The Ultimate Award
By Paul R. Blankenship
Augusta, South Carolina
(From Rose Exhibitors' Forum, Summer 1999)

When Charlotte and I first began exhibiting miniatures, our goal was to win at least one blue ribbon with our tiny little roses in each rose show. Initially that goal wasn't realized in every outing and we wondered if we would ever become lucky enough to not only win a blue ribbon but perhaps also to end up occupying a spot on the honor table.

Our exhibiting focus today, some 20 years since, has shifted somewhat. Now we point our efforts toward winning district trophies, in general, and the Ralph S. Moore District Trophy, in particular.

As soon as it became evident what varieties would be in bloom for our district show, Charlotte began making daily rounds in the garden, picking out potential blooms for our entry in the Moore. I received a status report at supper every night; sometimes new varieties were added while others were removed. We anguished at how the one variety essential to produce a winning entry was developing more slowly than usual, or inexplicably, seemed to have very short stems. This early stage of assembling a theoretical entry may seem like a waste of time to many exhibitors, but it brings us much pleasure and heightens our excitement.

The week before the district show, we began cutting the actual blooms that would become our en- try. Now the excitement began in earnest as we could see things taking shape. Blooms cut for the Moore were placed in a separate vessel from those for other entries, and we took extra care to protect the foliage and bloom during storage. After all, these blooms will be individually scrutinized so intensely by the judges that each must be free of any significant flaws!

As these special blooms were collected over the five - seven day period before the show, we began to think of which colors would blend most effectively and which blooms would likely hold up the best from entry time to judging and beyond. Needless to say, as the show drew nigh we were really excited about staging our entry!

On the morning of the show we quickly put in all of our entries except the entries for the much anticipated district challenge classes. Normally we would take great care with our Queen of Show entries but at a district show they play second fiddle!

We carefully removed our special miniature blooms from the cooler. We were hopeful that all of these blooms had survived refrigeration and transportation in good shape. If so, we would have more than seven good blooms from which to select the seven needed for an entry. We carefully staged each bloom and then surveyed the candidates carefully to create the best entry possible. Bloom shape and size, along with color and freshness all are important factors to be considered. Finally, we evaluated the stem and foliage of each bloom. Once the seven "finalists" were selected, the entry was placed back in the cooler until 10 minutes before the entries closed.

As the deadline for entries approached, we removed our precious little gems once again from the cooler and made a dash to the show floor to place our entry. Now our hearts were really pounding! Two very important last minute decisions must then be made. First, what geometric shape would be best for this collection of blooms, and exactly where each bloom should be placed in the configuration. We quickly tried all possible combinations with one eye on the clock and the other on our friendly competitors! Amazingly, a configuration and combination suddenly clicked, and the entry was finished. We then stepped back to enjoy our creation!

This moment of finality is an exciting one; the satisfaction of putting together a competitive entry is in itself very rewarding. Of course the Ralph S. Moore District Trophy) is the ultimate reward, but win or lose, just placing an entry in this special district challenge class is the highlight of our rose show season!

Paul and Charlotte Blankenship won the Ralph S. Moore District Trophy at the 1998 Carolina District Show.