Guest Blogger | Bob Faulkner (Natural Selection Gardens - Dayton, Ohio)

"How to keep a club motivated, interesting, current and fun - our 20 years of experience"by: Bob Faulkner

“By example isn’t another way to teach, it is the only way.” – Albert Einstein

We here in the Dayton, Ohio area of the Midwest have an amazing group of knowledgeable and fun daylily folks. This has come through much learning, mistakes and a large measure of humility.

Back at the beginning it was necessary to either take a trip to Northern Indiana, in Michigan City or south to Chattanooga in order to find a group of enthusiasts. From Dayton, these were several hour trips at the minimum. The information and camaraderie were always worth the effort, but a couple of people got together and said “why don’t we try to organize something here in this area?”  A seed was planted and a club was formed, which was the beginning of what would come to be known as the Midwest Hybridizers - from which the “Daylily Trader” and “the Northern Mecca” websites have evolved.

So STEP #1 is realizing a need.

Shirley Farmer was in charge. The first meeting was held at the Old Cox Arboretum in Dayton. In attendance were approximately 10 daylily enthusiasts. The original topics were growing, labeling, stubborn parents and concerns of hybridizers on introductions. In attendance were some experienced hybridizers and some beginners. It was decided that there should be 2 meetings a year. The spring meeting would be informational and the fall meeting would be to showcase slides of the best seedlings.

So what began what was to be an important part of the hybridizing programs of many good hybridizers, along with information and just plain entertainment for collectors and beginners alike.

STEP 2 - Find and appoint a leader.

“The world is full of willing people; some willing to work, the rest willing to let them.”-R. Frost

Shirley organized and hosted the first few meetings and 20 years later is still in charge. Along with being efficient, Shirley has the keen ability to deal with problems as they occur (and they will). A good leader will need to be able to listen well, analyze any problem; will be positive no matter what the problem is and will have the ability to create positive results. There is nothing worse than wanting to communicate a problem or a concern or even just an idea and not get recognized. Then there are last minute cancellations. Have a backup plan, maybe an open panel discussion, or a showing of seedlings from a local hybridizer.  Keep in mind that this is a fun meeting, it is run and organized by all volunteers.

STEP 3 – Keep the meeting interesting and informative.

“How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four— calling the tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” –Abraham Lincoln

Any club, and the territory that it encompasses, is made of an eclectic group of people, all with a similar interest in Daylilies but all at different levels of interest. It is important to remember, you can’t please everyone with each and every program. Therefore, a knee-jerk reaction to one person who didn’t like one program is probably going to be an over-reaction. We can’t always know the key to success ahead of time, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.

I remember one program where Jamie Gossard brought in potted dips and demonstrated step by step the process of conversion to tets. We had another of John Benz who did a wonderful slide show presentation of the history of pink daylilies from the first to today…..both these programs were fascinating. Richard Norris did a helpful presentation on daylily markers and was convinced that venetian blinds and lead pencil were the longest lasting in the seedling beds. (I still use them today). Other programs of interest are presented as we become aware of the talents and needs of those attending.

STEP 4 – Don’t overlook new visitors.

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” -George S. Patton

We sometimes get caught up in all the “things” that have to be done to get the meeting ready and we forget to include the new people. After all the announcements are done, we take the time to introduce all new visitors. All new visitors are prospective good members and future presenters. The success of our club can be credited in a large part to regular attendees who were once a new visitor. They become involved and eventually are not only a valuable part of our meetings, but a good friend and helper in the daylily hobby. Who knows how many valuable participants we might have not had if just once a new visitor was not made to feel welcome. 

STEP 5 – There is no room for a “Superstar”—we are all equals.

“Those who have good reason to brag never need to.”-anonymous

Many clubs met their demise at the cost of some superstar who refused to realize that the club exists for all people. A club cannot be just one member, it is many. Suppose we compare all the members in a club to the human body. What if your foot could talk and it said; “because I am not a hand, I cannot be part of the body.” Or what if the ear said; “I am not an eye, so I cannot be part of the body.” Or what if the whole body was an eye---how would it hear? Or if the entire body were an ear, how would it smell? It is important to get the idea that one person isn’t more important than another. For a club to function well, all parts must work together for the whole. It is a ‘must’ for the human body and it is also one of the secrets of having a good functional club.

