Saturday, February 19, 2011

You Be the Judge

This post is my personal opinion only. It in no way reflects the views of Rutgers Gardens or any of its staff. I am not a spokesperson for Rutgers Gardens.

I like to work the first shift at the Rutgers Gardens booth at the flower show so that I see immediately how my pictures did in the photo competition. I’m like a little kid. I can’t wait. I have to know literally as soon as the judging is finished, usually by the time the show opens or within 30 minutes thereafter.

This year, the judges kept me waiting for over an hour. I ran back and forth, back and forth, between the booth and the roped off area with the flower arrangements, constantly checking the progress of the judging. What was taking so long? There didn’t appear to be more flower arrangements than usual.

As soon as the rope came down, I made a dash for the photography competition. I didn’t do as well as I had hoped unfortunately . When I returned much later after my shift was over, it was obvious why the judges had such a tough time arriving at their decisions: the competitors had finally realized that the judges prefer flower arrangements that use strange materials twisted into bizarre shapes and as few flowers as possible.

Take a look for yourself:

First Place

Second Place

Third Place

Okay, compared to the First Place winner, these were just too conventional. 
But wait . . .
 Honorable mention

Shouldn’t this have placed higher? Were the judges so undecided that they flipped a coin for first and gave the loser Honorable Mention?

Let’s have a look at another contest.

First Place

Definitely a winner. There is so much going on here, that I don’t even know where to begin. Best element? The vacuum cleaner hose, of course!

Second Place

Very conventional. But how did it place higher than …

Third Place

You’ve got Tinker Toys and an evergreen something that resembles a cheap Christmas garland that is defying gravity. But wait . . .

Honorable Mention

OMG. It looks like something you would see in a pre-school classroom. You’re not quite sure what it is, but it is definitely colorful.

The next contest had me scratching my head. See if you agree . . .

First Place

Definitely a winner. Is there any plant material here at all? Or is it all feathers, leftovers from a fan dance perhaps?

Second Place

Third Place

Both of these entries are so conventional, so cliché, so … you get the idea. But why did the judges hate . . .

Honorable Mention

The comment card says that it is too stark. I guess compared to the burlesque dancer’s entry, it is a little bare. Like the dancer without her feathers.

Here’s another puzzler.

First Place

Every time I see this, I look for the dominoes. You know, the ball rolls down and knocks down dominoes that are artfully arranged all over the convention center?

Second Place

How this one earned second place is beyond me. It looks like the logo for a bad TV sitcom.

Third Place

Why didn’t this earn a better standing? It seems perfect. A couple of flowers artfully placed on an abstract . . . something. Usually the judges love this sort of thing.

Honorable Mention

Two words: moss shoes. I’m surprised that the judges didn’t quietly ask the exhibitor to remove herself and her atrocity from the hall and not return until she had mastered the art of arranging flowers without raiding her shoe closet.

I think the following is the reason the judging took so long.

First Place

Second Place

Third Place

Honorable Mention

Other than the Honorable Mention, I can’t imagine how they arrived at a decision. How can you even compare copper tubing, an armillary and bamboo garden stakes? Talk about apples and oranges.

And that honorable mention? If I were to enter an arrangement, that’s what it would look like. Like a kid did it. A not very talented kid.

Here’s a contest which I could have predicted how the judges would call it:

First Place

Second Place

Third Place

Honorable Mention

I kinda like the Honorable Mention winner but the Second Place winner is more like something I would design: BORING.

I saved the best for last. Look closely.

First Place

Second Place

Looks like this exhibitor finally found a use for her old CD rack now that she has an iPod.

Third Place

Is Lucky Bamboo unlucky if it’s hung upside down? Oh wait, that’s horse shoes. Sorry.

Honorable Mention

Did you notice the chicken wire? Look again. Chicken wire! I have never seen chicken wire used before. It should have earned Best in Show for originality, creativity and daring.

Or maybe it was awarded the lowest ranking because it was so in-your-face. A sarcastic commentary on the sad state of flower show judging which penalizes the use of flowers.

Friday, February 18, 2011

NJ Flower & Garden Show

This post is my personal opinion only. It in no way reflects the views of Rutgers Gardens or any of its staff. I am not a spokesperson for Rutgers Gardens.

I don’t know if it was the theme (Broadway) or the economy, but the display gardens at the NJ Flower & Garden Show were uninspiring this year. I wasn’t “wowed” by any of them. In keeping with the bad economic times, there were very few gardens. The vendor area was correspondingly larger than in previous years.

My favorite garden was Tom Sawyer. BTW, is or was there a "Tom Sawyer" show on Broadway? The water feature was a stand-in for the Mississippi River. Tom Sawyer is shown fishing. Just out of view is his raft.

My least favorite garden was Wicked. The black daffodils and tulips looked charred. Yuck.

This year’s winner of the "What were they thinking?" award goes to Beauty & The Beast.

