Garden Diary - March 2011

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Friday, 4 March 2011
Behind the Scenes at the Philadelphia Flower Show - Setting Up Entries

I've been to the Philadelphia Flower Show several times. Each year there's a theme, grand "set pieces" of gardens flowering with intermingled seasons. What fascinates me though, are the horticultural classes. Bulbs, for example. I can coax pots of tulips, hyacinths, or daffodils into early bloom. But to arrange that they do so on a specific date - there's the challenge. Magnificent orchids is dazzling display. And the cacti and succulents . . . . .

I never really thought much about what goes into an entry. You have a plant that looks good, and there's an appropriate class. Fill out a form, bring it in, plunk it down, then wait to see if it wins a ribbon.

Not hardly.

The planning, tending, primping, and entering takes months of effort and a keenly honed sense of showmanship. This year I came to the flower show the day before opening, and had a rare opportunity for a behind the scenes appreciation of setting up horticultural exhibits.

Getting them to the show is the culmination of months of effort. Jerry was sweet enough to arrange
the Expedition (that applies to our five vehicle convoy as well as the plant transport) so I had a seat.
Large pots and small ones. Pots wedged with inverted plastic pots and wedges of newspaper. After
months of careful cultivation the last thing that's needed is an untimely tipping over and irreparable damage.


. . . . . . .

As time grew closer for the event plants were constantly assessed for potential show-worthiness.
As shown in the image above left, a small orange marker inserted in the pot identified each contender
that was selected. Image above right displays the back side of a pot identified by a chalk mark.
That's for best side forward placement on the show bench. The opposite side, naturally.

With an Expedition-worth of plants (and it was double stacked in back too) which plant in what class
can get confusing. A small plastic label with plant name and class identification number(s) makes it easier.

It may have revisions, highlights, spilled coffee stain - just the same, there's a Very Important master list.

Record cards. Scissors. There's last minute primping, tweaking, grooming. A pair of long tweezers
allows the removal of a crumpled leaf, tiny spent flower, a grain of mulching gravel in the wrong color.


Three echevarias on the cart, ready to be wheeled over to the appropriate Passer's table. They minutely
inspect the plant for any defect of character and container (such as a grain of mis-colored mulching gravel
- and yes, I got called out on that.) Passers may not touch plant or pot. When they finish their examination

then the Recorder matches the specific entry to their master check list. This information now gets entered
paper & computer. Only now will the plant be placed on the show bench. And then it is all up to the judges.

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