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UGA club takes Southeastern Flower Show honors

By Cat Holmes
University of Georgia

When University of Georgia Horticulture Club members learned the theme, "Laughter in the Garden," for this year's Southeastern Flower Show in Atlanta, they saw stars. Specifically, they saw rock stars, movie stars, even the stars of "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas."

Taking a hard look at a weeping mulberry, club president Michelle Moore saw Bo Derek. In the bushy branches of a Japanese Cryptomeria, junior Bonnie Bartles saw, plain as day, reggae singer Bob Marley. Club members found the spirit of Cousin It, of "The Adams Family," in the drooping branches of a golden threadleaf false cypress.

"We wanted to do something funny and decided to give the plants 'hairstyles,'" Moore said.

The club pruned some plants to a particular "hairstyle." But they left others pretty much as they were at the garden center, said UGA horticulturist David Berle, an advisor to the club.

The largest event of its kind in the region, the Southeastern Flower Show at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta is considered one of the top three flower shows in the country. Each year, organizers select a theme participants use to inspire their garden booths.

The UGA Horticulture Club was one of 1,500 organizations that designed a competitive garden for the 2003 show.

The club's exhibit, "Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow," won two awards: The Chairman's Award for a distinctive, outstanding exhibit, and the Magnolia Garden Club Scholarship, for the educational institution's exhibit that best exemplifies excellence in environmental education. The latter came with $500.

"We're so pleased that the UGA Horticulture Club participated in the 2003 Southeastern Flower Show," said Charlotte Day, the 2003 chairman. "Their garden is spectacular and certainly worthy of the honors they have received."

"A lot of people made huge, intricate booths," said Moore, a junior from McDonough. "Ours is not quite as elaborate, but a lot of people have been stopping by to say they like it."

Indeed, Moore pointed out that the garden was created using relatively common plants in an uncommon way. "Our design would be more easily reproduced in someone's yard, which is what we wanted," she said.

After several weeks of shopping at different greenhouses and growers, the club whittled their plant selections down to ones that looked most like the personalities they represented.

"We're students, so we ran around doing this in between classes and on weekends," Moore said. "Many of these folks (who designed booths for the show) are professionals. Still, ours is cute and pretty funny."

"The concept was to get people to look at plants in a different way, using humor," Berle said.

And judging from the people who stop by to size up the "stars" -- others include winter jasmine as Goldie Hawn, a Japanese holly as Bart Simpson and a leatherleaf sedge as Cindy Loo Who -- the concept is working.

The Southeastern Flower Show will be at the Georgia World Congress Center until Feb. 9. Tickets, directions and other information are on-line at www.flowershow.org. Or call the show's ticket hotline at (404) 888-5511.

(Cat Holmes was a science writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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