2014-06-19 / Front Page

All Aboard for ‘Grand Vistas’ at Flower Show

By Pat Blakeley

The Newport Flower Show’s displays, exhibits, and themed gardens will embrace the era of opulent travel, when the journey itself was as exotic as the destination. The Newport Flower Show’s displays, exhibits, and themed gardens will embrace the era of opulent travel, when the journey itself was as exotic as the destination. Pack your bags and get ready to set off on a wonderful adventure next weekend at the 19th Annual Newport Flower Show, June 27-29 at Rosecliff. This year’s theme, “Journey – Grand Vistas,” promises spectacular delights inspired by lavish travel across the globe. The show is Newport at its best: stunning, sophisticated, and more than just a little bit showy.

Although it marks the start of summer in Newport each season, Flower Show buzz is refreshingly infectious, with people from Bellevue to Broadway – and beyond – all juggling for the inside scoop on the surprises in store. “There’s lots to be excited about. The show gets better every year,” enthuses Chair Patricia Fernandez.

All displays and designs will showcase facets of the opulent travel theme, and garden railways will grace the front lawn, incorporating the massive train travel that emerged during the era into show-stopping display gardens. The same titans who built Newport’s summer cottages created luxurious modes of transport while building the infrastructure that changed America.

Fernandez is sole chair this year, having served as co-chair for the last five, and notes she has had the opportunity to work more closely with the various divisions than she had in the past. She has come to more fully appreciate the subtle nuances inherent in each arena and the work that goes into every aspect of the show, and she believes that “Journey – Grand Vistas” will be one for the record books. “The sheer level of creativity that the designers have injected will put it over the top,” she predicts.

More than 100 judges come from across the country to evaluate entries in the competition divisions – horticulture, floral design, botanical arts, and photography. All experts in their fields, the judges are invited to participate and invitations are much coveted. “Everyone loves to come to Newport,” Fernandez laughs.

The completely blind judging ensures unbiased assessment of all entries, with judges focused on specific elements. Fernandez stresses that horticultural submissions by first-time backyard gardeners have the same chance of winning as those who have carried off numerous ribbons over the years – and often do.

Newport’s social season officially kicks off with the Opening Night gala on Friday, June 27. Partygoers get a more intimate look at the show offerings, while enjoying a dinner buffet, music and dancing, private shopping, and a treat of special show-themed entertainment. Fernandez says she is kept in the dark about the evening’s lineup and is surprised every year, noting that the program never disappoints.

Nationally recognized designer, author, and television host P. Allen Smith will make his Newport debut at two special luncheon lecture events, on Friday and Saturday. The host of three PBS programs will bring his production crew to the show to share the Newport Flower Show with his television audience.

New this year is an Authors’ Afternoon Tea on Saturday, June 28, at 2:30 p.m. Guests will experience the timeless tradition of an elegant tea with authors of relevant books. Special guests include Michael Devine, author of “An Invitation to the Garden,” a guide to seasonal entertaining, and Kristin Green, who wrote “Plantiful,” a how-to guide for creating an easy, gorgeous garden. Bettie Beardon Pardee will introduce her new book, “Living Newport: Houses, People, Style.”

Also new is the Sunday Champagne Brunch, June 29, at 11 a.m., with a presentation by one of America's leaders in style and gardening.

In its 19th year, the Flower Show is a well-oiled machine, but it takes many people and more than a year of planning to make it so. Over 400 volunteers will be on hand during the festivities – and that is not even counting the Preservation Society behind-the-scenes staff that makes every evolution seem effortless.

Ticket sales are brisk, the Preservation Society reports, and a record-breaking number of groups, gardening enthusiasts from as far away as Texas and Florida, are expected.

The show’s recent designation as a Major Show by the Garden Club of America is attracting those who might not have had Newport on their lists, observes Fernandez.

In addition to the ticketed lectures and special events, admission to the show includes a full slate of free lectures and demonstrations offering pointers on everything from how to grow hydrangeas to creating distinctive arrangements to simplifying your garden to fit changing lifestyles.

“Journey – Grand Vistas” promises to be quite the trip.

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