The National Begonia Society


2015 Diary

Michael Richardson

Episode 20.  Exhibiting 

Monday 10th August -
   In another article later on this year I am going touch on faults etc – which will make interesting reading.
Well I have been in my greenhouse and if I am being honest with myself I have worked out that I have 16 plants / flowers that I can use to make up a 12 board.
I set out at the start of the year to re-challenge for the title so I am not going to break this board up so I can make a ½ decent x6 cut bloom board up, and a couple of x3 cut bloom boards up – and try and get amongst the prizes doing it.
I can only take and show what I have – so it’s the National 12 board Cut Bloom Championship or nothing.

My Pre-Show ritual from a week out -
Pre show planning of my main board -

   Now in my mind the last thing I want to do when I am exhibiting cut blooms is handling the blooms for any length of time when I am staging them as this will reduce the chances of “damaging them” so this is what I do beforehand.
   My 12 blooms for my main board will stand out amongst the rest and hopefully I will be blessed with more than 12 blooms to choose from. These 12 blooms could change a few times during the run up to the show due to blooms going over and edging etc. In the days leading up to the show I will list my 12 best blooms and play about making notes about where they will be placed on the board, whether at home or at work who knows when a bit of divine inspiration might hit you.
I look at past winning boards from National & British 12 Cut Bloom Championships to see how they have placed “colours” to make the ideal colour palette, so to speak.
Before I cut my main 12 blooms I will know exactly where each one will be placed when I stage them.
When I cut them, I will cut and pack them the way I will stage them. For example the 1st 4 blooms unpacked will be the back row of the 12 board. I will stage the bloom on the left hand side first then work my way across, so the 1st one cut and packed will be the last one staged on the back row and so on, so the 1st one to be unpacked will be the 1st on the left and so on.
Exactly the same procedure will be followed when I cut, pack and stage blooms from the other x2 boxes – as I get x4 blooms in a box.

Preparing to cut and Pack -
   I retrieve the flower boxes out of the loft and check them over to ensure they are ok as these are used to transport the blooms to the show.
Also retrieved from the loft is my Dacron that has been stored in bags. This is what I use to pack the flowers in the boxes with.
Ensure I have all my cutting & packing tools ready – Stanley knife with a new blade, bloom tubes, packaging tape and scissors.
Staging solution ready mixed – x8 teaspoons of Sugar, x1 teaspoon of Milton & x1 teaspoon of Alum to 2 gallons of water. If you don’t want to make this amount just half the quantities and make 1 gallon.

My Cutting and packing routine -

The start
   During the day prior to the show I empty the car and drop the back seats in readiness.
I will put a cover sheet over the dining table and bring my 12 best blooms in and place them the way they will be staged on the table. Then I will put my next 6 best blooms on the kitchen work surfaces then another 6 blooms to cover a 3 board and a single cut bloom and a couple of spares just in case.
My reasoning behind bringing them in early is twofold
    • It’s a lot cooler in my Dining room than the greenhouse and will hopefully stop them edging in the last hours before the show.
    • Rain – trying to get my plants and flowers from the greenhouse to the house in the dark and with rain is an absolute nightmare.

First bloom cut -
   Now this is down to my own experience, I always cut a “spare” flower first just to remind myself on just how heavy they can be and acclimatise myself to holding a bloom again – don’t forget you only do this one night a year. I remember once many moons ago I had a fantastic Monica Bryce and it was going on my 6 board at Southport Flower Show, as I cut the bloom the weight of the bloom took me by surprise and it fell out of my grasp – to my horror it now lay on the kitchen floor – devastated was an understatement.
This was a very harsh lesson to learn and believe me it has never happened again to me.

Cutting and packing
    • I ¾ fill the bloom tubes with my staging solution and stand them in a dish ready to be used.
    • I get the first box and put it on the kitchen surface and with the Dacron I make a horseshoe shape that gently slopes from back to front.
    • The plant is stood sideways on so I can see the back of the guard petals and the backing plate. I put some Dacron between the guard petals and plate. This helps protect the guard petals when I cut the bloom of the plant. Then I get a tight hold of the stem holding the bloom and cut the tape tying the plant to the stake with scissors.
    • Swopping the scissors for the Stanley knife I then cut the stem holding the bloom as far down as possible and gently lift the now severed bloom up and away from the plant.
    • With the bloom now cut and held in one hand I cut “v” at the bottom of the stem and push the bloom tube on the stem (right).
   • Then I gently place the cut bloom on the “Dacron bed” that I have made in the box then stick some packaging tape across the bloom tube the stop it moving. Then I gently place and pack the cut boom with more Dacron (left).
This is repeated another x3 times until that row of cut blooms is safely packed and secured.
Then this whole procedure is repeated another x2 times until my 12 board is packed.

Packing the car –
      All the cut blooms are safely packed in the boxes and are loaded carefully in the car along with the following staging equipment:
    • Paper towels to wipe and clean your staging and wipe up any spilt fluid.
    • Polystyrene cups to stage your cut blooms.
    • Staging fluid.
    • A shape knife to cut your stem to size before you stage the bloom.
    • A pen to write your varieties down on the staging card.
    • Bin bags to put the Dacron in after unpacking.
    • Flask of coffee and some food

Staging -
   Please be aware – exhibitors can be a funny bunch when staging their exhibits. Not because they want to its just they have growing a plant or flower most of the year and staging it is the critical part.
The slightest mishandling of the bloom or plant at this point could lead to marks being left on the exhibit resulting in it being deducted of points by the judges and could lose you places.
So don’t think an exhibitor is being rude, awkward or stubborn when staging he is just concentrating at this point solely on staging his exhibit without any distractions.
I personally go into a world of my own when I stage my flowers.

Congratulations –
   I would like to congratulate Stephen Jones for staging a fantastic exhibit to win the British 7 Pot Championship, with Ron Aldous finishing 2nd and Peter Sourbutts for taking 3rd.

   As prophesized a couple of articles ago Robert Bryce won the British Cut Bloom Championship closely followed by John Chiswell who took 2nd and a well-deserved 3rd place went to Phil Champion.

How did this Begonia grower feel -
   When I left Shrewsbury if I am being honest I felt embarrassed in a weird sort of way and I felt that I had let Brian Simmons down after the support and encouragement that he had given me whilst doing the Cultural Diary on the Web Site then showing up with a very poor board at the National Championship. I even felt that I have let the Begonia Society down especially those individuals and who have encouraged me along during this journey. Let me tell you that it felt like a very long drive home that day.
When I woke at 5am Saturday morning to go to work I realised that my hunger for growing the Begonia was stronger than ever and this year was not a complete wash out –
- I am doing this Cultural Diary which I am proud off
- I have even been asked to give a talk to the North West Area next April as well as the Scottish Begonia Society next April and South West of Scotland Begonia Society.
- I have been more than happy with my plants and my growing methods this year.
- And I have met some great people along the way.

Saturday 15th August –
The following day I went through all my plants checked them for stem rot or any other issues and watered them with Provado Vine Weevil Killer (that will protect for the rest of the growing season).
I then went through all my cuttings that are outside just rubbing out any new shoots and feeding them with ½ strength Chempak 3.
After a lot of pondering whilst doing the above x2 tasks I think I have an idea what I could have done wrong after I took my buds. All I will say I will be a little bit more wary next year.

                    Until next time….


Michael Richardson's Diaries 2015