Preparing Flowers For The Show

Here are some general tips on preparing your flowers for the show. Guidance for some specific flowers is given after this section.

Before Cutting

  • 2 – 3 weeks prior to show, keep soil moist
  • Remove any unwanted, weak sideshoots or buds to help develop the main flower
  • If possible protect blooms from damage caused by rain and splashing from the soil


  • Check the Show Schedule for requirements of the class you are entering
  • Cut for the show in the evening or early morning – when the flowers and foliage are cool
  • Flower stems should be cut as long as possible
  • Make a slanting cut at the end of the stalk as this will assist the uptake of water
  • Avoid handling the flowers more than is necessary
  • Carry the cut stems with the blooms facing downwards keeping the plant away from draughts or bright sunshine as much as possible
  • Try to cut sufficient flowers to allow some choice in your final selection
  • Remove undeveloped sideshoots, unopened buds and some of the lower leaves as these will divert water from the stem and flower
  • The cut stems should be plunged upright, up to their necks in deep containers of clean, cold water – preferably overnight. Place in cool position away from light because stems are drawn to the light and can become curved

Transit To Show

  • Place flowers in containers big enough to prevent the flowers becoming squashed or damaged during the journey
  • Pack cotton wool, soft paper or other similar materials between specimens to prevent movement and buffeting during the journey

Staging At The Show

  • Remove any damaged flowers together with discoloured or broken leaves which may have occurred during the journey
  • Cut a portion from the base of all flower stems to assist the uptake of water
  • Ensure the length of stalk is appropriate for the size of vase or container you are using to display your exhibit
  • Ensure all containers are filled with water otherwise the plants may wilt during the show
  • Use a water-colour brush or cotton wool to gently remove any dust or dirt from the flowers
  • Try to produce a good balance using flowers of even size and quality
  • Stems should be straight and strong, holding the flowers upright
    Flowers should have uniform colour, be bright, clear, attractive and free from feathering, peeling, fading, burning and uneven blends
  • While large flowers are desirable, substance and form can be sacrificed to obtain excessive size

Remember that a judge will evaluate the stem and foliage, the flower, the container, the arrangement and uniformity of the flowers





  • Dahlias may be planted as pot-grown plants or as dormant tubers
  • Dahlias thrive on well drained, fertile soil. Prepare soil by digging in manure or garden compost and then add a top dressing of bone meal
  • Plant pot-grown dahlias after all danger of frost has passed. Plant carefully so as to avoid disturbing the root ball. Water thoroughly
  • Plant tubers directly in soil during April, early May
  • Plant in a hole about 9in (22cm) across and 6in (15cm) deep. The tuber takes about 6 weeks to develop a shoot above ground
  • When dahlias about 15in (38cm) tall stop the plants by removing the growing points – this will encourage side shoots
  • Support all plants with canes
  • About 6 weeks after planting feed weekly with a liquid fertilizer


Definitions –

  • medium…between 6 – 8in (15.2 – 20.3cm) in diameter
  • small……between 4 – 6in (10.2 – 15.2cm) in diameter
  • pompon …not exceeding 2in (5.2cm) in diameter

Decorative/Cactus Dahlias

  • Cut blooms with a sharp knife on the morning of the show
  • Choose blooms which are symmetrical and perfectly circular in outline and which are firm, clean and without blemish
  • Colour should be clear, well defined and evenly shaded
  • Blooms should be poised at an angle of not less than 45 degrees to the stem
  • Arrange exhibit so that all blooms face the front

Pompon Dahlias

  • Blooms should be perfectly globular, facing upwards on a straight, firm stem
  • Central florets compact, dense at the centre and slightly convex

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  • Plant corms at end of April, beginning of May
  • Gladioli like well drained but moisture retaining soil
  • Fork into the soil some gritty sand and some well rotted manure
  • Plant corms in a sunny position 6- 8in (15 – 20cm) apart and 4 – 6in (10 – 15cm) deep to ensure they do not fall over when flowering
  • Loosen the soil in the base of the hole so that the roots can penetrate easily
  • Support the stem when it is 6in (15cm) tall by attaching the stem to a cane with string
  • When the flower buds are forming, tie in the stem to the cane just below the buds to prevent the stem from breaking when the buds open


  • Select blooms which have erect spikes, are fresh and unblemished
  • Each bloom should have a long, well-balanced spike still carrying the bottom flower and numerous other regularly spaced, open and opening flowers and some buds
  • A spike should be one third in full flower, one third with buds in colour and one third green buds

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  • Roses may be purchased as either bare-root or container grown
  • All rose need a site in the sun, sheltered from the wind and fertile soil

Planting bare-root roses

  • Remove any diseased or damaged growth and cut out any thin or straggly stems at the base
  • Dig a planting hole and fork in a bucketful of organic compost mixed with a small handful of bone meal
  • Soak plant in a bucket of water for an hour before planting
  • Place rose in centre of hole and spread out the roots
  • Ensure the bud union is 1 in below the soil level, fill in the hole and lightly tread down the soil to ensure no air pockets among the roots
  • Water well

Planting container grown roses

  • Place rose in a bucket of water until the compost surface appears moist
  • Gently tease out the roots and prune any damaged or diseased branches
  • Dig a planting hole, add some bone meal to base of the hole
  • Plant so that the bud union is about 1 in below the surface
  • Water well
  • All roses require regular feeding and suitable rose fertilizers are readily available


  • To produce quality blooms remove newly formed sidebuds so that the main bud develops strongly
  • Select blooms which are three-quarters open and cut with about 12in (30cm) stem on the evening before the show
  • Remove lower leaves and thorns and plunge into a bucket of cold water up to the necks of the flowers. Keep overnight in cool place
  • Arrange rose symmetrically, placing larger blooms in front
  • Blooms should be close together but not touching

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Sweet Peas


  • Seeds can be planted either in a seed tray or in the ground where you want them to grow at the end of April, beginning of May
  • To help germination, nick the seeds with a sharp knife removing a small piece of seed coat opposite the eye
  • It is preferable NOT to soak sweet pea seeds as they are susceptible to rotting
  • Sow seeds 2 – 3in (5 – 7.5cm) apart and 2in (5cm) deep
  • Pinch out the growing tips after the first pair of leaves appear
  • Thin seedlings to 8 – 12in (20 – 30cm) apart and provide them with some support – a pea net or wigwam of canes or an individual cane (see cordon below)
  • Prepare the soil by digging a trench or by double digging and add some well rotted manure
  • Water well especially during dry spells and when flowering begins
  • Apply a liquid feed 2/3 times at fortnightly intervals
  • Dead head flowers to encourage continuous flowering

Cordon Training

  • To produce better flowers for showing, sweet peas can be trained into cordons – each plant having its own cane to grow up
  • When plant is 4 to 6 weeks old and about 12in (30cm) tall restrict the growth to one shoot by cutting or pricking out the extra shoots and tendrils
  • Tie the remaining shoot loosely to its support cane
  • Continue to nip out side shoots and remove twisting tendrils
  • Cut flowers as they open and do not allow flowers to set seed


  • Select sweet peas with strong spikes, open and fresh blooms
  • Flowers should have erect standards, rigid wings and be free from spotting or scorching
  • Flowers should be of bright colour and have long straight stems

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