Articles about Peony exhibiting
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Sunday, June 9, 2019

2019 APS Convention Southern Peony Wins 3 Blue Ribbons in Artistic Division & First Rosette


Southern Peony Artistic Design Entries
1st Place "Happy Days" & 1st Place "Honored Guest"

I must say I was very proud of my "Happy Days" arrangement that I entered into the 2019 American Peony Society Flower Exhibition this year. Of the three arrangement I entered, it was definitely my favorite. The bright yellow colors of the hostas and the irises just popped like rays of sunshine and made me feel happy whenever I looked at it. The arrangement category honored a Saunders peony by the same name, Peony 'Happy Days', a lutea hybrid with colors of rose and gold. The "Honored Guest" arrangement was nice too, honoring another Saunders Peony 'Honored Guest', a white single with pink flares. Since I didn't have a Peony 'Honored Guest' to put into the arrangement, I used a single white tree peony and made flares of pink bleeding hearts coming out all around the white flower. The "Great Lady" arrangement honored Peony 'Great Lady', another Saunders hybrid, which blooms as a single hot pink peony in my garden. So I used a single hot pink peony, but the arrangement was supposed to be tall like a great lady. So I used tall fern fronds, which are feminine, yet commanding.

My First Artistic Design Rosette
1st Place "Honored Guest"
Novice Design Award
1st Place "Great Lady"

When the results for the show were announced, I was astounded to find I'd won 3 1st place blue ribbons, plus a rosette for Novice Best Design! This is the first year I've ever won a rosette in a design category. However I was really shocked that it was the "Honored Guest" arrangement that actually won the Novice Best Design Rosette. I felt sure that the "Happy Days" entry I'd entered was my best effort. It was interesting to see the comments from the judges on the backs of my entry tags. That's the thing I think is pretty neat about the Artistic Design category, all of the artistic designs are judged by local certified design judges (not APS judges). Regardless of which arrangement won, I am very grateful to have been able to enter into this category in the APS show. I owe many thanks to the APS members that donate peonies to the artistic design category every year, and to Kris who graciously allowed me to harvest hostas, iris, and bleeding hearts, and other foliage from her garden. Thank you!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

2019 APS Treasurer and First Time Entrant Wins 2 Court of Honor Ribbons & Best Novice Specimen Rosette in the American Peony Society Flower Exhibition


Kris Wins Novice Best Specimen on the APS Court of Honor
Peony 'Age of Victoria'

As I examined the final selections on the American Peony Society Court of Honor this year, my heart leapt with excitement as I found that Kris had won a spot in the top honor of the entire flower show! I practically ran to find her and bring her back to the table at the front of the show. I think I might have been more excited than she was! Her Peony 'Age of Victoria' won a blue 1st place ribbon for its class, the Best Pink Hybrid Court of Honor rosette and the Novice Best Specimen rosette!!! 3 Ribbons! Wow!!! I think she was surprised that she had placed a flower in the Court of Honor - the best of the best flowers in the whole show! Little did she know another surprise awaited her...


Kris Wins 2 APS Court of Honor Ribbons
Tom & Kris with Peony 'Coral Scout'

As Kris was chatting with friends and fellow APS members about placing a flower on the Court of Honor, I decided to go over the rest of the table to see who else placed a flower there. I was surprised and excited to find another flower with her name on it, Peony 'Coral Scout', which won a blue 1st place ribbon in its class and the Best Coral Hybrid Court of Honor rosette. So not only had she placed a flower on the Court of Honor on her very first show, she had placed 2 flowers on the Court of Honor on her very first show! What an achievement!!! I could tell her husband, Tom, was very proud of her, and so were her entourage and fellow APS members - Deb and I!


