Bessie Bocock Carter, a Part of Capital Trees History

Author: Lisa Trapp

Let’s talk a little bit about the history of Capital Trees! Beyond being a woman founded organization, Capital Trees has deep roots in the Garden Club of Virginia (GCV). Each of our original founders came from four area garden clubs, Boxwood, James River, Three Chopt, and Tuckahoe, all affiliated clubs of the GCV. Last week was Historic Garden Week and it always feels fitting to reflect on our foundation during this time. Especially since Capital Trees would not be the organization we are today without the Garden Clubs, and one particularly important member, Bessie Bocock Carter. 

Bessie Bocock Carter (1929 – 2008) was a member of the James River Garden Club and an honorary member of the Albemarle Garden Club. She Joined the GCV due to her concern for, and interest in, conservation. In 1991 she was awarded the Garden Club of Virginia’s de Lacey Gray Award for conservation. In addition to her work with the Garden Club of Virginia and the Garden Club of America she also served on the board of the Virginia Chapter of the Nature Conservancy and the Piedmont environmental council, which is just the tip of the iceberg in her dedication, engagement, and focus on conserving Virginia’s natural assets for future generations. 

In 2009, established as a memorial by her family, the Garden Club of Virginia founded the Bessie Bocock Carter Conservation Award. The monetary award was created to “fund the implementation of a conservation project that will serve as a catalyst for community action.” The award is presented annually to a member club of the GCV or a Garden Club of Virginia member club in tandem with another conservation organization. Boxwood, James River, Three Chopt, and Tuckahoe earned the award in 2010, and were the second ever recipients. 

The funds from the Bessie Bocock Carter Award prioritize the implementation of “specific and tangible projects” and must benefit natural resource conservation or environmental protection. For Capital Trees, it provided our founding clubs with the seed money to move forward with the 14th street tree planting plan, and most specifically the engineering drawings for the bioremediation tree wells. The 14th street tree planting was the flagship project for Capital Trees, and an important venture that laid the groundwork for our following projects. 

Receiving the Bessie Bocock Carter Award acted as a springboard. It provided a project not yet off the ground, the leverage it needed to not only start but, most importantly, to finish. The tree wells can be visited along 14th street at its Main Street intersection. They were planted with ginkgo (Gingko biloba), swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), native perennials, and grasses. Over a decade later, and this corridor is still working hard to help mitigate stormwater and provide a shady walkway in what was once a concrete canyon. 

If you are interested in learning more about Capital Trees history, check out our early history blog here, or our “about us” page on our website!

To learn more about historic Garden week, click here.To learn more about our founding and the women behind it, head to our about page here.




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