Monday, July 27, 2009

Exhibiting Flowers

Years ago one county I worked in had the experience of the flower judge not showing up. The lady in charge asked me if I would do it and I thought me judging flowers?

I have judged shop projects, crops, canned goods and many others.

Crop judging is the one I am probably best suited for but I ended up judging flowers of all things.

Mom always grew good flowers as it adds beauty to the farm and home. LuAnn and I think the Anabaptists take such pride in their gardens as an artistic demonstration of their faith.

Everyone should drive through Lancaster County Pennsylvania in July as we did again this year. We marvel at their gardens and landscape. It must be an ideal climate and soil for such crops.

Today my wife and I get to judge the flowers at that county fair.

I was reviewing what we must do to select the best and grade the show.

Here is a good piece from Vermont.

By Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

Planning to enter flowers at the fair this summer? Here are some tips for blue ribbon entries.

First and foremost, flowers must be fresh. When you pick the blooms and how you handle them does make a difference in how well they will last in a cut flower arrangement.

Pick your flowers the day of the fair, preferably in the morning when the stems are filled with water. If you pick flowers in the heat of the day, they already may be partially wilted. When the stems are cut, air may enter the water-conducting vessels, blocking further water uptake.

Select only top quality blooms for your arrangements. Cut at a slant near the bottom of the stem, using a sharp knife rather than scissors, which tend to crush the stems. (Scissors work fine if thin stems. The anvil type pruners tend to mash the stems.) Plunge blooms in a bucket of tepid water to carry back to the house.

The water should be deep enough to come just below the flower heads. Use separate pails for each variety, or wrap each group in newspaper before placing in the bucket.

Indoors, precondition the cut flowers to make the arrangement last for several days. Wash the vases you'll need in hot, soapy water, rinse thoroughly with warm tap water, then fill with fresh water that is bath temperature (about 100 degrees F).

Add floral preservative to the water. You can get this at any florist shop. Without the preservative, bacteria will multiply, clogging the stem ends and causing the flowers to wilt. Place the stems in the vases and move to a cool, draft-free area. Leave there until the water cools to room temperature.

Then it's time to start arranging the flowers. But first check your fair premium book to determine the number of blooms allowed per arrangement and the classes you can enter. If the rules say six to eight blooms per entry, don't stick in ten or 12 or your entry may be disqualified. (This is also a good time to make notes about flowers you may want to grow next year for cut flower categories as well as arrangements.)

For themed categories, such as a holiday arrangement or formal table centerpiece, be creative. For these classes, the container and idea play into the judges' decision as much as the quality, choice, and arrangement of the flowers.

Recut the stems of soft-stemmed blooms under water, removing about one-half to one inch of the stem to allow better water absorption. Submerged leaves will decay rapidly, so be sure to remove all foliage that will be below the water line. Florists are no longer recommending that you crush the stems of woody plants, a practice floral arrangers--and fair exhibitors--have followed in the past.

To transport flowers safely to the fair, dump some of the water out of each vase into a larger container to avoid spillage. Bring this water with you to top off the vases when you arrive at the fair.

Pack arrangements upright in a sturdy cardboard box, using wadded newspaper to keep them separate. Do not let wind from open car windows blow directly on the flowers. Take extra blooms in case stems are broken or crushed during travel.

Give yourself plenty of time to get to the fair before the deadline for entering closes. Be sure to fill out each entry card completely. Then sit back and wait for the judges to announce the winners. One of them may be you! "

I strive to be 90% correct on my selections. Some days you are and some days you are not, that is just human nature.

I think we will do a good job after years of doing this, studying this and learning the fine art of selection and exhibition.

This county fair celebrates it's 160th fair this year so it is a long kept tradition for us in the states.

Long live the family farm and the county fair!

Ed Winkle

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