This is installment eight of a monthly series giving glimpses of the Takoma Horticultural Club at various times during its history, drawn from a collection of newsletters, reports, ledgers and other materials made available through the help of Diana Kohn and Historic Takoma Inc. In this episode we highlight a few more notable THC members.1
Winn T. Simmons joined THC shortly after its founding, served as its 3rd president, and later held every other club office. Mr. Simmons was also an iris hybridizer, registering four varieties of tall bearded iris. His home on Aspen St., NW was the site of one of the area’s earliest small-scale nurseries, specializing in irises. Perhaps most notable of his horticultural achievements was his “Fruit Tree with 21 Varieties,” which was featured in the 1947 Sunday Star Pictorial Magazine. At the time, the tree bore 18 varieties of apple and 3 of pear. A 1951 THC newsletter noted “Mr. Simmons could go one better” than Senator Warren Austin’s (R-VT, 1931 – 1946 and first US Ambassador to the UN) “Yankee pride” in his apple tree with 7 varieties, because Simmons also had a pear in his one-tree collection. In 1953 Simmons established a THC perpetual trophy for excellence in flower shows at the same time that the club recognized him for outstanding services.
Dr. William Stuart (1865 – 1951), a founding member of THC, was also known as “the Potato King,” for his role in advancing the potato industry. Employed by the Bureau of Plant Industry in the USDA, he focused on potato research. Stuart was also a founder of the Potato Association of America (which also celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2016). His book, The Potato, Its Culture, Uses, History, and Classification, was widely used as a textbook in both the US and other potato-growing nations. The Potato Association stated that “He was without question better informed on all phases of the potato industry than any other man in the United States” when it awarded him an honorary life membership in 1947. He was also a passionate daffodil hybridizer and grower.
Wilbur H. Youngman (1896 – 1986), perhaps best known as the author of the Washington Star garden books, was also an early member of THC, joining in 1928, shortly after he moved to the DC area to work for the USDA as a seed specialist. He took on the of- fice of THC president in 1930. As garden editor of the Star, he wrote several editions (between 1944 and 1976) of the Washington Star Garden Book (each edition with its own sub-title—from Special Book for Beginners to The Most Complete Guide for Maryland, Washington, and Virginia Area Gardeners) as well as several other books including Growing Your Trees and Our Victory Garden. His first wife Alice, also a THC member and president, co-authored supplements to the book. Youngman frequently mentioned THC’s first woman president, Margaret Lancaster (see July THC newsletter), and other THC members in his Star column. In 1958 he received an award from the American Seed Trade Association as the best garden writer in the country, and in 1963 THC recognized him for his “out- standing services.” He was also a past president of the American Horticultural Society. —Nancy Newton
Note: 1 There are many more.