Longtime members of the Toluca Lake Garden Club contributed these reminiscences and reflections in honor of the club’s 75th anniversary. For the full story of the TLGC, read “History in Bloom.”
Member since 2010, past president 2014–2017
I was asked to join the Garden Club in early 2000, but I felt as a new mom with young children this would leave me little time to be an active member. In 2010, member and friend Judy Holliday asked me again to join. I said yes, and never looked back.
My earliest memories of our Garden Club was when President Shirley Duenckel would ask member Joan Shied, then in her 90s, to recite a Dorothy Parker poem from memory. Joan beamed with her beautiful blue eyes, had the memory of an elephant and would almost sing the words with joy in her voice. Her favorite poem:
“If I don’t drive around the park,
I’m pretty sure to make my mark.
If I’m in bed each night by ten,
I may get back my looks again,
If I abstain from fun and such,
I’ll probably amount to much,
But I shall stay the way I am,
Because I do not give a damn…”
What I love most about our Garden Club is how the older members are respected and admired and not pushed into a corner when they are no longer active. This is a wonderful reason for me to be part of this amazing club.
There are many favorite memories of my time in the TLGC, but the one that stands out the most is donating over 200 gardening-related books to our local elementary school as part of outreach. Through donation and purchase, we collected an enormous amount of books to help inspire the students to learn and love gardening. We presented the books to the school last May, and when their students want to learn or read stories about gardening, they will have access at their school. Maybe one day they will grow up and join our Garden Club to carry on the tradition.
Our club has contributed to the Toluca Lake community in many ways over the last 75 years. Tree plantings, cleanups, fundraisers and scholarships all contribute to our club’s mission of beautification. Years ago, when a space needed plants or maintenance, the garden club would go out and do it, long before we needed the city’s permission. Today it is more challenging, which is why community outreach and the scholarships are more doable.
Our 75-year history is due to having an incredible group of women that work together and share a common goal. The club’s long list of members bring special talents and skills that form and hold our club together. When I joined the Garden Club, I did not understand the scale of how important this organization was and the work that they do to beautify Toluca Lake. I am so proud of the ladies who support this community and feel honored to be part of the club’s long history.
Member since 1972
I joined because the women were so nice. They were older than I was and they didn’t work, so they had more time on their hands than I did. We met in each other’s homes and I liked that.
I remember a contest where we made hats with fresh flowers. My husband helped me make a beautiful hat and one year I won! I enjoyed all of our fundraising events for different organizations. We were very active and we did as much as we could.
The club has contributed a great deal to the history of Toluca Lake. Over the last 20 years, many young women have wanted to join the club. This was refreshing, as the older members were no longer able to participate.
The club has been able to endure and thrive over the last 75 years because many ladies in Toluca Lake wanted to join and be a part of it. As the years go by, our members get younger! It is so special because it is part of Toluca Lake, and after 75 years it is still existing and going strong!
Member since 1997, past president 2003–2004
Two of my friends were able to sponsor me into the club. I wanted to join because my friends wanted me to join. My earliest impressions were how sweet the elderly ladies were, and there was so much love and so much fun happening. It was so much fun going to everyone’s house. They would fix lunch for us and we would visit their gardens. Shirley Duenckel was president and the meetings were always fun. We looked forward to being with our friends.
The club has thrived because we are all Toluca Lake residents, and we take pride in the neighborhood and our gardens. It is important to us to take care of the welfare of the neighborhood.
Member since 1996, past president 2002–2003
I have always been interested in the scent of beautiful antique roses, their history and how they were named. When I looked out at my garden, as I do every day, it brought me such happiness. I was eager to increase my knowledge of flowers, which prompted me to join the Garden Club. Not only did I learn about flowers, but I learned about friendship. The like-minded women in the club gave me the feeling of having 30 sisters with common interests.
Some of my favorite memories were having fun showing off the antics of the “Floridorias.” This was a group of women of a certain age who at our meetings performed songs and dances all about flowers.
We live in one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Los Angeles, where you can enjoy walking and seeing beautiful gardens planted by people who care about keeping our community beautiful. I am proud to be a member of the Garden Club!
Member since 2007
Toluca Lake has always been a little gem tucked away in Los Angeles. It’s loaded with historical events and fascinating people, yet still preserves the feel of a village. The Garden Club members I met were so caring and compassionate about their community that it motivated me all the more to join the club.
One memory that stands out was creating our cookbook. Food brings people together, and this cookbook did just that. It brought neighbors, businesses, multiple generations of Tolucan families and Garden Club members so much closer together.
I believe our club has helped contribute to the overall beauty and pride in our community. The club has attracted members that are so dedicated and committed to making Toluca Lake a wonderful place in which to live, work and play. Not only do we take great pride in our fascinating and colorful history, but we also work toward enabling the future generations to thrive and grow here.
Member since 1988
At least five of my girlfriends had joined the club and were very active in it. They seemed to be having such a lovely time. They talked me into joining, even though I had a beauty shop and was busy with that. I realized I wanted to add something more to my life and I wanted to be with them.
My earliest impression of the club was that there were seven to 10 of us who were the same age. After work we would get together at a member’s house and enjoy each other’s company. We would have a drink and appetizers together. We were just having such a good time. I was able to tour some of the members’ beautiful gardens and that was so enjoyable. There were a smaller number of members than we have now, but it kept growing. We all had a lot of fun. I was very happy to be invited to be a member and to be with all of my crazy friends! We did as much as we possibly could add more fun to life. I remember an excursion to Children’s Hospital downtown. We knew many people at the hospital because many of our members worked there.
The club’s survival depends on the president to keep it all together with personality, understanding of people and going with the flow. You have to be flexible and listen to anyone who has an idea, and then pursue it.
The club is so special because it has wonderful, special people from Toluca Lake! I have watched it grow and grow.
Member since 2018
Wherever I’ve lived I’ve had a garden, and when I found out we had a local garden club, I was excited to join. I especially love that we are a small group of women and all live in the same neighborhood.
My favorite memories are of our holiday luncheons — everyone dresses up beautifully and brings a brand-new toy to be donated and we take pictures, sing songs and spend quality time together. I also loved the cookbook party where all of the ladies made a recipe from our very own cookbook, and neighbors were invited to stop by and sample delicious bites.
The club continues our history of beautification and service— we’ve potted lemon trees in all the existing concrete pots along Riverside Drive and make sure they are well tended to. We spearheaded the Riverside Drive beautification where neighbors come out on a designated Sunday, pick up trash, cut back overgrown trees and plants, and power-wash the sidewalks and trash cans, and we have planted trees in all of the empty beds along Riverside Drive. We support our local elementary school by helping with their edible garden and donating books to their library, and we are working on creating an outdoor reading space for the children.
My grandmother always told me to make sure I have friends of all ages, and because of the Garden Club, I do!
Member since 2004
When we first moved to Toluca Lake in 1992, I did not know any of my neighbors. After joining the Toluca Lake Garden Club in 2004, I instantly met 35 new friends. I feel like the Toluca Lake Garden Club is more than a “club.” It is a sisterhood. We are neighbors, we work together on community outreach projects (my personal favorite is helping to beautify the Toluca Lake Elementary School’s reading garden) and, most importantly, we are friends. We enjoy working together with the common goal of helping to beautify Toluca Lake, as well as working towards bringing our neighbors and community closer. I love walking my dogs and riding my bike in the neighborhood and knowing that I have 35 friends looking out for me, as I look out for them.