OFA Short Course Day 3 highlights:

America in Bloom celebrates 10 years of helping beautify the country, looks to future

July 11, 2011

America in Bloom, celebrating its 10th birthday this year, hosted a breakfast conference at the OFA Short Course in Columbus, Ohio, Monday, during which organization officials outlined projects in the works.

AIB promotes nationwide beautification through education and community involvement by encouraging the use of flowers, plants, trees, and other environmental and lifestyle enhancements. Its hallmark event is an annual contest among cities all across the country.

Contest judges evaluate eight criteria: community involvement, tidiness, environmental effort, heritage preservation, urban forestry, landscaped areas, floral displays, and turf and groundcover areas. These criteria are examined across three sectors: commercial, municipal, and residential.

This year 22 towns across America registered to participate in local revitalization programs in preparation for visits from America in Bloom judges. These towns planted and cleaned up in an effort to be named the best blooming, most livable town in America. A winner will be announced at the AIB Symposium  Oct. 6-8 in Washington, D.C.

During Monday’s meeting, the symposium schedule was distributed to attendees. The event will feature tours, educational programs and meetings designed to build the AIB community and inspire future beautification efforts.
Ball Horticultural Company CEO Anna Ball was a guest speaker at Monday’s meeting, and while she lauded AIB, she also issued a challenge to the attendees in the room. “America in Bloom is a wonderful program,” she said, “but it needs to get bigger.”

Ball encouraged invitees, many of whom contribute financially to America in Bloom, to consider increasing their financial commitment. For information about AIB or to find out how you can help financially or with your time, click here.

AAS judges talk up the 2012 program
Seven All-America Selections judges met with interested parties at the organization’s booth Monday, enthusiastically promoting the 2012 selection process.

Gene Blythe (Mississippi State University), Allan Armitage (University of Georgia), Jenny Kuhn (Rakers), Lori May (Rakers), Jimmy Turner (Dallas Arboretum), Leslie Halleck (North Haven Gardens in Dallas) and Vicky Rupley (Harris Seeds) were at the booth Monday. They are among more than 65 judges across the country who trial entries next to comparisons in their own trial gardens to help determine which plants ultimately earn AAS Winner status.

“These judges volunteer their time to evaluate the entries, then give us the feedback we need to determine which of those entries will be possible AAS winners,” said Diane M. Blazek, executive director of All-America Selection. “They are a very important part of AAS.” 

Kuhn said the various judges have set up trial gardens similar to those at Rakers, where plants vying for AAS selection are monitored regularly to see how they stack up with other plants. Each entrant comes with a description from the respective plant companies that lists special traits it purportedly possesses that sets it apart from similar varieties.

Rupley said that in addition to rating the entrants against comparison plants, judges score them on how well they live up to the promise of the descriptions. Those that outperform their comparison counterparts and that live up to their promise best become All-America Selections, she said.

 A win for Jen
Jennifer Hatalsky, general manager of Varsity Garden Center in Swoyersville, Pa. won the third annual Short Course “Garden Center Live!” Merchandising Contest. Hatalsky, representing Garden Center magazine, defeated George Strimpel of Wojo’s Greenhouse in Ortonville, Mich., in the finals. A day earlier, Hatalsky’s design won out over that of Jordan Graffin of K&W Greenery in Janesville, Wis., while Strimpel won over Jake Rhineart of Grandma’s Gardens in Waynesville, Ohio.

This was a busy and bountiful Short Course for Hatalsky. She also was named an OFA Scholar for 2011 and took part in many activities honoring this year’s class. For her Merchandising Contest championship, she won several prizes, including free registration to the 2012 Short Course.

What’s that sound?
Just before 3 p.m. the sound of bagpipes rang from wall to wall in the Greater Columbus Convention Center, as an authentic Scottish bagpipe player led roughly 200 entrants in the GIE Media Scholarship Fund contest through the main trade show area to the company’s booth in the “Garden Center Live!” area.

There a few of the show’s younger attendees took the hint from the GIE Media video monitor, which showed Flash Mob dancing from sights around the world. Ultimately, a drawing for the winner was held – and “Stephen from Magnolia Gardens” got to go home with an I-Pad.

One more report to go …
The OFA Short Course will conclude Tuesday. As has been the case throughout the week, GIE Media’s Hort Group will be there, sharing the day’s highlights with you via our exclusive e-newsletter report, “From the Road ...” Please check your e-mail tomorrow for the final daily recap of the Short Course.