<bt>When Leigh Kitcher planted her first flowers — bright yellow marigolds — at age 6, she was bitten by the garden bug. Ever since then, she has needed to live near a patch of earth so that she could work the soil and watch the green shoots grow and the buds blossom.
"It's a reminder that there's always renewal," said the Vienna resident on gardening. "And there's the pleasure of the beauty and the fragrances."
Kitcher hopes to spread her love of gardening through planting and cultivating the gardens around town. As a member of the Ayr Hill Garden Club, she chairs the committee that maintains the garden next to the Whole Foods market and the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.
"By doing it for the town, I feel like I'm making a contribution," Kitcher said.
THAT GARDEN CLUB, 50 gardening enthusiasts strong, is celebrating its 75th anniversary this weekend with a flower show and sale offered in conjunction with the Vienna Arts Society's annual spring art show. "Bringing 75 Years of Beauty to Vienna" will feature nine design classes representing periods of the club's history, and another class, "Art in Bloom" will showcase floral interpretations of painting and sculpture represented in the art show.
The exhibits and designs at the show exemplify the garden club's dedication to beautifying the community areas around Vienna since 1929. Throughout the years, the Ayr Hill Garden Club has been responsible for maintaining the gardens at Centennial Park, Salisbury Springs off of Lawyers Road, and the flower beds near the Patrick Henry Public Library and the Freeman House. It created the annual Walk on the Hill event in the Windover Heights Historic District in 1971, and organized the event until Historic Vienna, Inc. took charge of it in 1983. Ayr Hill Garden Club also sells plants at its booth at the annual ViVa Vienna festival.
"We just have our fingers in a lot," said Florence Roseborough, a member since 1979.
IN ADDITION to planting, members meet monthly throughout the year except during the summer. They listen to lectures on the garden club's primary interests of horticulture, ornithology, conservation and flower arranging. Members also work with Girl Scouts on the merit badges and create May baskets for homebound residents and hospice trays at Christmas time.
"When the opportunity comes to try a garden club, then this is the one," said Mary McDiarmid, Ayr Hill's outgoing president.
What is distinctive about the garden club is the generations of families that belong to it. Vienna resident Nancy Keeran's mother was a founding member, and McDiarmid's mother had been a member of Ayr Hill for at least 50 years.
"The people in the club are very, very special," McDiarmid said. "They're interesting, they're thoughtful."
The experience and knowledge of longtime members, some of whom had joined Ayr Hill in the 1950s and onward, further enhances the learning environment within the garden club.
"It's really delightful to see that kind of continuity," Kitcher said.
As the garden club looks ahead to its next 75 years, immediate plans include creating a discovery garden for children next to the town mural on the W&OD trail. The garden, still under construction, will have plants that children can touch, see and smell.
"I think gardens are very accessible for children," Kitcher said.
Members also intend to continue planting and seeding the plots of available earth scattered about town.
"Gardening reminds one of the natural cycle of life. The bursting of energy when flowers bloom ... then the onslaught of the rain and the heat. And if you're lucky, they'll have another burst in September," Kitcher said.