By Amy Wenk
The Buckhead Men’s Garden Club has provided dedicated gardeners an opportunity to come together and broaden their knowledge of gardening through fellowship since 1960.
“Our goal is education and horticulture enhancement,” said Robert Brown, the club’s president the past three years.
The club holds monthly meetings at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Buckhead and hears a variety of speakers discuss garden topics.
The roughly 40 club members also meet each Saturday morning to work on gardening projects at the Atlanta History Center. Near the Slaton Drive entrance, the club maintains a commercial-quality greenhouse, cold frames, raised beds and a storage barn. They propagate plants from seeds or clippings, grow herbs and vegetables, and cultivate such flowers as dahlias.
The state-of-the-art facilities were made possible by past member Conrad Faust, a Buckhead businessman and dahlia enthusiast who bequeathed 8 percent of his fortune to the club.
“Without the gift from Conrad Faust, we would not be in this position,” said Bill Thompson, an early member of the club who returned in 1996. “He left enough money to do that for the club, and that made the club very unusual.”
The original greenhouse was at The Lovett School, but the school ended the lease in 1996. The club later found a home at the Atlanta History Center.
Today, its members come from diverse backgrounds and range from the novice to the master gardener.
“We have some interesting people, a nice eclectic mixture of folks,” Brown said.
One member is Buckhead native Henry Grady, the great-grandson of Atlanta Constitution Publisher Henry W. Grady. He has been a member since 1996 after retiring from 40 years as a trust officer for the Fulton National Bank.
Grady, now in his late 70s, began gardening during World War II when his mother grew vegetables to supplement their rationed food.
“I had a long spell in there where I didn’t have an opportunity to garden” because of work, he said. “I had some (plants) in my home, but it’s only after I retired that I really had time to pursue it.”
Similarly, new member Charles Wright helped his mother tend a “victory garden” during World War II. Later he began a community garden at his summer home on Little Cranberry Island in Maine.
Although many of the members are retired, the club also appeals to young residents like Richard Dunville, who grew up on a farm in Kentucky and now works for the state Department of Health conducting clinical research.
“I can remember being a little kid, my father would get native plants from the woods and transplant them,” said Dunville, who joined the club a year ago. “He’s the one that really got it started. I would try to be like him when I went to practice transplanting weeds and all sorts of things.”
Although Thompson is an expert on hydrangeas, and Pete Little has won best in show for his camellias, not all members have a background in gardening. Bill Schotanus is a retired minister who last served at Trinity Presbyterian Church on Howell Mill Road.
“I am here really because of the fellowship,” said Schotanus, who lives in the St. Anne’s Terrace retirement facility. “I don’t know much about gardening, but I come here on Saturday mornings, and I come to the meetings because of the guys. It’s a great bunch of guys.”
The club participates in the Southeastern Flower Show, which starts Jan. 28. The members also assist with children’s summer camps at the Atlanta History Center.
“We are looking at different venues for us to move into and be in support of for the club,” Brown said. That includes possible assistance for the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, as well as a spring plant and art sale at the Atlanta History Center.
Brown also is encouraging new members to join the club.
“This group of guys brings a lot to the party as far as educating future gardeners here in the Buckhead and Atlanta area,” he said. “We just need the party.”