Tribute to Desert Planters of Ridgecrest

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven; A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.

These words from Ecclesiastes, King James Version, brings to mind the Desert Planters of Ridgecrest garden club, which has been a stalwart organization of this community since 1963 — that was 50 years ago!

In the beginning a group of friends under the leadership of Alice Hirsch formed this garden club. In the early days there was hardly a blade of grass to be found, so their goals were to “Beautify Ridgecrest” or “Make Ridgecrest Green.” Through their dedication and hard work they accomplished much of what they set out to do and a whole lot more.

Desert Planters started a beautification project during its first year by donating 24 trash receptacles for a cleanup campaign in the city, and they were on their way.

Approximately 300 trees that we now enjoy at Helmer’s Park, Ridgecrest Heights Park, Freedom Park and many other locations in the city were donated by the club as Arbor Day projects.

The wisteria at Pinney Pool and the windbreak trees at the golf course were other projects. Club members promoted planting of daffodil bulbs throughout the city and donated hundreds of bulbs. The club has faithfully supported the Penny Pines re-forestation project, donating 69 “Plantations” in burned-out areas of National Forests.

The club helped to finance architect’s fees for the design of Desert Empire Fairgrounds and donated financially to the irrigation system at the Ridgecrest Animal Shelter.

The club contributed financially to Freedom Park and presented many scholarships locally and to the California Garden Clubs’ scholarship fund.

Desert Planters promoted and purchased many Blue Star Markers located in our area and also supported the inclusion of Red Rock Canyon as a California State Park. The club also supported the Desert Tortoise Preserve, the Poppy Preserve and Anza Borrego State Park.

The club’s first publication was the award-winning book, “Month by Month Gardening,” written by a club member and specifically addressing gardening in our climate. Members also published a cookbook, “A Bouquet of Recipes,” which garnered awards at the national level.

Desert Planters’ first flower show was in 1965, and it won state and national awards. The flower shows have continued each year, now sponsored by Oasis Garden Club.

Desert Planters established the Parade of Gardens in the city and contributed generously to the Gladys Merrick Garden at the Maturango Museum. The Sand Canyon Environmental Education Program has received major support from the club.

In 1968 Desert Planters members began decorating the Ridge-crest Branch Library for Christmas, a service they have continued to the present.

The club sponsored many landscaping contests and garden workshops for the community as well as working with the 4H clubs and elementary schools.

Major projects included landscaping for Habitat for Humanity, Cerro Coso Community College and Mesquite High School. Club members also assisted with the Junior Gardener project at Inyo-kern School and with other youth gardening groups.

Desert Planters began the Farmers’ Market in 1999, bringing a major asset to the city. With the water shortage looming ominously over the area, the Desert Planters promoted Xeriscape gardening, native plant gardening and “no-dig” gardening and addressed water and environmental conservation as well. The resting bench on the walking trail on Bowman Road was donated by the club, and a club member has repaired several benches on the Rademacher Hills trails.

Through the passing years many lifelong friendships were forged, and no doubt, some enemies as well. Nevertheless, good times were had by all, and members must have had a thousand laughs at their many, many plant sales. Through it all was the common thread of the love of gardening and service to the community.

All the while, this lively and energetic group has been relentlessly stalked by a silent enemy – and its’ name is AGE. In about 1374 Chaucer wrote:

There is an end to everything, to good things as well.

So it’s now time to bid farewell to a good thing — the Desert Planters of Ridgecrest garden club. Congratulations and thanks for a job well done!

Story First Published: 2013-08-14