Grow to Show

Our editor is a keen grower, and loves to attend a Horticultural Show, both as a visitor and exhibitor!

If you’ve ever been to a Horticultural or Flower Show, you may look in awe at the exhibits and think, ‘I could never grow that!’ So did I once, until a local show organiser told me that without people putting themselves out there and entering plants, flowers, fruit, and veg, then their show would collapse.

It prompted me the next year to look a little closer at the show’s schedule and to see in which categories I could at least identify the exhibits. The following year, I tentatively popped in a few entries buoyed by the encouragement of more seasoned exhibitors – and you know what, I loved it, and I discovered that you do not need to be a pro to show!

I’ve had big wins with my giant cabbage…

…and epic fails, notably my tiny carrots which I just entered more to show how bad a veg grower I was than anything, and my ‘micro’ carrots as the judges called them, won first prize in the novice category.

If your local village or town has a Horticultural Show then do think about getting involved. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Get a copy of the schedule a few weeks before the show. This is a list of the different plants and flowers which can be shown.
  • Read through the schedule and make a note of anything which you think you could put in for exhibit. Maybe just pick two or three things for your first show.
  • The schedule will give you the specifics for each class of exhibit. For example, 3 potatoes, 6 carnations in bloom, or 4 runner beans of the same size. If the schedule says 6 pea pods, do not enter 5 as they will not be judged.
  • The schedule should tell you when entries can be submitted. Often there are two slots: one the evening before, and one on the morning of the Show.
  • Check the schedule to see if there is any specific staging required, like if the show provides vases for floral displays, or if you have to provide your own. Vegetable and fruit entries can normally just be popped on a white paper plate so it is worth buying a cheap pack.
  • Select and pick your show exhibits as near to the show as possible, keeping in mind what the schedule has asked for. There are exceptions to this like onions, which should be picked about 10 days before to allow the skins to dry out.
  • Generally it is best to cut your flowers on the morning of the show so they are at their freshest.
  • Once you get to the show, do let an organiser know that this is your first time exhibiting so they can help you. Often you are simply left to place exhibits at numbered class areas and this can be confusing at first.
  • The staging area for exhibits will close for a period to allow judging to take place and no one will be allowed in during this time.
  • Once the judging is done and the staging area reopens, take your schedule with you and make notes next to different classes with things that you could maybe show next year.
  • Enjoy the experience and learn from it. Horticultural Shows are great fun and a wonderful chance to learn more about flowers, fruit, and veg from experienced growers and showers who will be only too delighted to chat to you about their entries.
  • It’s the pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and taking part that counts.

A local Horticultural Show should certainly be inspiring, perhaps be educational, but above all else, it should be fun! Do not take your entries so seriously that you lose sight of that. Local shows are wonderful arenas for meeting like-minded growers and showers, and if a cup of tea is provided after the judging, take the time to chat to fellow exhibitors: you may just get an award-winning tip for next year!

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