Itís Show Time!
Eva Jones

   It is time to get serious about those extra special hostas that you have been watching. Maybe you would like a little advice about how to get started. Here are a few suggestions. Simply put, these are the things that the judges are looking for in order to score your entries. The leaf color and patternócompared to the perfect specimen of that hosta in the judgesí mindsóare the most valuable, worth 25 points out of the 100-point total. The remainder of the points are then based on the leaf matching the registered form, size, texture, and substance of the leaf, and the condition and grooming of the leaf (thatís your job).
   In selecting your leaves, look for the most mature leaves on the specimen with the truest color and even pattern, without any obvious flaws. Remember that you should try to choose the best typical leaf, not the one that might be the most interesting. This is especially true with variegated leaves. In most cases, that means look for the most even pattern (symmetrical) you can find.
   Also, think about the hostas that might be a little more unusual to help your chances to be the best in that class. Itís a fine line: if the judges have never seen the hosta, they might have a hard time seeing how outstanding your leaf is, but then you can trust that the judges have seen a lot of hostas.
   Recognize also that there are quite a few well-known hostas that arenít registered; these all get lumped into one class, making that a difficult division to win. You may want to look up the registered information on the American Hosta Societyís website, www.hosta.org; scroll down for show classification list. Youíll need this class information when you register your leaves, and itís much easier to match them up in advance rather than at the show. If youíre not sure, there will be a registry book available, and show assistants to help you.
   As well, you are invited to bring in brand new (unnamed) hostas, either sports or seedlings. This can be one of the most exciting parts of a Hosta Show. If new, unnamed or unregistered leaves are entered, note that this requires a two leaf display rather than just one leaf as required in the registered section and classes of the leaf show.
   Now that youíve chosen the perfect leaf, you'll need to wait until at least the night before to cut it. Handle it as little as possible. Cut the petiole as long as possible. Treat your leaves like cut flowers and stand them immediately in water so that they can absorb it. You may want to dunk them in cool water for a few minutes to pre-clean them. Keep them in water until the show. A good way to travel with them is in a cooler.
   Specimen cleanliness is the first attribute that a judge notices. Take care to properly clean leaves of all exhibits prior to entering them in the show. An entry should have no dirt or other debris, insects, or spider webs anywhere on the leaf surface or on the petiole. Pay particular attention to the point where the leaf meets the petiole where trash often becomes lodged.
   Carefully wash the leaf in cool water but do not scrub. A very mild dish detergent may be used to help dislodge dirt from the leaf surfaces. Often on smooth surfaced leaves, you only have to gently swish the leaf in the water and the dirt falls off. On leaves with quilted surfaces, you may use a moistened cotton swab (Q-Tip), small soft paint brush, or a cotton ball to remove dirt from the valleys and creases. Be very careful not to damage the leaf surface in any way. Be sure to rinse leaves if detergents are used to clean them.
   Blue leaves are especially hard to clean and prepare for show because the delicate glaucous coating on the leaves is easily damaged. Be very careful when cleaning those blue leaves. On blue leaves with very rough surfaces, it is almost impossible to remove all the dirt without causing damage. The judges would prefer a little dirt than damaged surfaces in this case.
   Donít forget the other divisions. You may enter troughs as long as hostas are the predominant plant, as well as container-grown hostas that are grown alone and centered in the pot.
   At the show there will be members to help guide you through the entry and final grooming with cotton swabs and balls in hand for last-minute cleaning. Allow yourself several minutes per entry (at least 10 if youíre new at this). It is up to you to fill out the entry cards, with the proper judging section, division and leaf classification.
   Tip: please bring return address labels, two per entry, if you have them. This saves you the trouble of writing it (twice!) on every entry card. It is very important to stick to the schedule. Please do not come late!

Reprinted with permission from the Newsletter of the Delaware Valley Hosta Society, v17.2, 2008.