The following article was written by Wayne Gura and Anne Djupedal Gura, Conservation Chairs of the Wilton Garden Club.
A Century of Flowers in Fashion is a flower show taking place on Friday, Sept. 24, and Saturday, Sept. 25 in celebration of the Wilton Garden Club’s 100th anniversary. While this promises to be an extravaganza of color with lush flowers and designs that will be a feast to the eyes, it will also be a place to get the scoop on what’s not so nice in our gardens and environment: invasives. This year’s flower show will include two herbarium-influenced educational exhibits by the club’s Conservation Committee offering a light-hearted take on “A Century of Fashion Evolution…WGC Herbarium Style” and visitors may be surprised what they will learn about Wilton’s plants throughout the last 100 years.
In fact, 1921 was a momentous year for things botanical in Wilton: the Wilton Garden Club (WGC) was founded — and (perhaps not coincidentally) a local schoolmistress named Anna Elizabeth Carpenter donated a herbarium of more than 200 area plant specimens, which she had been collecting, carefully pressing, and preserving since before 1900 to the Wilton Library. Over the past century, both the herbarium and the WGC have grown together and today, the club is flourishing with 140 members and boasts two herbaria: the Anna E Carpenter and Marybeth Wheeler herbaria of the WGC. Thanks to a WGC Conservation Committee project in 2015 in coordination with Yale University, digitally-scanned images of all the herbaria specimens are online and available for public view and research at the Consortium of Northeastern Herbaria’s website.
The first exhibit, entitled “Fashion-Forward Flora: Natives are now in Vogue!” focuses on native plants. After all, if great style is both beautiful and practical, it’s no wonder that a renewed focus on native plants is now the ne-plus-ultra of floral fashion — be it full-bore native-only … the hot new must-have proportions: 70% native/30% introduced … or just a few well-placed plugs to get ourselves rockin’ this gorgeous, fresh-’n’-breezy, eco-natural style! And just like rising and falling hemlines, gardeners still have to deal with more intense/less regular rainfall and warmer temperatures/wilder temp swings. So back onto the high-fashion catwalk steps the perfect fashion choice: the native plant. Get ready to fall hard for this fresh-as-springtime fashion, inspired by our ever-increasing knowledge of our ecosystem and the imminent risks that need our attention.
The second exhibit, entitled, “Invasives My Mother Planted,” focuses on those problematic plant thugs that many a Wiltonite is wondering about. Most plant species introduced from other parts of the world are fashion classics in their beauty or utility. But there are some faddish imports (as well as accidental ones) that have over time become recognized as problem species that are spreading on their own and out-competing our beneficial — and often essential — flora (both native and introduced) as well as our native fauna that rely on them. These plant species are increasingly being referred to as invasive plants, a.k.a. “invasives” — and to say that they have gone out of fashion is an understatement: the fight to rid our private and public lands of these “worst-dressed” flora is one of the struggles that conservationists everywhere are now dealing with. In fact, CT’s own Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group (CIPWG) counts 97 species on the 2018 edition of its Invasive Plant List. Discover which of these 97 CIPWG “fashion fails” were documented in the WGC herbaria over the past century, and which other “bad fads” have hit the area — you’ll get the skinny with this up-to-date, hyper-local look at invasives, which may help us all in the fight to declutter our landscapes!
The flower show will take place at Wilton’s historic Old Town Hall (2 Belden Hill Ln.) on Friday, Sept. 24, from 1-4 p.m., and Saturday, Sept. 25, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Parking is accessed from Belden Hill Rd. near the Ridgefield Rd. intersection. Admission is free with a $10 donation suggested. More information can be found on the Wilton Garden Club’s website.