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2013 GCA Medalists

Gerald W. Adelmann
Frances K. Hutchinson Medal for distinguished  service to conservation

As President and CEO of Openlands, an independent non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing public open space in northeastern Illinois, Gerald W. Adelmann has one of the most impressive conservation records in the nation. Jerry has worked for Openlands since l980 and assumed the role of CEO inl988. He has taken a leadership role in securing more than 45,000 acres of land in the Chicago area for public parks, forest preserves, land and water greenway corridors and urban gardens.

Jerry founded the Canal Corridor Association of the Des Plaines River Valley in l982 and headed the effort to create the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor in l984. The Heritage Corridor was the first heritage land designation of its kind. More recently, Openlands successfully completed its most ambitious preservation project to date, the 2010 opening of the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve. This 77-acre public preserve protects more than one mile of Lake Michigan shoreline, which is the last undeveloped stretch of lakefront in Illinois.

Though often described as Chicago’s “Mr. Conservation,” the go-to leader for mayors and local legislators, for conservation not-for-profits and for coalitions that are advancing important conservation agendas, Jerry does not see his conservation work as merely a professional responsibility. For him, it is a true way of life, a calling.

Many of his vacations are spent in Hunan Province in China where he has worked as a volunteer on sustainable development projects since the early l990s. Here is a man who understands that visionary volunteers can and do change the world.

Proposed by: Lake Forest Garden Club, Zone XI

Bryan Burhans, President & CEO, The American Chestnut Foundation 
Medal of Honor for outstanding service to horticulture

The American chestnut tree reined over 200 million acres of eastern woodlands from Maine to Florida, and from the Piedmont west to the Ohio Valley, until succumbing to a lethal fungus infection, known as the chestnut blight, during the first half of the 20th century. The American chestnut tree was an essential component of the entire eastern US ecosystem and economy. Besides being a valuable timber crop it was the single most important food source for wildlife and livestock. By the middle of the 20th century the chestnut blight had killed most of the American chestnuts, thus changing the biodiversity of the forest and impacting the lives of those who relied on the financial benefits of the tree.

There have been many attempts to restore the American chestnut and most have failed. In 1983, a dedicated group of scientists formed The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) and began a special breeding process, which, in 2005, produced the first potentially blight resistant American chestnut. Now assisted by almost 6,000 members and volunteers in 20 states, TACF had developed an ambitious chestnut-breeding program with over 300 breeding orchards located throughout the United States.

The mission of the American Chestnut Foundation is to restore the American chestnut to our eastern woodlands to benefit our environment, our wildlife, and our society. TACF is now at the beginning of a long journey, continuing breeding, evaluation, and reintroduction of the American chestnut to return this American icon back where it belongs…to our forests.

Proposed by: Mill Mountain Garden Club, Zone VII

Bliss Caulkins Clark
Katharine Thomas Cary Medal for ourstanding achievement in the field of floral design education

Over the course of her GCA career, Bliss Clark has proved that she is a flower arranger extraordinaire by collecting Bests of Show, several Pucketts and a Fenwick. She has studied under Sheila McQueen in England and Reverend William McMillan in Ireland, in addition to Hitomi Giliam and other great contemporary designers.

Not content to just work for her own benefit, she became a dedicated mentor and teacher. Bliss has explored various educational avenues in a constant quest to spread information. She was a national flower show schedule reader for several terms. As the editor of the ‘Random Resources’ column in By Design for the Flower
Arranging Study Group, she amazes and amuses her audience. Prunella’s Pastiche, a useful book compiling her columns, has extended her readership beyond FASG.

Bliss sought to provide the best, most current information by researching other organizations’ flower show judging manuals before revising with Marty Van Allen the 2009 GCA Flower Show and Judging Guide – the ‘Yellow Book.” Unique challenges presented themselves when she not only wrote the schedule for the WAFA tenth world flower show, but also was the class consultant to all but three classes.

Teaching is where she truly shines – never critical, always supportive. Bliss Caulkins Clark has been both student and beloved teacher of flower arrangement most of her life as she has tirelessly expanded her knowledge of the art and as she has shared her remarkable talent, clever wit, and articulate wisdom.

Proposed by: Garden Club of Michigan, Zone X

Ron Determann
Eliose Payne Luquer Medal for special achievement in the filed of botany

Ron Determann has been the Director of Conservatories at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens for the past 25 years. His work at the ABG is a testament to his ingenuity and insight. Ron conceived the idea to adapt textile technology for greenhouse use, enabling the ABG’s Tropical High Elevation House in The Fuqua Garden Center to become the first greenhouse in the world to use an air filter for cooling and humidification. He initiated and directed the development of the ABG’s indoor plant collection, including one of the largest compilations of orchids in the United States, the foremost assembly of tropical conifers at a public garden, and, along with the NYBG, the most extensive collection of epiphytic Ericaceae in the U.S. These monumental achievements significantly advanced conservation and conservation education and marked Mr. Determann as a leader in the American conservatory movement.

