Flower Shows: Their Organization, Management and Judging: a 91-page book by Victor H. Ries

  summarized by Mary Lee Minor 

Several years ago when a committee of OAGC judges finished the newest edition of the Handbook for Exhibitors and Judges, as chair it was my decision to dedicate the book to Victor H. Ries. Not many people have caught on. There is a statement as you turn the title page which explains that on the bottom of each blank page there are statements from Ries' FLOWER SHOWS book. 

A few of us thought that reproducing this book for our 90th anniversary would be like having a bit of Vic back with us. That did not happen, but I hung on to the book and the thought along with Jean Jankowski. Soon it could be in your hands. In 1933, FLOWER SHOWS was published by the Bureau of Publicity and Publications/Ohio Association of Garden Clubs. Walter A. Tucker in Columbus, Ohio was chairman. Almost no one today remembers that name but Walter was the first editor of The Garden Path

As you get started in this detailed version of how to organize, manage and execute the judging of a flower show you may become slightly amused. Not meant to be disrespectful of Vic Ries' energy and insight but some of the terms and reasoning 90 years ago are interesting. First he refers to all these pages as a 'leaflet'. "Flower shows should be a pleasure to non-gardeners, a stimulation to sluggish ones and an inspiration to active ones." That made me smile. "Exhibitors should raise their standard of quality, develop their skill in growing and increase aesthetic appreciation of flowers. After a group decides to have a show, they next need to appoint a 'manager', then proper committees which must be made up of workers not those seeking glory." Whatever would make him say it that way? As Ries lists committee ideas he cautions that no committee should be any larger than necessary. Then he uses an 'L' for large and 'S' for small suggesting Staging-L , publicity-S, prizes-S, and ticket sales- L. He did state that the general chairman should not be the president after using the word manager. This man was serious. 

Ries was a wizard at brainstorming. The proof lies on pages 41-42 where he lists 26 classes for table settings. You will love the list of 23 types of gardens on page 47. His statement about hanging baskets cracked me up: "they are of doubtful value except in a small rural show." On pages 26-27 you will get a kick out of a list of classes which he took from actual flower show schedules that are so nebulous or just plain confusing that the exhibitor would not know what to bring--and judges would not be able to score. Here is one example: 'a bouquet of decorated weeds.' He is right of course listing many more hilarious classes to avoid. Having said this, later in the book JUNE FLOWER SHOWS(pages 81-81) he suggests this class: " a fragrant arrangement in any container for a guest room". Ries often uses "suitable container" in phrases to guide exhibitors in designing. Here is a bold piece of reflective thought: "A person having 50 varieties of iris can put in a fine collection of 20 or 25". He was referring to a single class! We need to be playing bigger in our shows. Let's be real here. We seek one flower at a time. 

On page 66 there is a list of types of shows to hold like "informal afternoon, children's, rural, rose, peony, iris, county fair, June, bulb, glad, county wide and dahlia." There are endless suggested schedules too, that may make you wonder about the ambition of yesteryear.. He has much to say about training judges at a training school "a judge can only be trained by actual experience." Now that's the truth. He does mention working with actual judges for practice. 

In defining standard terms on pages 58-66 he quips this definition: "modernistic arrangement-except as applied to the use of a modernistic container or exhibited in a modernistic setting it is impossible to produce a modernistic flower arrangement." If he could only see what today's artistry is bringing. 

There are very few photos. One demonstrates the value of staging all artistic entries in a single class at several different levels "Each arrangement stands out more effectively than if all were staged on the same level," he explains. Another photograph on page 87 is a rock garden and pool which appeared in a Sandusky, Ohio show. 

You will be in for an historical treat with this book. Vic Ries' insights make for colorful and interesting reading about a subject that could be boring. You might even come to realize that his views were avant garde for the time. Watch for the reproduction. Note: online searching brought nine more publications from Ries. The Gardener's Trouble Shooter is on its way to me. Several are bulletins from OSU Extension, a Handbook on Rock Gardens from the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, How to Grow Annual Flowers, c1936, a Better Homes and Gardens 1928 article on "Homes of Outstanding American Women''. 

Our founder is out there. The search brought the discovery of his middle name; it is Heinrich.


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