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    Categories: Lifestyle

Garden club harvests its final show

Zinnia is the flower of the year in the St. Albert Garden Show. The popular flower is from the sunflower tribe within the daisy family and comes in a variety of shapes and colours.

The St. Albert Garden Club will host its final show Aug. 19 after 35 years.

Show What You Grow is the 35th yearly event where avid gardeners with green thumbs show off their best peas, their handsomest roses and their strangest-looking veggies.

Official Alberta Horticultural Association judges will adjudicate, but for the second year in a row the garden show will be smaller with just eight classes instead of the 30 or 40 classes that used to entice exhibitors in the old Summer Splendour events.

Some categories have been eliminated completely, including the culinary division, where exhibitors such as Olga Matvichuk would present jars of pickles and jam.

“I won the big culinary trophy 12 years in a row. I’ve still got it,” said Matvichuk, who was one of the St. Albert Garden Club’s founding members in 1982.

“I entered pickles, canned fruit, baking and jams and jellies,” Matvichuk said.

Anticipation about the Summer Splendour would begin in May at seeding time and through the summer Matvichuk would try to see which cucumbers would make the best pickles.

“There’s a lot of satisfaction in seeding something, watching it grow and making it into something nice. Plus the competition is important. You’re looking at the cukes and thinking, that might be a winner!”

While the culinary class was deleted, other categories were simplified.

“In the fruit class, for example, instead of just having a class for apples alone, now we have a class for big fruit or small fruit. In the vegetable class the beets are judged against the carrots and potatoes for the best vegetable,” said event co-ordinator Lucy Krisco.

Favourite categories such as flower arranging and photography remain. This year’s Flower of the Year is a zinnia.

“We thought that since this is likely the last year, we should have a flower that started with a ‘Z’, the last letter of the alphabet,” said Krisco, ruefully.

Club members felt it was important to retain classes for children.

“I used to go with my grandchildren to pick wild flowers for arrangements. It was a big deal for them. We had this policy that no child walks away from the show without a ribbon,” said Matvichuk.

This year there will be a class for children nine and under and for senior children aged 10 and over. The sub-categories are meant to be fun because children may make a Hortisculpture from a vegetable or fruit or they can paint a flower or ladybug.

“Because we have fewer classes this year, there is more for prize money with a $10 prize for each class winner and a $25 prize for each section winner,” Krisco said.

Club remains

Members stress the ending of the summer show does not mean the end of the St. Albert Garden Club, and they are hopeful it may even invigorate the club. Horticultural shows that used to attract dozens of exhibitors are going out of fashion. In recent years the Edmonton and Stony Plain Horticultural Society discontinued their agricultural shows.

“Stony Plain used to be so large it filled a skating arena. After they ended their show, club membership increased,” said St. Albert club member Patricia Bell.

No garden club member will quite voice it that way, but it may well be that the laborious job of setting up and dismantling display tables led to the show’s demise. In the early days club members built big heavy tables that used to need storage through the year until the day of the show. Some years ago those big tables were replaced with lighter ones, but still the issue of getting volunteers for set up was ongoing.

“As the club aged, so did its members,” said Bell.

Still all the members were nostalgic about the camaraderie of working together as well as the fun of the competition.

“We used to haul those big wooden tables in trucks to the show and then pack them up again. We had fun and new friendships were made. Plus there was pride in growing and exhibiting,” Matvichuk said.

Bell, who exhibited in every garden show, recalled her very first entry in 1982.

“I entered six beans and one was too short, so it was disqualified,” she said, adding that now, without the show to worry about, garden club members can focus on simply gardening.

“The garden club is a place to share knowledge about gardening,” she said.

Show What You Grow takes place Aug. 19 at St. Albert Place. Exhibits will be accepted 7 to 9 p.m., Friday, Aug. 18 and 8 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. Saturday, after which the judging will take place. The public is welcome to view exhibits from noon until 4 p.m. Saturday when the prizes will be presented.

For more information about Show What You Grow or for information about meeting times for the St. Albert Garden Club, visit www.stalbertgardenclub.info

Last Garden Show

Show What You Grow takes place Aug. 19 at St. Albert Place. Exhibits will be accepted 7 to 9 p.m., Friday, Aug. 18 and 8 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. Saturday, after which the judging will take place. The public is welcome to view exhibits from noon until 4 p.m. Saturday when the prizes will be presented.

Susan Jones: Susan Jones has been a freelance writer for the St. Albert Gazette since 2009, following a 20-year career at the St. Albert Gazette. Susan writes about homes, gardens, community events and people.