ARTiculture. The Hamilton Horticourt

I always look forward to the plant competitions. A lot. It’s one of my favorite areas. I keep winding back through when I want some down time from the other displays. It’s probably an odd thing for me to say because I have to confess that I often pay less attention to the ribbons than I do to the plants. Sorry blue ribbon winners. I guess it’s important for the official PFS competition part but I like to figure out my own choices. For me it’s a chance to see plants that are rare and plants that are common, all grown to perfection. Sort of like a study collection. Some catch your eye from across the room. What’s that? Others come into focus up close. Who did this little guy? You look for a name. Some names pop up again and again.

One of those again-and-again names has always been the enigmatic Mrs. Samuel M. V. Hamilton. Being only a visitor from New York to Philly each year, I’ve really had no clue to the many magnificent but mysterious local growers behind the labels. Mrs. Samuel M. V. Hamilton always kept popping up. She’s had at least a couple of dozen entries going in every show. There were Mrs. Samuel M. V. Hamilton’s orchids. Mrs. Samuel M. V. Hamilton potted bulbs. Mrs. Samuel M. V. Hamilton’s topiaries were fantastic and fun.

Last year her name appeared hoisted over the completely redesigned competition area, the Hamilton Horticourt. It’s so much better and brighter now than ever before. Well lit. You can actually see things in glorious detail where you used to have to squint into the gloom and twilight dropped from the industrial convention floods way up overhead. The Hamilton Horticourt is brilliant! But exactly who is this lady, this Mrs. Samuel M. V. Hamilton?

This year that mystery was finally solved. A double mystery solved actually. First, I could’t find the topiaries. Or her familiar name on any plant. That was odd. We’d become such old friends that I started to worry. Then I saw the top of Mrs. Samuel M. V. Hamilton’s topiary. Several tops, in fact. I was relieved, but they were all arranged in a long bed with a press of other entries that shouldn’t have been crowded round. That was odd, too.

As I stood there wondering what it meant, a sign caught my eye. A face. A smile. There she was. Exactly as I’ve always imagined her. And the mystery explained. After thirty years, Mrs. Samuel M. V. Hamilton has retired from competition in 2014. It’s too bad I won’t be seeing her next year but the Hamilton Horticourt remains a bright spot of my visit.

Mrs. Samuel M. V. Hamilton, thank you.

Now on to the entries.


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Upper right, Omcidiumcroesus, Barbara Inglessis, South Jersey Orchid Society; Lower left, Dendochilum convallariiforme “Fishing Creek’s Spiral’, Richard J. Graf; Lower right, Degarmoara memoria Jay Yamada ‘Kaui’, Kathie Rose, Mt. Mary Garden Society


Right, Zygolium ‘Rhein Moonloght’, Joel Greenbrg, Central New Jersey Orchjid Society
Left, Zygopetalum ‘Jumpin’ Jack’, Michael Dunigan, Pinelands Orchid Society

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Left, Nepenthes, Mrs. Tristam C. Colket Jr, Moutain Club of Mount Desert, Maine; Center, Cym. canaliculatum x Cym. ‘Malpaso Creek’, Lois Duffin, Greater Philadelphia Orchid Society; Right, unnamed, Cesario Gene Tobia, Pinelands Orchid Society

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Top left, Paphiopedilum Invincible ’Spread Eagle’; Top right, Tillandsia cyanea, Lynn Cooj and Troy Ray, Liberty Bell Gesneriad Society; Middle left, Arpophyllum giganteum, Lois Duffin, Greater Philadelphia Orchid Society; Middle right, Vanda tricolor, Mrs. Triostam C. Colket Jr, Garden Club of Mt Desert, Maine; Lower left, Paphiopedilum, Mrs. Triostam C. Colket Jr, Garden Club of Mt Desert, Maine; Lower right, Phragmipedium ’Twilight’, Bill Keating, South Eastern Pennsylvania Orchid Society


Brassocattleya ‘Yellow Bird’, Nicoletta M. Graf


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1st row left, yellow Gasteria batesiana, Gerald Barad, Philadelphia Cactus and Succulent Society; 1st row right, Euphorbia platyclada, Brandon M. Huber, Liberty Bell Gesneriad Society; 2nd row left, variegated Gasteria batesiana, Brandon M. Huber, Liberty Bell Gesneriad Society; 3rd row left, Gaseria discolor ‘Liliputana’, Pafticia Toff Foster, Garden Club of Phildelphia; 3rd row right, Fockea edulis, Jeffrey Sedwin, Philadelphia Cactus & Succulent Society; 4th row left, Haworthia retusa, Jacob Beresford Simon, Philadelphia Cactus & Succulent Society; 4th row right, Haemanthus deformis, Jeffrey Sedwin


This tribute collection features some of the past triumphs of longtime competitor and sponsor, Mrs. Samuel M. V. Hamilton.
She retired from active competition this year but her name remains overhead on the Hamilton Horticourt.

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1st row right, Begonia ‘Looking Glass, Brandon M. Huber, Liberty Bell Gesneriad Society; 2nd row left, Aglonema commutatum, Tereseta Parintella; 3rd row left, Aglonema ‘Valentine’, Deb Donaldson, The Gardeners; 4th row right, Belchmum brasilense ‘Crispum’ and Apslenum nidus ‘Crispum’, Diana S. Wister, The Garden Club of Wilmington


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Bottom right, Nematanthus brasilenesis, Lynn Cook & Troy Ray, Liberty Bell Gesneriad Society


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Left, Stenorrynchos specious; Center, Hippeastrum ‘Baby Star’ J R Cruise,
The Shipley School Sprouts; Right, Tulipa ‘Princess Irene’, Charlie Heiser

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Clivia miniata cultivars. Alll four above, Michael E Riska, North American Clivia Society


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Left, Aglonema commutatum, Diana S Wister, The Garden Club of Wilmington; Center, Huperzia plegmeria, Lynn Cook and Troy Ray, Liberty Bell Gesneriad Society; Right, Begonia lanceolata, Janet Walsh, Huntingdon Valley Garden Club