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Diggin' It

Is it time to try something new in the garden?

Are you in a gardening rut? Then it's time to explore something you haven't done before -- maybe floral design.

By Lois J. de Vries / September 26, 2011

Brilliant fall colors spark up this breakfast tray, warming up a chilly fall morning. It was an entry at a regional Garden Club of New Jersey flower show.

Courtesy of Lois J. de Vries.

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Do you ever feel as if your gardening creativity has reached a plateau? Like you’re in a rut?

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The flip side of expressing your personality in the garden is that it’s like constantly looking in a mirror. There comes a time when it seems that there are no more surprises, and the fun drains out of a favorite pastime.

That can leave you feeling bored, frustrated, and worried that you may have exhausted all your creative ideas.

Thoughts such as these are signals that it’s time to get out the inspirational exercise equipment and do some mental gymnastics.

One approach that will stretch your horticultural muscles is to explore some aspect of gardening that’s unfamiliar to you. This could be something as academic as studying plant genetics and beginning a breeding program, or as simple as starting a collection of miniature African violets.

A visit to a flower show

For me, it entailed a recent trip to see a regional Garden Club of New Jersey flower show. I’ve browsed flower shows at big garden events before and rubbed elbows with tall bearded jurors (the irises, not the judges), but this was the first time that I went just to see the floral designs.

Interestingly, I was drawn to three different displays that featured the color orange – a color I’ve always disliked. What I learned was that it really depends – on the shade of orange, how much of it there is, and what other colors are combined with it.

The exhibits had all been carefully constructed and set up to reflect a specific theme, and the judges had left their comment cards for all to read. (It was instructive to learn how differently people view the same scene.)

In their own way, flower shows are every bit as complex as breeding or collecting plants, with strict rules and protocols that entrants must follow. One little slip-up could cost a participant the blue ribbon.

Balancing dedication with humor

As I walked around, my thoughts turned to the Tall Bearded (Iris) Addicts that I had once chased for more than 100 miles across New Jersey, to swelter in the shade of a tree while they spent nearly two hours in the hot sun practicing their judging skills at an iris farm .

And how, appropriately, Art Wolk had titled his book -- which tracks his metamorphosis from a casual, windowsill gardener into a flower show fanatic -- "Garden Lunacy."

The challenges of breeding, growing, collecting, and displaying plants offer many specialized areas of concentration to tickle a gardener’s fancy and provide new perspectives to keeping our own gardens lively and exciting. But as the growing season begins to wind down, you may want to take the time to try something new.

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Lois de Vries, a popular speaker at regional flower shows and garden clubs, writes from her home in rural northwestern New Jersey. To read her other posts at Diggin' It, click here. She's a field editor for Better Homes and Gardens and Country Gardens magazines and has been a contributing editor for other national publications. She was awarded the Jefferson Presidential Award for public service in environmental work. Click here and here to read about her garden design and environmental ideas and her holistic approach to gardening.You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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