Many of us enjoy working with, either growing or them, or we may simply like to see them in a flower shop, garden, or hedgerow. Some of us may collect flower books and have a special one which can be taken to the seaside or into a country district so that we have the fun of identifying wild and garden .
If we also press the flowers we collect, we may then take down our notebooks on a winter’s evening and perhaps be reminded of open moorland with curlews crying overhead, or of pounding waves on the seashore and small flowers growing among the shingle.
At first sight, this may seem to have little connection with flower arrangement societies, but it has more than one would think. The societies, most of them formed comparatively recently, have confirmed or promoted ideas which often existed but were not always apparent.
The first of these is to help members of societies to use various types of flowers and foliage and to encourage them to try to grow special plants for their decorative work, however small their gardens might be.
The National Association of Flower Arranging Societies was constituted in 1959 under the auspices of the Royal Horticultural Society, when it had become evident that a central organisation was necessary to bind together the numerous flower clubs, some of which had been in existence for nearly ten years.
There are 564 clubs in the association and Mrs. Cecil Pope, of Dorchester, Dorset, England, is its Founder President. The membership is well over 52,000.
This association is a splendid example of an organisation where the individual talents of the members are used (through the medium of the flower clubs) for the benefit of others. Money has been raised for charitable causes, both at area level and by individual societies.
The home of Earl Mountbatten was decorated by the Wessex area and as a result of this £1,500 was contributed to the Edwina Mountbatten Memorial Home. In the same way, Blenheim Palace was decorated by the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire areas and £2,000 was raised for OXFAM.
Many churches have had repair funds supplemented by flower festivals and National Trust houses have benefitted financially as a result of special flower decorations. A donation was given to the Lady Hoare Thalidomide Fund from the proceeds of the raffle held in connection with the Buxton Festival.
The following examples taken from a recent work for charity : ‘Two more new clubs, Plympton in South Devon and Looe in Cornwall, have become affiliated to the ever growing South West area. We read of the vast sums gathered in from other parts of Great Britain for some worthy cause and we would like to add our praise for the clubs of this county, for in the last twelve months they have collected no less than £1,150. Exeter itself raised over £100 for the British Empire Cancer Campaign with an exhibition …’ ‘Lady Ann Waldegrave opened Wells and District’s Exhibition in the Undercroft of the Bishop’s Palace; Mrs. Dunscombe Bindley judged the competitive classes. Donations were afterwards given to the Friends of Wells Cathedral and to a fund for the upkeep of the Undercroft Melksham in Wiltshire, decorated its Parish Church to aid the Freedom from Hunger Campaign. Bristol Flower Decoration Society has decorated the Cathedral regularly for several years.’ This is greatly appreciated judging by the following extract from a letter sent by the Dean to the Society : ‘The flowers in the Cathedral today were so lovely that I thought I must write to thank you for your kindness in arranging them, especially on a Saturday. They were, and are, a great joy, a perfect expression of the meaning of Easter and I am immensely grateful’. Bridgewater, Taunton and Minehead Clubs combined their work with an exhibition of paintings by Somerset artists at the end of June. This took place at Halsway Manor, once Henry VIII’s hunting lodge, by kind permission of Miss Frances Gair Wilkinson. From the proceeds £100 was given to the Church of England Children’s Society… “Bournemouth Society’s spring show ‘A Rainbow of Flowers’ also provided a sum of money for Doctor Barnardo’s Homes…’ ‘Members of Portsmouth Society are endeavouring to raise enough funds to buy a dog for a blind person and a great deal of the required amount was raised ..’
‘At the end of June the area held its combined exhibition at Eastnor Castle, Ledbury. The castle looked its best and each room containedharmonizing with tapestries and pictures. A donation was given to the Freedom from Hunger Campaign. The same charity was supported by Cardiff Society whose members carried out decorations for an art exhibition. They also hope to help the Red Cross in its centenary year by decorating a house and supplying about fifty flower arrangements for same …’
‘The Gloucester Society has been busy with exhibitions at Sheephouse, Talley, Glos., in aid of the Oak Bank Swimming Pool ; at Standish Park to help to raise money for the restoration of the choir stalls in Standish Church and at Conigree Court, Newent, Gloucestershire, in aid of Old Peoples’ Welfare’.
And so we have the best of both worlds. Stimulation of interest in members is provided by competition (and the committee emphasises that new names for the awards appear each year) and this intensifies the obvious development of an interest which was known only to a few a hundred years ago. Secondly, there is the practical benefit that it can bring to those in need of help and financial aid. This seems to me perhaps the greatest claim that the association can make.