Learn about the art of growing flowers at your local flower shows!
Learn about the art of growing flowers at your local flower shows!

This Friday and Saturday, at the local Library, there will be a Small Standard Flower Show called “Signs of Spring.” Presented by the local Garden Club, it is open to the public and free.  

And well worth a stop to see it. Local Flower Shows are one of the special things that bind a town together in these days of less face-to-face sharing and less hands-on sharing of skills and competitions.

There will be the expected flower design arrangements, but also the flowers of perennials and shrubs that do well in this local area. And house plants. Have you ever wondered what to grow and how to grow it? This is the place to come.

I remember going to a Standard Flower Show at a small town in England many years ago and was both enchanted and amused at the small bottles with displays of local blooms. It was very competitive.

The best flowers got prize ribbons. Those that were just so-so got nothing. And all the folks cared very much and completely enjoyed the show. So did I.  

Although this is a small town, it has an active garden club with many experts who know so much about everything. And they cheerfully compete for those ribbons and enchant us all.

A Small Standard Flower Show is not just a group of backyard gardeners who throw a few flimsy flowers in some old vase. Like my mother did.

There is a 6-page booklet of rules to be followed just to enter. It goes back to Victorian England you know, when everyone had a garden (and probably a gardener too.)

I have carefully read the booklet and will look for things and design features I never knew existed. I remember judging in an old large city Flower Show, on a panel with a garden club judge from Philadelphia. She was very, very, very picky. I now better understand why.

The "Signs of Spring" Show has several categories, each with its own special requirements. Floral Design alone has 4 classes: Birds are Nesting, Parallel Design, All is Green and a small table setting for one person.

Another category is Strawberry Jars filled with herbs. (I wish I had one. Maybe after I see them, I will try to make one.) Another is small houseplants, some grown for foliage, others grown for flowers.

The flowers of our best perennials, shrubs and trees will also compete. (Iris, rose, rhododendron, etc.) All are displayed in identical small, boring jars to make it fair for the "Best in Show" or "First Prize" ribbons.

Each flower has characteristics that make it perfect and every Garden Club judge knows what they are. But of course Mother Nature is never perfect, so the prizes will be for as-close-to-perfect-as-possible.

Design judging is far more complex. It includes balance, scale, proportion, texture, rhythm, harmony and on. The local Garden Club has several well-known flower arrangers, lecturers and certified judges.

I share one of their secrets. To make cut flowers last longer, cut very early in the morning, soak the stems in water in the dark for a few hours. Then arrange them. For the stems of woody plants, strip back at least an inch of bark and split the stem end in half. I experimented and split one azalea. It lasted two days longer.

So go and enjoy any Small Standard Flower Show that you are lucky enough to have in your town.

Ruth S. Foster is a landscape consultant and arborist. More info at www.mothersgarden.net.

Credit: www.mothersgarden.net