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Newsletter Posts

Selecting and Preparing your Horticulture Specimens for a Flower Show

Suzy Hartford

Groom Your Bloom!

Presented to the Garden Club of Dayton    March 8, 2016    by Nancy Linz (GCC)

A.    Getting Ready for a Flower Show

1.    Get a copy of the show schedule   (https://www.gcamerica.org)
2.    Read the GCA guidelines in the front of the schedule
3.    Turn to the Horticulture Section and read the Show guidelines
4.    Next, read through descriptions of all the wonderful Hort Classes!
     a.    Pay attention to types of plants
     b.    Size requirements of plants, and
     c.    Any pre-registration requirements and entry deadlines
5.    With the classes in mind, walk around your yard to see what might work!

Note:  To save you time later, you might want look up the botanical names of all the plants you are considering entering (more on this later).

B.    Selecting Cut Specimens

1.    Before heading out to cut your plants, review any class restrictions
     e.g. “Not to exceed 12” from the lip of the container to the tip of the branch”
2.    Specimens are best if cut in the very early morning, or just before dark
     Consider cutting your plants the day before the show
3.    Bring very sharp snips and a container of tepid water with you into the garden
4.    If stems grow with foliage attached, leave the foliage attached
      Remove any leaves below the water (Exceptions: Lily-of-the-Valley, Tulips) 
5.    Cut stems several inches longer than needed, and place immediately in water
6.    Look for straight, strong, “perfect” specimens  (good “substance’)
     Watch for insects, insect damage, torn leaves, bent petals, weak stems, etc.
7.    Selecting Daisy-type Flowers
     a.    Examples:  aster, cosmos, dahlia, daisy, marigold, peony, rose, zinnia
     b.    Cut when fully developed
     c.    Avoid over mature flowers: center visible or outer petals curling or faded
8.    Selecting Spike-type Flowers
     a.    Examples:  celosia, delphinium, gladiolus, salvia, snapdragon
     b.    Ideal: 1/3 florets fully open, 1/3 showing color, 1/3 green bud
     c.    All florets should be present, no older florets browned, damaged or faded
     d.    Spike should be straight to the tip and sturdy
9.    Selecting Spray-type Flowers
     a.    Examples:  ageratum, pompon mum, daylily, lily, sweet pea
     b.    A spray is a main stem with blooms on side branches
     c.    Each flower on every stem should be in good condition  

     C.    Conditioning Your Cuttings

1.    Remove leaves that will be underwater (Exceptions: Lily-of-the-Valley & Tulips)
2.    Fill a clean container with cool or cold water and preservative
     Preservative is critical to both feed the plant and control bacteria in the water
     Use deep water to help force water up the stems    
3.    Re-cut the stem underwater, at a sharp angle to maximize water absorption
4.    Then immediately place the cutting in the deep water with preservative
5.    Next, move your conditioned plants to a dark, cool location
     a.    Cooling plants allow them to pick up more water than they release
     b.    Most plants like to be placed in the refrigerator for 3-12 hours
    Make sure there are not fruits /veggies in the frig (especially apples)
     c.    If you can’t put them in the frig, place them in the coolest place available

D.    Selecting a Container for Your Cutting

1.    Refer to the guidelines for the flower show
2.    Sometimes containers are provided for you once you get to the show
3.    Sometimes, you need to provide your own container
     a.    Select a container the right size for the cutting (good proportion)
     b.    Make sure the inside and outside of the container are clean
     c.    The container should not detract from the cut specimen
4.    Rough rule of thumb: Plant should be 1.5 - 2 times the height of the container

E.    Selecting Potted (Rooted) Plants

1.    Refer to the flower show guide for any ownership requirements
     e.g. “Three month ownership requirement”
2.    Make sure the plant is clean:  free of insects, insect damage, nutritional problems (yellow leaves), torn leaves, etc.
3.    If flowering: There should be a lots of bright and clear flowers
4.    Make sure the container is clean, and meets the show guidelines
     a.    Consider the type of container   
     e.g. “A clean clay pot is preferred”
     b.    And the size of the container
     e.g. “Not to exceed 12” measured inside the container at the soil line”
5.    Look for plants that are symmetrical and a good proportion for their container
6.    Remove any old flowers
7.    Remove any plant debris or litter from the soil surface
8.    Consider top-dressings: moss, pebbles, worm castings (refer to show guidelines)
9.    Sometimes “double potting” is acceptable (refer to show guidelines)
10.    Do not use leaf shine or wax products on the foliage

