Home Horticultural shows Harrogate Autumn Flower Show review

Harrogate Autumn Flower Show review

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National Vegetable Society West Yorkshire display
National Vegetable Society West Yorkshire display

Monster veg and massive flowers beat the weather, September 14-16

Some things you can rely on in life to deliver and the Harrogate Flower Shows are one of them.

Even though the Autumn Show runs for only three days instead of the Spring Show’s four, it’s my favourite, as there are the giant vegetables on show.

It really takes me back to my youth when I went to leek shows with my dad and Uncle George.

The Harrogate shows rarely disappoint when it comes to weather extremes – either boiling hot or torrential showers. Naturally, it rained heavily in the morning, leading to the halls being packed.

Giant vegetables

There is always a flurry of excitement at high noon on Friday, with the National Onion Society Championship weigh-in – but no world records this year (see my results and slideshows posts this weekend for more info).

However, a lot of people, including me, didn’t understand why the giant veg competition had been stuck at the far end of the Plant Nursery Pavilion instead of being included as it normally is in the Gardening Hall with the other veg exhibits.

Hot stuff from Garth Cottage Herbs
Hot stuff from Garth Cottage Herbs

Plant Pavilion

I always spend a lot of time in the Plant Nursery Pavilion – that’s where you’ll find the specialist nurseries and their displays.

Despite arriving earlier than usual, the rain meant it was packed. The lucky recipients of my cash this year were Plantagogo, where I bought nine Heucheras (a planned purchase) to edge the border with year-round colour.

I also bought two from Foster’s Exotic and Unusual Plants of Scunthorpe – a much-longed-for Chinese rice paper plant (Tetrapanax papyrifer Rex) and a Lantana Red Devil.

Plants of Pleasure

The highlight of Plants of Pleasure, exploring perfume and taste is the chocolate-themed Tempered Garden by Ripon-based designer Helen Hays and Harrogate landscaper Nick Fryer, awash with sumptuous dark colours to add drama to planting.

Chef-Chocolatier Ashley McCarthy, from Ye Old Sun Inn, Colton, near York has made flowers, plants and a few surprises as a centrepiece, including a real chocolate fountain.

Spectacular single giant dahlias
Spectacular single giant dahlias

Floral Pavilion

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.

Crowds enjoying the Floral Pavilion
Crowds enjoying the Floral Pavilion

Humphrey Repton – the Great Improver

A North of England Horticultural Society exhibition marks the 200th anniversary of Repton’s death, recognised as the 18th Century’s last great landscape designer.

I have to say, this was a major disappointment and not up to the show’s usual standards – a boxed-off area in the middle of the Plant Nursery Pavilion with very little in it.

Robert Delve and Heather Copley from The Beast Restaurant, Pontefract at Feast! Food Theatre
Robert Delve and Heather Copley from The Beast Restaurant, Pontefract at Feast! Food Theatre

Feast! Food Theatre and Food Marquee

The Food Marquee is always a favourite of my other half, my resident chauffeur and photographer, and bought his usual selection of gourmet pies, cake and beer.

I kicked myself for missing Lee Rushforth’s chocolate-making demonstration (you can’t be everywhere) but did catch Robert Delve and Heather Copley from The Beast Restaurant, Halifax, making a pumpkin medley.

As ever, a day out well worth the money – you’d be well advised to visit on Sunday afternoon for the sell-off if you like a bargain.

Watch out for more picture galleries from me in the coming days.

Apples from RV Rogers, horticultural trade Best in Show
Apples from RV Rogers, horticultural trade Best in Show

Top tips if you haven’t been before

  1. 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.
  2. Don’t forget the essentials: waterproofs, sunglasses and comfortable, flat shoes (no heels).
  3. 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).
  4. 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 of a plant or product, as it might be gone.
  5. Use the plant creches run by the charity Perennial, so you don’t have to carry stuff around with you all day.

The show is open from 9.30am to 5.30pm on Saturday; 4.30pm Sunday. Last admission is 4.30pm (3.30pm Sunday).

Tickets for Saturday cost £20 on the gate, £18.50 on Sunday. Under 16s free when accompanied by an adult. Visit www.flowershow.org.uk for more information.

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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