IT’S floral festivities for the members of the Bantry Flower and Garden Club as they celebrate their organisation’s silver anniversary.
Founded in 1992 at the Westlodge Hotel, the Bantry Flower Club, as it was known originally, began with over 100 members keen to get involved.
‘Angela O’Donovan was the first chairperson and the inaugural meeting was on January 13th 1992,’ current chairperson Robert Shannon said.
‘We began as a club for those of us who wanted to learn more about the local flowers and flora in general.’
It was the first club of its type in the area and after contacting the closest flower club, which was in Bandon at the time, the members set about preparing for their first demonstration to showcase what they could do.
Club secretary Mary Dillon explained: ‘After the first year we found that more and more people wanted to learn more about gardening.
‘With no shortage of fantastic gardens in this area it made since to include this and so we became the Bantry Flower and Garden Club from then on.’
The newly renamed club had its first flower demonstration back in 1996 to celebrate the connection to the French Armada that sailed into Bantry Bay in 1796.
With all the helpful advice from their friends at the Bandon Flower Club, the Bantry group joined the Association of Irish Floral Artists (AOIFA) and progressed to holding monthly meeting at the Westlodge, and regular floral demonstrations.
Club PRO Judith Payne explained: ‘On the first Monday of every month, at our meetings, we would have an educational talk or a demonstration on different aspects of flower arranging, We were learning all the time and we organised sales tables to help with the club finances. We had no shortage of volunteers who supplied us with plants and other floral-associated items to sell.’
As the club progressed from strength to strength, the chance to have special guest speakers at the meeting was quickly accepted.
‘Charlie Wilkins, who was the gardening correspondent with The Evening Echo came and spoke to the group,’ Robert said. ‘He has come back to Bantry many times down through the years. We also held coffee mornings in Ardnagashel Gardens to raise funds for local charities. Because of the special relationship famous Bantry woman, Ellen Hutchins – Ireland’s first female botanist – had with these gardens, the members of the club have always enjoyed the connection with the Ardnagashel.’
For the members of the Bantry Flower and Garden club the presence of some of Ireland’s most famous and renowned gardens literally on their doorstep is appreciated.
In 2004 the club travelled to Durrus to join with the community celebrating the centenary of the local Scared Heart Church. That year also saw the club take part in more cerebrations at St Brendan’s and St Finbarr’s in Bantry.
‘In Durrus, we decorated each of the windows in the church with displays representing each decade since the church was built,’ Robert said. ‘It was a lovely celebration and the members of the club have to be commended for their fantastic work.’
Mary added: ‘We also organise trips to see gardens and landscapes that are as unique as they are beautiful. Garinish Island, Sherkin, Fota House and many more across the county and into Kerry as well. These are always great days out and everyone really enjoys these trips.’
And now 25 years on, the Bantry Flower and Garden Club is continuing to celebrate its success, with members showcasing just what they can do at a special gala event last Monday, December 4th.
Held once again at the Westlodge Hotel, this was a very special gala night and flower demonstration with special guest speaker Eileen O’Brien from the Kinsale Flower Club.
‘We want to thank all our members and the people of Bantry who have helped the club down through the years, be it at our charity events or at our demonstrations. We especially want to thank everyone at the Westlodge Hotel for their kindness and support since 1992. We’re always looking for new members and we are all looking forward to another 25 years for the Bantry Flower and Garden Club.’ concluded Robert.