The Garden Club of Aiken

 Ninety-four years ago, a small group of women met at “Rose Hill,” the home of Mrs. Sheffield Phelps, to organize the Garden Club of Aiken. At that first meeting in March of 1924, the Club’s course for a future of community support and civic beautification was set By May of that year, the Club membership had grown to twenty members. Monthly meetings have been held for the entire history of the Garden Club of Aiken.

In its its first year, the Club organized a rose show in which admission was charged. The proceeds were used for the purchase of a ”lantern,” or slide projector, that would be available for the use of the County Home Demonstration Agent Since 1924, the Garden Club of Aiken has organized an annual flower show in keeping with Club tradition. Through the generosity of the members, many items for the use and education of the local community and state have been donated by the women of the Garden Club of Aiken. The Club has donated rare horticultural book collections to the Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina, the South Carolina Library Society, and the Aiken County Public Library. They funded a slide collection for the Garden Club of South Carolina and made available a motion picture projector, for “responsible parties” in the community to use. Today the Club’s fundraisers support scholarships for students and community horticultural projects.

Members of the Garden Club of Aiken have always been active as Aiken’s civic leaders. Since its inception, the Club has campaigned against eyesores like unattractive signs, destruction of Aiken’s parkways, littering, and destruction of holly trees at Christmas. The Club has campaigned against development projects that destroy the natural beauty of Aiken and the state. As early as 1936, the women in the Garden Club of Aiken were contacting elected officials about the protection of green and natural spaces. As recently as 2015, Club members rallied the community in conservation efforts for the protection of an ancient Champion Tree, named ”Maid Marion.” This initiative has led to the development of a survey of Aiken’s diverse and impressive trees. A passion for the protection of Aiken carries through the numerous civic councils and committees in which Club members serve and through their involvement with Aiken City and County Councils.

The Garden Club of Aiken has long been a champion for Aiken’s parks and public spaces. Through active grant writing and funds development, the Garden Club of Aiken has found ways to beautify numerous public spaces in Aiken. The garden beds surrounding the Aiken County Public Library, which the club first planted in the late 1990s and have maintained, recently received state and national recognition for beautification of a historic building. The garden created at the Aiken Historical Museum to honor the Garden Club of Aiken’s founder received an award from the Historic Aiken Foundation, as well as state and national recognition. Parkways and parks alike are cared for and beautified through the Club’s work.

Membership in the Garden Club of Aiken requires members to have a garden and share a love of gardening. Throughout the Club’s ninety-four years, club members have maintained and opened their private gardens for the enjoyment, benefit, and education of the local community. In 1934, the Garden Club of Aiken arranged a tour of Aiken gardens for more than 500 members of the Garden Club of America. Garden Club of Aiken members have hosted educational events, horticultural demonstrations, fundraisers, and opened their gardens for local and state garden tours.

The Garden Club of Aiken is a legacy club, blessed with a distinguished heritage. Members are stewards of cherished traditions that are held in trust for future gardeners. The Club is dedicated to promoting the love of gardening, increasing the knowledge of horticulture, community service, and beautification, and to the protection and preservation of natural resources. Ever mindful of traditions of the past, members of the Garden Club of Aiken plan present-day gardens with hope for a beautiful and flower-filled future.

