Photo by Melody

Displaying Horticulture in a Standard Flower Show

By Marie Harrison (can2growApril 16, 2009

The Standard Flower Show gives gardeners a chance to show what they grow. Find out about flower shows in your neck of the woods to see if opportunities exist to share your successes with others.

Gardening picture How Do You Know if You Can Enter a Flower Show?

The first step in determining who can enter a Standard Flower Show is obtaining a copy of the Schedule. The Schedule is the "law of the show," and all exhibitors are bound by these laws. One of the first bits of information listed in the Schedule is who is allowed to enter. In many instances, such as county fairs and public venues, anyone is welcome to enter. In other shows, only club members are allowed to enter. At any rate, the Schedule will determine who can or cannot enter.

How Do I Find Out All the Details?
             Cut arboreal exhibit

When you obtain a copy of the Schedule, read it through carefully. It contains such necessary information as the location of the show, the times when horticulture specimens can be entered, when judging is to take place, when it is open to the public, and when the show is to be dismantled. The Schedule announces all sections and classes as well as rules which govern all exhibits in each division. There are general rules, horticulture division rules, and design division rules. Every Schedule is different, but horticulture rules for my club's flower show are in a chart below and will give you an idea of what to expect.

The Schedule explains what kind of specimens are accepted, how they are to be staged, how long a specimen should have been in your possession, and other pertinent facts. The schedule also states whether the show committee provides bottles for your cut specimens or if you should bring your own, which awards are being offered, and other useful information.

The Horticulture Division

  Cut flower of herbaceous perennial

 The Horticulture Division of a Standard Flower Show is divided into several different sections. Within each section are classes. Sections are stated in the Flower Show Schedule that has been published. Most Standard Flower Shows have many sections, but almost all of the plants that I can think of can fit in one of these sections:  

Section A: Cut flowers of annuals or biennials

Section B: Cut flowers of herbaceous perennials

Section C: Cut flowers or bracts of bulbs, rhizomes, corms, and tubers

Section D: Cut decorative foliage

Section E: Arboreal (fresh cut branches of evergreen or deciduous shrubs or trees grown for the beauty of foliage, flowers, fruit, or cones)

Section F: Combination Plantings

Section G. Container-Grown Plants

Section H: Collections and Displays

In addition, a flower show committee may wish to have sections for special groups of plants, such as roses, daffodils, camellias, succulents, bromeliads, etc. Even though these fit into one of the categories above, there may be enough of them to warrant having their own section.

How Can I Learn More?

In subsequent articles, I will go more into depth about each of the sections listed above. NGC has very specific definitions as to what constitutes appropriate specimens in each section. For instance, a dish garden may mean something different to each person, but NGC defines it specifically, and failing to know the definition can result in points being taken from your exhibit. A little learning goes a long way in making your flower show experiences rewarding.    

Image  Image Image
   Container-grown flowering plant      Container-grown foliage plant           Cut flower of bulb

 Horticulture Rules

  1. All plant material must be fresh and have been grown by the exhibitor. 
  2. All plants must have been in the exhibitor's possession at least 90 days prior to show (combination plantings for at least six weeks).
  3. Entry cards should be filled out in advance (if possible), with water-proof ink or pencil. Entry cards can be obtained from the Flower Show Chairman.
  4. Containers should not exceed 12" wide or tall (inside measurement). Use saucer underneath container to prevent leakage.
  5. Each entry is to be labeled by its binomial name or currently accepted scientific identification. Common name may also be given. Solicit help from the Classification Committee prior to the show if necessary.
  6. Cut specimens must be displayed in clear transparent bottles (provided by the exhibitor) of suitable size and stability.
  7. Wedge if needed (inconspicuously insert a small piece of material such as a sprig of evergreen, a bit of wood, or piece of celery in neck of a horticultural exhibit bottle to hold cut specimen in proper pose).
  8. Classification Committee has the authority to subdivide classes as necessary.
  9. Clean and groom all plants and be sure that they are free from diseases, insects, and spray residue. Be sure that leaves and trash have been removed from surface of soil.
  10. Use plain, unadorned containers. In no instance should the container detract from the plant being displayed. Double pot if desired, being sure that the inner pot is not visible.
  11. All horticulture must be of excellent quality. The Horticulture Classification Committee may refuse to display below standard specimens or material that has been oiled or dressed.
  12. No accessories are permitted in the Horticulture Section (Exception: Dish Gardens and Terrariums). Unobtrusive staking is permitted where needed, but training mechanics must be removed.
  13. Plant stands will be provided for hanging or draping plants. Hangers should be removed.



  About Marie Harrison  
Marie HarrisonServing as a Master Flower Show Judge, a Floral Design Instructor, instructor of horticulture for National Garden Clubs, and a University of Florida Master Gardener immerses me in gardening/teaching activities. In addition to these activities, I contribute regularly to Florida Gardening magazine and other publications. I am author of four gardening books, all published by Pineapple Press, Sarasota, Florida. Read about them and visit me at

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