My local horticultural society’s Autumn show is always held the week after I return from my family holiday. It forces me to confront my garden, flops and all to see what’s worth showing. I went out this week in search of prize winning entries and found the weeds have taken over and flowers have flopped. My wisteria has made a move to world dominance and has sent out super long stems which mock me for my lack of summer pruning. Worse I’ve missed a flower blooming that I’ve looked forward to seeing, its shrivelled petals an admonishment to my garden abandonment.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I grow things to eat or to look good in my garden but if something’s worth displaying on show day, I give it a go. The show secretary encourages us to join in so that the hall is full of interesting and beautiful things. Competition is not the whole point although a win is always lovely. I’ve now entered the shows a few times and the doubts have lessened but if you want to know more about what it’s like to show for the first time you can read about it here.
Here’s a round-up of my show entries and how they did.
I never predicted that I would have a ripe melon to enter in the fruit class of the show but on Monday the first of my four greenhouse melons was showing orange blushing and was scenting the greenhouse with a delicious sweet fragrance.
This is my first year growing melons and I have been so glad that I gave it a go. An automatic watering system kept the vines watered whilst I was away and the melons swelled quickly. Fortunately they had set fruit before I departed and I relished in the fun of setting up little hammocks under each one to make sure the vines didn’t snap under their weight. I used old tights for this. It caused much mirth in my house but the act transported me back 40 years to when my grandfather took me to his neighbour’s greenhouse, where his wife’s greying hosiery was supporting his fabulous fruits.
Growing these was first class fun and this melon won first prize out of two entries in the ‘A dish of any fruit’ section.
This year I experimented with growing tomatoes outdoors. I have a greenhouse but I’d seen it pointless growing many tomatoes inside as school holidays make the regularity of watering a challenge. My watering system could help of course but I thought I’d see if outdoor varieties may be less hassle.
I can report that the outdoor crop has been phenomenal. I chose varieties that were supposedly blight resistant and took care to cordon them carefully, removing leaves to ensure good airflow and stop blight from taking hold. If you want to know more about the other varieties chosen click here.
Outdoor Girl has been the heaviest cropping of my chosen varieties and I have so many fruits that it was easy to harvest a large number to sort through to find 5 that were vaguely uniform, although the one at four o’clock on this dish is a bit of a rebel and probably got me marked down.
The remainder are destined for a home made tomato soup.
This was the only tomato variety that I grew in the greenhouse. When immature, the tomatoes are a breathtaking purple blush colour, which gives them their name. I fell in love with them when I saw them growing at Barnsdale Gardens last September.
What I hadn’t realised is that the bluish tones fade as the fruits ripen, leaving a red tomato mottled with dark black-brown. This little dish of 5 fruits came third in the cherry tomato class and I can confirm that they taste great, very flavoursome with a tangy acidic taste that’s great in salads. Cropping was disappointing though and I’m not sure I got enough fruits to make growing these worthwhile.
I think that Squash must be amongst the easiest crop to grow. The seeds are easy to handle, geminate well and when planted out the plants romp away happily in any given space, even growing as climbers if lack of space forces you to grow them vertically. They always set without any help from me, store well and provide my family with fruit well into winter and sometimes into spring. I’d urge anyone to give them a go and have written a summary of how to go about it if you’ve never tried before. Read all about it here.
My Red Kuri squash were enormous this year and a properly tango orange colour. This one glowed neon on the show bench but failed to place in the ‘Other vegetable’ class at the show. The winner there were three immaculate sweetcorn cobs.
I don’t always enter the rose classes at my show as achieving a good shaped flower, blemish and disease free, is something I’ve not really tried hard at. I don’t use pesticide or fungicide sprays in my garden and my roses do sometimes get black spot, aphids and rose sawfly caterpillars. Luckily this variety provided a perfect stem for the show with no input from me.
It’s a variety called Kew Gardens and is a crazily rampant cluster type with open single flowers, starting as apricot blushed buds, opening to pale yellow before fading to white. I love it in the garden and placed as a single stem in a vase looks great as a cut flower. This came second in the cluster rose class at the show.
This class calls for 10 flower stems of any variety and they are judged on quality of bloom. Where this is the case it’s important to choose perfect flowers of good shape and colour and hopefully blemish free.
I love flower arranging though and so I can’t help but also think about colour combinations and balancing the shape of blooms. This was a challenge here due to the height of that delphinium!
This selection came first and won best in show. It only goes to show that a garden neglected for summer holidays can still come up trumps.
This seasonal diary is part of a weekly link-up of garden bloggers from around the world, called Six on Saturday. For more information and links to other blogs crammed with gardening activity, check the blog of host The Propagator.