Exhibiting Your Container Plant, or What the Judges Look For
One of the pleasures of growing plants yourself is entering them in a flower show. Our Nevada Garden Club has several shows every year, some of them geared to specific types of plants (such as chrysanthemums, roses, irises). Others are more general, open to all types of horticulture. The next general Flower Show will be on October 23-24, at the Lorenzi Park Garden Club Center. (Entries are to be submitted the day before.)
If you enter a specimen in a show, there are a few techniques to remember, to present your exhibit in its best light. The show judges are trained to look for certain things. These are especially important in a general show, where the judges might not be trained specifically to judge cactus, or irises, or whatever you are entering.
They will look to see that the container is clean and unbroken. Judges will also consider the soil in the pot, if it is clean, salt-free and without dead leaves, etc. The proportion of the plant to the container is also important, and sometimes its color is taken into consideration - if the pot is very ornate or clashes with the plant, judges might find this distraction to be detrimental. Some beautiful pots can enhance the plant inside, but generally it is better to use a neutral-color pot. An attractive patina is acceptable. If your plant is in a pot which might be distracting, it is perfectly acceptable to put the pot inside another one, to hide the smaller one. However, the inner one should not be visible.
Plants should be average size for their type, or slightly larger. They should not have insect damage, dead parts, broken leaves, or water spots - though you are not allowed to use a leaf shine product to clean them. Distilled water is acceptable for cleaning leaves, and should be done a few days in advance. Plants which are diseased or have insects on them may be rejected - to avoid contaminating other plants.
It is also important to fill out the entry card correctly and legibly! Points are deducted if the botanical name is incomplete or incorrect. Genus and species should be given, first letter of genus capitalized and species lowercase (e.g. Larrea tridentata). Cultivar name should be given if there is one. You can also give the common name, but this is not necessary. Usually there is an Entry Chairperson who can help you, if you are unsure about the name.
Pay attention to the show's "schedule" (the pamphlet which outlines the classes and rules of the show). Container-grown plants generally must have been in the exhibitor's possession for at least 90 days. Multiple plants of the same species in the same container are permitted unless the schedule prohibits them.
The Handbook for Flower Shows, printed by National Garden Clubs, Inc., lists these and other considerations for judging container-grown plants (among much other information).