It’s showtime for the county’s best growers

Judges and officials at Howick Show. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

Judges and officials at Howick Show. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

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The flower show season is under way and over the coming weeks there’ll be a one-day exhibition near you with some outstanding blooms, vegetables and fruits, alongside diverse industrious creations from art to baking and beyond.

If you have any interest in gardening or crafts, or just enjoy an entertaining afternoon out, give it a try and keep the tradition going.

Only certain flowers, fruits and vegetables can be harvested for household use when there’s an exhibitor in the family, the best being ring-fenced for show.

On Saturday, July 30 Howick presented the first judging engagement of the year for the lady of the house and I. It epitomised the traditional village show and community spirit that brings everyone together. Unlike the male-dominated shows of yore, we were greeted by a team of cheerful ladies, well organised and ready to go.

Although not in the same league as the forthcoming Warkworth Show on Saturday, August 20, and Glendale on Bank Holiday Monday, never underestimate the quality of those held in village halls. The social experience is easily on a par with that of bigger organisations and they can pack quite a punch with quality and innovation.

How encouraging then to find seven entries in the ‘saucer of soft fruits’ class, three of which were outstanding, and judging by the ‘vase of sweet peas’ section, they’re going well so far this year. I wonder if friend Jim Givens agrees? We’ll see when we get to Glendale.

Two decades as secretary at the old Alnwick show taught me that sometimes it only takes the introduction of a new class or simple rewording of an existing schedule to increase the number of entries. The Howick team clearly understand this, introducing ‘a ten inch summer wreath with flowers, foliage and accessories’ class, and ‘a vase of flowers from your garden – anything goes’. The latter encouraged eight entries alone.

We are told that only a small percentage of gardeners ever exhibit at shows, but when you are deeply involved in the organisation, exhibiting or judging, it doesn’t feel that way. Only certain flowers, fruits and vegetables can be harvested for household use when there’s an exhibitor in the family, the best being ring-fenced for show. Preparation the evening before an event can extend well into the night.

Warkworth village has staged 144 annual exhibitions and is still going strong, and the now defunct Alnwick autumn show began in 1815. Even before that florists were inviting auricula growers to bring their best specimens and compete at an annual exhibition.

An invitation for May 1, 1791, promises that: “The members of this society, being determined to make it as respectable as possible, have raised a fund by subscription for the prizes to be given; which will make the expenses very moderate to those gentlemen who may be pleased to do them the honour of their company.”

In short, they were offering decent prize money.