Southport Flower Show 2008

PUBLISHED: 13:13 17 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:29 20 February 2013

Coleen Nolan at the Lancashire Life stand

Coleen Nolan at the Lancashire Life stand

There was no washout at Southport Flower Show as around 80,000 visitors packed Victoria Park. Roger Borrell reports PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHN COCKS

POETS talk about the flowering of youth but when it comes to winning prizes there's no substitute for experience. Just ask the grown ups who carried away the silver trophies at Southport Flower Show.

This year's stunning event - with a special Ladies' Day Marquee co-sponsored by Lancashire Life - was dominated by the familiar faces of the North West horticultural world. None more familiar than Peter Tinsley.

If you are looking for experience, talk to Peter. He started attending the Southport show as an apprentice back in 1957. The knowledge he has accumulated since then has helped him to countless awards, including a gold at Chelsea.

This year, he staged a clean sweep at Southport with five trophies - including the best in show cup for his cool, calm Japanese garden featuring elaborate pieces of Westmorland slate. 'It just goes to show that us old 'uns have still got it!' laughed Peter, who runs the family business with his sons at Halsall, between Southport and Ormskirk.

As he picked up the top prize from former singing star and chatshow host Coleen Nolan, who officially opened the show, Peter pointed at his Westmorland slate and said: 'It's as heavy as those rocks!'

A large gold medal went to Iddon Nurseries, of Bretherton - a fitting reward for the experienced Jacqueline Iddon. 'I've been coming here all my life - really! My mother showed here and she started bringing me in 1961 when I was a new babe in arms. That must be some kind of record.'

However, for staying the course, it's hard to beat W. Robinson and Son, the Forton nursery famous for its mammoth onions and many other things. The business picked up the cup for the finest vegetable exhibits. One of the partners, Margaret Robinson, said the nursey had been exhibiting at Southport since the very first show 79 years ago. 'It started with my great grandfather and it continues with young Andrew, who is the fifth generation,' said Margaret.

'Things have changed dramatically and this year we have concentrated on plants which can be grown in smaller containers to show people that they don't need a large plot to grow their own. ' They can grow veg on their patios and this encourages children to get involved

The secret to successful gardening is that you've really got to enjoy it and you must treat your soil with respect.' The theme of the show was Liverpool in recognition of the Capital of Culture Year.
A large gold award was picked up by Kirkham Prison for a stunning display of begonias and vegetables grown by the inmates. Stephen Horrocks, the prison services manager, said the gardening scheme gave offenders an interest, a sense of achievement and also provided those ready for release with a skill which could help them to find employment.

In keeping with the show's theme, the centre-piece was a thatched cottage at Knotty Ash. Prisoners were involved in coming up with the concept and it took several days for the team from Kirkham to set up the display. Steve said there was also a practical aspect to the activity - the crops supplied the prison kitchens and some local retailers, saving the taxpayer thousands of pounds.

One of the most striking displays - and another award winner - was Mr Roscoe's Garden based on Liverpool's Botanical Collection presented by the city council's parks department. This display was packed with exotics - mainly collected in colonial times for food or industry - which formed a small part of the huge botanical collection put together in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries by Liverpool's William Roscoe, a poet, politician, antislavery campaigner and botanist. The display, packed with ferns, bromeliads and orchids as well as cotton and citrus plants.

Nearby, another large gold went to Shirley Tasker, who has the national collection of begonia rex in her garden in Southport. 'My husband has been cultivating begonias for 27 years and I got involved when I retired,' she said. 'I wanted him to grow something I could use in flower arranging but now I won't allow them to be cut! We don't do it as a business - we are two people with a passion for these sumptuous plants.'

But don't run away with the idea that gardening and garden shows are only for the older generations. The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones, was among the dignitaries at this year's event and he told Lancashire Life: 'I have been particularly impressed by the young people whose skills have been on show.

I enjoyed talking to a young student from Myerscough who won an award for garden design and the wonderful displays by the young people at Thorncross young offenders institute and the inmates at Kirkham Prison. 'There has been tremendous talent on show and the organisers have been extremely efficient - everyone has created a wonderful atmosphere. The fact that the theme is Liverpool has made it particularly enjoyable for me.'

Allotments were also in vogue this year and the movement's national body had an eye-catching display of fruit and veg - plus a couple of chickens, the first 'livestock' at the show for many years. Peter Clarke, the chairman of Town Lane Allotments in Southport, said: 'There's a lot of interest in allotments especially when food is becoming more expensive.

There's nothing quite like eating fruit and veg you have grown but you also need to remember that gardening is meant to be pleasurable. The interest is such that you can wait three years to get a plot - the North West waiting list is around 8,000.'

Next year's show will see Southport's 80th anniversary but the 79th will take some beating. Actress Jean Alexander - still remembered for her Coronation Street role - said: 'I come here every year and every year it just gets better and better....'

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