National Garden Week is celebrated June 4-10, as designated by National Gardens, Inc., to honor the contributions that gardeners have made and highlight the importance of gardening. The history of National Garden Week starts with the founders, the National Garden Clubs, the first of which was established in 1891 in Athens, Georgia. This first club was created by a group of women who did not have opportunities for higher education, but a thirst for knowledge. In 1929, the National Gardens Club, Inc. formed, with nineteen states joining.
The mission statement of the National Garden Clubs is “to promote the love of gardening, floral design, and civic and environmental responsibility.” Ideally, members could study horticulture, and exchange plants and ideas for the betterment of the community. The club not only promotes a love of gardening, but contributes locally by donating college scholarships and grants to youth clubs interested in gardening. The National Garden Clubs Inc. is currently located in St. Louis, Missouri, adjacent to the Missouri Botanical Gardens.
St. Augustine also has its share of gardens open to visitors. At the St. Augustine Historical Society, our Property Manager Angie Gillespie is the person who oversees and tends to the gardens on site. Angie has tended to them for 20 years, taking care of the flora and maintaining areas used for school tours, weddings, and other events. The St. Augustine Historical Society hosts multiple gardens on its various properties, including the Research Library, the Llambias House, and the Oldest House Complex.
These gardens have a rich history and have recently faced unique challenges. Hurricanes, nor’easterners, and cold spells have seriously damaged many of the gardens over the past two years. Along with these weather-related issues, local animals like squirrels pose an additional threat, digging up new plants and consuming seeds.
The Oldest House Complex gardens include sour orange plants, fig trees, palm trees, banana trees, and more. Another notable addition to the property’s gardens is that of the “Four Seasons,” four statues of women that each correspond to a designated season.
The photo below depicts the Oldest House Complex and its gardens as they appeared in the 1990s. The middle sketch shows the evolution of the Oldest House from the 1770s to the 1880s. This is adapted from sketches by Albert Manucy in The Houses of St. Augustine, and Frederik Gjessing’s Evolution of the Oldest House.
Today, the gardens are often used for as the backdrop for weddings or as part of the tour for visiting school groups. The gardens see the heaviest traffic in the beginning of the year from February to May, when temperatures are bearable. Visitation tends to pick back up from October to December as the weather cools down.
Written by Kaitlyn Curtis, Flagler College Graduate