Horticulture Committee

Resources for Horticulture Shows

Handy tools for grooming and prepping exhibits: Clippers, manicure scissors, tweezers, cotton swabs, sand paper (to clean terra cotta pots) , fine brushes, spray bottle.

References for nomenclature and plant identification:

Missouri Botanical Garden http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/

LadyBird Johnson Wildlife Center https://www.wildflower.org/plants/

Native Plant Society of NJ https://www.wildflower.org/plants/

Dave’s Gardens https://davesgarden.com/

Joanne Lenden Flowers for Bouquets: Conditioning Plant Material.

Guidelines for Exhibiting

  1. Please carefully read and follow the GCA Rules, General Information, and Timetable for Exhibitors.

  2. Entries must have been owned and grown by the exhibitor for a minimum of three months, unless otherwise stated in the schedule.

  3. An exhibitor may submit up to three entries per class provided each is a different species, cultivar or variety.

  4. All propagation entries must be propagated by the exhibitor and identified on the entry card as propagated. All propagation entries must also be accompanied by a completed GCA Horticulture Propagation Card which details propagation method, care, and relevant dates.

  5. Entries must be in a clean clear glass container that is compatible with the exhibit.

  6. Classes may be subdivided and entries moved and/or reclassified at the discretion of the hort committee and/or the judges.

  7. Containers are measured at the diameter or the diagonal of the widest point on the inside of the rim at the soil line. The length of cut branches and stems are measured from the lip of the container to the tip of the specimen.

  8. Container-grown plants are to be exhibited in containers that are clean, unobtrusive and compatible with the exhibit. Disguised double potting and top dressing are permitted.

  9. Saucers, stands, stakes and ties are allowed only if stated in the schedule.

  10. Wedging may be cork or some natural material; boxwood no longer is allowed.

  11. Inquiries concerning any Horticulture Classes should be directed to the Hort Committee.

Guidelines for Passing

Before entering the passing line, be sure all of the following are completed:

Exhibit groomed with no dust, dirt or excess pollen on stems, front and back of leaves, flower (if applicable).

Wedging complete and discreet, so it doesn't obstruct the exhibit.

A clean clear glass container appropriate for the size of the exhibit. (For example, a narrow mouthed vase for a small stem.)

A propagated plant must be accompanied by a completed GCA Horticulture Propagation Card, explaining how you grew it, date and method of propagation.

Your entry card completed with:

1. Your entry number

2. Class you are entering

3. Your name

4. Botanical name: Genus capitalized, species not capitalized, Cultivar (if there is one) in single quotes (Example: Hydrangea quercifolia 'Ruby Slippers')

5. Common name (Example: Oakleaf Hydrangea 'Ruby Slippers')

If you need help with any of these items please go directly to the help desk. Do not go to the passing line.

Questions? Come early for help.

Passing begins at 8:45. There will be no entries allowed after 9:30.

Guidelines for Entering a Show

To enter one of our club Horticultural shows, you will need to bring your show-ready exhibit and your completed Horticulture Entry Card. Steps 1 to 6 detailed below show you how to do this.

1. Read the Hort show schedule

Look at the Hort show schedule in your SBGC program book. Check the rules, the schedule of classes, and note any specifications such as size, or limits on entries. Check the required length of ownership (in general it’s three months). SBGC members can usually enter up to three different varieties or cultivars in any one class, but again always check your program. Sometimes there are exceptions.

If you’ve researched and are still not sure where, or if, a favorite stem in your garden might fit the schedule, just ask any of us. We are happy to help.

2. Select your exhibit

With the schedule in mind, select the specific plant from your garden that you want to exhibit. You will need to know the name of the plant to be able fill in your show entry card; see step 4 for resources to check on the nomenclature (plant name). Choose your best branch or stem. In general, flowering shrubs should ideally be 3/4 in flower. Cut your exhibit and immediately place it in lukewarm water. The best time of day to pick is early morning or late afternoon because the stem is more turgid; i.e. contains more moisture.

Please note: You need to check to be sure your pick is not an invasive plant, because ‘invasives’ cannot be entered in any GCA show. (For 2017 list of invasive plants in NJ check here:


Also check to see if your plant is an endangered plant. If this is the case, you need to add a statement on the Show entry card that it was not gathered in the wild. Check your SBGC program book for more information.

