How to Start a Local Peony Club
by J. W. Waddick

3. Growth 10-100-1,000

As the Fall events approached we lined up a meeting place (free of charge) at a park garden center that holds just over 100 people. We placed plant orders for delivery ahead of time to allow us to clean and pack and re-label (with member discounts). Our new officers were ready (bank account and checkbook ready). We ordered a few books from APS (handbooks and registrations among others) on speculation. We were hoping for 50 people to show up. 

As the day broke, plants, books and coffee and doughnuts were put in place. People started to arrive and more and more. Close to one hundred people turned up – perhaps out of curiosity. We had a short business meeting introducing the board and asking for more interest. Sixty new members signed up and our treasurer was barely able to keep up as dozens of new members were throwing money!

Don’s program with slides and visual aids (peony roots) just further incited the crowd. The auction brought bids of $200 for some of the choice donations. This stunned most of the board. We sold out of most everything and hours later walked out somewhat dazed with hundreds of dollars in the bank!

We continued to get greater participation and greater sophistication. We have now leveled off at about 200 members. We have by-laws that comply with federal regulations that have allowed us to become a 501(c)(3) tax-deductible organization. We have kept to two official member meetings/events, but our board meets at least once before each spring and fall event. 

Our spring meeting has also grown and changed, but the emphasis remains on seeing peonies in bloom. After our first fall meeting and an increase in our treasury, we decided to blow it on a spring bus trip to Gilbert Wild’s and Sons in southern MO. Wild’s was very kind and generous which made the trip a ‘wild’ success. We did end up losing a bit of money, but at a cost of $15 per member (including lunch and bucket of cut flowers!) our members were thrilled. 

Successive springs have all been bus trips of one-day duration. We have been to commercial growers, hybridizers, public and private gardens. The bus rental, coffee and doughnuts, lunch etc. have all cost the club, but little enough that we all feel the benefit to members and peonies. 

Our Presidency and officers rotate on a regular basis and board members come and go in an orderly manner. We have tried to use our still limited treasury to fund projects that support and educate about peonies. It seems the more we do, the more we find worthy projects. 

We have also donated peony plants to public and private gardens, community gardens, church gardens, and municipal gardens – anywhere that peonies will be seen. These are all over the Heartland area and even a few out of state as far as Pennsylvania! Doing our part to promote peonies. Helping the public to see a wide range of peonies is important. We have done this by donating peonies and having public programs, but your group might be better suited to a large public flower show.  

2. Advertising; Finding a Big Fish.
3. Growth: 10 – 100 - 1,000.
4. Gardeners vs. Growers – US and THEM.
5. Goals: The Light at the End of the Tunnel.
6. Feedback: Success and Failure.