Palm Beach Social Diary: Showstoppers at L’Orangerie, Garden Club of Palm Beach’s L’Orangerie Preview Party

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The Garden Club of Palm Beach's preview party attracted 300 patrons for the opening of its much-anticipated biennial Garden Club of America Flower Show staged in the Esther B. O'Keeffe Gallery at The Society of the Four Arts.

Midway in my ramble around the Garden Club of Palm Beach’s L’Orangerie Flower Show I noticed one of the judges wrote “Showstopper” on Wylene Commander’s unearthly Spathodea campanulata. By then I had already seen various designs, displays, arrangements, and cuttings worthy of being classed “Showstoppers,” which might be the prevailing standard for the Palm Beach group’s landmark event that attracts entries from a wide-range of GCA clubs. This year the three-day convergence was highlighted by the presence of Jeff Leathamfleuriste artiste extraordinaire, whose Saturday lecture-demonstration filled the Walter S. Gubelmann Auditorium.

Regarded as the Dr. Oz of the floral design arts, Los Angeles-based Leatham has served as the artistic director of the Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris. The George V is home to the L’Orangerie restaurant overlooking the hotel’s marble courtyard. In a parallel universe, Palm Beach’s Orange Garden at the Everglades Club was first part of the club’s Marble Patio before it was moved to the lakeside. When Addison Mizner redesigned the Marble Patio, he placed an orange tree in the middle of the fountain.

GCPB President Sue Strickland, Jeff Leatham, and Melinda Hassen prepare for the flash from a Palm Beach Daily News photographer.

7 April 2017
GCPB Preview Party
Garden Club of America Flower Show
The Society of the Four Arts – Palm Beach

The Garden Cub of Palm Beach welcomed guests to Friday night’s preview party for L’ Orangerie, the group’s 2017 Garden Club of America Flower Show. Patrons shed garden gloves, sun shades, tweezers, and trowels, donning their resort wear for the festive biennial gathering. GCPB president Sue Strickland and incoming president Sugar Thebaut were assisted by: Nancy Murray and Carrie Murray, event co-chairs; Mary Pressly, show design and gallery display along with Mary Webster, show design and graphic design; and Lisa Cregan and Leigh Failing, preview party co-chairs.

Club members participating in various capacities were Marilyn Beuttenmuller, Susan Collins, Paula Cook, Terrie Davis, Vickie Denton, Mary Doffermyre, Beth Dowdle, Annette Dowell, Melinda Hassan, Heather Henry, Cindy Hoyt, Vicky Hunt, Ellen Kaufmann, Christina Kramer, Cat Miller, Betsy Matthews, Elizabeth Matthews, Jean Matthews, Peggy Moore, Kit Pannill, Ginny Parker, Katie Pressly, and Alex Woodfield.

From Florida’s orange groves and orange blossoms to Palm Beach’s legendary Orange Gardens, the iconic Florida orange has played a ubiquitous role in Florida’s horticultural history.

The coveted Best in Show awards were conferred on Kathy Powell (Floral Design), Kit Pannill (Horticulture), Colesie Sterling (Photography), and Mary Pressly (Botanical Arts). Among the standouts in Floral Design: Kathy Powell (The Dorothy Vietor Munger Award), Mary Pressly (The Harriett DeWaele Puckett Creativity Award), and Allison Sieving (The Sandra Baylor Novice Floral Design Award). Recognized in the Horticulture division: Jean Matthews (The Catherine Beattie Medal and The Rosie Jones Horticulture Award), Lisa Bertles (Clarissa Willemsen Horticulture Propagation Award). Colesie Sterling merited the Photography Creativity Award. Twig Murray earned the Botanical Arts Creativity Award). GCA Novice awards recognized Lisa Bertles for Horticulture and Christina Kramer for Botanical Arts. The Garden Club of Palm Beach received the Marion Thompson Fuller Brown Conservation Award.

The Garden Club of Palm Beach gave citations for Floral Design and Horticulture. Among the recognized: Mary Webster and Mary Pressly (Bunny Nelson Memorial Trophy), Tina Hagler Boswell (Traditional Arrangement), Christine Aylward (Best Novice in Orchids),  Pam Williams (Best Novice in Par Class Award), Marilyn Beuttenmuller (JoJo Walton Memorial Trophy) and Jo Anne Rosen (William G. Pannill Photography Trophy). Kit Pannill secured the club’s Sweepstakes Award, Silver Cup, Best Orchid, and the Frances Archbold Trophy.