That sparkly "mulch" has never been seen in Nature.

And the pond just screams CHEESEY.

Nuff said.

I fell in love with these little owls. I think they captured my heart at last year’s show. They are made out of pieces of granite. Each one is unique. I found the vendor who was selling them and after agonizing over which one had the cutest face, brought one home with me. He is on a shelf in my basement with my other garden ornaments, waiting for spring. I’m not sure where I will put him.

You can see all of my photos of the garden show on Flickr.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


The competition at the flower show in the photo category was fierce this year. There were some fantastic pictures. I knew when I dropped off my photos that I would not do as well as I have in previous years.

And I was right:

Third Place – Digital Color

Honorable Mention– Digital B&W

Second Place– Computer Enhanced Color

Third Place– Computer Enhanced B&W

Ironically, the photo that did the best almost didn’t get entered. I don’t have a photo printer so I send my pictures to the local CVS to be printed. Their photo processor always prints too dark, so I lighten everything before I send it. No matter how much I lightened the photo of the allée, the colors came out dark and muddy. I didn’t care for them and would have left out the photo except it costs nothing to enter, so what the heck. I had nothing to lose.

Everyone loved that photo. One person has even offered to buy it.

But I still don’t like it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Seeds of Summer

I am being buried in seed catalogs. I love it. Last year, I dabbled in the Dried Flower Bed at Rutgers Gardens. It was assigned to me at the last minute, so I had to settle for planting leftovers from the greenhouse. Needless to say, it was not a success. This year, I will be able to grow flowers ahead of time in the greenhouse specifically for the Dried Flower Bed. I’ve found a lot of interesting flowers but need to narrow down my list. It’s a small bed. There’s just not enough room for everything that I want to grow.

The bed is surrounded on two sides by a fence. I plan on growing small decorative gourds on the fence. Yes, I know that they aren’t flowers but neither are the decorative grasses that are already in the bed. I’m such a rebel!

Being a long time volunteer (6 years!) has its privileges. I’ve decided to branch out and try growing veggies. There is a waiting list for veggie beds, but the Volunteer Coordinator allowed me to jump to the head of the list and grab a bed that was being relinquished by another gardener. I will be growing stuff that I cook with such as parsley, carrots, onions, garlic and herbs. I have to have a few flowers so I will be growing edible flowers such as nasturtiums, marigolds and calendulas.

I think I will declare this the Year of the Zinnia. I saw lots of interesting varieties of zinnias in the catalogs that would be perfect for my gardens at home.

This is my favorite time of year when I can dream about my gardens. In my dreams, they always look lovely and never have weeds.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Oh no, not again!

New Jersey seems to be blessed with weekly snowfalls. First there was the Christmas Blizzard, then a couple more inches last week. It was so little that I didn’t bother shoveling it. Last night we were graced with another foot of snow. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. There was only 6” to 8” in my yard, although some areas did get up to a foot.

Most people were probably glad that the storm happened over night. They were able to get home from work before it started and when they got up this morning, the plows had cleared the snow away.

It was another story for those of us who work non-traditional hours. There was already 4” on the ground when I left at midnight. After cleaning snow off of my car, I crawled home at 25 mph over snow covered roads in the darkness. The concept of “lanes” no longer existed. Traffic lights became the enemy. Red lights had to be carefully timed so that I could either roll to a stop or glide slowly through them praying that the drivers coming the other way would allow me time to clear the intersection. Even green lights were a problem. Once I was stopped, starting up again was a problem as my tires fought for traction in the snow.

My normal 20 minute commute turned into a 45 minute white knuckled odyssey as I negotiated inclines and curves in a vehicle over which I had little control. Even my driveway has a slight incline so rather than being relieved at arriving home, I was unsure if my car would make it up the driveway.

Today I made the happy discovery that it is a lot easier to shovel snow when I have had more than a couple of hours of sleep and there is less than a foot of powder rather than the 2’ to 3’ of snow that I had to deal with two weeks ago. I was all shoveled out in less than 30 minutes.

Which made the birds happy. They were fed early today. I always spread seed on the snow for ground feeders like the mourning doves and juncos.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The New Years Cactus

I opened the curtains in my kitchen today and found this:

My Christmas cactus is blooming. Again. In January. Again. Six years after the first time it bloomed.

I haven’t done anything differently this year. But it has.

There is a bud in addition to the flower. Two flowers this year!

Does that mean that it will have three flowers the next time it blooms six years from now?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Years in the Gardens

I love this picture. The trees look so ghostly.

I spent New Years Day in my favorite place: Rutgers Gardens. I was surprised at the amount of snow left over from last week’s blizzard despite the warm temperatures we have experienced since then.

The snow has been melting in interesting shapes.

Evidence of the high winds was scattered all over the floor of Helyar Woods.

Photo of the Day

I love the colors in this shot.

You can see more photos of my New Years Walk in the Gardens on Flickr.