Showing your African Violets
Most AVSA-affiliated (or regionally-affiliated) clubs will typically try to have an annual show for their members. These shows typically have organized categories (known as classes) and specific awards for different types and varieties of violets, as well as other gesneriads. Other times, clubs may simply put on a display and sale to boost public interest. It's likely that most violet growers don't start out with the main goal of showing their plants; the desire to do so usually comes after a grower has gained some success and confidence in growing their violets and encouraging them to bloom and rebloom.
It's just fine if you have no intention of entering violet shows, but do be open to the experience if you have the opportunity, even if you only take a single plant, because the knowledge you gain is incredibly valuable. Clubs should encourage without forcing you to get your feet wet, if only for a personal challenge and not for the competitiveness that shows can offer. But if you're into competition, you shouldn't miss the opportunity to show!
If you ARE interested in showing your African violets, I suggest beginning with a couple publications:
- Growing to Show: How to Grow Prize-Winning African Violets, by Pauline Bartholomew
Often considered the "Bible" of growing violets, this book has been updated by AVSA in recent years and contains a wealth of information on everything you need to know: watering, lighting, fertilizing and grooming, along with the famous 12-Week Show Plant Schedule
- AVSA Handbook for Growers, Exhibitors and Judges, AVSA, 2011
This is obtained from the AVSA website (www.avsa.org) and is a true treasure if you grow violets, whether or not you choose to enter shows! There is an extensive glossary of terminology, drawings and detailed descriptions of plant parts, leaf and flower types, among much else.
For me, after having been a member of a local club for a few years, it simply became a personal challenge to grow the prettiest plant I could. Before our club members were ready for our first real show, we dipped our toes in the water by having a mock show with an annual project plant challenge. Does your club or group do this? If not, you should!
The project plant challenge is a great way to learn what it takes to grow a plant for show. It begins with your group choosing a variety of African violet for all of you to grow simultaneously. Sometimes, your options are limited to what a vendor or another member can provide to your club, because you will need enough baby plants to supply each member with one, plus a few extras. You should obtain all your plants for the same source and be sure to specify when calling and ordering they are project plants. This way, they can choose plants that are all approximately at the same stage of development. Each person gets one baby plant to grow in their own conditions for a set amount of time - it can be 8 or 9 months for a mini or semi, or a full year for a standard. The plants are grown with the sole intent to show, so many people will follow the "growing to show" method of preparing a plant for show. In the months leading up to the show, the club usually has programs that coincide with the timing of certain stages (such as repotting phase, bloom boosting phase, disbudding, etc.) At the end of the time period, all members bring their plants to the "show," where the plants are entered into the mock show and each plant is discussed. It is quite interesting to learn from each grower the specifics of care that the plant received and how it turned out as a result. At the end of the discussions, a "Best" and a "Runner Up to Best" is awarded, usually with a little prize of some sort. It's a fascinating and enjoyable way to learn how other people can grow a beautiful show plant.
Examples of show plants & How they might be judged
** The following files are in pdf format. Download the file to see a larger view of the original photo along with a detailed analysis of possible judging considerations. While I am not currently a judge, I took and passed the student judge's test several years ago and do have experience showing and judging. These examples are meant only to serve as a fundamental educational tool for growers who may be considering showing their own plants in an AVSA affiliated show. I realize my photographs do not encompass every aspect that may be judged in a real show, so please keep that in mind.