Kris with Her Entourage
Adriana, Kris, & Deb

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

2019 Pay It Forward, Helping a Peony Exhibition Newbie at the APS Convention


Me, Deb, & Kris

This photo really captures the heart of the convention for me this year. I feel so proud to have spent so much time with the two ladies in this photo, working alongside them, getting to know them better, and teaming up to help Kris enter her first ever peonies into the 2019 American Peony Society Convention Exhibition. Kris has tirelessly served as the APS Treasurer for years, but had yet to enter any of her own peonies into the APS flower show. Since her garden was on tour this year, and she was a convention co-chair (she was just a tad busy), she hadn't thought much about entering any flowers into the show.

Kris Trimming a Peony
Kris in Her Garden

So that's where we came in. With just a little coaxing from Deb and myself, Kris agreed to enter some peonies into the exhibition. As long as we were a team, and she had a bit of guidance from someone who'd entered before (me), she was ready. I couldn't help but think of all the help that Mike & Becky Koster gave me at my first peony show. Without their help, I don't think I would have made it! They were the ones who guided me on how to get those tight peony buds to open - steam baths and field trips outside in the sun, 2015 American Peony Society Exhibition Preparation. I will be forever grateful to them for their help, dedication, and encouragement to me. So in some small way I was able to pay it forward to help Kris enter her first peony show. Somehow the joy you get from helping others succeed can touch you more deeply than your own success.


Kris Taking a Photo of a Peony Before She Cuts It

Kris was a hoot in the garden. At first she didn't want to cut any of the peony flowers. (I think she secretly really liked them better on the bush.) ;-) Eventually we were able to convince her to start cutting some. She did take a photo of each one and apologize to them before she cut them. I think this really illustrates her kind-heartedness. :-) By the time we had finished cutting peonies for the show, she had really gotten the hang of it, and wanted to cut even more. I think we trained her well, and she will be ready for next year's peony exhibitions. We ended up with quite a nice haul, and surely some ribbon-worthy peony blooms.


Kris Checking Out Potential Peonies


Show Flowers for the Peony Exhibition

Thursday, June 28, 2018

2018 Southern Peony Wins 2 Artistic Design Ribbons at APS Convention


APS Artistic Design 1st Place
"The Pearl"

Well, there weren't any rosettes ribbons for me this year, but I did manage to eek out a 1st Place and 2nd Place ribbon in the two categories I entered in the Artistic Design Section of the American Peony Society Annual Exhibition. I must say, though, that I owe a large chunk of my awards to Mike Miller since he let me use the materials he'd meticulously curated from a local thrift shop. Since he was only allowed to enter 3 design categories, he let me use his remaining materials to enter "The Pearl" category. I did however select my own flowers from what all designers were allowed to use (the leftovers from the flower exhibition), and I also selected the greenery to go with it (from what Mike had sourced from local roadsides). He happened to have some blackberry brambles with small, green buds. To my eye these perfectly emulated tiny pearls and suited my arrangement for "The Pearl" category well.
APS Artistic Design 2nd Place
"Pittock Mansion"
APS Artistic Design 1st Place
"The Pearl"

My other arrangement was for the "Pittock Mansion" category. I figured for a Mansion you need big. So I tried to go as big as I could with what flowers and greenery was left over, but the size of my arrangement paled in comparison to Mike's 1st Place winning arrangement in the category (and Grand Champion Design), 2018 First Time Entrant, Mike Miller, Sweeps APS Peony Floral Arrangement Competition, which was awesome! Truth be told, the only reason I even won a 1st Place ribbon in "The Pearl" category was because there was no entry from Mike to compete with. All in all entering these designs into the APS Artistic Design categories was lots of fun. It was very surprising to win any ribbon at all (this being my first time ever entering an artistic design), and a 1st Place ribbon was even more exciting. I look forward to participating in the APS Exhibition in this way in future years, even when I don't have my own flowers to enter into the cut flower exhibit!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

2018 First Time Entrant, Mike Miller, Sweeps APS Peony Floral Arrangement Competition


Mike Miller of Great Seal Peony Farm
Wins APS Artistic Design Reserve Champion

Much to my (and everyone else's) surprise, a first time exhibitor in the Artistic Design section won all 3 Artistic Design Rosette ribbons awarded in the American Peony Society 2018 Flower Exhibition. That winner is Mike Miller of Great Seal Peony Farm in Ohio. He's no rookie to the APS Flower Exhibition, but this is his first foray into the design competition. I took the opportunity to speak with him about his artistic floral design winnings.


