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June 3, 2009 > Dig into National Garden Week

Dig into National Garden Week

By Julie Grabowski

Friends of Heirloom Flowers Garden Club (FOHF) urges the community to get out their spades and gloves and dive into a nice patch of dirt in honor of National Garden Week. In an effort to raise awareness of gardening and encourage involvement in local garden clubs, FOHF will be posting flyers and arranging a display at Fremont Main Library offering basic information on gardening and how to join their club. In addition, a proclamation has been submitted to Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman to be read at the June 9 City Council Meeting, declaring June 7-13 National Garden Week in Fremont. The club will also receive recognition for their beautification efforts in Fremont parks.

FOHF is a nonprofit organization founded by Eva Ricciarelli in 1994, and belongs to the Bay Bridges District of the California Garden Club, in conjunction with the National Garden Club. Made up of almost 40 members, FOHF is unique in that they are a volunteer garden club, donating their time at two of Fremont's historical parks. Every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to Noon, gardeners gather at Shinn Historical Park and Arboretum to plant, prune, fertilize, or fix according to need. Shinn Park contains seven individual gardens: the Rose Garden, Cottage Garden, The Bette Wentzel Memorial Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden (a joint project with the Ohlone Audubon Society), Lavender Garden, Moreton Bay Fig Tree Garden, the Cutting Garden, and the still in development Friends Garden. As part of their educational outreach, the club works with six to eight students from Friends of Families With Special Needs each week who help with weeding or planting. After the gardens have been tended, a social tea is held in Sim Cottage on the grounds, where accomplishments and plans are discussed, as well as other gardening and non-gardening interests.

On Thursdays the club heads to the California Nursery, site of The Niles Rose Garden, where they work from 10 a.m. to noon. In addition to maintaining hundreds of roses, volunteers care for a Butterfly Garden, Vegetable Garden (whose bounty is donated to local shelters), and a Cactus/Succulent Garden. "We make it fun," says FOHF President Caryl Gentile, who describes the club as a very open group with varied levels of knowledge. While the club is given free reign in the handling of the gardens, they are responsible for providing their own materials. Plants, tools, and supplies are obtained solely through membership dues, fundraising, donations, and grants.

Quarterly meetings are held in Sim Cottage in June, September, December, and March on the third Wednesday of the month at 10 a.m. Speakers are invited two to three times a year sharing their knowledge on a variety of topics like aesthetic pruning, container gardening, backyard ponds, integrated pest management, composting for busy people, and Fung Shui. James Shinn, fourth generation of the Shinn family, has also delivered a past lecture. The club enjoys four to five field trips a year to such places as Strybing Arboretum in Golden Gate Park, Alcatraz Gardens, Antonelli Begonia Gardens, the Bamboo Garden at Foothill College, UC Santa Cruz Botanical Gardens, Bob Ehrhadt's Camellia Gardens in Walnut Creek, and Filoli Gardens.

"It always seems to be very fulfilling," says Gentile of gardening, and urges people to join them at the garden sites, in the club, or both. National Garden Week is the perfect time to see what a little dirt can do.

For more information on Friends of Heirloom Flowers Garden Club call Caryl Gentile at (510) 557-9246, or e-mail Those wanting to join, send name, address, phone number, e-mail address and birth date along with $20 annual dues payable to FOHF to Katie Smith, Treasurer, FOHF, 40330 Monte Court, Fremont, CA 94538. The club can also be found online by visiting and clicking on communities then Heirloom Flowers.

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