F.    Grooming Your Blooms!

1.    Whether cut or potted, groom your plants to make them as perfect as possible!
2.    Remove any dust or pollen with a soft brush or cotton balls
3.    Use a damp Q-tip to remove water spots or residue
4.    Sharp, tiny snips can be used to remove faded blooms, broken petals, ragged leaves, or other imperfections (you may need a magnifying glass)
5.    The key to good grooming:  Do not leave any visible evidence of grooming
6.    Sometimes you have to ask yourself, “If I remove that, will I make the specimen better or worse.”  If in doubt, ask someone or leave it alone.
7.    Bring grooming tools with you to the show to “touch up” your entry

G.    Pre-Registration

1.    For some classes, Pre-registration is required
2.    These are usually the classes that only accept a few entries (usually 3-6)
3.    If pre-registration is required, check the class for entry deadline dates
4.    The Horticulture Pre-Registration form is in the back of the program
     The GCA website also has the Horticulture Pre-Registration form
5.    Most classes that require pre-registration, have a Class Consultant
     Please feel free to contact this person if you have ANY questions

H.    Packing Your Specimens for Transportation to the Flower Show

1.    Most damage to plants occurs during transportation to the show!
2.    Place plants/vases in large boxes and pack with lots of packing material
3.    Make sure lower leaves, extending beyond the container, are protected
4.    Place plants on the car floor if possible, or in the back of the car where it’s flat
5.    Seatbelts help, but should not be trusted to protect tall narrow vases

I.    Getting Ready to Head to the Show!

1.    Check the flower show program for appropriate delivery times
2.    BEFORE going to the show, complete the Entry Card and Propagation or Key Card
3.    Entry Card  (try to have this information before heading to the show)
     a.    EVERY entry needs to have a completed Entry Card
     b.    When you arrive at the show, these will be available for you
     c.    Complete with a permanent, black (usually), permanent marker or pen
     d.    Entry Cards are long, narrow, white forms
     Make sure you pick up one for Horticulture (not Floral Design)
     e.    You will need:
          i.    The Number of the Class you are entering (refer to the schedule)
          ii.    Your individual Entry number (assigned once you reach the show)
          iii.    The Botanical or Latin name(s) of your plant(s)    
          iv.    Know the spelling of the genus, species, and cultivar
          v.    If you don’t know the species, you can write “sp.” after the genus, but it’s always          better if you know the correct species name  Example:  Acer sp.
          vi.    If you know the cultivar, definitely include this information
          vii.    The genus is always capitalized and in italics or underlined
          viii.    The species is never capitalized and in italics or underlined
          ix.    The cultivar is written in single quotes
          x.    Example:    Acer rubrum ‘Red Sunset’    OR
          xi.    Example:    Acer rubrum ‘Red Sunset’
          xii.    Indicate if grown without pesticides, propagated by exhibitor, or if you are a Novice (never won a GCA blue ribbon in Hort)
          xiii.    Describe the Method of Growing, Growing Conditions, and Length of Ownership (if applicable)
          xiv.    Finally, at the bottom, enter your name, the name and zone of your garden club, and the official name of the Flower Show
4.    Propagation Card
     a.    A 4” x 6” plain white index card, typed or printed in black permanent ink
     b.    Describe the type of propagation used (e.g. seed, cutting, layering, etc)
     c.    When (date) you propagated your plant
     d.    The type of growing medium you used, and
     e.    All the dates and steps in the growing process
     f.    Bring this completed card with you to the show
5.    Key Card
     a.    Important any time more than one plant type is in a vase or container
     b.    A 4” x 6” plain white index card, typed or printed in black permanent ink
     c.    Either draw or photograph the arrangement (must be 4x6)
     d.    Either number the different plants in the image
     e.         Then write the common and Latin names in a list on the card
     f.    Or, write the names around the image
     g.         Using lines to indicate the which name goes with which plant

J.    Once You Arrive at the Show, Final Staging

     a.    Bring your materials to the Staging Area or work tables
     b.    If required, move your cuttings to show-approved vases
     c.    Use your grooming kit for any last minute touch-ups
     d.    Make sure all cards are neatly completed (Entry, Propagation, Key)
     e.    Use staging materials to position your cut plant material in their vases
          i.    Staging material is provided at the show
          ii.    Usually plastic wrap or plant material like Boxwood
          iii.    Use this material in the bottle neck to show the best view of your entry! 
     f.    Take your entry to Passers (they will give you an entry number)
     g.    Finally Placers will take your entry into the show for final placement