Raising Chrysanthemum Plants for Exhibition – Perfect Chrysanthemum Blooms
How to Prepare Chrysanthemum Plants for Exhibitions
Chrysanthemum cuttings must be taken sooner than those for normal garden display purposes. It is necessary to have good strong plants earlier in the season so that the stopping can be carried out correspondingly earlier, therefore producing good blooms in time for the shows. The treatment of cuttings is the same as I have already described for propagating all chrysanthemums.
Stopping chrysanthemum plants for exhibition is rather different from that of ordinary display plants. They have to be stopped strictly according to a ‘key’. The key that nurseries supply in their catalogues is not always a good guide, as the stopping dates will vary according to the part of the country in which the plants are being grown. The nurseries’ keys are only a very general guide. I would strongly advise the novice exhibitor to make his own stopping key for each of his varieties. It will be necessary to grow a variety for a year, noting the time of stopping and how the chrysanthemum plant behaves. Then adjust the time of stopping the next year if it blooms incorrectly for a particular show.
Extra care and feeding must be exercised when growing plants for exhibition. The plants need more room for development, because to grow a good chrysanthemum the foliage must be kept healthy right down to the base of the plant. The healthier the foliage the stronger the plant and this, of course, encourages perfect blooms. The plants will benefit from plenty of potash applied when the flower buds are seen to be developing.
Disbudding of thesehas to be carried out earlier than for the display plants, and indoor varieties have to be brought into a greenhouse early. Large and medium exhibition and exhibition incurved varieties start showing the colour of their petals sooner than the other greenhouse types. Great care must be taken to prevent damping of the blooms when the plants are in the house as this will render them useless for show work.
Preparing and Transporting Chrysanthemum Blooms
After selecting the chrysanthemum blooms for a show, they should be cut as I have explained in the section regarding cutting chrysanthemums. The stems of large exhibition varieties should have all the leaves stripped off them as points are riot awarded for foliage in this section. Additional foliage may, however, be added when arranging them. Points are awarded for foliage in all other sections, so I would suggest leaving about half the foliage on the top part of the stems. Check each bloom for any signs of insect pests and remove any present with a soft artist’s brush.
Packing blooms in their boxes ready for transporting them to a show is really a work of art. Some exhibitors, especially those who travel down from the North to the London shows of the N.C.S., use huge wooden packing crates for their blooms, which need to be transported in some-thing akin to a furniture van. The sole reason for this is that the blooms must necessarily be transported without rubbing against each other, so damaging the petals.
For the average amateur, who does not have to travel a great distance to a show, long, deep boxes, either of wood or thick cardboard, can be used satisfactorily. These should be equipped with a removable lid. The first thing to do is to line the box completely with soft tissue paper. At one end of the box, about 6 in. away from the end, a roll or cushion of tissue paper should be placed across the bottom of the box. The top part of the chrysanthemum stems can then be laid on this support, so keeping the blooms off the bottom of the box. The same procedure can be carried out at the other end of the box. A second row of blooms can be placed at each end again. Place a roll of tissue paper over the stems already in place, just below the blooms. Then lay a further row of blooms on this support, pushing the stems carefully between the blooms at the opposite end of the box. After the blooms are in place, wedge a bamboo cane across the centre of the box to hold the stems securely. Lay a sheet of tissue paper over the blooms and then place the lid on the box.
Special boxes are constructed by some of the big exhibitors to carry the blooms upright, the stems being supported between wooden cross rails, often with the bases of the stems in small vases of water. These are fairly complicated affairs for the average amateur to tackle, but as experience and knowledge is gained, so he will progress to these types of boxes, especially when he starts showing his blooms up and down the country. A good way of finding out which types of crates are most popular, and how the blooms are packed, is to watch some of the well-known exhibitors at some of the larger shows bringing in their crates and unpacking them. Very often these experts are only too willing to give a word of advice to the less experienced.
Staging Chrysanthemum Blooms
On arrival at the show, the blooms of your chrysanthemum plants should be unpacked very carefully and placed preferably in buckets of water until they can be arranged in vases. Any damaged or discoloured petals may be gently removed with a pair of tweezers, but on no account remove too many as this will be noticed by the judges who will then down-grade the blooms.
The vases should be packed with reeds or privet stems to hold the stems upright. The use of supports for blooms is a very important point and the exhibitor must become familiar with the rules laid down by the N.C.S., otherwise he will be disqualified if he uses them in a class in which supports are not allowed.
Cups or wire rings may be used to support the blooms of large exhibition and medium exhibition varieties only. These are secured underneath the bloom. The cups or rings must not exceed 3 in. in diameter, including padding if used. No cups or rings may be used for exhibition incurved varieties, but supports for the stems will not disqualify. The use of supports of any kind for blooms in any other section is strictly forbidden.
It is interesting to note that a ‘single’ chrysanthemum is a bloom with about five rows of ray florets. Medium-sized blooms often have more than five rows. This point should be borne in mind if exhibiting singles.
Finally, I would like to point out that the main thing which judges are watching for are: freshness of chrysanthemum blooms; good colour, typical of the variety; good shape or form, according to the variety; good size, according to the particular variety; perfect centres to the blooms; crispness of petal; clean, healthy foliage, except for large exhibition varieties; and the way in which the chrysanthemum blooms have been staged. As I say, these are some of the main points to watch, but I would suggest that further study of the N.C.S. Booklet, Classified Catalogue of Cultivars and Rules for Judging, will put the novice exhibitor on the road to success.