The following information has been supplied to offer suggestions to help the Floral Designer contemplating entering competitions and ‘Common Faults’ to avoid. 

Entering the Show:
Read the show schedule thoroughly. Refer to the AFAA Manual for guidelines to staging the ‘Definition’ subjects. Artificial fruit, flowers and foliage are NOT permitted.

Prior to the Show: Note the allocated staging area and take a tape measure to ensure you are within the specified space.  Make a checklist of the items you will need to stage your design. If you are entering other special competitions where designs must be constructed ‘onsite’ under ‘competition rules’ ensure you fully understand the Show Schedule and adhere to staging times and allocated staging areas. If constructing designs onsite ensure you soak the oasis the day before (only needs a few minutes) and ensure it is not too wet, as the oasis will break up once the flowers are added.  Make sure your mechanics are firm and will support your materials.

Buying Flowers: Consider the flowers you are using in your design and the ‘open’ stage you require them to be during competition. Some flowers may require several days to open e.g. liliums, gladiolus etc.  In the warmer months buy flowers as late as possible, say the day before the show.  Condition plant material in water adding a capful of bleach to help keep the water fresh.  Cut base of stem at a slant.  Take a water spray bottle to spray the arrangement at the last minute.

On Staging Day:
If simply staging designs, ensure your completed designs can be transported successfully. If your design needs to be completed onsite, ensure you allow adequate time to complete your design. If entering competitions that require ‘onsite’ construction, then carefully pack plant material in boxes (damp newspaper will help keep plant material in good condition) or buckets.  Pack the car, checking your list for all your needs.  On arrival at the venue, report to the Steward who will direct you to your staging area.  An old towel or paper towels will help clean your area and mop up any spilt water.  Top up your design with water and spray your arrangement before leaving.  Give your exhibit a quick examination before leaving, to check it is staged at the correct angle, no wilted or damaged plant material and that nothing is out of place. Ensure you have considered all the Principles and Elements of design.

Do NOT be put off by the impressive work around you – those competitors may be just as concerned about your lovely work.

DO NOT COPY as judges have usually read all the books and magazines, viewed designs on the Internet and visited many other competitions. As part of the assessment of designs, Judges must consider Creativity (Originality) and deliberate the allocation of 20 points. So the designer who offers something ‘Original and Unique’ will be awarded higher points in this area.  

•  Enter the class/es you feel you have sufficient time to stage
•  Always read the Show Schedule and Competitor Information carefully and follow it meticulously - Remember that other Clubs may have different rules, so if you find the schedules  unclear or require further clarification, contact the Steward ASAP. Don’t be afraid to ask questions as there are generally others who will have similar concerns.It is important that everyone be afforded as much information as possible to ensure all the guidelines are being adhered to by all parties.
•  Ensure you fully understand the ‘PRE CONSTRUCTION RULING’ – this ruling applies to classes that must be constructed onsite under competition rules.
•  Do not discuss your design/s or the classes you are entering with Judges (as they may be the assessing Judge).

•  Always arrive in plenty of time (check with stewards) to unload your plant materials and set up your exhibits/s.
•  Report to the Steward who will direct you to your staging area.  Check that your design is staged in the correct class.
•  Keep your materials and activities within your own allotted space so as not to disturb and hamper other exhibits.
•  Do not disturb or knock the staging as this could adversely affect other exhibitors.
•  Ensure you provide adequate water for all your materials to survive the duration of the show.
Be considerate regarding the rules relating to watering and rubbish removal. Ensure you allow sufficient time to clean up your own work area.
•  No ‘Artificial Plant Material’ to be used
•  Give each of your exhibits a quick examination before leaving, to check they are staged at the correct angle and nothing is out of place.
•  Ensure there is nothing on display detailing who has constructed designs.
•  Depart PROMPTLY at the close of staging time.
A good dictionary will provide a wealth of information to assist with interpretation of themes.
•  Original Designs – not repeats of your own or copies from books, magazines or of other exhibitors’ work – Original designs will be more favourably considered by the Judge.
•  Remember-the judge’s decision is final; learn to be a graceful loser and a modest winner.
•  An Exhibit must not be altered in anyway after it has been judged.

•  Poor use of the Principles and Elements of Design and Colour
•  Repeats of your own or copies from books, magazines or of other exhibitors’ work.
•  Poor interpretation of the class title or not complying with the schedule
•  Use of wilting or damaged plant material
•  Lack of harmony in components used
•  Poor workmanship with mechanics and mechanics being too obvious
•  Use of stained, creased, untidy, dominant or unsuitably coloured drapes, bases too large/too small, damaged containers, dirty driftwood etc.
•  Use of too many accessories out of scale with each other or the rest of the exhibit (see notes below)
•  Poor use of space
  Too perfect symmetry (monotonous)
•  Overcrowding, when more material is used than is necessary
  Accessories scattered rather than grouped.

SCALE(One of the 'Principles of Design')
In Floral Design ‘SCALE’ is very important and the definition extracted from the AFAA Manual (page 16) reads:

Scale refers to the relative sizes only, such as the size of the arrangement to its placement, the individual size relationship of the plant materials to each other, to the container and to accessories used.  When variation in size it too great or too small, components are out of scale. Dominance and Unity and Harmony are adversely affected, as the size variation is so noticeable.

Remember SCALE DIFFERS FROM PROPORTION and the definition of Proportion is as follows (Page 15,16):

PROPORTION is the relative amounts of one area to another and is different from SCALE, which is the relative size of one individual item to another. PROPORTION is visual relationship of colour, texture and form areas, while SCALE deals in size alone.

PROPORTION deals with:
•  The amount of light colour area to dark
•  The amount of plant material to the container
The amount of rough texture to smooth
•  The height of a design relative to its width
•  The amount of space to solids etc.

The generally accepted idea is that the amount of plant material should be at least one and a half to two and a half times as tall as an upright container, and the same proportion using the width of a flat container.  However, these proportions may not necessarily apply in Contemporary designing.

These proportions are governed by several factors, e.g. the kind of material (light and airy may go much higher), the space allotted (an arrangement should use approximately two thirds of its allotted space) and the visual weight of the container.