Gardening out of love: Club formed to bring gardeners together

Photos provided by Jeannie DeClerck Members of the Keweenaw Garden Club’s Gnomads sub group look over plantings in front of a private residence.

HOUGHTON — According to Jeannie DeClerck, the Keweenaw Garden Club is not a club in the traditional sense of the word, since there are no officers and no elections.

DeClerck, who is the lead person in the group, said the KGC began in June 2013 after she moved to the area from downstate Milford.

“There was a very active garden club there,” she said.

She wanted to have a group here where people could get together and talk about gardening and nature and hear from various experts on those topics.

“I wanted it to be an opportunity to learn,” she said. “We don’t have dues. I don’t want to deal with fundraising.”

Photo provided by Jeannie DeClerck Members of the Keweenaw Garden Club’s Gnomads sub group look over plantings at a private residence. The KGC has presentations at the Portage Lake District Library from September to May.

There are now about 200 people who are on a growing e-mail list with the group, DeClerck said.

“We’re adding people all the time,” she said. “(The KGC) is drawing people from all over the Keweenaw.”

On the third Monday of the month from September to May, DeClerck said the group has gatherings at the Portage Lake District Library in Houghton during which they hear from speakers on various topics related to gardening and nature, and talk about those topics.

“We are so grateful (for being able to meet at the PLDL),” she said. “It’s amazing.”

Even the presenters for the PLDL meetings are volunteers.

“We don’t pay our presenters,” DeClerk said.

The number of people attending the Monday gatherings at the PLDL depends on the topic and the weather, but it can range from 15 to 65.

Anybody can attend the meetings at the library, and take part in the groups various activities, DeClerck said.

The KGC has subgroups called Gnomads, which visit gardens and garden-related businesses during the warm weather months June to September.

“Anybody can be on it,” she said. “We get to see different kinds of plantings. That’s been very helpful.”

DeClerck said much of what’s discussed in the group has to do with the particular problems associated with gardening in a climate with a short growing season.

Some of the people in the Michigan State University Master Gardener program give presentations at the PLDL. She earned her Master Gardener status three years ago. Experts in various fields from Michigan Technological University also give presentations.

The people involved with the KGC have an interest in both flower and vegetable growing, DeClerck said. Information about flowers is particularly desired.

“There’s a huge interest in that,” she said.

On Sept. 18, Mike Schira from the MSU Extension Houghton office will give a presentation at the PLDL about the historical aspects of gardening in the Keweenaw. On Oct. 16, the presentation will be about herbs, and on Nov. 18, the presentation will be about holiday greens.

Although there may be 3 feet of snow on the ground, DeClerck said the group still meets to talk about what they are thinking about doing in their gardens in the spring.

“It’s really important to plan,” she said.

There are no local greenhouses, which have plants growing in the winter, so greenhouses aren’t part of the KGC winter events, DeClerck said.

Although the Upper Peninsula is fairly far north, DeClerck said it’s still possible to be a successful gardener.

“A lot of things will grow here,” she said.

To get on the Keweenaw Garden Club mailing list, go to keweenaw.gardenclub@gmail.com. Jeannie DeClerck can be reached at jsdecler@mtu.edu.

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