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Flower Arranging for Competition

Updated on February 5, 2011

How To Get Started and Enjoy Flower Arranging for Competitions

After many years of corporate life as a public speaking trainer and mentor, I wanted to find an outlet for my artisitic skills that would also give me some competition juice. You might not think flower arranging would fit that description - in the last 8 years I've learned a stack about floral competitions as well as the "politics" involved. And still I love it and look forward to the season each year.

Having Fun With Flower Arranging for Competitions

I find the lead up to competing the most enjoyable time although I do get nervous and certainly have days where I let myself get stressed over my perceived lack of preparation. So my first piece of advice is - DON'T OVERTHINK YOUR ENTRY.

Step 1- The Schedule

Get a copy of the schedule from the competition organisers (Garden Clubs, Agricultural Shows, Church Fairs etc). Sometimes certain classes are for members only or for particular categories of competitor. When starting out I would suggest entering 2 classes at most. Make sure you are clear about the conditions of the classes you are entering - size, staging times and whether the judging uses particular regulations (such as Royal Horticultural Society Floral Art). When particular regulations are to be used for the judging you should also get a copy of these as sometimes you may interpret a theme without realising there are very strict guidelines for that theme - for example if a theme says "of two" it must have only 2 colours and 2 arrangements with one of the colours being the colour of the containers.

Step 2 - Plan Your Entry.

These days I enter a minimum of eight classes in most shows so I use a simple table format to plan my entries. The first column has the class number and theme title with any size restrictions or instructions for the type of entry it must be e.g. wallhanging, suspension, bench, floor, cube etc. The second column is for my research, sketches and instructions on how to put the entry together. If a theme doesn't immediately trigger an idea for you, try searching in a dictionary, Google or asking people what it brings to mind for them. Its amazing how someone else's thoughts can trigger a perfect idea for your floral work. In a recent competition the theme "City Slickers" meant nothing to me but when I asked my partner his immediate response was "bright lights, nightlife". To me this then conjured up a casino so my entry was based on that and gained 2nd place!

Do a couple of practice runs - I can't tell you how many times I've arrived at the competition only to find the support structure (mechanics) for my competition piece doesn't work exactly the way I need it to or they have been damaged in the drive from home to the Showground. Always have a disaster recovery plan or alternatives in mind. When practising make sure the dimension limits are marked out on your bench so that you keep within these - its the first thing the judges will check and disqualify on.

Step 3 - At the Competition.

Give yourself plenty of time to put your entries together at the Show. There might be other competitors who like a chat or delays in setting out the competition space, but the best thing for you to do is unpack and start arranging quietly. If you enjoy music take a personal player (iPod etc) and plug yourself in so you can tune out any local distractions.

When you have finished your arrangement, walk away and view it from a distance - DON'T FIDDLE WITH IT.

Step 4

What the Judges Will Look For.

The first thing the judges will look at is that your entry complies with all the requirements of the schedule. Next they will look at how well your entry portrays and interprets the theme or title of the class. Your entry must be well designed and in proportion to the space allowed - currently the judging seems to require that you use about 70% of the space allocation.The arrangement and accessories must relate to each other and form a balanced, attractive design using design principles(available in any good flower arranging book - see below suggestions). Plant material must be interesting, appropriate and in first class condition. Above all, judges will look for some quality of originality or distinction that makes your entry stand out from the others.

Step 5 - After the Judging

Look at all the entries and listen to what the judges say about each one. In some competitions the judges will leave you written comments - these are great for future reference and should be kept safely with all your competition information. Look again at all the entries and don't worry of you don't agree with the judges but do take note of the varying interpretations and methods used. Most recently I learned form another competitor's entry that fake snow makes a big impression on the judges. It took only minutes on the internet to find how to make it easily and cheaply.

Step 6 - Do It All Again

And again and again. When I look back on my first entries I can see how much I have improved - there's still plenty of improvement to come too!

Some Photos from my Most Recent Competition

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Theme - Australian Poem - The Ant Explorer by CJ DennisTheme - Miniature - Must be less than 10cm (4") overallTheme - Free ExpressionTheme - Oriental Affair - Wallhanging (1st Place)Theme - Tribal Art - Foliage Only (1st Place)Theme - Australian Poem - The Man From Snowy River by Banjo Patterson (2nd Place)Theme - Song Title - You Are The Sunshine of my Life
Theme - Australian Poem - The Ant Explorer by CJ Dennis
Theme - Australian Poem - The Ant Explorer by CJ Dennis
Theme - Miniature - Must be less than 10cm (4") overall
Theme - Miniature - Must be less than 10cm (4") overall
Theme - Free Expression
Theme - Free Expression
Theme - Oriental Affair - Wallhanging (1st Place)
Theme - Oriental Affair - Wallhanging (1st Place)
Theme - Tribal Art - Foliage Only (1st Place)
Theme - Tribal Art - Foliage Only (1st Place)
Theme - Australian Poem - The Man From Snowy River by Banjo Patterson (2nd Place)
Theme - Australian Poem - The Man From Snowy River by Banjo Patterson (2nd Place)
Theme - Song Title - You Are The Sunshine of my Life
Theme - Song Title - You Are The Sunshine of my Life

I'd Love to Hear About Your Experiences in Floral Competitions

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