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 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.
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.
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; 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 "children".
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!).
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......