A Brief History of the Garden Club of Norfolk

The Garden Club of Norfolk (GCN) was organized on February 24, 1915 at the home of Mrs. Frederic Killam, the first president. The roster numbered 40 charter and 2 honorary members. All were garden and nature lovers. Their motto was “a garden is a lovesome thing!” The club’s chosen flower was the pink Radiance Rose (bred by John Cooke and Sons, 1908). The announced purposes of the club were to stimulate and encourage the love of gardening among amateurs, to aid in the production and preservation of native plants and birds and to encourage civic planting.

The Club, as it was known for a number of years, was only the third in the state and was the first garden club of Tidewater. In 1918 GCN played the leading role in establishment of the dogwood as the floral emblem of Virginia. In 1920 The Garden Club of Norfolk became one of the eight (8) charter clubs of The Garden Club of Virginia (GCV) which it helped to found and organize. In 1922 The Club was admitted to membership in The Garden Club of America (GCA). That same year, The Club persuaded the City Council of Norfolk to name the Crape Myrtle as the city’s official tree. Indeed, 1922 was a busy year as The Club also hosted the 3rd Annual Garden Club of Virginia Meeting.

True to the original purpose of encouraging amateur gardeners, the first activities of the club were flower shows with only members exhibiting and judging. These were small and rather humble affairs but were difficult to organize because the whole technique of exhibiting and judging had yet to be developed. In 1917 the first public flower, fruit and vegetable show of the region was held by The Garden Club of Norfolk. As the 1920’s drew to a close, The Garden Club of Norfolk participated in the first Historic Garden Week held by The Garden Club of Virginia with the first Norfolk Tour in 1928.

GCN has subsequently participated in a Norfolk Home and Garden Tour every year that the event has been held except for a few war years when GCV and GCN decided to forego the tour and focus on wartime needs and concerns. In its over 80 years effort with Historic Garden Week, GCN has raised significant funds through its annual tour that go to GCV’s Restorations of Historic Gardens across the state.

In addition to its efforts to support projects of both the Garden Club of America and Garden Club of Virginia, The Garden Club of Norfolk has gifted its time, talent and resources to numerous community and regional programs/organizations such as Norfolk Botanical Garden, Chrysler Museum of Art, Hermitage Museum and Gardens, Virginia Zoo, Moses Myers House, Paradise Park, Elizabeth River Project and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.  Click Here to view a complete list of Community Contributions.

Click Here to read about GCN’s Centennial.