A look at the Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club’s roots and growth

RANCHO SANTA FE — The Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club has almost always been about more than just gorgeous flowers.
It has been involved in charity for a several decades and before the community center or golf club, it was the center of social activity in the village.
Helen Dizio, the club’s newest president, said she would like to reinvigorate the garden club and bring it back to its days of glory.
Dizio said that with the help of the new board, she hopes to initiate activities like a Heritage Fair to attract families. The fair would show children how things are made, from candles and wool knitting thread, to woodworkers crafting furniture and glassblowers creating art.
The group also plans to replant gardens on the grounds of its building to be more drought tolerant, but still attractive and colorful.
“We want to make this a showpiece,” she said.
Classes will be taught, speakers on different subjects will be invited and dinners are planned.
And she’s open to other ideas.
“I don’t say ‘no’ to anything,” she said. “There are so many things we can do and we are going to do all of them.”
Kathy Karsen, manager of the garden club, said she is pleased with Dizio’s plans.
“Helen is a breath of fresh air to the garden club,” she said. “She is highly respected and dynamic and as I’ve said before, she makes things happen.”
Dizio joins a long line of club presidents, which date back to 1926 when the club was founded.
“There were just 45 families in the Ranch at the time,” Dizio said.
She said she thought they were encouraged by William Sprague, a landscape architect for the Rancho Santa Fe Development Company who had a Gladiola farm nearby.
“They would meet at The Inn or in people’s homes,” she said. “They entered garden shows all over. They would win prizes. Their focus was gardening at the time.”
In 1937 it was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation.
Dizio said that the original garden club building is the one presently occupied by The Country Friends on the corner of El Tordo and Avenida De Acacias.
During Word War II, it was used as a civilian casualty center, she said.
“It was filled with sewing machines with people making items for the Red Cross and for the British War relief,” she said.
She said that with the help of volunteers there was a capability of turning the building into a full hospital within 30 minutes that would be staffed by two local doctors.
“The focus at that time was not gardening, it was volunteering and helping, but the group has always been about volunteering,” she said.
In 1957 the club began beautification programs around the village.
In the late 1960s or early 1970s, the garden club sold its original building to Arthur Limburg. Hubert Larson, a longtime resident and former club president, donated the land upon which the current club stands and then the club used the proceeds from the sale of the original building to construct the new clubhouse. Limburg in turn, donated the original clubhouse to The Country Friends.
The present garden club clubhouse was dedicated in 1975.
And of course, a club cannot run without the people, Dizio said.
The new board of directors include Dennis Williams, Peppy Bahr, Peggy Brooks, Susan Marr, Kris Charton, Ginger Bored, Carol Coburn, Shirley Corless, Joe Gallo, Paul Gozzo, Cynthia Harrison, Mary Pierson, Laverne Schlosser, Lenore Hammes, Bev Boyce, Kat Nunn and Mary Van Anda.
Like everyone else, the garden club is feeling the pinch of the economic downturn.
Dizio said the club’s income comes from renting out the building for weddings, other social events and parties; proceeds from its upscale resale Shoppe downstairs from the building; and from dues from club members.
Karsen said she would like to remind prospective brides that the building can be rented for an elegant wedding for a very reasonable price.
To learn more about the Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club or to rent the building for a special event, call Karsen at (858) 756-1554.

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