We arrived in San Francisco on a beautiful, sunny day. Buckets of gorgeous flowers stood on street corners, musicians played their instruments, and the warmth of the sun felt divine. After a very chilly April in NE Ohio, we had arrived in paradise for the GCA Annual Meeting.
The two and one half day meeting kicked off with a welcome party and stunning flower show. The show highlighted everything indigenous to Zone XII. It encompassed material from states as far east as Colorado, as far south as New Mexico and Arizona, as far north as Washington, and as far west as California. The photographs showed magnificent vistas of water, woods and desert. The floral designs were breathtaking. The cut horticulture specimens made me envious. There were roses, camellias, tree peonies and that exotic bloom Protea.
It was a spectacular way to welcome the 600 attendees. We applauded the 400 volunteers from the Zone XII clubs for their wonderful hospitality.
Highlights of the meeting included 2 keynote speakers. The first, Thomas Woltz, is a renowned landscape architect based in New York. He and his partners design extraordinary parks throughout the world. Some installations include public spaces in Edmonton, Alberta, Nashville, TN and the Flight 73 Memorial in western PA. He spoke eloquently about culture and conservation in public parks. When designing a public space, Mr. Woltz researches the history and culture of the actual park space as well as the surrounding area. He also incorporates ecological solutions to site-wide environmental problems. One example of this is found in his design of the Parthenon Park in Nashville. He discovered through his research that the arid parkland had belonged to the founding family in Nashville. In their records was mention of an artesian spring. Woltz excavated and found the well-head which had been buried for nearly a century. He used the spring water to hydrate the park. Mr. Woltz captivated the audience with his inspirational designs.
One of the other keynote speakers was Jonathon Foley, President of the CA Academy of Sciences. He gave a thoughtful and motivational talk about the relevance of garden clubs and each individual who comprises these clubs. He gave suggestions as to how we should each confront the environmental threats in our communities. He made the strong point that the desire for clean air, clean water and protected natural habitats transcends polarizing politics. All of us wish to live in a clean world which we can share with our children and grandchildren. Through garden clubs, Mr. Foley said we can use the power of beauty and awe of our gardens to connect communities and individuals to the natural world. He pointed out that 70% of science in the US is learned in a relaxed setting, that is, public gardens, parks and museums. More than 850 million people visit museums, libraries and public places each year. Visitors enjoy, and give significant rates of approval, to learning in public spaces. Mr. Foley suggested if we can capture and focus the attention of individuals to problems with clean water, land and air through our cultural institutions, we may make headway in protecting our environment for the future. This listener felt he made eminent sense.
Our two and one half days of featured speakers and breakout discussion groups went by too quickly. I will look forward to sharing more highlights with you. I give my sincerest thanks for allowing me to attend such a stimulating and exciting meeting.
Click here to view more photos of the conference and flower show, taken by Carol Obernesser and Mary Bruce Rae-Grant.