A couple years ago when I was at the National Show in Chicago, Elva Sellens, from Portland, OR (now the ADS membership chair) told me about how they used shredded Styrofoam instead of Oasis to stage their blooms and sent me these two photos, below.
Portland Dahlia Society Bulletin
Some advanced planning and preparation makes it a lot easier to get that winning entry from the garden to the head table. All exhibitors provide their own containers and filler. Most people use shredded florist foam for filler to support the flowers. The containers should be proportional to the size of the entry.
Staging Dahlias for an ADS Show
Ted J. Kennedy wrote this article in 2018 for the Pacific Northwest Dahlia Conference.
We are in the Pacific Northwest and we stage our show entries in containers filled with shredded floral foam. Styrofoam is purchased from floral supply companies in 10 pound bags and it costs less than about $25.00 per bag. It used to be available in a green color but I have not seen green in recent years. It differs from oasis type foam in that it does not absorb water but still holds flowers stems firmly in the container. Oasis foam is perfectly acceptable at our shows but it is the high cost(and some other factors) that deters most people from using it. There are always some entries at our shows staged with oasis type foam. Now lets discuss the actual preparation of the entry using shredded foam. Containers are filled with the dry foam. The foam it packed down at least 4 or 5 time(add more foam and pack and repeat) to ensure that the foam is packed tightly enough to hold a flower stem. Most people do not add any water to the container as they are staging or if they do they only add a small amount. This is because the foam cannot be pressed around the flower stem easily if it is wet. A dowel or screwdriver is used to make a hole in the foam for the insertion of the flower stem. Larger dowels are used for larger stemmed flowers. The flower stem is inserted into the hole and then the dry foam is pressed down vigorously around the stem and extra foam added as needed. Dry foam will lock around the stem and hold it firmly in place. Once the stem is firmly in it’s exact place in the container, water is added.
So I tried staging a few blooms in shredded foam at our fall show at Bachman’s. I found out later that you should saturate the foam with water before you press it firmly into a vase. I examined the thickness and angle of the stem before selecting a plastic stake to drill a hole into the foam with. Make the angle match the stem’s shape so that the bloom will be straight. As I pressed the bloom into the hole, there was friction at first which lessened as the bloom gets about half way in. Stop as soon as you like the height of the bloom. I found that this process went really quick; much faster than cutting Oasis. It was less messy as well. Wet shredded foam is easy to sweep up and doesn’t irritate your skin like Oasis does.
People asked me how hard it was to reclaim the shredded foam to reuse it. This video shows that it is not too difficult if you empty them while they still have plenty of water in the vase. I emptied the vases into some insect netting and then let it sit on my patio in the sun for a few days, till completely dry.
At the end of the season, you should rinse the foam in 10% bleach water before drying and putting it away for the next year. I believe this will really help us to get our staging done faster next year.