Category Archives: Flower Show

In a Vase on Monday–March 21, 2015

Typically, I wouldn’t cut a native trillium for a vase, but the Trillium cuneatum below (commonly called Sweet Betsy, or sometimes Purple Toadshade) was collected for entry into the horticulture division of a recent flower show and, I’m happy to say, won  first place in the bulb/corm/rhizome/tuber class.  Though its foliage is not quite as turgid as it would be in the field, I’ve loved having the bloom on my windowsill and thought you would enjoy a look too.


First place winner!

This native plant is common across the Upstate in moist woodlands with calcium-rich soils derived from limestone.  On particularly favorable sites, thousands of plants can carpet the forest floor.  Since removing English ivy and other invasive species from our woodland garden over the past five years, the trillium has begun to make a strong comeback.  The area pictured below has nearly 60 blooming plants plus many immature specimens.


Trillium cuneatum in the woodland garden.

Surprisingly, we have not had a frost in Greenville in more than four weeks, but the forecast for tonight calls for a low of 34 degrees F.  Though these trilliums will be fine if there is frost, tender plants which have bloomed or leafed out ahead of schedule, such as azaleas and hydrangeas, might suffer.

To see what other gardeners are offering in a vase today, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

In a Vase Last Wednesday

It’s been eons since I participated in a flower show, but last Wednesday I worked with my friends Lezlie and Emelia on an arrangement for an event hosted by our garden club, Carolina Foothills, in anticipation of a Zone Meeting of the Garden Club of America to be held in Greenville in the spring of 2017.  The show, House of Cards, featured six classes of design and all active members were urged to participate.

Our group chose CLASS 1, Queen of Hearts, described as, “A design celebrating a femme fatale from fact or fiction.  To be displayed on a beige pedestal 36” high with a 12” square top.  Viewed from three sides.”

Entry for Class I, Queen of Hearts.

Entry for Class I, Queen of Hearts.

We envisioned a handful of possibilities before choosing Princess Diana, who spoke about her marriage and her aspirations for the future with a now-famous quote in the 1995 interview on Panorama.  Our statement of intent said, “A candle in the wind personifies Princess Diana, graced with brilliance and beset by shadows, who wanted only ‘to be a queen in people’s hearts.'”

Our first decision was to feature a Hogarth curve (an S-shape also called “the line of beauty”), a classic design often supported by a tall candlestick or narrow vase which looks particularly good on a pedestal.  As our ideas jelled, we also know we need an element of dark flowers or foliage to illustrate the shadows, and that we would utilize color blocking to give the design a dramatic, modern twist.

Plant materials included poet’s laurel (Danae racemosa), salal (Gaultheria shellon), white tea roses (Rosa x hybrida), white spray orchid (Dendrobium), black calla lily (Zantedeschia), and creamy white hypericum berries (Hypericum).

Though some of the berries have started to darken in this photo taken a few days after the show, they represented the 10,000 pearls on Diana's wedding dress.

Though some of the berries have started to darken in this photo taken a few days after the show, they represented the 10,000 pearls on Diana’s wedding dress.

There were many creative and beautiful designs in the show and experience has taught me that judging can be very subjective.  I knew, however, when I saw a big ribbon on our pedestal that we had achieved even more than hoped, winning not only first in our class, but also Best in Show!

The judges noted, “Elegant execution of a Hogarth curve befitting a princess,” on our entry card.  The Best in Show award was distinguished with a second remark, “An elegant design with great distinction.”

In a Vase on Monday

This post doesn’t strictly follow the rules, but I’m excited to have a contribution to In a Vase on Monday, a meme initiated by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and popular among blogging friends.

Last week, I attended a workshop by Marty Van Allen, a renowned floral designer and 2009 winner of the Garden Club of America’s Katharine Thomas Cary Medal. After demonstrating various designs, Marty coached participants in making a “modern mass” arrangement. This type of design requires a plain, stout container and features blocks of color and texture, rather than a mix of stems.

My first "modern mass" arrangement.

My first “modern mass” arrangement.

Florist roses were provided, but participants were asked to bring an array of foliage and berries from their garden. Not knowing what would be required, I took clippings of nearly everything that was presentable! In the end, I used the foliage of cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior), folded and secured into a loop; pink lorepetalum (Loropetalum chinensis ‘Burgundy’); gold dust aucuba (Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’); plus unripe, green berries of heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica).

