Roots of horticulture exhibitions date back almost two centuries

A formality exists in flower competitions, a kind of obsessive edge that both repels and impresses me

Last year at this time I was travelling in Scotland and though I missed my late summer garden and the Saanich Fair, my travels led me to think about horticultural education and community pride. In the U.K., generally speaking, flower shows and festivals are not solely about flowers, but about vegetables and crafts, best baking and jams. They are agricultural exhibitions like our fall fairs, infused with the spirit of competition. And almost every wee town has one. As community events, they present the opportunity for individuals to showcase their horticultural and homemaking skills which sounds almost anachronistic until you stop to think how vital these skills are and how much richer we are for possessing them.

Such were my thoughts upon meeting a leek – a leek nearly as tall as I was. The leek was tied to a blackboard (highlighting its fresh greens and whites) and the leek and the board stood in a humble hall in rural Fife, which made the leek all that more incredible, as if a five-foot-long leek was as a simple a thing, a row away from the eccles cakes and buns.

Recently I attended the Victoria Dahlia Society’s annual show and the wonder of horticulture hit me anew. The society began as a Gladiolus Club in 1946, but they dropped the Glads in 2001 and have operated a thriving dahlia club since. Approximately 30 judges and clerks volunteer to assess the flowers every year. The number of categories stagger (dahlia forms include pompons, mignons, balls, waterlilies, peonies, anemones, orchettes, collarettes, giants, orchids and stellars to name a few) as does the commitment of the growers.

A formality exists in flower competitions, a kind of obsessive edge that both repels and impresses me. One needs guidelines to judge certainly, but as I wander the aisles jotting down names on my wish list, marvelling at the perfect blooms, I think: Dare I, a humble hobbyist?

The rules and complexity of categories intimidate me: The Victoria Dahlia Society uses the guidelines set by the American Dahlia Association. The B.C. Association of Agricultural Fairs and Exhibitions sets the judging standards for the Saanich Fair (the first was in 1868). For flowers, the BCAFE uses the B.C. Council of Garden Clubs’ ‘Exhibition Standards of Perfection,’ a tome of 81 pages.

Flower shows began in the late 1820s as a result of the influx of new plants to horticulture and the rise of the middle class. From the 1950s onwards participation rates have declined, with fewer gardeners joining clubs. In many ways, such flower shows don’t innovate which makes them both horribly dated yet also wonderfully familiar. I asked one young grower how she felt about them and she said ‘stodgy’; she’d watched a few on YouTube.

The Victoria Dahlia Society tuber sale takes place in Fairfield on April 8, 2017. If you would like to receive an email reminder of the sale date prior to the event, contact vdspublicity@gmail.com.

 

Christin Geall teaches creative nonfiction at the University of Victoria and is an avid gardener.

 

 

Just Posted

A dogs in parks pilot study unanimously approved by Saanich council will evaluate how park space can best be shared between dog owners and non-owners alike. (Photo by Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Saanich to study park-sharing strategy between those with and without pets

District-wide People, Parks and Dogs study to produce recommendations by fall

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.’s Indigenous language, art and culture

North Saanich advisor says initiative supports urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

General manager Lindsey Pomper says Sidney’s Star Cinema cannot wait welcome audiences when it reopens June 18, amid an easing of public health measures. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney’s Star Cinema raises curtain for the first time after months in the darkness

Iconic theatre to reopen at half capacity for Friday night showing

Staff member Lena Laitinen gives the wall at BoulderHouse a workout during a media tour on June 16. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)
BoulderHouse raring to rock Langford

Popularity of bouldering continues to climb across Greater Victoria

The Sooke Potholes is a jewel in the community's crown. Transition Sooke hosts a town hall meeting on community growth on June 26. (Courtesy: Sooke News Mirror)
Sooke forum tackles community growth

To Grow or Not to Grow online town hall meeting set for June 26

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of June 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

Most Read