From the Digest

Helpful Hints for Winning Blue Ribbons

PhotoBy Nicki Crozier (July 2003)

Perhaps my observations and experience as an accredited standard flower show judge can help you win those desirable blue ribbons. I also judged quite a few cactus and succulent shows, but decided not to become a CSSA judge, as it takes too much time traveling around to shows.

Both standard flower shows and cactus and succulent shows have a printed schedule stating the rules for entering, descriptions of the different classifications for plants, names of the committee members, dates and other information. Read the rules carefully and follow them to the letter. Obtain entry blanks and have them filled out and ready to attach to your plants. If you have questions, ask the show committee.

Groom your plants and get them looking as good as possible. Remove all dead leaves and stems. Give them a shower under the vegetable sprayer in the sink.

Make sure the pots and plants are in the right proportion, not over or under potted. Clean the pots and top dress the plants with small, neutral-color gravel or rock. Do not use colored gravel.

Make sure the plants are centered in the pots and that the soil level or top dressing is a bit below the rim, not spilling over it. Do not add accessories unless the schedule states it is all right to do so. Some classes, such as dish gardens, are enhanced by the addition of rocks and driftwood, but they must be in proportion to the container and plants.

It is a good idea to check the plants you are going to enter well in advance of the show. Plants that need to be repotted need time to get established before you transport them. Newly potted plants can uproot on the way to the show.

If you are entering a dish garden, make sure it is a garden in a dish. Combine forms, use tall and medium plants in the background with round or low-growing plants in the front. Have the top dressing at a pleasing level. It should truly look like a miniature garden.

For an eye-pleasing display when entering a collection, which usually consists of five individually potted plants, have them all potted in the same type of container. Collections belonging to the same genus are the most interesting to me. Your goal is to make the collection look as good and interesting as possible.