Dedicated to Tom 'Pop' Miller
Born on a Mississippi Delta plantation in a current-day ghost town, Tom "Pop" Miller owned and operated a family orchard and regional wholesale floral company. A master gardener and part-time volunteer lawman in Sunflower County, Miller died on July 27. He was 79.
To honor Miller, father to a dear friend, I tried to survey the 2015 Montezuma County Fair horticulture show from his perspective. I didn't envision the devilish twist that would ensue.
For the first time in history, the Montezuma County Fair's floral exhibits included a People's Choice Award. On his ballot, I suspected that Pop might have voted for Joe Butterfield's eye-catching entry, a Crocosmia "Lucifer." At a certain angle, stems full of fiercely red, tubular blooms looked as if they were connected to a crooked backbone.
"It popped up, and it looked nice," said Butterfield.
A Cortez resident, Butterfield's crazed admission was one of a handful of horticulture exhibits to receive an Award of Excellence at last week's show. Butterfield was also one of only a few male competitors among some 300 entries, asponsored by the Mesa Verde Gardeners.
"I am not a gardener," the 68-year-old clarified with a chuckle.
Butterfield explained that he and his wife purchased a residence once owned by master gardener Robin Meador. He said his only credit was weeding and watering what had been planted.
"The garden just happened," he said.
With help from his cousin, master gardener Ann Joslin, of Cortez, Butterfield shrewdly submitted his "Lucifer" entry with an impressive whim.
"We just reaped the benefits," said Butterfield.
A panel of seven judges scored the local horticulture show. Joslin herself was recognized with the Arboreal Award for a narrow leaf mountain mahogany entry and a Best of Show for a plume poppy.
Karen Fuller received Best of Show and Sweepstakes awards for her celery entry. Plus, her rare cucamelons received high praise from one judge, who wrote, "Well done," on a Blue Ribbon.
Also charming the judges was Dayna Herrick, who earned Best of Show and Award of Distinction ribbons for her "Purple Pincushion" display. She also received the Petite Award for her "Under the Tuscan Sun" entry and an Award of Merit for a white cosmos.
As for the People's Choice prize, that honor went to Orinda Spence and her dish garden, "Throw Me a Rope." Spence also won the Designer's Choice ribbon with a dazzling sunflower display, as well as an Award of Excellence for an ingenious cactus display featuring a recycled boot.