Collections and displays may be included as a section in the horticulture division of a Standard Flower Show. They add pizazz and distinction to shows, delight the public, and give exhibitors a chance to display the best of their favorite plants.
In a Standard Flower Show, both collections and displays must consist of a minimum of five different cut specimens exhibited in individual containers, five different container-grown plants exhibited in individual containers, or five specimens, sets of fruits, vegetables, or nuts, exhibited on plates, etc. The individual specimens are as culturally perfect as can be managed by the exhibitor. In a display the artistic effect is just as important as cultural perfection.
Specimens within a collection or display must consist of
One family, e.g., Lamiaceae or Araceae
Plants with like characteristics, e.g., ferns, bromeliads, gingers, grasses
Different species within a genus, e.g., Salvia madrensis, Salvia farinacea
Different cultivars within a genus or species, e.g., Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria', Salvia farinacea ‘Blue Bedder'
Five different cut or container-grown annuals, biennials, perennials, or sets of fruits, vegetables, or nuts.
Five different cut branches (of trees or shrubs, not to exceed 30 inches in length)
The exhibitor should study schedule requirements carefully when planning to enter a collection in a flower show. Several requirements may be stated in the schedule that influence how specimens are to be exhibited. Staging may be provided by the flower show committee. This staging could be blocks for elevation, place mats, or other devices that show plant material to its greatest advantage. If staging is provided, it must be described in the schedule, and it must be identical for each exhibit. The schedule must state the number of specimens or sets required for each exhibit, as well as the amount of space allowed. Advanced registration is usually required so that sufficient space can be allowed.
More often, however, the schedule will simply state the space allowed for a collection. In that case, the exhibitor simply arranges the specimens in the space provided. No additional staging is permitted unless it is stated in the schedule. However, containers should have some degree of uniformity. If container-grown, each plant must be in a separate container that is compatible with the plants and with each other. If specimens are of cut plant materials, transparent containers that are identical or at least similar in appearance should be used.
The sky is the limit when it comes to staging displays. Staging is limited only by the space allotted and the creative ideas of the exhibitor. Decorative effect enters the picture. Anything that can be used to present the specimens and show them off to their best advantage can be used. Backgrounds, table covers, or any other staging that enhances the plant material is allowed. However, don't get too carried away, for the plant material must dominate. Staging cannot take attention away from the plant specimens, so it must remain subordinate.
The Handbook allows other plant material and components to enhance the staging and specimens. Other components could be a vine or plastic tubing that connects the individual specimens, or it could be other plant material, such as a sprig of boxwood in the neck of a bottle to hold the specimen in proper pose.
Interestingly, the lowest-scoring specimen in a collection or display determines the highest ribbon that can be awarded. The scores are not averaged and ribbons placed based on an average score. Only one ribbon is awarded for a collection or display-not one for each specimen.
Sometimes the difference between a blue-ribbon winning collection or display and the red-ribbon may be a simple matter of labeling. If two with plants of equal merit were displayed, the scales would tip toward the exhibit with the best or most attractive labeling. As with all other horticulture entries, each specimen must be labeled using the correct binomial or genus and cultivar names. The labels could be written on individual cards and placed with each specimen, or the names could be listed on a single card, provided that the location within the exhibit is identified. In a collection, the graphics should be neat and legible. However, in a display, the labeling contributes to the decorative effect, so more care should be taken to make it an attractive addition to the exhibit.
Both collections and displays should be placed by the exhibitor to insure proper labeling. It is not done by the placement committee or by any other person who may not be as familiar with the plant materials as the exhibitor is. Exhibitors who have large exhibits should check with the staging chairman to be sure that space can be allotted.
A little preplanning can go a long way towards making your collection or display an exciting and rewarding experience. It certainly adds to the appeal of the flower show, and it is the perfect vehicle for exhibitors who wish to display multiple examples of their favorite plant. Then, there's always that big rosette of brown and green ribbons, the Collector's Showcase Award, that might be won.
About Marie Harrison
Serving as a board member for Valparaiso Garden Club, the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs and the Deep South Region, and National Garden Clubs takes a chunk of my time and attention. Being a Master Flower Show Judge, a Floral Design Instructor, instructor of horticulture for National Garden Clubs, and a University of Florida Master Gardener crowds a bit more into my busy days. 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 www.mariesgardenanddesign.com.