With the storms of winter still blowing across the country, it helps to have a little reminder of what’s coming up once the May flowers start to bloom. In the spring and summer months, it became a common occurrence in the Victorian era for families to throw formal “garden parties.” These events were held by upper-class women and attended by friends and family alike. Not only was it a chance for the hostess to show off her blooming gardens, but it was also an opportunity for good old-fashioned fun.
Of course, showing of one’s accomplishments in the garden to family and friends alone could only provide so much self-satisfaction. Flower shows date back just as long as garden parties, however these events offer prizes and awards, even today. These exhibitions take place across the U.S. and all over the world, perhaps most notably the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in the U.K.
Take a look at some past garden parties and flower shows provided by the Library of Congress.
Women and children attend a garden party at Mt. Alto hospital, ca. 1923.
Countess Szechenyi at Twin Oaks garden party, ca. May, 1926.
Japanese flower booth at Twin Oaks, ca. May, 1926.
Lady McMichael with the Knights of St. John at the British Red Cross convalescent house for officers. This the is the garden party following an opening ceremony, ca. 1941.
Katherine Deming, Alice Deming and Evelyn Lechler, in the Buterfly dance at the garden party benefiting Near East Relief, ca. May, 1920.
Garden party at McNair’s, Katamon, ca. April, 1940
Middleburg Flower Show, Middleburg, Loudoun County, Virginia, ca. April, 1931.
Annual flower fete in Portland, Oregon, ca. 1915.
An elaborate flower show from the early twentieth century.
A lucky dog dressed to impress at a garden party, ca. 1905.
A garden party in Hartsdale, New York exhibiting flowers, vegetables and garden sculptures, ca. 1919.