Preparing your Plants and Flowers for the Fair

Faith Peterson
Adams County Master Gardener

The South Mountain Fair begins on Tuesday, August 22, with judging of floral specimens, potted plants and artistic arrangements. Anyone in Adams County with flowers for these categories is invited to enter them in this yearís fair. Volunteers will be available to help you register your entries on Sunday afternoon, August 20, from 1 pm and 4 pm and Monday evening, August 21, between the hours of 4 pm and 8 pm.

As you prepare your plants, here are some tips to ensure freshness, vitality and appearance of your entries. Letís start with potted plants.

Potted Plants - All such plants are to be exhibited in pots in which they have been growing for 3 months, so they should have been potted prior to May 20th. The bottom of the pot or container should be marked with your name and address. Pots may not exceed 10 inches inside diameter. All the pots should be clean, with no plastic supports or other artificial embellishments. The use of plant sprays on the foliage is not permitted. There should be only one plant species per pot, except in collection classes. No hanging plants will be entered, due to space constraints.

As you select the plants you plan to enter, carefully wash off the foliage and prune out any dead or damaged foliage. Check your plants to be sure that they do not have any diseases or insect problems. Be sure the plant is growing evenly in the pot by turning it with each watering to eliminate one-sided growth.

The soil should be loose and not caked. The plant should not be leggy, and the soil should be level in the pot. On plants that do not flower, the foliage should be large, well formed and neatly arranged on the stem. The plant should be as large as possible without looking top-heavy in the pot. A good rule is to have the plant twice the size of the pot.

Flowering plants should be in bloom with as many flowers as the plant can support. The open flowers should be mature, with plenty of immature flowers coming along. No overly mature flowers should be left on the plant. Flowers should be as large as possible for the variety of plant.

Judges will consider the balance between the size of the plant and the pot. The shape of the plant should be symmetrical and compact, so that it gives a good appearance from all sides.

Specimen Flowers - All entries in this category must be grown by the exhibitor. Uniformity of height, color and size are important in evaluating each entry. Three blooms of Bachelorís Buttons, for example, should all be the same height and have flowers of the same color. All flowers should be the same size and age.

When gathering the flowers for your entries, it is important to collect the flowers early in the morning, or in the evening. Pick several of each planned entry, so that you can select the best one for each entry class when you arrive at the Fair. After the flowers are picked and taken inside, remove the lower leaves that would be under the water in the container and re-cut the stem under running water. Place the flower stems immediately in a vase of water and condition them in a draft-free area with no bright light.

Cuttings should include sufficient attached foliage, keeping in mind the foliage information requirements listed in the potted plants information above. No insect holes, powdery mildew, etc. should be visible on the foliage.

Bring the flowers and potted plants to the Fair in enough separate containers so that no damage or bruising occurs to either flowers or foliage during transporting. The containers provided at the Fair must be used for all specimen floral entries. They will be pre-filled with water when you arrive.

Stem and foliage should be in proportion to the size of the flower. Stems should be straight and strong enough to support the flower heads without bending. All flowers should be identical in freshness, size, shape, color, and straightness of stem and be free of blemishes and pest injury.

Remember in the classes with entries of more than one bloom that all the blooms are to be identical in size, shape, color, and stem height. When entering roses, please note that the variety of each rose entered must be named. For example, American Beauty or Peace rose.

Additional entry Divisions include arboreal branches and herbs. Please check this yearís premium book for specific guidelines for all entries. Premium books are available at the Adams County Extension Office, Adams County Bank branches, Mark Dellingerís greenhouse at Cross Keys, local fruit markets, Janeís Market and some post offices.

Artistic Arrangements - In this category, all classes have size limitations. Please check the premium book so that your entry is within the size limits.

In the Youth Division, there are two divisions based on age. Division A is for youth under the age of 10, and Division B is for youth aged 11 through 17. The age must be clearly displayed on the tag of each entry. Entrants 18 or older compete in the adult division.

All exhibited entries must remain in place until Saturday, August 27. Early removal of any entry will forfeit the premium money. All of the committee members hope to see an increase in the number of entries at the 2006 South Mountain Fair. If you have questions, please contact anyone listed in the Premium Book. We are here to help you with your entry and wish you good luck in the competition.

Hope to see you at the South Mountain Fair!

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