In 1912, Mr. Burgess purchased the Oakwood Park Stock Farm owned by the “Big Four” (Charles Crocker, Leland Stanford, Collis Huntington and Mark Hopkins) and transformed it into a swank summer retreat, attracting San Francisco’s finest. On May 14, 1916, four special trains dubbed the “Millionaire Special” brought prospective buyers to what is now Diablo Country Club. The Club was designed by Jack Neville, the architect who designed the Pebble Beach links.
During the prosperous 1920’s, members took over management of the club. Families enjoyed Diablo Lake, swam in the “plunge,” ate at the clubhouse or in the Red Horse Tavern and rode horses on Mt. Diablo’s trails. A map of the San Ramon Valley at that time, showed the country club area to be larger than downtown Danville! The following was published about the club: “The club has a membership of 400 . . . Officers of the Mount Diablo Country Club are men noted in the financial, civic and community circles of California, leaders in Golden State business and social achievements.”
The Diablo Women’s Garden Club was founded in 1925 by these summer residents. They found the climate, unlike anything they had encountered west of the Oakland hills so they joined together to discover what might grow in this different environment, with its extreme summer heat and freezing winter temperatures. They met informally starting in 1917, but it wasn’t until 1925 during a tea at the home of Mrs. Douglas, that they agreed to form an official Club, thus founding with ten members, the Diablo Women’s Garden Club. Their initial mission was to focus on flowers and trees adaptable to the seasonal temperatures and that would thrive in the hay fields surrounding the homes. To see how successful they were, you only need to walk Diablo’s shade covered streets today, lush with plantings of every kind.
The garden club’s original activities centered on Diablo Country Club and funds were raised to purchase, build or plant around the grounds. The ladies sponsored dinners and picnics at the Club and around the gardens on the grounds, inviting husbands and guests. The many visiting guests to Diablo also wanted to know about the architecture and the interiors of the homes. The kind ladies of the Diablo Women’s Garden Club made several residences available to visitors so they could experience the dark wood banisters, beautiful chandeliers and lovely furnished homes of the day. Residents only vacationed at their Diablo homes during Easter week and summers, until 1940 when people started to live here year round.
As Diablo became a year-round community, the popularity of the garden club grew and the members voted to invite ladies from the surrounding towns. With the larger group coming from a wider geography, meetings continued to be held at Diablo Country Club, but also at other locations around the area including Round
Hill Country Club, St. Timothy’s Church, Sycamore Association Clubhouse, Oak Hill Park, Heather Farm and local restaurants. In 1990, upon completion of renovations, Diablo Country Club invited the Diablo Women’s Garden Club to call it home and hold all their meetings there. DWGC values their relationship with Diablo Country Club and meets there the first Wednesday of the month.
Garden Tours are a frequent activity for the Club, with the first tour taking place on May 11, 1955. This was a social event and six homes were on the tour including the home of Mr. and Mrs. Candid Jacuzzi located in Upper Happy Valley, Lafayette. Orchard Nursery, a long time Club sponsor, loaned African Violets to Neill Cornwall, whose home was also on the tour. In 1990, Club President Suzan Scherer, expanded the scope of the tours into a major fundraiser to help fund donations to the community.
The Diablo Women’s Garden Club has supported many community gardens and civic initiatives over the years with both donations and volunteer time. Longtime support has gone to Heather Farm in Walnut Creek since its inception in 1968, including the designing and planting of their Sensory Garden. The Rose Garden at Osage Park in Danville was conceived and planned by DWGC member Olive Youse when Naomi Lind was President of the Club in 1984. Also in 1984, the Club donated $500 to the Bay Bridge Scholarship fund and continued donating yearly until transferring to the Diablo Foothills District in 1993. After 1993, DWGC started its own Scholarship Program and has awarded scholarships to many students of horticulture and garden design at the local universities and colleges. Over the years, DWGC has also supported Mt. Diablo preservation programs, California State Parks, Save the Redwoods, The Pygmy Forest, Fairyland, Save the Bay, Berkeley Botanical Gardens, Tao House Gardens, Bruns House, Penny Pines and other local organizations.
Historically, the Garden Club holds social events each year. The Camellia Tea, a lovely formal tea which at one time was held every two years as the fundraiser for the Club, has evolved into the annual New Members Tea now a tradition held at a member’s home and garden. The Club also celebrates the Holidays with a festive event for December meeting, featuring prominent flower arrangers presenting the current centerpiece trends for the season, followed by a holiday luncheon and ending with holiday songs led by choirs or singers from local high schools or community groups. Members and guests come bearing bags of gifts to support Toy Drives in the area. To end a joyous year, The Club celebrates with the June Picnic. From the 1960’s into the 1990’s, it was held at the Gordon Ball Estate in Alamo, the home of member Dorothy Ball. Since her passing, the event is now held at the country club, the President creates the theme for the meeting.
From eleven original members, the Diablo Women’s Garden Club membership is now limited to 125 Active members, 35 Associate, and Honorary members as voted by the Board, and includes those that live in Diablo and from nearby communities. Our calendar is busy with educational opportunities through our programs, workshops, and tours and we continue our civic initiatives with community gardens and conservation groups. In keeping with our founders, we recognize the contributions of our members as we celebrate the end of each year with our June Picnic.
The Diablo Women’s Garden Club colors are pink and green and the Club flower is the camellia.