Delta Informal Gardeners encourages gardening through education and beautification of the community
Most of us love gardens! We typically love all kinds of gardens — from formal places where pathways and borders organize plants and flowers into a patterned feast for both eye and mind, to cultivated but unkempt mini-wilderness-like areas strewn with flowers, plants, and vines in a disarray that echoes unrestrained nature herself.
Any garden that actually has healthy plants and flowers growing in it is a happy place. Gardens are good for people. Time spent in a garden can soothe the soul. Someone once observed that we’re nearer to God in our gardens than anyplace else on earth, and he might have got that right.
Our club meetings are times of fellowship, fun, and learning. Many of us DIG club members are on a life-long quest to improve our gardening knowledge and skills. The meetings always include an interesting lesson from some knowledgeable person.
Besides meeting together, we also undertake community service projects. For example, we used to do the plantings and flowers around the gazebo in the Brentwood town park. We planted daffodils at all the entrances to town, roses at the cemetery/Veterans Park, and 1,500 seedling trees to be used for public parks and borders in partnership with the National Tree Trust.
We have donated books/tapes/funds to the public library, and have contributed to scholarship programs in local schools. We provide plants and funds for the schools’ programs for special needs students at Liberty and Freedom. The teachers incorporate our plants and seeds into their curriculum.
One of the year’s most fun activities at DIG is the Curious Containers Competition potluck we hold each June in honor of the club’s anniversary. The event is a lot of fun. Members can let their creative juices flow freely as everybody tries to create a container to hold plants and flowers that nobody ever thought of before. The champion last year was a kitchen colander planted with herbs and lettuce, to make up a salad. Other witty entries included a sunflower in a yellow flashlight, a potato planted with herbs, a scrub brush filled with veggies. A birdhouse with echeverias, and Rapunzel’s Castle filled with maiden’s hair fern.
The contestants come up with some wonderfully artistic creations. A prize for the most abstruse creation might have gone to the member who spent six months converting a six-pack of beer into a flowerpot filled with alyssum. Most people would miss the pun, since they wouldn’t know that the name of the flower comes from the Greek word meaning “to cure madness.” A somewhat more accessible joke was submitted by another member — a clock planted with thyme.
Delta Informal Gardeners (DIG), was formed in 1988 by people interested in learning about what we call "dirt gardening." Pat Moore, our founder, was our first president. We knew we needed a fund raiser for basic necessities. We also needed a purpose. We readily decided that education, (gardening education that is) and beautification of our community by way of gardening of course, would fulfill our reason for being.
Jean Scudero made the original sketch for our logo. George (Jake) Dwelley came up with our name (the "i" was the hardest part, but informal turned out to be a good description of our laid-back manner). Russ Wold, the master composter, was our first speaker. Pat Moore started our sharing exchange table at our third meeting.
From the beginning, DIG has not been a fund-raising organization. Our emphasis is on gardening, not on money. We decided to have one plant sale a year, and that plus our nominal membership fee, would be the extent of it.
DIG's first actual plant sale was at the Art & Wine Festival in Brentwood Park. It was so successful that customers were buying plants off the truck as we were trying to unload them. Members went home and dug up clumps of bearded iris and took them back to the park for sale. People waited in line while we divided and cleaned them up. We sold the iris corms for 25 cents apiece. All plants we sold that day had come from divisions or starts from our home gardens.
We realized with some surprise, that the garden club was a big draw at these yearly functions. It was also apparent that we could sell a lot more plants if we had them. Steve Hendrickson began taking Kathy Echol's propagation classes at DVC and bringing his new knowledge home to DIG.
DIG's first Propagation Workshops started at the Hendrickson's home with big galvanized tubs of soil which we sat around and filled with second had potting soil from Delta Growers, a local wholesale nursery, no longer in business. Mel Abreu, a member and retired local farmer, offered the use of his greenhouse and grounds, so now we have a good place to work and store our ever increasing number of plants.
Our plant propagation season officially begins in September, although we usually have a propagation session or two before that. Whoever can make it goes to Mel's every Saturday morning from 10 until noon. Members bring cuttings from our gardens. We prepare many boxes of plant starts during each session. As the cuttings root, we move them up to 4-inch or gallon pots, all eventually to end up in gallons. Our every-Saturday-mornings go on till about Thanksgiving. Then we start up again in February.
From our humble beginnings, we now have the monumental task of taking care of approximately 10,000 plants we grow to sell every year.
We started DIG with 14 people. There are now more that 150 members. More than fifty percent participate in our propagation program and plant sale. It is pretty amazing, and always a pleasure.
- Carole & Steve Hendrickson, October 2011
Our Annual Perennial Plant Sale occurs every May, usually the Saturday before Mother's Day. In 2004 there were 400 customers waiting to get in at our 8:30 a.m. opening time. Some of them had arrived at 5:00 that morning to be near the front of the line. One customer told us she couldn't sleep the night before our plant sale—it was better than the night before Christmas—anticipating all the beautiful plants she would be able to get for her garden.
Some of us look forward to this all year long, and begin our preparations six months before we sell the first plant. Without being involved in this themselves, nobody could imagine how great the experience is when we get together to plan the event and begin the work. More than half of our members help work at the sale. We don’t want to go home afterwards; we don’t want it to be over. The sale becomes a learning experience for everybody. Boy Scouts help us sometimes to earn points toward badges, as well as students working for community service credit.
You might imagine that it would be impossible to actually sell almost 5,000-10,000 plants at a single day’s sale, but people start to camp out by the front gate at 4 o’clock in the morning in order to be the first through the door for the 8:30 a.m. opening.
You would have to see the event to comprehend how spectacular it is. More than 200 people might be waiting impatiently by the time the sale starts. We open the gate and have to make a jump to get out of the way. People pour through the gate like a herd of cattle. The stampede reminds me of drawings in history books of the Oklahoma Land Rush. Those people are on a mission.
Everything about our sale is conducted with great good humor. When you buy plants as inexpensively as we sell them, you can buy a lot of them and really enjoy the experience. People sometimes bring wagons and wheelbarrows to haul the plants to their cars. Some of them will take home 100 plants, stick them into the ground, and come right back for another load.
Plant Care Scheduling/Garments
Lori Mayo/Robin Choate