One of the youngest members of GCA’s Zone III (1974), Syracuse Garden Club (1931) is the oldest active garden club in our local area. As such, the club has a long and proud history of advocacy for and development of civic projects. Whether intended to beautify, conserve or restore, Syracuse Garden Club projects, in varying measures, have enhanced the quality of life in our city and surrounding communities for eighty-five years. At their earliest meeting in 1931, the first club members established their intention “to promote an interest in gardens, their design and management, to cooperate in the protection of wildflowers and native plants, and to encourage civic planting.”
True to its founding principles, in its earliest years, the club took on the replenishment and care of the well-known Edmund Mills Rose Garden, which continues today as a major attraction in Syracuse’s Thornden Park. The club’s Bicentennial project to enhance the Dark Aisle, a shaded area of the historic landscape at Lorenzo State Historic Site in Cazenovia, NY, still flourishes as an important seasonal focus for club efforts.
Continuing an abiding interest in garden restoration, the club conceived and developed the Locktender’s Garden at the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse’s urban core. The museum is housed in an 1850 Weighlock building where canal boats and their cargo once were weighed. The club’s project, which recreated a canal-side, Victorian-era garden using plant materials and gardening methods authentic to the period, received the GCA Founders Fund Award in 1991, and we continue to provide seasonal care for the garden. Our interest in improving canal-era facilities continues each year with the release of Galerucella beetles as bio-control for Purple Loosestrife along the Erie Canal as it passes through area communities.
Through the club’s efforts, trees and bulbs planted over the years thrive in local parks and other natural areas including Pass Arboretum, Forman Park, Lorenzo, Rosamond Gifford Zoo and Oakwood Cemetery. More recently, in accord with its long tradition of concern for highway beautification, the club planned and underwrote the costs for the installation of more than 50,000 daffodil bulbs at a major local highway interchange where, annually, the blossoms provide a welcome sign of spring. Most recently, working with the City of Syracuse and a city neighborhood, our members assisted with the transformation of roadway median end-caps from hard-pack grass to lush gardens that beautify the area while absorbing rainwater run-off.
As long-time activists on environmental issues, from sign pollution and cleanup of automobile graveyards in the club’s early years, to more recent advocacy for the cleanup of Onondaga Lake, the Syracuse Garden Club has renewed its focus on sustainability and the many ways we can support our community as we all look ahead to a more “green” future.