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Ladybugs celebrate anniversary of Lilburn garden club

A look at the Ladybugs Garden Club, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and its latest project, a wildflower garden along Lilburn's Camp Creek Greenway.


Members of the Ladybugs Garden Club in Lilburn will celebrate the club’s 25th anniversary this year. Pictured in front of the wildflower garden the club planted along the Camp Creek Greenway are (from left to right) Jo Pell Holbrook, Karen Depew, Pat Kahn and Joyce Baker. (Staff photo: Camie Young)

Members of the Ladybugs Garden Club in Lilburn will celebrate the club’s 25th anniversary this year. Pictured in front of the wildflower garden the club planted along the Camp Creek Greenway are (from left to right) Jo Pell Holbrook, Karen Depew, Pat Kahn and Joyce Baker. (Staff photo: Camie Young)

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Ladybugs Garden Club

A look at the Ladybugs Garden Club, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and its latest project, a wildflower garden along Lilburn's Camp Creek Greenway.

A look at the Ladybugs Garden Club, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and its latest project, a wildflower garden along Lilburn's Camp Creek Greenway.

Sandra Graham may have a green thumb, but that doesn’t always mean she knows how to use it.

“My yard looks terrible. I have a lot of weeds … I mean, native plants,” the Lilburn woman joked.

Graham is the newest member of the Ladybugs Garden Club, a Lilburn staple for 25 years.

She isn’t really into flowers, but she has been growing vegetables organically for decades.

After losing a job last year, the garden club was the perfect outlet, giving her not only a group of friends with common interests but a way to contribute to the community.

“I have learned so much; it’s unbelievable,” Graham said as she ate a lunch after a meeting on the back porch of one of the club members. “It’s been a real eye opener to me. … And I like trail maintenance, myself.”

At the meeting earlier this month — the last before a summer break — the women discussed the success of the most recent project, building a wildflower garden along the Camp Creek Greenway, a city trail the club has adopted, agreeing to maintain more than a dozen mini-gardens.

“It’s so satisfying,” member Penny Brown said. “When you hear people stop and say, ‘It’s so pretty,’ I’m so proud of it. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of.”

With many of the flowers in bloom, the ladies took their time at the meeting to talk about the wildflowers that were included in the mix.

Karen Depew showed photos and shared the folklore of the flowers from the silver-stemmed Bachelor Buttons, so named because people used to believe that if the flower faded quickly it meant a love was unrequited, to the lemon mint, used by native Americans as a poultice for wounds and a treatment for stomach and bronchial ailments.

She talked about the naming of the snapdragon, a Malaysian plant whose petals fall into the shape of a biting dragon when pushed in a certain way, to the popping sound of a poppy tested to see if your love is faithful.

The ladies went over the origins of flax and cosmos and coneflowers, and they talked about the grant that paid for a stone border around the garden after mowers decimated last year’s blooms.

In the coming weeks, club members will move the left-over stone to create a path to the edge of Camp Creek, as well as a small patio by a waterfall.

Larry Silver of the Neighborhood Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta spent months working with the group as part of the $3,500 grant for the garden.

“(Club members) are really good. They have a lot of experience and a lot of sills, and they are extremely dedicated, to the point of amazing,” Silver said, adding that he has especially enjoyed the potluck style lunches the women provide at each meeting. “What is amazing is how they partner with everyone to get the resources they need.”

Affiliated with the DeKalb Federation of Garden Clubs, the Redbud District Garden Clubs, the Deep South Garden Clubs, Garden Clubs of Georgia and the National Garden Club, the Ladybugs will celebrate their 25th anniversary later this year.

“We had people in southwest Gwinnett County, a growing area in 1989, wanting to join a garden club, and the clubs in the area were already large,” said Margaret Waller, a charter member. “The area was ripe to start a new garden club and Ladybugs was born.”

Karen Waller was one of the youngest members then, and her mother Margaret Strickland is considered one of the founders. (The club has dedicated a tree along the Camp Creek Greenway in honor of Strickland, who is now deceased.)

“It was a great bonding experience for me and my mom to work together in the Ladybugs Garden Club to study horticulture and floral design,” Waller said, adding that her daughters grew up in a junior club the Ladybugs sponsored.

“We didn’t have projects where we were as physically active with the intensity like Ladybugs in recent years has worked,” reminisced Betty Jean Bradshaw. “In the early years, we had a lot of social activities, like the high tea and open house with floral designs by our club members, for which we charged admission as a fund raiser. We had pool parties, brunches, and barbecues, in addition to our studies of floral design and horticulture.”

Now, club members split the socializing with some sweat.

They volunteer for hours each week on maintaining the gardens at the trail, and as well as a secret garden they planted at the Dream House for Medically Fragile Children.

This summer and fall, the Ladybugs plan to launch an educational program at the greenway, working with Girl Scouts and teachers to share their knowledge of plants and wildlife.

In the past two and a half decades, the Ladybugs have taken on the trait so key to the creature for which they were named, “a useful insect,” as Waller said.

For current president Jo Pell Holbrook, who joined the club after her retirement in 2001, the club is not just about planting something beautiful but in building the community.

“We hope our (anniversary) celebration will be a commemoration of all the great things the Ladybugs have done through the year,” she said.