Fashionable residences from another era once featured orangerie structures to protect their coveted fruit trees during the winter.
The Garden Club’s first president Mrs. Alexander McKinlock was honored for her eight years of service from 1928 to 1936. McKinlock headed the group when the 1929 Plan of Palm Beach became a blueprint for the town’s development, including the organization of a Planning & Zoning Commission with three Garden Club members.
Garden Club of Palm Beach, 1929.
Mary Webster and Mary Pressley chaired the event’s graphic design and staging.
Mary Webster and Mary Pressly, designers of the spectacle fabuleux.
L. to r.: John and Lisa Cregan, co-chair of the preview party.; Leigh Failing, co-chair of the preview party.
Jurè á la foire. Among the Flower Show judges, Emilie Lapham, Leslie Purple, and Alice Farley.
Patt Sned assisted in greeting guests.
Sue Stacy, the Garden Club’s secrétaire extraordinaire.
Kit Pannill and Tyler Cain cross in front of the King Library on their way to the preview party.
Designed by Treanor & Fatio in 1936,the King Library will reopen after the extensive renovation is completed.
A touch of Olde Palm Beach.
Nancy McFadden, Dr. John Murray, and Heather Murray.
Connie and Peter Geisler with Mary Doffermyre.
L. to r.: Owen and Rebecca Williams.; Will and Jean Matthews.
Derick and Nicole du Pont Limbocker.
Jean Doyen de Montaillou and Michael Kovner.

Among the exhibitions

Floral displays, the competition.
“All Aboard!” Carrie Murray and Alexandra Oelsner. I liked it though the judges found “Accessories dominate the arrangement.”
Floral displays. Hollie Breeden and Cecile McCaull. The judges deliberated and found “Bold use of color … The plant material overwhelms the size of the container.”
Floral display, detail.
Floral display with humor. “Botero Beauty: Tighter! Tighter!” Katie Pressly and Marilyn Beuttenmuller. “Roses dominate the design,” said the judges.
Honorable Mention for Lisa Bertles and Betsy Matthews. “Allum lacks relationship with container and other materials,” was the verdict from the judges, thou I found the juxtaposition of elements endlessly fascinating.
Julie Vincent, Kyle Cantrell, and Becky Cantrell.
Donna Plasket and David W. Breneman, president of The Society of the Four Arts.
L. to r.: Maureen Conte.; John Klingel and Louise Aylward.
Beth Dowdle and Diana Quasha.
L. to r.: Melinda and Tom Hassen.; Merrilyn Bardes.
Bill and Katie Benjamin.
Bob Vila and Diana Barrett.
The incomparable Bill Beers and Larry Cybulski.
Hawley and Jack McAuliffe with Holly Breeden.
Lucy and Nat Day.
Marnie Laird and Eugene Kinsella.
L. to r.: Linda Olsson.; Bob and Nancy Wildrick.
Christine Aylward.
During the Chinese president’s visit to Palm Beach, Christine conducted several interviews with Chinese media at The Four Arts’ I Ho Yuan Chinese Garden.


Wylene Commander’s award-winning “Showstopper.”
A quartet of orchid blooms.
L. to r.: Shelley Wyckoff’s “White Flag.”; A colorful cutting.
Polly Reed’s Orthophytum First Award.
Botanical Arts.
“Repurposed.” Mary Pressly’s “Creativity at its best.”

Judges Leslie Purple and Alice Farley garnered a First Award for their homage to Cartier’s “Tutti-Frutti.”
An Honorable Mention for Annette Dowell’s “well-executed” entry.
A multi-media exhibit, “The Gift of Bees.”
“The Gift of Bees.”
MTV-CW film actor-personality Colton Haynes and guest lecturer Jeff Leatham.
Exhibits in the Esther O’Keeffe’s southeast gallery.
“Arrived!” Mary Pressly garnered accolades.
A detailed look at a work by Mary Webster.
Christine Aylward was cited for her “clever interpretation” though the judges found “height of base dominates overall design.”
Allison Sieving’s First Award was declared “Innovative …”
A Second Award for Pam Williams and Wendy Bingham.
Green thumbs rubbed elbows at the SRO event.
“Floral Designs with a Twist.”
Extraordinary. A First Award for Mary Webster and Mary Pressly.
Among the clay pots.
Sensational. Missy Geisler Wright’s extraterrestrial effort.
Polly Reed’s Bromeliaceae collected a First Award.
Lisa Bertles’ propagation accumulated several nods.
Miguel Rosales and John Corey.
Julie Spear.
Skip and Leslie Randolph.
Cut Specimens in Bloom competition.
Patrons studied each exhibit.
L’Orangerie – Garden Club of Palm Beach’s 2017 Garden Club of America Flower Show.

Photography by Augustus Mayhew.

Augustus Mayhew is the author of Palm Beach-A Greater Grandeur

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