Gardening Magazine

The Lesser Known World of the Horticultural Show

By Notcuttsuk @notcuttsuk

The Lesser Known World of the Horticultural ShowPhoto courtesy of Helen JohnstoneHelen Johnstone from The Patient Gardener gives us her personal account of what it truly feels like to exhibit at a prestigious flower show. From overcoming fear and experiencing a plethora of feelings all at once, Helen tells us what it is all really about.

There is a side to the gardening world which gets little publicity, but for me is the essence of true horticulture – the Horticultural Show.  Many associate this rarefied world with the older gentlemen gardeners who grow large vegetables or dahlias.  However, this preconception means that a whole world of expertise and skill in every aspect of the plant world is ignored, and potentially lost in the future. 

However, I can say from personal experience gained this year that the Horticultural Show is for everyone – amateur and experienced gardeners alike.   Like many I felt intimidated about the prospect of exhibiting my plants alongside gardeners with a wealth of experience, not only of gardening but also showing.  I needn’t have worried I received nothing but encouragement and advice from fellow competitors. 

The most important thing to remember is to read the schedule.  This sets out all the classes with details on minimum/maximum sizes of exhibits and specifications about what plants can be entered.  The schedule can on first reading seem daunting but I took the approach of looking for one class I could enter and feel comfortable with.  Once you have done this it is only a matter of hours before you start thinking about some of the classes you skimmed over and wondering whether indeed your Sempervivum would be up to the task.  It doesn’t cost much to enter – usually around 50p a class so you really don’t have much to lose. Most shows have a wide range of classes including the usual vegetable and fruit categories, dahlias, roses and cut flowers. 

The Lesser Known World of the Horticultural Show
Photo courtesy of Helen JohnstoneTurning up to stage your exhibit there is a quiet determination in the hall or marquee as others tweak and arrange their entries to show them to their best advantage.  A quick glance at other entries, consideration of whether you think you’re in with a chance and then you leave and wait.  One of the shows I entered you didn’t find out the result until the next day, others it is a matter of hours.

I found returning to see the results more nerve wracking than staging the presentation.  You want to do well but at the same time you tell yourself that the competition was stiff and the exhibitors are more experienced but still you hope.  You peer ahead to your exhibits trying to see if there is a coloured sticker on your entry card – maybe a yellow third, or a blue second or even possibly a red first.  You try to look calm and not that bothered but inside your heart is racing. 

In the three shows I have entered this year I have had three firsts and a number of seconds and thirds.  I have met some wonderfully friendly and generous exhibitors who are only too happy to share their experiences and advice – after all everyone is aware that the future of these shows is dependent on new exhibitors coming along.  My interest in the wealth of plants out there has grown and I really believe that growing plants, flowers or vegetable for showing is the highest level of horticulture and an excellent way of learning how to be a good gardener.

So why not have a go next summer – enter your local village/town show, maybe at your allotment group or even the local horticultural society?  You’ll definitely be welcomed.

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