FOUNDERS AWARD 2021: Liz Calhoon
Liz Calhoon is someone who is not afraid to get her hands dirty and does not hold back when it comes to volunteering her time. She is a member of several horticulture organizations and has contributed her knowledge, skills, and efforts to build those groups and keep them thriving.
Like past Founders recipients, Liz also came from the state of Michigan, Grand Rapids to be exact, where her mother loved to garden and at one time had over 400 tulip bulbs in their yard.
After graduating from Michigan State University, she came to California in 1966 where she interned to complete her Med Tech training. She later went to work at the Palo Alto Veteran’s Administration Hospital where she stayed for 42 years, retiring in 2010. While there, Liz was instrumental in creating a garden in which recuperating veterans could work in the soil and tend the plants.
In 1978 Liz and her husband moved to their current house in Los Altos. With a large yard to play around in, gardening soon became an interest.
Liz joined the Fuchsia Society and was President for a year but after hearing a meteorologist call our part of California “a semi-arid climate” she realized that growing plants that needed frequent watering didn’t make sense. So she did the only logical thing and joined the California Native Plant Society and switched to low water, drought-tolerant plants in her garden. She was often a docent for the Going-Native Garden Tours.
After discovering the Los Altos Plant Exchange 30 years ago, Liz joined the Garden club of Los Altos in 1995 and became heavily involved with organizing their plant sales and plant exchanges. She served on its Board in various positions but found her job as Horticulture Chair, where she was able to give advice and horticultural tips at monthly meetings, to be her favorite position. She loves to teach and talk plants and really knows her stuff! Through this organization she was the City of Los Altos liaison and kept fresh flower arrangements on the counter where the public came to make inquiries. She was awarded an Honorary Life Membership in the club for all the important roles she has assumed.
In 2009 Liz became a Master Gardener where she became co-lead of the Succulent Team, was mentor to several classes of Master Gardener trainees, volunteered at the Spring Garden Market and designed a water wise garden using mainly UC Davis Arboretum All Star plants and more recently a succulent garden at the Sunnyvale Teaching and Demo Garden.
I could not find the year Liz joined Western Hort. but her involvement has been extensive. She served two 3yr terms on the board starting in 2001 where she was Treasurer, participated in the Scholarship committee and worked on the membership roster for several years. In 2012 she joined the board again and was Recording Secretary and later Co-President. It seems she served in every officer position except VP! During her time on the board she handled the AV set up for our meetings and was in charge of the Annual Plant Sale committee in 2016. Our members might know her best by her involvement in the Plant Discussion at the beginning of our meetings along with Katie Wong from 2016-2018 where she frequently brought in plants to share from her own garden. On top of all that, she organized the Christmas holiday potluck for several years, and many will remember the lovely boutonnières she and others made for all guests who attended the holiday gathering.
Her skills at flower arranging were always on display at our meetings. Each month Liz brought one of her lovely flower arrangements for the Welcome Table to greet members and guests. Her skills at creating the most beautiful arrangements with flowers from her own garden never ceased to amaze. Each arrangement would be unique with fun vessels, seasonal decorations, flowers, branches, berries, and seed pods. One member commented how she would never forget the arrangement she did for Chinese New Year. They certainly left an impression on many of us.
When not busy with her two sons, gardening, or participating in the Corvette Club with her husband Stu, another passion of hers is Monarch Butterflies. She has successfully “raised” butterflies through the metamorphosis process, photographing their life cycle and then releasing them in the Charles Street Community Garden in Sunnyvale where there is a good supply of food for them.
Her next adventure will be moving to Provincetown, Massachusetts with her husband and two dogs this spring and learning all about gardening on the East Coast, something she will no doubt dive right into with gusto and enthusiasm.
With Liz’s extensive involvement in so many organizations you can imagine how much she will be missed. Her boundless energy, creative ideas, horticultural expertise, joyful personality, and kindness will always be remembered. While the horticultural community here in the Bay Area will find some large holes in the garden when she leaves, the gardening community in Provincetown will be blooming with her arrival.
With much gratitude the Western Horticultural Society thanks you for all of your many contributions to our organization!