When I was growing up, we had a village show. It was great; everyone went, everyone entered things – I entered my cacti – and everyone participated in the stupid games (duck the headmaster). I, however, soon went off it. This might have been the result of simply hitting adolescence – hanging around the churchyard dressed in droopy black and reading Bram Stoker being more interesting, duuur – or it might have been the result of disillusionment. One year I guessed the weight of the piglet and my father wouldn’t let me bring it home.
Our village summer show – organised by the garden club – isn’t quite like that. No headmasters to duck, no piglets to leave behind, and I’ve grown out of the Goth thing (a bit). So I thought I’d give it a go; after all, I’ve been prevailed upon to join the club and, despite my doubts, am really enjoying it. So I assembled my flowers, tarted up my houseplants, polished my potatoes and set out.
In some respects this show is very familiar. There are the beautiful and utterly perfect giant onions; there are the huge but perfectly straight runner beans; there are victoria sponges and knitted toys and children’s paintings and enormous begonias.
And I entered a cactus.
I wasn’t expecting anything – the baby in the middle is mine – but it did come in third place, which amazed me. And I had another shock, my sloe gin. I’d decided that it would be a bit radical as I’m not a fan of the sweet, syrupy, traditional sloe gins: mine fits more into the ‘astoundingly alcoholic’ category and should probably be banned in France (if they banned absinthe, which can make your ears melt, they should definitely ban this). It came second, and there was a lot of competition. But then the judge for the preserves and drinks is new, a chef, and has a different attitude to tradition. He also gives really helpful and perceptive comments for each entry, successful or not, which must make the judging take ages – much appreciated.
I drew a blank with my veg which I was expecting – I grow for flavour, and I also grow varieties I can’t buy easily. So my potatoes are Ratte, my shallots are Pesandor, etc., etc. None are going to win prizes for weight, size or flawless symmetry – but I’d rather eat a slim french bean any day than try and make a gigantic one acceptable. However I did have a few more successes – very pleasing for someone entering her first summer show (next time I’ll know how to display my shallots much better, even if they are strange Breton ones, and have wised up to the tricks for making bread show-worthy).
The hall looked lovely, especially the end with the main part of the flowering plant classes – these are some of the ‘fifteen different flowers in a 2lb jam jar’ entries:
(and there were also some beautiful flower arrangements, but flower arranging isn’t my thing). It was here that I had two more successes – a third for my geranium, which I consider lucky in the extreme; it was sulking due to the change in the weather and was flatly refusing to open any more flower spikes than the one which opened before the summer vanished, and – hooray hooray – a second for my flowering houseplant.
A spectacular orchid. perhaps? Some rare and exotic tropical glory? Nah. An African Violet.
Saintpaulia ‘bright eyes purple’, to be specific. It beat the orchid. It was beaten in its turn by the traditional enormous begonia with the blooms held up by metal posts, but there you go; it wouldn’t be a summer flower show without that happening.
So will I do it again? Most emphatically yes. I loved it. Would I like to see a few new classes introduced? Oh yes – tasty French vegetable varieties, perhaps (I could fill that one) or one for garlic. Seriously – there’s one for ‘any other vegetable’ and that’s where the garlic entries went, competing against squash and sweetcorn and an amazingly long and perfect parsnip. And I think there should be one for a miniature moss garden. I cleaned up with mine when I was ten.
PS: I just found this photo on my camera – must have missed downloading it. Accident, or incisive and witty comment on the marrows?