Surprises and the spring show

I suppose, given how bizarre the weather has been / still is, that it wasn’t altogether surprising. I’d been round the garden checking out plants for the village gardening club‘s spring show last evening, earmarked some primulas, worked out which daffs would go in which class, that sort of thing. I’ve never entered anything in a flower show before (well, not since I was about 6 and entered a moss garden in one), so I didn’t know the ropes. I toyed, for instance, with the idea of picking things in advance, but dismissed it for the primulas and the chionodoxas as I knew they wouldn’t last, and thought the daffs would be fine. I did not anticipate a heavy frost and the fact that I’d be selecting my blooms from plants bent to the ground by frost, in snow flurries.

There were rather a lot of rejects, but I eventually ended up with a selection of the least damaged ones:

ready to go

(The whisky bottle was full of water, meaning I didn’t have to join in any scramble for the sink.) In a ‘normal’ year, I’d have been able to enter something in each of the seven, yes seven, daff/narcissi classes; this year I was restricted to two, and completely failed to notice a trace of bird shit on one of the blooms I chose for the ‘large trumpet’ class. I am just an amateur at this lark!


I was somewhat daunted when I got there, as there were such a lot of beautiful plants and flowers on show, especially given that this is quite a small village, or two villages, rather. However, I got diverted by a debate about what exactly constituted a large daffodil trumpet, which is possibly why I failed to notice the crap. Those above are definitely large; mine wasn’t.

There were lots of entries for the dwarf daffs, which again impressed me. I have three. Correction, had three. No sign of them this year.


But it isn’t just daffodils and narcissi; there are plenty of other classes – no entries for tulips (hollow laugh) or hyacinths (I’ve got some nice dead ones), though.

Plenty for hellebores:


which left me green with envy, as all mine seem to produce is leaves. There were quite a number of flowering shrubs, too, and to my surprise they weren’t all viburnums (mine was).

There were flowering pot plants,


and I loved this cactus – I’ve always had a soft spot for cacti, sometimes several, generally with spines sticking out of them, but I don’t usually persuade mine to flower. Of course the flowering bulbs included amaryllis (I don’t care what anyone says, I like those too):


reminding me that I really must grow one for myself next year instead of just giving them to other people. Yes, they are unsubtle and ‘in your face’, but they are also so remorselessly cheerful – particularly when all is grey and white outside.

I originally entitled this post ‘sod’s law and the spring show’. That was before I went back after the judging…

I’d got a first for my double daffs, and two seconds, one for my chionodoxas in the ‘any other plant not mentioned above’ class (great title – there were scillas and pansies and pulmonarias and some other wonderful things),


and one, to my ‘knock-me-down-with-a-great-big-thing-for-knocking-me-down-with’ surprise, for my floating camellia bloom:


I’d not originally even thought of entering this class. This is prime camellia-growing territory, and all over the place there are gardens with expert gardeners and perfect camellias. Only not this year. This year, they’ve been blasted with the frost, gardeners and plants both. I went crawling through the branches of my giant double camellia tree and suddenly spotted one flower that looked intact right at the back: just one, but no brownness, no discolouration. Cheekily, I thought I’d give it a try. I never, ever expected such an understated bloom to get a second glance, and it got a second prize. Amazing. And now I’m addicted. But before I go mad anticipating the summer show, I must remind myself that mine is a spring garden. In summer, I’d win the ‘great big display of slightly tatty leaves’ class, hands down. But maybe if I start planting soon…


36 thoughts on “Surprises and the spring show

  1. Pauline

    Fantastic – well done! We have a village flower show here, sometimes I enter, sometimes I don’t, it can get quite addictive, I can see you entering again.

  2. angiesgardendiaries

    Round of applause for you!!!! Well done. You can’t beat a bit of bird shit to add a bit of character on an otherwise perfect bloom 🙂
    Re your hellebores – how old are they. Seedlings can take up to 4 years to flower! A tip I read once is that they benefit from a sprinkling of lime after flowering. I haven’t tried this but worth considering to give your plant a boost.

    1. kate Post author

      Well, quite – I think there should be a special class for bird-poo decoration!

