It’s been 17 years since the Broadmoor Garden Club had the honor of hosting a Garden Club of America show.
But on June 8, the local club will present “London Calling,” a Garden Club of America Show, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at El Pomar Foundation’s Penrose House. The show is free and open to the public.
The Broadmoor club is one of 200 garden groups affiliated with the Garden Club of America. When the latter judges a show, it’s a big deal.
“The purpose of a flower show is threefold: To set standards of artistic and horticultural excellence; to broaden knowledge of horticulture, floral design, conservation, photography and relates disciplines; and to share the beauty of a show with fellow club members and with the public,” says the GCA Flower Show and Judging Guide.
Thirty esteemed judges from as far as Hawaii are coming to Colorado Springs to formally evaluate the local club’s show entries in those disciplines.
“Many people are familiar with the (original) Philadelphia Flower Show, and this is Colorado Springs’ version of that,” said Kim Mutchler, a Broadmoor Garden Club member and spokeswoman. “Entries are judged to exact specifications that they need to meet. I picture judges down on their knees reviewing the entries with a magnifying glass.”
The theme was chosen to pay homage to the city’s late 19th-century nickname of “Little London,” as 1 in 5 early residents hailed from the U.K., according to History Colorado. It was also when young Julie Villiers Lewis moved to town.
Lewis, later widowed by first husband James McMillan, married Broadmoor founder Spencer Penrose in 1906. The couple bought the 1661 Mesa Avenue home they called El Pomar — Spanish for “the orchard” (now called Penrose House) — so they could live nearby while the grand Broadmoor hotel was built. (It opened in 1918.)
Julie Penrose was a charter member of the Broadmoor Garden Club, founded in 1935. She is known for trying to bring floral design and the arts to the Pikes Peak region.
“The charter members weren’t shrinking violets. They were passionate about conservation,” said Jenny Thatcher, event co-chairwoman.
The nearly 85-year-old club still is going strong, with membership capped at 65. New members are added through attrition.
“The club has members who’ve been involved just a few years to 50 years,” Thatcher said. “We do a lot for the community, including programs, speakers and grand awards to organizations such as the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo lemur exhibit, the Rocky Mountain Field Institute and The Old North End neighborhood association. The club is really an opportunity for people to see what we can grow successfully in our climate – what can survive the conditions, the deer and bunnies, etc. Everything is organic, no chemicals. And our members are very conscious of water conservation.”
The elegant and storied Penrose House is a fitting locale for the indoor show.
“It’s a big undertaking. We started planning two years ago,” Thatcher said. “Our club has more than 100 entries in the show — 50 to 60 in the horticultural excellence division alone. A lot will be cut specimens from the members’ gardens.”
Broadmoor Garden Club members will stage their entries at Penrose House on Thursday. The judges will evaluate entries Friday. While they’re working, no one from the local club is permitted on site.
“In addition to floral design,” Mutchler said, “there will be a photography exhibit (also judged) and a conservation exhibit (not judged) designed to give local, urban gardeners tips to successful gardening here. There also will be two speakers — Matt Mayberry, director of Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum (presenting ‘Growing A Unique Western City: How Colorado Springs Blossomed’ at 10:30 a.m.) and photographer Tom Kimmell (presenting ‘iPhone Photography’ at 1 p.m.). Visitors will be encouraged to sit in on those presentations.”
Categories for the London-themed show include clever sub-themes such as “Heir to the Throne,” creating a “seat worthy of a future king or queen” using flowers, branches and other natural elements. Mutchler and Thatcher are creating a shoe embellished with natural elements for a “My Flat in London” category.
The conservation exhibit, “Birds, Bugs, Bees and Blossoms,” aims to show healthy garden techniques that are critter-friendly.
“Things need to be in their absolute perfect state for the judges,” Thatcher said.
On Saturday, visitors can view the winners in each category.
Preparing for the competition has been keeping the local garden club members on their toes. But, Thatcher said, “We’re a competitive bunch.”