LAST WEDNESDAY, the Garden Club of East Hampton held its spring flower show at the Maidstone Club, an oceanfront golf club founded in 1891. It was open to the public for all of two hours in the afternoon, and I was curious to see it, never having been to a competitive flower event before.

There were elaborate flower arrangements created around themes such as “Fisherman’s Catch,” “Farmstand,” and “Sunrise,” most of them way too stiff and fussy for me.




What I enjoyed most were the just-picked cut specimens — a single stem, spike, or spray exhibited in a green glass bottle — and the homegrown perennials, a single bloom in a humble milk bottle. These were judged on the basis of perfection, variety, and distinction.


I didn’t entirely get it – all flowers look pretty much perfect to me — but I loved the way they were arranged according to color, and the simplicity of the milk-bottle display bore out yet again that overworked phrase “Less is more.” I was also reminded of Sir Terence Conran saying he always preferred the kitchens and servants’ quarters of the great English manor houses to the drawing rooms and ballrooms.


When I got home, don’t ya know, I cut a few sprigs of ladies mantle, astilbe, and catmint, and popped them into a glass bottle, where they now repose on my coffee table. Easy, lovely, satisfying.

How do you give a prize ribbon to one flower over another, though? As my friend Debre whispered to me, “It’s all politics.”