Betty Cline

Garden clubs are a Big Stone Gap tradition. People like Betty Cline exemplify that tradition and hand down its high standards from generation to generation.

While its namesake dogwood tree is relatively short-lived, the club has shown a lot of resilience, changing with the times and persevering despite losing members.

The Dogwood Garden Club started in 1953, when a group of women including Agnes Quesenberry, Clara Lou Kelly, Louise Camblos and Cline met at the home of Francis Botts to discuss forming a club.

Membership eventually grew to about 35, with most being ladies who were married homemakers with time to participate in civic activities, although several taught school. “That was about the only thing that was available at that time,” Cline said. “So we had more time to spend doing something that we liked. Nowadays, there’s two people working, children . . . they don’t have time for all the things we did.”

But Dogwood continues to contribute to the public sphere. At its height, the club’s shows — regularly staged at the armory — were among the town’s eagerly awaited events. Shows proliferated like flowers. They were held at the community…