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Bilpin Flower Show

Jennifer Stackhouse

Jennifer Stackhouse

October 16, 2012

On the weekend I visited my local flower show, the Bilpin Flower Show. This show, which is held in the community hall at Bilpin, has been running for 52 years – just two years longer than the Bathurst 1000 car race which was the same weekend and just two hours up the road. Many of the cars flashing by on Bells Line of Road, past the banners for the flower show, were on their way to Bathurst.

This is a true old-fashioned flower show with entries displayed in glass bottles ranged along trestle tables in the hall. Entries are judged by a professional floral judge and first, second and highly commended are awarded in each section.

Local bushfire brigade members were on hand serving tea, coffee and homemade cakes, while people from the Bilpin Garden Club, who organise the show, took the $4 entry fees and sold raffle tickets.

Outside were plant stalls with lily-of-the-valley, hellebore, viburnum and other cool climate plants for sale along with gardening books, magazines, knitted offerings and local produce. And, this being Bilpin, buckets of cut waratah flowers were also on offer at $4 per stem.

But everything is not blooming at the Bilpin Flower Show. Show convenor Liz Miller is worried that the show will fade away as no one is putting up a hand to help run next year’s event – although there were plenty of helpers on the day. She and other members are also concerned that entries were down this year, as were visitors. Even tea and coffee sales were slow – despite the delicious cakes and sandwiches.

Long-term club member Toni Dingle says she feels people have very high expectations. Each year, she says, doesn’t have to be bigger and better – it just has to be the Bilpin Flower Show.

It’s almost as if they are expecting to find the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show in the Bilpin Community Hall, but it is just a charming community event. Toni says we all have to realise that it’s the local flower show; nothing more, nothing less. But it has a wonderful atmosphere, a lovely collection of flowers to enjoy, as well as offering the chance to see neighbours and showcase the local community to visitors.

Club membership however is strong with members from Bilpin and Kurrajong, so I am hopeful the group will rally to make sure that 2013 sees the 53rd Bilpin Flower Show on the first weekend in October.

I may even enter – I am pretty proud of my beautiful iris stem (pictured) which seems to be in bloom at the right time and I think my dwarf tulbaghia (pictured) could be the basis for “a miniature flower decoration under 15cm”.

The rise and fall and rise of garden clubs makes an interesting study. I have been ringing garden clubs to get email addresses for each group (part of some PR work I am doing for Wildwood Garden, which is opening on October 19 at Bilpin – for more on that see www.wildwoodgarden.com.au).

Lots of calls and lots of interesting conversations. It didn’t start well. One of the first people I spoke to, the wife of the secretary of the Bundeena Garden Club, told me the club was folding on Monday. Another secretary told me they no longer did tours, but after these two set backs I found enthusiastic and well organised groups of people. But many did mention the difficulties their groups were encountering in getting members to take on office bearer positions.

Bilpin Flower Show Children’s Exhibit

Robert Hickel from the Avoca Garden Club for example told me he’d recently taken on the role of president of his club and also of the local bromeliad club as no one else had wanted to do it.

By and large the increase in interest in productive and community gardening has seen an resurgence in membership of garden clubs. However, to get younger people to feel committed enough to take on duties such as secretary or president, clubs need to embrace modern technology and social media.

Very few groups have dedicacted websites or email addresses and I don’t think any of them have a Facebook site, Twitter address or a blog.

They also need to be more flexible with meeting times. Most of them meet at 10am on a weekday, which rules out members who work, although some have evening or weekend meetings.

If you are not a member of your local garden club, consider joining (I can help with an email address!) or failing that, offer your time to give a talk or provide some prizes for a raffle. You’ll find a delightful group of people who have been brought together by their love of gardens and plants and you’ll feel part of your local community.

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Chris Burvill
Chris Burvill
11 years ago

Hi There
I enjoyed the article on the Bilpin Flower Show and the problems with garden clubs. It has inspired me to join one. Which are the closest clubs to West Killara in NSW.

Jennifer Stackhouse
Jennifer Stackhouse
11 years ago
Reply to  Chris Burvill

There is a Killara Garden Club Chris! You can contact the Secretary, Helen, on 9945 0031 or email her on hdalsto@hotmail.com. There is also a Gordon Garden Club with its secretary Jenny Timms on 9144 7384 or email pdtimms@gmail.com. I would check their meeting itmes, the number of members (and the number that attend meetings) to make a decision and even go to a meeting for each. You may also be interested in the Cottage Garden Club (on of the largest of all garden clubs). It meets in Epping (contact is Sue Perkins on 4788 1097 (quincey@lisp.com.au). There’s also a Herb & Cottage Garden Society which is doing a nursery crawl in a few weeks. Contact Jannine Ord on 9940 3481 or hebssydney@gmail.com. I also mentioned I didn’t think any garden club had a Facebook site – I’ve since discovered one! The very big and busy Highlands Garden Society (which is based in Bowral). Jennifer

Julie Thomson
11 years ago

Thanks for the lovely post, Jennifer. I have mixed feelings about the small and simple like the Bilpin Flower Show. I love that such a sweet and charming low-key event exists and that not everything in life has to be upsized and “fries with that” connotations. But it seems to be human nature, well of the next generation anyhow, to pep up and increase the hype.
I have this year, for the first time, joined a Garden Club ( Caboolture, Qld) which is 40 years old and has recently an influx of reasonably young ( late 50s and 60ish) members, adding to the elderly stalwarts.
One part of me loves the old and slow and established wisdom of the older members, but another wants to try some new things and add some community relevance to what we do. I don’t think it is somehow responsible to just meet and swap plants . We should be making a mark in the wider community and spreading the gardening gospel. I guess the challenge is harnessing the energies properly and not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I cannot see the Caboolture group going to anything like a website or a facebook page anytime soon, but I would like to see a better line of communication around the members.
Over to you,

Jennifer Stackhouse
Jennifer Stackhouse
11 years ago
Reply to  Julie Thomson

I think it is over to you really Julie as the movement to bring garden clubs into the 21st century is going to be created by people who are joining clubs now and looking at new methods of communication. The plant swaps and meetings along with flower shows are all great for building your relationships, friendships and sense of belonging to the group but throw in a Facebook site and you’re reaching out to more people. Take the bull by the horns and start one for your group and see what happens. It will be a bit of work posting pictures and comments and encouraging others, but I think it will pay back. I’ve encouraged my aunt to get on Facebook and she has embraced it and I am hoping will start a site for the group she’s involved in – the Perennial Poppies. Oh and start communicating by email to all members and you’ll soon find out just how many members are on line and ready to join in! Jennifer