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2019 GCA Founders Fund Proposals

GCA Founders Fund

The Founders Fund was established in 1936 in honor of the GCA’s first president, Elizabeth Price Martin. The first award, in 1936, was for $700. In the 83 years since its inception, it has grown to $30,000 for the finalist project and $10,000 for each of the two runners-up. Founders Fund grants recognize projects which support and advance the GCA purpose statement. 

Founders Fund respectfully asks that each member of every club take a moment to read, learn, and thoroughly review the three proposals. Over the next several months, each club will conduct a vote and select one of the projects as its official choice for finalist. Club presidents will record their club’s vote on the GCA website before the April 1 deadline, and the winning proposal will be announced at the GCA Annual Meeting in Boston in May. The Founders Fund is the only GCA program that is chosen from votes cast by all GCA clubs and recorded by the presidents. 

These projects represent a significant commitment from their proposing clubs, as well as a significant contribution to their communities. They speak directly to the GCA purpose and are a tribute to the energy and dedication of club members determined to make their proposals a reality.


1. Abrams Creek Wetlands Preserve

Restoring a Calcareous Muck Fen

Proposed by: Winchester-Clarke Garden Club, Zone VII

Seconded by: Fauquier and Loudoun Garden Club, Zone VII

Not every community has a calcareous muck fen. Abrams Creek Wetlands Preserve (ACWP) is an extremely rare and unique habitat, providing safe haven for over 300 plant species and 20 state-rare native plants. Surrounded by development, the 25-acre preserve is an educational and recreational resource for the city of Winchester and the Shenandoah Valley of  Virginia. A Founders Fund grant will enable us to sustain and preserve these rare species and its rare marsh habitat.

In collaboration with the Virginia Natural Heritage Program, the students and faculty of Shenandoah University’s Environmental Studies Program began investigating the ACWP’s ecological communities in 1998. Since then, 304 plant species have been documented. Most are native to Virginia, and two grow nowhere else in the state. No other comparable wetland in Virginia has as many rare plant species. “We have important reasons for the city, county, citizens, and businesses to collaborate in caring for it properly,” said Woodward Bousquet, Shenandoah University Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology.

Because calcareous muck fens take 10,000 years to form naturally, we must protect them if we want future generations to know them. Fens, like other wetlands, also capture pollutants, keeping them out of drinking water. Because of their limestone bedrock, low acidity, and high nutrient levels, calcareous fens are one of the rarest natural communities in the United States.Mineral-rich groundwater and a sun-filled habitat allow distinct species of plants to thrive. Winchester-Clarke Garden Club has formed a partnership with the city of Winchester and Shenandoah University. Together our objective is to transform this wetland into a place where not only the delicate July-blooming hooded skullcap and the willowleaf asters can flourish, but also where the young minds of future botanists and the imaginations of adult nature lovers can take root.


The city of Winchester dedicated the ACWP in 2003 as its first nature preserve. Plans include developing and providing resources to foster community support and cultivate the interest of the 30,000 children, residents, and visitors who come annually. A brochure supports and educates adjacent homeowners and businesses in being “good neighbors” to the preserve. An audio walking tour focused on this site’s rare habitats will enhance a paved Winchester Green Circle Trail running through the ACWP. An additional observation platform and signage will expand access to the lower marsh.

Winchester-Clarke Garden Club is committed to conserving, promoting, and sharing this exceptional wetland resource. The Founders Fund grant from The Garden Club of America would ensure that the Abrams Creek Wetlands Preserve is preserved as a place for children to learn, families to enjoy, and for rare plants and the animals that depend on those plants to thrive. The grant will sustain and protect this distinct and threatened wetland on the edge of the city by allowing Winchester-Clarke Garden Club to give voice to the rare plants that cannot speak for themselves.

View proposal pdf -  Abrams Creek Wetlands Preserve: Restoring a Calcareous Muck Fen pdf


2. Flora and Fauna

The Jane Colden Native Woodland Garden with Animal Habitats

Proposed by: The Garden Club of Orange and Dutchess Counties, Zone III

Seconded by: Ulster Garden Club, Zone III

The Garden Club of Orange and Dutchess Counties seeks Founders Fund support to create the Jane Colden Native Woodland Garden at Trailside Museums & Zoo. This rocky woodland site within Bear Mountain State Park, NY, borders the Hudson River. The Woodland Garden forms a vital component of a redesigned visitor experience planned for 2019-20. Visitors, self-guided along this enhanced section of the Appalachian Trail, will experience new native plantings that surround rebuilt exhibits of  bobcat, fox, and porcupine. Interpretive signs will help to increase understanding of these displays.

This proposal, self-seeded from our club's Partners for Plants project at Trailside, builds on this experience. Started in 2014, our initial goals have succeeded, replacing tangled masses of non-native plants with native plantings alongside museum buildings and trails. Visitors showed interest, questioning us as we worked in the shrub thicket and sunny wildflower gardens. Trails connect these areas to the proposed Woodland Garden around animal habitats. The addition of woodland and wetland species will expand this start that breathes life into botanical history. Jane Colden (1724-1760) in her historic botanic manuscript described over 300 Hudson Valley plants, shrubs, and trees. As America’s first female botanist she offers inspiration and a role model to young naturalists. Visitors will understand her legacy through plants, Trailside signs, and a website with added botanical information.

