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GARDENING : Planting Ideas Germinate and Are Cultivated at Local Clubs

February 22, 1992|JULIE BAWDEN DAVIS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Have lots of gardening questions? Wish you knew other people with whom you could swap plant tips? Unsure about where to plant your latest nursery find and how to fertilize it?

Join the club. That is, one of Orange County's gardening clubs.

The following are descriptions of five local clubs:

Horticultural Society of Orange County: Though the title sounds imposing, the club's current president, Chris House, assures potential members that the group is very accessible. "We're a group of really friendly people who are always willing to help one another," she says.

The 80-member group acts as a clearinghouse of horticultural interests, according to House.

"We have a strong interest in a variety of gardening areas," she says. "The fact that we are so versatile is a stronghold of our organization, because all of our members have different circumstances. Some have patio gardens, while others have many acres."

The club's purpose hasn't changed since the group's inception in the early 1970s. Members strive to disseminate interesting horticultural information--providing what House calls a "horticultural education" one evening a month.

The group meets the third Tuesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. at the Sunkist Branch Library, 901 Sunkist St., Anaheim. There is usually a speaker at each meeting. On March 17, the creator of the Tropical and Palm Gardens at the Huntington Library and Gardens, Ron Harris, will speak. The club's year ends in April with an annual dinner at Sherman Gardens and Library. Los Angeles Times garden editor Robert Smaus will speak at the dinner this year.

Dues are $8 a year for a single person and $10 for a couple. Membership benefits include the meetings, field trips and monthly newsletter. Call House at (714) 646-2635 for more information.

California Rare Fruit Growers: If growing bananas, papayas and macadamia nuts captures your fancy, contact the California Rare Fruit Growers. Since 1980, the Orange County chapter of this statewide organization has been teaching its members to grow rare fruits.

"By rare we don't mean endangered, " explains Pat Sawyer, the immediate past chairman of the Orange County chapter and the past president of the state organization. " Rare refers to fruits that are native to other parts of the worlds but can be grown here with some care, like the cherimoya, macadamia, mango, papaya and kiwi."

The club's main purpose is to foster interest and provide instruction in growing exotic and unusual fruits. Hands-on sessions are held in such subjects as pruning and grafting.

"You don't have to have a large yard to grow exotic fruits," says Sawyer. "Dwarf trees produce very well in small spaces."

The Orange County chapter has about 185 members (the international organization, started in 1969, has 3,000). They meet about once a month, rotating Saturday and evening meetings to accommodate as many people as possible, says Sawyer.

Sometimes the meetings are field trips, sometimes lectures and classes. The next meeting is March 19 at 7:30 p.m. at the El Modena Library, 380 S. Hewes St., Orange.

The Orange County chapter dues are $2.50 a year per family. Dues for the state organization are $16 a year and include a subscription to the Fruit Gardener magazine. Membership in both organizations is not required. For more information, call Sawyer at (714) 526-7198.

Orange County Organic Gardening Club: Perhaps the oldest gardening club in the county is the Orange County Organic Gardening Club, which was founded in the early 1950s. Today the club has about 100 members.

The purpose of the club, according to its president, John Donan, is to promote and teach natural methods of increasing the fertility of the soil and propagating edible materials. The club is against the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and teaches members to garden with natural means.

"A lot of the members like myself have farming backgrounds," says Donan. "My father came from a farm in the days before chemical fertilizers. At the time he did what organic gardeners do, which is primarily creating a healthy soil. There is nothing better than stepping out of your kitchen door and harvesting fresh, wholesome, uncontaminated produce."

Club membership, which costs $10 a year for single people and couples, provides many benefits, including a monthly professional newsletter, monthly meetings with a variety of speakers, and a "sharing table" where members bring in and exchange produce.

The club also has "mini-groups," which are made up of members interested in furthering their knowledge about a specific plant category. Groups meet to study means of raising such plants as tomatoes, onions, root crops and leaf crops.

The club meets every second Tuesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. in the El Modena Library's Community Room, 380 S. Hewes St., Orange. The library's phone number is (714) 288-2450.

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