A note in the Newfoundland Horticultural Society newsletter — highlighting today’s Farmers Field Day at the Agricultural Station on Brookfield Road, St. John’s, that includes the society’s flower show — reminded me that we are again at show time.
Small and large communities, garden clubs and various organizations provide opportunities for gardeners to compete.
The reason one gardens is an individual choice. For some the it’s the beauty of the plants, for others it’s growing your own food, or for therapeutic reasons.
Many enjoy exhibiting their bounty by entering it in a local show. This is a great way for gardeners to engage in friendly competition and feel a sense of achievement from the gardening season.
Attendance at shows is an opportunity for gardeners and visitors to learn something new about plants, their cultivation, competition techniques and understanding why awards were given to specific entries.
Judges look for several things in judging winners, not just looks. In most cases, this includes several factors, within and outside of the schedule. For flowers, they take into account form, i.e., proper maturity, shape, petalage, stem and foliage. They look for uniformity, colour, size, proportion, clarity of colour and more.
For fruits and vegetables, points are similarly won or lost on colour, brightness and clarity, with a good index to care given. Condition refers to freedom from blemishes from insects, disease, dirt or mechanical damage. Quality should be high. Size should be uniform.
Always adhere to the schedule. This is the official listing of flowers, fruit or vegetables. It is important that your exhibit contains the required number of blooms, vegetables or fruit. No more. No less.
Likewise where minimum or maximum sizes are specified. Note some flowers can continue to increase in size while standing in water, take into account the time from setting up your exhibit to judging time.
Incorrect numbers, sizes, flowers placed in the wrong section will result in your exhibit being disqualified as NAS (not as schedule). Do not expect show officials to remove excess blooms, etc. It is not their job. It is your responsibility to decide what you want judged.
Ensure your entry is free of disease or damage and take care it is not damaged on the way to or at the show. Take a few extra specimens in case of accidents.
Take care when harvesting — lifting or cutting — not to damage the roots. Check whether root vegetables should include tops, or foliage removed. These should be cleaned or washed carefully and be free of soil. Do not make brush scratches, or brush off the skins, such as on potatoes.
Cauliflower heads should be fresh and white. Pea pods should be free from disease. Hold each one up to the light and ensure that each pod is full of peas. Quite often there is a pea missing from the pod. Reject that pod.
The foregoing is just a condensed version of preparation, but do not let it deter you from entering. If you do not enter, do not grumble at the show that you have better specimens in your garden.
Enter and enjoy the experience. Whether you win or lose a prize, you will have learned something.
J.J. Strong is a longtime member of the Newfoundland Horticultural Society.