Fifty Years In The Crown Garden Club ...

When you stay with something 50 years, you are committed. You must have found enough pleasure and satisfaction in what you are doing to stick with it since that is a long span for any life. Fifty years in Crown Garden Club means you also like plants, digging in the dirt, and making the earth more beautiful for you and others. Four members of Crown Garden Club have been active members for 50+ years: Judy Massey (above), Carol Cartwright, Susan Keith, and Suzie Heap.

When you stay with something 50 years, you are committed. You must have found enough pleasure and satisfaction in what you are doing to stick with it since that is a long span for any life. Fifty years in Crown Garden Club means you also like plants, digging in the dirt, and making the earth more beautiful for you and others. Four members of Crown Garden Club have been active members for 50+ years: Judy Massey, Carol Cartwright, Susan Keith, and Suzie Heap.

Massey and Cartwright listed the people as one of the dominant reasons for enjoying the club. When it started, the members were mostly Navy wives who had lived all over the world, but the current membership includes women from different areas of life and few connected to the military. The original meeting place limited the membership to 50. As Crown Garden Club outgrew the American Red Cross Building, Bridge and Bay Garden Club emerged.

Massey’s Navy husband Lance had previously lived in Coronado, but she arrived in 1970 with their two-year-old son for his duty. She met his parents’ friends who included the couple in the party gatherings and introduced them to other residents.

“Then there was a little knock on my door, and it was Fran Marshall, and she said, ‘You need to join the Garden Club.’” After protesting that she did not know very much about gardening, the response was, “‘That’s perfect. You’ll learn all you need to know,’ so that was 1972.”

That was the beginning, and she did learn all she needed to know while finding the areas and specialties that piqued her interest. When invited to join she had considered it an honor, but she soon realized the ulterior motive: they needed people. She said, “And the next thing you knew, ‘You ought to be on the board,’ so I got on the board. I met everybody. That’s a wonderful thing to do if you want to get involved in the club. I got to know all the original members of the club. It started in 1959.”

Massey talked about the workshops in garages which taught flower arranging and the interesting, informative programs the club had. One week it might be on horticulture and the next on something artistic. Although she says she’s not artistic, and flower arranging was not her favorite, the more she learned the more fun it was.

Her first venture into the flower show was with flower arranging, but she said she had a lot of help from members. Since then, she has not only participated in the show every year but taken charge of various sections, especially the miniatures. “If you’ve been to the Flower Show, you know the miniatures are in circles. You have to have reservations in order to enter them.” People are fascinated by the miniatures and marvel at how it’s done.

Massey said, “First year I joined, they put me on the board, and they put me in charge of civic beautification. This is amusing because I had no idea what I was doing… At that time, the main gate to North Island, the whole area around it, was dead ugly. It was really a mess. They hadn’t done anything in years to beautify it. Somebody said that we should get involved in that, so I made an appointment, I think. Pretty sure it was with the CEO of the base… Sure enough, within six months the entire front of NAS North Island was beautiful. It had nothing to do with me. It had probably been in the works for five years.” However, the members felt she had been the catalyst for the change.

The family was transferred but returned to Coronado in the early 80’s. When she rejoined Crown Garden Club, they asked her to be president. Since she had lived out of the United States for six years and had had no contact with garden clubs, she suggested vice president would be the better choice, and it was. The position placed her in charge of programs, six to eight a year. With no internet, the position and research led her to many corners of San Diego. “It was a way of meeting a whole lot of really interesting people. And I enjoyed it very much.”

When asked if she was interested in the environmental issues, she said, “I’m as interested as any person that likes flowers. Yes, I am. Involved in it? No, but I’m as interested as anybody is.” She mentioned including drought resistant plants which require little water in her yard, such as succulents. She has a variety of succulents both in the ground and in pots.

Since club members arrive from various parts of the country, they often are unaware of the growing conditions for Coronado. She said they try to recreate their familiar gardens which required ample water. It may have been doable previously, but the water restrictions in California have limited the plant selections. She notices the drastic changes in Coronado horticulture since she moved here. The garden clubs are helpful in quickly educating a transplant to California-friendly vegetation.

With hardly a minute’s hesitation Massey said her favorite flower was the “Valentine,” a camellia which produces formal double flowers in coral-pink tones. A slow grower, it can become a tree with age. The blooms are profuse winter to spring in milder climates. One Christmas, her one request was for that plant, but they had to drive to Los Angeles to find it.

Massey’s enthusiasm for Crown Garden Club is evident, so being a member for 50 years is hardly surprising. She has become knowledgeable about plant life and shares that with anyone who asks. “One of the nicest things about the Garden Club, is how free and easy everyone is with showing you how to do something and not making you feel like you don’t know anything, when you don’t know anything, or just making a slight suggestion. I remember I put an arrangement in the Flower Show and afterwards I got maybe a third-place ribbon… I was standing there, and a judge was near. The judge said, ‘If you had only turned it 1/4’” After it was turned, she saw the difference. “It was the secret, so since then, that’s generally what I do. I look at it from different angles.”

The members in the club are extremely helpful with their time and knowledge. Making lifelong friends, developing a passion for plants and their beauty, acquiring a hobby that benefits others, and just having fun are more than enough reasons to stay with something fifty years.

VOL. 112, NO. 25 - June 22, 2022

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