The History of the Darling Wildflower Society
Standing in this carpet of flowers in 1915, Mr. Frederick Duckitt of Waylands and Mrs. (Ds.) Suzanne Malan of "Die Pastorie”, Darling decided that this wonderful heritage of wild flowers must be shared with others. The outcome was the founding of the Darling Wild Flower Society, as we know it today - the first flower show being held in 1917. (Photo - Mr & Mrs F. Duckitt)
It is on record that Mrs. (Ds) Albertyn held a flower show in the old C.J.V. Hall in 1905. It also seems that Ds Luckhoff had an exhibit of Chincherinchees in Cape Town during World War 1. Chincherinchees were sold to the public by ladies from Darling in fancy-dress costume.
But it was the much-loved Mrs. Suzanne Malan who put the Flower Show on the road to fame and to becoming as well known as it is today. She was an expert arranger and taught others well. A taskmaster who had no qualms about pulling an arrangement to pieces and making the lady concerned re-arrange the whole vase.
The first show in 1917 was arranged on a competition basis. Prizes were given in the various classes and garden flowers were also exhibited. Lunches and various refreshments were served. The children, organised by the teachers, took part. We are told of Maypole dances, bazaars being held, refreshments served and special efforts being made to organise day trips to the show by train from Cape Town. Now we have approx. 7000 visitors over 3 days.
Helene Duckitt, Mrs. Brand, Elise Melck, Tinie Versfeld, Monica Duckitt,
Junior Duckitt, Maisie Krige, Josie Basson, Baby Versfeld.
Minnie van Breda, Annie Basson, Charlotte Duckitt, Binnie Groenewoud.
Nicolene Duckitt (Versfeld), Sannie le Roux.
Years of experience taught the ladies how to arrange the most delicate of flowers - not only in individual bowls but to make the whole hall a feast for the eye. The impact of the massed arrangements on the stage always created "oohs" and "ahs" amongst the many visitors. Competition was a cause of concern to Mrs. Malan. She endeavored to get the whole community to work together to stage the show as she felt it should be done. By doing this, the show acquired a totally different atmosphere. The show has progressed from a hall full of bowls of flowers to natural exhibits - vleis and waterfalls - even to full scale landscaping.
"The road is uninteresting, leading through a barren, sandy wilderness, with not a cultivated spot on either side. But the bountiful Creator has likewise here clothed the waste with an incomparable profusion of flowers, which in some places cover the sand between the bushes, as with a carpet." ~ 1816, Latrobe
"There are no flowers like those of Darling; exhibited as specimens they would not appeal, but in the veld they carpet the earth with loveliness, and although their reign is of brief duration by reason of their fragility, they have made history in all parts of the world, particularly the scabious, the nemesia, the hybrid Ixias and the bewildering range of hybrid pypies, some of which were startling even to experienced botanists." ~ 1840, James Backhouse