Austin’s oldest garden club grows friendships among the flowers


Austin’s oldest garden club grows friendships among the flowers

Members of the Violet Crown Garden Club in Austin are quite proud to be a part of such a long-standing organization.

“We are the oldest garden club in Austin. Yes, we are,” says Velia Sanchez-Ruiz, president of the group.

As well, it is one of the oldest garden clubs in Texas, according to the group’s website at

“It is prestigious in the state,” said Dolores Rumpf, 79, a member since 1994. The club is a member of the National Garden Clubs Inc. and Texas Garden Clubs Inc.

The club was organized in 1924 by Clara Driscoll Sevier — “a civic-minded, dedicated lady of great charm and ability” — who invited “several friends, both men and women, and a few townspeople, to a meeting in her home at Laguna Gloria to discuss plans for developing community interest and skills in gardening,” according to a “Club History, 1924-1995” by Bette Millis.

The club, federated in 1928, was named after the well-known phrase used by writer O. Henry referring to Austin as the City of the Violet Crown.

Through the decades, the club has undertaken many projects, including initiating the building of the Austin Area Garden Center at Zilker Botanical Garden.

“The story of the Garden Center starts in 1946 when the Violet Crown Garden Club set aside $50 earned from the sale of firewood, to initiate a building project. The club immediately organized and sponsored fund-raising events to add to the initial donation,” according to the Zilker Botanical Garden website. From there, the project grew, and the building was completed in 1964.

Other projects over the years have included planting crepe myrtles around the city, starting Junior Garden Clubs in schools and staging a flower show “on the Fourth of July as a Bicentennial gift to Austin,” club history notes.

At one point, according to the history, “Mrs. J. Frank Dobie, Conservation Chairman, showed great concern over the scarcity of the Blue Bell, a gentian indigenous to the East and parts of West Texas … Through the efforts of Mrs. Dobie, work began in earnest to save the ‘Blue Bell’ and all other endangered species. Violet Crown Garden Club won State and National awards and a special citation of commendation on ‘Saving the “Blue Bell”’ and was presented with the Green Award at the State Convention in 1945.”

Harriet Houston, 82, has been a club member the longest, since 1963, according to club records. She recalls many of fundraising for projects.

“We did an awful lot of cake baking,” for bake sales, Houston said. She has enjoyed her many years in the club because “we’ve had so many fantastic people come in, and (they) taught us different things,” she says. She keeps coming back, she says, because she enjoys “flowers, flowers, flowers … and friends, friends, friends.”

To boot, she says, at the meetings, “We sometimes have some fantastic food here.” Sanchez-Ruiz joined in 2004 with her sister-in-law, Ruth Ruiz, after retiring as a teacher. To become certified as a landscape designer, Sanchez-Ruiz said, she needed to join a club affiliated with National Garden Clubs.

“I walked in and have been here ever since,” says Sanchez-Ruiz, 75. “I wanted to learn every aspect of nature.”

Ruth Ruiz, 81, says she joined because “I retired, and I was looking for something to do.” Though she’s not a big gardener, she says, she wanted to socialize.

Sandra Holt, 79, joined in 1998 at the encouragement of her neighbor, Harriet Houston.

As well, “It was an interest I had,” Holt says.

Currently, the Violet Crown Garden Club has 37 members, Sanchez-Ruiz said. The group would love to attract more members, though.

“Anybody who walks through that door, they are going to be more than welcome,” Sanchez-Ruiz says. She has tried “to recruit new, younger members, and I have,” she said, though it can be difficult because “young people are still working.”

One new member, Deana Dossey, 50, joined less than a year ago because “I wanted to do something positive … and I really love plants.” She’s been learning, she says.

“I’ve always had a little bit of a black thumb,” she says, but “it’s getting greener.”

The club has monthly meetings September through May. Meetings include programs about various topics, such as violets, pot de fleur, national parks and recycling. Oftentimes the topics cover floral design and judging for flower shows.

In fact, the club has a strong emphasis on flower shows, with recent programs on subjects such as holiday designs and simple steps to design success.

“I don’t garden,” Rumpf says. “I don’t grow anything.” However, she participates in flower shows.

The club also goes on occasional field trips, such as an upcoming excursion to a nursery. Also, it puts on two flower shows each year — in the spring and the fall, says Holt, who helps organize the shows.

“We try to come up with an original theme for each show,” Holt says.

Its most recent flower show, called Only in Austin, was part of the Zilker Garden Festival.

“It went very well,” Sanchez-Ruiz says. “The judges were very impressed.”

The club’s longevity can be attributed in part because it “offers a variety of things to do. Not only is it about gardening, it is about flower designs,” Sanchez-Ruiz says. “We do have fun.”


Find eco-friendly jewelry at Bare Collection show at ByGeorge

ByGeorge is hosting a jewelry store of California designer Jeet Kaur Rodriguez Sohal’s Bare Collection. Bare offers jewelry that uses recycled gold. At the show, you can preorder a pendant of your astrological sign and get horoscope readings. The show is happening 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday at the 524 N. Lamar Blvd. location and Thursday at the 1400 S. Congress Ave. location.

Get a sneak peek at the Woods jewelry at ByGeorge

ByGeorge’s Women’s flagship store also will have a jewelry show from the Woods next week. See this line of precious stones and natural elements from Aspen, Colo.-based designers Shawn Hecox and Samantha Hitchcock 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday. 524 N. Lamar Blvd.


