Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lost Worlds ... Paradise Regained

Although more accustomed to Monet landscapes and Modigliani drawings, the Esther B. O’Keeffe Gallery at The Society of the Four Arts provided an apropos stage for the Garden Club of Palm Beach’s artfully-mounted flower show.
The Garden Club of Palm Beach's 2009 GCA Flower Show & Preview Party at the Four Arts

By Augustus Mayhew

Garden Club of Palm Beach members and their guests
recently converged on The Society of Four Arts for the traditional preview party that signals the opening of the group's historic weekend flower show. The biennial event sets the standards for artistic and horticultural excellence, broadens appreciation for the aesthetics of flower arrangement, spotlights local conservation efforts and shares the beauty of a show with fellow club members and the public. While the show expresses the group’s passion for gardening, it also highlights the club's ceaseless efforts to restore, improve and protect the quality of the environment through educational programs and civic improvements.

Along with club president, Betsy Matthews, event co-chairs, Cindy Hoyt and Brantley Knowles and preview party co-chairs, Mary Pressly and Sue Strickland, club members that headed various aspects of the show included Susan Ballentine, Merrilyn Bardes, Paula Cook, Vickie Denton, Beth Dowdle, Heather Henry, Carol Flanagan, Elizabeth Garcia, Patti Graebner, Heather Henry, Vicky Hunt, Nancy Murray, Sugar Thebaut, Susan McAllister, Peggy Moore, Jennifer O’Brien, Kit Pannill, Boo Van Ingen, Susan Van Pelt, Mary Webster and Melinda Hassen.
Betsy and George Matthews. Brantley Knowles and Cindy Hoyt.
With the exhibition open to local and national Garden Club of America members, GCA judges determined the following recognitions for horticulture, flower arrangement and botanical jewelry: Mary Webster, Harriet De Waele Puckett Creativity Award; Mary Garrett and Jean Tilghman, Dorothy Vietor Munger Award (arrangement); Leigh Failing, Sandra Baylor Novice Award (arrangement); Susan van Pelt, Catherine Beattie Medal (horticulture); Vicki Denton, Clarissa Willemsen Horticulture Propagation Award: Jean Matthews, Rosie Jones Horticulture Award; Brantley Knowles, Garden Club of America Novice Award (horticulture); and, for its educational exhibit, the Garden Club of Palm Beach received the Ann Lyon Crammond Award and the Marion Thompson Fuller Brown Conservation Award. Best in Show awards went to: Mary Webster for Arrangement; Mary Pressly for Botanical Jewelry; and, Patricia Cook, for Horticulture.

In addition, The Garden Club of Palm Beach made the following awards: Brenda Callaway, Garden Club of Palm Beach Silver Cup for Best Cattleya; Dula Fuller, Best Orchid in Show; Cindy Hoyt, Best Hibiscus in Show; Kit Pannill, Club Sweepstakes Award for most blue ribbons; Brantley Knowles, Best Novice Award (horticulture); Missy Geisler, Best Novice in Orchids Award; Wylene Commander, Best Novice in Par Award, Kit Pannill, JoJo Walton Memorial Trophy; Mary Pressly, Flower Arrangement and Bunny Nelson, small arrangement Memorial Trophy.
Outside, above the entrance to the O'Keeffe Gallery, a bas-relief drummer gives the evening an island beat.
Inside, a trio of waiters from Cristafaro's await at the door with refreshments. Miracle-Gro on the rocks or Super-Thrive straight-up?
Sue Stacey, the Garden Club's administrative assistant, checks the list and welcomes guests. Christina and Benjamin Macfarland.
Guests arrive and the party begins!
Looking over the bonsais into the Main Gallery, a peek in on the island's greenest thumbs.
A Quest for Nature is a map designed for children with clues to treasures of nature found in the Four Arts Garden. In their own quest, the children discover native and tropical plants as well as learn about water conservation and the beauty of healthy ecosystems.
Kit Pannill. Along with other recognitions, Mrs. Pannill was bestowed the JoJo Walton Memorial Trophy for her blue ribbon in the Cut Specimen Class as well as declared the show's sweepstakes winner for the most blue ribbons.
Jane Ylvisaker. Sally Marks. Susan Ballentine.
Beverly Bagley. Dr. and Mrs. Michael Dennis.
Botanical jewelry made its debut at this year's event with Mary Pressly as class consultant. At the recent Philadelphia Flower Show, Mrs. Pressly's botanical charm bracelet received a second place award. Brooches inspired by Pre-Columbian culture and necklaces related to a Treasure Chest were painted, polished or varnished and made to look real with dried plant material. However laudable so many of the show's entrants, I found these artifacts especially eye-catching and of museum-quality, considering I know nothing about jewelry. Take a look inside the Plexi.
Jean Matthews created a Pre-Columbian inspired wonder,"Big Bird," composed of maya palm and mustard seeds.
"Spanish doubloons and Pieces of Eight" describe this delicious treasure and Third Award winner, crafted from lentils, mustard seeds, reed, white peppercorns and apple.
This necklace created by Joan Van Der Zee of New Canaan is described as "... Plundered treasure, jewelry and coins," composed of walnuts, orange, nutmeg, lentil, fungus and soy beans, among other ingredients.
Mary Pressly's necklace was "... Found in the Valley of the Kings," made from garbanzo beans, rice, ficus, almond, old man palm, bromeliad, split peas and peppercorns.
Cycad, ficus and peppercorns make for a subtly stunning accessory to any wardrobe.
Karin Luter and Talbott Maxey. Cindy Hoyt, Johanna Kitson, and Craig Morrell.
More than eighty years ago, the island's horticultural enthusiasts held their first meeting in Mrs. John S. Phipps’ living room at Casa Bendita; ever since, the organization has played a vital role in maintaining Palm Beach’s standing as one of the world’s most beautiful resorts. In 1929 the club-sponsored Plan for Palm Beach, designed by the renowned apostles of the City Beautiful Movement, Bennett, Parsons & Frost of Chicago, became not only a vision for Royal Palm Way, the Lake Trail and County Road but also was utilized as a textbook by numerous universities, implemented by other town commissions from Akron to Moscow and was requested for library shelves in California and New York.
Economy gardens were featured in local flower shows during the 1930s. At one of the events during the 1930s, more than 400 different varieties of hibiscus were displayed.
Now a recognized Garden Club of America (GCA) Flower Show, the club's member-oriented event was once far more elaborate, staged by the island's large estates within the conservatories at the Royal Poinciana Hotel and held in conjunction with the Gardeners' Association of Palm Beach. The 1930 show featured competition from 17 estates, entire miniature gardens were reconstructed and a "country fair" was held, made up from Everglades plant life.

