Wednesday, Jun 20, 2018
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Mary Alice Powell

Area gardeners get creative, competitive

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    JoAnne Searle, left, was chairman of the Garden Club Forum flower show judges and Mary Alice Shirk and Sylvia Meiring served as student judges. The design in the background by Ms. Searle won a blue ribbon.

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    Mary Alice Powell.

    The Blade
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While day lilies, hydrangeas, and hostas may simply be what most of us expect in gardens at this season, they are more scrupulously observed by one circle of northwest Ohio gardeners.

Garden club members with a competitive flair and who want to display their horticultural prowess carefully inspect each leaf, petal, and blossom hoping to find the perfect ones to enter in the annual flower show sponsored by the Garden Club Forum of the Toledo District.

The show, held in the Conference Center at Toledo Botanical Garden June 28-29, was a magnificent display of 132 horticulture and 28 design entries representing eight of the 13 Lucas and Wood County garden clubs that are affiliated with the forum. The show annually coincides with the Crosby Festival of the Arts and attracts hundreds of festival visitors.

The horticulture entries included foliage and flowering plants, and plant specimens, such as a single rose, delphinium, fern leaf, or in some cases a collection from a garden, such as several varieties of hosta leaves. In that division, Gerry Crouse, a member of the Anthony Wayne and Maumee garden clubs, took first place for a container of small hostas.

In the design competition, floral arrangements that are appropriate for various occasions, from breakfast in bed to a formal dinner, were entered. Coletta Allen’s design of lilies immersed in water in a high glass vase was awarded first place. Ms. Allen is president of the garden forum and is a member of the Anthony Wayne Garden Club.

Several participants were members of the Serendipity Designer Guild, a club organized last year. Anyone interested in floral design can join Serendipity in addition to another club.

The forum committees in past years have chosen the Toledo Zoo and the Toledo Museum of Art as show themes. This year’s theme, Bon Appetit, recognized the Toledo dining scene.

The restaurants that were acknowledged in table design class entries were Mancy’s Bluewater Grille, Registry Bistro, Manos, Te’kela Mexican Cocina, Manhattan’s, La Scola Italian Grill, and Clara J’s at 219 Tea Room. Horticulture classes were given culinary terms including al dente, au gratin, and Florentine.

As honorary chairman of the 2014 show, I was privileged to be behind the scenes during the two-hour judging. I was advised to sit and be quiet while the six judges did their thing. Exceptions were twice when I was permitted to walk down the horticulture aisles and take a quick pass by the design table displays.

It was fun to guess what entries would be given blue ribbons by the judging panel. I agreed on some, not all, but I decided on appearance and personal preference, not on the Ohio State Garden Club handbook that is the judging Bible.

The handbook is followed to the letter, and a copy is carried by each judge for quick reference when needed.

Being a judge in the garden club circle is prestigious and requires many steps to being accredited.

Mary Alice Shirk, a member of the Corey Woods Garden Club, and Sylvia Meiring of the River Road Garden Club, are student judges who joined four accredited judges from Cincinnati for the Toledo show.

Mickie Marguis, one of the four, is president of the Ohio Garden Club. She said that as a judge and as president, she drives about 16,000 miles a year for meetings. The other Cincinnati judges were Carolyn Doerflein, Deanna Dauce, and Carol Johnson, who declared the Toledo show entries “top quality stuff and beautiful.”

As she nears completion for accreditation, Ms. Meiring assesses the work entailed as a “lifetime desire.”

“I just love flowers. I grew up in my grandfather’s greenhouse in Toledo, “ she said. Her grandfather was the late Urban Meiring.

Ms. Shirk said she learned a lot about judging while working with the pros. She will travel to Cincinnati next week to continue her student judging requirements.

Mona Macksey and Sue Mullins, members of the Anthony Wayne Garden Club, were co-chairmen. Alaina Meister, also of Anthony Wayne and the Maumee Garden Club, was responsible for the horticulture division. JoAnne Searle of the All Seasons Garden Club was chairman of the judges.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at:

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