group of people has served on the Executive over the decade. If we listed the Executive members for each of the 10 years, you would see the same names appear over and over again. So instead, here is the 2010 Executive and the 2019 Executive. You will see what we mean:
VRGC Executive, 2010:
- President: Maureen Thompson;
- Vice President: Donna Humphries;
- Past President: Jean Muir;
- Treasurer: Alison Coyne;
- Secretary: Susan Kelly;
- Membership: Joyce Sturmey;
- Speakers: Susie Seekins;
- Newsletter: Marilee Davies;
- Publicity: Bonnie Bacica;
- Trophies: Joan Mury;
- Door Prizes: Susan Kelly;
- Catering: Ann Fox;
- Sale Table: Joan James;
- Show Coordinator: Charlotte Robson;
- Mini-Show Coordinators: Bonnie Bacica and Marilee Davies.
VRGC Executive, 2019:
- President: Ann Fox,
- Past-President: Carole Carver,
- Treasurer: Alex Blackwood;
- Secretaries: Jean Lawrence and Susan Kelly;
- Membership: Joyce Sturmey
- Guest Services: Betty Sherwood;
- Speakers, Website & Facebook: Susie Seekins;
- AV Technician: Dale Jeppesen
- Newsletter: Donna Humphries;
- Publicity: Bonnie Bacica;
- Trophies: Joan Mury;
- Door Prizes: Jean Muir;
- Catering: Judy Parker and Cathy Hay;
- Sales Table and Club Outings: Maureen Thompson;
- Show Coordinator: Carol Ann Elliott;
- Mini-show Coordinator: Jan Dew.
- 2010: Maureen Thompson
- 2011: Maureen Thompson
- 2012: Brian Yeo
- 2013: Brian Yeo
- 2014: Susan Kelly
- 2015: Susan Kelly and Carol Ann Elliott
- 2016: Susan Kelly and Carol Ann Elliott
- 2017: Carole Carver
- 2018: Carole Carver and Ann Fox
- 2019: Ann Fox
Volunteers: We’re grateful to the many other volunteers who have stepped up to help with club activities. Examples are:
- helping to stage 3 garden shows each year,
- digging, potting and lugging plants,
- helping with AV equipment,
- backing up our newsletter editor,
- baking for shows,
- making signs, exhibit boxes etc. behind the scenes,
- and helping to put on the Club’s annual Christmas party.
With apologies to anyone we may have missed, these include: Terrie Alexander, Mary Ataya, Jaq Bradbury, Joan Bryant, Joyce Carr, Shannon Caudwell, Dorothy Couture, Linda Clarke, Rick Clark, Carol Crinkley, Sheila Ditchburn, Joyce Ellard, Lynne Ewing, Niece Garry, Hazen Gauthier, Aki Graber, Michael Fox, Judi Griffin, Dodie and Garry Hammond, Caroline Haywood, Bev Henrikkson, Bev Hickey, Iain James, Dale & Jeannette Jeppesen, Karen Krawchuk, Norah Laity, Ralph Martin, Gary Mathies, Brian Mury, Claude Mury, Jane Nieuwenhuis, Celia Owen, Diana Porter, Meghan Reusing, Lara Robinson, Lisa Rogers, Gary Sawayama, Peter & Jean Simpson, Penny Stevens, Russ Thompson, Lynda Thorsen, Janet Warren, Emily Whitney, Elaine Yaxley, Olive Zimmerman.
In 2016 the Club was invited by the Town of View Royal to store its historical records in the town’s archives. Ann Fox and Maureen Thompson spent long hours sorting through old Club records and compiling them with the help of View Royal’s archivist, Chace Dixon and her volunteers. It’s good to know that our history is stored in a safe place, specially designed for the protection of paper records, instead of in people’s basements, etc. Those records are available for our members to access. Susan Kelly, Ann Fox and Carol Ann Elliott did just that this Spring when they created the historical displays for our anniversary celebration. The Town of View Royal has also made use of them to mount a display about VRGC at the Town Hall.
Location, Location, Location: It can be a challenge to find a space that meets all our needs. Many sites offered space but no storage, and we need to store all our show supplies. Others lacked parking or weren’t accessible or were just too expensive.
