Went to a Garden Party

Written by Theresa-Marie Wilson

Theresa-Maria Wilson has been a journalist covering the North Coast and South County area for over 20 years. She is also the founder of Cat Noir CC and is currently working on a novel.

May 19, 2023

 Los Osos Valley Garden Club President, Wendy McKeown, and Vice President, Haydee Pampel, at the club’s 90th birthday celebration at First Baptist Church.

The Los Osos Valley Garden Club recently celebrated their 90th birthday with a luncheon in appreciation of donors, vendors, members and volunteers. 

In 1933, LOVGC was the first group in the county to be recognized by California Garden Club, Inc., the largest nonprofit, volunteer gardening organization in the state.

“We all have something to learn about gardening and plants, and we’re here to help foster the joy of gardening,” said LOVGC President, Wendy McKeown, “Another thing is getting to know other people who are into gardening.  They’re fun to be around because we’re all excited about the same thing.”

LOVGC offers programs, gatherings, outings, workshops, and activities, where members can learn how to take care of their own yards.

Elaine Parker, a member of the UCCE Master Gardeners of SLO County, and Los Osos resident Mark Virgh discuss plants during the event.

Whether members are into shrubs, flowers or vegetables, LOVGC’s mission remains the same to promote local gardening and landscaping projects through educational talks, tours, hands-on projects and charitable contributions.

“My favorite things we do are the field trips,” said Linda Tanner, a club member for about eight years. “We have gone to nurseries and wholesale growers — things I would never get to see on my own.”

Readers might be more familiar with LOVGC efforts than they think. Community service is an active goal and the clubs work is popping up all over.

A birthday cake made by Splash Café

Over the past few years, the LOVGC has planted a new garden at the South Bay Community Center, performed maintenance and upgrades to the club-created Los Osos Library Pollinator Garden, put in trees and understory plantings at St. Benedict’s Church, made donations to schools to for garden improvements, plant and tree giveaways.

“A lot of people feel very good about making a contribution to the community,” said LOVGC Vice President Haydee Pampel. 

Working in the garden with dirt under your nails and the sun warming your back is a reward in itself, but the LOVGC has also earned several awards for their work. Last year California Garden Clubs Inc., an umbrella organization that includes 350 gardening-related clubs with more than 15,000 members, recognized the group in many categories:

• First Place for Civic Development (for the South Bay Community Center Project)

• First Place for Pollinator Education (for the South Bay Community Center Project)

• Second Place for Club Programs

• Third Place for Social Media facebook.com/LOVGardenClub

• First Place for a Class II Garden Club (20 to 29 members) for being recognized with the most awards for 2021

On the charitable contributions side of their mission, LOVGC has donated funds to SLO County Library for gardening books, the Monarch Grove Elementary School Garden, the Baywood Elementary School Teaching Garden, the Los Osos Middle School California Native Plant Program, Morro Coast Audubon Society for native plant restoration, Sequoia National Forest for forest restoration, Friends of the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden, Dallidet Adobe & Gardens, UC Master Gardeners-SLO, and California Rare Fruit Growers-Central Coast Chapter.

LOVGC has experienced a growth spurt of its own. In 2019, there were 10 members today they have 70 members. 

“There are a lot of new people moving to the area, and when they get here they want to fix up their yard,” said McKeown. “They want to learn what kind of plants live here, grow here and do well. This [club] is the perfect opportunity to get to know other people who have already had that experience”

All ages and abilities are welcome and those outside of Los Osos are encouraged to become members. Their youngest member is 9-years-old, and the oldest is in her 80s. 

“What we always say is we welcome green thumbs and brown thumbs alike,” said Pampel.

Like many organizations that converted to ZOOM for virtual get-togethers during the pandemic, LOVGC is excited to resume in person meetings and programs during their season September through May. During the summer months board members plan upcoming programs and projects, which this year includes reinstating private garden visits. There is a survey on their website at https://bit.ly/44SJac6 to give feedback about what gardening topics and activities folks find interesting.

For more information, to make a donation or to become a member of the Los Osos Valley Garden Club, go to lovgardenclub.org. Questions should be sent to info@lovgardenclub.org

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