2008 Convention (Denver, CO)
Gesneriads in the Mile High City
July 2-5, 2008
The Doubletree Hotel Denver was the site for our 52nd Annual Convention of The Gesneriad Society from July 2 through July 5, 2008. Denver, nicknamed the Mile-High City because its official elevation is exactly one mile (5,280 ft or about 1,609 m above sea level), sits on the high plains in the South Platte River valley about 15 miles (24 km) east of the front range or foothills of the southern Rocky Mountains.
The host chapter was the Gloxinia Gesneriad Growers, better known as the 3 Gs Chapter. Allison Brigham, Ann Watterson and all the other local committee members did a fantastic job in preparing for this convention. They also made some interesting innovations in the convention program, which, hopefully, met with everyone’s approval.
Wednesday’s usual activities – Judging School, Judges’ Interest Group and other committee meetings – were followed by a lively social get together hosted by the 3Gs Chapter. Lots of homemade guacamole helped spice up the evening, which was a good way to relax and chat with fellow members before the convention got into full swing.
The first innovation in the program was the option of a short and a long trip on Thursday. Both trips stopped at the Denver Botanical Garden, which was in spectacular full bloom in all its various gardens. Many of us were lucky to spot several gesneriads in the rock garden and in the greenhouses. The long trip also stopped at Hudson Gardens, a lovely expanse of regional display gardens, where all enjoyed a delicious box lunch from Panera’s.
Thursday afternoon saw show entries and auction donations followed that night by the always-anticipated opening of plants sales. Friday brought judging, lectures, the annual membership luncheon meeting and the Flower Show Awards Banquet. At the Friday and Saturday lectures, members learned about “Gesneriads in the Garden” from Marilyn Allen and Jonathan Ertelt and “New Gesneriads from the Rainforests of Ecuador” from John L. Clark, received a brief overview from Laura Clavijo of her work on the genus Drymonia in Colombia, were enlightened about the work being done in Saintpaulia and Streptocarpus in “An Update on the Systematics and Evolution of Saintpaulia and Streptocarpus” by James F. Smith, and learned about “Growing and Exhibiting African Violet Species” from Linda Golubski.
Saturday opened with the critique of the Flower Show for judges and clerks led by Ben Paternoster, Shows and Judging Chairperson, proceeded to the lively auction luncheon at which we honored all commercial growers of gesneriads, and ended with the second innovation of the convention: the trip to the Denver Downtown Aquarium with dinner on our own. The Aquarium restaurant is situated near large salt water tanks that offer their own brand of dinner entertainment.
Many members took the opportunity before or after convention to visit some of the surrounding Denver area attractions that had been brought to everyone’s attention in the detailed pre-convention publicity made available by our host chapter – the 3 Gs of Colorado.
Convention 2008 Trips
Two Garden Tours on Thursday
For garden enthusiasts with more time, the longer tour will first go to the Hudson Gardens, where lunch is from Panera Bread, and then go on to the Denver Botanic Gardens. The bus will leave the hotel at 8:45 a.m., returning about 3:00 p.m. At Hudson Gardens, you may take a self-guided or guided walking tour. For those requiring assistance to enjoy the gardens, we can accommodate two groups of up to 10 each to tour by golf cart. Please request this assisted tour when registering.
The Hudson Gardens reflect the plants that grow well in the dry Colorado climate, and the terrain varies from high, dry prairie to wetlands near the Platte River. There are about 30 gardens, displays, and other features on 30 acres (12 ha). The gardens are arranged in a continuous flow and feature ponds, wildlife, sculpture, a garden railroad, and natural displays along a leisurely 1.25-mile (2 km) walking path.
The second tour is a morning-only self-guided tour of the Denver Botanic Gardens. It also leaves the hotel at 8:45 a.m. but returns about noon and does not include lunch. Wheelchairs are available for those requiring assistance. Please request a wheelchair when registering.
Saturday Evening at the Downtown Aquarium
We will be going by bus to the Downtown Aquarium where you may enjoy cocktails in the Dive Lounge and take a leisurely self-guided tour of about an hour either before or after dinner. The tour includes exhibits of animals and habitats from around the world, and a huge tank with divers and a diverse assortment of marine life. You can pet and feed the sting rays if you wish, enjoy the river otters if they are awake, and search for the chocolatechip starfish. You will be dining among the fishes as the restaurant surrounds a 150,000-gallon (~570,000 L) aquarium with excellent views of a very curious grouper, a large shark with his (yes, his…) entourage, and other fascinating species as they swim by your table. Dinner is on your own (dinner cost is not included when you register for this trip) and the selection is up to you. For better service, there will be two seatings, one at 6:00 p.m. and the second at 7:15 p.m., for our group. Menu choices include a variety of seafood, steaks, chicken, salads, pasta dishes, and desserts.