Mike Miller of Great Seal Peony Farm
Wins APS Artistic Design Novice Design Award


Mike Miller of Great Seal Peony Farm
Wins APS Artistic Design Grand Champion

How did it feel to win all 3 APS rosette ribbons in the Artistic Design peony floral arrangement categories (Grand Champion, Reserve Champion, and Best Novice Design)?

"Finding out that I had won all of the top 3 design awards was exciting and embarrassing at the same time. I was happy to win but also embarrassed that I took the awards away from others that had been competing for several years."

Were you surprised to find out that you won?

"I was very surprised when I first learned of receiving the top honors."

How does it encourage you in your peony growing and exhibitions?

"I am encouraged to try entering again in future conventions. This was my first year to enter the design classes. In a normal year I am too busy entering peonies in the commercial division classes and have never had enough time to do any designing. I was not able to take peonies this year to enter and therefore allowed me the time to enter the design classes. I am looking forward to a balance in future shows of entering peonies in their classes and doing more of the design classes."


APS Artistic Design Reserve Champion
"Tilikum Crossing"

Mike is so humble and so deserving. It really speaks to his creativity and attention to detail with the materials he used and the planning he put into creating on-point designs for each of the categories he entered. Mike told me that he visited a local thrift store after arriving in Oregon to find the containers and design elements for each of his arrangements. With the design categories in mind, he carefully selected pieces and accents that would fit each theme. Each year the APS creates categories with themes from the Exhibtion's locale. This year was no different, with each category reflecting features of Portland, Oregon.

Mike's "Tilikum Crossing" entry is anchored by two metal vases of varying height, mirroring Portland's Tilikum Crossing bridge's two towers. It also incorporates woody materials at the top of the arrangement emulating the bridge's cables and a ribbon connecting the two towers to form the "bridge". His "Tilikum Crossing" entry won First Place in its category, and it won the APS Artistic Design Reserve Champion rosette ribbon (the 2nd highest design award in the show).


APS Artistic Design Novice Design Award
"Union Station"

Mike's "Union Station" entry (my favorite) was anchored by a clock vase, just as Portland's Union Station is anchored by a towering clock tower, perfect! The use of color in this design is what really draws me to this entry, and of course all of the intersectional peonies don't hurt either! His "Union Station" entry won First Place in its category, and it won the APS Artistic Design Novice Design Award rosette ribbon.

Mike's "Pittock Mansion" entry was by far the largest and grandest entry on the show table - the scale and grandeur of the design definitely befitting a mansion. Even the vase was perfect - the intricrate, gilded design of the large vase belonged in the grand home of a wealthy industrialist investor. His "Pittock Mansion" entry won First Place in its category, and it won the APS Artistic Design Grand Champion rosette ribbon (the highest design award in the show). Congratulations, Mike!


APS Artistic Design Grand Champion
"Pittock Mansion"

Sunday, June 24, 2018

2018 Peony 'Lavon' APS 2018 Best in Show


Peony 'Lavon'
American Peony Society 2018 Best In Show
Grand Champion

When the results for the Best in Show flower were revealed after the 2018 American Peony Society Judges Select Court of Honor and Best In Show, there was quite a bit of excitement surrounding the peony that won the highest honor of the peony exhibition. The award went a home-state exhibitor, Brooks Gardens of of Brooks, Oregon. The hybridizer of the peony also happened to be at the show, Don Hollingsworth. So it was a great win for both! I decided to talk with both of them about what having Peony 'Lavon' win Best in Show meant to each of them. Here's what they said...

Don Hollingsworth Hybridizer of Peony 'Lavon'
(named after his wife Lavon)
and Kent Tretheway, Lavon's Son

Questions for Don Hollingsworth:

How did it feel to have your Peony 'Lavon' honored as the Best In Show flower at this year's APS Convention?

