Monster veg owe a debt to bras and tights – that’s the best thing I learnt at this year’s Harrogate Autumn Flower Show.
I’m not going to spoil it for you – you’ll have to get along to star grower Kevin Fortey’s masterclass at the Kitchen Garden Theatre each day to get more secrets of how to grow the surrounding monsters.
And surrounded we were by examples of perfectly matched but huge beauty in the various classes – and the nightmarish gigantic mutants in the heavyweight classes, where anything goes.
There is always a flurry of excitement at high noon on Friday, with the National Onion Society weigh-in – although no records were broken this year.
The Harrogate shows are magnets for torrential showers. The clouds were black as we left the showground and it’s wet underfoot.
Other top tips if you haven’t been before:
Avoid the main indoor eating venues at peak time, as you won’t get a seat. Go for the cooked breakfast at the Yorkshire Cafe as soon as you arrive, then top up mid-afternoon.
Don’t forget the essentials: waterproofs, sunglasses and comfortable, flat shoes (no heels).
You can get cash back if you go mad from the information point in the Gardening Hall for a small purchase (the hessian bags are handy).
The nurseries and companies attending had the usual offers – you can make your entrance fee back in savings. Don’t take a chance and go back later, as it might be gone.
Use the plant creches run by the charity Perennial, so you don’t have to carry stuff around with you all day.
The Postcards from the Hedge exhibits, based around intrepid plant hunters of the past tied the show together, although the other half was amused at the life-size animals for each continent.
I always spend a lot of time in the Plant Nursery Pavilion – that’s where you’ll find the specialist nurseries and their displays. We arrived earlier than usual so it wasn’t as busy, meaning I could chat to experts and friends, old and new.
Great to see Plantagogo win Best in Show for their Heuchera/Tiarella display (www.plantagogo.com). Harperley Hall Farm Nurseries from County Durham landed premier gold with their alpine/perennials exhibit (www.harperleyhallfarmnurseries.co.uk).
I had a good chat with Craig House Cacti, who also won Premier Gold and the Alice Bailey Challenge Trophy at what will be their last Harrogate Show. I so nearly bought that £25 Agave victoriae reginae!
The Floral Pavilion hosts the country’s biggest exhibition by specialist gardening groups, NAFAS (National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies) and the highlight, more than 5,000 autumn blooms, including chrysanthemums and dahlias – and they didn’t disappoint. It’s almost a sensory overload with flowers as big as your head.
My buys this year? I went with tulips in mind and did stick to my plan, with 90 red and yellow Kaufmanniana and Griegii bulbs for £15. I regretted not buying a giant Amaryllis bulb last year, so bought an absolutely huge Orange Sovereign for £15, both from Harts Nursery of Congleton, www.hartsnursery.co.uk.
You’ve got to have an impulse buy (it would be rude not to) and mine is a baby Aloe americana from Pip’s Cactus from East Lothian for a bargain £4. Yes, I know how big they get.
The other half, for his sterling duties as chauffeur and photographer went on a pie, cake and beer spree in the food hall.
As ever, a cracking experience – roll on the Spring Show in April!
Visit www.flowershow.org.uk or call 01423 546157 for more information.
For results and a monster veg picture special, visit www.mandycanudigit.com.