Aaaahhhh. The Summer Solstice. For me, it’s a reminder of just how little we are. Just think about it. As we go about our ordinary lives, our giant orb revolves and rotates in a celestial dance, rewarding northerners with the longest day and shortest night. (Of course, the pessimist in me says, “Great, now the days start to get shorter, the nights longer, and winter is just around the corner.” Quite a jump, I know.)
In any event, it’s no wonder that ancient Druids to modern-day beachgoers celebrate this day. That’s why I took up my friend Rachel’s invitation to attend a judged flower show, hosted by her Three Village Garden Club on Long Island and scheduled to coincide with the Summer Solstice.
Although I do consider myself a gardener, I am of the backyard variety. Garden club members, though, are a whole other breed of gardener. I mean, I like to garden, usually for myself and Joe. Garden club members take it to a competitive level, and the Three Village Garden Club is no exception. These gardeners know latin and common names, and they carefully drive their entries, each in small glass vases, to the competition. I get upset when my grocery bag with the milk falls over when I make a left turn — can you imagine if my hydrangea entry took a spill?
The club held it’s show in Setauket’s Neighborhood House, where each of the rooms was filled with members’ entries in various categories and themes. For me, it was like watching the dog show on Thanksgiving. All of the dogs look adorable and should win, but a canine expert can tell best in breed through touch and observation and following a standard — and that whole process is lost on me. That’s why I was caught off-guard by a woman who was clearly upset. She said to me, “This is mislabeled. Look here, it says peppermint (insert Latin here). It’s not. It’s mugwort.”
“I see,” I said, although my thought was, “Mugwort? Isn’t he the villain in Harry Potter?” You can see my struggle.
I have to admit, though, that there is certainly a lot of talent in the garden club pool. One category that completely impressed me was floral design, with each entry including two themes in one design. In this case, members had to create an “Early Dawn” and “Lingering Dusk” arrangement. The work was outstanding, and each side of the arrangement was judged as a stand alone. In the photo above, Rachel’s dark side represents dusk; the yellower side, dawn. She gathered all plant material from her garden and brought home third and second place ribbons, respectively.
Now Rachel is after me to start attending her club meetings. I don’t know if I’m ready or if I would feel out of my element. I fear that I would end up looking like some of the plants in my yard when I become so preoccupied with what I’m doing and lower my foot. Crushed.
Of course, there could be some fun at the next meeting. It seems that the winner of the hosta collection competition only put one leaf in each of the vases. This clearly goes against the club’s unofficial rule that smaller varieties have three leaves to a vase, medium hostas have two, and larger leaves can be placed alone. I snapped a photo of the display. I saw a lovely hosta display, but the club members — well, they saw scandal.
But at the end of the gardening day, it’s one thing to have friends, family, and acquaintances comment on how nice your garden looks. It’s quite another when gardening judges review your entry, bestow a colored ribbon and recognize your hard work in front of your peers. I don’t know how many ribbons the other club members received, but I know Rachel did very well. Pictured on the left is her first place Stargazer lily, and that’s something no one can take from her. And to have all that happen on the Summer Solstice — well, that would make anyone feel not so little.
Congratulations to all of the winners and participants, and enjoy the summer months ahead.