In January 2010, VRGC moved to the library at Shoreline Community School at 2759 Shoreline Drive. After many years at All Saints’ Parish Hall, on Stewart Avenue, the church had been sold. The school library was a little cramped, so in 2012 we moved to the Band Room at Shoreline School, which served us well until May 2016 when we moved to our present location at 500 Admirals Road, in Wheeley Hall behind Esquimalt United Church. We left Shoreline because of scheduled seismic upgrading. We chose the current hall because it offered ample storage space and a meeting hall at a price we could afford.
Every space has its challenges, our present ones being parking and the fact that we had to move from View Royal. On the upside, our meeting room is bright and spacious, and the Church has been very accommodating, providing lots of storage and free room setup. While the rent is higher at this location, our membership is growing. Our Facebook page seems to attract lots of visitors who pay a $5 guest fee at our meetings.
Speakers: We have eight speakers a year, and they have been the main attraction for many of our members. In 2009 our speaker honorarium was $40, but over time that basic rate has increased to $60. In 2016 Executive created an annual speaker budget of $600, which allows a little extra to bring in a higher-priced speaker occasionally.
Susie Seekins, our speaker coordinator for at least the last decade, has done a wonderful job of finding people who love to talk about what they do. In 2020, Niece Garry will take over this job so Susie can focus on our website and Facebook page.
Show & Tell: Since 2017, many of our monthly meetings have included a ‘show and tell’ segment, where one of our members gives a 5-minute talk on something they think will be interesting to other gardeners. For instance, one month Gary Sawayama showed slides of replacing his grass lawn with a clover lawn. At another, Eileen Bancroft showed us how to combat Winter Moth.
Mini-Shows: VRGC is known in the gardening community for its wonderful monthly mini-shows, and we are a favourite with the accredited judges who come out each month to adjudicate them. Points are awarded and compiled. At year-end, trophies are presented to the exhibitor with the most points and to the runner-up.
In 2018 we added a new category – People’s Choice. Members may show anything they like from their garden. Instead of being judged professionally, it is rated by fellow members. Points are awarded in the same manner as the judged categories. This has become a popular part of our monthly meetings.
For many years, members used the VRGC Exhibitor’s Handbook for Vegetables and Fruits, first produced by Joan Bryant and Ted Underhill in 1995, then updated by Heather West and Dell Lang in 2005. In 2016, the Club produced the Guide for Participants in the Mini-Show, which added tips for exhibiting flowers and decorative displays. Starting from a similar document compiled by the Gordon Head Garden Club, our Show Coordinator Carol Ann Elliott edited it to reflect the rules and practices used at VRGC. The first edition was distributed to all club members, and it has proved very helpful for all exhibitors. It is also the guide for our garden shows. In 2019 it went into its 2nd printing.
Audio Visual Equipment: Over the years, we’ve acquired a collection of A/V equipment to assist our speakers with their presentations and to help record and calculate the results of our shows. When we were at Shoreline, we had an enormous speaker system that worked well but was challenging to move in and out of storage. So, in 2015, when the opportunity arose to buy a more compact system, we jumped at it. This year we purchased a new projector with a much higher definition rating to show our speakers’ pictures to the best advantage.
But electronics are only as good as the person operating them, so we value the technical skills of volunteers like Dale Jeppesen, who helps us out with this every month.
Refreshments: We cannot talk about the monthly meetings without mentioning the coffee/tea break and scrumptious goodies. Many people have filled this position over the years, but Cathy Hay and Judy Parker have been spoiling us since 2013, following on the excellent work of Jean Muir and Ann Fox. Judy and Cathy also provide lunch for the judges at our garden shows, and their homemade soups and fresh organic veggies could win ribbons. Ten years ago, members were asked to pay 25 cents for their treat, but today we charge $1. Guests, who pay the $5 entry fee, receive a complimentary refreshment ticket.
Christmas Social: The November meeting continues to be a time for members to socialize and share a pot-luck meal. It includes a silent auction, door prizes and ice-breaker games that give members a chance to get to know each other better. And the food is terrific!
The Club continues to produce 3 shows a year, although, in 2011, the Rose Show began to acquire a more expanded focus, to reflect the fact that not as many members have the time to grow roses. We called it the ‘Rose and Peony Show’ that year. Eventually, it became the ‘Flower and Vegetable Show,’ then just the ‘Summer Show,’ with a full array of divisions:
- potted plants,
- flowering shrubs and trees,
- vegetables and fruits
- and herbs.
