Posts Tagged ‘Flower Show’

floral arrangement by Sue Redden

Winning Design Entry by Sue Redden

If you’ve been a garden club member for any length of time you probably have been exposed to The Standard Flower Show. The Standard Flower Show tradition started a very long time ago. But it is more than simply tradition. It basically—still and after all these years—sets out to educate and develop aesthetic sensibilities. If you’ve ever been swept up into its whirlwind you at least know this much.

Now, aside from horticulture entries, you may have been asked to try your hand at creating and entering a floral arrangement into the Design category. This request may have come about in the form of arm-twisting—in which case you definitely need some de-mystifying about how it will be judged.

And, voila, if you already have been on the receiving end of judging and scoring for your floral arrangement, you probably want to know just how that panel of three judges came to their decision of Honorable Mention.

So, for this post, I have consulted with Sue Redden, a demonstrator and winner of many blue ribbons and top NGC Exhibitor awards in Design and Horticulture. Sue has been a leading member of two garden clubs in Rhode Island for, well let’s just say, decades and she has filled board positions for the Rhode Island Federation of Garden Clubs Inc., the New England Region, and National Garden Clubs, Inc. She has judged Design and Horticultural exhibits in New England, Philadelphia, and Cleveland.

Here is Sue’s basic introduction to The Standard System of Awarding:

  • The Flower Show’s “Schedule” is “the law.”
  • The Handbook for Flower Shows is the ultimate authority for judging. [Accept no substitutes and get the latest edition. See below.*]
  • Three people make up a judging panel and use The Standard System of Awarding.
  • In a Standard Show, four arrangements would compete within the same pre-determined “schedule class.” [We’ll leave definitions of schedules and classes to another post.]
  • Only one first place (blue) ribbon per class is awarded; must score 90 or above.
  • Only one second place (red) ribbon per class; must score 85 or above,
  • Only one third place (yellow) ribbon per class; must score 80 or above.
  • One or more honorable mention (white) ribbons as merited; must score 75 or above.

Judges award the blue ribbon to the highest scoring design, again it must score 90 or above. (Note: There are times when multiple entries in the class achieve the sought-after 90+ score, and this 90 above score will be indicated.)

In order to win the top additional exhibitor awards—such as the Tricolor, Designer’s Choice—one must have scored 95 or more.

And here’s what the judges look for:

Scale of Points for Design

Conformance –20 points if all the requirements for the design are met.

Design – 42 points is the next consideration – 7 pts allowed for each of the following met principles:

Balance – Is the design visually stable?

Proportion – Is the design in proportion with its allotted space?

Scale – Are the components in scale with one another?        

Rhythm – Does your eye carry through the design?

Dominance – Do one or more elements dominate?

Contrast – Is there interest in the design?

Artistic Concept – 12 points – Is there creative and appropriate selection and imaginative organization of all components according to the schedule guidelines?

Expression – 10 points – Has the exhibitor interpreted the class well?

Distinction – 16 points – Is the plant material conditioned? Does the exhibit have marked superiority in all respects?

And we have the TOTAL—a rarely attained 100 points.

Sue says:

“To win a top award a lot of thought must go into selection of plant material, color, texture, spikes, rounds, etc. and one must adhere to schedule parameters . . . i.e. read the show’s schedule carefully and follow directions!” 

With subjective opinion, personal taste, and whim minimized as much as possible, the scoring standardization almost makes it appear as an exact science. Not quite—they are mortal beings after all—but judging is a learned art in and of itself.

To learn more about how to become a judge yourself, contact your state federated NGC Flower Show Schools Chairman for further information.

Also you might be interested in Flower Design Study Units. Explore here: http://www.gardenclub.org/FloralDesign/DesignStudyUnits.aspx

*The Handbook for Flower Shows, revised 2007 edition is available from NGC headquarters – Member Services. Order your copy by calling 800-550-6007. National Garden Clubs, Inc.  4401 Magnolia Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri, 63110-3492.

Let me know if you’d like to hear more about de-mystifying The Standard Flower Show!

Nancy R. Peck


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When I was 12 years old, I unexpectedly walked in on a flower show. It was in my junior high school cafeteria. I remember thinking what on earth are these women doing here hunched over these tables of flower pots—every single pot was an African Violet.

My gosh, I wondered, what had driven these women to this kind of obsession. No, actually at age 12, it was probably more like “this is weird,” followed by a quick exit.

Nevertheless, I had recognized these plants because my mother had had some at home. The pots lived on a setting of small rocks in a tray, soaking up some sun in the day-bright TV room. In a good week we would see purple blossoms and light pink ones too.  

“Water them from the bottom, she’d say, don’t drip water on the leaves.” They were a first introduction to fuzzy leaves.

Another vague memory I have is inserting an African violet cutting into a jam glass topped by aluminum foil, I guess to hold the leaf in place. In about a month a root would form and we’d pot it. Months later there would be a bigger plant. Propagation is fun, see? That’s about the extent of my memory.

Recently, I visited a friend named Mary. In her living room window she has a large round and rustic wicker basket overflowing with a grouping of six very healthy Saintpaulia in a southerly window. They look as healthy as can be. She feigns horticultural nonchalance about their success, but I want to learn her secrets.

