Staging Rose Exhibits
The schedule of the show should always be studied carefully before attempting to stage an exhibit. A visit to the show the previous year will have given you a valuable opportunity to study the class or classes in which you can compete: you will have been able to assess the standard you will need to attain or surpass, and to note the varieties favoured by competitors. You should also have made a point of observing the methods of experienced exhibitors.
Most exhibitors find that some of their blooms require protection from rain or sun, or perhaps both, and special protectors are obtainable for this purpose. They are attached to a stake with a clip which allows adjustment according to the height of the rose stem, and they should be placed in position by the time the blooms are beginning to release their petals. You must take care to ensure that rain cannot drip onto the flower and that wind cannot damage the petals.
Experienced exhibitors tie their buds three days before the show in order to lengthen the petals and so provide a larger and more shapely bloom. This is a useful ‘trick of the trade’, but you should give yourself plenty of practice before using the method on your exhibits, otherwise you may damage them. Use a piece of thick, soft wool about 230 mm (9 in) long. Pass it around the bloom about two thirds of the way down from the point, and secure it with a double twist. The petals must be quite dry before tying. Blooms already opening should not be tied: they will be past their best before judging time. The ties should be loosened each day to allow for natural growth, otherwise the petals will be marked. Frequent inspection is necessary at this stage, as some blooms may open up too quickly, while others will be backward.
The time for cutting depends largely on how long it will take you to get to the show. If it is a local one and the weather is good, you can get up early the same morning and cut your blooms, placing them immediately in a container of water in a dark, cool place. The stems will absorb water, and this will keep them fresh for staging. Nowadays most blooms are exhibited in vases or bowls, so stems must be cut long enough for good presentation. At least one basal eye should be left on the plant to provide a new growth for replacement. Specimen blooms are still shown in boxes, and there are usually special classes for this method, although it is now on the decline. For these classes 150 mm (6 in) of stem will be adequate. The boxes measure 450 by 800 mm (18 by 12 in) for six blooms, and 450 by 600 mm (18 by 24 in) for twelve, and have detachable lids. The blooms are inserted in removable holders which fit into water-retaining tubes. Keen exhibitors usually carry a spare box of blooms, so that any which have opened too quickly can be replaced. The decline in the use of specimen boxes is due largely to the increasing popularity of presentingmore naturally in bowls and vases. These are usually provided at the major shows, whereas exhibition boxes are the property of the exhibitor.
If the journey to the show is going to take you several hours, the blooms will have to be cut the previous evening, preferably when the sun is low. Place them in water straight away preferably in a container in which they can remain until they are placed on the show bench. When cutting, it is a good idea to remove the lower leaves and thorns. Some exhibition varieties suffer from a weak neck and must be supported by wiring to keep the bloom upright. This is another technique the beginner should practise beforehand. Two methods are in general use. One is to push stiff florist’s wire into the seed pod and secure it to the stem with wire of a fine gauge. The other method is to use fine-gauge wire to form a small ring around the stem, and then to push it up under the sepals so that it encircles the seed pod; the end of the wire is then run down the stem and twisted around it a couple of times.
Rose blooms (as opposed to the stems) should not be packed wet if you have a long journey to a show. Exhibitors generally develop their own methods, wrapping them in various kinds of soft paper, and designing special boxes to fit into cars or cases. Evolving your own, unique methods is just another part of the fascination of exhibiting. But there is one golden rule when preparing blooms for a long journey: pack them tightly, for if they are allowed any elbow room in the cases they are almost certain to arrive damaged.
Standard items of exhibitor’s equipment include a sharp knife, a pen, cards for labelling exhibits, a pair of secateurs, a notebook, your schedule, and reeds or rushes to hold the exhibits in position in their vases. A fine camelhair brush is also useful for cleaning up and dressing specimen blooms; if moistened it is also the best method of removing any greenfly.