That year, at the west end of the conservatory, Mrs. Henry Rea installed a complete replica of her estate's garden. The following year, shadow boxes and fenced gardens were introduced with Marjorie M. Post and Mona Williams each entering two separate gardens. Butlers once designed lunch and dinner place settings; in 1931, Palm Beach being progressive, a maid, Elizabeth Callen, won third place in the butler's luncheon table division. Following the event, all the flowers were delivered to local hospitals. After the Royal Poinciana Hotel was demolished during the mid-1930s, the Garden Club transplanted the show to the Four Arts where its members had designed year-round demonstration gardens with architectural elements. Most recently, the group, along with Effloressence landscape designer, Alan Stopek, introduced Kaleidoscope Flower Beds, an octet of landscape compositions along Royal Poinciana Way's medians featuring agaves, aloes, kalanchoes and bromeliads.
Following the back-to-back-to-back hurricanes several years ago, the Garden Club of Palm Beach revitalized their original 1938 demonstration gardens located to the south of The Four Arts Library.
A Spanish garden was the work of Mrs. John S. Phipps.
A fragrant moonlight garden framed with jasmine by Mrs. Joseph Gunster.
The entrance to I Ho Yuan, the Chinese garden by Mrs. Lorenzo Woodhouse.
A meditative pond is the focal point of the Chinese garden.
The 2009 showcase, Lost Worlds ... Paradise Regained, featured 70 different horticultural classes with blooms and bonsais ranging from the simply splendid to the sensationally superb. Governed and judged according to GCA standards and guidelines, each class was evaluated by different criteria. For instance, foliage plants in Classes 48-49, Novice Class, were judged on their cultural perfection, form, grooming, distinction and color effect; flower arrangements in the Interpretive Design class were evaluated for their conformance, interpretation, design, color harmony and distinction.

Flower arrangement classes were themed around "... lost worlds, lost civilizations and lost cities," including Atlantis, Pompeii, Easter Island, Shangri-La, Pre-Columbian Culture, Port Royal and the proverbial Garden of Eden. So now, sharpen your pencils, it is your turn to judge and enjoy a few of this year's out-of-this-world offerings.

Atlantis ...
A First Award for Betsy Matthews and Mary Pressly for their interpretation of an "Atlantis found in the currents."
Nancy Murray's thoughtful expression of the Atlantis theme garnered a Second Award.
Carol Flanagan and Barbara Rogers enjoyed taking some artistic license with an Ionic column in her Atlantis display.
Maura Benjamin and Virginia Burke assembled a medley of elements for their exhibit.
Shangri-La ...
A First Award for Katie Pressly's distinctive visual vignette. Susan Ballentine's reflective geometric Shangri-La.
"The union of Earth and clouds," was Jean Matthews' Third Award winning display.
Jane Foster's Second Award presentation included a haiku, "Peony paves, replacing streets of gold, Scenting Shangri-La."
Pompeii ...
Defying gravity, Mary Pressly's suspended chard garnered a First Award.
Mary Garrett and Joan Tilghman took a Second Award for their Jupiter Island Garden Club with this evocative miniature combination of shaving brush flowers and heliconia.
Lynn Maddock's version of Pompeii was complete with a realistic backdrop.
Easter Island ...
Mary Webster's mysterious creation won a First Award. "Simply the best," said the judges. Mrs. Webster's arrangement received Best in Show and the Garden Club of America's Puckett Creativity Award.
Cindy Hoyt's tableaux took on a colorful flair. Jane Hill and K. C. Morrish offered a fiction that might "... not yet be imagined."
The Garden of Eden ...
Mary Pressly and Sue Strickland received a First Award in their class.
Port Royal, Jamaica ...
Leigh Failing's First Award captured the essence of Port Royal.
Before we take a look at some of the horticultural classes, back to the preview party ...
Goldie and Allan Stopek. Bill Davis and Elizabeth Dowdle.
Jane Grace. Per and Rachel Lorentzen with Bobbi Lindsay.
Judy Bogges. Evelyn Harrison. Kae Johnson.
Mary Webster and Katie Pressly. Jane Eberly and Dru Case.
Sterling Davis and Mary Hamner, president of the Mt. Desert Garden Club. Mr. and Mrs. Peter Hill.
A view of the show's horticultural classes ...
And the winner is ... the heliconia on the right, cultivated by Kit Pannill.
Brantley Knowles and her Wild Pony begonia, a Garden Club of America Novice Award (horticulture) winner.
Polly Reed's winning oncidium seen at one
of the center tables.
A magnificent orchid with countless blooms.
Polly Reed's award-winning euphorbia.
A sculptural succulent propagated by Betsy Matthews.
Mickey Tracy's First-Award winner.
Joan Van Der Grift's winning roses.
Photographs by Augustus Mayhew.

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