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Two women viewing hats at a flower show
A collection of flower show images


Floral designs created for flower show entries are often interpretive.  This means that in addition to the overall goal for the design to be beautiful based on the principles and elements of design, the entry is to also portray an intended or prescribed meaning, idea, thought, concept, object (real or imaginary), or work of 2D or 3D art.  A Statement of Intent of 25 words or less is often allowed to accompany an interpretive entry to help convey or communicate the intended message of the designer to the viewer.  Click on the yellow bar below to see an example of a successful interpretive floral design entry.

For more examples of interpretive floral design flower show entries visit the Flower Show and Tell Facebook page at


There are many different types of flower shows!  The first public flower show in America took place in Philadelphia in 1829 when a group of people realized they could use horticulture to bring entertainment and education to the public.  Traditional flower shows have been held, sponsored by garden clubs and horticulture societies, across the country since that time.  Their purpose has been to be a way for growers and floral designers to showcase their finest specimens and artistic talents, judged or critiqued by seasoned experts, all to be admired by the public.


Art associations and museums entered the scene some time later, sponsoring artistic, interpretive floral design exhibitions primarily as a way to entertain the public and raise funds to support their collections.  State and county fair flower shows remain popular in some states. The large convention center flower and garden shows that many of us know today often don't have artistic and horticultural components, the two mainstays for traditional shows. They are usually sponsored by home building, garden and landscape businesses. These draw large crowds when held in the spring of the year. Their primary purpose is to showcase and sell the latest in home and garden products. 

Flower shows can be organized using any combination of the aforementioned models. But all of them have one thing in common.  They're beautiful, educational, inspirational, and wonderful entertainment for the public!  

Pictured above: Viewers delight at seeing the fresh flower hats created by the Ten Stems floral design study group at a "Hats & Flowers" 'For Exhibition Only' fundraising event at Ten Chimneys in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin. 

Horticulture Division

Garden club flower shows come in all sizes.  Pictured here is a judge and two clerks, judging horticultural specimens during a small bench flower show being held in conjunction with a regular monthly garden club meeting.  Except for Par Class entries, a Schedule defines ahead of time what the challenge is, i.e. what members may bring to the show to enter.  Information about the entry, such as the botanical name of the specimen or specimens is required for every entry.  Entering a show is always optional, and is a great learning experience for members.

Horticulture entries at club flower show
Entries displayed at the first Zone XI annual meeting photography show

Photography Division

Nature or botanical photography is a relatively new category or Division for flower shows. A Schedule defines the Classes or challenges for the Photography Division, i.e. the types of images

that may be entered in the show.  For example, the Class on the right shown here from the first Garden Club of America Zone XI (Upper Midwest) Photography Show held in 2006 was called, "Prized Specimens".

First (Blue), Second (Red), Third (Yellow), and Honorable Mention (White) ribbon awards were given for each of the Photography Division Classes.  Entries were judged based on  creativity, composition, technical skill,  conformance (with class requirements)

or interpretation (of class requirements), and distinction. 

Floral Design Division

Award winning flower show entry by Sonja Durkee

The art of flower arranging has probably been practiced in some fashion or another since the beginning of time! The Garden Club of America has definitions for 35 different design types or styles. Some of the more common terms used are Freeform, Niche, Contemporary, Interpretive, Mass, Pot-et-fleur, Synergistic, Miniature, Parallel, Construction, and Organic. 


A Flower Show Schedule defines various Classes to be part of a show, as well as the specific requirements for each Class.  These are based on a theme chosen to be inspiration for the designs to be created. When formally judged or critiqued, the criteria is based on the elements and principles of design.  Learn more on the Floral Design page HERE.


The flower show entry pictured on the right was entered in a show with a "Roots to Roofscapes" theme in Philadelphia. It was a sustainable floral design created with red twig dogwood, bamboo sticks, calla lilies, croton leaves, horsetail equisetum, and craspedia 'billy balls'. The inspiration for the design was China's 'Birdsnest' completed in 2008 for the Beijing Olympics.

Botanical Illustration by Rececca Jabs

Botanical Arts Division

There are many different types of both 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional botanical arts.   Shown here is a traditional botanical Illustration by local science illustrator, Rebecca Jabs, who teaches at Madison College and the Peninsula School of Art in Fish Creek.

Botanical Arts 3D includes 3-dimensional objects such as not-to-be worn jewelry, jewelry boxes, purses, and picture frames, all created using dried plant materials.  Two examples of 3D Botanical Arts flower show entries are shown HERE.



Flower show sponsors decide what type of show they want to host, and one of the decisions to be made is whether to have entries for the different Divisions be judged, critiqued, 'For Exhbition Only', or a combination of these.


Flower shows are often sponsored by local garden clubs which are members of an umbrella organization, which in many cases is either the Garden Club of America or the National Garden Clubs. For these, the rules of the national umbrella organization guide the procedure for evaluating show entries.


Artistic show entries are judged and critiqued based on the elements and principles of design. "A Fresh Look at Judging Floral Design" by Hitomi Gilliam, AIFD and Kathy Whalen, AIFC (2013) is an excellent guide for judging and critiquing floral designs. "The Encyclopedia of Judging & Exhibiting Floriculture & Flora-Artistry" by Esther Veramae Hamel (Rev. 1982) continues to be one of the useful guides for evaluating horticulture entries.

Floral Design Critique Session at Ten Stems study group meet


A Ten Stems floral design study group critique session at Ten Chimneys, Genesee Depot, Wisconsin.

The floral designer shown here is describing for a 'lead critic' and a small group of peers what her intent was in creating her design, why and how she did what she did, and the challenges that she encountered in the process. This is called a Critique Session, commonly used in schools of art and design, where the instructor is the lead critic.  This informal 'give and take' conversation provides designers the valuable feedback needed for learning and understanding to become better at one's craft. Sharing encourages one to 'think outside the box' and try new methods and techniques that may be suggested by one's peers.


Traditional flower shows for which entries are judged by a team of 'experts' in the field typically award First (blue), Second (red), Third (yellow), and Honorable Mention (white) ribbons.  In addition to these, certificates and trophies are sometimes awarded.  'Best of Show' awards are also sometimes given.


A daily 'Peoples' Choice Award' for artistic entry Divisions can be a fun way to entertain viewers. People love to offer their opinions, and this allows them to explore the intent of a designer and feel they are a part of the process.


Award-winning Milwaukee Art Museum Art in Bloom entry by Alka Bhargava

A designer describes her intent, process and challenges to a group off peers at the Milwaukee Art Museum's Art in Bloom flower show.

When flower show entries are not judged or critiqued, they are called 'For Exhibition Only' entries. This means that they are on display simply to be observed by the public for entertainment and educational purposes.

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