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HARTFORD — Before last month, Deb Osborne had never won a blue ribbon at the Connecticut Flower & Garden Show. A longtime member, and former president, of The Garden Club of Newtown, Ms Osborne had submitted a number of horticultural entries in years past and returned home with red, yellow, and white ribbons, but the blue eluded her.
Peggy Townsend, also a longtime member and current president of the local Federated Garden Club chapter, had also not placed at the top of any of the annual event’s competitions.
That all changed in February, when both women not only picked up blue ribbons for some of their efforts, but also brought home division honors.
In addition, three other local gardeners also offered entries this year, and all five Garden Club of Newtown members earned various ribbons for their submissions. The Garden Club of Newtown brought home a total of 24 awards, between special and regular ribbons.
The flower and garden show was presented February 23-26. Newtown’s entries were all delivered on February 22, and judging was done the morning of Thursday, February 23.
“Woodland Enchantment” was the title of The Advanced-Standard Flower Show presented by The Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut, Inc, of which The Garden Club of Newtown is a member.
“The competition in Hartford is so hard,” Ms Osborne said March 2. “It can be intimidating.”
“The caliber of the entries is incredible,” Ms Townsend agreed. “I was very proud of the showing our club did.”
Peg Townsend’s big win came in the horticulture division. A dish garden made up of six cactus plants earned her a blue ribbon and The Grower’s Choice Award, a rosette of dark green ribbons, in one of three sections eligible for a Grower’s Choice Award. For the class that celebrated dish gardens, Ms Townsend entered a beautiful black cement dish filled with six cacti, accompanied by a key card.
Her garden featured mammillaria elongate (lady finger cactus), Mammillaria Leptacantha (tall cactus), Haworthia attenuate zebrine (zebra), Gymnocalycium baldianum (chin cactus), Opuntia microdasys (polka-dot cactus) and Cereus tetragonus (fairy cactus) specimens.
The entry earned more than 95 points.
“I was amazed at that outcome,” she said. “That was my highest achievement.”
At the urging of a friend, Ms Townsend also entered the show’s Artistic Crafts Division — “definitely not my forte,” she said — and brought home another blue ribbon.
Her floral bracelet, for the class called Magic Circle, in which entrants were challenged to create and decorate a floral bracelet made from all plant material, featured dried cantaloupe seeds, coriander seeds, giant white corn, lemon rind, and yellow mustard seed. That entry earned more than 95 points, and a third place ribbon.
Judges credited her work for its “amazing craftsmanship, eye-popping color.”
Ms Townsend’s second big entry was in a design class call Poison Apple.
“My first love is design,” she said. “So of course we’re thinking Snow White, the seven dwarves, the poison apple, and I was thinking of a witch, and black, and creepy.”
Ms Townsend came up with a presentation using black calla lilies, red carnations, and snake plant (“because that seemed to me to go with the theme,” she said), and she earned a third place for the effort. The display was impressive, with the design staged on a 15-inch square atop a 35-inch-tall pedestal.
“I was very happy with that,” she said. “I can truly understand why mine got third, after seeing the first and second place winners.”
The club president also brought home a blue ribbon for her Red Fire Air entry in one of the horticulture classes.
After six years of horticulture entries, Deb Osborne decided, she said, “to try the educational route this year.”
She entered Division III Special Exhibits (“Beyond The Woods”), Section A (Educational Exhibits — Mighty Woods), Class 1 (Giant Oaks), Exhibit 1, “The Broken Forest: how habitat fragmentation affects wildlife.”
Her subject was one that is very familiar to Newtown residents: invasive species. Judges, and showgoers, responded very well to the large tabletop display that highlighted five foreign species that are changing the composition on Connecticut’s forests. Ms Osborne presented large color photos of the five species, each accompanied with their formal names, place of origin, and other information.
The display also included a listing of the nine criteria a plant needs to be labeled invasive in Connecticut. Another section of the display offered information on prevention and control of the plants.
Finally, across the top of the trifold display, Ms Osborne used bittersweet to spell out the words The Broken Forest.
In addition, Ms Osborne had been given a list by fellow garden club member Holly Kocet, outlining all of the invasive species now found in Connecticut, and put out 200 copies of those lists. Not a single one was left at the end of the show.
“I think it struck a chord with people,” Ms Osborne said. The club president agreed.
