Toward the end of 2018, Juan David Lecuona began fielding hundreds of queries from industry members hungry for more information on ‘Alma’— a bright white chrysanthemum with a perfectly green center grown by his company, Deliflor Latin America.
The reason for that spike in interest? In September, ‘Alma’ scored Best in Show honors during the Society of American Florists’ annual Outstanding Varieties Competition, a designation that landed the flower on the cover of Floral Management’s November/December issue.
“We received hundreds of calls and emails, asking us about the varieties, when and where could they get them, also we were featured in many publications (free press), all good, making us very proud of our products,” said Lecuona. The company, which also won a number of ribbons for other varieties entered in the 2018 competition, plans to enter 10 varieties this year during SAF Amelia Island 2019, Sept. 18-21 at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island in Florida.
Recognition in the Outstanding Varieites Competition carries weight with buyers. The Sun Valley Group won Best in Class honors for a freesia named “Versailles” and decorative foliage called “Continus Smokebush,” plus several Blue and Red Ribbons in 2018.
“When a buyer asks us about a particular lily, and we can say, ‘It just won a Blue Ribbon at the SAF Outstanding Varieties Competition.’ The buyer immediately knows that this is a product representing the best quality available,” said Lane DeVries, AAF, and president and CEO at the Sun Valley Group in Arcata, California.
“It is really something to behold,” DeVries said of the Outstanding Varieties Competition. “It’s literally a room brimming with the best flowers grown in the world. To share your best effort with the SAF community is a bit daunting, but also incredibly rewarding. Finding a Blue Ribbon on your vase of lilies, irises or tulips is a wonderful experience.”
More than 300 varieties of flowers and unique plants are expected to vie for this year’s top prize.
The contest is open to commercially available cuts, bedding plants, and potted plants. Judges evaluate the entries and award a Best in Show as well as Best in Class for the 13 categories: Cut Rose, Cut Garden Rose, Cut Spray Rose, Cut Dianthus, Cut Chrysanthemum, Cut Bulb Flower, Cut Alstroemeria, Cut Gerbera, Other Cut Flower, Decorative (Cut) Foliage, Potted Flowering Plant, Potted Foliage Plant, and Bedding Plant. In addition, convention participants vote for a People’s Choice winner.
As an added perk, top varieties will be invited to be part of a special display at the 2020 American Institute of Floral Designers National Symposium.
“The SAF Outstanding Varietieis Clomeptition is something I look forward every year,” Lecuona said. “Just being there puts you in the spotlight. Plus, the convention has a lot of activities that are inspiring, educational, and more. I’m sure the Outstanding Varietites is the one event that every SAF convention attendee goes to.”
Growers: Sign up by Aug. 23 to exhibit in the SAF Outstanding Varieties Competition. Get details and the entry form at safnow.org/ov.
Anne Holub is a contributing writer for the Society of American Florists.