Just how complicated can judging a flower show be?
Very complicated, according to organizers of this weekend’s “Iris: Visions of Spring” show at University City Shopping Center.
“It’s really quite a science,” said Laura Buelow, co-chairman of the Spokane Valley’s Town and Country Iris Society.
Judges don’t just pick their favorite flower, although eye appeal goes a long way in the artistic placement category, where winners are reckoned on their arranging skills. Where science really comes into play is the horticulture division, where judges examine a single stalk of iris. Judges look at color of the flower and condition of its stalk, all in relation to its variety.
That’s why all entrants must know the exact species of iris they are entering. What might be characteristics of a healthy specimen of one variety might make for lackluster traits in another. Those who have taken honors in other types of gardening shows also know what category to enter - novice, intermediate, advanced or blue star.
The U-City show is jointly sponsored by the Valley’s Town and Country Iris Society and Spokane’s Inland Empire Iris Society. Town and Country currently boasts about 25 members, and Buelow guesses there will be a total of 30 entrants in the show.
Anyone is invited to enter the contest, though. Folks can even enter the day of the event. The idea isn’t to have an event just for current members of iris societies, but an event to draw attention to the clubs.
“We’re supposed to foster interest in the iris, and get the flowers in front of the public.” Buelow said.
But what makes people enter?
“I have a quite a large garden of iris, but you have to enter in order to have something for the public to see,” she said.
“And I don’t feel too badly about taking a blue ribbon.”
Buelow said the biggest obstacle to budding interest in the iris is its reputation as a tough but not-too glamorous form of flora.
“They used to plant them in old cemeteries because they were such a hardy, perennial plant,” she said. “That’s how most people think of them.”
But that’s not the case anymore - new hybrids are constantly being introduced (making it even more important contestants know the variety of their iris), and the rainbow of available colors is constantly increasing. There are white, blue, purple, pink, black, brown, apricot, orange and lavender varieties, and that’s not all.
“They’re always trying for something new, different and pretty,” Buelow said.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: VISIONS OF SPRING Where and when: The “Iris: Visions of Spring” flower show takes place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday at University City Shopping Center, inside the mall near JC Penney. Registration is from 6:30 to 9 a.m. on Saturday. There is no charge to view or enter the show. Categories: Horticulture (judged as a single-stalk flower specimen), seedlings, youth, commercial exhibit, educational exhibit and artistic arrangement. Artistic placement classes are mountain majesty (with white iris), spring sunrise (with pink or apricot), quiet waters (with blue), sunny days (with yellow or brown), soft breezes (anything goes) and lakes and streams (using weathered wood and shells or rocks).