Gardening – September 2014 – Nicola Bush

Excuse my overwhelming interest in Veryan Show but it is the one local to me that I can enter because I never judge there and a reminder that it is an open Show so absolutely anybody can enter. This year it is 20 September and I actually wonder what it will look like with hydrangeas already going over, dahlias and sweet peas gone. Such an early season for so many flowers and indeed veg.

For Veryan Show I take everything I can on the Friday night and then get up really early on Show morning gathering up everything that is so much better fresh on the day. For example, fuchsias are not a good cut flower so if you pick them in the morning they will look better than those cut the night before. And what is the judge looking for in a fuchsia? Well that question was asked a couple of years ago by an exhibitor who religiously brings three branches every year and never gets a place.

gardening-sept2014-1It’s simple really. You need three branches with lots and lots of flowers on each. Those with the most and freshest flowers will win and generally the best branches will be found on the perennial fuchsias that are hardy and not the half hardy ones. I am going to repeat myself here because there are some super tips, like this, on the Show web sites which really help you prepare your garden exhibits so that they are shown off at their best. You will not be surprised to know that I shall only be giving tips on flowers and vegetables- cakes, scones and jams are not my forte! However my husband wishes to encourage anyone to make heavy cake as he buys as many as he can at the auction after the Show and consumes them rapidly. It is fortunate that this is only a once per year ritual!

The best tips that I can give you apply to any show that you might enter and there have been and are plenty in our area. Read the instructions in the Show entry form. If it says 5 stems of parsley and three beets make sure you have counted correctly, it’s an easy mistake to make and I have made it!

gardening-sept2014-2A bunch of herbs should be exactly that. As many as you can possibly muster and in good condition and well presented in a small vase with water.

Cabbages must have a good heart and be shapely. It helps to lightly wash them, very carefully, when lifted the day before. Take off really tatty leaves that may be dead and look for slugs. Also leave a couple of inches of root, more than would be left if you bought it from the supermarket – this proves it is home grown. The natural bloom (a sort of dull misty colour on the leaves) is important so ensure you don’t clean that off. If the cabbage is wet hang it upside down to dry off.

Carrots and beetroot must be lifted carefully. Those with slug marks or any little holes in are unlikely to be prize winners. Try and display three that look the same. That is often easier said than done but it is important. Read the instructions – tops on or off? Clean them with a damp sponge going round the vegetable not up and down it. A vertical motion may damage the skin. Seasoned exhibitors may put beets in a bucket of salt water for three or four hours. Apparently when the judge cuts one in half to check the inside this will encourage the white rings inside to disappear. Never tried it so I cannot confirm this!

gardening-sept2014-3Runner beans must be matching in size and length and be straight. They also need to be very fresh. The judge will snap them to test for freshness and if he sees stringy bits you have had it!If they have not grown completely straight put them in a damp tea towel in the fridge overnight and they may well straighten sufficiently.

Lettuces should be harvested on the morning of the show. They must be fresh and turgid, nothing worse than a limp lettuce! Lift them with a hand fork, clean the roots carefully and wrap the roots in moist kitchen paper, and put in a plastic bag until the last minute.

Tomatoes should be without holes or watermarks and as alike as possible. Remember you must leave on the stalk, so cut them off the plant with scissors to ensure no calamities.

gardening-sept2014-4A vase of flowers is often best cut on the morning of the show except that some garden flowers take up water overnight in a cool place and look better for it. This is trial and error really and depends on the flower to a great extent. Again a ‘collection of garden flowers’ means the more flowers you display the greater your chances. We may have less flowers available because of the early summer.  My Michaelmas daisies are not looking promising, they haven’t waited for Michaelmas.

If you are brave enough to enter dahlias, (if you have any left), chrysanthemum or single flowers as exhibits in the many available categories then the petals must be perfect, the flowers the correct shape and the stems as straight as possible. More points are lost by exhibitors not checking the backs of the blooms – the whole flower head is important and must be as perfect as possible.

Now all that stuff above is how the Show and Exhibitor manuals wish you to exhibit and perform. The last thing I want to do is discourage you. The Show needs entries of all shapes, sizes and qualities and we can all help support it with a slightly bent cucumber or a normal sized marrow! It is not the winning but the taking part that matters!

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