San Francisco Garden Club

Civic Participation

Urban Sprouts

During the first year of the club’s new venture, a member of the committee discovered a young woman named Abigail Rosenheck who was single-handedly running a program called Urban Sprouts. Using her gardening background, she went into the public schools and helped set up school gardens. Although now commonplace, that first involvement of the club involved a “magnificent” feat to get past the San Francisco educational bureaucracy.

The SFUSD ultimately decided to tack the program onto biology classes and it became the club’s first award within their new mission. Members visited a school on “Harvest Day” and were pleasantly surprised at how well it was going. Although the awards were somewhat modest, Urban Sprouts continued to receive them.

Today the program has developed into an organization of dedicated helpers in a number of schools. Besides the obvious benefits of teaching children to garden, there is a long-term benefit. 

Urban Sprouts is now administered by the San Francisco Parks Alliance and has expanded its programs to five middle and high school. One school is run by the juvenile justice system as a way to rehabilitate the young people.

Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Community (TNDC)/
Tenderloin People's Garden (TPG)


Tenderloin residents and TNDC’s Urban Agriculture team members built the Tenderloin People’s Garden (TPG) in 2010. Taking over a vacant lot on the corner of Larkin and McAllister they transformed it into what is now a vibrant and vital urban farm. Building a more equitable food system and fostering a space for neighbors to connect was a key goal that came about naturally once completed. The benefits of having access to your own food grown on the roof of one’s building or on a lot down the street provides a sense of self-reliance and empowerment. It translates to access with important nutrients for the body and mind— meaning better health overall.

The San Francisco Garden Club was honored to support by donating to this worthy garden project.

The TPG  now includes a vertical garden enlarging its growing space. Over 3,000 pounds of fresh produce are produced in these gardens annually.

Friends of the Urban Forest

Together with Friends of the Urban Forest, SFGC happily supported the planting of 50 trees in the Excelsior District, a district that did not plant many trees with its inception in the early 1900’s. 

The mission of the UF is not only the planting of trees and sidewalk gardens but of taking care of them for three years out, along with engaging residents in the care. Together this ensures these trees and gardens thrive. 

Breaking up solid concrete sidewalks with the planting of trees increases the city’s tree canopy providing beautification certainly, but it also helps purify the air by absorbing carbon dioxide in our ongoing efforts against climate change. Trees provide oxygen to the air, shade and a wildlife habitat. They help prevent soil erosion by keeping harmful stormwater from the ocean, and they can bring a community together in a shared pride of ownership. The SFGC was honored to take part in this worthy project.


Pitschel Prize

The late Barbara Pitschel, who died in 2010, was the head librarian at the Helen Crocker Russell Library of the SF Botanical Garden. She was a truly remarkable woman who approached every patron of the library with the same dignity and careful attention whether they were a 10 year old child or a scholarly botanist. With her husband Roland, they started the SF chapter of the California Native Plant Society. She held the meetings at her house, fed all the members for years and produced the monthly newsletter by herself. 

Her other major accomplishment was the restoration of Bernal Heights Open Space to its native state after years of being neglected and overrun with exotic weeds. She and Roland led this crusade and worked extremely hard at it.

When Barbara died, SFGC Historian Judith Taylor had a feeling that no one would remember how wonderful she had been and decided to commemorate her by setting up an essay competition in her name. It was decided to sponsor the contest for students at City College’s Environmental, Horticultural and Floristry School. Richard Turner, publisher of Pacific Horticulture, added a generous cash offer to the first prize and agreed to publish the winning essay in the magazine. The essays could be on any topic related to natural history in California, such as its flora, gardens, parks or even fauna. It was deliberately broad and there was one iron rule: any illustration had to be original and not taken from the internet. The first prize was $750, second $500 and third $250. The SF Botanical Garden gave a donation and our SFGC was also asked to participate. It gave $500, enough for the second prize. 

Judith ran the competition very carefully, getting judges from out of state to read the submissions and grade them on a definite scale. At first things blossomed. The first winner had his essay printed in Pacific Horticulture and was overjoyed. He has gone on to an active career in commercial floristry. The number of entries has decreased since that first year but the enthusiasm has not. The prize has been given every year since 2011.

Other Civic Organizations

San Francisco Fall Show

Over the years, when the San Francisco Fall Show was known as the San Francisco Fall Antique Show, some of our San Francisco Garden Club members proudly  displayed floral bouquet for some of the various antique vendors.  

Fine Arts Museum Auxillary

Many of our members can be found as members of the Auxiliary,  members, both in the SF branch and in the suburban Auxiliaries. The SFGC members have held numerous leadership roles for years, (such as SFGC past president Lisa Harris as Exhibitor Chair pairing the floral artists with the de Young Museum’s permanent art collection every year.)  Each year, since it’s inception in 1985, the SFGC has been invited to be a floral exhibitor in Bouquets to Art, the Auxiliaries annual museum fundraiser. 

Conversely, the de Young and Legion of Honor have volunteers on their Flower Committee filling the museums weekly with fresh flowers. SFGC member Eva Monroe is a longtime volunteer with this group. 


Other Organizations

San Francisco Garden Club members are involved in varying positions with numerous Bay Area Garden Auxiliaries and nonprofits, including the Ruth Bancroft Garden, the Marin Art and Garden Center, The Garden Club of Palo Alto, the Atherton & Tyldesley Botanical Gardens and Filoli Historic House and Garden. On the national scene, Sandra Swanson has been active in the Garden Conservancy for many years, serving in a variety of leadership positions.