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A Patchwork of Bromeliads

Verna Dickey designed this bromeliad wall hanging. The top row features, left to right, a Guzmania, a Neoregelia, and an Aechmea, the next a Cryptanthus, a Bilbergia, and another Neoregelia, and the bottom row is another Neoregelia, a Tillandsia, and a Veresia.

If you've never been to a flower show, this is the time to start. And if you go to many, here is one you won't want to miss.

The Bromeliad Guild of Tampa Bay is even now setting up their annual Show and Sale, this year with the theme A Patchwork of Bromeliads. After the judging, the show will be open to the public on Saturday, March 4th from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Entries will be accepted on Thursday evening, March 2, from 4 to 9 p.m..

What is more, it is part of another show called Flowers and Quilts sponsored by the Tampa Federation of Garden Club Circles and both will be held at the 2629 Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa. This show, including flower arrangements, plants and thematic quilts, will be open on Friday from 2 to 5, and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information contact Tom Wolfe 961-1475 or email: bromeliadsociety@juno.com.

Verna Dickey of north Brandon will be showing both bromeliad plants and a quilted wall hanging of bromeliads that she designed herself. The top was finished when these photos were taken, a rather amazing feet since she works full time at the Sheriff's Office and had only been working on the project for a few weeks in the evenings.

A collection of bromliad books shares space in her sewing basket with a carefully selected assortment of fabrics to show the many variations of colors, shapes, and stripes in bromeliad foliage and flowers.

She has done so much in such a short time thanks to a fairly new technique called snippets or steam a seam with which she cuts and places the fabric pieces and then attaches them with a steam iron. On this hanging, she is using the sewing machine to connect and outline the blocks and to do the stippling that will make it a quilt by attaching the batting and backing.

This orchid quilt won a red ribbon at the Strawberry Fesitval last year.

This isn't her first flower quilt. Last year she won a red ribbon at the Strawberry Festival with an orchid quilt. That one took longer, perhaps three months, and was all done by sewing and quilting. Her newest one required more creativity as she designed the blocks to represent the intricate botanical details of bromeliads in nature.

"The hardest part was finding the right material. It was fun," she says.

A lady of unending energy, enthusiasm, and generosity, Verna belongs to the Orchid Society, the Bromeliad Guild, and the Rare Fruit Council and is active in all of them. She and her husband Bob have five acres, largely wooded, on which her collections of plants are ever expanding. He is also an innovative and experienced gardener, especially in barrels and containers converted from old tires where they even have a row of black raspberries they are now picking, herbs, vegetables, and fruit trees.

A small greenhouse has housed Verna's orchids through the cold nights and she covered some of the bromeliads with blankets, especially the cryptanthus species which are the most frost sensitive. As we walked about the garden, she rehung the hanging baskets she had put on the ground during the frost.

Thanks partly to the shade, she had very little damage. A new elementary school was recently built just north of their property. "It has given us 5 degrees more warmth on frosty nights," she says.

She has labels on most of her plants, many of which are still in containers. "My favorites are the Guzmanias and Vriesias because they have no thorns," she says. But in the next breath she is adding others to her list of favorites."

Although bromeliads are not inexpensive plants, she says she has not spent much on her large collection. "Many of mine came from the sales and raffles at the club meetings and the bromeliad people are very happy to share."

Guzmanias and Vriesias are her favorites because they have no thorns.

Verna is excited about the show and thrilled to be one of nine clerks who will assist the judges on Friday. While all the work involved in getting everything ready might overwhelm and the competition might scare some, Verna Dickey just enjoys it.

"Last year was my first time to enter the show and I won several ribbons," she says.