Over a year ago, representatives of the local garden club asked me if I would speak at the Garden Club of America's regional meeting in October 2014. I speak to Rotary Clubs and other similar groups fairly frequently so, of course, I agreed to speak. At first, the garden club wanted me to speak about the conservation work in my preserve. But mid-year, they changed their minds and asked me to talk about invasive plants, a topic about which I know a great deal. Since I hadn't prepared my talk yet, the switch was not a problem.
As the date for the talk approached, I gradually got the feeling that this was a "bigger deal" than just throwing together a few images for the Rotary Club. Perhaps it was because I kept getting phone calls from garden club meeting organizers asking if my preparations were in order, and because several garden club members wanted to come to talk with me to make sure my presentation would be pertinent.
So, about a month before the deadline, I really began to work on the presentation in earnest and I put together a very good PowerPoint about the origin and management of invasive plants, with an emphasis on the showier horticultural thugs.
My presentation last week was very well received. The audience was fully engaged and asked more questions than I could answer in the allotted time. These women - and they were all women - were savvy, intelligent, and on the ball. They came from all over Pennsylvania (i.e., Zone 5 of the Garden Club of America) and from points further afield. I felt very good about the affair.
During the lead-up to the meeting, the organizers repeatedly mentioned that they wanted me to stay for lunch. No problem - I'm always willing to enjoy a good meal, and these gardeners were so engaging that I looked forward to the camaraderie. Following the meal, the group presented six awards. After the fourth award, the moderator began to document the accomplishments of the fifth awardee. Instead of using feminine pronouns, though, the moderator began to use male pronouns. I scanned the crowd of 100 or so meeting participants and did not see another male in the room. Hmm...
And, quickly enough, it became clear that I was the recipient of the Garden Club of America's Zone Conservation Commendation, presented to "an energetic gentleman of high character, modesty, and integrity who breeds success in environmental restoration and protection utilizing his managerial, teach and writing talents." Aw, shucks.
Usually, such awards are pro forma (to thank a speaker), but this award was different. The organizers has solicited letters of recommendation from six individuals who know me well, and the award had to be vetted by the Garden Club of America's national office in New York. In addition, these women were so astute and interesting that I felt genuinely honored to be recognized by the group. My head hasn't swelled, but I am proud to have received this award.