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SPRINGFIELD – Members of the Springfield Garden Club are as busy as, well, bees. Things are buzzing as they prepare to host two of the organization’s signature events — a nationally sanctioned flower show and annual plant sale, both in Forest Park.
The club’s projects aim to promote conservation, instill civic pride and open visitors’ eyes to the beauty around them.
First on the club’s spring calendar is a National Gardening Club Standard Flower Show from 2 to 5 p.m. Friday at the Carriage House at the Barney Estate, near the west entrance to the park. The show, which is free and open to the public, will continue Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“The show is a big deal in the gardening world,” said club member Margot Eckert.
Beate Bolen, another member, said mounting a nationally sanctioned flower show is a major undertaking, noting that 18 judges will evaluate entries for national awards in categories ranging from flowering branches to native flowers.
“This week’s flower show is the result of more than a year of planning,” Bolen said. “Typically gardening clubs can only hold nationally sponsored shows every three years because of all the work involved, including scheduling, soliciting entries and lining up master gardeners to judge the show,” she said.
Vana Nespor, the club’s president, said the show will feature 63 floral designs created by eight different garden clubs from around the state. It will also offer several hundred horticultural specimens, three educational exhibits and a youth division.
One of the educational exhibits will highlight the contributions of Native Americans to horticulture in the Connecticut River Valley, said Suzanne Reed, chair of the flower show judges.
This year, 15 students will be participating — including seven from Forest Park Middle School who worked with teacher Jennifer Markey to plant a garden at the front of the Oakland Street school.
“We are very excited about student participation in the show,” Reed said, crediting Nespor for initiating the program. Throughout the year, club members visit local classrooms and mentor students, who were invited for the first time to participate in the event.
Students in grades 1-5 and 6-8 are creating arrangements inspired by prompts like “Playing Around in the Park” and “Fun and Games at the Park.” Reed said the students can run with their imagination, just as club members do when they create a flower design.
Forest Park serves a headquarters for the club, which celebrated its centennial in 2015.
“So it’s a natural that the show’s theme is ‘Welcome to Forest Park,’” Reed said. “Forest Park is our home.”
The 735-acre park is dotted with trees, flowers and shrubs planted by the club.
Examples of the club’s work include a native flower and shrub garden near the Trafton Road entrance. The club-designed project intersperses ground-hugging plants and flowers with big rocks and a trio of grinding stones once used to manufacture snap-on ice skate blades from the factory owned by park benefactor Everett H. Barney during the late 1800s.
Plant sale in June
Next on its spring agenda is the club’s annual Plant Sale, to be held from 9 a.m. to noon June 3 in the lot behind the Cyr Arena.
Proceeds from the sale go toward the club’s scholarship program, which are awarded each year to graduating high school, college and graduate students majoring in fields ranging from horticulture to environmental planning.
While simultaneously working on entries for the flower show, members have been busy dividing plants and flowers from their gardens for the plant sale.
Club member Janet Dolder, who is designing an arrangement to exhibit at the flower show, is also providing horticulture specimens from her Fairfeld Street garden for the sale.
Last week, she demonstrated how to divide and replant a group of ornamental European ginger from her garden. After digging up a clump of the ground-cover plant and shaking off the dirt to reveal just the roots, her yield was four pots. She said she plans to sell them for about $4 depending on the size of the pots, she said, adding that the garden club prices are typically below what retail nurseries charge.
“My goal is to pot 100 plants,” she said.
Reed said the show and plant sale are wonderful events. She hopes visitors to the free event will make a donation to the Springfield Park Department’s plan to build a permanent horticultural center at Forest Park.