"I was and am pleased. While I have known for decades that peony ‘Lavon’ is capable of making a flower which could rightly be named Best in Show, this is the first time it ever happened. And I must add: this flower winning is remarkable in that it was scarcely half the size and fullness of which ‘Lavon’ is capable. And, I am not second guessing the judges in these remarks. When competent judges do their job, flower condition (freshness, crispness) and symmetry of its anatomy are key considerations and this Best of Show flower was strong among the competition on both counts."

Were you surprised to find out that it won?

"Yes, because that was the first I was aware an entry of ‘Lavon’ had even been staged. I was not tapped for the judging, and my previous partial tour of the staged entries was focused on the hybrids classes and the floral designs, taking pictures. After judging was completed, I happened to enter the room by way of the door near where the Court of Honor was staged. Yes, it was the best possible series of events for me to be not only surprised, but pleasantly so."

How does it encourage you in your hybridizing?

"It reminded me that for years I have been wishing (and trying again and again) to find pollen in current flowers of ‘Cytherea’, which is the pollen parent of ‘Lavon’, also its seven siblings and half-siblings which have earned name registration here."


Therese Sprauer of Brooks Gardens
Accepting her Best In Show Ribbon
for her Peony 'Lavon' Show Flower

Questions for Therese Sprauer:

How did it feel to have your Peony 'Lavon' honored as the Best In Show flower at this year's APS Convention?

"Thank you for asking - it's always a thrill to compete. I really like encouraging others to do the same. I often hear how some growers and gardeners feel intimidated by such huge competition and I hope to encourage all gardeners and growers to bring even a few flowers to enter."

"I was thrilled and honored to learn 'Lavon' was awarded Best in Show/Grand Champion at the 2018 American Peony Society floral exhibit. With such strong competition, it is an absolute joy to learn one of your entries dazzled at the right moment. To share the victory with Don Hollingsworth, the hybridizer, made it even sweeter!"

"A huge thank you to the APS; the many volunteers who tagged and placed entries; and, to our Brooks Gardens team, whose work on the farm allowed me time to select, cut and store peony buds for entry."

Were you surprised to find out that it won?

"The day before the exhibit, I was in the field telling my flower cutter, Rita, that she could now cut any flowers for bouquets, as I was done gathering buds for competition. I then literally snatched two flowers out of her hand and said " Except I will take these two 'Lavon's' to enter in competition tomorrow - they look perfect." I was in a bit of disbelief when I heard that it was, in fact, a 'Lavon' that won - one of the last entries placed on the tables."

How does it encourage you in your peony growing and exhibitions?

"To see a showroom filled with hundreds of beautiful peonies is breathtaking and rewarding to all participants and visitors. I encourage all peony growers and gardeners to participate in the APS floral exhibit. No matter the level of excitement or anxiety one experiences along the way from field to exhibit table, I remind myself and others, 'it only takes one flower'. That's important to remember when you see hundreds, or even thousands of flowers brought in to the prep areas for entry selection. Bring your flowers next year and join in the fun!"

Monday, June 18, 2018

2018 American Peony Society Convention Flower Exhibition Show Prep


Richard and Anna with their Tree Peonies
American Peony Society Exhibition Flower Show Prep


Leon, Lore, Cory, and Jeff
American Peony Society Exhibition Flower Show Prep


and Steve Filling Bottles with Water
American Peony Society Exhibition Flower Show Prep

As soon as people finish their second day of bus tours on Friday afternoon, what happens next? Everyone who's entering flowers in the show (and lots of volunteers aka APS Members) are prepping the peony flowers for the annual American Peony Society Flower Exhibition. People are checking their flowers to make sure they are opening (or not opening) (or opening too much)! Everyone is checking flower forms and color against the dizzying number of potential peony exhibition classes that can be entered. People are filling bottles with water for the exhibits. People are selecting, grooming, and placing flowers into bottles to be exhibited. People are filling out entry tags for each individual entry with the exhibitor, division, class and variety name. People are running the finished entries from the prep room to the exhibition room and placing them in their marked exhibition category. Everyone's goal is to get as many flowers into the show before the exhibition chairs make the call to close the exhibition room. The exhibition chairs must allow enough time for judging to take place. So the exhibition room must be closed to additional entries prior to the show opening. The flower show is an exciting time for exhibitors hoping to win ribbons, and the American Peony Society's best opportunity to showcase the king of flowers, the peony, to the public.