Our show admission fee of $5 still includes refreshments and a chance at several door prizes donated by local businesses. To ensure enough volunteers to produce 3 shows, Show Coordinator Carol Ann Elliott circulates signup sheets for all shows in January, and all 3 sheets are close to full by the Spring Show.
Our shows have continued to grow along with the Club. We recently purchased “Best in Show” ribbons to identify the trophy-winning entries on the exhibit tables. Now, when a trophy winner is announced, it is easier for people to view the exhibit that won the trophy.
Plant Sales: This year, thanks to the work of three very energetic members (Maureen Thompson, Lisa Rogers and Donna Humphries), we expanded the plant sales into a separate room, with no admission fee for that section. This was very popular, and the club raised $545. at the Spring Show, roughly $200 more than in previous years.
Trophies: Joan Mury has been Trophy Coordinator since 1996. She says we had 15 trophies that year and gave either rosette ribbons or book awards for categories that lacked trophies. Today we have a total of 27 trophies but still award some rosettes.
The McTavish Cup, for high aggregate in the fall show, is the Club’s oldest trophy, first presented in 1957. It was donated by Duncan McTavish, the grandson of Dr. Helmcken and great-grandson of Sir James Douglas. Duncan lived on Plowright and was president of the club for six years.
Spring Show Trophies:
- Roy Ogden Smith Cup — High Aggregate
- Vern Archer Memorial Trophy — High Aggregate Flowering Shrub and Tree
- Peggy Paddon Trophy–– High Aggregate Primula & Rock Plants
- Jack Mullin Memorial Trophy–Best Perennial
- Peridots Trophy–-Best in Potted Plants
- Thorsen and Sturmey Trophy–Best in Show
Summer Show Trophies:
- Eleanor Mace Rose Bowl— Most Fragrant Rose
- Roy Ogden Smith Rose Bowl— High Aggregate
- Ruby Creighton Cup–Best Single Rose in Show
- Joan & John Bryant Cup— Best Entry
- VRGC Trophy–High Aggregate
- Peridots Trophy–Best in Potted Plants
- Bev Granger Memorial Cup— Best Perennial
- Babs Watkins Memorial Cup–High Aggregate Vegetable & Fruit
Fall Show Trophies:
- Sheldan Cup— High Aggregate Junior
- Armstrong Cup (novice)– High Aggregate divisions C, D, E, F, G, & H by a novice
- Campbell Cup— Best Bloom in Show
- Centennial Cup— High Aggregate Annual Flower
- Creighton Cup— High Aggregate Perennial
- Dunsford Cup (novice) — Best Flower Arrangement
- Fairburn Cup (novice) — High Aggregate Vegetable
- Gordon Trophy— Best Begonia in show
- Hammond Trophy— High Aggregate Decorative
- McTavish Cup— High Aggregate in Show
- Patey Cup— High Aggregate Combined Fruit & Vegetable
- Peridots Trophy— Best in Potted Plants
- Walstrom Cup— Best in Show Vegetable
The record of trophy winners over the years is a long one and will be housed in the View Royal archives, along with descriptions of each trophy compiled by Joan Mury. Some trophies contain blanks where no show was held. In 2014, both the Summer and Fall shows were cancelled due to a teachers’ strike that left the school unavailable. In 2013, the Fall show was cancelled for the club to participate in the Town of View Royal 25th anniversary.
The Sheldan Cup, the only full-sized junior trophy, was donated in memory of club member Barbara Sheldan who passed away. She was an enthusiastic member whose children participated in the shows. We continue to offer small ‘keeper’ junior trophies, but entries by children are few and far between. Increasing their participation is an ongoing goal for the Club.
Over the years, our newsletters have kept members in touch even when they were no longer coming to meetings. Long-time members even use it to remember when the next meeting is! The newsletters have kept members informed of local gardening events, who won points in the mini-show, the categories for the next mini-show, and what their executive has been up to!
Newsletter Editors have included Ivan Ranson, Michael Fox, Marilee Davies, Carole Carver and Donna Humphries. Maureen Thompson faithfully fills the ‘Ask the Experts’ column each month, and many other contributors who uncapped their pens (yes, I know that dates me) to write about something that they found intriguing. We also appreciated the photos of Joyce Sturmey, Ann Fox and others. Each editor reflected their own style and brought us together for a time each month when the newsletter arrived (for most of us nowadays, it comes in our Inbox rather than the mailbox).
