I Show Plants

I like competition. It’s a big part of me, and I embrace it, especially through participation in flower shows. It all began in 1972, when I made a half-dozen entries in the Pittsburgh Iris and Daylily Show. Although none of those stems of irises excitedly cut from my parents’ garden won a blue ribbon, they all won ribbons of other colors, and that set the hook. Since then I’ve entered daylily shows, daffodil shows, fall harvest shows, cactus and succulent shows, shows at the Sheboygan County (Wisconsin) Fair, Garden Club of America shows . . . and the granddaddy of them all, the Philadelphia Flower Show. On this site I’ll be sharing stories and pictures from the Big Show and other shows I enter or choose to visit for my own enjoyment.

Let’s begin with two of my entries made during Flower Power, the 2019 Philadelphia Flower Show held on March 1 – 10 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in the heart of Philadelphia. I hadn’t entered the Show since 2012 (I moved to Wisconsin that summer; much more to follow on that on this site). The Siren’s call beckoned me, so I packed up six plants in my car and drove back East. Long story short, those six plants were entered into the horticultural competition on the third and last judging day, and two of them were awarded rosettes, the major awards that allure me and many other competitors at the Show. Although neither plant won the blue ribbon in its competitive class, specialty judging panels representing the Philadelphia Cactus and Succulent Society and the Delaware Valley Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society decided my plants merited special recognition. Curiously, both awards went to two strikingly different examples of Deuterocohnia brevifolia, a member of the Bromeliaceae, or the bromeliad family, which also includes pineapples and Spanish moss among its big clan.

I noticed the rosette placed by my smaller Deuterocohnia first, soon after I finished my seventh judging stint at the Show. Although the general judging panel had awarded it second place, the Rock Garden panel liked its “inspirational presentation” and so recognized it with one of their cheery blue and white rosettes. It cheered me because just before then I had discovered that my big Deuterocohnia had placed second in its class, and no brown and orange rosette was parked next to it. Bummer. However, early the next morning I discovered that the big one had won a rosette as well, given by the society to which I had belonged for more than a few years. Those rosettes represent one of the many high points of my 39th Philadelphia Flower Show.



For three years this Deuterocohnia brevifolia has lived in a small pocket of fast-draining medium in a lightweight, porous volcanic rock. Starting from a small cluster of rosettes – not the same kind of rosette as the awards that seduce me, but they do share the same basic arrangement of leaves or ruffly parts on the “badge” – separated from the original plant bought at the Chicago Flower Show in 2015, the leafy mass reached the edges of the planting pocket last fall and so achieved show-worthy status.


This giant has seen its fair share of flower shows – and has fetched some very pleasing awards for its grower – since making its debut at the Philadelphia Flower Show in the early 2000’s. Also grown from a small plant like its rock-inhabiting counterpart, the Big Green Mound now spills over the rim of the rather shallow 12” pot it has called home for about ten years. Over the years it has collected some colorful nicknames, including the Green Pincushion, Muffin Top, the Green Footstool, and Miss Muffett’s Tuffet.

So there you have it – entry #1 on this website. Please visit the other pages on this site, and please check in every now and then for more information and musings on showplants, Much to Do About Seeds, my little Wisconsin garden, and other sights and sites along the garden path.

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