Old Mill is Horticultural Gem, Thanks to the Diggers

The following was written by Saira Singh, special to the Outlook.
The recent sweltering summer mornings have not deterred the Diggers, a garden club whose devoted members make certain the grounds of San Marino’s Old Mill are well tended throughout the year.
A nonprofit organization founded in 1924, the club includes approximately 30 active women members who oversee maintenance of the historic building’s landscape.
“The work of the Diggers is invaluable, since it means the grounds are maintained without a big outlay of money to have it done by a professional landscaper,” said Eugenie Schlueter, a 29-year member who currently is one of two project heads. “We fill a void in maintaining this garden.”
“I think that the Diggers Garden Club is so special because of the people in it,” added Yvonne Zaro, the other project head. “We’re all unique and have gotten to know each other while working in the garden.”
Members of the club, who range in age from 40 to 90 years, work in the gardens on a regular basis — at minimum, three times each year for at least two hours. As project heads, Schlueter and Zaro are committed to being there every Tuesday for a period of two years.
“The Diggers do so much and they’ve done it for such a long time,” said John Quinn, president of the Old Mill Foundation. “They are integral to the Old Mill’s look and persona. Everyone who comes to the mill sees and appreciates the garden first. The Diggers Garden Club is a constant presence, and their love of gardening provides a real serious benefit to the community.”
The club raises funds through an annual auction, in which each member pots 10 plants and sells them at an auction during a luncheon for friends and family. They use these funds to pay for gardeners, sprinklers and new plants.
“I love the auction because of the camaraderie we have when all of the Diggers come together and put on a special event,” said Ruth Pasqualetto, an eight-year member and the club’s treasurer.
The club’s year begins in the fall with a large group meeting at the Old Mill. After that, members meet monthly.
A member of the Garden Club of America, and the Diggers often attend national events put on by GCA.
“The Garden Club of America does a ton. They put on very big projects, and it is exciting to be a part of it,” said Sally Harris, who has been a member of the club for 12 years and is currently its horticulture chair.
Each member of the GCA must have a focus. The Diggers’ permanent focus is the Old Mill, which was built about 1816 as a grist mill for the San Gabriel Mission. It is now owned by the city of San Marino and supported by the Old Mill Foundation.
The club also focuses on conserving the environment. Members attend meetings held by the nonprofit Spatial Informatics Group — Natural Assets Laboratory, where they learn about more effective gardening methods.
“Being a Digger is so special because we get to learn a lot and have a great time right by the Old Mill,” said Bette Cooper, who has been a member for 25 years and is the club’s chair of ways and means.
For more information on the Diggers, visit diggersgardenclub.com.

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