Palm Beach Social Diary: Garden Club party revives panache

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The Garden Club of Palm Beach welcomed more than 200 members and supporters, gathered in distanced small groups, to the opening reception of Garden in Bloom, its inaugural outdoor flower show staged on the more than two acres of botanical gardens surrounding The Society of the Four Arts campus.

In January 1938, the Garden Club announced plans to initiate something new, supplant their usual small garden exhibits in slat houses with seven permanent demonstration gardens. Completed the following month next to The Society of the Four Arts’ new building, in time for their flower show, these gardens were created as a place where residents and visitors could study and appreciate plantings suitable for different architectural styles and landscape settings. While the gardens have endured various restorations and alterations, the essence of the original gardens remains intact.

Fast forward 83 years and The Garden Club of Palm Beach, with its biennial Garden Club of America (GCA) sanctioned flower show on ice, opted to create something novel, a locally-produced event with the GCA’s standards of excellence but without the categories, awards, trophy cups, ribbons, certificates, and competitive judging.

While some may not be able to imagine a flower show without a judge’s pithy comments, for example, “A winner … just not in the category it was entered.” Or “Merits an honorable effort but simply not enough for an Honorable Mention award.”

Nonetheless, considering the ongoing ennui from public health concerns, Mary Pressly, the Garden Club’s president, sensed the town, as well as the club’s members, would welcome a shared endeavor in a safe alfresco setting and proceeded to organize the outdoor weekend flower show enhanced with 33 exhibitions and highlighted by Friday night’s opening reception. Voila!


King Library at The Society of the Four Arts. Guests arrived for the preview in front of the library and entered the exhibition through the west gate between the library and the Garden Club’s Demonstration Gardens. To the left of the loggia, the African Tulip Tree was ablaze with orange bursts.
The Chinese Garden’s pagoda-styled entrance, view from the Moonlight Garden. Designed and planted by Mary (Mrs. Lorenzo) Woodhouse, the Chinese-inspired garden, named I Ho Yuan, was described in 1938 as “a center lily pond with Chinese appointments.”
Kate Gubelmann adds finishing touches to her and Luisa Ordway’s design in the Chinese Garden.
Chinese Garden. A view east toward the Buddha statue.
Program Guide & Demonstration Gardens Map. Mary Webster acted as editor for the Garden in Bloom program as well as served as Floral Design Chairman.

A Brief History of the Garden Club prepared by Heather Henry.


Bravo! Ladies-in-waiting in the Moonlight Garden, design by Heather Henry, Vicki Hunt, Pam Patsley & Mary Pressly.

On with show!

April 9, 2021 – 6:00 pm
Garden In Bloom Preview Reception


Mary Pressly, president of the Garden Club of Palm Beach.
Merrilyn Bardes arrives. Merrilyn and Meg Bowen served as Garden in Bloom chairmen.
Patt Sned and Sue Strickland, preview party chairmen.
Polly Reed and Jennifer Garrigues, in the Jungle Garden. Polly and Brenda Callaway chaired the orchid exhibition in the Pannill Pavilion.
“Everything’s coming up roses! Clear the decks! Clear the tracks! Curtain up! Light the lights!” wrote Jerry Herman in the musical Gypsy. Above, in the Spanish Garden, a bouquet of roses set above the wishing well, designed by Elizabeth Matthews and Christina Kramer.
Elizabeth Matthews, maintaining an aesthetic distance in the Formal Garden.
L. to r.: Betsy Matthews; Palm Beach’s newest council member, Edward “Ted” Cooney.
Heather and Patrick Henry.
Vicki and Sam Hunt.
Bill Blodgett and Sandy Thompson. To their left, the Palm Garden Urn, floral design by Wendy Bingham Cox, Cecie Titcomb & Pam Williams.
Guests toured the exhibits in pairs or small groups. Above, the Demonstration Gardens.
In the Tropical Garden, the immense sausage tree (Kigelia africana) makes for a considerable showstopper.
Spanish façade garden, tympanum. Designed by Margarita Grace (Mrs. John) Phipps, the Garden Club’s first meetings were held at Casa Bendita, Margarita and Jay Phipps’ home.
The Spanish Garden.
Left to right: Kyle and Becky Cantrell, Jamie Dailey, Darrin Vincent, Elizabeth Matthews, George Matthews, and Betsy Matthews. Nashville at Palm Beach! I must admit I am a country-western music fan, favoring Merle Haggard to Pavarotti and known to have napped during performances at La Scala and the Teatro Comunale. Longtime announcer at the Grand Ole Opry, Kyle Cantrell was elected to country music’s On-Air Hall of Fame in 2019. The following day after the Garden in Bloom preview, the Matthews family was hosting Grammy Award winners Dailey and Vincent for a bluegrass concert at Whitehall that was preserved thanks to the leadership of George Matthews’ mother Jean Flagler Matthews, Henry Flagler’s granddaughter.
Melinda and Tom Hassen.

