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MY FIRST GENUINE DAYLILY SHOW

- Lanny Morry

                    .. Sunday was a daylily
first for me as I got to attend, participate in, and thoroughly enjoy
my first genuine daylily SHOW put on in a mall just outside
Chattanooga, Tennessee by the Tennessee Valley Daylily Society. We
don't have any of these in Canada -- heck, we hardly have daylily
clubs, and shows like this are a dream for the future rather than a
reality for the present. I only now realize what we are missing!

Wow, what a delight to this northerner's eyes, where daylilies at home
are not even close (as within two to three weeks) of being in bloom.
And what a concept -- cutting bloom scapes off plants to exhibit a
perfect single flower -- or two or three -- and a ton of never to
bloom unopened buds. I could scarcely believe folks would willingly
cut a scape just to show its qualities, knowing the later buds would
be toast, and especially bearing in mind the fact that in the north
(in Canada) where I come from, it may take a plant up to three years
just to produce its first mature scape and flowers, and so the thought
of cutting off scapes to show a usually single flower is something
akin to asking someone to sacrifice their firstborn child for some
higher purpose!

I learned there are codes and rules about what will be judged in a
myriad number of categories, all codified by the AHS and scrupulously
adhered to by those who sacrifice their scapes, and those who examine
and judge them -- with judges from three or four states who travelled
sometimes four or five or more driving hours just to judge this event.

The morning began for my hosts, Karen and Steve Newman at Delano
Daylilies in Delano, Tn., with a quick check through the garden for
promising scapes that could be sacrificed (sacrifice being my concept
as a northerner for whom scapes are almost treated with something akin
to reverence as they show the best our short summers have to offer) --
that were to be shown later that day.

I learned that it is important that scapes be fresh and so Karen was
out at the crack of daylight collecting her most promising scapes for
the show. This works, as long as there is no rain to destroy the new
blooms -- something that happened to at least one entrant I met, whose
plants he had identified the night before as most promising, only to
lose them all, most unluckily, for showing purposes this morning with
a 4:30 a.m. rain shower which destroyed the blooms. It is a game of
fate and good fortune in equal doses it seems.

Folks bring the scapes to the show site in specially created carriers
to ensure that the scapes arnd blooms arrive intact and unblemished.
PVC pipe tubes properly spaced on a creative grid, and plastic jars in
cardboard boxes with narrow necks and enough distance between blooms
to keep them from knocking into each other are prime ways of getting
plants safely to the show, seat buckled into the back seat of cars so
nothing is disturbed or destroyed enroute.

Entrants have till 1ll a.m. to 'groom' their plants, and they come
prepared to cut scars, scabs, knobs, dried dead bloom sites,
discolourations etc. off the stems to ensure the bloom -- usually a
single one but sometimes several blooms though I detected the judges
at this show seemed to prefer single blooms -- so more picture perfect
blooms is not necessarily better though I had thought it was a
positive advantage. Clearly not.

They come with everything from scalpels to ladies cosmetic tools --
brushes, tweezers, etc, along with Vaseline or similar products to
restore a pristine gleam to stems where subtle surgery may have been
required in the interests of eliminating distractions from the eyes of
the judges, along with band-aids for themselves as they work quickly
to groom scapes (scalpel cuts are not at all uncommon as exhibitors
work against the clock and bleed outs are not uncommon). Ultimately
they place the pristine, groomed plants in vases the society owns that
do not distract judges eyes from the blooms, and that hold a single
scape perfectly -- especially when positioned appropriately in the
scape vase with a wedge of foam makeup applicator/remover, or a
combination of squished stems or buds, or whatever will work to
position the flower perfectly in the vase so it stands erect, does not
wiggle or bobble, and gives judges a perfect view of the perfect
bloom.

I could not believe people could spend two hours of their lives
grooming less than two dozen flowers, but they did so, loving every
moment, obviously, and working hard to make the most perfect blooms,
more perfect by removing distractions.

By 11 those entering scapes have to depart and then an invasion of
judging panels descends ensuring plants are entered in the right
section according to AHS rules, and then splitting into panels to
assess the myriad categories. Meanwhile, having watched Karen groom
her plants without injury this year (last year she endured a horrid
cut) -- we happily headed off to an early lunch -- not having enjoyed
breakfast , to return in time to find most of the preliminary judging
complete, with only the top honours left to be decided.

