NARGS Chapter Chairs "Toolkit"

Submitted by Bobby Ward on

This is a discussion of ideas among NARGS members, Chapter Chairs, Ad Com, and Board Members on ways that members can work together to strengthen their NARGS chapter as well as NARGS. Carol Eichler of the Adirondack Chapter has prepared the “Toolkit” of ideas that she has shared.  The "Toolkit" is posted here:

Hopefully, the ideas will be useful to your chapter.


Submitted by DieramaDave on Fri, 01/20/2017 - 11:08

Carol, thank you for an excellent list of ideas!!  The thought and time you put into it really shows.

  I'd like to suggest a variant to one of your ideas regarding Chapters helping NARGS.  You wrote, "Raise your Chapter annual dues and donate that increase every year to NARGS".  Something that might encourage Chapter members to join the NARGS organization would be to have a two tier Chapter dues system.  Charge $X amount for Chapter members that are also NARGS members, and charge $X+Y for those that are not NARGS members.  NARGS memberships would thus appear to be slightly discounted, an inducement to join.  This would also remove the feeling that NARGS members are being charged twice for their NARGS memberships.  Implementation, using the honor system, should cause a minimum of additional work.

Submitted by LaFond on Sun, 01/22/2017 - 20:04

Thank you for your extensive work Carol. Are there other chapter members who can add to the list Carol prepared? I know at GLC we employ many of those items suggested. The items that speak to paying special attention to new members could be particularly important. Starting off on the right foot with a new member goes a long way. 


Don LaFond

Chapters committee

This is an excellent idea. However, I'm of the opinion that Chapters should be paying something for their NARGS affiliation. I don't want to require that all members join NARGS (though other gardening organizations do make that requirement). The only way our Chapter can sustain an annual contribution to National would be through raising our revenue in some way. Our dues are ridiculously low and haven't been raised in years. We could easily raise the dues without anyone knowing that a portion goes to NARGS - after all it is a bookkeeping transaction (that is, we are raising dues to help us meet expenses). I would want to let our members know - full disclosure - that our Chapter budget now includes making an annual contribution to NARGS. Truth is very few of our members belong to National - they are the ones dedicated to rock gardening. Others have a more casual interest. The challenge for us is getting people to increase their interest in rock gardening. 

For me the daunting challenge was always building the rock garden. I just didn't know how to begin. I also thought it would be more expensive to build than it actually was. One idea I've kicked around is to implement a "guerilla" garden brigade of volunteers that goes around building rock gardens in a day for people. We rotate among the volunteers to build a rock garden for each one using some standardized (more-or-less) design. So far that hasn't happened yet.

Submitted by LaFond on Tue, 01/24/2017 - 16:12

If I lived closer I  would be the first to volunteer. I think that would be an excellent idea, you should explore with your chapter. Do other chapters do anything like this? Another suggestion would be, do you have a botanical garden, public park or even a business that you could get permission to build a public rock garden. In Michigan we donate money to our botanical garden for an intern to work on the rock garden and we volunteer time to work on it with plans to update and add plants. Several other chapters do the same.

I agree that  all chapter members should be part of NARGS. We are working on a way to try to get chapters to donate money directly to the national.  Simply by asking them, leaving it up to the chapters for the amount. The hard part is how to raise the money. I don't know for sure but I think most chapters have plant sales. You could set aside a prefixed amount for each plant ( yes tax ). Or David Brastow's idea is good too. I wonder if someone could work out a way to say for every member another member gets to join NARGS, not just the chapter, they could receive something for free or a prize.

There is a lot of info out there in particular in our past quarterlies on building rock gardens. They are all listed on line mostly for free!  Try Looking for articles by Mike and  Janet Slater on sand beds for starters. Also The Maniac In The Garden will put his 2 cents in, in the next quarterly. 


Don LaFond



Submitted by RickR on Thu, 01/26/2017 - 12:53

It's so nice to have all those great ideas in one place.  Thanks Carol!


--- To encourage participation, we have always had a provision for plant donors at our plant sales: they get to choose one plant before the sale opens to the rest of the buyers.  Now we have expanded that privilege to include anyone who is an active committee member, officer or volunteer.  We were going to include National organization members, too, but since I implemented the NARGS appreciation discount (see other thread: ), I thought we would wait.


--- A fun and easy way to get involved in NARGS is to offer your Chapter’s assistance with seed packaging for the seed exchange.  It’s a simple way to “test the water” at NARGS.  You won’t be sorry!



