HORTICULTURE – HELPFUL HINTS FOR FIRST-TIME SHOW EXHIBITORS
- Start by reading through the show schedule carefully. Bear in mind that the judges will use the schedule as their guide when they are judging and you will want your exhibit to comply with the rules.
- A comment heard at many shows is this- “Oh, I have better than that at home!” Remember if it’s still at home it can’t be judged and so you can’t win a prize for it. Enter as many classes as you can and you may be pleasantly surprised. One year there were no entries for parsnips, so anyone with three parsnips could have won a prize even if they weren’t wonderful!
- Take an account of the date of the show and decide what exhibits you could realistically have ready to show on that date.
- Where a class states a number, for example ‘one dish of 12 plums’ make sure that you have 12 plums and only 12 plums in your dish. A regular but simple mistake is to take 13 plums in case one gets damaged, and then to put them all in the dish! If the judge finds 13 (or 11) plums in your dish they can’t be judged even though they might be the best quality plums entered.
- The same advice applies to any weights or sizes given in the schedule. This applies particularly to pot sizes and display sizes. Pots are measured for the diameter at the rim (straight across the top).
- Where a class asks for two or more vegetables, fruits or flowers (e.g. two cabbages), try to select matching ones (e.g. a matching pair of cabbages). If you have one large one and several others smaller to make a group (e.g. six tomatoes) leave the large one out in favour of matching the size of the smaller ones so your display looks as uniform as possible. A judge will often compare the smallest with the biggest in your exhibit to see how evenly matched they are.
- Pods of peas are judged by opening one pod to examine the contents. You can’t do this with your exhibit as they must all be closed for judging. Opening other pods at home may not give you a clue about the ones on the show bench. A helpful hint is to hold the pods up to the light. A strong enough light will usually show you the peas lying in the pod as darker shadows inside the green pod. It’s almost like x-raying them! Do not use any pods that have spaces in them. It’s trickier to guess the contents of broad bean pods, but you can often feel the beans as bumps in the soft woolly pod lining.
- Cabbages, lettuces and cauliflowers are exhibited in this schedule with their roots intact. They should be washed clean of soil or compost and any longer roots can be trimmed a little to make them neat. All the leaves should be left on the exhibit. This is to ensure that exhibits have been grown by the exhibitor and not bought from a shop as shop vegetables will have their roots and outer leaves cut off.
- When showing potatoes wash the soil or compost off carefully without breaking, scratching or bruising the skin. It’s best to do this gently by hand and not to scrub them.
- A good way to show shallots is to arrange them on some fine sand on a plate. This helps them to stand up straight and shows them off to their best advantage.
- Onions can be sat on top of rings cut from cardboard or plastic tube for the same reason.
- Label each exhibit with the name of the variety you have grown if you can. A small, neat slip of card or paper on the plate or by the exhibit makes viewing the show more interesting to the public and it is helpful for the judges. It is useful to check the spelling of names from your seed packet or catalogue.
- Where the schedule says a plate or dish, this can be a paper plate. The size should be suitable for the space your vegetables will take up, so they are not cramped on the plate but are nicely arranged.
- The ‘Zonal Pelargonium’ in the flower classes is the term used for the plant commonly known as ‘geranium’.
- The terms ‘large flowered’ and ‘cluster flowered’ in the rose classes are the more modern terms for hybrid tea and floribunda roses.
- Plants growing in pots will display better if you clean the outside of the pot carefully before showing them. This is particularly important with clay pots as they can get green and slimy. The judges may pick up the pot to inspect your plant and they won’t thank you for getting their hands dirty! Some exhibitors will put their plants into new or clean pots just before bringing them to the show.
- If you have a problem, or are in doubt about how to stage any of your exhibits there will be stewards around early Monday evening and on Tuesday morning to help.
Finally, do have fun while planning your exhibits and bringing them to the show. Not everyone can win a prize, but we can all enjoy the day! It can be a bit daunting the first time, but you may find that showing soon becomes addictive.