GARDENING: Super show punches well above its weight

Under normal circumstances this weekend would have been our first flower show call of the season at nearby Howick village, where the hall is always packed with produce.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 30th July 2020, 12:00 am
Show exhibitors always do themselves proud.
Show exhibitors always do themselves proud.

A lovely social event, it punches well above its weight. Then August brings the bigger attractions of our area with Warkworth and Glendale shows, but sadly, this year they and others throughout the county have had no option but to cancel such live events. We should also by this time have the annual May visit to Chelsea Flower Show tucked under our belts, but they too had to cancel, bringing disappointment to millions. So, the closure became nationwide with the reality of no shows to visit this year.

But never underestimate the ability of humankind to improvise. The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), well advanced in their preparations for Chelsea, led the way in announcing that with the aid of virtual technology a week-long version would appear online for RHS members. With BBC Television also bringing it into our living rooms, virtual reality saved the day for this fellow

and no doubt many more. Meanwhile, Warkworth Flower Show, fondly referred to in days of yore as `Chelsea of the North,` felt the need to offer something. Two world wars and an outbreak of foot and mouth disease had caused previous cancellations in their 161 years history, but now we have the technology to make a difference. A dedicated working group was established, an Exhibition Schedule printed, and the Warkworth Show Virtual Marquee will be open to the public online at www.warkworthshow.co.uk from 10am on Saturday 22 nd August. To the best of my knowledge this is the only show in the North East this year! How will it all work? It is restricted to residents of Warkworth Parish, Amble Allotment Holders, and Amble, Acklington and Warkworth WI`s. It's a virtual exhibition so entries will be via digital photography and email over the internet. Some classes allow the exhibitor to take their own images and send them in. Those without this facility will receive help so no one is disadvantaged. A team of photographers is organised to visit homes at a prearranged date and time to photograph exhibits. Once all images are uploaded, they will be made available to the respective judges.

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This show will be different in that there are no cups, trophies or prize monies awarded. Nor is there an entry fee. Only one entry per class is allowed, and there's a single ticket incentive for every entry received. It will go into a draw for the £100 food hamper.

Browsing the Virtual Exhibition Schedule is a revelation. It appears to have all the usual classes. For example, the horticultural offers fruit, open flowers and vegetables, pot plants, dahlias, and novices sections. No `collection of vegetables` class though. Thank goodness, I`d be wanting to handle them to check for soundness before passing judgement! In the period leading up to Warkworth`s first ever virtual Flower Show, they have been running a fortnightly Wednesday Challenge online. This began in early June and continues until August 5 th . It has involved sending home-based digital images of named themes to [email protected]

which are then uploaded to the show`s Facebook page. For each challenge the image with most `likes` is highlighted. Last week`s themes were; most impressive compost heap, and a pattern made from pebbles.

Statistics show that Horticultural and Industrial Exhibitions a.k.a. Flower Shows are not every gardener`s cup of tea when it comes to placing entries. At the last count, a mere 3% of the population did so. However, the number visiting such shows is a totally different matter, as Warkworth, Glendale, and yes – nationals such as Chelsea prove.

Why are they so popular? Perhaps it's because they have a history of social contact which even in a technological age, remains an essential part of our psyche. But it's more than an annual catch-up with old acquaintances, there are quality items on display, useful information to glean, and ideas abounding. The annual show offers a chance to meet the creators of exhibits that have caught the eye and discover that they`re happy to impart their knowledge, be it horticultural or industrial. It might be the name of a plant variety, how it's been grown or the source. Floral art, knitting, crochet, preserves, cakes and photographic images are always a hub of attention. Children's classes are forever viewed with interest, not least by show organisers, for youngsters reflect the future of such organisations. Dare we hope that the technological element in this year`s Warkworth Show will kindle the gardening interest of youthful participants?