Great list Carol! Some sxtra ideas there.

I like the idea of a bonus plant at Plant Sales.

We allow volunteers to have first pick at a couple of societies to which I belong. Also officers?

Perhaps one free plant to a NARGS member? With a price limit!They would have to provide their membership #. We have 4 sales a year - that would be 1/2 way to cover a membership!


Submitted by LaFond on Thu, 01/26/2017 - 15:02

We at GLC  also have a system at plant sales.  For every 10 plants that a member brings to the sale ( twice yearly ) they get a red tag. That allows them to have a first pick at the sales table before the whole group joins in. Also out of the plants that are donated there are always a few that merit more attention, these are auctioned first. Often we get $50 to $60 sometimes $100 or more  for one plant.

I like the mugs, are those gifts or are they sold? Were all those plants grown in MN?

I must agree that doing the seed ex really is fun. We did second round for a bit.



Submitted by RickR on Thu, 01/26/2017 - 16:42

We auction the best plants, too, and you are right in that it is deservedly lucrative.  When you can explain and talk up the individual plants, they are suddenly "worth" a lot more.  We used to do it during the plant sale, but when I took over, the first change I made was to move the auction to the beginning, and before the actual plant sale starts.  That way everyone can participate without fear of someone snatching up their favorite plant from the sales tables before they can get to it. 


Yes, Anna: officers, too.  If we were going to include volunteers and committee members, it wouldn't be right to exclude officers.  Besides, it would be unusual to have an officer that wasn't also a volunteer, committee member and/or plant donor, anyway.  Of course, we do this to encourage active participation in the club.


I had the mugs made through Shutterfly for silent auction items at or annual banquet.The Viola pedata grows wild in a sand prairie near the Minnesota/Wisconsin border.  All others grow in my yard, 30 miles west of Minneapolis.  If you are willing to wait for a sale, you can get them at 40-50% off.  Lots of options. One year I made tins for my family members and the banquet.  But my favorite is the key ring - a Pseudoscorpion sp., a predatory mite I found.  It's just over a millimeter long.  I had light issues when taking these three photos, but the item quality is really excellent.


Submitted by LaFond on Thu, 01/26/2017 - 19:49

So I've copied a message from the Pacific Bulb Society ( I'm a lurker ). I did this to show an example of what I see happening in this society. I love what this  member is asking. This society is growing in numbers. I guess I'm just asking if anyone out there has an opinion or even experience with this group. This isn't an advertisement or any sort of plug for them. I'm wondering if this is what makes there numbers grow or is it the subject matter of the group. Thanks



I have been growing Freesia laxa ( called Lapeirousia laxa when I first started growingit) and Fressia laxa subsp azurea (called Lapeeirousia abysinnica I believe when I first started growing it) for over 20 years and they have naturally hybridized in my yard in New Orleans and have produced plants with flowers in numerous shades of pink and purple which are quite beautiful.

I see on your webpage for freesia that a hybrid called Freesia laxa \'Sara Nobles\' is already known, but mine come in not just that color but also many others. (Amazing how many shades of pink and purple there are).

I have photos of them but don\'t know how to attach them to this e mail.

I would love to see them brought into commerce but have no idea how to go about doing that (not for profit but just to make sure they aren\'t lost if I move etc).  I would appreciate hearing back from you at my e mail address so that then I can send you photos.

I maintain a NARGS membership.

I dropped out of the local organization because I was discriminated against at the Spring Plant Sale.

I had wanted to bring Herb and Houseplant  starts, but was told that was not acceptable.

I offered the one tray of rock garden plants that I had, but that was not acceptable either.

When I attended the Spring Plant Sale, I found that another member had been given two tables.

There were non members selling plants also.

And there was all manner of plants, and not just rock garden plants.

A Spring Plant Sale can be a good tool for bringing members together,

but also a good way to draw people into gardening in general , as well as rock gardening.

A Spring Plant Sale can be a festival to encourage and educate new gardeners.

Most of us got into Rock Gardening after beginning with other kinds of gardening.

Also do not forget about Children and Young people!

Plan events or activities for them too?

I am going to begin another forum to bring ideas on Plant Sale Events. 

Submitted by Myrick on Sun, 02/19/2017 - 12:07

The Sierra Chapter works as a group to install small rock gardens in members' yards - about one every two or three years.

We then enjoy revisiting the garden to see how things are going.  It is a wonderful learning experience and gets everyone involved.