Growing up in Chicago, Leslie Pierpont would spend each summer with her grandmother in New Hampshire. It was there, “at my grandmother’s knee,” that she learned how to garden, she said.
In 1985, while living in Connecticut, she joined her first garden club.
“I loved to garden and I wanted to know more about it,” Pierpont said.
So when she and her family moved to Jacksonville in 1998, finding a new garden club was a priority. She was invited to join The Late Bloomers Garden Club and helped spearhead the club’s efforts to become Jacksonville’s only chapter of the Garden Club of America.
Founded in 1913, the Garden Club of America, which is comprised of 200 member clubs with about 18,000 individual members, works to “promote greater understanding of the interdependence of horticulture, environmental protection, and community improvement,” according to its website, www.gcamerica.org.
Currently, the Late Bloomers club is involved in a project to transform Hemming Plaza and surrounding urban spaces. In the past they’ve done a number of beautification projects, including projects at Serenity Park for Gateway Community Services and at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. They’ve made grants to the Jacksonville Beautification Project, Longleaf Pine Reforestation and Greenscape among others.
“We’re not just having tea and making arrangements,” she said.
Now the Late Bloomers club, founded a quarter century ago, is going to do something it has never done before: Host a Garden Club of American Flower Show. Pierpont is serving with Mary Pietan as co-chairwomen of the event, which will be held at the Garden Club of Jacksonville, 1005 Riverside Ave., from 1-5 p.m. Tuesday, April 1. The theme of the flower show will be “A River Runs Through It” and a conservation exhibit that emphasizes what gardening practices best protect the river will be part of the show.
For the Late Bloomers members the show is a chance to show off their horticulture, floral design, nature photography and conservation skills and compete for awards. Judges will be coming from throughout the Southeast. Pierpont herself is trained as a judge and has recently judged at shows in Philadelphia and Savannah though she won’t be a judge in this show.
“It’s fun,” she said. “I’m learning a lot.”
For the Late Bloomers the show is a chance to prepare for 2016, when they will serve as host club for the annual zone meeting. Florida is part of Zone VIII, one of 12 Garden Club of America zones. Clubs from Florida, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina will come to Jacksonville for the 2016 meeting.
“I’m sure there are going to be some kinks to be worked out,” Pierpont said.
Charlie Patton: (904) 359-4413