      The hellebores are a mixture of ages, some are definitely older than 4. I’m beginning to think that I ought to buy them as bigger plants, and am feeling the call of Fron Goch Garden Centre…

    1. kate Post author

      Thank you – I’m quite staggered myself. The tree looks as though it’s been liberally covered in brown waste paper, so bad is the frost situation. And another hard frost last night, too.

        1. kate Post author

          Mine usually recover – they’ve been buried in snow before now and seem to ping up. But this year I’ve noticed an alarming tendency for the heads to snap off at the neck, or even just drop off as I’m carrying them to the house. I think I should probably leave them to warm up a bit before I cut them…

  3. Anna

    Oh well done you Kate on your moment of horticultural success. Chelsea here we come!
    P.S. No need to explain what was in the whisky bottle 🙂

    1. kate Post author

      Can’t beat chonodoxas (well, you can with three flawless, perfect pansies), and they’re sooooooo blue this year. Maybe they like the chill!

  4. Christina

    Yes, I think a slippery slope! Well done, but I do admit to being a bit bemused, I really can’t imagine entering a flower show – not that they exist here anyway and if they did the winners would probably be mafia! Congratulations. Chrostina

    1. kate Post author

      You think they’re not here??

      (I couldn’t have imagined it either, but Karen persuaded me last year that I ought to give it a try…)

    1. kate Post author

      They are absolutely gorgeous, and I watch my lawn carefully from about mid-Jan on, looking for the slightest hint. The really good news is that they seem to be spreading. Carry on chionodoxas!

    1. kate Post author

      Actually, if it hadn’t been terrible weather, I’m sure my camellia at least would have been blown out of the water!

  5. Hannah

    Congratulations! May I ask a silly question and ask what the red flower in the pic with the Welsh flag is? They complement each other beautifully, I might grow it for my better half to remind him of home.

  6. artistsgarden

    I am so glad that you enjoyed your first “garden show” experience and well done on your haul of places – your chionodoxas were quite delightful and the judge and I never noticed the bird poop on the daffs! Lovely pictures of the show Kate

  7. welshhillsagain

    Love your chionodoxas. How come I haven’t got any? Must rectify that for next year. Congratulations! What a great start to what may well be a long and illustrious showing career!

    1. kate Post author

      You definitely need some… mine are making a bid for freedom and spreading gradually out of the hedge bottom and over the rest of the meadow, but I don’t think they’ll get as far as you!

      (I’m not so sure about the showing career – I have a feeling I only did well because it was such a weird year and everyone else had suffered!)

  8. wellywoman

    Congratulations Kate. We don’t have any spring flower shows around here. Ours are end of August and in September and part of the large agricultural shows. I’d love it if there were some smaller, village shows. They just seem a bit more relaxed. A good tip for small flowers is to get some of those large plastic belle cloches. They are brilliant for putting over plants you want to protect for a few days from frost or heavy rain before picking. I had to supply some flowers for a restaurant about 6 weeks ago and with torrential rain forecast I knew they would end up soil splattered so I invested in a few cloches. I’m planning to show later on this year for the first time but I’m competing against some who have been doing it for 40 years. Wish me luck!

    1. kate Post author

      What a brilliant idea about the bell cloches (though I’d have to tether them to the ground with chains) – they’d have been so useful for my fritillaries, half of which have been frozen to pathetic, drooping death. A cloche, with a bit of straw in it, popped on at night fro protection would have made all the difference… I know for next year.

      Very, very good luck in your showing career!

    1. kate Post author

      Thanks – and yup, I was indeed a nervous wreck. A cold nervous wreck after fossicking about for my perfect blooms in snow showers, but hey…

  9. Janneke

    I stumbled upon your blog and I like it so much. Congratulations with your Camellia prize. In our country we hardly have any flower shows like in Britain. I made a tour around your windy Welsh garden and was really impressed, a lovely garden where I also should feel comfortable.
    Wish you happy spring gardening, over here it is still too cold for time of year.
    Regards, Janneke

    1. kate Post author

      Hi Janneke! Glad you enjoy Beangenie – and maybe you should start a tradition of flower shows (or maybe not, they can get quite intense and I shall say no more). It is normally a really lovely garden but at the moment it is being blasted by arctic winds and nothing is really getting going and some things ahve been killed…

      Hope it warms up soon for you too!


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