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.
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.