Experiences from an Industry Insider
Flower show are competitive events for displaying floral design, garden design, and horticultural specimens. The National Council on State Garden Clubs continues to be the standard for local flower shows. Some horticultural society flower shows have large participation and attendance, and they motivate commercial entities and organizations to create large display gardens. Two well-known flower shows are The RHS Chelsea in Chelsea, London and The PHS Philadelphia Flower Show, both sponsored by horticultural societies. These large shows require corporate sponsorship and huge venues. I’m afraid they are becoming too difficult to stage and finance, since priorities are changing from gardening to video games. A more typical flower show is run, top to bottom, by volunteers interested in the thrill of garden design and plant material.
I’ve participated in a few large-scale flower show displays. The image above shows the setup for a display of hundreds of forced daffodils in bloom. It was fun to construct and quite beautiful for the brief moments it was in place. Everything must be set up and taken down within a few days. The amount of work is arduous, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone try it without trucks, a crew of heavy-lifters, and access to large props and masses of plant material. After creating a few displays, I have to say, the process not fun unless you really love to show off. The real fun is in seeing the display gardens built by other groups.
Flower show design exhibits are judged for design, staging, and creativity. It is amazing to see how clever some people can be! Flower show horticultural specimens are judged for health, size, bloom, and foliage. Single specimens are held in individual glass bottles, and special collections are staged in groups. All entries are held to standards established in the written schedule, in an attempt to keep judging fair and unbiased. A schedule and theme for all the show’s classes is written solely for the event, so each flower show is unique. Ribbons and awards are presented to outstanding entries, with standards of judging established by the sponsoring organizations.
In the design competition category, the judging results can be a surprise. Some judges like old-fashioned, “modern” designs. Others like things light and airy. Others love sumptuous, romantic designs. I suspect judging is sometimes based on politics or sentimentality. Try not to become discouraged if your prized creation get a white ribbon with judging comments like, “too many components” or “too realistic.” A flower show is like the Oscars for floral design, with a few blue-ribbon shockers in every show.
If you want to win a flower show competition, here are some typical ways to improve your chances.
For large gardens and educational displays.
• Use bold, dramatic color
• Keep the design simple
• Include elements that will wow visitors
For horticultural specimens
• Use species and cultivars that are unique
• Pick only stems in full fruit or flower
• Try to find the largest stem allowable in the show schedule
• Groom the specimen and remove dead leaves
For floral designs
• Follow the basic principles of design
• Scale your design appropriately for the space
• Use dramatic contrast in texture and color
• Use stems with very large blooms that can be seen easily from a distance
• Limit the number and type of components in your design. Judges hate cluttered designs.
Enjoy the show!