Look the Judge in the Eye

A simple guide to growing and showing for beginners by Ian Penney


Preparing For The Show

If you have never entered a show before you should consider how you are going to display your entries before show day. Experienced exhibitors will have a range of vases, plates and containers ready to show their produce to the best advantage.

For flowers you should have either a straight-sided vase or one that is wider at the top than at the bottom, the size being dependent on the blooms. Please, no milk or beer bottles, there far more attractive containers than these. When you are more experienced you should consider buying purpose made show containers, which are easier to use and display your flowers much better. These are initially expensive but are very long lasting (show vases can be bought through the Society’s secretary). You also require something to hold the blooms in position in the vase. Flower arranger's oasis trimmed to fit the top of the vase is very useful. Moss is also very good for supporting blooms. Do not however collect your moss from the wild, the moss in your lawn, that you want rid of, will do. If moss is in short supply I find that perlite in the bottom of the vase, with moss at the top, gives good support.

Displaying Your Exhibits

Having got suitable containers ready now look at your exhibit. If you are entering a single specimen, select the bloom that is freshest, cleanest and appeals to you most. Place it in the vase and judge its length compared to the container. Cut the stem if it appears proportionately long. Look at the bloom, with a fine paintbrush remove any dirt or insects that are on it, the judge does not want to see these. When you are showing more than one item, be it flower, fruit or vegetable, quality still counts but of equal importance is uniformity.

You are far more likely to gain a prize if you have say three onions of approximately the same size than one larger one of better quality and two smaller ones. In an ideal world beans should be all the same length, however, since you are a beginner put in your entry even if they are of different sizes and try to arrange them in order of size and shape. You will find that most of the other entries will be variable like yours.

Soft fruit is best displayed in a circle on top of leaves of the fruit bush on a flat plate. Bunches of currants are placed in a shallow bowl, again leaves being used to enhance the exhibit.

In a 3 flower class take all the blooms that you have and lay them side by side. Select the tallest and straightest bloom for the middle. Then select 2 more blooms of equal size for the sides. If, as often happens, one bloom leans say to the left, place it to the left of the central bloom and similarly with the right. This will give your exhibit a more balanced look.

Finally before you leave your exhibit count the number of beans, raspberries or whatever because if the schedule says five and you have six you will get those dreaded letters NAS - ‘not according to schedule’ and all your work will be wasted.