3. Grooming your exhibit

Be sure your exhibit is clean, has no excess pollen, has no bugs and has minimal signs of insect damage. You could carefully trim an insect damaged leaf (retaining its natural shape) if you think it’s important to keep that leaf for your exhibit. If a stem or branch has leaves, usually you can decide which leaves to show and which leaves to remove. However, check the schedule since there may be a particular leaf requirement, as is the case with rhododendrons and roses. For all exhibits, remove all leaves which will be under water in the display vase.

Some cut flowers require conditioning so they stay fresh longer. Here are some conditioning suggestions: For a branch make a fresh cut on the stem; then split the stem just a little at the bottom (to increase water intake); and promptly put in water. For hydrangeas, submerge the entire bloom in tepid water for approximately 30 minutes; then cut the stem at a slant while it’s submerged; then place the stem in a vase of tepid water. To condition hellebores, place the flower in boiling water for 10 seconds, then immediately submerge in cold water. The internet is a big help with conditioning suggestions.

Good grooming tools include Q Tips, tweezers, small scissors, clippers, magnifying glass, flashlight, paintbrush, alcohol wipes (to remove tiny bugs) and a green or brown marker to hide marks on green stem or brown branch left after removing unwanted branches.

Choose a plain, clear glass vase for your exhibit which will present your exhibit well. Colored glass or opaque vases are not permitted since they obscure the stem. For a large stem and/or large flower, use a sturdy based vase to hold it up and balance the size. For a single small blossom use a small vase. Narrower openings on vases hold a specimen better and are easier to wedge.

The second part of grooming is wedging, so your exhibit is held in place in the vase with its ‘best side’ showing. (However, remember judges may check your exhibit from all sides). Use something natural for wedging, such as evergreen yew, cotton or pieces of cork. If using evergreens, hold several pieces of the evergreen in your hand and trim to approximate size. Then wedge it into the vase opening with your stem, and then carefully trim the wedging to a little above the vase rim. Please note that boxwood is no longer permitted for wedging due to the prevalence of Boxwood blight.

Bottle corks cut into triangular wedges are allowed for wedging and hold a specimen well.

Propping up your exhibit to show it off really helps to keep it in position. Just make sure the wedging doesn’t hide your exhibit.

4. Nomenclature

Now you’ll need the nomenclature (i.e. the plant’s full name) for your hort entry card. Look for four pieces of information: the Genus (always capitalized), the species (lower case), the ‘Cultivar’ (capitalized and in quotes) and the common name. The Genus is a group of closely related plants. A genus is divided into species, a descriptive term that narrows down the genus. A cultivar is the name of a specific plant, which narrows down the species. Using one of the milkweeds as an example: the genus is Asclepias, the species is incarnata, and the cultivar is ‘Ice Ballet’. So Asclepias incarnata ‘Ice Ballet’ is what you’d write under Botanical Name on show entry card and Milkweed is what you’d write under Common Name. ‘Ice Ballet’ is a cultivar of the native Asclepias incarnata so it is a native cultivar and should be entered in the appropriate native plant class; see step 5.

Everyone has struggled with plant nomenclature!! We all rely on sources for this

information. Good sources are certain internet sites, such as Missouri Botanical Garden http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org or davesgarden.com http:// davesgarden.com/#b, wildflower.org or Wikipedia. The textbook American Horticultural Society’s A-Z can also be used, but, since this book is older, it won’t include more recent botanical name changes. You can also ask your hort committee; we are ready to help!

It’s a good idea to keep your plant stakes which include the botanical and common name when you buy plants. However, some plant stakes get switched around at nurseries so it always pays to double check.

Please note you can download and print your Horticulture Entry Card from the SBGC website stonybrookgardenclub.com under the Horticulture section. It’s a good idea to fill out this card using pencil. That way, if any mistakes are made they can easily be erased and corrected.

5. Mark correct schedule class on your entry card

Refer to the show schedule (found in the SBGC program) and indicate the class for

your exhibit on your entry card.

For this part, you’ll also need to see if your plant is a native. SBGC uses the native plant list from the Native Plant Society which you can find here:

http:// www.npsnj.org/pages/nativeplants_Plant_Lists.html

Note on these lists, ‘N’ indicates a native plant, but the letter ‘I’ means introduced, i.e. not a native. Then check to see if schedule requires you to identify if it’s a straight native or a cultivar of a native plant (that is, a cultivated variety of a native plant). If yes, you can try Missouri Botanical Garden for help with native plants. Go to their site and see if your plant is there http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/

6. Completion of Horticulture Entry card

Remember to add your own SBGC club exhibiting number under Entry # on your entry card and to complete the details on the bottom of the card: your name, your club’s name and Zone IV location, and show name (which is ‘club show’ for our Stony Brook shows). This way your entry will be properly recorded.

