BRANFORD — If you’re still experiencing pandemic-pinched wanderlust, the Branford Garden Club may have just the panacea with its upcoming standard flower show.
“Gardens Around the World – The Greater Perfection,” will take visitors on a vicarious journey to what it regards as some of the world’s “most fascinating and beautiful” gardens, whose design, colors and natural materials serve as inspiration for the exhibits and displays BGC floral designers. It runs 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Sept, 24 and noon-4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25 at the Joe Trapasso Community House, 46 Church St. Tickets are $10 for adults (free for children under 12), available at the door or through Eventbrite: www.eventbrite.com/e/gardens-around-the-world-the-greater-perfection-tickets-335873796567.
It’s the latest in the sumptuous feast the BGC serves up to the community every four years. In the past, historic Stony Creek village was the inspiration; visitors have trekked, treasure-hunt style, to hidden gems all over town, and there was a stunning bridal-themed show in 2014.
“We’ve been planning this for a year-and-a-half,” says show chair Doreen Larson-Oboyski. “We expect almost every person in our garden club of over 100 members has some task or duty. Not only do we have a committee of 30, but we also have hostesses to direct people around the show, answer any questions. There’s really a lot involved in the setup. It’s a really a big job…”
She notes that the Community House “will be transformed so it reflects the theme,” by a staging committee “whose responsibility is to transform the place into something special. I think people will be amazed when they see what they’ve done.”
To up the interest ante, the garden club is once again featuring its vendor Marketplace in the gym, where approximately 25 Connecticut artisans, including several local merchants such as Gracious Home and Gifts and Stony Creek’s Seaside Gifts and Home, selling garden-related merchandise, plants, jewelry, clothing items, specialty items such as Blue Point Designs of Milford’s handcrafted oyster shell items, including Christmas wreaths.
In her maiden venture into chairing that category, Anda Weyher notes that, “Shows like this give them a chance to show off their talents. The last show had more than 900 visitors… There’s a lot of value for that ticket price…”
The show is massive, divided into four Divisions with dozens of sections: Horticulture, Design, Education and Botanical Artists. It was a challenge, says Larson-Oboyski, for the committee with the requisite number of the ancient and modern inspiration sites in England, Italy, Spain, Australia, India, Asia, the U.S., and more — taking up some 30 pages on the www.branfordgardenclub.org website.
While some of the sites may be ancient, BGC will be using modern technology such as QR codes at each display with capsule information about the garden site. Many of the gardens are not household names to most; some are private estates, others national historic institutions, but they were chosen for the variety of flora, colors and inspiring and complex layouts. Each division lists the type of and specific flower inspirations of the site — everything from cacti and succulents to evergreens, and familiar crocus, zinnia and exotics.
“We also have a photography section for the first time,” notes Larson-Oboyski. That includes gardens in Hawaii and Washington, D.C.
“The fun one, horticulture, is the biggest. We have several classes and several name gardens from around the world. One section is flowering vines, cup and saucer vines, hyacinths and even has a class of black-eyed Susans.”
By the time the doors open to the public, the judges will have selected their award winners in each category. That horticulture category, which is also open to amateur gardeners, includes even a single perfectly grown flower or specimen from one’s yard.
“We’re always trying to encourage people to participate,” says Larson-Oboyski. “It’s only one aspect of being in the Garden Club. We like to encourage people who normally don’t compete to give it a try. We try to make it so it’s not intimidating. The judges are NEVER negative. They’re so kind and encourage people to continue.”
The idea for this show came from Terry Twigg, a former show chair who scoured her library and found a 1625 quote from a Francis Bacon essay in the book “The Greater Perfection: The Story of the Gardens at Les Quatre Vents,” by American financier and horticulturist Francis H. Cabot — yes, of those Cabots :
“God Almighty first planted a Garden; and, indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures; it is the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man; without which buildings and palaces are but gross handyworks; and a man shall ever see, that, when ages grow to civility and elegancy, men come to build stately, sooner than to garden finely, as if gardening were the greater perfection.”
Larson-Oboyski says of the inspirations: “Each garden is perfect in its own right, so it’s fun to look at what people’s idea of gardening is, see the different styles, different types.”
While beauty is the most visible aspect of these shows, a major Garden Club mission is to educate its members and the public, stimulate interest in horticulture and design, provide an outlet for creative expression and communicate the garden club’s goals and objectives.
That mission is an ongoing activity that takes place all year round around town, with members giving of their time to for civic projects such as the light pole flower baskets, flower sales on the Green, holiday decorating of the Blackstone Memorial and Willoughby Wallace libraries, providing flowers for the Community Dining Room, and encouraging the art of horticulture by awarding local businesses and home owners for “exceptional gardens.”
Its commitment to environmental issues, of particular interest to a shoreline community is addressed in additional exhibits at this show in topics such as bees, Monarch butterflies, ban balloons and invasive species.
Donna Doherty is the former arts editor of the New Haven Register.