Today was a busy day at the N.C. State Fair flower show as competitors put the finishing touches on their garden entries. Twenty-six entries were made in this year’s competition. Most of these entries are from individual gardeners or gardening clubs looking for blue ribbons and bragging rights. South Johnston High School in Four Oaks uses the competition as an educational opportunity and, if they win, a fundraiser.
“We have about 11 students from our horticulture class and FFA that come and set up the garden,” said agriculture teacher Cindy Adams. “Today we brought a bus to the fair to layout the garden we have been planning in class. We try to get local businesses to donate plants and supplies. So that the only money the club is spending is the cost of mileage to take the bus to the fair.” South Johnston High carpentry teacher Mike Bridges also helped the students by building a Ferris Wheel to incorporate into their garden. The school entered the Carnival of Color category, which calls for a playful use of plants, garden art and a carnival feel.
“The students learn to design something that could be incorporated into a larger space,” said Adams. “The garden at the fair just gives a small representation of what could be in your backyard, well, maybe without the Ferris Wheel.” Students take the time to plan the height and width of planting materials, mulch and sod. “The goal is to make sure things flow well and not feel crowded,” she added.
Gardens are judged on overall design, creativity, quality of construction, quality of plant materials, color harmony and textural contrast and landscape design, graphics and labeling. Each garden must include a plot plan and a 100-word or more garden concept statement.
First-place gardens earn the designer $800. Second place receives $700 and third place wins $600. Gardeners are also competing for the Arthur K. Pitzer Award, given to the judges pick from the best of the blue ribbon winners. The Gardener’s choice award is given to the garden voted best by garden exhibitors.
Last year, South Johnston placed third in their category. “If we do place the prize money will go back into club activities,” said Adams. “We have several students involved at the fair showing animals, through the gardens we get show another side to our FFA.”
Other area schools also have entries in the garden competitions including Wakefield High School in Wake Forest, Enloe High School in Raleigh and Longview School in Raleigh. Gardens are on display 9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. during the State Fair.