Flowers and history come together for local flower show

June Bencivenga never entered a flower show before this weekend’s Milford Garden Club show at the Milford Historical Society.
For her first-ever entry, she created a floral arrangement that included asters, phlox, thistle and more in an aged-looking metal watering can.

She took best in show, the highest honor awarded at the competition.
“One of the reasons judges selected hers is because she has flowers that go back to the period, and the container fits with the historic theme,” said Kathrine Neville, garden club member.
“She has a wonderful selection of native flowers,” Neville said, pointing to the native Queen Anne’s lace and other flowers that Bencivenga carefully placed in the can along with some non-native accents, like the thistle.
“I’m elated,” Bencivenga said. “I thought about the historical show and tried to put together something that would fit the theme.”
The houses that make up the Milford Historical Society buildings on High Street were filled with flowers, vegetables and floral arrangements Saturday for “A Small Standard Flower Show — Historic Milford in Bloom, 1639 to 2012.”
The show included awards for horticulture — the quality of the plant or flower grown; and design — the use of flowers and plants in several themed designs placed within the historic buildings.
Prize ribbons sat next to a number of carefully displayed flower show entries, from Ruth Miller’s Crassula argentea, more commonly known as a jade plant; to Betty Geller’s habichuelas fagioli beans, to Barbara O’Connor’s construction that used wood and plants to create a piece of art fitting with a Milford harbor theme.
O’Connor used cut wood panels and arranged them to look like sails, and then incorporated fantail palms, painted white, to add to the sail appearance, and large hydrangea blossoms to look like sea foam.
While the local garden club members regularly participate in regional garden club shows, this is the first one members have organized here since 2005, and it’s the first time they had a show at the historical society buildings.
Putting together a show like this takes months of preparation, Neville said, explaining why they don’t take place each year, especially within a busy club that takes on a lot of tasks each year.
But the hard work was gratifying to the members and people who walked through the show Saturday, garden club members said. Many residents took the opportunity to tour the historic buildings and learn which garden club entries had been awarded prizes by a panel of nine judges from the Connection Federation of Garden clubs.
There was a wealth of information for the would-be horticulturist. Marilyn Wardell offered some tips on growing beautiful dahlias like hers. Fertilizing and regular trimming is part of the secret, she said.
Neville, wearing a monarch butterfly pin on her shirt, pointed to intriguing looking milkweed plants, and said garden club members encourage people to grow them because the monarchs feed off them.
Terry Pitt handed out information about square foot gardening, a way to maximize garden space by creating squares within a four-by-four-foot garden.
Displays that decorated the historic homes included table settings within the Stockade House meant to mimic a 19th Century tavern. Miniature creations were displayed in the Eels Stow house, and included flowers and accents combined to create a mini treasure chest, for example.
This year marks the 86th year for the Milford Garden Club, said club president Kathy Kobishyn. She credited the club members for pulling together an impressive flower show.