Something to bring a warm glow

Duchess Jane and Susan Dodd. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Duchess Jane and Susan Dodd. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

What we all need after a seemingly long, dark winter, is a pick-me-up, something that brings a smile to the face and warm glow inside.

But where can such experiences be found? The natural world of plants and animals tends to do it for me.

Daffs galore.  Picture by Tom Pattinson.

Daffs galore. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

A shining example of this was the Alnwick Spring Show, staged in the Willowburn Sports & Leisure Centre recently.

Entering the exhibition hall was like a walk into springtime, with row upon row of tables decked with delights.

The biggest problem was deciding how to take them all in without missing something special.

All this from a show that emerged onto the gardening calendar almost by accident just a few years ago. When the age-old, Alnwick Summer Show folded, a handful of enthusiasts decided to organise a low-key spring event because none existed in the area, and what better way to banish winter blues.

Spring flower heads'Picture by Tom Pattinson.

Spring flower heads'Picture by Tom Pattinson.

This was launched in the Pavilion at Alnwick Garden and proved an instant hit, encouraging enough to go for a repeat the following year.

The show remained a relatively local event until a move to the present site which is not only ideal for exhibitor and visitor access but also more kindly to the cut-blooms on display. Our exhibition was initially a two-day event covering Saturday and Sunday, but if you add the setting-up of tables and early staging of exhibits, Friday becomes essential.

The result, a joyous weekend for garden lovers but three long days destined to test any organising group, not to mention natural materials. But this year sanity was restored as it became a one-day show.

The smile on convenor David Parker’s face said it all.

Hippeastrum winner'Picture by Tom Pattinson.

Hippeastrum winner'Picture by Tom Pattinson.

He’d alerted contacts in the bulbs exhibition world to the emergence of this lovely event and they are beginning to see it as a fixture on their calendars.

There was much to see and enjoy. Trade and exhibition stands plus local organisations were in evidence. There was a strong baking and cookery section that covered one long train of benches and oh so many spring flowers that looked perfect at first glance. Poor judges!

A myriad of daffodils in vases were undoubtedly the stars.

They were also present in superb basket arrangements. The impressive show schedule had classes for alpines, potted plants and floral art – which attracted 27 super exhibits.

The total effect was a feast for the eyes and when a welcome seat was required, the ever-reliable Pottergate Pantry were there to oblige with their delicious refreshments.

Two aspects of this show linger in the memory: The number of children who participated and won awards in cookery, craft and floral sections. This has to be good for the future. There was also the simple lesson that you don’t need an exhibitor’s experience or reputation to win. Anyone can do it if the produce they show is good enough on the day.

The only hint of disappointment at this lovely show came from a couple of exhibitor friends who’d failed to coax their tulips to flower on time.

They’d had their minds set on winning the championship class and crystal decanter (to keep) that went with it. This is kindly sponsored by the show patron, Jane, Duchess of Northumberland, who, being a true supporter, was there to present the prizes.

Imagine the delight when Dr Susan Dodd stepped up to claim this handsome trophy at the first attempt.

She later revealed that the display had only been possible because she’d intervened to save tulips from the strimmer when her husband was cutting the grass that surrounded them.

A worthy winner and brilliant example to anyone afraid to enter a show.