Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Ultimate Flower Show experience (Think Philadelphia Flower Show...) A post by Thea McGinnis

Magnificent bridge lined with delft tile at the entrance to
the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's 2017
Philadelphia Flower Show "Holland - Flowering the World"

Like tens of thousands of you lovers of all things flower and garden, I attended this year's fabulous Philadelphia Flower Show.  But my visit was a bit different than yours - because I got to attend before the show opened. How did I finagle that?

One of the many beautiful display gardens at the Show

 I was honored to be asked to participate as a student judge - one of eighteen student judges invited to serve within panels of amazing, talented and professional judges from around the United States.

My team included Andrea Little from Boston, Massachusetts, Barbara Hamacheck from Ketchem, Idaho, and Amelia Crumbley from Mississippi.

 Andrea has been an accredited judge with National Garden Clubs for twenty-seven years.  Amelia is a brand new Garden Clubs of America accredited judge. And Barbara is an accredited judge with Garden Clubs of America.  I'm an NGC student judge and working toward my accreditation.

 This opportunity would never have come my way if I hadn't decided to attend NGC's Flower Show School.  I never really seriously considered becoming a flower show judge but I took Course I (of four) to find out what it was all about.  Honestly? I loved immersing myself in the course work. The Courses are like going back to college for a weekend.  Taking each course for credit is the key, though.  Yes, it requires you to take a very challenging exam at the end of each course, but a few of my fellow students learned the hard way that if you don't go for course credit, and you do go on to become judge, you will have to repeat the course.  What has impressed me the most, though, is the caliber of our instructors. Whether it is horticulture or design, the depth of knowledge and expertise shared with students is an awesome value.

 Back to my experience as a student judge with the PHS -  I arrived Thursday afternoon and immediately met up with NCAGC President-elect and fellow student flower show judge, Robin Hammer.  Robin and I have been lucky to go through our flower show school courses together.  Let's just say - we laughed a lot!!

NCAGC President-Elect
Robin Hammer
Robin and I, plus our dear garden friend, Julie Wadsworth, were invited to a dinner party for judges at the lovely Acorn Club, where we had the opportunity to meet many of the judges and chairpersons we would work with the next day. That's when I realized our fellow judges were from all over the U.S!

We got up early the next morning and met up with our panels. We started at 8:00 a.m. and didn't wrap up our work until about 1:00 p.m.  What impressed me most was how my fellow judges were able to make meaningful points that counted powerfully within our evaluation and decisions. And we were able to give exhibitors instructive comments that always circled back to principles and elements of design we adhere to in NGC and GCA.   I learned so much about the judging process and decision making that day, and best of all, made new friends.  Robin was assigned to a different panel of judges and had a wonderful experience as well.

 After all the scoring and collaboration with a great team of judges, we wrapped up our day with a lovely luncheon. We then got to experience the flower show in all its glory. All in all, it was a unique, fantastic opportunity and an awesome experience. And I loved visiting Philadelphia!

 I love garden club in all aspects of it's mission - as a community organization in your town, on-going member education, hands-on learning, and friendship.  I invite you to attend your local garden club's flower shows and meetings.  Come learn about horticulture and design.

Here are just a few of the exquisite designs competing at the Philadelphia Flower Show:

A charming bicycle basket of tulips

The Philadelphia Flower Show had top quality horticulture specimens, like this
gorgeous Hellebore, on display

Many go home with the names of new plants they can try in their gardens.  I also highly recommend attending any of the NGC courses for accreditation or certification as a consultant, offered to garden club members in your state - whether it is Landscape Design, Environmental, Flower Show Judge, or Garden Studies schools.

Robin and I are now immersing ourselves in completing our credentials by student judging flower shows in the National Capital area.  I'm looking forward to bringing what I learned from judging at the Philadelphia Flower Show to those shows.  My next post on the blog will include a list of our upcoming flower shows.  Flower shows are free, fun, educational and open to the public. Plan to attend one in your area this Spring!  - Thea

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