Beyond Botany


What began as a passion project for a small group of women nearly 60 years ago has become a much larger community affair. The San Dieguito Garden Club’s (SDGC) 38 members now indulge their love of gardening in a way that benefits the local community, by promoting better horticulture practices, beautifying the city, conserving natural resources, and supporting various programs and organizations like the San Diego Botanic Garden. Read along as we chat with SDGC President Niketa Patel about how the club continues to cultivate community relationships and keeps Encinitas looking green.

Q&A with San Dieguito Garden Club President Niketa Patel

cv_sdgardenclub1Please give us a brief history of the San Dieguito Garden Club. When was it founded and by whom?
The San Dieguito Garden Club began on March 29, 1960 with a handful of dedicated women who loved gardening, with the goal always having been “to cultivate friendship through gardening.” They first met in the basement of the Seacoast Savings Bank where they heard many gardening tips from horticultural experts, and toured local gardens and nurseries. As their membership increased, they undertook planting and maintaining a small garden at the entrance to the City of Encinitas as a beautification and preserving project for the city. When Seacoast Savings Bank went out of business, SDGC moved its meeting location to the Ecke Building at the Quail Botanical Gardens, now called San Diego Botanic Garden.

What is the club’s mission and how do you go about fulfilling it?
Our mission is to encourage interest in all phases of home gardening and promote better horticulture practices, civic beauty, and conservation of natural resources in Encinitas. One of our major beneficiaries is the San Diego Botanic Garden.

“It’s wonderful to experience the beauty and serenity of these gardens as a group.”

How did you personally become involved in the San Dieguito Garden Club?
I was invited to attend the meeting by a past member/president who knew I wanted to learn more about growing native and drought-resistant plants. I’d recently moved to new a home and wanted learn about water-smart landscaping and drought-resistant native plants, wildflowers, trees, and shrubs. I also wanted to help the organization grow its member numbers, increase their marketing efforts, and help develop new project and events ideas by using my project management and business development skills.


What is your current role within the club and what duties does it entail?
I was elected president in June of 2017. As president, I oversee the conduct of our projects making sure to set priorities, review materials, manage the calendar, and resolve issues. I also preside over the monthly club meetings. I work with the board members to promote our club’s missions and programs with the hope of making sure all the members have a chance to get involved. I oversee committees, oversee expenditure in coordination with the treasurer, develop and solicit new program ideas.

At-A-Glance | San Dieguito Garden Club

Name: San Dieguito Garden Club
President: Niketa Patel
Year Founded: 1960
Number of Members: 38
Facebook: @sandieguitogardenclub
Phone: 760-753-3305

What is the most rewarding aspect about your role? The most challenging?
The most rewarding aspect  of my role is getting to interact with a great group of people that share a love of gardening. Encinitas is such a beautiful area with varying landscapes that change between the coast and as we go inland. As a club we organize visits to various gardens and nurseries in the San Diego area, it’s wonderful to experience the beauty and serenity of these gardens as a group. The most challenging will be a new way to do things. San Dieguito Garden Club has been around for more than 50 years, and before the Internet, this was a primary way to get your gardening information. I want the SDGC to increase its outreach to the Encinitas community using technology to share and communicate the information that we have about our special speakers and lecturers, market our mission using social media, and promote how meeting with fellow members who live and garden within a local region can provide valuable interaction that is not available on the web. In Encinitas, you have plants that can do well at the coast and not be suitable for the other end of Encinitas as you go inland. It’s important to know how your local soil, climate, and geography can impact your success in the garden. Why not meet and find out from local gardeners what has worked for them?


How has the club changed or developed since it was founded?
The club started out supporting Quail Botanical Gardens, which is now San Diego Botanic Garden. The club has expanded into more civic beautification and other community projects.

What types of activities is the club involved with? Can you elaborate on some of the projects the club has worked on in the past?
We participate in the Pennies for Pines program and help reforestation efforts of the national forests in California. We contribute to helping two to three acres a year. To show our appreciation of the military, we work in collaboration with other North County garden clubs for Pedals for Patriots. We help prepare and deliver large floral arrangements and fruit baskets for the Camp Pendleton Wounded Warrior Battalion-West. For the Encinitas One Room Schoolhouse built in 1883, club volunteers are maintaining the raised beds of flowers, fruits, and vegetables outside of the school. This outdoor display recreates the schoolhouse as it once was in 1883 and helps visitors understand the important role it played in early Encinitas history.


The many ways we support the Botanic Garden are 1) For the Annual Benefactor Dinner, the club designs and decorates this event making table centerpieces, decorating a 10-foot pine tree inside the tent, and the entrance way. 2) We decorate the gazebo used for children’s visits to Santa during the “December Garden of Lights” event. 3) Our members volunteer for the Annual Fall Plant Sale by baking, bringing, setting up, and selling baked goods and other refreshments during this event. All proceeds go to the Botanic Garden. 4) The club donates funds annually to the Seeds of Wonder Children’s Garden and members bringing in craft supplies for children’s activities there. 5) In addition, currently four of our club members are Nationally Accredited Flower Show Judges.

Which areas and communities benefit from the Garden Club’s efforts?
SDGC took part in raising funds for the Children’s Hamilton Garden located in the San Diego Botanic Gardens. For years, SDGC had started and maintained in the past a Garden Therapy Program at Scripps-Encinitas Hospital, with the goal of establishing a place of calm in an otherwise distressful atmosphere.


When and where does the Garden Club meet?
The club meets every fourth Wednesday (September through June) in the Ecke Family Building located at the San Diego Botanic Garden from 9:30 a.m. to noon.

What are the club’s short-term and long-term goals?
Our major long- and short-term goal is to provide support to the San Diego Botanic Garden, which exists for the benefit of the community and visitors to the Encinitas area. Our short-term goal is to help disseminate our gardening activities via social media and creating a new and improved website to document our activities and events.

Why do you think the Garden Club is an important part of the Encinitas community?
Many of the club members are docents/volunteers at the SDBG.

At-A-Glance | Niketa Patel, President

Name: Niketa Patel
Community: 15-year resident of Encinitas
Education: Rutgers University – Computer Science and Environmental Geography
Family: Married with two sons, ages 12 and 9
Hobbies & Interests: I love road trips around the U.S., especially to national parks; collecting vintage sewing machines; landscape photography; reinventing healthy Indian food recipes with a California twist; gardening and horticulture (of course!); hiking and exploring trails; making terrariums

Are there any exciting new projects or events coming up?
We are pursuing a project with Meals On Wheels to provide bouquets-in-a-mug to cheer up the recipients. The club takes fields trips to nurseries and local gardens. An upcoming one is Sunshine Care, an assisted living retirement where they grow their own vegetables. We are going to visit Farmer Roy who gives garden lectures. We also have a talk by Laura Eubanks, a very talented succulent designer, at our January 2018 meeting, which we are all looking forward to.

How would somebody go about joining the SDGC? What is the criteria for membership?
You do not need to be an Encinitas resident to join. We welcome all gardening enthusiasts to our meetings and invite them to participate in our programs and activities. Dues are $25. Prospective members can call 760-753-3305.


If you could grant the San Dieguito Garden Club one wish, what would it be?
Having sufficient funds to help us continue and expand the wonderful mission for conservation of garden spaces and beautifying Encinitas!

Is there anything else that you would like our readers to know?
One of our fundraising activities is to have a plant sale, where you can pick up some amazing varieties of succulents, bromeliads, and fruit and vegetable plants at incredible prices. We are planning on having a sale in the spring.