For all plant exhibits, you also need to provide information on the entry card describing Growing Conditions; e.g. sun exposure, type of fertilizer used if any, if you didn’t use pesticides, type of soil, etc.

If you propagated the plant yourself (i.e. grew it from a seed, cutting or division), you should check the ‘Propagated by Exhibitor’ box on show entry card. In this case, you will also need to check the ‘Propagation Card’ box and download, print and complete the separate Propagation Card which is also found on the SBGC website under Horticulture.

Entry Cards

Entry Cards can be found here. Entry card may be downloaded and filled out: Type information into the blue text boxes. The form should be printed on white stock. or Print out the form on white card stock and type or fill in with black waterproof ink. 1) Leave the Passed, Entry # and Award blank. 2) Check only one box for type of flower show — Club, GCA or Major 3) Enter Class number from Horticulture schedule. 4) Botanical Name - use proper nomenclature 5) Common Name - complete 6) Enter length of ownership in months or years. 7) If Propagated by Exhibitor check box for yes. 8) If Propagation Card is complete check box and attach. Must be attached to qualify for special award. 9) Check box if Key Card is attached. A Key card must be attached for an entry with more than one plant. 10) Describe Growing Conditions: e.g., greenhouse, windowsill, artificial lights, outdoors, exposure to natural light. 11) Leave Judges’ Comments blank. 12) Check boxes for Eligible Awards for this entry.


The nomenclature on an entry card MUST have a minimum of two components. The following are very simplified examples of the acceptable ways for doing nomenclature. Each of these examples may be applied to any plant. Having complete information is obviously the most desirable form.

Genus (Capitalized)

species (No caps)

'Cultivar' (Caps, single quotes)

Ex.: Viburnum carlesii

Judges do take nomenclature into consideration. It can make the difference in the award a plant may or may not receive, particularly if there is a close contender

Common Name: Rhododendron

Rhododendron sp.

If you don't know the species or cultivar you may fill the card in like this, but it is not ideal.

Common Name: Perennial sage

Salvia nemerosa

Common Name: Tulip 'Red Emperor*

Tulipa 'Red Emperor'

Common Name: Koreanspice Viburnum 'Compactum'

'Compactum'with more complete nomenclature.

Propagation Entry Card

Propagation Entry Cards can be found here. Propagation cards may be down loaded and filled out. Type information into the blue text boxes and then print on 4” X 6” white cardstock, or print the card on white card stock and fill in with black waterproof ink. The following are the GCA Guidelines for completing the card:

  1. Enter Class number from the Horticulture Schedule
  2. Leave Entry # Blank
  3. Enter Botanical Name - use proper nomenclature genus species Cultivar’
  4. Enter Common Name of plant
  5. How was plant propagated? Check appropriate box Seed, Cutting, Layering, Division or Other
  6. Complete detailed explanation of propagation methods describing your propagation method, including dates to the left and then information on how your plant was propagated, transplanted, growth medium used, amount of water and light, if it was moved inside or outside and any other significant growth factors.
  7. Enter Exhibitor’s Name and Club on the back of the card.

Daffodil Classification

Click here to link to the Daffodil Society guide to classification.

New Jersey Invasive Plant List

Download the list here.

May 2021 Horticulture Show

April 2021 Horticulture Show

September 2020 Horticulture Show

April 2018 Horticulture Show

Freeman Medal Plant of the Year 2020

This year's plant of the year is Geum triflorum. (Prairie Smoke). Here is a super-short presentation showing pictures and brief information on this year's winner and the honorable mention plants, all are natives and many could thrive in our gardens.

April 2019 Horticulture Show

Daffodil Classification

​In advance of the April Horticulture show, Molly Schneider kindly put together this brief overview of the RHS classifications which are needed on the Entry Cards. The presentation also includes links to sites that will have the information that you will need for each entry.

Horticulture Book List

Preparing for the Zone IV GCA Flower Show May 2018

September 2018 Horticulture Show

May 2019 Horticulture Show