A great flower show for the centenary year

The Duchess with the record onion. (S)
The Duchess with the record onion. (S)

Last weekend was very busy and exciting at the Harrogate Autumn Flower Show and now that it is over there is that slight anti-climax feeling as the work of clearing away and dismantling marquee starts.

However, though I say so myself, the show was superb and despite the weather forecast not being very good, the crowds didn’t stay away.

On the first day of the show BBC Breakfast broadcast their weather forecasts live from the show and there was talk of rain throughout the day, but fortunately it didn’t arrive until the evening when the show was closed.

We had a couple of heavy showers over the weekend, but overall over 36,000 people came to the show which is up on last year and just goes to prove how popular gardening still is.

For the centenary year of the North of England Horticultural Society we introduced several new features including more fruit and vegetable classes, giant vegetables and outside we had a Garden Border Competition, all of which proved to be very popular.

The main highlight of the show of course has to go to Peter Glazebrook who broke the world record for the heaviest onion.

For the past three years Peter has won the competition at Harrogate with the heaviest onion at the show, but this year for our centenary year he pulled out all the stops and set a new record of 17lbs 15.5oz, which is almost a pound and a half heavier than the previous record that was set in 2005. Forty years ago a 3lb onion was classed as large and the new world record shows how much hard work and dedication goes into producing these vegetables.

Several years ago I was lucky enough to interview Peter for television at his Nottinghamshire home where he grows his award winning vegetables and I was amazed at his professional set up that would put some nurseries to shame.

Well done Peter and I look forward to seeing what you do next year?

Not only were the crowds interested in the giant onion, but the president of the North of England Horticultural Society was too. When we gave the Duchess of Northumberland a tour of the show we popped into the onion weigh-in, but we couldn’t stay to the end because we had to move on.

During the president’s lunch news broke about the new world record and the duchess asked me if she could go back and see the onion.

In fact when we got there she wanted to hold it to see just how heavy it is.

Not only did the fruit and vegetables prove popular, the large specialist societies marquee was also fantastic and had some great displays of cut flowers and plants, but for me it was the dahlias that stood out.

Unfortunately, the very strong winds the week before the show meant that some exhibitors lost flowers, but despite that the benches where crammed full of dahlias of all shapes, colours and sizes.

Had all the entries turned up, we simply wouldn’t have had space!

To me it looks as though dahlias are once again very much in vogue!

Outside the Garden Borders Competition was also excellent and the eight designs were all very different and created a great deal of interest.

Top award went to Jeni Cairns with Reclaiming the Border which included a lovely selection of plants set amongst old gardening and farming implements.

All in all a great show for our centenary year.

Now it’s time to start planning for 2012!