Today I explored an African Violet blog in Romania (she grows Buckeye Blushing, Bliznecy, Autumn Halo, Ma’s Winter Moon) and another blog in Sweden where I learned “There are about twenty wild species of African violets, some of which are endangered in their natural habitats in East Africa. In the range of 40-45,000 hybrids circulate among collectors and growers in the world!”  A translated Ukrainian blog reads “My violets are increasingly occupying space in my apartment, but nevertheless, I always bring home new varieties.”

If you are interested in growing AV’s to show, check out this website www.avsc.ca.  At Amazon dot com, there’s a few copies left of Pauline Bartholomew’s “Growing to Show . . . African Violets”. Other books about African Violets are also available.

There’s also the African Violet Society of America www.avsa.org. which incorporated in 1947 and has grown to be “the largest society devoted to a single indoor plant in the world.”

I got a kick out of a YouTube video walking the viewer through an entire African Violet show in Central New Jersey (2010). Great specimens. Click here to view it. Chet Atkins and Les Paul were at the show too (kidding).

Also at Youtube you can find short demos on how to propogate them, for example this one.

Isn’t it nice how memories grow fonder with the passing of each year? Viva la African Violets!  

I’d love to hear of your childhood memories having to do with houseplants or gardening. Do share.

Photo source: Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike by ‘Wildfeuer’

Nancy R. Peck

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Philadelphia Int'l Flower Show

Haute couture Horticulture as in a 2010 presentation. Photo courtesy of PHS.

The 2011 Philadelphia International Flower Show does Springtime in Paris.


Visualize it. Acres of Paris without the jet lag. So you’ve arrived in Philadelphia with visions of Paris can-canning about your tête. What do you see? Sidewalk cafés, cabarets, French bread, the Seine, the Eiffel Tower of course . . . and at least one bottle of wine.

From March 6 – 13 (2011) you can experience this evocative Parisian theme and a gazillion flowers and greenery. Spring is just around the corner, at least at the Philadelphia Convention Center. Berets off to the very successful producer of the event: the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society (PHS). The entire city of Philadelphia will be following the Parisian theme in anticipation of your arrival.


Thirty-five hundred volunteers make this event happen for an anticipated audience of 250,000. The numbers reflect it. It is one of—if not the—country’s most popular flower and garden events. Hundreds of other exhibitors and designers are behind the scenes. I’m wowed by the hours, organization and choreography required.

Here’s a sneak peak. Thematic displays evoke the romance of Paris, the artists we associate with Paris, opulence of yesteryear, Parisian food and dance. Oh yes, flowers and plants take center stage. You’ll be able to identify many Parisian landmarks floral-ly brought to us by many talented exhibitors. Here is just some of what you’ll see:

  • Colorful topiary animals will be created by Valley Forge Flowers
  • An interior parlor and garden scene will be styled by James Rothstein Distinctive Floral Designs with French antiques collector John Whitenight
  • Imagine a wedding scene at Nôtre Dame by Robertson’s Flowers!
  • The great artists of France will be interpreted by Michael Petrie’s Handmade Gardens
  • Cuisine must be included of course along with rooftop gardens presented by Stoney Bank Nurseries
  • Courtyards and cafés will be offered by Burke Brothers Landscape Contractors.
  • Even the unique underground catacombs of Paris serve as inspiration for the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD).  

Dozens of notable floral designers will demonstrate their craft each day of the week-long event. As always, competition soars in the area of horticulture and artistic design by individual entrants. Plus, more than 150 presentations will serve to educate us. And then of course is the Marketplace where there will be things to buy, oh my.


Finally, who, what, where benefits from this tremendous effort and coordination of so many participants?

All proceeds from the Philadelphia International Flower Show support the PHS Philadelphia Green program. Philadelphia Green serves as a model for cities across the U.S. in that it is reported to be the largest comprehensive community greening program. The program restores neighborhood parks, creates community gardens, conducts large-scale tree plantings, revitalizes vacant land, and maintains treasured public landscapes—thereby engaging thousands of citizens and their communities along the way.

A new initiative TreeVitalize will encourage tri-state tree plantings and also City Harvest. City Harvest is a job-training program and a mission to provide fresh produce to more than 1,000 underserved families each week during the growing season.

Last but not least, a shout out to PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. as the Show’s presenting sponsor for 20 years. Merci.

Link to the flower show here for ticket and other info. www.theflowershow.com.

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society link—where motivating people to improve the quality of life and create a sense of community through horticulture is the mission.

Bon voyage!

Nancy R. Peck

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Floral Designers Compete

I can already see the sweat beads forming on the foreheads of those who will compete. The World Flower Show is to be held June 15 – 19, 2011 in Boston, hosted by the World Association of Flower Arrangers USA. The collective mission of WAFA is to celebrate the art of floral design, exchange information, reinforce bonds among members, and promote the care and conservation of natural resources.

Delving into the show’s press kit, I grabbed one of many great images. The design pictured here—created in a prior year by Ellen Avellino and Peggy Moore—is indicative of just how unique these entries can be. Hundreds of international competitors will be participating.

World Flower Shows are held every three years and this will be the first time the show is on U.S. soil. Members of The Garden Club of America and the National Garden Clubs, Inc. are collaborating in support of this huge show.

Open to the public, consider it a once in a lifetime opportunity. Prior shows have been held in Belgium, Canada, France, Japan, Pakistan, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Delegates from 30 countries that comprise WAFA will descend on Boston.

Here’s the WAFA Show info. What a glorious way to see the world and make new friends.

Peace . . . your flower child,

Nancy R. Peck

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