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Shawnigan Lake Flower Show

By Lori Treloar


The earliest notation regarding a Flower Show at Shawnigan Lake is made in conjunction with the 1915 Annual Regatta. Although the phrase 1st Annual was used, it is hard to determine how many successive shows followed. We do know for certain that, in 1926, the Shawnigan Farmer’s Institute initiated another annual flower show as part of their “Spring Show”. The Spring Show was a popular event held each April from 1926-1932 (with the exception of 1931, due to the village fire) at the Shawnigan Lake Athletic Association Hall. A committee of five local men organized the event over this term. It is hard to imagine that there would have been much in bloom in April for a flower show.

In 1946, the Shawnigan Flower Show blossomed again this time with women at the helm. The new event, organized by the Shawnigan Lake Women’s Institute became a community event that included handicrafts, a home bake sale and entertainment. Mrs. W.J. Cotsford, founder and convener of the first show, felt that, “the growing and arranging of flowers was something creative which could be done by anyone…” In 1954, the event became co-sponsored between the Women’s Institute and the Shawnigan Lake Parent Teacher Association. The last Flower Show produced by these two organizations was the 22nd Annual Show in 1967. After that, a flower show committee from the community was struck to organize the show in 1968 and beyond.

The Flower Show was a big event for Shawnigan Lake. It required many volunteers from the community to pull it off and some people were involved with the show for decades. For many years, in addition to the flower displays, children from Elsie Miles School provided entertainment.  There were photography displays by the local Camera Club, plant sales, quilt and art displays, and a variety of workshops and demonstrations. And, according to old newspaper clippings, weather was always an issue – even though the event was now in June.


Over the years, horticultural heavyweights such as Jack and Hilda Beastall and Helen Chestnut have praised the show in their newspaper columns. In 1986, Helen declared that, “the Shawnigan Flower Show was a highlight of the horticultural world on southern Vancouver Island”. Also, an impressive list of people came to open the Shawnigan Flower Show over the years including many M.L.A.s, wives of Lieutenant Governors and other dignitaries.


Only once, in the late 1980's, the show did not happen. The Flower Show moved to the Cobble Hill Hall in 2001, after 55 years in Shawnigan Lake, due to the rising rental costs at the Shawnigan Lake Community Centre. Many of the beautiful trophies from past flower shows are in the collection at the Shawnigan Lake Museum.


The Mill Bay Garden Club now organizes the still-popular, annual Flower Show. This year the 75th Community Flower and Garden show will be held on Saturday June 3rd from 9 am till 2 pm.

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