For the last 49 years, the La Jolla Garden Club has had a simple mission: Keep La Jolla Beautiful.
They’ve done so with a tree here, a flower bed there, regular bouquet deliveries to the La Jolla Library, and a mini-oasis at the La Jolla Historical Society.
Now, at the start of its 50th year, the group shows no sign of stopping. The club, which meets 1 p.m. third Tuesdays at La Jolla Woman’s Club, 7791 Draper Ave., had its first meeting of its 50th year on Sept. 18, some 92 members strong.
From September to May, the group hosts speakers representing various horticultural and design fields, social events, an annual signature event, and an end-of-the-year scholarship luncheon.
“We all share an interest in horticulture and want to spread the love of horticulture,” said president Mary Mitchell. “One of our big causes is scholarships to horticulture students from Southwestern, MiraCosta and Cuyamaca community colleges. In the past, we raised those scholarship funds through our Gardener’s Market in May (which was discontinued two years ago), and part of our dues. Last year, we did our first Garden Tour, and we don’t know what big event we will do this year.”
Throughout the year, the group has projects and tasks that give everyone an opportunity to be of service.
“Once a week, we deliver a fresh bouquet or floral arrangement to the main entrance of the La Jolla Library, and we think that gets noticed and appreciated by the community,” said former president Kay Sanger.
Mitchell added: “At Wisteria Cottage, there’s a corner patio where we installed a bench and planters, and we keep the plants in good shape there. It’s a little refuge. We have two members who go once a week to make sure it’s tended.”
At monthly meetings, there are also rotating opportunities to bring snacks, serve tea, and greet members.
Carolyn Doggett, past president and member since 1996 — and one of only four to have been granted lifetime membership (the others are Jody Petersen, Anne Caprioglio and Ina Thomson) — serves as a de facto historian, keeping the club’s newspaper clippings and notes.
She explained the club’s humble beginnings: “50 years ago, Dorothy Marx and Alice Clark lived in La Jolla and realized there was no garden club locally, the only one was in greater San Diego. One of them publicized a meeting and held it in her garden. Many people came and decided to form a club. The first meetings were in her home. There were just a few of them, but in a few short years, the club grew to over 100 members.”
The early members were young women, most with children, and they launched an auxiliary club for their offspring called “Sprouts.” Doggett continued: “Their children had to have to projects to keep La Jolla beautiful, so they would find businesses that let them plant geraniums in front of their stores.”
When the membership swelled to beyond what homes could hold, meetings moved to other venues, and the club’s mission broadened to national flower shows. Members were often judges and helped guide other members in their exhibit creations.
“So we’re not only dirt gardeners, we have floral arrangers in our history,” Doggett said. “That makes it all the more enjoyable and all the more rewarding to have that history.”
In midst of its growth spurt, the La Jolla Garden Club looked to make a name for itself in community through civic enterprises.
They volunteered to landscape the La Jolla Recreation Center, Villa La Jolla Park and Habitat for Humanity projects; provided funds for the children’s playground at Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores, braille signs at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and tree planting of Torrey Pines along La Jolla Parkway; trained gardeners at Balboa Park; created birthday bouquets for La Jolla Meals on Wheels clients; partnered with the Japanese Friendship Garden, specifically its cherry blossom garden; and donated benches to the La Jolla Library and the La Jolla Historical Society.
The most notable change came in 2016, when the La Jolla Garden Club moved its monthly gatherings from a church meeting room to the La Jolla Woman’s Club.
“It’s been marvelous being here,” Doggett said. “We had the Woman’s Club as a civic project for a whole year back in the day. We planted trees and flower beds here. We have a close connection to the Woman’s Club that most people don’t realize.”
Over the last five decades, the club has produced a veritable greenhouse of knowledgeable members. When lifetime member Caprioglio joined 10 years ago, she had little interest in gardening, but was looking for a social circle.
“I had lived out of the country for 12 years and when I moved back, I was walking around La Jolla and saw the Gardener’s Market and thought it was a neat idea,” she said. “Someone suggested I join, and because I didn’t know anybody in the area, I did. I liked that these people were really down to earth. They aren’t worried about getting their hands dirty. My interest in gardening started here.”
In a few short years, her gardening skills had grown so much, she decided to apply to become a Master Gardener with the American Horticultural Society. In 2014, Caprioglio, along with 47 others, earned her certificate. She is one of two Master Gardeners in the Club, the other is Karen Morsh.
For Sanger, the very reason her backyard is in the condition it is, is because of the club and its members: “I moved into a house in La Jolla a while ago and inherited 30 rose bushes from the lady who lived there before me. I knew nothing about growing or caring for roses, so I reached out to people in the club and they showed me how to trim the roses and care for them, and that opened up a whole new world to me. I don’t know what I would have done without this club.”
Doggett added: “When you have a garden problem, you can come to our meetings and mention it to the group, and members will have two or three solutions to help you.”
“That’s how I found a landscape designer!” Mitchell interjected.
Membership continues to blossom; this year’s program kick-off with 92 members — two of them men!
The 50th anniversary celebration will take place during the Nov. 20 meeting, which begins at 1 p.m. at La Jolla Woman’s Club, 7791 Draper Ave. The speaker is Nancy Carter, horticultural historian and associate editor of California Garden magazine.
La Jolla Garden Club
Meetings are 1 p.m. third Tuesdays at the La Jolla Woman’s Club, 7791 Draper Ave. To join, come to a few meetings and pay the $60 annual dues. To learn more, visit lajollagardenclub.org
Oct. 16: Bridget Lindroth, Bridget’s Blooms, ‘A Wreath Tutorial’
Nov. 20: 50th anniversary celebration, Nancy Carter, horticultural historian, California Garden magazine
Jan. 15: Charles Anacker, Armstrong Nursery, ‘House Plant Revival’
Feb. 19: Mike Klerich, Green Meadow Growers, ‘Sedums, Sedges and Grasses’
March 19: Dean Turney, ‘Be All of Begonias’
Other La Jolla Garden Clubs?
The current La Jolla Garden Club was pre-empted by another. According to ‘Nostalgia Lane,’ a column than ran in the La Jolla Journal (now La Jolla Light), the first La Jolla Garden Club formed in 1938 under the leadership of Katharine Sneve.
Members were encouraged to bring rare species to meetings and share surplus potted plants. They hosted a spring wildflower show and a Christmas show. However, in July 1960, the club disbanded because ‘interest seemed to have waned.’
Editor’s Note: There is also a Village Garden Club of La Jolla operating in town. It was founded in 1974. For its legacy, visit vgclj.com