Meanwhile the Mall had also opened for business. I am a frequent
visitor to malls in upper NY state which are relatively near me, and
so help me, these guys are open 24 / 7 or near so (one store, a
grocery store in Ogdensburg actually opens on Christmas Day till 10
a.m. in case people forgot something important for their Christmas
meal), but here in Tennessee where Sunday services are hugely
important, some stores don't open at all on Sundays and others only
open at noon, after services are normally out.

Folks began streaming into the mall, and into the centre court
occupied by the Tennessee Valley Daylily Society and they quickly
began touring the show and purchasing the unbelievably priced clumps
of plants offered for sale by society members. EVERYTHING was priced
at $5 with revenues going to the club -- a hard earned $5 as I learned
as a trimmer and washer of plants with Karen from the day before for
her contribution to the show and sale. In Canada where I come from
no one I know will stick a spade in the ground for less than $15 and
then the thing will probably be a minimum level above a ditch lily,
but in Tennessee there were plants I would have bought very happily
and brought home to our garden but for the fact I would have to find a
phyto inspector and so I did not. Wow, what a bargain.

To cut to the chase the judges finally made their decisions and, as I
made my way around the exhibits to see what plants had done well and
had received ribbons and of what colour I was delighted to find that
Karen had won the Best in Show award for the Best UFO in show which
put her into competition with a small number of other very deserving
plants for the very top award in the show (six or seven finalists vs
the hundreds actually entered).

Ultimately the supreme Best In Show went to a miniature daylily with a
teensy, tiny single bloom I know from over analyzing it to death was
absolutely perfect, but which I personally, frankly found far too
small to appreciate fully or to enjoy to the degree it obviously was
enjoyed by the judges which probably explains why I will never aspire
to be an AHS judge. My two top choices in the final line up of a
half dozen plants included a fabulolus huge and perfect Chicago Stars
bloom, and Karen's UFO Zoot Sims. I thought either could and should
win because they were more dramatic and perfect flowers (this was
personal preference and obviously not based on any knowledge of AHS
judging rules so folks don't shoot me, I am just expressing my personal
prejudices) so I admit my limited knowledge of AHS rules left me
questioning as I found the winning bloom frankly small and
underwhelming so clearly I did not know enough to be objective) but I
concede it was a perfect though teensy bloom and it did have a scape
with very decent branching. But as noted, it was too tiny for my eye,
at least, despite its merits to the judges. I think I will have to
stick to judging whippet dogs which I have a significant familiarity
with and have had since the late 1970s, and which I confess I really
know rather better.

Highlights of the day?? Gosh, there were a ton. But amongst them I
met the fabled Lee Pickles -- so so glad to have done that, and he
looks like the pictures on his blog so I could waltz up to him and
introduce myself and know I was in touch with one of the true AHS
legends.

I also met a delightful young man called Nathan Allison - a teenager
whose future in daylilies is already being set, I believe from his
hugely promising entries in the classes for youth members of the AHS
-- this guy is the AHS future and we need a ton more like him for our
future. So glad to hear from him and his immensely, deservedly proud
parents that he is hybridizing already and keen, keen, keen!

I also met several relatively new hybridizers who showed me photos of
hugely promising plants that I think will put them on a the cusp of a
brilliant future as AHS hybridizers - I predict.

AND I spent the most delightful afternoon seated next to, and enjoying
every single moment spent absorbing and soaking in the immense
knowledge, recollections and serene world view of life, and daylilies,
of one of the most wonderful and unforgettable people I have ever ever
had the huge privilege to meet not just in the daylily community --
but indeed world wide in my life ... the brilliantly perceptive,
clever and absolutely enchanting woman with a fount of knowledge and a
world view -- the delightful, brilliantly engaging LaVonne Jolley of
LaVonne Jolley's Rocky Dell Gardens located at Signal Mountain,
Tennessee.

Oh what a feeling, what a rush!

It was a day so well spent I know that I will spend my night dreaming,
not of sugarplums, but of daylilies and unforgettably good people well
met! Gosh I loved every precious moment of it and I will be forever
thankful to Karen and Steve Newman for introducing me to a world
unknown to those of us in dayliliydom in
Canada.

Ms. Lanny