One of Binsted Nursery’s Potting Supervisors, Leah Jones, recently stormed the prize-winning at The Arundel Family Flower & Produce Show…here’s her story:
Being an Arundel resident, over the past few years I have been going to support the entrants at The Arundel Flower & Produce Show which takes place annually during Festival Week. The August Bank Holiday was the day for this year’s show. At every show I always walk around looking at all the exhibits thinking, ‘I could have entered that’! So this year, in July, I decided to enter just a few of the categories. The final deadline for entries is two weeks before the show, so I had to think about what would be ready within that time. It was actually seeing the dahlias at the show last year that made me want to give it a go. There is one lady who has an allotment at the same site as me who also grows beautiful dahlias in all shapes, colours and sizes. There has been many a time when I’ve been snooping around her plot looking at the dahlias coming through, waiting to see what they look like, when she just pops up, out of nowhere and catches me admiring her collection. So, from last year seeing the dahlias in the show to this year, falling in love with them, I’ve ended up growing over thirty different varieties. At the beginning of the year it started out at about fifteen which I thought then was a few to many and now, in just a few months I seem to have doubled my collection. So I planned on entering as many as possible, however, reading the rules only to find out I could only enter once in each category. This made the task of choosing which variety would be the one for the show extremely challenging. After changing my mind multiple times I just decided to wait for the day to come and whatever I thought looked best on the day would be the ones I took, even if they weren’t my favourites.
So other then dahlias I also entered the classes for chillies, raspberries, cucumbers and jam.
The usual Bank Holiday lay in was out of the question with my arrival at the allotment to a dewy, misty but stunning 7:30am start, to choose my exhibits. It had been raining heavily the day before but there was nothing I could do about that, so I just had to choose what was best and quickly, because I only had from 9am to 10am to display my exhibits. A surprisingly quick whizz around the greenhouse, I had my chillies and cucumbers ready to go. I had been stalking my cucumbers all week because even though the whole point of growing your own on an allotment is that things don’t have to look perfect, I have never wanted two cucumbers to look exactly the same as much as I did that day.
It was then onto the raspberries, walking up and down my rows of fruit and trying to find all the raspberries that were the same size, shape and shade of raspberry red. I only need twelve to show but even with the hundreds I could have picked that morning it was really hard to try and get twelve that all looked the same. Usually, I end up eating half of the raspberries before I even get home so, I had to resist eating a single berry that morning. After gently placing them in to individual egg box cocoons my choices had been made.
On to the big decision of what dahlias would I take, after all, this was the main reason I was entering into the show. That morning luckily one of my favourites was looking really good but after picking all the heads that looked similar and getting my three that I would show, I went to walk away and suddenly changed my mind completely and went for a totally different shape and colour bloom.
It was then a quick trip back home to give my exhibits a quick polish and trim before I would take them to the venue. One thing I didn’t need to think around was my jam as I had already made this earlier in the month. For my jam I used tayberries which had also been growing on the allotment.
So 9am came and the doors opened to the venue, I didn’t know how to present my produce so after a little wonder around and a look at other’s entries I started to plate up the produce. Luckily, the jam and cucumbers just had to be put on the table, but my chillies needed another little polish and then an arrangement on a plate. I had previously made little holders for them because my variety of chillies were round. I knew I would struggle to get them to stand up straight on their own. Then onto the raspberries, luckily another entrant had already laid their entry out on a plate, so I took a sneaky look as to how I needed to set mine out. Even with a few fruits rolling around, after a talking to I managed to get them all laid out in order.
Finally it was just my dahlias which again some people had already exhibited so I could see how to do it. With a final snip of the stalk and a top up of water, I flipped my last name card over which meant all my entries were in place. My fate was sealed. With nothing left for me to do, but wait to see how I’d done.
At 2pm entrants were allowed back in to see how they’d done. With a quick look around I could see that I had a card next to all five of my exhibits, two 1st and three 2nd. Being new to the show and having collected the most points of all the new entrants I won best new comer.
Now I am already planning for what crops I will grow next year so that I can enter into more categories.