Last week, I had the good fortune of being invited to attend the Four Counties Garden Club meeting and flower show at Cathedral Village, as a guest of Longwood instructor Jane Godshalk. Decades ago, Jane got into floral design “through the back door;” by entering floral competitions held by this local garden club (a Garden Club of America organization.) Originally she thought she’d be more into the horticulture side of the club, but found she had a knack for floral design, and the rest is history. Although she started later in life (in her early 40s) she finally found something she was good at and went with it. You can see why I relate to Jane as a mentor, right?
There are three classes to compete in:
1- “Transformation” – a challenge class for novices working in pairs ( a novice has not won more than 1 blue ribbon in a Club show.) For this class, you show up with clippers only, the rest is provided, and you have an hour to put it together. Your finished design will be viewed from 3 sides and should be no wider than 26″.
2- “A Fresh Perspective” – a sculptural design in which the color green dominates, to be staged on a pedestal, viewed from 3 sides and not exceed 24″ width. You do as much as you can before you arrive and complete the rest on site. This is the class Jane is entered in.
3- “Spring Sizzle” – A polychromatic design to be staged in a Medium niche; background required. You do as much as you can before you arrive and complete the rest on site.
The feeling in the room is somewhat frenetic, but I sense a connectedness between the women – they are working together to complete their designs, one helping the other if she needs it, giving feedback to each other about the small details of their designs.
Then it’s time for the “passers” to come around and make sure the designs follow the rules outlined. A Passer will make sure none of the mechanics are showing – a bit of floral foam here, a wire there; and she will also measure the design. Though it may seem otherwise, the Passer is your friend. She will catch little things before the judges see your design.
Then it’s time for the judges!! All the participants leave the room to attend their meeting, while three judges look at the 12 total designs in the room. This is not a task for the faint-hearted: they will spend an hour and a half critiquing 12 designs, with a clerk standing by to take notes on what they say (sometime I’d like to be the clerk – you could learn so much that way! but I wasn’t ready for this post on this day, just wanting to observe the whole thing.)
They look at each class, deciding on first, second, third, and honorable mention, and dole out ribbons accordingly. Judges leave comments to help designers improve their skills. Then the ladies come back to see how they did.
As I drive home from this lovely event with these lovely women, I am struck by how cool it is that they’ve all gathered to spend this time together, creating beauty in their corner of the world. They look closely at each other’s work, they take each other seriously, they learn from each other. They are there for each other, support one another. And they are really talented at floral design. So why do I feel so sad as I drive away? I guess it’s because I wish I had my own garden club ladies, I wish I belonged to something. I’ve had my nose to the grindstone for so long, I looked up one day and realized I had no balance in my life – no time for friends even. Since I left my too stressful career back in August 2011, my life is starting to even out again. My priorities are shifting. I’ve found other things besides making television that are important. And I’m so thankful to have been shown this part of the floral design world, where ladies rescue other ladies in distress!