Today I was able to spend some time selecting my Gladiolus varieties. Notice I said selecting - I haven't actually put the order in yet. My picks usually come from growers on the North American Gladiolus Council website: http://www.gladworld.org/suppliers.htm
There are plenty of stores and regular garden catalogs that carry glad corms but you won't find the variety like you can from an actual grower. If you are lucky enough to know a grower close to you ask them where they purchase their supplies or better yet see if they sell corms.
The plan for glads is about 200 corms with staggered plantings (based on the maturity date of the variety). From this 200 I expect to have maybe 20 for exhibit. Although that estimate may not be conservative enough - that's only if we don't experience a major storm with gale force winds, insect infestations (especially those darn root worm beetles - grr) and well any other act of God. The best part - as I mentioned yesterday - is all those flowers that don't make it to exhibition will look beautiful in my home!
There are some very competitive families in the Glad Show at the Iowa State Fair. But never let that stop you! I have learned a lot from many them and they are very quick to encourage new exhibitors. Just remember - glads have some tricky classification numbers dealing with size and color so do your homework before showing up. People are usually happy to help but during set-up it can be a little crazy and everyone is busy so be prepared. My tip: when I buy corms I buy from a source that pre-lists what classifications the varieties will most likely fall into - then I have a better idea. Also, always make sure you know the variety (that they are labeled) and keep them labeled in the garden (or draw up a map so you know what was planted where).
Do I have a chance up against this competition? Not usually :) - but you know what; that one class that I may win is the sweetest little victory. Besides you never know when you may be the one to have "the perfect" specimen on any given day. Plus, if you have never exhibited flowers before you can actually exhibit in a "beginner's class" where you don't have to compete the first year against the big competitors. This is a great place to start and learn!
So, wondering about how I can figure this out without a fair premium book (listing of classes and categories - basically your planner)? Well, I use last years. Yes, there will be some changes but I can do a pretty general workup right now. For areas I have never exhibited in I look at the Iowa State Fair's press releases from last year as a starting point. Wondering when "spring" is for them to be listed on-line? Well, a little birdie told me to expect them mid to late April! So excited, it will be like Christmas (OK, Christmas for a professional organizer or highly organized professional?) -- Woohoo!