GLIDE — Though she didn’t make her living on the stage, Abbey Rosso clearly believed the show must go on.
She certainly applied that motto to the Glide Wildflower Show, a once-flourishing event that was dying on the vine by the mid-1990s.
As longtime show organizer and Idleyld Park resident Jeanne Moore recalls it, volunteers had dwindled. A decades-old vase collection was on the verge of being given away. Treasury funds were put into a scholarship fund at Umpqua Community College.
Her heart aching, Moore told a new neighbor in the fall of 1994 about how much she wished the young woman could have seen the show back in its heyday. Turns out that by talking to Rosso, Moore confided in the right person.
“Abbey had the kind of personality that fires you up to do your best,” Moore recalled. “She said, ‘We can restart it.’ And that’s how it happened.”
Rosso, a Michigan-born botany enthusiast who loved to spend time outdoors, rounded up friends and acquaintances. She held planning meetings at her home in Idleyld Park. She set about getting permits to collect specimens. And in 1995, the Glide Wildflower Show blossomed anew under her cultivation.
This weekend’s show will be a tribute to Rosso, who died in September in Bend after struggling with the effects of Lou Gerhig’s disease. She was 53.
Thanks in part to Rosso’s earlier efforts, the Glide Wildflower Show is about more than local blooms. There will be roving botanists, books and guides, displays of natural dyes, rare plants and lichen and moss samples. Homemade pies and other refreshments will be sold. A photographer’s hour precedes each day of the show, and a native plant sale will take place April 28. Educational opportunities for Glide schoolchildren from kindergarten through eighth grade will take place after the show on April 29.
The education isn’t just for youngsters. Presentations on six topics are scheduled, ranging from the practical “Those Darn Weeds” to the aesthetic “Walk the Wildflower Trails.”
Getting the most out of nature is one focus of “Medicinal and Edible Plant Use.” It’s offered both days by Wren Davidson of Eugene, co-founder of the Women’s Herbal Conference, which met from 1985-95 in Oregon. Davidson described the show as “one of my favorite spring venues.”
Davidson said one goal of her presentations this weekend is to encourage people to discover ordinary plants near their homes that can heal a variety of ailments.
“I like to teach people about plants that are plentiful and common, that you don’t have to buy at the store,” Davidson said. “We don’t think about plants as medicine, but since ancient times, people have realized they are helpful as well as a way to add flavor to stew or spaghetti sauce.”
That said, Davidson understands the need for caution.
“I always begin a class by saying, ‘Never eat anything unless you are certain of its identification.”
Once that’s been established, a yard can be a useful medicine cabinet, according to Davidson. She cited yarrow, dandelion, Oregon grape and nettle as among the flora able to offer relief for conditions ranging from indigestion to sinus infections.
Davidson isn’t alone in her conviction that plants can deliver the goods on good health.
“If you’d told me 10 years ago that there would be echinacea in people’s fruit juice or toothpaste, I would not have believed you,” she said. “But interest is growing greatly, and even pharmaceutical companies are starting to realize ... it’s a lot less expensive to have a plant-derived medicine than to basically reinvent the wheel.”
A return-to-nature approach such as Davidson’s fits well with Rosso’s affinity for the outdoors, as remembered by her numerous friends. Moore said Rosso went back to college some time after reviving the wildflower show, ultimately earning a degree in lichenology at Oregon State University. Though her professional pursuits took her out of Douglas County, she maintained a keen interest in the show, Moore said.
Her death left a huge gap for her friends, but also the determination to honor Rosso’s labors.
“To me, her legacy is that the (wildflower) show should not die,” Moore said.
• You can reach Tricia Jones by phone at 541-957-4216 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abbey had the kind of personality that fires you up to do your best. She said, ‘We can restart it.’ And that’s how it happened.