Floral Interpretations 

“Each floral interpretation or design has been inspired by a specific sculpture, garden element or vista in the garden. Some are literal interpretations, while others are more contemporary or figurative. Then there some simply decorative and/or created just for fun.” — Mary Pressly


The Formal Garden Fountain, design by Melinda Hassen, Mary Doffermyre & Kathy Weller.
Christine Aylward’s interpretation of sculptor Edward Fenno Hoffman’s Reaching, 1963, was especially noteworthy with its playful visual acobatics.
Above the Koi Pond in the Jungle Garden, the fish on the line was equally captivating, designed by Nicole Limbocher, Mimi McMakin & Nancy Murray.
Demonstration Gardens, view northeast from the Madonna Gardens toward the Formal Garden and the Spanish Garden.

Horticulture & Orchids @ Pannill Pavilion



Kit Pannill served as Horticulture Chairman.
Peggy Moore’s Flapjack!!
Katie Alexander and Eileen Small managed the Horticulture set-up at the Pannill Pavilion.

The Philip Hulitar Sculpture Garden


Left: Sculptor Luigi Supino’s work Apollo y Daphne appeared on the cover of Palm Beach Life magazine, January 1942, photographed at Villa Today on Via Bellaria. Right: Apollo y Daphne is installed at the Four Arts Philip Hulitar Sculpture Garden.
Augustus Saint Gaudens’ work Diana, 1979.
The Chinese Garden, view through entrance gate. Garden Club of Palm Beach Demonstration Garden.

The Garden Club of Palm Beach House & Garden Day returns March 6, 2022!

Garden Club sponsors Tidal Garden @ Bradley Park


Bradley Park Tidal Garden, view looking northwest toward the Intracoastal Waterway. Benches composed of Central Florida coral-colored capstone welcome visitors.

However predictable, the high tides that flood sections of Palm Beach’s mainland continue to be of concern, especially directly along the Intracoastal Waterway since during the past century much of it was filled-in to accommodate residential and commercial buildings.

Last month, The Garden Club of Palm Beach dedicated the Bradley Park Tidal Garden to the Town of Palm Beach, an engineered retention pond and drainage system designed by SMI Landscape Architecture aimed at redirecting the effects of seasonal king tides.

In an interview with The Palm Beach Daily News, Mary Pressly, president of The Garden Club of Palm Beach, said “The waters are rising. There is no stopping it. Instead of fighting mother nature, we are working with her. The project is a gift to the town from the club.”


This environmental first for Palm Beach is located between Royal Poinciana Way at the Flagler Memorial Bridge and the Royal Poinciana Apartments at 333 Sunset Avenue, pictured left, designed by New York noted architect and industrial designer Salvatore Bevelacqua in the Mid-Century Modern style.
Bradley Park Tidal Garden, view east toward Bradley Park. The artfully-designed quarter-acre retention area features salt-tolerant native plants, buttonwoods and a lysiloma tree as a centerpiece.

PHOTOGRAPHY by AUGUSTUS MAYHEW

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