Ron has performed groundbreaking work in developing bog management in the Southeastern U.S., earning him the Robert Balentine Award for the greatest contribution to the field of horticulture in the southeastern United States.

In 1995, he initiated the ABG’s International Conservation Program, forming a partnership with the Maquipucuna Foundation in Ecuador that offered extensive training for ABG personnel as well as an international internship program. In addition, he acts as a consultant to the New York Botanical Garden, Phipps Conservatory, Strybing
Arboretum, Huntington Botanical Garden, Maquipucuna Nature Reserve and Singapore Botanical Garden.

Personally and professionally, Ron Determann’s passion and commitment to conservation and conservation education have truly changed and enhanced the botanical community: regionally, nationally and worldwide.

Proposed by: Peachtree Garden Club, Zone VIII

Shirley A. Meneice
Achievement Medal in recognition of outstanding achievement and creative vision and ability in the interprestation and furtherance of the aims of GCA

Shirley Meneice has held the positions of GCA Horticulture Committee Chairman and Vice-Chairman. During her tenure she actively lobbied to promote “Partners for Plants” (a program supporting botanists on public lands with GCA volunteer labor and funding) as a joint effort of the GCA Horticulture and Conservation Committees, an arrangement that endures today. She is also an esteemed Emeritus Judge for Horticulture.

In recognition of Shirley’s commitment to expanding the knowledge of GCA members in all areas of horticulture, a National Horticulture Conference was created in 1992, The Shirley Meneice Horticulture Conference. Held in prestigious botanical institutions around the country, it attracts experts presenting topics on a variety of horticultural, botanical and conservation subjects.

There is widespread admiration for Shirley’s quiet commitment to the botanical world by noted botanists and novice horticulturalists alike. Her love of plants and her belief in preserving imperiled species has led to her current position as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Center for Plant Conservation.

She has inspired a generation of students to dig in the garden, collect seeds and propagate. Her interest is single-minded: to educate by creating opportunities to plant, grow and exhibit while encouraging the preservation of our unique environment, all of which she carries out with wit, charm and intelligence. When spending time with Shirley one learns to look more closely at one’s surroundings, to appreciate what is special and to be aware of what is fragile. She is a selfless and generous mentor, her greatest legacy to the Garden Club of America.

Proposed by: Carmel by-the-Sea Garden Club, Zone XII

William Merwin
Sarah Chapman Francis Medal for outstanding literary achievement related to any aspect of the Garden Club of America interests

W.S. Merwin is a remarkable man who has had a profound affect on the world through his poetry and his lifestyle. His poetry and prose have won praise and awards since 1952, including the Pulitzer Prize (1971 and 2009), the National Book Award, The Tanning Prize, the Bollingen Prize, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. In July 2010, the Librarian of Congress appointed William Merwin the 17th United States Poet Laureate.

Mr. Merwin’s writing has undergone stylistic changes through the course of his career, however a recurring theme is man’s separation from nature. The poet sees the consequences of that alienation as disastrous, both for the human race and for the rest of the world. His latest poems are densely imaginative and full of an intimate awareness of the natural world.

William lives, writes and gardens on an old pineapple plantation in Hawaii, which he has painstakingly restored and transformed into a palm forest. His 18 acres of palms include rare and endangered species that he has hand planted over the past thirty-five years. The forest reflects his reverence for the natural world and his dedication to “save what he can.”

William recently established The Merwin Conservancy to preserve the 800 plus species of palms he and his wife Paula have cultivated and to create a retreat for writers and botanists.

On the last day of the world
I would want to plant a tree
--W.S. Merwin (from “Place”)

Proposed by: The Garden Club of Honolulu, Zone XII

Frederick S. Middleton III
Cynthia Pratt Laughlin Medal for outstanding achievement in environmental protection and the maintenance of the quality of life.

Rick Middleton is the founder and Executive Director of The Southern Environmental Law Center. For over 25 years, the SELC has leveraged the power of the law to protect the environment of the Southeast—the fastest growing region of the U.S. Working in all three branches of government, this nonprofit organization, partnering with over 100 other environmental groups, shapes, implements, and enforces the laws and policies that determine all aspects of environmental quality.

Under Rick’s leadership the organization has grown to employ over 40 attorneys in regional offices through six states. It has celebrated victories that affect air and water quality, including a unanimous Supreme Court decision for clean air, the North Carolina Smokestacks Act and tough controls on mercury pollution. The SELC has protected important habitats from encroachment, including successful opposition to a Naval practice range in migratory bird habitat, successful defense of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park by preventing an egregious ‘Road to Nowhere’ and closing major wetlands protection loopholes. In addition, the center serves as a model for other regional environmental centers.

