It's Show Time!
All those lovely old irises you couldn't bear to take out of your
garden, the nice new ones you've been adding over the years, the
gorgeous ones you couldn't resist adding just last summer..... they're
getting ready to bloom! And the care you've put into them this spring
alone will pay off handsomely on the show bench, if you can bear to cut
a few of those stalks for the show.
Iris shows in general are to educate the public as to what's out there,
what makes a quality iris, and what's good showmanship. They can be
organized with each color as a separate class, or each cultivar (iris of
the same name) as a separate class. Colors are pretty hard to define
absolutely, so KCIS has for many years gone with cultivar-based
horticultural exhibits. All cultivars of one type (SDB, TB, PCN, etc)
are grouped together in their own section, and all cultivars of the same
name (e.g., TUB O' BUTTER) form a single class within the section.
So already we know two things about exhibiting irises: we have to know
the type and the name of any iris we choose to enter in the show. Here
are two more: entries in the incorrect section, or with incorrect names
(even spelling!) cannot be judged. So if you're at all worried about
that beauty you want to show, be sure to check it with the
Classifications chairperson (Fran Hawk at the Early Show) before you put
it out on the tables. If it's just plain unknown to you, bring it to
display on the Hospitality Table - someone may recognize it, and
everyone will enjoy it.
Equipment you will need:
- bottles, buckets, and/or boxes to contain and keep the irises as still
as possible between home and show
- a sharp knife and scissors to cut stalks and trim foliage as needed
- small paintbrush to flick off any remaining inhabitants
- cotton balls to clean off webs and fingerprints
- a pen and a name/address inking stamp or labels to fill out entry tags
The club will provide on show morning:
- show schedules
- entry tags and rubber bands if you didn't get them at the last meeting
- appropriate (required) containers for exhibits
- Styrofoam peanuts for wedging loose stalks firmly into the containers
- turkey basters for filling show containers with water
- paper towels, just in case.
In selecting and cutting stalks, either the night before or the morning
of the show, select erect stalks with good branching; and select stalks
with well-displayed blooms in good condition. Don't cut anything YOU
didn't grow, at least this year. Cut stalks horizontally, at ground
level, because a decaying stump left on a rhizome harbors disease; and
an iris doesn't balance well on a slanted cut, and looks wrong to judges
with a shorter stalk than usual. Put some kind of IDENTIFIER on each
stalk BEFORE YOU CUT ANOTHER. Gently remove insects and spent blooms.
Remember that a stalk without an open bloom can't be judged. If you cut
your stalks the night before, store them in cold water in a cold dark
place to keep them as is, or in (very) warm water in a warm,
brightly lit area to speed their development. In either case, store them
UPRIGHT. Blooms will turn toward a light source, so be careful.
Transporting Entries To The Show:
Choose containers for the stalks, and carriers for the containers, to
keep the stalks relatively still, and far enough from each other and
everything else, to minimize damage. Many people use wine bottles in
their cardboard cases, or old milk bottles in their wooden cases (the
club has some for sale‑‑call Dwayne Booth); some folks have constructed
their own custom setups with chicken wire, etc.
Whatever system you use, be very careful putting things into your
vehicle and taking them out. Stalks are often longer than we think, and
doorframes and windshields inconveniently close! And allow extra time,
in case you need to drive a little slower than usual with that load of
At The Show
The preparation area has worktables, water buckets, boxes full of
containers for the exhibits, piles of entry tags and supplies as
promised. If you haven't yet registered as an exhibitor, you can do so
here and get your exhibitor number (goes on each of your entry tags!).
- Get a container of the appropriate size (they vary) for each of your
- Fill out an entry tag (both halves!) for each of your exhibits if you
haven't yet. Rubber-band each tag onto a container the right size for
- PARTIALLY fill each container with water (use the baster)
- Insert irises. Wedge stalks into the containers as needed to keep the
desired aspect of the stalk faced the same way as the entry tag
- Finish grooming each entry. Yes, you CAN (and should) remove spent
blooms, so that their absence isn't obvious and their presence isn't
ugly. Yes, you CAN trim off damaged or diseased areas of remaining
leaves; follow the general contour of the leaf when scissoring. Be sure
to get rid of all the livestock (the paintbrush tip works well for
this), and to wipe off (with the cotton ball) any fingerprints you may
have left. Judges DO look at that little stuff.
Whether you or the show help places your entries, try to leave enough
time before the judging at 10:00am to be sure all your entries are where
they should be and looking as you intended. It's YOUR work, from
planting to placing on the table, that's being judged and may or may not
win Queen of Show!
Be sure to come back late Sunday afternoon to pick up your babies and
your ribbons, too, or ask a friend to do it for you. If you don't want
them, let us know; we recycle......
Contributed to the KCIS Newsletter May, 1998