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Daffodil show blooms in White Stone

by Reid Pierce Armstrong

The Artistic Arrangements class of the Daffodil Show featured innovative underwater and farmland inspired entries.
The energy accelerated in the final hour before judging at the 75th Annual Daffodil Show, hosted by the Garden Club of the Northern Neck in White Stone last week.

Daffodil growers carrying chattering trays of bulb vases carefully weaved their way through the thickening crowd in the main event center while garden club members standing on stepladders straightened wayward stems.

Backstage, final touches were being made to an assortment of unusual arrangements. A group of women waited with bated breath while a companion submerged a daffodil for the underwater arrangements competition. A lady working in miniature used tweezers to place daffodils no bigger than her fingernail into their tiny container. Another competitor worked on a farm-inspired arrangement that incorporated carrots and rosemary into a daffodil display. 

In a quiet classroom across the building, five contestants worked silently against the clock and each other to create a phoenix-inspired arrangement using only the materials provided.

Down the hall, daffodil growers raced to identify and tag their last bulbs while their spouses clocked and spritzed the contenders, preparing them for competition.

With only ten minutes remaining before the doors closed for judging, there was hardly room to move between the aisles.

Participants of the challenge class had one hour to create an arrangement inspired by a phoenix theme.
Panic set in as a bulb slipped out of place in one underwater arrangement.

A grower started barking orders to his assistants about which bulbs should go into what display.

Those who were done early were already cruising the rows, checking out the competition, adding to the congestion and chaos.

To the casual observer who knows only the daffodils they see lining the driveways and garden beds they pass on their way to work, some of the varieties in the show last week may not even look like daffodils.

From the windswept to the multilayered to the many blossomed to the itsy bitsy, there were more than 100 daffodil varieties on display when the doors finally clanged shut, leaving the judges to do their work.

The arrangements, too, were beyond the average table centerpiece. From a grouping that swung like a pendulum from fishing wire, to a barbed-wire sculpture dotted with daffodils, the bouquets took creativity to new extremes.

The judges had their work cut out for them. Only three ribbons would be awarded in each category.

When the doors re-opened four hours later, eager daffodil enthusiasts flooded the room. The delighted yelps and giggles of winners began to ring from every aisle.

It wasn’t just women taking delight in their achievements. Many of the best daffodil growers are men. These champions walked across the room swiftly and quietly tallying their awards.

“I only count the blue ribbons,” one gentleman said with a sly smile. “So far I have 11.”

Husbands too were on hand to say things like: “I told you it was good,” or, to shake their heads grimly – as one man did when his wife approached – only to have been teasing a blue-ribbon winner.

During the awards ceremony, the main hall was awash in spring-hued knits. Any woman who wasn’t wearing a daffodil embroidered sweater, socks or apron likely had on a shade of stem green or daffodil yellow.

Silver cups, bowls and plates were awarded to the best-in-show winners. The prizes will belong to their new owners for only a year before they must be returned for the next contest.

If you plan to attend a daffodil show, know this: the excitement happens behind the scenes, in the hours and minutes before the show. If you don’t have a camera to get you in early, come armed with daffodils!

posted 04.09.2009

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