Open year round, Trailside attracts a diverse community of 100,000 visitors from urban New York areas and far beyond. The Appalachian Trail Founders’ intent for nature centers to demonstrate local natural history is reflected by Trailside (1927). The nature trail pioneered here for outdoor education now benefits both hikers and day visitors. New native plantings around popular exhibits of non-releasable native wildlife will draw interest to the botanical side of nature. Children come in many school and camper groups, including inner-city youth and others at risk for “nature deficit disorder.” Half of the 7,000 summer group campers come from homeless shelters. Quests and resources added to Trailside’s website will aid educators accompanying these groups to inspire children to investigate their native flora and fauna. Information on Trailside signs and an

enhanced Trailside website will help identify local flora for use by visitors of all ages and encourage further exploration.

This large renovation project has over $500,000 in New York State grants and private funding for reconstructed animal exhibits. A Founders Fund award will provide critical resources to create this woodland garden and interpretive visitor materials. Trailside staff with volunteer support will care for sustainable planting. Trailside’s founders stressed the “interconnectedness of nature”—plants, animals, land, people, and climate. Our project complements this with a woodland garden that provides flora as habitat for fauna, and connects the visitor with each breath to the conservation of our woodlands, as the community’s “green lungs.” An interest in nature sparked for each visitor by Trailside’s revitalized displays, when multiplied 100,000 times, will have a huge impact—the groundwork for a future cadre of activists-for-nature.

Our club and Trailside partners stand shovel-ready to create this project.

View proposal pdf - Flora and Fauna: The Jane Colden Native Woodland Garden with Animal Habitats pdf


3. Sniff and Savor Garden at Pittsburgh Botanic Garden

Enriching Community and Revitalizing Landscape

Proposed by: Garden Club of Allegheny County, Zone V

Seconded by: Carrie T. Watson Garden Club, Zone V

The Garden Club of Allegheny County (GCAC) enthusiastically supports the ongoing environmental reclamation by Pittsburgh Botanic Garden (PBG) through completion of the Sniff and Savor Garden, a permanent, interactive, and inclusive garden with broad, multi-generational appeal. Part of Garden of the Five Senses, Sniff and Savor will provide an interactive, physical experience with plants, offering tremendous learning opportunities. This sensory focused garden will create serenity and stimulate curiosity while also thoughtfully incorporating design elements supportive of individuals with cognitive and physical challenges.

Gardeners’ vision, grassroots determination, and creative environmental reclamation intersect at Pittsburgh Botanic Garden. PBG is transforming 460 acres from Pittsburgh’s gritty industrial past to a compelling horticultural destination. Deeply scarred terrain, severely damaged by coal mining and overrun by invasive species, is becoming forested slopes, inviting trails, open meadows, and gardens. For this work, PBG has received environmental awards for mine remediation and environmental leadership.

Garden of the Five Senses is the newest chapter of this remarkable reclamation story. The sensory garden is designed for high conservation and experiential impact. Because nature’s joys should be accessible to everyone, this garden’s design specifically addresses the needs of persons with physical and sensory integration challenges and fills a growing community need. It joins a handful of public gardens responding to the challenges of autism spectrum disorder. Bright colors, soothing sounds, smells, tastes, and physical challenges will balance with spaces offering respite and retreat. This model sensory garden will become an important regional resource. 

Nestled within Garden of the Five Senses, Sniff and Savor will offer a raisedbed oasis where every plant is fragrant or edible. Thoughtful modifications will improve accessibility, enabling this garden to speak to all visitors in the unique language of plants. The garden will invite tactile experimentation and interaction, encouraging visitors to touch, smell, and taste. Scented herbs, aromatic flowers, and edible plants will populate this garden. Its design will support visitors hypersensitive to smell and taste by isolating strong smells within the garden and including clear labeling for edible plants. The garden also will introduce current and next-generation gardeners to tools and methods supporting sustainable gardening with compost bins, rain barrels, and watering cans for visitors’ use. Within this remarkable garden, PBG effectively applies horticulture, environmental stewardship, education, and community enthusiasm to revitalize a damaged landscape and enrich lives. It fulfills a mission to inspire more people to value plants and connect with the natural world.

Sniff and Savor accounts for $91,600 of the $1.7 million price tag for Garden of the Five Senses. PBG has raised more than 87 percent of funding for Garden of the Five Senses including $15,000 from GCAC. Fundraising efforts will continue until all monies are secured. The Founders Fund Award would underwrite permanent garden elements and plant installation leading to new educational programming opportunities. Construction began in fall 2018 with completion planned for fall 2019. PBG will maintain the completed garden in its annual operating budget.

 View proposal pdf - Sniff and Savor Garden at Pittsburgh Botanic Garden: Enriching Community and Revitalizing Landscape pdf

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