We make extra effort to never omit anyone simply because of their over-developed personality, so it is important to work with them. The results can be beneficial to everyone. It is most certain that if the problem isn’t addressed it can and will affect the mood of the club.
STEP 6 – Find people’s individual strengths and tap into them.

“I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.” - Lily Tomlin

It takes a team to run successful meetings, year after year. The danger of having just a few do everything is Burn Out. It makes more sense and it is a lot more enjoyable to be responsible for a few things so that you can too enjoy the meeting. For the first few years of our meetings Shirley just about did it all. She arranged the speakers, organized the lunches, brought the slide projectors, booked the location and mailed the reminders. It was getting to a point where she needed help. We realized that we all needed to take more of a part. That was a turning point and looking back it was the moment we really began to grow and prosper. Don’t wait until someone gets burned out to pitch in.

As new people come to meetings, it is quickly apparent that some are much more interested and involved than others. These individuals will ask questions, even volunteer to help and will want to attend everything. These are the folks who can become a part of what is happening and will be happy to do so. It can also be quickly apparent that those who don’t participate, who simply come to be entertained, are the ones who will be most likely to criticize. Rarely does a participant have anything negative to say about the meeting. (Okay, for those of you who have forgotten, go back to step 3-don’t change everything for one person).

Along those lines, no discussion or input should be discouraged. I’ve been to meetings where the host would be defensive and would actually cut people off. There is a fine line between control and sensitivity. A good host can realize what point the participant is trying to get across even if the delivery leaves something to be desired. We all make mistakes but sensitivity is a must. On the other hand, some folks love to hear themselves talk and the host needs to know how and when to have them wrap up their discussion. There can be those topics that create a lot of discussion but there comes a point where it needs to be taken up at a different time and location.

STEP 7 – Make it fun for everyone.

“Make happy those who are near and those who are far away will come.” -Proverb

As far as showing pictures of new seedlings goes, we have reached a point where we reserve the entire fall meeting as it takes the entire day to get everyone in. We have hybridizers that are nationally recognized and those who are locally recognized. Then there are newcomers who have never shown pictures before. We need to really encourage all of these levels of participation. We have seen newcomers emerge as cutting-edge hybridizers in just a few short meetings. It can be a real pleasure to watch a newcomer show their pictures for the first time with all their excitement and nervousness. Those of us who have ever encouraged a child to walk for the first time can relate to this experience. And when they finish we are sure to make them know we were glad they did it. We all started somewhere, sometime.

From our two meetings a year have emerged a plethora of hybridizers and we expect more to come year by year. Not everyone has as their goal being a known hybridizer or even doing introductions at all. Growing a club such as the Midwest Hybridizers has come slowly and steadily, not unlike hybridizing itself. Most “new” hybridizers that come on the scene aren’t really new at all. They have paid their dues and by the time we start to recognize them, they have put in many years of hard work. The same applies for any successful club; it won’t happen overnightwon’t happen without dedicated people working behind the scene.

Two of the great things that have emerged from our cooperative are "The Daylily Trader" and "The Northern Mecca". These sites are both accessible on the web. The Daylily Trader lists the hybridizers who want to have their work recognized, some have introduced flowers, and others are just getting started. Northern Mecca on the other hand emerged from a need to organize ourselves and invite others to come as join us during bloom season in our celebration of accomplishments. This group of hybridizers has shown themselves to be generous, helpful, good sports and have produced daylilies that are beautiful and desirable in today’s’ market.

Little did Shirley Farmer know what the future held when she said nearly 20 years ago, “we need to form a club.” Her generous spirit, warm personality and gift of teaching have lent themselves to a harvest beyond her imagination and she is to be commended for all her work and direction.

“Knowledge speaks, but Wisdom Listens.” – Jimi Hendrix

The information in this article has been purposely kept as general as possible as a tool or grid for use when working with your own club. The hope is for you to take this information and use it as a guide, then your own club will have a personality and foot print of its own based on people and agenda.

The above photos of Bob's seedlings were taken by me in Bob's garden during the summer of 2009.



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