“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
― John Muir
The love of gardening can seem inextricable from the love of all nature. Thus, gardeners are often naturally compelled to advocate for all manner of conservation, including the preservation of native habitats, and the protection of the earth, air and water.
While the Garden Club of America didn’t officially establish the Conservation Committee until 1936, as gardeners, they had been engaged in conservation activities since their inception in 1913, including wildflower preservation and the Save the Redwoods campaign in California in the 1930s. From that time through the emergence of the environmental movement in the 1960s to the present day, the GCA has only increased its promotion of environmental awareness and the preservation of natural resources. In 1969, the GCA established the National Affairs and Legislation Committee as a separate entity to track and educate its members on important legislative proposals pertaining to the natural environment.
Similarly, in its over 100 year history, the Garden Club of Evanston has engaged in many and varied conservation campaigns. As stated in The Garden Club of Evanston, A History: 1915-2015:
“Members of the GCE became interested in zoning ordinances regarding Evanston trees, street lighting, city signage, bird sanctuaries, and anti-litter campaigns….Club leaders’ interest in environmental issues included turning vacant land into parks, keeping the city free of litter, letter-writing campaigns citing the importance of conservation projects to keep the city beautiful and [encouraging] club members to be exemplars of responsible citizenship….The club’s sustained interest and concern in keeping the land not only beautiful but safer from destructive influences was of foremost concern.”
More recently, the GCE created the Butterfly Garden in 1995, as a conservation project in response to an understanding of the threat posed to butterflies by the destruction of their natural habitats and the extinction of some species. “The main goal of the Butterfly Garden is to provide a beautiful, educational garden for the general public and to enlighten club members, children, and all who visit the area about the butterfly habitat and its importance in our environment.” (The Garden Club of Evanston, A History: 1915-2015). The Butterfly Garden is registered with the Garden Club of America Conservation Committee and is listed in the National Conservation Directory. In addition, it is included in the Archive of American Gardens, a project of the horticultural Services Division of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.
In addition, prompted by the 100th Anniversary of the GCA in 2013, and propelled by the 100th anniversary of the GCE in 2015, the GCE collaborated with Evanston Township High School on The Centennial Tree Project. The GCE spearheaded the seven year effort that included planting new trees and identifying, researching and photographing all of the trees on the ETHS campus resulting in the establishment of an arboretum.
In its dedication to educate its members and the community, the Conservation Committee of the GCE has also participated in or hosted educational symposiums on Wetlands (1997), Trees (“Trees that Merit Attention” 2004), Prairie Plantings, Water (“Great Lakes Study Day” 2010, “Making Waves”2015), and Climate Change (GCA Chicago Council Global Warming Seminar 2006, “Adapting our Gardens to Climate Change” 2010, “C-Change Conversations” 2018).
In accordance with the mission set forth by the GCA, the GCE works to keep its membership informed on current conservation issues; to promote respect for natural resources and responsibility for environmental stewardship; to encourage local conservation work; to provide environmental education programs for youth and the general public, and to collaborate with other conservation agencies and organizations whose programs complement those of the club.