Saturday, April 19, 2003

Horticulture & History hook up

Bicentennial exhibition frames amateur flower design contest

By Michele Day
Enquirer contributor

Museum curators and amateur gardeners will cross-pollinate history and horticulture at the Cincinnati Flower Show. The resulting exhibit - under the show's Ohio Pavilion Tent - will be a hybrid.

The Ohio Historical Society will provide artifacts and symbols of the state's 200-year history, ranging from farm machinery to Rookwood pottery. Members of Greater Cincinnati's garden clubs will surround those props with floral designs, incorporating everything from fresh tulips and herbs to dried flowers and seed pods into displays reflecting historical slants.

"We wanted to celebrate Ohio's bicentennial," says Cass Weisman, president of the Federated Garden Clubs of Cincinnati and Vicinity.

What: Cincinnati Flower Show, presented by Provident Bank
When: 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday-next Saturday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. April 27.
Where: Coney Island, on the banks of Lake Como, Kellogg Avenue.
Tickets: $15 adults, $3 ages 3-12. Advance tickets ($11) through Sunday at Kroger and Provident Bank locations; by phone, 872-5194 or (800) 670-6808, or at
Miscellaneous: End-of-show sale of some props and plants will start 6 p.m. April 27.
Curators at the society helped start the process by dividing the state's past into 10 categories, including agriculture, industry, transportation and notable people. Then they chose objects from their collections to represent each category.

In the agriculture section, for instance, visitors to the Ohio Pavilion will find Victory Garden posters, which the federal government used during World War II to inspire Americans to grow their own vegetables. A reproduction of a McCormick Reaper, a mechanical harvesting machine that revolutionized the farming industry in the mid 1800s, will reflect Ohio's strong farming culture.

Of course, the first farmers in the state were American Indians. Seeds from the many plants they grew, such as squash, sunflowers, tobacco, corn and beans, along with the prehistoric tools they used to tend their crops, ranging from clam shells to deer-scapula hoes, will help signify the contributions of ancient crop tenders.

The undercarriage, body and seat of a buggy and a nonskid tire manufactured by Firestone will symbolize the state's manufacturing past. During the late 19th and early 20th century, Cincinnati produced more than 250,000 buggies a year. And the Firestone Tire Co. of Akron was one of the state's leading industries in the early 1900s.

The historical portion of the exhibit will be a sampling of artifacts from across the state, says Michael Harsh, assistant director of collections curatorial services for the Ohio Historical Society. "We wanted a good representation that basically shows the idea of how diverse Ohio is."

Garden club members, meanwhile, have adapted the historical categories into themes for their annual amateur flower show.

Contestants must produce flower arrangements that represent ideas such as "Cream of the Crop," to go with the agricultural category, "In the Works" for industry, "On the Go" for transportation and "At the Helm" for notable people.

In addition to following a historical theme, each exhibit must meet standards set by the National Garden Clubs and follow guidelines set by flower show organizers. For instance, those entering the "At the Helm" class must submit designs within a 24-by-30-inch picture frame.

Those participating in the "Things That Fly in Ohio" category must create displays that don't exceed 3 inches in any direction. And in the "Natural Symbols of O-Hi-O" class, designers must create framed pressed flower pictures using exclusively natural plant material to reflect state symbols. Some of their choices include the state bird (cardinal), flower (scarlet carnation), animal (white-tailed deer) or tree (buckeye).

Judges will award prizes to the entries that show such qualities as balance in design, color contrast and rhythm, says Mary Pferdmenges, who wrote the schedule for the design section of the show.

In the spirit of competition, flower show participants are reluctant to say too much about their specific design ideas until after the judging. But Pferdmenges is confident the rule limitations won't stop gardeners from finding unique ways to express themselves.

"The people who enter the design classes are really clever and really creative," she says.

History and horticulture may not be a natural hybrid. "But it's going to be very interesting to see how it all fits together," Pferdmenges says.

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'Ask the Experts' schedule
Horticulture & History hook up
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