Seen from above, the arrangement features florist roses along with foliage and berries from my garden.

Seen from above, the arrangement features florist roses along with foliage and berries from my garden.

Marty noted that no more than five types of color/texture blocks should be used and their shape should be amorphous. The goal is to create rhythm with movement of the eye from one group to the next.

In addition to the low, wide-rim vase used for the workshop, Marty also created a modern mass arrangement in a nearly round vessel with a (roughly) 5-inch diameter opening at top. With a little imagination, it’s easy to see this contemporary style of massing could be adapted to nearly any simply shaped, portly container.

The big takeaway, however, is the exciting knowledge that I can make arrangements with foliage from my shady garden along with summer’s hydrangeas and winter’s camellias, or a small addition from the florist shop.

Almost Wordless Wednesday–8/28/13–Dahlia Double Take

Dahlia 'Hilltop Mimi'

Dahlia ‘Hilltop Mimi’

‘Hilltop Mimi’, hybridized by Buddy Dean of Hilltop Gardens, was shown at the August meeting of the Carolinas Dahlia Society in Cashiers, North Carolina.

Tea Anyone?

The Mad Hatter: Have I gone Mad?

Alice: I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.

Why didn't you arrive earlier?  The clock says you're two days late!

Why didn’t you arrive earlier? The clock says you’re two days late!

Can you believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast?

Can you believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast?

If you have to be mad as a hatter to attend a tea party like the one featured at the Philadelphia Flower Show, bring on the mercury! This display, created by Petals Lane in their debut year, took the ice cream along with the cake.

Every time I made a loop of the exhibit hall, I ended up at the tea table, not just to see it and photograph it again, but to watch others discover its magic. Twinkling chandeliers, an opulent table, mismatched chairs, touch-me florals, tree-sprouting treasure trunks, and Wonderland Bronze from the Robert James Workshop Ltd in Dorset, England, coalesced into a sumptuous and breathtaking craziness.

Who are YOU? said the caterpillar.

Who are YOU? said the caterpillar.

I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.

I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.

Curiouser and curiouser!

Curiouser and curiouser!

The pleasure it bestowed wasn’t the exhibit’s only reward. It was honored with the Special Achievement Award for a unique feature or design element, a Special Achievement Award of the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania to an exhibit of unusual excellence (under 1,000 sq. feet) in the category of Creativity, and the Phyllis M. Craig Award for the Floral major exhibit demonstrating the best use of color in flowering and/or foliage plants in an innovative or unique design.

How do you know I'm mad? said Alice.  You must be, said the cat, or you wouldn't have come here.

How do you know I’m mad? said Alice. You must be, said the cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.

Highlighting Early Horticulture at the Philly Flower Show

There are many noteworthy exhibits at this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show but none are more engaging or interesting than “Horticulture in 18th Century America,” an extensive display created by the students of Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades.

To honor the show theme, Brilliant!, the display is centered around the transatlantic exchange of plants from American botanists such as John Bartram to their counterparts in England. Features of the exhibit include an 18th century nursery and botanic garden with northeastern native plants and an adjacent packing shed where wooden boxes are filled with roots, plants, and seeds.

Kirk and Sara Brown as John and Ann Bartram

Kirk and Sara Brown as John and Ann Bartram



One of the first things to catch my eye, however, was the group of students on hand to interpret the exhibit. As a mom and former substitute teacher, I was excited to witness the enthusiasm these students showed for their field of study, as well as their display. Best of all, each senior told me he already has a landscape or horticulture job ready and waiting.

Senior Students at Williamson

Senior Students at Williamson

I particularly admired the work put into the accurate depiction of small-size boxes which, if the American botanist was lucky, would be stored under the captain’s bed. There, the plants would be sheltered from weather and salt water, benefit from the warmth of the cabin, and be protected from rats by the captain’s cat.

Boxes were sized to fit under the captain's bed.

Boxes were sized to fit under the captain’s bed.



I wasn’t alone in my admiration of the exhibit. It garnered four prestigious awards: The Bulkley Medal of the Garden Club of America—for an exhibit of horticulture, botany, or conservation with exceptional educational merit; a Special Achievement Award—for a unique feature or design element; the Special Achievement Award of the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania—for unusual excellence in the category of Horticulture; and the Chicago Horticultural Society Flower Show Medal—for an educational exhibit showing outstanding horticultural skill and knowledge.