West U Garden Club sprouts anew: Organizers look to history for inspiration
Story and photos by Carlos Aguilar
“West University was not always a city with large houses. It was a very middle class city. And what we’re trying to do — it’s like reviving a living history of the city.”
Longtime West University resident Sarah Ballanfant is talking about the city’s beginnings with its single-story bungalows with ample yards and residents maintaining home gardens.
Back then, she says, it was common for homeowners to keep gardens to grow some of their own food. Others nurtured plants for floral beauty to enhance their yards.
That interest led to the formation of the West University Garden Club. Participation was high, and there were even social events to help support its efforts.
When World War II came, the club was a strong force in the community, to help answer the call to sacrifice. West U Garden Club members grew Victory Gardens to help with the war effort.
The club flourished for years, but over time — as larger houses were built and new families moved in with more time spent outside the home, the West U Garden Club all but died on the vine.
Two decades later, though, Ballanfant said seeds have been planted to revitalize the dormant organization: “We were surprised recently that 13 people showed up at a meeting to begin the reformation of the historic West U Garden Club.”
Sarah adds that although most members in the past have been women, organizers want to make sure that men know they are welcome, too. “We’d like to catch the interest of some of the men. It’s a very relaxing thing. It’s a retirement possibility and even for men with high pressure careers.”
Her fellow West University gardener, Michelle Moore — whose husband grows antique roses — says reviving the garden club could be seen as bringing the West University community together again in an historic way and sharing the bounty.
“I do herb gardening,” she explains. “I have lemon and lime trees, with the surplus crop going to two local restaurants.”
Michelle sees gardening today as complementing the recent trend and popularity of sustainability and shopping at local farmers’ markets. “Restarting the WU Garden Club is just one other facet of ‘know your food’ and where it comes from. If you want to get appropriate nutrition and minimize the amount of pesticides getting into your body, you”d better know where your food comes from. The freshest food is within a certain radius of your home. How better to know where your food comes from when you get it from your own back yard?”
Where and when
Meetings are set from 11 a.m. to 12 noon on the fourth Wednesday of each month at the West University Community Building, 6104 Auden St.
Because of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, the November and December meetings are being combined on Dec. 14, with helpful tips on pruning and ideas for spring planting.
For more information, contact 713-662-5826.
For gardening tips, visit PickYourOwn.org
Starting gardeners early at WUES
Recipe4Success cultivates healthy eating habits
Community gardening — and good nutrition — are growing on the campus of West University Elementary School.
Thanks to the initiative of parent Kristen Berger, students participate in Recipe4Success Seed-to-Plate program, which connects gardening to health eating.
The school maintains a garden club as an afterschool activity and rotates pupils through an educational program, led by trained parents, once each year.