“It’s topic that is very relevant to people,” Ms Townsend said. “I was walking by, and I heard someone go by the exhibit and they said, ‘Oh my gosh! I have that in my yard! And I have that, and that, and that. I have four out of the five invasive things growing in my yard. I better do something when I get home.’
“When you have a yard, and these things grow so quickly, it’s good to know what’s invasive, and what people should get rid of,” she added.
Judges appreciated Ms Osborne’s “clear concise presentation of information on invasive plants,” according to the card left with the display once judging was completed.
Ms Osborne’s display earned the judges’ highest score of the division, and a blue ribbon. It also earned the Sandy Hook resident the Educational Top Exhibitor Award, which marked the best score for the exhibition in the entire division in which it had been entered.
Only one Educational Top Exhibitor Award was offered, and “may be awarded to the highest scoring Exhibit in Class I which scores 95 or above,” according to the show’s schedule. The award is a brown rosette ribbon with brown and white ribbons.
Additional Horticulture Awards
Shortly before the Connecticut Flower & Garden Show, a call had been issued, according to Ms Osborne, for additional horticulture entries.
“We had three members who normally would not have participated, who got stuff to us, so we could bring it and display it, which was really wonderful,” she said. “They all got ribbons of one type or another, which was great.”
Carol Garbarino earned a blue ribbon in the Needled Evergreens Class for a specimen of Japanese umbrella pine, “which is absolutely beautiful, and has been growing in her yard for about 35 years,” Ms Osborne said. Ms Townsend called the plant “majestic.”
First-time entrant Joyce DeWolfe earned two second place ribbons, one in the Broadleaf Evergreens Class for her boxwood and the other for her plum yew, in the Needled Evergreen Class. She also received honorable mention for her blue spruce entry, also in the Needled Evergreen Class.
Kerri Williams received an honorable mention for entering a begonia cutting from a plant that had been her grandmother’s, according to Ms Osborne. That particular entry had quite a welcome in Hartford, according to Ms Osborne.
“It’s a very, very old variety,” she said. “She had no idea what it was, only that it was a begonia. So we sent some photos to the woman who was in charge of horticulture, and asked if she had any idea what it was.”
That woman forwarded the photo to others, who were able to figure out what the 30-plus-year-old plant was.
“When we got to Hartford,” Ms Osborne continued, “it was great. When I walked in with it, everybody was like ‘Oh, that’s it! That’s the old begonia!’ It was really cool.”
Ms Williams’ entry was celebrated by the judges “for entering a specimen that they hadn’t seen in the show in years,” according to their comments.
Ms Osborne earned a blue ribbon in horticulture, in the Container Grown Foliage section, ferns class, for her entry of Adiantum capillus-verernis, maidenhair fern.
She earned second place in the horticulture Any Other Foliage Plant class, for her entry of Neoregelia carolinae tricolor, fingernail plant; and also for her entry in the Trained Plants section, trained on a frame class, for Hedera helix, needlepoint.
In addition, Ms Osborne won a third place in the Cacti and Succulents section, other non-cacti succulents class, for her entry of Beaucarnea recurvata, ponytail palm; another third, in the Judges Challenge class (Ms Osborne and Ms Townsend are both studying to become Federated Garden Club judges), for Hippeastrum “Fairytale,” distributed in November 2016; an honorable mention in the Container Grown Foliage section, ferns class, for her Nephrolepis cordifolia, “Duffi,” lemon button fern; and another honorable mention in Container Grown Foliage, “any other foliage plant,” for Asparagus meyeri, foxtail fern. While many of those ribbons were below the first place finish, a number of them scored extremely well.
“I didn’t realize how well I had done until I got home and started looking at the cards,” Ms Osborne said. Her foxtail fern, while an honorable mention finish, received a 90+ certification, indicating judges gave the entry more than 90 points out of a possible 100. Her third place ponytail palm and second place needlepoint entries also received 90+ certifications.
April Standard Flower Show
Next month the public will have an easier opportunity to view the talents of club members.
The Garden Club of Newtown is planning a three-day standard flower show, “A Party In The Garden,” to be presented at Newtown Municipal Center. The show, with horticultural and floral designs, will be on view April 25-27, and there will be no charge for admission.
Judges will be coming from across the state, according to Ms Townsend and Ms Osborne. Ms Osborne is serving as the show chair.