It was boxwood and beads at Amy Reese’s home last Tuesday when 24 members of the Perennial Garden Club gathered to do their annual Christmas good works.
First, Francie Johnson arrived in her Woodbyrne Farm truck, hauling two large barrels of English boxwood, freshly clipped from her garden. The aroma alone was a reminder that Christmas is just around the corner and there is work to be done and places where help is needed.
Perennial Garden Club members have, since 1950, donated time and talent to bring to others beauty and appreciation of the art of gardening and its consequences. On this particular occasion club members were creating 30 boxwood filled table trees, complete with various baubles, that will be delivered to Good Samaritan Ministries, Carpenter Shelters, Malta House and The Washington Home.
“We have a fine record of civic projects,” said current club president, Gay Barclay, whose own garden at the Barclay’s Potomac “Orchard Farm” has been the scene of numerous tours.
Most recently, Barclay explained, “We designed, installed and now often maintain, eight gardens for eight women living in the Skylands neighborhood of Anacostia. We began by interviewing each woman and then designed a garden to each taste.”
A founding member of Perennial, and one of 42 current active members, former Potomac resident, Jane Kauffmann, said, “When we got started, we were just a group of about 20 women who were interested in gardening.” She recalled the group participating in competition at the National Guard Armory shows. “We won blue ribbons,” she exclaimed.
Competing in juried flower and garden shows is just one phase of the club’s interest. There will be the annual spring show where members will compete in flower arranging and horticulture projects. A panel of three judges will critique and present awards. The consensus is that they have a good time while learning on the job.
However, their civic aspirations lurk close to the surface. They are in the planning and planting stage of two more gardens in the Capitol Hill area. “We have also been asked to join other clubs to work on river stream restoration and to help revitalize and clean up the Anacostia River. We take great pride in this,” Barclay said.
But, pride doesn’t stop with civic projects. At the last annual show, club member, Lily McLean said, “I got my first ‘Best in Show’ in artistic flower arranging, after having been a member since 1989. I felt just like Sea Biscuit!”
Raising funds for their projects goes beyond paying dues and contributing memorials. Luncheon at Amy Reese’s, a past president of the organization, was designed around a forthcoming soup cookbook. A 2004 project, it will help finance both the river and humanity endeavors. Reese’s roasted chicken with vegetables and wild rice soup was part of the luncheon menu, as was her 7-year-old Fitz Reese’s gingerbread boy cookies. “He said we had been working so hard, he wanted to help,” his mom remarked.
Giving a heads up on the cookbook project, Perennial member, Sarah Salomon, has her own cookbook, “Politics and Pot Roast,” hot off the press, just in time for a stocking stuffer. It consists of a collection of recipes used in The White House from the days of George Washington to Laura Bush’s “Cowboy Cookies,” each accompanied by an historical anecdote.
The old adage, many fingers make fast work, was quite apparent. By 2 p.m., having put their approval on Amy Reese’s soup, and crafted 30 spectacular boxwood and bauble table trees, the ladies were gone, but their dedication toward bringing Christmas cheer to others will remain throughout the season.