Through the years Rick’s vision and steadfast commitment to using the power of law to protect and enhance the quality of life has made possible the success of the SELC. His fundraising efforts, his ability to attract and keep top legal talent, his recruitment of a broad spectrum of involved and influential supporters have ensured the continued growth and success of this nationally important nonprofit.

Proposed by: Little Garden Club of Birmingham, Zone VIII

Jane G. Pepper
Distinguished Service Medal for distinguished service in the field of horticulture

Jane G. Pepper, an astute Scot from Edinburgh, served as President of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society for thirty years. Her urban-arcadian vision transformed William Penn’s “Greene Country Towne” with piquant pocket parks, bountiful community gardens and cinctures of window-boxed streetscapes.

With corporate, city and volunteer support, Jane turbo-charged “Philadelphia Green” and mobilized citizens to use horticulture to reclaim over 5,000 vacant lots and thus restore their neighborhoods. Her civic logic spoke great truth: many U.S. cities sought PHS advice on such revitalization.

Under her aegis, the Philadelphia Flower Show became the world’s largest indoor horticultural exhibition. Before dawn, her golf cart darted from monumental Edens to floral design, to the Horticort – where she encouraged and thanked most entrants by name. Due to her prodigious effort, it is now the Philadelphia International Flower Show.

Jane’s horticultural education in landscape design, plant science, and public horticultural administration brought great wisdom to her gardening column in The Philadelphia Inquirer for over twenty years. Her book, Jane Pepper’s Garden: Getting the Most Pleasure and Growing Results from Your Garden Every Month of the Year, remains a timely primer on Zone V. The “Gardening Partner,” her beloved husband, was the synecdoche for all gardeners who tilled, toiled and triumphed throughout the year.

A fourth dimension of Jane’s horticultural world is travel. As she showcases the aesthetic legacy of the British Isles her tour groups return with tremendous inspiration and resolve for their own horticultural heroics.

Proposed by: Garden Club of Philadelphia, Zone V

Stephen Scanniello
Jane Righter Rose Medal for outstanding achievementoutstanding achievement in rose culture: through the propagation of new roses, civic achievement in community rose gardens of educational value, exhibitions by amateur gardeners or unusual rose collections of special merit. 

Stephen Scanniello began his career as a rosarian in 1985 in the historic Cranford Rose Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. As curator of the garden, he undertook its restoration, ultimately transforming it into one of the world’s most acclaimed classic rose gardens.

Stephen is dedicated to the preservation of heritage rose varieties, promoting their cultivation and importance as a genetic resource to rose breeding efforts. His lectures and propagation workshops have encouraged people of all ages to grow and nurture roses. He is an author and historian and has written numerous books. Stephen is a recognized expert with a talent for communicating the importance and excitement of growing roses.

In addition to acting as a judge for the international rose trials in Europe and the United States, Stephen designs and maintains private gardens across the country and is the president and one of the founding members of the
Heritage Rose Foundation.

Since 2009, Stephen has been the primary driving force behind the development of the Heritage Rose District of New York City. This project has reintroduced historically important roses to much of Harlem and Washington Heights. The Heritage Rose District is an all-volunteer effort aimed at celebrating the culture and history of this area. Young people, who previously never thought twice about their neighborhood’s history, have a new perspective and have learned how to propagate, plant, and care for roses with responsibility and pride.

Stephen Scanniello has energized the rose world. His mission to grow good roses, plant gardens and encourage community spirit is to be admired.

Proposed by: Stony Brook Garden Club of Princeton, Zone IV

Douglas W. Tallamy
Margaret Douglas Medal for notable service to the cause of Conservation Education

Douglas W. Tallamy is professor and chairman of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware. In 2007 he wrote Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in our Gardens. Timber Press published a second edition in 2009. The book was awarded the 2008 silver medal by the Garden Writers’ Association. In 2011, Dr. Tallamy also received the Gold Eddie Award from Folio magazine for “A Call for Backyard Biodiversity,” first published in American Forests.


Dr. Tallamy’s central message is that “unless we restore native plants to our suburban ecosystems, the future of biodiversity in the United States is dim.” This is because native plants are the ONLY plants upon which native insects, the lowest rung of the food chain, will lay their eggs. When native plant species disappear or are replaced by alien exotics, the food source for birds and other animals disappears.However Dr. Tallamy believes that there are two points of optimism. It is not too late to save most of the plants and animals that sustain the ecosystems on which we ourselves depend, and restoring native plants in most human dominated landscapes is relatively easy to do. One need not take out all exotics. Simply add native trees, shrubs, and perennials to the mix and the result will be astonishing: plant paw-paw trees and zebra swallowtail butterflies will appear, plant milkweed and monarch butterflies will arrive.An engaging and indefatigable speaker, Dr. Tallamy believes we must all “garden as if life depended on it.”

Proposed by: The Garden Club of Wilmington, Zone V 


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