Published: 15 January 2013
Prepare To Put On A Show
Chris Allen looks at what you can do in order to compete at you local horticultural shows.

Vegetable in variety
With the winter weather still proving challenging it is easy to forget the good gardening times we did have during 2012.
For me some of the highlights were my visits to horticultural shows up and down the country; from the global floral spectacles seen at RHS Chelsea and the sensational designs at Hampton Court Palace to the County Shows with their great cross section of professional and amateur displays. But I think some of the most enjoyable entries were to be seen at the local shows; these are often run in conjunction with town or village events or organised by garden and allotment clubs and societies.  It is at these shows I think that everyone should be having a go, whatever their experience or gardening skills.   

Time For Some Planning

During the winter months is the best time to start thinking what you could do. The new seed catalogues and adverts in the newspapers are appearing to tempt us with great ideas for the next growing season. Whatever it is you decide to do, you should do it as a new year challenge and enjoy growing something to the best standard possible using the resources available to you.

Most local shows have classes for edible and ornamental produce. The best way to find out is to look at the show website. There will be reports or information from the previous event providing details of who won which exhibits in their different classes and this will give you an idea of what could be happening in forthcoming shows. There should also be contact details for the show secretary who will advise on when the next schedules will be published; this is an essential document for everyone who is thinking of entering any class.  In it you will see the details relating to the requirements expected for each entry within the different classes.  Do not be put off by rules and regulations, there will be plenty of friendly help and support to hand; don’t forget this is supposed to be an enjoyable experience!

Blooming good Dahlia stems
When you know what you are growing for the show, look at the schedule to find out the details and take note of the numbers required and the method of displaying. Where several items are scheduled for an exhibit, the judges will be looking for uniformity of size, shape, colour and quality, not just the biggest in the class -don’t assume it will always be the largest specimens that win. It is important that all exhibits are free from any pests and diseases so careful inspection must be carried out to remove all blemishes prior to staging the display on the show bench; don’t forget that if you need any help the organisers and other exhibitors will be pleased to help new exhibitors.

Being On Show

There will be plenty of friendly advice from other exhibitors because as we all know gardeners are very good at sharing their knowledge and expertise, even on the local show bench when it would appear they are all in competition with each other.

Potatoes on Plates
Whether it is a vase of cut flower stems, a plate of five potato’s or a posy of herbs you will have a great feeling of  satisfaction when you see your efforts on the show bench and then  watching the visitors admire your work, plus some slight anticipation of a possible award from the judges. All this adds to the great feeling of achievement that makes entering a local show worth every minute of the pre show stress, sleepless nights and worries about poor growing conditions and of course slugs!!!  
Once you have been bitten by the showing bug you will hopefully keep going back for more, don’t forget that every show needs exhibitors, without them they will not attract visitors and run the risk of disappearing for good, and if that is allowed to happen I will be most disappointed. 

After your show please drop me an email with a picture of your entries, and the prizes!
Reported by Chris Allen  

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