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Gardening - why you should join the RHS Grow Your Own campaign

PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 December 2014

David Kay with his trophies and award winning vegetables

David Kay with his trophies and award winning vegetables

Linda Viney

Gardeners should join the RHS campaign and become show-offs, says Linda Viney

Charlie Richards amongst his ChrysanthemumsCharlie Richards amongst his Chrysanthemums

As we think about Christmas and, more especially, the food we will be eating I wonder how many of us will be fortunate enough to enjoy our own produce?

Brussel sprouts, potatoes, carrots and onions could all be in season and you might have some more exotic home grown veg frozen and ready for the big day.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has been running a ‘Grow Your Own’ campaign and many schools have been encouraged to take part. For us grown ups, it doesn’t matter whether we have a large garden or backyard - there is really no excuse for not growing, as I was to discover earlier this year when I went along to a local horticultural show.

The event in Broughton Parish Church Hall, Preston, has been going for half a century and the day I arrived it was awash with colour from the flowers as well as fruit and vegetables. Keeping with tradition, there were classes for all ages and tastes including food, craft and art. There was great buzz and as I was taking a photograph of a winning vase of perennials someone tapped me on the shoulder and proudly told me they were grown by his mother, June Eccles.

These shows are a tribute to the people who spend many hours organising them and the competitors who take part. After a look around the hall I decided to see exhibitors on their home soil. I started off at Cherry Tree Allotments in Blackpool to meet Charlie Richards and David Kay who had scooped many prizes on their first visit to Broughton.

Allotments have become popular in recent years and there are often waiting lists. For David, a joiner, it started when he covered for his father-in-law who was in hospital. He became hooked and has had his own plot for two years.

‘We have to be organic so clearing a plot and keeping it clear of weeds is no easy task,’ he told me. ‘It is a great life, though, and you do make friends. People are always ready to help.’

He grows mainly vegetables and his cabbages were quite amazing, both in size and for the lack of damage by caterpillars and slugs. He has found the netting used for strawberries is both economical and successful at protecting the plants.

Morris by the wooden archway he builtMorris by the wooden archway he built

As he unearthed his carrots, I was surprised to see they were purple which was the colour of the original English carrot until the 18th century when the Dutch bred them with a different hue.

I then met Charlie Richards who had scooped prizes with his flowers. Charlie is retired and has had his plot for seven years. He makes a daily visit, often meeting up with his friends and chatting over a cuppa.

He has constructed a netted cage to protect his dahlias and chrysanthemums from insects. The blooms are quite stunning and a credit to him with so many varieties nurtured to perfection and every one carefully labelled.

Charlie is delighted to get his 15-year-old granddaughter, Molly, interested and he proudly showed me the sweet peas she had

grown. He has taught her how to grow them for the show bench with long straight stems - also ideal for the vase at home. I even learnt there are left-handed and right-handed ones!

‘Molly comes with me to the shows as I don’t like going up to collect prizes,’ Charlie said. As other gardeners arrive you can tell there is a great camaraderie. Plants and seeds are swapped and vegetables exchanged for good old horse or, being Blackpool, donkey manure. Sitting with David and Charlie in the sun with my brew, I could see the attraction of having an allotment but you do have to put your back into it.

June puts on a show

When I went along to meet up with perennial vase winner, June Eccles, and her husband, Morris, their suburban garden was delight.

Few of us have success with growing Datura with their spectacular trumpets, but they had a lovely specimen in a large pot. They explained that it is tender and should be cut down before bubble wrapping for winter - but be aware, it is poisonous. They are both keen gardeners with Morris being the handyman.

They love finding new plants and when the bizzie lizzies suffered a virus and became unavailable they discovered Mirabilis whose flowers blossom in the late afternoon and evening, earning them their common name of four o’clocks.

Many of us will discard a small pot rose we may have been given but Morris put theirs in the garden and it is still thriving in its third year. It is certainly an all year round garden with colour coming mainly from foliage.

One of the most remarkable things about the garden was the amount of bilberries. ‘We have already had 15 punnets and there will still be plenty more,’ said Morris. I commented the two bushes had been planted in the same large pot. ‘It is advisable to

have two for pollination and they need ericaceous soil which we don’t have so I plant them in ericaceous compost,’ he explained.

Having had a taste they were certainly delicious.

People who exhibit at local shows are true enthusiasts, so why not give it a go? Don’t be shy - there is plenty of help at hand if you have never shown before. One of the main criteria is ensuring you read the schedule and understand the rules.

If you want to get involved in the Broughton show, either by exhibiting or behind the scenes, you can contact Les Finlayson on 01772 717277.

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