  • In March 1924, the Garden Club of Aiken was organized as the first garden dub in It Aiken. It has continuously operated for 94 years.
  • In 1924, the Club organized its first flower show. The funds generated supported Aiken Civic programs, such as a a slide projector for the use of County Home Demonstration Agents and a motion picture projector for use by responsible parties in the
  • Throughout its history, the Club has hosted gardening experts for
  • In 1930, the Garden Club of Aiken helped organize the Garden Club of South
  • Throughout its history the Club has funded and donated sets of gardening and horticultural slides for the Garden Club of South Carolina slide
  •  In 1934, the Club organized and ran an annual community camellia show until the Aiken Camellia Society was formed in the 1950s. The Aiken Camellia Society took over the annual camellia show with assistance from the Garden Club of Aiken. In years when unfavorable weather conditions limited a live camellia show, the Garden Club of Aiken offered a tea with a botanical print and horticultural book exhibit in lieu of the camellia blooms.
  • In 1933, when the old trolley line to Augusta was removed, the Garden Club of Aiken replaced the empty track area downtown with a row of oak
  • Throughout its history, horticulture lectures and symposia featuring notable lecturers have been open to the
  • In the 1950’s, the Garden Club of Aiken began a gardening and horticultural school that consisted of lecture topics that were made available for the public to
  • In 1956, the Club designed and paid for landscaping of Aiken County Hospital
  • From 1960 to 1980, the Club developed and actively participated in Aiken County’s Community and Beautification Program and an annually decorated the Aiken County Hospital for
  • In 1966, the Club undertook the “Beautification of Whitney Park” project; an award winning project.
  • From 1974–1977, the Club actively participated in fundraising, planning and renovating the Doll House at Hopelands Gardens and has actively participated in welcoming visitors to the Doll House eight Sundays a
  • In the 1970’s, the Club developed and helped the city implement the Community Leaf Composting
  • From 1960 through the 1970s, the Club developed and actively promoted an ”Anti-Litter” campaign in
  • Since 1930, the Club has planted trees and shrubs to beautify the parkways that were reduced in size for more city In the 1970’s, it worked with the Insurance Agents Commission to further beautify the parkways.
  • In 1980, the Club planted trees at the South Carolina Welcome Center.
  • In 1982, the Club donated house plants to residents at Midlands Health
  • In 1982, the Club Planted crepe myrtles and dogwoods at Mattie Hall Nursing
  • Throughout the 1980’s, the Club actively promoted and participated in the “Adopt a Highway” cleanup
  • In 1986, Club memberes planted the Claudia Lea Phelps Wildflower garden at the Aiken Historical
  • In the early 2000’s, the Club created and has maintained the ABBE library headquarters
  • The Club has provided plantings and window boxes at Aiken Community Playhouse, Christ Centra and at tl1e Aiken Senior Services
  • The Club participates annually in Earth Day celebration events and in recent years has provided a hands-on activity for children to plant seeds that they can take
  • In 2014, the Club hosted its 90th Anniversary Celebration, inviting state garden club members from South Carolina to
  • In 2014, the Club redesigned, expanded, planted, and has maintained Claudia Lea Phelps Garden on the grounds of the Aiken Historical Museum. The club received a Historic Aiken Preservation Award for this garden.
  • In 2015, flower arrangements were made and delivered shut ins and nursing
  • In 2015, a Historic Trees project was prepared for installation in the Aiken Historical Museum’s natural history
  • In 2015 and 2016, the Club undertook a project to identify, catalog, and have the Maid Marion oak tree designated as a historic tree and Champion Tree by the A public education process to conserve  the tree was mounted.  Acorns  from  the tree were planted and seedlings from this historic tree were sold. A seedling from this historic tree was planted at the Aiken County Historical Museum near the Claudia Lea Phelps Garden.
  • Through public awareness related to the club’s Maid Marion project, a plan has been developed to inventory and manage trees in the city of Aiken. {to date over 20,000 trees have been inventoried)
  • As recently as 2017, club members assisted the city with the green space related to the replacment of the York Street railroad bridge. We were able to review landscape plans and make suggestions concerning saving trees and adding plant material in that
  • In 2017, the Club undertook a Whitney Park clean up in collaboration with Aiken Public
  • Members of the Garden Club of Aiken are working witn the director of the Silver Bluff Audubon Center and Sanctuary to develop u1ative plant We have submitted two grant proposals Qan. 2018) and re-ciewed landscape plans/plant lists toward this project This project will provide habitat and food sources for birds ano pollinators, but also be important for the education program at Silver Bluff- over 2000 children from the CSRA visited the center for field trips in 2017.
  • Annual Activities
    • Decoration and hostessing of the Dollhouse in Hopelands Gardens at Christmas
    • Staffing of the Dollhouse in Hopelands Gardens eight Sundays per year
    • Silent auction fundraiser
    • Founder’s luncheon at Rose Hill
    • Hower show
    • Plant exchange
    • ArborDay
    • EarthDay
  • Horticulture Book Collections
    • 1931- ”Edith K Morris Collection” of over 200 books, many of great historical value, as old as 1578, given to SC Library Society in Charleston
    • 1955 ”Memorial Collection of Marian Pellew” given to Aiken County Library
    • 1959- “Memorial Collection of Garden Books of Sheffield Phelps and Miss Claudia Lea Phelps” given to the Caroliniana Library of the University of South Carolina
    • 1978 “Memorial Collection of Eleanor Haasis” given to Hopelands Gardens Dollhouse Library
    • 1964 Member Nancy Wilds published a book, Church Grounds and Gardens
    • 1964 Member Eleanor Haasis wrote regular column for the Aiken Standard, and authored a book, Gardening Southern Style
  • Membership at a glance
  • Club bylaws allow for 40 members, but membership has been maintained at 25 members for most of its 94-year history. Monthly meetings are held in members’ homes, and the smaller size is more manageable and conducive to active participation in meetins.
  • The Club meets the second Tuesday of the month from September to May. Meetings have been held in member’s homes on the second Tuesday since 1926. The September meeting is the annual plant exchange and a pure business meeting to chart the year’s course.
  • The Club raises money through silent auctions, grants, and award
  • Club members are actively involved in the Club activities, as well as, on serving on boards for historic preservation, city commissions and councils, arts, education, conservation, environmental, and lineage