Dutchess County Fair Amateur Cut Flower Competition

June 25, 2024
Sue Adams

The Amateur Cut Flower Competition at the Dutchess County Fair is Back!

Why not show off your beautiful flowers at the Dutchess County Fair?!? Entering is easy and competing with other flower enthusiasts fun! There are two competitions, one on Tuesday and the other on Friday. Here are tips from my daughter Becky (who started entering flowers are the age of 14) and me:

New Categories for 2024

Tuesday: Collection of yellow flowers, collection of pink flowers, terrarium in a mason jar.
For children ages 6-12: Marigold grown in an 8” pot.

Friday: Your favorite color flowers in displayed in a mason jar, rock garden container of succulents.
For children ages 6-12: Zinnia grown in an 8” pot.

Choosing the Flowers – General Tips

  • Follow competition guidelines set forth by the fair.
  • Perfection is key. Choose flowers that are in excellent condition. We even look at the underside of the blossom. Petals should be unblemished and foliage healthy and blooms well formed and visually appealing. If instructions say three stems, choose flowers that are close in size.
  • Cut flowers at the peak of maturity for show purposes. Cut the stems with a clean, angled cut, longer than what you’ll be entering, as you will cut again before placing in the vase. An angled cut encourages the uptake of more water for hydration. Strip all leaves from the bottom half to two-thirds of each stem to prevent it rotting in the water.
  • Look for any insect or mechanical damage. Spent flowers or damaged leaves should be removed as inconspicuously as possible.
  • Place prepared stems in a container of cool water immediately after cutting and leave in a cool place two to three hours to allow the flowers to drink before being brought into a warmer environment.
  • If possible, pick an extra stem or spray in case of physical damage during transit. Too many extra stems will result in frustration and extra work.

Image: Here I am, prepping flowers.


  • Remove flower buds. This was a comment made by the judges on Becky’s early entries. There are two categories for individual varieties. Be sure to display the same color, and look for flowers that are at their peak and similar in size.

Image: Zinnias in cups with water the day before competition



  • We talked to Arthur Tiedemann, former superintendent of the Horticulture Show, who is growing 100 glads in his yard this year. The stem must be 20-21” from the bottom flower. So pick a little longer as you’ll do another angled cut when you get to the fair. You’re allowed to take off one spent or bad flower.
  • If your gladiola has 20 buds, your entry should have 4 to 5 open flowers.
  • If only two flowers are open, pick the gladiola the night before and place in pretty warm water overnight, and the buds should open.
  • Gladiolas are displayed in big green bottles, provided by the fair.

Image: Becky’s daughter Ambika with her winning gladiola, and she grew only 12


  • You can pull off undesirable petals as long as your grooming is inconspicuous.
  • Make sure there are no bugs.
  • Choose bottles with a small neck so that your entry will look its best. You can use a wood block or a piece of celery to anchor the stem so that it’ll stay straight and shine against the competition.

Potted Pepper

  • Don’t bother cheating. Judges will disqualify your entry if it hasn’t been grown in a terracotta pot for at least six weeks. Same for any entry that is to be grown in a pot. Believe us, judges notice.


  • Advice from the Coleus Champion (Becky) – Pinch the plants back on a regular basis so that the stems’ growth is even
  • Always remove the flowers
  • Fertilize regularly

Image: Becky prepping her coleus at the fair. She’s removing unbecoming leaves – very carefully.


What to Bring with You to the Fair

  • Copy of your entry form so it’s easy to make changes. You can’t add categories but can change them. For example if you pre-registered 5 baby zinnias and 8 zinnias over 2” and had more baby specimens than larger, you can make the switch before paying. You can also cross off any that didn’t meet your entry standards. We also write on the form the variety names of our entries so that they can be added to the competition form that will be attached to the vase.
  • Clippers
  • Ruler
  • Pen
  • Rubber bands – Becky and I don’t like the ones the fair provides, so we come prepared.
  • A check or cash to pay for your entries
  • The fair has wooden wedges, but we just read about using celery. We think that celery will work great at holding up delicate stems and are going to try it this year.

Grooming Your Entries – General Tips

  • Do not show plants with damaged or spent flowers. They should be removed as inconspicuously as possible, or trimmed if removal would destroy the symmetry. Trimming should follow the natural line of the leaf.
  • There should be no dust, dirt, pollen or spray on the leaves
  • Specimens should be free of evidence of pests and diseases


Packing for the Fair

  • We check off flowers on the form as they’re packed. We use large cups for most of the entries, but some are put into jars or vases. Coolers without a lid or plastic storage bins are ideal for tall specimens. We put towels in between the entries to hold them in place.
  • Large entries like coleus are packed carefully so they don’t move or fall over during transit.

Image: Top photo is of flowers in the van. Bottom photo shows flowers packed in a plastic storage bin.

Exhibiting at the Fair

  • First time and nervous? Don’t be! Volunteers are on hand to help. And veterans are available to answer questions.
  • Pick up your packet of forms that will be attached to your entries
  • Gather the vases you’ll think you’ll need and grab a spot at a table.
  • Choose the flowers (if you’ve brought an extra, you’ll select the best)
  • Use clippers to make a new angled cut and be sure the stem is visibly submerged in water. There should be no foliage below the water line
  • The flower or plant should be properly, and legibly, labeled

Registering to Enter the Amateur Cut Flower Competition

  • You must register online three days before the competition. Day of entries will not be accepted.
  • You don’t pay until the day of entry, so it’s okay to have extra entries. Remember – you can’t add a class on the day of, but you can switch from one class to another. Enter all the classes you have flowers for. For example, if you think you might have a sunflower ready for the fair, go ahead and register it. If the flower doesn’t make it, you can always just cross that one off your entry list. If you can, list the flower variety in the description area so this will print on your entry tag for judging
  • Please read the exhibitors pages on the website dutchessfair.com under “Get Involved” for entry and drop off information.

Check in Dates & Times, Upstairs in the Horticulture Building

  • Tuesday competition – Entries are to be brought on Monday, 8/19/24, between 5 pm and 7 pm. Enter through the Parsonage St. Gate, drive to Horticulture Building.
  • Friday competition – Entries are to be brought on Friday, 8/23/24 between 7 am and 9 am. Park in the Well Lot/Gate 4, entering at Parsonage S
  • No cars are allowed to the Horticulture Building, so golf cart transportation will be available if needed. If you have a wagon, bring it!

Picking up Entries after the Competitions

  • Cut flowers will not be kept
  • Potted containers can be picked up on Thursday evening, after 7 pm, or on Friday morning when new entries are brought
  • Friday’s entries can be picked up on Sunday after 7 pm

Winning Entries, Ribbons

  • Ribbons will not be mailed, but you will receive a check for winning entries. Ribbons can be picked up at the desk in the Horticulture Building during the fair or at the Administration Office after the fair.

Boost about your winning flowers!

  • Take pictures, and post everywhere!

After you’ve checked your entries for ribbons:

  • Go downstairs and vote on new flowers that are being introduced for 2025!