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In a year of cancellations, Community Flower Fair was a chance for gardeners and florists to compete. These arrangements won best in show.

As COVID-19 canceled community fairs throughout Lancaster County, gardeners and florists were left without a place to share their flowers.

Jill Hoffines-Erb changed that by hosting the Community Flower Fair at her flower shop, Floral Designs of Mount Joy. Dozens of gardeners, young and older, entered their flowers and foliage in the completion. Most walked away with a ribbon, bragging rights and words of encouragement.

“I really like the idea to promote creativity for the youth and even adults,” says Hoffines-Erb. “I think we need that now, to bring us back to nature, to have that beauty in our life that flowers can provide.”

Before the pandemic, fairs have been community homecomings that also are places for florists to compete. Staff at Floral Designs often enters in local fairs, and Hoffines-Erb judges the floral displays at Manheim Farm Show.

At their own small flower fair, the entries were organized in the shop’s garage and judged by Hoffines-Erb. The next morning, the big doors were rolled up and the public was invited to take a look. Because it was a fair, Mount Joy Rotary Club sold french fries.

Four of the florists shared more about their award-winning arrangements.

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This design by April Richards won the most unusual container for the adult division.

Roll with it

At first, April Richards was curious to see how her dahlias compared to others at the flower fair.

When she saw the most unusual container category, her focus shifted.

Her arrangement of dahlias inside a roll of toilet paper won a first-place ribbon in the most-unusual container category and best of show.

“I just thought when people see a flower arrangement in a toilet paper roll how can they not smile or maybe even laugh,” says Richards, 31. “Especially given this past year and the toilet paper panic back in spring.”

Richards, who lives in Elizabethtown, packed her arrangement with several kinds of dahlias she grows (Thomas Edison, Le Baron and Franz Kafka) plus dusty miller and cedar tree branches. She made dahlias the centerpiece for a few reasons. They represent elegance and dignity. Richards loves the vibrant colors and the complexity of the compact petals bursting out of the buds.

She also loves the challenge of growing dahlias. When they bloom, it seems like a long-awaited reward.

Her advice for growers: “Enjoy the process. It definitely takes faith, patience and perseverance. But as some of us have been taught, perseverance produces character, and character, hope. It will feel so good to cultivate something beautiful that you can share with others. It is also such a hopeful experience to wait from the day you plant the tubers until months later when you see your first bloom. It’s just an amazing transformation.”

And her advice for florists: “Even if you don’t think you have an eye for arranging, you really never know until you try. Just roll with it.”

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This design by Karis Byler won best in show for most unusual container for the youth divisions.

Pretty in pink

To make her best of show arrangement, Karis Byler stuck to a pink palette. The dahlias in the garden were especially pretty so she added pink and white ones along with pink cosmos, gomphrena, greens and trailing amaranthus.

She arranged all of these in a pink rain boot.

“It’s the boot I wear to help mommy,” says Karis, 10.

Karis has learned a lot from her mother, Katie, who runs Greystone Manor Gardens, a flower farm in Warwick Township that specializes in dahlias.

Karis helps in the garden and makes her own arrangements. Last year at West Lampeter Fair, she won first place in the unusual container category for her colander bouquet. A cousin made an arrangement in a hockey skate, which inspired Karis’ boot arrangement.

Her trick to bringing it all together? The flowers sit in a Mason jar, which was nestled into the boot.

Her advice: The amaranthus gives the arrangement another level beyond the small flowers at the top of the boot and the tall flowers towering above. “Usually you don’t want flowers to drape, but this one looks really pretty when it drapes,” she says.

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This design by Kiana Bucher won the design in mason jar category for the youth 4th through 6th grade division.

A marvelous Mason jar

Kiana Bucher usually enters the flowers she grows at the Manheim Farm Show. When that show was canceled, she entered in the Community Flower Fair to see if she could win a ribbon there. She also entered the competition because arranging flowers is fun, says Kiana, 9, who lives in Rapho Township. Her Mason jar arrangement of zinnias, sedum and ornamental grass won first place in one of the youth categories.

“There was a lot of pink zinnias blooming at the time so I used that color, and I thought it complemented the sedum and ornamental grasses,” she says.

Kiana’s advice: It’s best to have an odd number of one kind of flower in a vase. Remove leaves that will be in the water so the arrangement stays nicer longer. Choose colors of flowers that complement each other.

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This design by Leah Bucher won in the all foliage for the youth K through 3rd grade division.

Fledgling florist

Kiana’s sister, Leah Bucher, 5, is a kindergarten student, so this is the first time she was old enough to enter a floral competition.

Especially challenging to make one of her first competition arrangements was finding a vase to fit her stems. Then, when the barberry stems were too short, she had to cut more.

Leah filled a vase with barberry, ornamental grasses and bleeding heart leaves. Her first arrangement won a ribbon in the all-foliage category in the youngest age group.