I think it is fair to say that most people here have missed the annual Torrance County Fair while Covid was stirring up so much mischief. I know there was a fair last year, and maybe it was just me, but it felt subdued. I guess I might have felt that way because we had to cancel the floral part of the fair.

This year things were a real success. Most of the Moriarty Garden Club members showed up with little buckets of some sort, carrying the colorful bounty of their summer labors. It is fun to compare notes with others that share the love of flowers and see what someone else grew. You do NOT have to be in the Moriarty Garden Club to exhibit at the Torrance County Fair flower show. I was so pleased that we had a woman from McIntosh bring in her own bucket full of flowers. And since that is how gardening goes, most of her flowers were varieties different than anything else that the rest of us had brought in. (Thank you Pam!)

If you decide to enter something you grew, you will make your check-in process much easier if you know its name. Genus and species, along with the variety name. Do not let that intimidate you! There are always people from the garden club that can help you track the name down if you don’t know it. When you have your favorite flower blooming in all its glory, you will want it to be properly named so it can be put in the right category, and so that you can tote home all the ribbons it will win!

The senior division has two main sections. Horticulture, where the perfection of a specific flower (or leaf etc.) is looked at. It is amazing the number of things that get taken into account by the judges. Does the individual specimen meet all the criteria for that specific species? Is there any insect damage or deformity of the flower? Did the grower display it correctly? The judges are certified through the National Gardening Club, of which the Moriarty Garden Club is a member. There are classes and tests and everything.

The other main section is design. Again, judges are tested and certified, so that there is some sort of standard by which they can determine what constitutes a great bouquet. Generally, there is a theme, chosen by the fair superintendent of the floriculture department. This year it was “Holidays Missed in 2021.”

The floral design section is further broken down into different classes, and each of those classes have different descriptions. The exhibitor then chooses which class they want their bouquet to be in. The hardest part, for me anyway, is being sure that you adhere strictly to the description given for that class. Different specifications can be given like, does it need to be made out of all fresh materials, or can dried materials be used? Are there size restrictions? Can I use grandma’s tchotchke as an accessory? There is a lot to consider. I must say that most of us have the pages with those descriptions on them worn out and dirty by the time we’ve finished with our design. (The Moriarty Garden Club does usually have a class or two about floral arranging just before the fair and we often meet the night before check-in so we can work on our arrangements together and provide guidance and moral support.)

The floriculture department also includes a youth division, and we encourage all young people in the area to join in. It is not a requirement that the young person be in a 4-H club or FFA chapter. When a kid brings something in that they have grown themselves, they look so proud. I guess it isn’t as exciting as having a Grand Champion Beef Steer, but it builds the same self esteem and brings just as much joy. It could start with just a single flowerpot that is theirs, but it may grow (pardon the pun) into a small garden plot, and then to a fresh flower and vegetable market. Please, encourage your kids to grow something for the fair next year. You never know, gardening or flower design might be their life-long passion.

I know you might be thinking, “Why is she telling me this NOW?” Well, it is because I want you to plan on growing something for the fair next year. When you start digging through the seed catalogs next winter, or when you are standing in front of a seed display next spring, think about it. What grows well in your yard. Cosmos? Sunflowers? Petunias? Cactus? Any of those would work for the fair. Or you can try a new variety or new color. In the fair book, where all the rules are, you can find lists of categories, but, if you look carefully, down at the bottom of the lists there is a category called “other.” Hey! That’s the one for me!

Happy Gardening : }