Every year as flower show time nears, we garden club members shift into high gear. We've been coasting along all year attending floral design refresher courses and anxiously awaiting publication of this year's flower show schedule. We’ve been grooming our plants and getting them in tiptop shape.
Coming up is the Standard Flower Show. For many floral designers and horticulturists it is the event of the year. Three local clubs, Gulf Area, Garnier Beach, and Valparaiso combine their efforts to put on an outstanding Standard Flower Show.
Now it just so happens that the coveted Sweepstakes Award is usually won by either Gulf Area Garden Club or Garnier Beach Garden Club. They somehow manage to amass the greatest number of points every time! We members of Valparaiso Garden Club decide to band together and break their long-running streak of luck. We plot and scheme. How could we out-fox the dedicated members of our sister clubs?
Our flower show has three major divisions: design, horticulture, and special exhibits. Our garden club has its share of talented designers, but so do the other clubs. We all enter designs, but this is not the ticket to the Sweepstakes Award. Entrants can enter only one design in each class. However, in the horticulture division, many more entries may be made in each class provided each is different in some way. Here, we decided, would be the most likely place to turn the tables on our worthy competitors. All we have to do is to find in our yards cuttings of perfect horticultural specimens that we have grown and display them in clear glass bottles. Container plants, too, may be entered for competition.
Everyone catches the fever. This is a piece of cake! The Sweepstakes Award carries with it a cash prize which our club can surely use! Members who have never participated in the flower show decide that they can do this, too. It's almost too easy.
We start scouting our yards and grooming our container plants. We work like Trojans setting up for the big show and appointing committees for classification, entries, and placement. Judges from nearby towns are secured. Everything waits in readiness. The big day finally arrives.
Veteran flower show participants bring their specimens in early. They know that each entry must be accompanied by entry cards containing the name and address of the exhibitor, name of the flower show and garden club, as well as the complete botanical name of each specimen. Their cards are ready. They breeze through classification, entries, and placement. Their specimens are all attractively displayed. It seems that the various clubs are running neck-to-neck in the sweepstakes race.
Now, where on earth are the Valparaiso Garden Club members who agreed to place entries for the first time? Where, particularly, are Vivian and Norma? Their entries will probably turn the tide in our favor.
Finally they both appear at the door. Both have a box full of horticultural specimens all properly displayed in clear glass bottles. They have that self-satisfied look that comes from the pride of accomplishment. They both wear happy smiles as they approach the classification table. "Here we are!" they announce. "We finally made it!"
"You're just in the nick of time," responds the classification chairman. "Time is nearly up. May I have your entry cards, please?"
"Entry cards?" The smiles become less bright. Tiny worry lines appear on their foreheads.
"You mean that your entry cards are not ready?" queries the classification chairman."Somebody-quick!Bring me a handful of entry cards!" she demands. She then shoves them toward Vivian and Norma. "Get these filled out immediately!"
Smiles fade. They begin the laborious task of filling out the entry cards. "What does ‘botanical name' mean?" asks Norma. Everyone pauses in shocked amazement. Then fellow club members rush to assist. The flower show chairman begins to wring her hands. Tension mounts as we race against the clock. We hope our deodorant is the kind that releases its power in moments like this.
"Hurry!" yells our watch post at the door. "The judges are arriving!"
Pandemonium ensues!The pace intensifies. Tempers flare. Words are hurled about in the air. Botanical names are guessed at and possibly made up on the spot. The official entries committee gets its numbers out of sequence, but presses on anyway in order to give each entry a number. We sprint to placement whose members are now running hither and thither trying to correctly place each specimen.
"Time!" yells the flower show chairman. A few specimens have not been placed.Nevertheless, all motion ceases. Everyone melts away into the woodwork. The almighty judges are here. Now is the moment of truth. The fat lady has sung.
We have only to wait. We won't know the outcome until tomorrow when the final results are tabulated and posted. Now it's more than the monetary reward. Oh yes, it has become much, much more than that. Now it's the final exam that determines whether or not we'll graduate. It's the final drive toward the finish line when the championship is at stake! Is it enough? Did we pass the course or win the game? Will the sought-after Sweepstakes Award finally be ours?
On the following day, we return to the flower show. We approach the posted tabulation board with bated breath. Our eyes scan the score sheet. Dare we believe it? Does it really say-oh, my, -yes, it does-we made it! We dance around, hug each other and congratulate ourselves. The trophy is ours! We soundly won! We passed the course with flying colors!
Was it worth it? You bet it was. The human brain has the remarkable ability to forget tension and anxiety and to remember only the fun part of our successes. We'll try again next year. The competition will be stiffer, because now the other clubs have caught on to our little ploy. We will, however, remember to have a short training session about botanical names and entry cards. It'll be a piece of cake!
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.