Gardens slowly open as shows stay virtual

Visiting gardens, plant centres and flower shows has always been a key part of my horticultural life, each venue representing a journey of anticipation and discovery in the most relaxing of situations.
Wallington a garden to revisit.Wallington a garden to revisit.
Wallington a garden to revisit.

But that came to an abrupt halt in March 2020, and we are only now, gradually, with certain necessary restrictions still in place, able to reconnect more fully with these gems. Oh, for the freedom of yesteryear!

Take it from one who has been and remains involved in the organisation and judging of flower shows that those held locally may only be one-day events, but planning continues throughout the year. No sooner is one show finished than preparations for the next begins. Decisions to cancel early during an unpredictable pandemic were perfectly understandable given the nature of enclosed exhibition venues and anticipated footfall on the day.

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Last year, two favourite shows (Chelsea and Warkworth), determined not to disappoint their public, decided to go ahead in virtual form online. Both presentations were received with sufficient interest to encourage a repeat performance. So, last week, when we would normally have been mixing with the great and the good in the glorious bunfight that is Chelsea, we were at home, online, absorbing their week-long offering of talks, demonstrations, special gardens and top nursery visits.

Warkworth virtual show.Warkworth virtual show.
Warkworth virtual show.

Warkworth Show Executive have also opted for a second virtual exhibition, thus prioritising the safety of the community. Building on the success of last year`s event, they’ve extended the catchment area for entries beyond the parish to anyone living within a five miles radius of the village. The extensive schedule for this year’s event, with the usual well supported classes, is now available from [email protected]

The general idea is for you to stage and photograph entries at home then send the images to the show secretary. Help is available for those without a camera or online facility. After judging, the images will go live on the Warkworth Flower Show website on show day, August 21, 2021.

Leading up to the virtual exhibition, the show is repeating last year’s exciting ‘Weekly Challenges’ throughout June. These are open to all ages and ideal for family participation. Entries for the first of these ‘Create an image of a landscape, using natural and recycled materials’ should be submitted between June 3 and 9. More information at or visit their Facebook page.

Growing for shows is a way of life

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How frustrating the past year or so has been for many businesses, organisations, and gardeners. In a stop-go situation, garden centres and plant nurseries large and small have had to cope with the financial consequences, as home gardeners reached for the lifeline of mail order. However, damage done, this industry which has remained buoyant for decades, will hopefully bounce back.

Of course, it’s frustrating that there’s a lingering element of essential regulation as we currently visit our favourite local gardens. But conforming to requirements for social distancing, hand sanitising, one-way systems, pre-booking, etc is a small and necessary price to pay for our collective safety on the road to freedom.

Garden-oriented charitable organisations have also suffered financially from lockdown. From the National Open Garden Scheme (yellow book) to local villages, 2020 was not a good year. But that too is changing. Get a list of gardens open 2021, from your local Tourist Information Office and book online. This Sunday (May 30), The Moor House, Morpeth, is open at 2pm. Next Sunday it’s Lilburn Tower.

I’ve certainly missed the spectacle of our local shows where the social offering is always as important as the dazzling displays. Hopefully, 2022 will bring a return of the contact and banter with fellow judges, exhibitors, and acquaintances.

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Poor exhibitors, all charged up for competition and nowhere locally to compete. They certainly won’t stop producing their top-quality vegetables, fruit and flowers in the face of an international pandemic. Growing for show is a way of life for some.

The forthcoming Warkworth Virtual Exhibition can sate their appetite for competition and that of enthusiastic newcomers, just as it did last August. This being the 149th show, there’ll be much to celebrate in the castle grounds and marquees next year!