Garden Club of Dayton marks 100 year anniversary

Tour of private gardens slated for June 11.

If you picture members of a garden club as pruning and planting in their own backyards, you’re correct—but only partly.

In the case of The Garden Club of Dayton, members also devote much of their time to creating beauty throughout the entire Miami Valley. The club, 75 members strong, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Among the planned special events is the upcoming Garden Gems Tour of six private gardens in Oakwood and Kettering slated for Saturday, June 11. The tour will be held rain or shine.

If you’re a gardener, it’s a great opportunity to glean ideas and tips for your own garden and chat with homeowners who are passionate about their plants. If you aren’t a gardener, you can still enjoy visiting the grounds of homes that are lovingly landscaped and aren’t generally open to the public.

“We look for diverse types of gardens,” explains Nora Newsock, chair of this year’s event. “We want every garden to be different –from smaller container gardens to large landscaped gardens. Some have lovely water features, sculptures and art. You can have a garden even if you live in a condo or small home.”

Justin Mohler and Dan Zehringer are among those who will be welcoming guests. “Dan loves to walk through the garden; I’m the gardener and educate him,” explains Mohler. Their shaded backyard includes flowers, herbs and vegetables, a stone patio and a fountain.

The owner of Salt Block Biscuit Company in Dayton’s Fire Block District, Mohler often takes produce from his home garden to the restaurant– mustard greens, swiss chard, chive blossoms.

“I grew up on a farm so we always had a garden and my grandfather taught me a lot about when to grow seasonal vegetables,” he says. " I start some of my vegetables in the house from seeds.”

Mohler says he enjoys gardening because it’s " relaxing, meditative and rewarding.” This is the first time the couple has been part of a garden tour. “We’re looking forward to educating people,” he says.

Although most of the gardens on the tour are tended by the homeowners, professionals have also contributed their expertise. One of them is Nadia Malarkey, a garden and landscape designer from Yellow Springs who specializes in regenerative garden design and collaborated with the homeowners of a mid-century modern house.

“The significantly sloped ridge behind the home never had been developed, and over time, the woods surrounding Houk Stream, which runs through the 1.3 acre property, had become so densely overgrown with invasive honeysuckle, that the gorgeous, deep channel of the stream bed carved out by ancient river flow and enormous glaciers could not be seen,” Malarkey explains. Now, as you’ll see, there is a space for the family as well as a space for native pollinators and birds.

Painting in the gardens

The opportunity to meet and engage with an artist is a new addition to the tour. Bley Hack is a plein air artist who regularly sets up her easel out-of-doors in order to capture natural scenes and lighting.

“I am looking forward to the Garden Tour because I will get to spend a whole day in someone else’s beautiful place doing what I love: painting! " says Hack, author of " Colorways: Watercolor Flowers,” and the just-published “Watercolor Painting at Home.” She’s also done work for various companies including Papyrus and American Greetings.

Hack has painted plein air in a variety of outdoor spaces and says she enjoys chatting with people who stop by to chat. “It is an exciting challenge because there are always environmental factors to deal with: heat, sun, cold, wind, rain, critters, spectators, and a host of other things!” says Hack, who will be stationed in one of the Garden Gems stops. " Sometimes the weather is working against you and the view is changing so rapidly that you have to take a mental picture of what the landscape looked like when you began, and extrapolate the rest to fit that first view. All of these things make for a painting experience that fully engages your mind with all the decisions and considerations, and the simple immediacy of it all.”

Hack says painting gardens is also a treat because you know you are coming into a landscape that is at least partially manicured and that already has an order to it. “For painters it’s like being a kid in a candy shop: what to paint first? " she notes. " There are so many options for subject matter and it’s also fun to move around and do multiple paintings of the same place or garden. Even just painting the same view at a different time of day will yield a different mood in the picture.”

About the Garden Club

The Garden Club of Dayton was founded in 1922 by Katharine Houk Talbott and a group of her gardening friends. In 1926, the club was invited to become the fifth member of the Garden Club of America. The mission is educational: “to stimulate knowledge and love of gardening; to aid in the protection of native trees, plants, birds and other creatures and to encourage historic preservation, civic planting and the general knowledge of nature.”

Over the years the club has made lasting contributions to Dayton and the Miami Valley. Members encouraged the planting of victory gardens during WWII, helped create Cox Arboretum, supported the River Corridor Project, funded the Marie Aull Nature Trail at Wegerzyn Garden Center and helped found MetroParks. Members have planted trees in Old North Dayton, helped Kiser School plant a school garden, revitalized Flood Park on Valley Street, and assisted with the cleanup of Pineview Park in West Dayton.

The Centennial project

At the moment the women are excited about their 2022 Centennial project — working with MetroParks’ Riverfront Project to redevelop Sunrise Park, the park on the west side of the river that runs from Third Street to the Dayton Art Institute. The $50,000 they’ve committed to create a “Centennial Overlook” was made possible because of the public’s support of their garden tours.

Carol Powell is spearheading the project for the club. “We’re enhancing an existing overlook at the corner of Monument and West Riverview that marks the beginning of the development on that side of the river,” Powell explains. “We’re going to have a mural painted on the wall next to the stairway that will lead people down to the river.”

Other elements of the project include two demonstration gardens of native pollinator plants and a commemorative medallion in the plaza that will pay tribute to the Garden Club’s special anniversary.

Powell says their group’s mantra is “Love Your River.”

“Our purpose is to connect people to the river,” Powell says. “We want them to care about their river and care for it as well.”


What: The Garden Gems Tour presented by The Garden Club of Dayton. Specific locations will be listed on your ticket.

When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 11

Tickets: $25 in advance. Advance tickets may be purchased online at or by mailing a check to: The Garden Club of Dayton, P. O. Box 534, Dayton, OH 45409. Tickets may also be purchased from 4:30-6 p.m. on Friday, June 10 at the Oakwood Community Center, 105 Patterson Road. On the day of the event, admission is $30 at one of the garden tour stops, 7 Stonemill Road, Oakwood. Parking: Street parking is available outside the gardens.

Accessibility: Gardens are not wheelchair accessible, and some have stairs.

Sponsors: Houser Asphalt and Concrete and Grunder Landscaping Company

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