Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Big Show - part I

The flower show was today.  I brought my Siberian iris 'Caezars Brother' (1932, F. Cleveland Morgan).  It was the 16th Annual Hudson Valley Iris and Daylily Society American Iris Society Iris Show.  This is a  big day for the iris grower's in the Hudson Valley and it is taken quite seriously.

Personally, I'm more of a daylily gardener, but they asked that everyone participate - bring whatever they could - because this was not a very good year for irises in our area.  I spent the last few weeks looking over my small collection of irises (less than a dozen types) and found nothing in bloom.  

None of my bearded irises even had he courtesy to put up a single stalk with even one pathetic bud on it - let alone a full blossom.  The closer it got to the show, the more sure I was that I wouldn't be able to bring anything.

Then it rained all week.  Things were looking really bad.  Until Wednesday.  On Wednesday I found one of my Siberian irises had a few dozen buds.  If they opened in time, I could get a few flowers for the show.  Whew!

I borrowed some books about irises and siberian irises from L- (thanks!) and read through them.  I wanted to be able to understand what they were talking about at the show!  They covered everything from the genetic makeup of the flowers, to color, height, placement in the garden, thickness of the petals.  I felt ready to go.

Then I found out that not only do you have to bring a flower, you have to "groom" it before you place it into the competition.  This is the part where you clean the flower, get rid of any bugs, dirt, cobwebs, and trim off any nastiness.  All of this grooming is specifically outlined and quite detailed.  So I read up on that and started to get my tools together.

Okay - don't laugh, because they actually do this to the flowers.  (I couldn't believe it at first either!)

Here's what you need to groom an iris.

A good sharp knife and some sharp pointed scissors.  Fortunately I have a set of bonsai tools that were perfect for this job complements of my DH a few years back.  (The bonsai is long dead, but the tools live on!)  Thanks honey!

These are for cutting the stem to the right height, cutting off any spent buds and trimming burnt edges off of the leaves (up to 1/4-inch, max).

Then you have to have some paint brushes.  There was some white stuff in the purple on the petals, so I used the foam one to hold the petal while I brushed each one off with the square camel haired brushes.  Then I used the small paintbrush to clean off the inside of the flower.

Water, or course, for the flower.  It's a flower show, so naturally it had to be bottled water.  I also used this to give the flower a "sponge bath".

Tweezers with a magnifier for pulling off stuck on bits of cobweb, cotton and a teenie tiny bug that simply refused to get off my flower.  And a "Leatherman" tool for prepping the specialized carry crate - no handheld bouquets, please.

Floral wire and scissors for the crate, and a measuring tape for checking the height of the flower as well as the trimming of the leaves and such.

The cotton balls, cotton pads and cotton swabs for cleaning off the flower.  Paper towels for cleaning up all the water I spilled.  I didn't spill a lot of water, but there was a drop of water that fell on one of the petals as I was washing it and I quickly soaked it up with a paper towel before the petal absorbed it. It was a close call!  The water would have definitely left a mark on the petal.

Water picks for the flowers in case they were out of vases for extended periods of time, cotton gloves to handle the flowers - minimizing fingerprints, duct tape for the crate and baby powder for... Actually, I don't know what the powder is for.  I saw it listed on the West Texas Iris Society site as one of the things you should bring to groom your flower, but I never did figure out what to do with it.  

So you take all of that stuff and put it in a tool case.  I also tossed in some cleaning wipes for my hands and a pen for filling out the forms.  Even though I already have the forms filled out, you never know when you're going to need a pen.

So I finished putting together the "grooming kit" Friday night and went and picked out the blooms I was going to take with me.  I figured I'd take 3, then choose the best one once I got to the show.  One could break while I was going over, I could accidentally slice one in half when I was grooming it.  It was good to have a backup plan and anything that was half decent could go into the display (non-judged) part of the show.

Before even God woke up this morning, I had my toolkit out on the porch and my carrying crate assembled.  (3 2-liter soda bottles cushioned with paper bags in a crate with duct tape reinforcing the seams and a bamboo stake in the bottle for "stage 1" of the crate).

Out at my siberian iris (they look blue, but they are purple in person - it's a lighting thing).  I've already decided which ones to take, but I checked them over again just to be sure.

First up is Bob I.  He's 42-inches tall and looks nice and perky.  I call all of my plants "Bob".  I just like sayin' it.  (B-ahhhhhh-b - it's a good name!)

Next up is Bob II.  He's 37-inches tall, a little bit more delicate looking than Bob I, but he should do nicely.

Finally, Bob III.  At 32-inches he is a bit stockier than Bob I or Bob II, and he has a slight tear on one of his leaves, but he'll do okay in a pinch.

The directions say to cut the flower at the base of the plant, just where it emerges.  I don't know if you've ever tried to find the base of a siberian iris, but it's really crowded and hard to get just the right stalk.  There were casualties.

I managed to get down to the very bottom, though, and got the leaf and flower stem at the very base - still attached to each other.  Nice.

I put a paper towel tube on top of the soda bottle, stuck the irises and bamboo stakes in and used a bit of floral wire to make a little loop to hold the flowers steady, but not touching the stem because wherever you touch, you leave a mark.  The stakes were a little taller than the flowers to stop them from hitting the top of the car and breaking off.

You should have seen my friend's face when she came to pick my up for the show with my 4-foot tall crate and toolkit.  She thinks I'm nuts.  But then I explained what all the stuff was for... Well, then she really thought I was nuts.  We had a good laugh and we were off to Poughkeepise for the show.

3 mountains and an hour later, we arrived at the Poughkeepsie Galleria.  The parking lot was empty and not a soul in sight.  I found a shopping cart to carry my stuff and went inside.

It's a little strange to be in a mall when there is no one else there.  All the shops were closed, but they still had the muzak music playing.  Very surreal.  The Bob's and I did a bit of window shopping.  I think they like the tea sets.

After a while, the flowers started coming in and it was time to help set up the show.  We moved the tables around, put together the display vases, everybody pitched in and got it done.  Then it was time for me to groom Bob.

I followed the directions and suggestions as best as I could and Bob was cleaned up and ready for the show...

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