The Los Alamos Garden Club celebrates its 75th anniversary


The Garden Club of Los Alamos (ALGC) turns 75e birthday Friday in the Memorial Rose Garden next to Fuller Lodge. The Club is the oldest gardening club in the state. Photo John McHale/

State Garden Club Vice President Debra Sorrel was on hand to present the local club with a certificate of achievement. Photo John McHale/

District Director II
State Garden Club

The Los Alamos Garden Club held its founding meeting in January 1947 at the home of Pat Kellogg.

According to an article in the Los Alamos Times, the goals of the Club were:

  • Promote the interest and coordinate the efforts of those interested in the gardens;
  • Assist in the development of vegetable gardens;
  • Stimulate interest in cooperative gardening;
  • To help protect wildflowers and birds; and
  • Study all aspects of the art of gardening.

According to a history of the club written for its 20th anniversary by Marjorie Bell Chambers, the club’s first service project was to bring the issue of residents’ need for outdoor taps to their homes to the attention of the city council in April 1947. The he story is vague about how the Garden Clubbers got their taps, but they did! The Club organized its first floral exhibition in September 1947.

The club continued to meet and help each other through the difficult gardening conditions at Los Alamos. The Los Alamos Garden Club, along with other local groups, held a number of large flower shows, which were attended by hundreds of people. The Club published a book, “High Altitude Gardening”, in 1967.

The best known project of the Los Alamos Garden Club is the Los Alamos Memorial Rose Garden, the oldest public rose garden in New Mexico.

According to a story compiled by Garden Club member Irene Aikin, in 1958 the Zia Parks Department gave the club land that became the Rose Garden’s first home. When Los Alamos was under federal control, there was no cemetery. The garden represented the desire to build a living memorial for loved ones in Los Alamos. Proceeds from the Club’s annual plant sale were used to purchase 50 roses. With the help of Zia Parks Department staff and club members, the project was landscaped and flower beds were planted.

The rose garden quickly outgrew its space and the club hired landscape architect and club member Lila Garden to design the current garden next to Fuller Lodge. In 1959 the Arbor, known as the Garden House, was added and a trial plot of 20 roses as well as 46 memorial roses were added.

In 1961, a Sears grant and the work of club members made many projects possible, including a memorial to Enrico Fermi, a birdbath in memory of Ernest Lang Sr. donated by his wife, a sundial donated by Mary Strickfadden in memory of her husband, William Strickfadden. The more than 450 rose bushes and maintenance of the garden were the sole responsibility of the Los Alamos Garden Club until 1968, when the county took over some of the maintenance duties. The club continues to prune, plant and do garden work in the rose garden to the present day.

By 1985 there were over 500 roses in the garden and the club had to stop accepting donated roses.

The garden continues to change and improve. In 1987, the Lanther Memorial Arbor, dedicated to longtime club member Norma Lanter and her husband Robert was added to the Rose Garden.

In 1999, a fountain created by Hans Van de Bovenkamp was purchased by the Club with matching funds from Los Alamos County. In 2002, the garden began accepting rose donations again, and rose expert Lee Builta and club members Nina Hecker and Irene Aikin planted 15 shrubs. Builta and Aikin were honored in 2003 for the hundreds of hours they spent working in the garden.

The Blue Star Byway veterans historical marker was installed in 2007 and in 2013 the memorial for the fallen workers of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) was installed. In 2014 the garden was declared a certified wildlife habitat.

From its founding until today, the Club has offered its members programs, outings and hands-on projects. The club’s long history is documented in beautiful yearbooks, some of which are illustrated by Los Alamos artist Doris Jackson. Currently, the albums are kept in the archives of the Historical Society.

Attending, from left, are State Vice President Debra Sorrel, Los Alamos County Council Chairman Randell Ryti, Memorial Rose Garden President Judy Handy, LAGC Vice President Joyce Zaugg, and director of the State Garden Club District II Kersti Rock. Photo by John McHale/

Nancy Bartlit, a member of the Historic Preservation Council, has been a member of the LAGC for 50 years and wears her gold rose pin at the rally. Photo John McHale/

In a good year, the Memorial Rose Garden is filled with large plants laden with beautiful roses, but with an ever-increasing population of deer grazing on the roses, it is a challenge to have roses and they must be protected in wire cages. The deer does not like Marigold. The club is looking for a solution. Photo John McHale/


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