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The Editor's Tutorial

.Exhibiting

   Exhibiting, or even just getting involved in a Show by helping is a great way to meet fellow Society members, begonia growers and enthusiasts.  It is also an excellent way to learn more about growing these beautiful plants.
   
If you intend to exhibit then you will want to try and have your begonias at their best when they are on the Show bench.  This means getting the timing right and transporting them without damage.
    The aim is to have the plants  and blooms at their peak  "on the bench on the day" 

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This is our Society's display at the Portsmouth & Southsea Show in 2001.  It is 0800 on the opening day and judging is about to begin.  In the foreground are the cut bloom classes, behind them the group display, over to the left are the pot classes. Everything is down to the hard work and dedication of Exhibitors, without them there would be no Show..  The majority are locals but some may have travelled many miles to take part.

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This is Dave Coates, South Coast Representative and local champion.  But you do not have to exhibit against the likes of Dave, at least not until you have won a few first prizes.  First time exhibitors start in the Novice Classes and are eligible to remain there until a first prize is gained then graduate to the Intermediate Classes.  Only after winning a further five firsts is the exhibitor restricted to the Open Classes.

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Although very large pots are undoubtedly a great attraction on the showbench there are several factors that need to be considered before attempting to grow something  that will inevitably dominate everything else in your greenhouse.
1). It may take the same space as four single stem plants.
2). It will need considerable physical effort and strength to lift.
3). There may well be a problem getting it through the greenhouse door, garden gate or even possibly through the house..
4). It will need special transport to the Show.
I believe that it is best to gain experience by exhibiting  single stem pot plants and/or cut blooms.

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  There are classes at begonia shows where only the cut bloom is exhibited, and this has obvious advantages when it comes to transporting.  The blooms are taken to the Show in boxes and staged on special boards containing paper cups which can be filled with water or better still a solution that will prolong freshness.  The boards are usually provided by the Society.  There are classes for 12, 6, 3 and 1 bloom.

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  The habit of the begonia to produce a succession of buds in regular order allows the opportunity to have, within reason,  a plant in flower at a given time by pinching out those buds that are going to develop into flowers too early.  As the Show date approaches some restraint is needed - chances are that one bud may appear a little large and the next one too small.  In this case both are left on at this stage, you can always pinch another one off but you can't add one on !  

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  The time that a small bud takes to develop into a fully open flower and be at it's best will depend on the variety, conditions and in which part of the country that you live.  Here on the south coast of England a bud the size the of a 20p coin (22mm.) needs on average five weeks.  In the Midlands add a week and in Scotland probably add two.  Only experience and/or the advice of other growers can help here.  It is good practice to keep notes.

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  Measuring and noting the development of buds will give a record of the time a flower will take to reach it's peak.  Some varieties such as Apricot Delight and Roy Hartley take up to a week longer than the average.
The length of time that a bloom will remain at it's best is governed by conditions and the weather.

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  Some varieties need bloom supports even in the greenhouse, others hold their flowers up without any additional support, but it is almost certain that the blooms on pot plants will need assistance whilst being transported.  Cotton wool or collars of tissue will protect petals from swaying leaves.  It is essential to ensure that the stems are securely tied to stakes.  Shown here is one of our Society's own fully adjustable bloom supports.

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You may not win a prize at your first attempt, but you will get the satisfaction of participating - you will be part of the Show.

This Tutorial was previously featured in Begonia South Coast ,the South Coast Area website (now withdrawn).
Hence the emphasis towards the Area on this page.

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