Monday, August 24, 2020

The Ardent Gardeners Association

By Allison Griffey

The Ardent Gardeners Association was organized in 1951 by twenty-three women in Nashville following the tradition of garden clubs formed in the late forties after World War II. Two teachers, Blanche Ennix and Ruth McAlpin, spearheaded the effort. Inspired by their enthusiasm and commitment to the new organization, Dr. William H. Grant, the husband of charter member, Ruth Grant, suggested the name the Ardent Gardeners.

The Ardent Gardeners’ first flower show on July 11, 1952, at the Hadley Park Community Center (left to right): Henri Dixon, Rhea Tarleton, Ruth McAlpin, Ruth Grant, Dora McClelland, Hazel Burley, Rachel Lindsay, Arthurine Welch, Lillian Thomas, Mary Walker, Carrie Denney, Martha Allen, Mattie Claiborne, Kathleen Lawrence, Mattie Flowers, Alberta Bontemps, Elizabeth Petway Lowe, Eva Nash, Blanche Ennix, and Thelma Treherne.
Ardent Gardeners Association Records, 1951-1998, Box 3, Folder 7.

Library decorations at the Ardent Gardeners Association’s “A Holiday House” event at the home of Elise Frazier, undated.
Ardent Gardeners Association Records, 1951-1998, Box 3, Folder 2.

Club members dedicated themselves to learning about growing and arranging plants throughout the year, especially flowers. They organized workshops and clinics to learn about flower arranging and gardening from industry professionals. On July 11, 1952, the Ardent Gardeners hosted their first flower show at the Hadley Park Community Center. Following the success of their flower shows, the club presented a winter event called “A Holiday House” on December 11, 1955, at the home of Ruth Grant. The group continued to hold this holiday event on and off until 1974 when they discontinued the tradition because local florists started holding similar events.

Ardent Gardeners picnic in Ruth Grant’s backyard, undated.
Ardent Gardeners Association Records, 1951-1998, Box 3, Folder 2.

Zenobia Beck at her home garden, undated.
Ardent Gardeners Association Records, 1951-1998, Box 3, Folder 4.

Outside of club meetings and shows, the Ardent Gardeners also served their community. Members helped the Metro Beautification Commission clear out the former Maxwell House lot on Fourth and Church Streets to create “The World’s First Instant Park” in 1964. They also decorated the Hubbard Hospital Medical College in partnership with other garden clubs. In 1984, they dedicated the atrium garden fountain at Meharry Medical College to their first president, Ruth McAlpin. They named the Meharry atrium garden “The Doris Campbell Busby Memorial Garden” in 1986 after one of their most devoted leaders. In 1991, the Ardent Gardeners celebrated their fortieth anniversary with a luncheon at the Pineapple Room of Cheekwood Gardens.

Alberta Bontemps demonstrates special arrangements required by some containers, undated.
Ardent Gardeners Association Records, 1951-1998, Box 3, Folder 5.

The Ardent Gardeners’ fortieth-anniversary luncheon at Cheekwood on April 7, 1991 (front row left to right): Lillian Thomas, Mattie Johnson, Delores Crump, Ruth Grant, Isabel Watkins, Gretchen Payne, Carrie Denney, Alberta Bontemps, Elise Frazier, Blanche Ennix, Willie Mae Martin, Mattie Flowers (back row left to right): Zenobia Beck, Eugenia McGinnis, Rachel Lindsay, Kathleen Lawrence, Tyree Miller, Corinne Schuster, Alice Archer, Hazel Burley, Dora McClellan, Helena Perry, Jayme Williams, Patsy Petway.
Ardent Gardeners Association Records, 1951-1998, Box 3, Folder 7.

The Library and Archives holds the Ardent Gardeners’ records from 1951 to 1998. The association remains active in the Nashville community to this day. This blog post is a summary of a document found in the collection called “History of the Ardent Gardeners Club of Nashville, Tennessee” written by charter member, Dolores Crump. 

Readers and researchers who want to learn more are encouraged to contact the Library and Archives to schedule an appointment to view the collection. 

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

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