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Rowan Retro Flower Show grows, seeks to appeal to a younger crowd

SALISBURY — After four years, the Retro Flower Show presented by the Rowan County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Association has continued to grow — no matter the weather.
Carole Massey, one of the Master Gardener Volunteers who helped organize the event, said that this year’s total of 152 entries was up from last year’s showing.
Just like last year, she said, weather had an impact on the competition.
“This year was different because there was more rain,” Massey said. “There was a better quality of entries … last year there were entries, but it was very dry.”
Another difference this year: a youth division, with five contestants entering single blooms, terrariums and dish gardens.
Kim Nelson drove in early from Mooresville to bring her son Carter, 8, and daughter Claire, 6.
Carter entered a terrarium he had created. Claire brought a dish garden — a small arrangement in a shallow pot.
“Their grandmother, Connie Sherrill, is a Master Gardener, and so it’s something fun for them to do on the weekend when they’re spending time with her,” Nelson said in a phone interview Saturday evening.
Nelson said her kids had no idea that they would win awards.
Carter’s terrarium won a cash prize in his division.
“It was a big surprise for them, and they were obviously very pleased and proud that their work got some recognition,” Nelson said.
Cory Beaver, 11, and his brother Christian, 14, both entered flowers they collected at the home of their grandmother, Sonja Hartley.
The boys live in Rockwell, and help out with some of the garden chores there.
Cory said he chose an orange zinnia blossom because he liked the color, and was the most artistic of the bunch.
Christian found a rounded, pale-blue hydrangea blossom that he said looked the best from that bush.
Their great-grandmother, Joanne Johnson of China Grove, said the boys had been helping out since they were small.
Johnson, herself, is a Master Gardener Volunteer.
It’s common for Master Gardener Volunteers and family members to enter their flowers and arrangements.
The judges were chosen from outside of the ranks of the Master Gardener Association.
The actual judging took place behind closed doors between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Judge Pat Wayne said her 18 years working in a flower shop had shown her a lot of variety, but this year’s competition was especially creative, Wayne said.
She said some of that is due to the experience gained from prior shows. “People look at what they did last year and get a little better the next year,” Wayne said.
“I’m impressed that people are still growing all these flowers with the weather that we’ve had out there,” Wayne said.
Robert Myers, a trained American Rose Society judge, said this year’s competition had improved over previous years’ entries.
“That’s part of competing. You get better as you go, the more you do it,” Myers said.
Both judges said they were pleased by the youth involvement.
“I think it’s good for kids to do things like this,” Myers said.
“A lot of times they garden with their grandparents … It’s good to get them involved in hands-on activities like gardening, and get them thinking,” Myers said.”

There were a total of 30 entries in the Artistic division, which had an overall theme of “Songs of the Summer.”
Entries in the Artistic division used careful arrangement of flowers, as well as selected backdrop and decorative elements, to match the theme.
One of Massey’s creations, an arrangement inspired by The Tams’ hit “Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy,” was a contender in the Beach Music class.
It was also chosen as the subject of a painting by Plein Air Carolina, a group of artists who meet weekly.
Barbara Duffy, of Salisbury, was one of several painters who set up an easel near the flowers and proceeded to capture them on canvas.
Massey said that the Master Gardeners’ mission is to educate, and that the Retro Flower Show — reminiscent of garden-club competitions from decades ago — has a teaching component.
“The educational value is showing the diversity of horticulture on Rowan County,” Massey said.
Volunteers were on hand to answer questions about how to plant, where to plant and how often to expect blooms.
“We’re working this summer with 4-H, and in the past we’ve done a Master Gardener Junior 4-H program,” Massey said.
The goal, she said, is to make knowledge and love of gardening available to a new generation.
“Most of us, we learned from our grandparents, and we’re hoping to pass that tradition down not only to our grandchildren but to our kids,”
As twin sisters Jaclyn and Gabriela Hess came into the exhibit hall, they walked slowly past the gathered blossoms.
A pink hydrangea was Jaclyn’s favorite, she said, “because it has a beautiful bloom and it’s pink.”
Their grandmother, Linda Hess of Salisbury, said she enjoys making flower arrangements, and came to the show to get ideas.
Though her granddaughters live in Charlotte and are only here for a visit, she said, there’s still a chance they might have entries in some future Retro Flower Show.

Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.

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