Floating Along on a River of Leaves
written in June 2015 by BSHDS member Harold R. Hoffman
My wife, Eileen, and I had the pleasure of participating in the Black Swamp Hosta and Daylily Society’s "Rivers of Leaves" hosta show at Toledo Botanical Garden on Sunday. This was our first time to submit leaves in the show, and was actually only the second time to attend the show. The first time I attended, now a number of years ago, Treasurer Jim Flannery “coerced” me into joining the BSHDS and I officially became a “hostaholic”, and have no regrets! Thanks Jim.
We usually had a schedule conflict that prevented us from being involved in the BSHDS leaf shows in the past. This year were able to participate and found it a most interesting and enjoyable experience. I would like to share some thoughts and reactions to encourage those of you who have not participated in the past, and to express our appreciation to those who worked so hard to make the show a success.
The spring meetings of the BSHDS included discussions of the biennial hosta show, and I must say that I found the comments on hosta leaf preparation at those meetings to be somewhat intimidating. Recommendations on leaf selection, cleaning, preparation, and presentation led me to believe that participation would not be easy, and that if preparation was not done perfectly one’s leaves would be “left in the dust” so to speak. With the encouragement of many, and the assurance that we would find the event a fun activity, Eileen and I chose to submit leaves this year, and we are very happy we did so. For those of you who have not participated in a leaf show, I would like to give you a report of our experiences, and hopefully encourage you to join us in 2017.
First, I perceived the leaf show as a competition between leaves. I think I can properly say it is NOT a competition. Rather, it is an evaluation of each leaf. The leaves are sorted by size (giant, large, medium, small, miniature), by color (green, blue, yellow, white-margined, yellow- margined, etc.), and whether it is an American Hosta Society registered hosta or an unregistered hosta. Each leaf is judged for certain characteristics and is assigned points for those characteristics. The AHS registered hosta leaves are judged and can receive 15 points each for Form, Size, Texture, Substance, and Condition & Grooming. Up to 25 points can be given for Color & Pattern. If a leaf receives maximum points for each characteristic, it can score 100 points. “First Place” blue ribbons are awarded for leaves receiving 90 or more points. Second, Third, and Fourth Place ribbons are given to leaves receiving more than 85, 80, and 75 points respectively. Hostas that are not registered with the AHS also are evaluated in a similar fashion in a separate grouping. You can see this is not a true “competition” as more than one leaf in a class can be awarded a first place, or other place, ribbon. This is a common occurrence. Show awards are given for the highest scoring leaf in various categories.
Secondly, I perceived that selection and preparation of leaves would be arduous and that leaves would be rejected for even the slightest imperfection. This, too, was a mistaken conclusion. Eileen and I selected leaves on Saturday afternoon, a total of 16, and I inspected them for holes, blemishes, and tears, and rinsed them of dirt. Leaves with imperfections, pinholes, and such, lose some points at the discretion of the judges. This does not mean those leaves are unsuitable for submission to the show, just that they might lose a few points in one of the judging categories. To identify the leaves I made a loop of masking tape around the stem and wrote the name on the tape with a Sharpie pen. Before doing this I tested such a label by immersing it in water, and found the ink to be indelible. Then we put the large leaves in a 5 gallon bucket with enough water in the bottom to keep the cut stems immersed. The smaller leaves and minis, also identified with the masking tape labels, were put in a drinking glass. I think the leaves could be selected several days in advance if one needed to do so. (We kept our leaves after the show and Eileen put them in a vase of water on our table at home. They still looked fresh several days later.)
Thirdly, I thought the process of submitting leaves would be time-consuming and a bit of a chore. Wrong! Part of the process of presenting leaves in the show is properly labeling them with the American Hosta Society designation. The AHS assigns each registered hosta to a Section (size) and Class (color). It has also determined the size of the typical mature leaf in each cultivar. In order to have an organized show, and to make the judging process more standardized, each submitted leaf is identified by a card with the gardener’s name (concealed during the judging process), the variety of the hosta, its section, class, and the length and width of a mature leaf. The entrant must put this information on the identification card for each hosta leaf submitted. This is not at all difficult, especially in this age of the Internet. The AHS website provides all of this information. I would recommend you gather this information in advance of the show. You will be busy enough the morning of the show putting your leaves in vases (supplied by BSHDS), attaching the identifying cards, and visiting with the other hostaholics. If you have the AHS leaf information in advance the process is very smooth.
Lastly, I found something out about my perceptions of hostas. I had never really looked closely at leaves before, never truly studied them. I saw hostas as complete plants and not as individual leaves. You know, "can’t see the trees for the forest", so to speak? Well, the leaf show required me to look at individual leaves, and what an enlightenment that was! I didn’t realize just how deeply beautiful hostas can be. I didn’t know how much beauty I had been overlooking. I saw colors and details that I never knew were there, textures and patterns that I didn’t know existed, stem colors and patterns of which I had no knowledge. I think this surely is the true purpose of the leaf show, not to identify the best leaf, but to encourage us to look at our hostas from a closer viewpoint so we can truly appreciate the wonder of these plants.
Most of all I must stress that participating in the show was FUN! If you haven’t done so in the past, please give the show a try. I guarantee you won’t regret it.
The efforts of the BSHDS members who make the show possible is a gift to us all. Special thanks go to Show Chairs Bonnie Eddy, Phil Parsons, and Charlie Harper, and all the other hostaholics who helped make the show a success: Marilyn Hummel, Marian Parsons, Linda Scheuerman, Jim Baumann, Betty Moore, Charlene and Frank Patz, Jim Flannery, Linda and Rich Nagy, Joyce Lane, Jim and Libby Boldt, Karen Shelt, and Becky Bothe. You all were very encouraging and helpful. You made Eileen and my first trip down the Rivers of Leaves a real pleasure cruise!