A Visit from the Expert

Beth Hickman

Last month, in preparation for the Garden Club of America’s Annual Meeting Flower Show in Rochester, May 18-20, GCA Zone III (New York) Horticulture Representative Elizabeth D. Hickman spoke to our club. She demonstrated how to choose, display and groom plants for horticulture exhibits at the show.

Here, Beth is critiquing members’ plants, describing how they should be groomed in order to be “passed” or allowed to be displayed in the competition. For example, in addition to no evidence of insects or disease, there can be no brown edges or yellowed leaves. She noted that some of the members’ plants were imbalanced, too leggy, needed fertilization, or were displayed in containers that clashed with the plant rather than enhancing it.

She also spoke about how to cut stems for display in glass bottles. Here are her cutting and conditioning tips that will help keep plant material looking fresh after two or three days, not dried and wrinkled:

1. Cut stems in the coolest part of the day, out of direct sunlight; early in the morning or near sunset is best.
2. Cut the stems at an angle for maximum surface.
3. Split the ends of woody-stemmed flowers or branches. For flowers that bleed milky juices, like euphorbia and poppies, pass the cut end through a flame to seal the cut.
4. Make sure the bottle is filled to the top with room-temperature water (see more details in our article on cut stems under the “Horticulture Tips from GCI” tab.)

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