VRGC does not limit itself to monthly meetings and garden shows. Members also have opportunities to go on tours, visit member’s gardens and occasionally participate in workshops.
Club Tours: Maureen Thompson does a great job of organizing tours to places such as nurseries, greenhouses, arboretums and public gardens, usually guided by one of the professionals at the facility. These events, generally attended by about 20 members, are very informative and a great social outing, especially with the lunch that follows in a nearby restaurant. This year, we toured the gardens at Royal Roads University with the head of the wetland garden as our guide. Other tours have included:
- a commercial greenhouse complex that grows roses for the florist market,
- Foxglove Nursery on Salt Spring Island,
- an orchid grower in Central Saanich,
- Abkhazi Gardens,
- and Dominion Brook Park and Arboretum,
to name a few.
Garden Tours and Pop-up Gardens: Members open their gardens for their fellow members to enjoy in various ways. In the past, we have organized ‘tour days’ or ‘tour weekends,’ with a list of gardens for people to visit. This year we introduced ‘pop-up gardens,’ which can happen any time a member has something looking its best in their garden.
A member can offer a pop-up garden visit by contacting a member of the Executive. The word goes out for members to come by and enjoy the display. Because this does not involve the whole garden, the member does not have to have their entire garden looking perfect. This year we saw Elaine Yaxley’s roses blooming over her front fence, without even going into her yard.
Workshops: In 2018, Ann Fox hosted 2 flower arranging workshops in her garden. Two were needed to accommodate all the members who signed up for them. A member of the Floral Arts Guild led the groups. Everyone had a great time and must have learned a lot because we noticed an increase in the number of decorative entries at our shows and mini-shows – a treat for everyone who saw them. We hope to organize more workshops in the near future.
Print Media: VRGC continues to use the local print media as its first method of publicizing our events. We have always received good coverage from the Victoria News Group, especially the Goldstream Gazette, and from Helen Chestnut, a regular garden writer in the Victoria Times Colonist. Bonnie Bacica has been our publicity coordinator for most of the last decade. When she took a break a couple of years ago, we were lost without her and were very pleased to welcome her back last year. The publicity coordinator also produces our show posters and is one of two members who hold the membership email distribution list, the other being the newsletter editor.
Website: In 2012, through the talent and efforts of our ‘webmaster’ Susie Seekins, we launched the Club’s website at www.viewroyalgardenclub.wordpress.com. Here, members and the general public can find information about current events such as our shows and the monthly speakers and look for information provided by previous speakers. It has made a big difference in the way we communicate at the Club. Take a look – we are very proud of ourselves!
Facebook: In 2019, we took another step into the digital age. Susie Seekins began advertising our speakers and events on Facebook. We were surprised by the sudden jump in meeting attendance that has resulted from this move. It remains to be seen what differences this will bring to the Club, but for now, it is clear that we are becoming much better known amongst the ‘social media’ crowd.
In an age when spiralling house prices keep many young people from owning a home, and economic conditions require that everyone of working age hold down at least 1 job, participation in gardening appears to have dwindled. Many garden clubs have experienced a reduction in their membership numbers, and some garden-related businesses are closing their doors. Yet, with food production growing more and more centralized and even global in nature, concerns about climate change and food sustainability have meant that we all must care about the food growing aspects of gardening.
In January this year, a young man named Chris Hildreth described how he is developing a sustainable business that grows organic produce and distributes it to local restaurants, all while making a minimal impact on the environment. He inspired us all to grow a little food among the flowers we love, even if we only have a patio garden. It was the best-attended meeting this year (including many younger attendees), which gives hope for the future of gardening.
Our 80th anniversary may find gardening has evolved into something different from what we know today, but there is every indication that the View Royal Garden Club will be there to see it happen.
Compiled by Carole Carver
Co-President 2018 +2020
Past President 2019
Newsletter Editor 2011 + 2012
Carole has also volunteered in many situations. She often can be counted on to chair a Garden Show or host the Centerpiece workshop in advance of our Annual Awards Celebration & Christmas Social.
updated Jan. 21, 2020