Some folks kick back and relax on their 50th birthday. Some decide to take on a tough assignment. Count the Greenleaf Garden Club of Milford among the latter group.
|Where incoming horticulture is|
I have a passing acquaintance with what are called ‘standard flower shows’. If you walk into a room and see many groups of four floral designs, horticulture, and educational exhibits – and the titles indicate it is built around a theme – you’re in a standard flower show. ‘Standard’ means the organization putting in on is following a set of rules about what kinds of designs can be used, the number of entries, what else is going to be displayed (e.g., horticulture and educational displays) and most importantly, how it will be judged.
|Assembling a floral design - it all|
seems so chaotic, but it isn't
Standard flower shows are not for the faint of heart. You need a fair-sized venue, you need separate groups of people to create a schedule, lasso people to enter, build or scrounge up (and then paint) the pedestals (called ‘staging’) to be used, ensure all floral design materials are what they say they are, ensure all horticulture presented for display is what it says it is, ensure that floral designs conform to what the ‘schedule’ says it is supposed to be, type up and ensure everything is spelled correctly, and find accredited judges who are current with an ever-changing set of rules, and clerks to take down those judges’ comments.
|Will they come? And will they|
bring horticulture? Or will there
be rows of empty tables?
Oh, and you have to make certain everyone and everything is in the right place in that room (especially difficult with horticulture), ensure the floral designers have sustenance, keep the judges out of sight of the designers and vice-versa, have all the right awards on hand (and ensure they go on the right hosta leaf or six-foot-tall design), keep the designs and horticulture watered, and then clean up the place.
The decision to put on a standard flower show is a process that usually takes six months from start to finish. It requires coaxing, cajoling, and understanding on the part of its chairman, who will need eight or so committees to handle the tasks enumerated above. In all, it isn’t unusual for thirty-plus people to be involved.
|Creating a table display|
The Greenleaf Garden Club turns fifty this year. The usual commemoration is a luncheon or dinner and a look backward at notable accomplishments. The Milford club elected to do something quite different: put on a flower show as a gift to the town. And, with a tad over fifty members, that event would tap the talents of a sizable percentage of the club’s membership.
I became aware of the event because, weeks earlier, Betty fielded a phone call from an anxious member of the club tasked with ensuring there was lots of horticulture for the show. Even though Milford is four towns and ten miles away, this person was working the phones overtime, looking for people with ‘known’ interesting plants they might be willing to take a piece of to share with the world.
|Each step is incised with|
the name of a battle.
Double-click for detail.
Betty agreed and, Friday morning, we drove ten carefully curated samples to Milford’s Memorial Hall. It is an imposing stone building erected at the close of the 19th Century to honor the town’s participation in the Civil War. The Grand Hall on the second floor is accessed by a curving granite staircase into which are incised the names of the major engagements of that war. The last step bears the words ‘Surrender at Appomattox’. (Though, as a son of the South, I note the stairs commemorate only those battles won by the Yankees.)
Inside that Grand Hall was a scene of which I have fond memories: a flower show being nurtured into existence. At one long table was the ‘intake’ for horticulture; in an alcove, four educational exhibits were being readied. And, in the main room, individuals and groups worked to assemble floral and table designs in, I think, eight classes.
|The design is done, but|
is it right?
To the untutored eye, it appears chaotic. It is anything but. Designers have a few hours to get right something they may have worked on for weeks. The table settings class required four groups working in tight quarters to create a set piece built around a common idea – in this, case, a Fourth of July picnic at the town main park. Even the educational class exhibits each had moving parts – one featured upwards of a dozen small floral arrangements.
Sometime after Betty and I left, probably around 1 p.m., judges came in and made their decisions. At 4 p.m., there was a party and reception that was open to the public.
We returned Saturday morning to see the finished product and, to be perfectly honest, to see how Betty’s horticulture stacked up against the competition (the show was open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
This was the time where everyone crosses their fingers, holds their breath, and waits for the answer to the question everyone has asked themselves for months: will anyone come?
The answer was a resounding ‘yes’. The room was crowded with people. Some were friends, some were strangers drawn by publicity about the event. All were impressed.
|The completed picnic tables|
Betty and I had one unexpected but highly enlightening encounter. The ‘blue’ and Educational Display Award went to one from the Milford Library, which displayed its plans for restoration of a garden at the site (which, in turn, sits adjacent to Memorial Hall). The display was superbly done and ticked every requirement from the judges. But, better than just a display, Library Director Susan Edmonds was there to explain the project and its present status. We spent at least fifteen minutes engaged in conversation on the topic. My fervent hope is that the project gets built exactly as shown, because it will be a gorgeous, environmentally sound, and useful addition to the library.
|Judged horticulture. And Betty got|
The flower show was a great success. It energized the club by involving its members, and it was a memorable event shared with the larger community. A golden anniversary luncheon would have left everyone with a full stomach and glow that lasted a few hours. The Greenleaf Garden Club’s 50th Anniversary Flower Show will leave a lot of people exhausted, but also an indelible sense of having done something fine for the town of Milford.