What to Wear to The Garden Club of Palm Beach House and Garden Day

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All aboard the big green bus for a unique discovery of sylvan spaces hidden by high and higher hedges of every tropical description and distinction. The Garden Club of Palm Beach House and Garden Day is held on the first Sunday in March, rain or shine. Those in the know have gotten their tickets early, as the day is always a complete sell out. After all, who wouldn’t want to be privy to life behind the privet, discovering hidden enclosures, abundant with verdant treasures? The locations are tip-top secret and only revealed to those participants who receive a map and instructions, making it even more enticing.

Here is a history of The Garden Club of Palm Beach, as told by Merrilyn Bardes, a long serving member and Chairman of this year’s event. “The Garden Club was formed in 1928 with concerns of horticulture, conservation, protection of the environment and town beautification. The projects and issues have evolved, but the underlying dedication to these principles has not.”

The Living Wall was created as part of the 2011 Worth Avenue Restoration Project.
These pink tabebuia trees were donated to Bradley Park, Arbor Day 2009.

‘The first thing the Garden Club did was to create a plan for the Town of Palm Beach in order to organize the horticulture growth in the town. The Garden Club funded the plan, and it was accepted by the town in 1930. This started the long relationship we have had with the Town of Palm Beach.”

Southern Oasis Garden

There are so many beautification projects completed by The Club, including the three spectacular entrance ways to the town. Royal Palm Way, Royal Poinciana Way, and the circle at the Southern Boulevard entrance by the newsworthy Mar-a-Lago. As I find palm trees to be an inspiring and optimistic symbol that upon entering one of these well-preserved pathways, I smile at the elegant and welcoming allées. They seem to herald the beauty and possibilities that await!

One of eight Xeriscape or drought resistant landscapes, found on the Royal Poinciana Medians, yes I looked up Xeriscape.

GCPB is also dedicated to conservation and the environment. It has supported Pine Jog Environmental Education Center for decades. Elizabeth Kay was an early member of the Garden Club; in 1948, with her husband, Alfred, they purchased Pine Jog Plantation. In 1960 they established a conservation center and became affiliated with Florida Atlantic University. It is an outstanding organization providing programs, services and resources to schools and the community.

Another bountiful example of the GCPB contributions to the community are the Demonstration Gardens at the Society of the Four Arts. They were created in 1938 to educate the public about sub tropical landscapes and species. These early devotees with discerning tastes did not want the evocative tropical vistas to disappear. Merrilyn adds, “Today, we remain extremely proud of them, and our members continue to care for these gardens.”

I had a recent pleasure of spending an hour in the gardens and was inspired by the beauty, variety, and generosity of its bounty! It is free and open to the public.

Hilary has grown up with The Garden Club. The Bunnie DuPont Hibiscus Trophy is named for her grandmother whose Memorial Service took place in the Pannill Pavilion.

Hilary explained: “The Garden Club has always been special to me. I grew up with a grandmother and mother who both loved flowers and gardening. Nana knew the latin name of every species and was constantly creating beautiful arrangements and my mom followed suit. My mother joined the Garden Club a few years ago and she is thoroughly enjoying the projects and the wonderful women she has met. This will be my third year attending the House and Garden Tour with my father … a new tradition.”

It is such a treat to stroll together through these beautiful homes and gardens each with their own unique flair. We also check in on my mom who will be helping direct the visitors at one of the houses. I usually wear a white dress like the one below, if the weather is nice. It feels easy and cool in the hot temps, and I always wear espadrilles with a heel. Sunglasses are a must as well as an easy straw tote.

Dress: Sea Calah Cotton-Poplin Midi $380 Accessories: Chloé Octagon-Frame Gold-Tone Sunglasses $400 / Nannacay Baby Maldives Pompom Embellished Woven Raffia Tote $160 Shoes: Castañer Carina 60 Metallic Canvas Wedge Espadrilles $150 / Gucci Lilibeth Striped Grosgrain And Canvas Wedge Espadrilles $590

When the day winds down and we head home … the white frock can easily be changed up for cocktail hour. Pair it with silver or gold accessories, a fancier heel and you are ready for the next event.

