Green thumbs take home Blue Ribbons

Inside the horticulture hall at the Montezuma County Fair

Karen Fuller, of Dolores, smiles after winning an Award of Merit at the Montezuma County Fair for her Basket of Veggies. Enlargephoto

Tobie Baker/Dolores Star

Karen Fuller, of Dolores, smiles after winning an Award of Merit at the Montezuma County Fair for her "Basket of Veggies."

The seedlings were thinned - 12 inches apart - and covered with frost fabric for several weeks. The dill, cilantro and calendula grew next to the award-winning kale.

"I like the interaction of veggies, herbs and flowers," explained Karen Fuller. "It helps confuse the pests."

Fuller, a gardener from Dolores, received Best of Show at the Montezuma County Fair. Inside the horticulture exhibition hall, her Blue Ribbon display of curly kale spanned nearly 2 feet.

"There are many great gardeners in Montezuma County, and I just happen to have the time to dig, prepare and present the entries for the show," she said.

Her secrets are rooted in proper soil preparation and general knowledge about the needs of each vegetable.

"It helps to take a lot of classes and ask a lot of questions, visit a lot of gardens, read a lot of books and articles and search the Internet for ideas," she said.

Gardening for 38 years, Fuller admitted mistakes.

"The Southwest climate is very challenging," she said. "There are intense winds, poor soils and both early and late freezes."

Nina Hogue, one of about 50 members of the Mesa Verde Garden Club, reiterated Fuller's sentiments last week. The club sponsors the show, which featured 29 amateurs ranging from 8 to 90 years old. The exhibits were displayed through Saturday.

Hogue shared a simple trick to help preserve delicate flowers for display: "You dip the stem in hot water."

Hogue said she was most impressed with the absence of bug-chewed leaves on the flowers and the maturity of the vegetables.

Dayna Herrick, also of Dolores, was the top flower producer this year, earning Best of Show for a 2-foot tall Bells of Ireland. She started from seed in March, and then transplanted six plants to full sun in early June. The delicate fragrant flowers are spiny and relatively easy to grow, she said.

"Two survived," Herrick said. "My husband whacked the other seedlings with a hoe thinking they were weeds."

Herrick said she was most thrilled to win Best of Show this year in floral design. Themed "Pioneer Spirit, Herrick's design was titled "By Grandmother's Garden Gate."

At about 6,500 feet above sea level, Fuller's garden is nearly 500 feet higher than Herrick's. Rain didn't play a factor on either garden.

Due to the lack of precipitation, Fuller prefers drip irrigation, and Herrick uses a sprinkler. Both use organic soils, and attribute decades of knowledge to their achievements.

"A lot depends on when the plants decide to bloom," said Herrick on her floral entries. "It's like blind luck. Mother Nature rules."

"Every year is different," added Fuller. "In the past, we've had everything from grasshoppers to hail storms."

The youngest floral competitor was 8-year-old Maddyson Van Grandt, whose sunflower, as big as her head, got a Blue Ribbon.

"I love the smell of flowers," she said.

Priscilla Kimble of Cortez, 90, earned an Award of Merit for her "magnificent" steel-blue Echinips Ritro (globe thistle).

The Mesa Verde Garden Club sponsors educational programs throughout the winter, hosts a Memorial Day plant sale and takes garden tours during the summer. Fuller, Hogue and Herrick encouraged interested gardeners to join.

"Gardening is just plain fun," said Fuller.

Dayna Herrick smiles after taking home Best of Show for her floral design, By Grandmother's Garden Gate, at the Montezuma County Fair. Enlargephoto

Dayna Herrick smiles after taking home Best of Show for her floral design, "By Grandmother's Garden Gate," at the Montezuma County Fair.

Bells of Ireland by Dayna Herrick. Enlargephoto

Bells of Ireland by Dayna Herrick.

Nina Hogue waters the cone flowers inside the Montezuma County Fair horticulture exhibition hall. Enlargephoto

Nina Hogue waters the cone flowers inside the Montezuma County Fair horticulture exhibition hall.

Blue Ribbon onions by Karen Fuller. Enlargephoto

Blue Ribbon onions by Karen Fuller.

Steel-blue globe thistle by Priscilla Kimble. Enlargephoto

Steel-blue globe thistle by Priscilla Kimble.