Exhibiting Flowers

Flowers are usually entered either in specialist shows (such as those for roses, delphiniums or chrysanthemums), or in general shows, which can cover decorative pot plants and cut flowers. But for whatever kind of show, the methods of preparation are the same.


Select good pest-free specimens, of even all-round growth. Remove any dead leaves, and see that any supports that have been used during cultivation are in good, clean condition, and that the pots themselves arc clean. The appearance of bulbs grown in pots is enhanced if bright green, clean moss is spread over the soil.

If the pots or bowls cannot be carried to the show by hand, pack them carefully in boxes, wedging small bags of peat between the pots to prevent them from moving. If the plants are tall, see that their stems and flowers are adequately supported.

Arrange the pots or bowls attractively, with the taller plants at the back.


Select specimens of good texture and colour and of even size and growth. Be careful to avoid those that are already past their full bloom.

Generally, flowers should be cut early on the morning of the show. Remove any lower unwanted leaves from the stems. Then, with the exception of any flowers that are inclined to droop when damp, plunge them to just below their heads in a bucket or can of water. Put them in water as soon as possible, because it does not take long for the stem cells to heal after cutting, and then water is not taken up quickly. To prevent air from entering the hollow stems of plants such as delphiniums, place the thumb over the bottom of each stem immediately it is cut, and then plunge the stem into a barrel of water, removing the thumb only when the stem is in the water. Allow the stem to fill with water, then plug the end with cotton wool. All the bungs thus provided for hollow-stemmed flowers can be removed when the stems are in water at the show.


When packing, first see that the stems and flower heads are dry (especially the stems of those that have been standing in water). Then wrap the blooms in tissue paper or cotton wool so that they are separated from one another, and either place them carefully but fairly tightly together in a box lined with soft paper, or wrap each bunch in strong paper or metal foil to prevent bruising and as a protection from the wind.

If the show is within easy distance, packing can be avoided; stand the flowers upright in suitable containers and, for preference, in water.

Follow the instructions in the show schedule as to the number of flowers required in each class, and stage the flowers as attractively as possible in vases, baskets or display frames according to the requirements of the competition. Keep all vases topped up with water.

Defoliating for exhibitions is not only permitted but is often advisable to preserve freshness.


When exhibiting annuals, make sure that the plants are true annuals and not quick-growing and quick-blooming biennials. The definition of an annual is ‘a plant that naturally and ordinarily begins and ends its growth, seeds and dies (irrespective of frosts) within twelve months’.

Show schedules should state clearly whether or not they permit as eligible in the annual class those perennials that by common usage are regarded as annuals—for instance, antirrhinums.


To obtain show specimens of border carnations, disbudding is essential, coupled with rigorous pest control. Providing the soil is right, do not feed border carnations heavily, as this may result in split calyces; this hazard can often be prevented by slipping a rubber band over each calyx.

Perpetual-flowering carnations, grown under glass, are also excellent subjects for exhibition, as their continuous blooming means that specimens are nearly always available.


Early-flowering chrysanthemums are exhibited at September shows and the late-flowering varieties in November.

Growing chrysanthemums for exhibition demands devotion to the details of cultivation described in Chrysanthemums, and the would-be exhibitor will find it worthwhile to become a member of the National Chrysanthemum Society, which issues literature on the subject.


Dahlia exhibits are a most important feature of September shows. The long stems lend themselves to very attractive and imposing displays.

Judging and classification nowadays are almost always in accordance with the rules of the National Dahlia Society, and would-be exhibitors should familiarize themselves with these conditions.

Owing to the difficulties of handling and transporting very large blooms, the smaller types, which are so much easier to manage, are now more often shown.

Size of bloom used to be all important, but the National Dahlia Society has ruled that quality must take precedence over size, subject to the flowers being shown in their correct classes. There is one exception to this ruling: for exhibition purposes the small pompon varieties must not exceed a diameter of 2 in.


There are three main sections or classifications for gladioli: Grandiflorus, Primulinus (florets hooded and 3 in. or less in diameter) and Primulinus Grandiflorus (florets hooded and over 3 in. in diameter).

A good spike for exhibition should be straight and of good length and have at least five florets open. The florets should be well balanced—that is equal in size, well spaced, and all facing to the front— and they should be of good colour and freshness. Take particular care to see that the bottom flowers are not fading.


These cover a very wide range, but note whether the show schedule calls for ‘hardy herbaceous perennials’ or ‘hardy perennials’. Herbaceous perennials have non-woody stems which die down to the ground each year, but their root stocks promote new growth annually and remain alive for several years. For horticultural show purposes the phrase ‘root stock’ includes all bulbs, corms and tubers.


A good way of exhibiting these flowers is to fill a suitable bowl almost to the top with sand, which should be made thoroughly wet and then drained off until reasonably firm. Insert the stalks in the sand so that the flowers all face one way. Alternatively, special short glass tubes, like test tubes, may be used; these are filled with water and then inserted into the sand to hold the flowers.

Show requirements for both pansies and violas are similar; the flowers should be nearly circular and as large as possible without being coarse, with velvety petals of good substance lying flat over each other. The eye of each bloom should be clear and bright and, in pansies, the blotch should be dense and cover the whole of the lower three petals except for a narrow outer margin. Reject flowers with insect or weather damage.


These are an important feature of both summer and autumn shows, and schedules are designed to cater for the first crop in June and for the second crop in September.

Roses are usually exhibited as specimen blooms or as decorative vases or bowls. Specimen blooms should be of the highest possible quality, but the decorative effect is more important than quality in the other classes.


Exhibition sweet peas should have freshness and trueness of colour to the variety; blooms should be perfectly and regularly placed on the stems, which should be long and straight, with size of bloom in proportion; top blooms should be well open and bottom blooms still in perfect condition, with erect standards and rigid wing petals.

Staging is most important. The best method is to pack the vase tightly with reeds and trim them off flush with the top of the vase with an old razor blade. When the ends of the sweet peas are inserted in the tight pack, the stems will stand properly.

16. February 2012 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, Garden Management, Gardening Calendar | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Exhibiting Flowers


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