The fact that I love gardening is probably not a shock to many people.
So, earlier in the year I decided to join the Norfolk & Norwich Horticultural Society – to gain more gardening knowledge and to take part in their seasonal shows.
Being a newbie I hadn’t been to any of the society’s talks or visits, so my first experience of the group was at their summer show which took place at this year’s Royal Norfolk Show.
I studiously went through the show guide trying to decide what categories to enter. It was quite daunting – I’d be up against seasoned competitors who had probably been growing to show for decades – how on earth could I compete.
But, you know what, life is too short for such trivial worries so I sent in my application and entered the following categories:
- Alpine – one pot or pan – in flower
- Alpine – one pot or pan – foliage
- Succulents – three different, one container of each
- Succulent – one variety
- Goosberries – dish of twelve
Now, the Royal Norfolk Show runs across two days but set up for the horticultural show is the day before.
I lovingly titivated and packaged my specimens up, some of which had been grown from seed over many years – succulents are slow growers.
I drove the 15 miles to the showground just outside Norwich and entered the horticultural tent – which has always been one of my favourite areas at the show.
Used to seeing the tables drapped in black cloth and covered in produce, plants and flowers, the blank canvas seemed a little overwhelming. Where did I go, who did I report to!
I was soon introduced to the show secretary who gave me a tour of the tent and a step-by-step guide on how to set up my entries. It was all very straight forward – you get given a card which has your exhibitor number on and you place it under your entry in the designated area for that category. Within 30 minutes I was set up and my plants and produce were ready for the judging which started at 6am the next day.
I lingered a little longer in the tent, chatting to other society members who were incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. Within five minutes I’d learnt how to make a garlic wash to deter slugs from hostas and that to get the best from your sweet peas you should plant them in October and prepare their bed with well-rotted manure at the same time. I felt totally at home in that tent.
As a new member of the society I had also volunteered to help out over the two days of the show. Bright and early the next morning I eagerly joined the queues of traffic heading for the showground to ensconce myself within the horticultural tent.
On arrival, the judging was complete and to my utter delight and surprise I’d received a first prize, a second prize and a third.
I later found out that even if there are only two entries in a class it doesn’t guarantee either will receive a prize as entries are judged against a criteria set by the Royal Horticultural Society. If they don’t score highly they can miss out completely. For me, this made me really rather proud of my achievement as a first-timer
The whole horticultural area at the Royal Norfolk Show is pretty spectacular. There are show gardens both by professionals and schools, numerous nurseries and growers selling plants, bulbs and flowers, talks and demos, the horticultural show, trade stands, a flower show and most importantly a plant tombola.
Across the two days of the show I predominantly manned the plant crèche – an utterly wonderful idea. Anyone who has bought or won a plant can drop it off while they look round the rest of the show. I likened manning it to the time I worked in an ice cream shop in Cromer – in the sense that everyone visiting was happy! Not because they were buying an ice cream but because they had just bought or won something they loved and would continue to love in their home or garden. I was amazed at how many people I knew who came to the plant crèche, the appeal of plants and gardening is pretty universal it seems.
I also had a stint on the membership desk, chatting to people about the society and the horticultural show in general, what a great gig!
Well, what can I say. Joining the Norfolk & Norwich Horticultural Society has been like a breath of fresh air for me. It was formed in 1829 to educate and increase interest in horticulture – and they have successfully done that with me! I’m eagerly looking forward to continuing my journey with the group and expanding my horticultural knowledge along the way.
My three prize-winning pots of succulents and alpines are now lovingly displayed on the garden table and are in full bloom. Every time I look that them I smile!