Early one evening last January, with Christmas fresh in the memory, I received a phone call from AOIFA President, Carol Bone. A surprise indeed, but the real surprise was in the content of the call! Would Maynooth Flower and Garden Club be interested in staging the AOIFA exhibit at Bloom? Immediately, my mind went into a whirl. The dimensions of this exhibit was to be 4 metres by 3 metres!
All sorts of questions filled my head. How could we possibly design and execute such a large exhibit? Who would want to be part of the team? Given that six months previously, in Boston, I was struggling with the intricacies of a miniature, not five inches square, I might be forgiven my misgivings.
Carol explained that we would need eight people to stage this exhibit. We would have two and a half days to stage. Not for the faint hearted one might think. How would I get so many people interested in joining the team? Without too much difficulty is the answer! The Maynooth Flower and Garden Club rose to the challenge with alacrity. Within 24 hours agreement had been secured, even if there was a considerable sense of fear and trepidation.
Three of us met to decide on the theme and basic design. Realising that 2012 was a significant anniversary year in the history of the Phoenix Park, we decided on the title ‘The Phoenix Park 1662-2012’. The only difficulty that this choice provided was a decision on which aspects of the Park’s wealth of beauty and amenities should be selected for interpretation.
A reconnaissance trip to the Visitors’ Centre at the Phoenix Park on a lovely sunny first day ofMarch brought our team together for the first time. Within a couple of hundred metres of here we would stage our exhibit in three months time. We also visited the walled garden and held our first meeting over a cup of coffee in the Visitors’ Centre. In the way of a very experienced floral artist and festival organiser, our president, Felicity Satchwell allocated us our roles.
And so it came about that over the following weeks we spent many hours together in the North Kildare Club moving our exhibit base, consisting of three unwieldy sheets of plywood, in and out of storage. Sometimes smaller groups held workshops in members’ homes. We consulted our diaries and established a work schedule. Other club members supplemented the efforts of the original team, giving ideas, comments or advice, or sometimes explaining techniques and asking many, many questions. How tall should Wellington be? Is he too big or indeed too small? The Wellington and the Phoenix monuments had to be decided upon before we could configure the rest. How do we keep a sense of scale with these and the walled garden or the woodland, even though not everything could be portrayed to scale?
As time went by, the elements of the exhibit took shape, sometimes very slowly but occasionally more quickly. While desperation never took hold, at times it felt as though it was only around the corner! That said, we arrived at our first scheduled mock-up day, in which we experimented with what might look like a harmonious and vivid depiction of the Phoenix Park. For the next mock up we sought opinions, figuring that fresh eyes would either provide new ideas or inspire them in ourselves. This proved a very useful exercise. However, some outstanding issues still pertained. A kind offer made early on by Carol Bone to come and look over the design was seized upon. Undoubtedly Carol coming fresh from a gruelling couple of weeks with the WAFA seminars, could have found many other fruitful ways to spend her time. From our perspective, though, she could not have done a more useful thing. Her comments provoked both new ideas and reassurance all at once. We are very grateful to Carol for giving of her precious time to help us hone our exhibit.
Our staging date of Monday, May 28 was just around the corner. Happily we figured that we had finally reached the point of ‘total design’. Only some small details were left to be decided upon. We worked tirelessly through Monday and on Tuesday until all was as perfectly placed as we could make it. On Wednesday, grooming was the task. We spent the morning tidying up so that not a leaf or a petal was out of place.
Well all the hard work and attention to detail paid off! Early on Thursday morning, as we prepared to steward, a magic hand placed a Gold Medal on our exhibit. To quote Kathleen Harper, our competition secretary: ‘We hugged and giggled with delight. We were all 16 again. We basked in the glory, had our photos taken and toasted with champagne. Everyone congratulated us and admired our hard work.”
We have been inundated with congratulations from flower clubs around the country and we would like to thank all of those who took the time to write cards with word of such heart warming sentiment. They are all very much appreciated.
All who worked on the exhibit thoroughly enjoyed themselves and we feel that this new experience was very instructive not only in terms of flower arranging but also of group dynamics and pooling of creative resources and hard work within the club.
Obtaining a Gold Medal at Bloom is a wonderful achievement for the Maynooth Flower and Garden Club and we will bask in its glory for a long time to come!
Maynooth Flower and Garden Club