07 November 2012

Flower Show Experience

For the past couple of years, my friend Darren had encouraged me to enter the flower show at the Coastal Carolina Fair - since becoming a Master Gardener, I thought about it again.  Like any judged show, there are plenty of rules.  I spent some time flipping through the rule book and decided to get Darren to help me wrap my mind around all of this - after less than an hour, I got it.  I thought I understood the process of filling out the forms, labeling plants, and the general entry process for the flower show at the fair.  There was a little bit of a learning curve to get over.

After looking around at our plants, I decided that I had ones worthy of a flower show.  I got organized, figuring out which plants would go in which category, and then I waited.  The night before the show, I thought I would pull everything together and put them in the car, since I wanted to leave early in the morning.  After going through my list, I realized I had mostly cuttings, and very few plants that I could load early - I planned to take cuttings in the morning before I left, to give them the best chance of looking nice.

The next morning was an adventure.  I filled a bucket with some water and ventured around the yard in the dark, finding plants on my list, and trying to cut the best-looking foliage without being able to see.  Some plants were easy - I just had to cut the largest elephant ear or papyrus stem, but others were harder.  I had very few blooms on the Turk's Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus), and I had too much Root Beer Plant (Piper auritum) to chose from.  The shoot I cut off the Japanese privet was as much for pruning's sake as it was for the show.  It wasn't on my list, but I was considering taking a pad from the prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) as well, although I didn't think anyone there would want to handle it.

When I got to the show, I got to see things in a whole new light - literally.  I got a good look at what I had chosen in the dark, as well as what was required of me as an entrant.  I was warned ahead of time that I would be required to write my name and address multiple times, but I underestimated the actual amount.  I came prepared with fifteen address labels - all I could find - and was presented with forms that needed that information in duplicate, for what would be fifteen entries.  Every plant id tag had to have the show and the date and, in duplicate, the division, the section, the class number and my entry number.  Did I mention that it had to be in pencil?  I made sure to ask a lot of questions in the beginning, so I didn't have to redo many tags.

I got the hang of filling out the plant tags, but I continued to be told of things I needed to do - apparently I was supposed to underline the plant's binomial name as well.  The biggest problem I had was the cold - it was probably 45 degrees at my house that morning, and I know it was colder at the Exchange Park.  There were tables set up outside the building for us to label our plants.  Then we would bring them in to be verified and placed in the show for judging.  One of the garden club members volunteering that morning was another master gardener.  When she saw me bring in a few of my entries, she coached me a little bit on how to groom them for a higher score.  The same thing happened with another MG that I saw later - she suggested that cut this off, then that.  I felt like I was getting a real flower show education in just those two small interactions.

After all of that, I ended up winning 7 blue ribbons, 2 red ribbons, 4 yellow ribbons, and one honorable mention.  It was a real experience and I'll definitely do it again next year.  If anyone wants to see the complete list, click here.

No comments: