Show-off time

Kiran Narain

Potted plants are generally grouped together for flower shows
Potted plants are generally grouped together for flower shows

End-February to mid-March is the time when parks and gardens in the plains of northern India are at their very best and this is also the season for flower shows and exhibitions. Generally the shows are held over a weekend and are advertised well in advance and the ", which is in effect a set of rules as well as different categories of exhibits, is issued by the organisers in advance.

Within a relatively small area, chosen for a flower show, one can find the best of flowers, in the form of pots and cut flowers, of different categories. It is an educative experience and one learns a lot as all the exhibits are named and labelled. Generally the most successful exhibitors are also those who have gained experience over several flower shows.

Planning in advance is always a beneficial thing as success at a flower show is not achieved solely by dumping well-grown exhibits of cut flowers or potted plants in the places allotted for each of the classes. The exhibits must be at their prime, free from blemish, of the required number and of high quality. One has to conform to the requirement of number of pots or spikes specified in the brochure, by which the judges are to be guided in making their awards. You may be having best of two Antirhinums but the one with lesser quality of the required number will be the winner. In the same way, putting in a couple of extra pots in a group to make it look more attractive may disqualify the exhibit.

The greatest problem confronting exhibitors is the control of the flowering time of their exhibits—more so in the case of people with limited plants. The grower should know how to hasten or retard the development of the exhibit to be entered in a show. With fluctuations in temperature and the detrimental effects of strong breeze, the plants will need constant attention.

Pot plants: The show authorities generally specify a number required like 3, 6 or 12 in case of general annuals or bulbous plants. Normally, it does not require more than a single plant for "novelties". It would be wise to prepare double or one and a half times the number of pots for each category. Due to their mobility, pots are easier to move from a sunny location to partial shade for retarding their growth or vice versa for hastening their development. For hastening their maturity, pots can be moved not only to a sunny spot but also to a cozy corner where warmth is radiated off a South-facing wall or heat absorbing stone slabs. Cleanliness is also a factor which counts high among judges, so neatly staked and terracotta painted pots would be an attractive object. Since judges have the right to disarrange and probe into the exhibit in search of flaws of any kind, do not try to camouflage bed-grown plants lifted and transplanted as "Pot Plants" – it may invite disqualification.

Cut flower class: Quality of the exhibits in the specific section is of paramount importance but also try to match them in size and shape keeping in mind the number of stems required. Judges also look for freshness, so take care to choose and fill the vases with water keeping in mind the size of the exhibit—large dahlias may topple a tiny vase whereas sweet peas will get lost in a larger vase. Cut flowers for the show should be cut first thing in the morning or late evening, immersed immediately in a bucket of water and allowed to drink well so that they can withstand the draught and dust under a shamiana in the show. They should be carried in the bucket only to the site of show.

Retarding the growth of flowers in a bed can be achieved to some extent. Extra watering or providing shade by thatch or even pierced newspapers may make a little difference in time of flowering. Even cutting and bringing in of some flowers a few days earlier may help. Even if you are not participating in the show this year, it may be a good idea to visit a flower show of repute and save a copy of the schedule or brochure—who knows you may take part in the show next year.