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St. Louis, Missouri
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Big Sale, Bigger Show -- Schnebelen
Takes Sweepstakes in Record HSCS Event
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By David Wolfe
As the 2008 Olympic Games got under way in Beijing, Henry Shaw Cactus Society was handing out its own awards at a record-breaking Annual Show and Sale.
Just before the biggest cactus and succulent event in the Midwest opened at Missouri Botanical Garden August 9, Pam Schnebelen took the Sweepstakes Award cup for the 58 blue ribbons and five Special Awards her plants received. Mike Hellmann came in second with 38 blue ribbons and eight specials. Joe Robertson followed with 16 blue ribbons for his plants. In what some HSCS members considered the best show ever, Kacy Eschweiler was the top Junior Division finisher.
"You should be very proud," show judge Dan Mahr said. "Not only of the plants that you exhibited, but also of the high level of volunteerism that I witnessed that made the entire event so successful."
The show's 34 entrants displayed a record 865 plants. In addition, said Hellmann, who co-directed the show and sale, this year's entries were larger and healthier than in past events -- with better staging, too. He again credited the club's education efforts at meetings and workshops for the advances.
"There is a contagious enthusiasm at meetings that is building on itself," he said. "We're creating depth in the group."
Cacti: "Where It's At"
Reflecting an ongoing trend in the hobby, the majority of show tables held succulents. While Schnebelen won ribbons for her beautiful and varied succulents, her many cacti and work with propagation also received awards. "Cacti are where it's at," she said. "I work hard to show in every cactus class I can."
Schnebelen said that although Japanese beetles and the rainy spring damaged some of her collection, she entered about 150 plants, which she hauled to the show in a rental van. Her signature Bad Hair Day, the mature Fockea crispa pictured in show materials, didn't make it in because its foliage had not re-established after a repotting.
Former Cactus and Succulent Society of America president Mahr said the high number of quality entries led the judges to recognize multiple plants for blue and other ribbons in many classes.
"Very soon after we started judging, we recognized the high caliber of plants being exhibited," Mahr said. "We came to a collective decision that if two or more plants were very close in quality, we felt they should be awarded equivalently."
In addition to category winners, Mahr and fellow judges Wolfgang Werk and Joyce Hochtritt selected a group of plants for individual awards. Hellmann won the Dorothy Weitz Best Cactus award for his Leuchtenbergia principis. The Best Succulent was Hellmann's Euphorbia abdelkuri. The Judge's Choice for cactus was Don Krechel's hard-grown Agave titanota "Koyoto," while a Fouquieria fasciculata entered by Hellmann was the Judge's Choice for succulent plant.
After the show, Mahr offered both praise and a bit of constructive criticism. A common general weakness of plants in the show, he said, was lack of good light. For some grafted plants, the grafting stock was taller than necessary and drew attention away from the scion. Also, Mahr said, "A few very nice plants had weeds in the pots and were downgraded accordingly."
While a few long-time entrants did not participate in the 2008 event for various reasons, several newer members made it their first show. Ralph Olliges entered 13 plants and was pleased to receive 10 ribbons, including a blue one for his succulent Amorphaphallus rivieri. He said he selected a range of plants to learn more about them.
"I learned two ways," Ollegis said. Comparisons to other entries in his chosen classes were helpful, as well as more direct input received from more-seasoned HSCS members. They suggested, for example, that some of his pots were too large for their respective plants.
Barbara Gardner had another successful run in the decorative section. She entered plants in 22 of the 23 classes -- and won a ribbon in each. Michele Erickson also won a collection of blue ribbons within the same classes.
Decorative judge Pat Thomann said that in addition to the "old favorites," there were some interesting new entries. In deciding the top awards, "form, color and plant material are the three inputs, and they have to coordinate," Thomann said.
Co-director Janet Kister said the change in dates from July to August, the lagging economy, early school schedules and other factors may have influenced show sales, which raised somewhat less for HSCS activities than last year. But she still considered the event a financial as well as aesthetic success.
It generated sales to members of CSSA chapters who came from as far as Chicago and Memphis. A record-breaking 21 HSCS members sold plants and plant-related items. The traditional line began forming outside the lobby of the Orthwein Floral Display Hall before the opening, and the major first-day sales were handled by a new checkout system with two lines.
"It seemed like everything went smoothly this year," Kister said. "Maybe because we have the system down to an art."
Desert House News
The HSCS Annual Show and Sale was formally opened by Missouri Botanical Garden Vice President of Horticulture Jim Cocos. Cocos welcomed the crowd to the event and distributed the top awards. He also delivered some good news about a new Desert House at the garden, which he said may become a reality in three or four years. "Thank you for keeping the flame burning" for the house, he said.
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