Summer Time is Growing Time

Our summer has arrived and with it increased growth and blooming of our cactus and succulents.  We are enjoying the daily flower shows as well as the offsets we see peeking out from under “mom”.  After several rains in early July, our plants are fat and robust. 

After our fabulous field trip to Oregon, I thought that our local field trip to Bellevue, on the east side of Seattle might be a bit of a let down.  However, we had a large turnout of folks eager to see what our local gardens have to offer.  First we visited a demonstration garden at the Master Gardener’s locale in King County.  Named for George Pinyuh, a local master gardener who had a passion for succulents, the garden was planted with a variety of plants tolerant of our droughty summers and sopping wet winters.  Having seen this garden some years ago, I was astounded at the growth which has filled in most of the empty areas.  With the sunshine, plants were in full color with a ruddy cast to them.

Echinocereus reichenbachii

After a quick tailgate party of water and snacks, we headed off to Bellevue Botanical Garden to see the rock garden.  Member George, who is also a member of the Rock Garden Society gave an excellent insider’s look at the gardens which have recently been refurbished.  Apparently while we go to look at plants, children go to climb all over the rocks.  Your imagination can fill in the result.


After a quick stop by the gift shop and coffee bar, we drove to member Denise’s home to see her outdoor plants as well as her indoor plants displayed on the picnic table.  After walking through the yard and admiring succulents as well as trees and bushes, we arrived at the back yard where pleasant shaded sitting areas greeted us.  We sank down to enjoy the ambiance and continue the conversations that started when we met at the first garden.  The chatter would have gone on for some time had we not been interrupted by the early arrival of Denise’s first dinner guest for the evening.  With quick thanks we scooted out and headed home to reflect in our cars about the wonderful afternoon of succulent camaraderie.

Carnivorous plants in the garden

Denise has stepped up for two field trips in a row and knocked in a home run with both of them.  Our club enjoys the efforts of many members who work behind the scenes to make our meetings worthwhile and enjoyable.  While it’s a lot of work, there is the reward of much appreciation on the part of members.

One of our newer members, Chelsea, attended the CSSA’s national conference recently and returned with a plethora of ideas for improving our club and our connection to the national.  She relayed to me that there was interest in how clubs can entice new young members and retain them.  I can’t speak to retention as it’s too soon to tell, but I believe that the efforts our club has made to be relevant to younger members is beginning to pay off.  We started an Instagram account to which we frequently posted.  We breathed life into our Facebook account.  One of our new members, Candi, captured through these means, has a passion for such social media and is taking our accounts to a much higher level.  In the past two years we have had 5 young members join our club after “meeting” us on social media.  

In response to this influx of energy and passion we have endeavored to create programming with broader appeal.  This means listening and noticing, then balancing and incorporating ideas with a different perspective.  Providing opportunities for meaningful involvement helps create a tie to the group and perpetuates their involvement.

Another angle is our approach when new members arrive.  We welcome them, orient them, introduce them to others.  I believe people return for social reasons, not just the programs.  I have attended a variety of meeting where I am clearly a new person yet no one greets nor speaks to me.  Feedback we have received from new members is that they think our club is “nice” and “inclusive”.  That works for me.  

We are gearing up for our annual plant sale, to be held September 14 & 15.  The amount of excitement and ideas is at least triple what it has been in years back.  Daily ideas are being generated for how we might promote children’s interest in succulents, how we can create a classier show table and now we are creating a photo booth – who doesn’t want their picture with a giant cactus?

We are on our way to the sale!

We don’t have all the answers for shrinking membership because I believe that is happening for a variety of reasons.  Since there is just one place to get your cactus and succulent fix in Washington state, we try to reach out and let people know we are a great group of enthusiasts who are welcoming to new members of all kinds.