A Palm Beach Tradition

A highlight of the Palm Beach season every other year is The Garden Club of Palm Beach’s Flower Show. And because of the pandemic, the Garden Club of America, which the Palm Beach club has been a member in excellent standing of since 1931, decided there would be no GCA flower shows this year, said Heather Henry, the club’s historian.

But current club president, Mary Pressly, would hear nothing of a flower-show-less year. Pressly, said Henry, came up with idea of having a different kind of show that would demonstrate the creative skills of the membership in floral design and showcase the horticultural talents of local women without the pressure of being evaluated by GCA judges. “We just wanted to have a little fun this year,” she said. 

Lewis Miller of LMD New York creating an arrangement at one of four lectures the Garden Club presented this year.

The club staged flower shows yearly from 1929 till 1940, with a simpler, less showy version offered in 1932, because of the Great Depression. “The club didn’t think it appropriate for the time to present an extravagant flower celebration,” Henry explains.

There were no Palm Beach flower shows from 1940, until the club members decided to revive them in 1979. The club focused its attention on civic and town beautification projects, something it has done since its inception, when the club commissioned the creation of a formal town plan that was enthusiastically adopted by the Town Council in 1930. The club continued maintenance of the lovely demonstration garden on the campus of the Society of the Four Arts, which it still is very involved with, and showcased members’ and local citizen’s horticultural prowess with house tours—eventually retitled the annual, and tremendously popular, House & Garden Day.

Ginny Parker and Squirty Kenan working on their design.

The flower shows became bi-annual in 2000, because of the amount of time and effort that went into planning them. The 2021 Flower show, with the theme “Garden in Bloom” presented member’s floral interpretations of works in the Four Arts’s Philip Hulitar Sculpture Garden and elements throughout the Demonstration Garden and around the King Library, with Horticultural gems, especially orchids, presented in the Pannill pavilion. 

There was lots of humor and extremely clever among the exhibits. Visitors were greeted initially a bevy of spectacular legged bouquets seated on curved benches near the entrance. Whimsy and light-hearted for the most part, the open-air show was a stellar example of adaptation to a changed world. But the competitive show inside should return in 2023.

Mary Pressly, Pam Patsley, Vicky Hunt, and Heather Henry (not pictured) created this design staged along the Moonlight Garden bench.