Dress: Sea Calah Cotton-Poplin Midi $380
Accessories: Mallarino Greta Gold Vermeil And Silk Earrings $460 / Kenneth Jay Lane Rhodium-Plated Enamel And Crystal Clip Earrings $150 / Prada Macramé Leather And Satin Bucket Bag $895 / Alaïa Studded Leather Pouch $860
Shoes: Saint Laurent Amber Metallic Leather Sandals $795 Loeffler Randall Penny Bow-Detailed Plissé-Lamé Mules $395

And for my what to wear, I turned again to Merrilyn for her experience: “House and Garden Day is a wonderful tradition in Palm Beach! People wear their Lilly dresses, pants and tunics, and we insist on flat shoes. One must be comfortable but smart!”

Lilly in her Palm Beach shop.

I followed the advice and took myself to Lilly Pulitzer. What a bright happy line that embodies the spirit of the town. It is impressive that the brand has remained true to its founder’s zest while keeping up with the current generations of devotees. The success of Lilly Pulitzer is legendary. You can read about it in an earlier article we wrote for New York Social Diary and in this article written by DPC when the eponymous founder passed away.

Well, look who else is wearing Lilly!?

I found quite a few looks that I love for The House and Garden Day and resort travel in general. This one is so vibrant and easy to wear but when I checked the length I discovered it is 35” long, which may be a tad too short for me.


Dress: Eleonora Floral Embellished Silk Dress $298
Accessories: Kate 55mm Polarized Sunglasses $48 / Charm Hoop Earrings $48 / Ivy Straw Tote $138
Shoes: Bridgette Wedge Sandal $177.95

HOW TO TELL IF A DRESS IS TOO SHORT (OR TOO LONG)? Measure the length from the top of your shoulder to the shortest point on your leg where you are comfortable. You can also measure an existing dress whose length is just right — for me, the minimum length is 36”. When shopping online, always read the details that contains the length. If the dress is a little short, like this one, and you really love it, plan on taking down the hem an inch or two. And of course, ditto, if it is too long. I admire how Hilary wears her mid-calf length, but to be honest, I look a little lost in that hemline.

At 37” length, this dress will be the perfect sheath silhouette for active yet ladylike dressing.

Dress: Casidy Floral Print Dress $228
Accessories: Haylee 56mm Sunglasses $48 / Oversize Orchid $48 / Clear Tote Bag $98
Shoes: Selena Slide Sandals $147

I was startled to discover the length on this stunner was just 29”, but then realized that it was measured from the chest down and it should cover nicely. This is a fabulous, fanciful silk print that you could wear day or night.

Dress: Payge Off The Shoulder $198
Accessories: Magnolia 56mm Polarized Sunglasses $48 / Lemon Grove Statement Earrings $58 / Reversible Shopper Tote $158
Shoes: McKim Wedge Mule $147.95

Or if you want to channel your inner Jackie, you can go on eBay to find vintage Lilly Pulitzer fashion from back in the day.

There is also a House and Garden Day Boutique with local vendors that takes place on the Four Arts Mall, which is worth a stroll through. And if you can’t join House and Garden Day, don’t forget The Garden Club of Palm Beach hosts a Flower Show on April 24th and 25th. It is an extraordinary display of bountiful botanicals creations assembled with unbounded creativity and skill.

We asked Merrilyn to explain the extraordinary commitment of the GCPB: “What stands out above our accomplishments, through the years, is our members and their dedication to do their part to improve our town, conserve our resources and protect the environment we all share.”

Green Thumbs up to The Garden Club of Palm Beach!

Photos by Augustus Mayhew, Karen Klopp and Kim Sargeant, and Courtesy of The Garden Club of Palm Beach

Karen Klopp & Hilary Dickhelps today’s busy women shop for life’s events, sports, workplace and travel. The site is a synthesis of the latest looks and trends compiled by Karen Klopp & Hilary Dick: www.what2wearwhere.com

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