David, Jill, and Carol Prepping Flowers
American Peony Society Exhibition Flower Show Prep


Lore, Jim, and Linette, APS Exhibition Co-Chair
American Peony Society Exhibition Flower Show Prep


David, APS Exhibition Co-Chair
American Peony Society Exhibition Flower Show Prep

Monday, March 12, 2018

2018 Southern Peony Ribbons Won at Last Year's 2017 APS Convention

While I actually won more ribbons last year at the 2017 APS Convention, I'm pretty sure I didn't do as well as my first time showing 2 years prior, 2015 American Peony Society Southern Peony Winners. I actually received more ribbons total in 2017 (25 ribbons), but the peony flowers themselves just weren't as good as they were in 2015 (18 ribbons). The flowers were smaller and the petals on several of the varieties were krinkled. My garden had a rough year last year, weather wise. Plus the APS flower show was 2 weeks later in May in 2017 than it was in 2015. That's 2 more weeks for my flowers to sit in the refrigerator (which is not a professional flower cooler). Aside from all of that, I actually won a Court of Honor ribbon in 2015, 2015 APS Southern Peony Court of Honor Winner - 'Keiko'. However none of my show flowers from 2017 seemed to be of that caliber. I was basically trying to get as many varieties into the show as I could for the public to see.
Peony 'Sonoma Amethyst'
First Award
Peony 'Little Darlin''
Honorable Mention
Peony 'Julia Rose'
First Award
Peony 'Yellow Emperor'
First Award
Peony 'Cora Louise'
First Award
Peony 'Cora Louise'
Honorable Mention
Peony 'White Emperor'
Honorable Mention
Peony 'Canary Brilliants'
Second Award
Peony 'Canary Brilliants'
Honorable Mention
Peony 'Bartzella'
Third Award
Peony 'Takara'
Second Award
Peony 'Keiko'
Third Award
Peony 'Many Happy Returns'
First Award
Peony 'Coral Charm'
Honorable Mention
Peony 'Topeka Garnet'
First Award
Peony 'Top Hat'
First Award
Peony 'Angel Cheeks'
First Award
Peony 'Topeka Garnet'
Second Award
Peony 'Candy Stripe'
Second Award
Peony 'Paul M. Wild'
Honorable Mention
Peony 'Raspberry Clown'
Third Award
Peony 'Raspberry Clown'
Second Award
Peony 'Bowl of Cream'
Third Award
Peony 'Festiva Maxima'
Second Award

Also there are 24 flowers pictured here that were awarded some sort of ribbon. I won 25 ribbons, so apparently I missed photographing one more peony bloom entry. It was a 2nd place ribbon for another entry of Peony 'Many Happy Returns'. As for the counts on the ribbon types, in 2017 there were 8 First Place, 4 Second Place, 3 Third Place, and 6 Honorable Mentions. In 2015 I earned 4 First Place, 9 Second Place, 3 Third Place, and 2 Honorable Mentions. So they really gave out many more Honorable Mentions in 2017. I'm not sure when I'll have a chance to show flowers again. It looks like they may not have a convention within driving distance for me for several years...

Looking over the photos of all of the peonies I entered in 2017, Peony 'Yellow Emperor', Peony 'Canary Brilliants', Peony 'Many Happy Returns', Peony 'Top Hat', Peony 'Angel Cheeks', and Peony 'Bowl of Cream' are my favorites. There's just something about a nice, round, symmetrical peony you just can't beat. Which ones are your favorites?