2017 NGC Award of Excellence

Congratulations to Our Winners!

ST. LOUIS (May 22, 2017)—National Garden Clubs Inc., one of the nation’s most-recognized nonprofits and largest volunteer gardening organization in the world, announces the 2017 winners of its highest honor, the Award of Excellence. The winners, who were recognized at NGC’s 88th annual convention in Richmond, Va., include Alan Steinman, Ph.D., the Allen I. and Helen J. Hunting director of the Robert B. Annis Water Resources Institute at Grand Valley State University in Muskegon, Mich., Pearl Fryar, creator of the inspiring Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden in Bishopville, S.C. and the Heirloom Seed Project at Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro, Maine.

““Each year, NGC’s Award of Excellence recognizes exceptional individuals, organizations or institutions that have made significant contributions to their communities in such areas as environmental and civic responsibility, conservation or community beautification through gardening projects,” said Nancy Hargroves, president, National Garden Clubs Inc. “The Award of Excellence is our organization’s highest honor for non-members and by recognizing these deserving recipients from different parts of the nation, NGC hopes to educate and inspire others in communities coast-to-coast.”

Alan Steinman, Ph.D.

NGC 2017 Award of Excellence Winner Alan Steinman, Ph.D. Nominated by Michigan Garden Clubs Inc., Steinman is a popular speaker at local and state garden club events, and was a presenter on the impact of climate change at a seminar at the National Garden Clubs 87th national convention last year in Grand Rapids. He has published more than 150 scientific articles and book chapters, been awarded over $50 million in grants for scientific and engineering projects and testified on the protection of water resources before the U.S. Congress and the Michigan and Florida state legislatures. Through his work at AWRI www.gvsu.edu Steinman works with area youth through the organization’s free programs, including hands-on learning aboard two vessels on Lake Michigan and adjoining waters. In addition, he advises and mentors undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral candidates. Steinman is a member of the science advisory boards for the Environmental Protection Agency, the International Joint Commission; Michigan Department of Environmental Quality; the Sea Grant College Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Healing Our Waters Coalition; the Water Center for the Graham Sustainability Institute of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research; and the National Estuarine Research Reserve System.

Heirloom Seed Project at Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro, Maine.

NGC 2017 Award of Excellence Winner Heirloom Seed Project at Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro, Maine.Nominated by The Garden Club Federation of Maine Inc., the Heirloom Seed Project at Medomak Valley High School www.mvheirloomseedproject.com is the oldest, and one of the largest, school-based seed saving programs in the United States. The project took root in 1991, stemming from a popular school horticulture class that began in the early 1970s.

The Heirloom Seed Project is situated on two acres on the grounds of Medomak Valley High School. It includes two greenhouses, a seed bank of over 800 varieties of heirloom seeds collected from local, national and international sources, an online seed exchange catalog developed and managed by students that provides seeds to people globally, an onsite “living history” tree arboretum, a collection of 70 heirloom hosta plants and the newest addition–a collection of endangered heritage breed chickens.

“The Heirloom Seed Project was created to teach students how to grow, collect and save heirloom seeds, pass down history to the next generation, preserve and promote the biodiversity of open-pollinated seeds and learn how to be self-sufficient by producing their own food for themselves and in their community,” said Neil Lash, director of Heirloom Seed Project. “In addition, it fosters leadership skills in managing the greenhouses, working in the garden and provides a real-world experience in working with retail seed companies who partner with our program.” In 2015, the project received a $20,000 grant from Seeds of Change, an organic seed and food company.

Pearl Fryar

NGC 2017 Award of Excellence Winner Pearl FryarNominated by The Garden Club of South Carolina Inc., Fryar began his journey as a self-taught topiary artist and horticulturist in the early 1980s. By collecting discarded plants from compost piles at local nurseries and using sustainable planting techniques, he transformed the plantings into feats of artistry and horticulture on three acres at his home. Visitors from around the globe travel to Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden www.pearlfryar.com in Bishopville, S.C., to marvel at the remarkable abstract shapes that Fryar formed from over 300 individual plants. He also has created topiary works on civic projects, at public garden sculpture exhibitions and received a commission for a topiary exhibit at the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia.

Fryar is the subject of a 2006 award-winning documentary, “A Man Named Pearl,” which introduced him, and his unique garden, to a national audience. He has been featured on National Geographic News.com, in garden industry publications and local and statewide magazines. His story and garden also were a focus on The Martha Stewart Show and he appeared in a TV commercial for John Deere. In addition, Fryar fosters education and dedicates his efforts to local youth, working with students of all ages through arts councils and colleges to demonstrate topiary techniques and illustrate elements of art in garden sculptures.

The Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden has awarded a total of 13 scholarships of $1,500 each to local high school students to further their education at two-year colleges in Lee County. Fryar is a recipient of the Winthrop University Medal of Honor for significant contribution to the arts. He also is a popular speaker on the lecture circuit across the United States and teaches topiary classes at Moore Farms Botanical Garden in Lake City, S.C. In 2006, the Garden Conservancy, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving exceptional gardens and landscapes, formed a partnership with Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden–a collaboration that will provide ongoing care and preservation.


Click here for the NGC Award of Excellence Application and Rules

For more information about the NGC Award of Excellence, contact:
Brenda Moore,
NGC Award of Excellence Chairman