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Meet the Riderwood Garden Club

The next meeting of the Riderwood Garden Club is Monday, Jan. 23 at 10 a.m. at the Performance Hall in Montgomery Station. The meeting features a talk on the "Five Kinds of Orchids."

It may amaze some to learn that one of the more active local garden clubs in the Silver Spring area is at the Riderwood Retirement Village. Though it doesn’t surprise most green thumbs who know that gardening is therapeutic and keeps you young.

Riderwood sits now on what was once a huge gravel pit at the Montgomery County border with Prince George’s County -- straddling Silver Spring and Beltsville, Maryland. 

A building materials company mined this gravel until it was no longer economical.

Later, the property was sold to the State of Maryland and developed into a group home called Great Oaks to house severely learning-disabled young adults.

During this period, the Silver Spring Garden Club donated trees, planting bulbs and daylilies to the group home property, and assisted with garden maintenance for 15 years. Great Oaks was closed and the property was to the Erickson Corporation, and the four neighborhoods of Riderwood Village for senior citizens were planned.

The beautiful garden settings attracted residents who wanted to garden. With help from the Community Services Manager, an avid gardener herself, the Riderwood administration was persuaded, and 20 or so garden plots were lined out.

“Non-potable water was piped from a man-made lake onsite to a pump, and a hose attached for watering. Sometimes the pump was turned on, and sometimes not, depending on staff attention,” recalled Anita Ward. “Tools were kept in the gardeners’ apartments; the soil was thin and over a gravel base. Mature horse manure was delivered by pickup truck from a friend of one of the gardeners. The gardeners spaded up the plots and planted vegetables, fruit, and lots of flowers. One gardener, a retired experimenter from the USDA, planted only gourds.”

In 2003, the garden plot area was moved and expanded to make way for new buildings and to keep up with demands for more gardening space from the residents. More than 150 plots were laid out near a large pond at the outside edge of the community, with several hose pedestals, gravel paths wide enough for wheelchairs, a tool shed, and an eight-foot chain-link fence.

The fence became necessary as deer had found the gardeners’ old plots and were a serious menace to anything green.

A one-time $5.00 membership fee was assessed and with that the garden club purchased a garden cart. The club’s fees to join are still a low $5, then $3-a-year after that.

In 2005, By-Laws and Guidelines for Garden Use were developed. Monthly meetings now include business as well as local expert gardening speakers and occasional field trips. All plots are currently in use, and the club maintains a rolling membership, as some give up their plots and new members adopt them.

The next meeting of the Riderwood Garden Club is Monday, January 30 at 10 a.m.

Author: Kathy is the editor of Washington Gardener magazine (www.WashingtonGardener.com) and a long-time DC area gardening enthusiast. Kathy can be reached at washingtongardener@rcn.com and welcomes your gardening questions.

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