Submitted by Pat Smith and Jacque Clift
The Suburban Garden Club of Germantown
Germantown is the home of four very active garden clubs. Our oldest garden club was formed in 1930 by a group of ladies who lived in the Germantown and Forest Hill areas. It was called the Suburban Garden Club of Germantown because the ladies who formed it were friends of members of the Memphis Garden Club, who gladly gave advice and assistance to the new group. Mrs. Martha Mitchell served as the first president. Other founding members were Mrs. John Larkin, Mrs. Katherine Dickey, Mrs. S.R. Hungerford, and Mrs. Dorothy Kirby. The club was limited to only twelve members at first, and the group had plenty to do with planting flowers around Germantown, Forest Hill, and Bailey Station.
In 1941, Mrs. L. E. Dickey of the Suburban Garden Club of Germantown became president of the state’s Tennessee Federation of Garden Clubs. In this time of war, national defense became an important part of her program. She initiated the idea of planting vegetable gardens as part of an economic contribution to the war efforts. The clubs also set aside one day when all club members in the state would work for the Red Cross.
After the war, Suburban Garden Club’s membership began to increase in numbers. The membership in 2021 stands at over 140 members. It still has a biennial flower show and participates in providing floral arrangements for the Executive Residence in Nashville, and Rachel House and Garden in Knoxville. The club also provides floral arrangements for three performances of the Iris Symphony at GPAC each year. Suburban also has historically supported civic projects in Germantown. The club began maintaining C. O. Franklin Park by planting cherry trees along Poplar Pike, and landscaping Melanie Smith Lane’s median strip in 1954 when the Germantown Charity Horse Show moved its show arena to land south of C. O. Franklin Park. The Suburban Garden Club also donated land to the city by the depot which they had used as a park in the 1940s. This donated area became the site of the building which housed the city hall, the jail, and the fire truck. The building is currently occupied by the Parks and Recreation Department and the Park Rangers.
In the 21st century, The Suburban Garden Club of Germantown contracted with Landscape Creations, and together they designed and built The Velma Heatherly Memorial Fountain in a Meditation Garden on the north side of the Germantown Community Library.
Velma had been Chairman of the French department of the University of Memphis, was a former president of the Suburban Garden Club, and a longtime resident of Germantown.
Initially, a shrubbery bed was built on three sides of the water feature. Over the years that bed grew as the club members added plants to the central bed and then added seven new beds of azaleas, hydrangeas, loropetalum, hybrid irises, and daylilies. The group worked with the city to add memorial benches and ADA-approved sidewalks to the park area, as the city worked to correct erosion problems and improve irrigation for plants in the park. The club replanted thirteen understory trees that had been removed during the grading of the parkland.
In 2017 the club worked with the city in its conversion of a water retention basin into a rain garden on the east side of the library building. For their efforts in this project, the club won a national award for Water Conservation and the Use of Native Plants in the rain garden. The group continues to maintain these projects each year.
The Suburban Garden Club of Germantown spearheaded a master plan to establish the Germantown Museum Association in 2008 by donating a $1,000 challenge grant to the museum group, which was composed of members of the Suburban Garden Club and the Germantown Historic Commission. The Museum Association (now the Germantown Historical Preservation Association) received its 501(c)3 status in December 2008 and is a volunteer group operated for educational purposes to promote the history of Germantown. The Association has physical exhibits about Germantown’s history throughout the city, including Germantown Methodist Le Bonheur Hospital and the Bobby Lanier Farm Park.
The Suburban Garden Club has as its legacy project the Oaklawn Gardens project. Oaklawn is a six-acre, former flower farm which fronts on Poplar Pike, which a member’s mother-in-law operated as a flower farm from the 1920s until the 1970s before the flower industry started importing flowers from South America. In 2018 the city hired an architectural historian to apply for approval of Oaklawn Garden to the National Register of Historic Places. The designation was obtained and approved by the Tennessee Historic Commission and the National Park Services. Regionally, it is known as an azalea garden because of the beauty of the azaleas which are almost one hundred years old.
Poplar Estates Garden Club
Poplar Estates Garden Club was formed in 1966. During the early years of its existence, only residents who lived in the Poplar Estates subdivision were eligible for membership. Later the club expanded to include members from all parts of the city. Its current membership in 2021 is seventeen, two of whom are men. Its projects include decorating the Poplar Avenue entrance to Poplar Estates at Christmas and Easter; sponsoring a Princess for the Germantown Charity Horse Show, presenting a flower show every two years either in a home or with the district, and participating in all District, State, and National projects of all national garden clubs.
Entry to Poplar Estates Parkway
Germantown Garden Club
The Germantown Garden Club is the city’s youngest garden club. It was formed in 1988 by Jerry Tubb and Dorothy Chandler. Both ladies served as presidents of this club and went on to serve as state presidents of the Tennessee Federation of Garden Clubs. The club has always been a strong supporter of activities promoted by state and national garden clubs: biennial flower shows; sponsorship of a Germantown Charity Horse Show Princess; provider of large floral arrangements for GPAC Iris concerts; maintenance of the butterfly garden at the Madonna Center; provider of maintenance for the Blue Star Marker near Germantown Parkway; presenter of programs on gardening for mobile and wheelchair-bound residents at Southerland Place. The club was recognized as Tennessee’s Garden Club of the Year in 2004. The club had thirty members in 2021.
Blue Star Memorial Highway Marker
Thornwood on Germantown Road & Neshoba Road
Kimbrough Woods Home and Garden Club
Kimbrough Woods Home and Garden Club were formed in 1977. It was sponsored by the Eastover Garden Club of Memphis. The club sponsored the landscaping of the medians at the entrance of Kimbrough Woods. Each year the members sponsor a Germantown Charity Horse Show Princess, line the street with luminaries, and give carriage rides during the Christmas holidays. The club members also give ‘Welcome Baskets’ to new neighbors who move into their neighborhood. The club has thirty-five members presently. The group has recently resigned from the Tennessee Federation of Garden Clubs because the members wanted to have a greater mixture of activities that expanded beyond garden club projects.
Northern Entrance to Kimbrough Woods
The Velma Heatherly Memorial Fountain and Mediation Garden
The Velma Heatherly Memorial Fountain and Mediation Garden, Fountain and Book
The Velma Heatherly Memorial Fountain and Mediation Garden, Hydrangeas
The Velma Heatherly Memorial Fountain and Mediation Garden, Rain Garden on East Side of Library
The Velma Heatherly Memorial Fountain and Mediation Garden, Iris and Daylilly Beds
The Velma Heatherly Memorial Fountain and Mediation Garden, Memorial Benches