Hiatus Spa + Retreat specials help deliver clean water for Earth Month

All April, when you book a Spa for a Cause service at Hiatus Spa + Retreat, 20 percent will go to Water, a charity that helps deliver clean water to people in developing countries. And if you enroll in the H-Circle membership program, an additional $10 will be donated.

Hiatus is also raffling off 75 in-spa service giveaways. Tickets are $5 each, three for $10 and 10 for $25.

Hiatus has a goal to raise $10,000 this year. Last year, Hiatus was able to help build a well in Ethiopia that now serves 300 people.

This month’s special retreat is the Stone Unturned, which conserves water. It’s a dry brush exfoliation followed by a shea and cocoa butter treatment with hot stones and a body wrap, a reflexology treatment and a cool-stone face massage. Then you’ll enjoy a Rhum Agricole Ti’ punch. $195. Hiatus Spa + Retreat is at 1611 W. Fifth St., Suite 155.


Second Street District announces its Wine Down lineup of pop-ups

The Wine Down is coming back at 3TEN ACL Live in the Second Street District. This year, Dave Matthews’ Dreaming Tree Wines is the sponsor, so there will definitely be wine.

Once a month, the Wine Down pairs a local shop, food from a local restaurant and a local musician from 5-8 p.m. on a Wednesday night. Proceeds benefit the Austin Music Foundation.

Check out this year’s schedule:

April 26: Pop-up by Sikara & Co. with music by Jonathan Terrell and food by Alimentari 28

May 31: Pop-up by Hemline, music by Charlie Faye & the Fayettes, food by CRU Food & Wine Bar

June 28: Pop-up by Luxe Apothetique, music by Superfónicos, food by Lonesome Dove

July 26: Pop-up by ModCloth, music by Scott H. Biram, food by Taverna

Aug. 30: Pop-up by Saint Bernard, music by Mobley, food by W Living Room

Sept. 27: Pop-up by Rae Cosmetics, music Austin Music Foundation presents Magna Carda and Tomar & the FCs, food by Trace


Churches’ garage sale helps raise money for children in Uganda

Spring cleaning? Have items that need to go? Front Porch, youth ministry the Window and All Saints’ Episcopal Church are joining together to raise money for school children in Loro Village in northern Uganda. You can drop off items at two locations: East Space, 2009 Airport Blvd., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily except holidays, and All Saints,’ 209 W. 27th St., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays, starting next week. All furniture and big items need to be dropped off at the East Space location.

The sale is 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. May 5 and May 6 at East Space. Love for Loro is hoping to raise $35,000 to help supply things like shoes for students, who often cannot make the 5-mile hike to school because of foot infections.


New pieces in wood, steel from Austin’s Petrified Design

Thinking of adding some outdoor pieces to your backyard this spring? Austin-based Petrified Design has some new offerings including powder-coated steel chairs, shelves and bike racks, signature wood pieces and planters. Find them at the Petrified Design studio, 6601 Shirley Ave.


Distillery launches vintage line inspired by novel

The Distillery owner Catelyn Silapachai has started focusing on creating new necklaces with vintage pendants. For the Neapolitan Collection, Silapachai has chosen antique Italian pieces inspired by the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. The books are all based in 1950s Naples, Italy. It’s the second in Silapachai’s quarterly design series.

“After finishing the series, I knew I wanted to put together something that represented the grit and emotional contradictions present throughout each of the four books,” said Silapachai in a press release.

Find necklaces from $58 to $185 at

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Lifestyle

Sound Style: ‘A lady of fashion and justice’
Sound Style: ‘A lady of fashion and justice’

Lesli Sparkman-Williams, the artist also known as DJ Mahealani, unearths hidden magic and spins it out into the universe. This is one of her superpowers. It manifests in music when she slides discarded disco cuts and forgotten soul gems into her dance-floor-popping mixes, where they mingle with old-school hip-hop rap-alongs and your favorite junior-high...
Don’t bring back the hornworms war. Pesticide that’s safe for home use.
Don’t bring back the hornworms war. Pesticide that’s safe for home use.

Only those old enough to remember growing tomatoes before Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) know what a nightmare we faced every year. The huge tomato hornworms inevitably show up in our summer crop to defoliate whole plants in one or two day’s time. They are so voracious that virtually nothing but chemical pesticides could slow them down, but they...
Home has plenty of room for the kids AND an outdoorsy collection
Home has plenty of room for the kids AND an outdoorsy collection

SEATTLE — And now, A Western folk ode to some newish Western folks: OH, GIVE ME A HOME … The first space Steven Rinella and Katie Finch shared didn’t have much space at all: an 800-square-foot apartment in Brooklyn, outfitted with “hand-me-down furniture, from stoop sales,” Finch says. Her job with Amazon blazed their...
Make smart tech choices for your new smart home
Make smart tech choices for your new smart home

SAN DIEGO — The smart evolution has begun in our homes. More and more connected items are available to let you control your property from a single device, no matter where you are. Everything from lighting to heating and even making a cup of coffee can be at your fingertips. Smart home products are streaming into the marketplace, which makes it...
The beauty of blue and white
The beauty of blue and white

Some color crushes come and go. Others develop into true love that lasts forever. That’s how I feel about the color blue, especially when it’s paired with white. Blue and white is a cornerstone of my personal design style, and you’ll find it all over my home. Everyone falls in love for a reason. For me, and blue and white, there are...
More Stories