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Generations of gardening
Woman follows mother at helm of longtime club
Montine Howell, left, and daughter Tricia Wester share a love of gardening. Wester is following in her mother’s footsteps as president of the Cumming Garden Club. - photo by Autumn McBride

Holding up a Flowering Almond shrub, Montine Howell told members of the Cumming Garden Club that the plant has quite a history.

“I’ve shared it with all my children since it came from my mother and daddy’s house,” Howell said.

During the group’s plant sharing program at a recent morning club meeting, Howell extended the cut of the shrub to group members to plant in their own gardens.

Her family history has become intertwined with garden club in another way too.

Howell’s daughter, Tricia Wester, recently became president, a post her mother has twice held.

Howell, the club’s lone remaining charter member, served as president in 1959-60 and 1968-69. The club formed in 1949 and became officially federated in 1950.

More than 40 years after her mother’s last term, Wester will hold the lead post for two years.

“I don’t think I would have taken it, but I knew she’d help me and she’d be proud of me,” Wester said. “The members made me feel like it was really special too.”

The two are not the first mother-daughter to hold the presidency in the club’s 60-plus years. It’s been done twice before, Howell said, though not since a daughter held the post in 1985-86.

Howell, 83, suspected it’s her roots as the only current original member that makes the achievement such a special event to the club.

Wester said the members witnessed Howell “plant a seed” in her mind, sparking her interest into gardening and the club.

“It’s a thrill to see that,” she said. “There’s so many who don’t have their children here with them in the same community. I think they would love the opportunity to share that too.”

The former club president, Diane Morgan, said she thinks the two women are the only mother and daughter currently active in the club.

Morgan, a member for more than 10 years, said she’d love to share the hobby with her daughter, if only she lived closer.

Turning the presidency over to Wester was a “delight,” said Morgan, since she has a lot of energy and potential to draw in new and younger members.

“I just love the two of them,” she said. “I’m just thrilled that Tricia said she would take the reins because I know it’s going to be a whole lot of work.”

Like many club members, Morgan holds a piece of her friendship with the two in her home garden.

A few days earlier, she said, Howell brought her a Hosta to add to a growing collection of plants from Howell’s garden.

Wester, a county native, said her garden is made up almost entirely of plants she’s received from others, and most come from her mother.

“I love sharing,” Howell said. “That’s why everything I have I try to share with the children and then some of the club members.”

Added Wester, smiling: “Here have a seed, have a sprout.”

The years of “pass-along-plants,” as the duo calls them, have led to many rare species being kept alive in the family.

“The heirloom plants just mean so much more,” said Howell, pointing out Iris plants given to her from the garden club’s founder.

Howell said the club has stayed true to its roots since its beginnings, working to educate members, beautify the community and provide a social club for gardeners.

Though member dues have risen from $2 to $30 over time, some aspects have stayed the same, including the group’s work tending the community garden at Poole’s Mill Park.

While Howell has stayed involved throughout the club’s history, Wester has come in and out, but always kept up with the group through her mom.

She has been a member consecutively since 2000, after she retired from a career in music education.

For Howell, the club has provided a home for her hobby, which she said is therapeutic.

“Being a garden club member is more than working in a garden,” she wrote in a letter. “It is learning to appreciate and care for the beautiful world God created for us.”