Well it's been a long time since I've updated my website due to lack of time amongst other reasons. So here is a quick precied down version of the last few years.
Sweet Peas have been a mixed bag due to the weather and my own mistakes. I was unable to show at the National show in 2015 due to no flowers ready. 5th place in the 12 vase in 2016 and 2nd in the 12 vase in 2016. Kent County Show we have been fortunate enough to win a Gold Award every year since our first in 2014 although we haven't been able to win the Premier Award again. But we continue to try! There are no points awarded by the judges for flowers grown by the exhibitor unfortnately.
Have won the six vase class in the Kent federation show each year which I am very proud of. 2017 was a very sad time at the show and was the first show since the society lost one of its long standing committee members JuneWilkins. June was an incredible lady who got me involved in helping with the Sweet Pea classes in the schedule and from which developed a friendship that lasted around seventeen years. For me the show will never be the same without her.
Dahlias have in the main gone from strength to strength. We have continued to win Gold at the Edenbridge and Oxted Show with our display. I think we are up to seven in a row now but I'm still trying to get the Top Gold!
In 2017 I finally won the individual Open Championship Class having tried for the last 20 odd years. So thrilled to beat the great Dave Kent at last!
At National level I've been lucky enough to win a few championship classes over the last few years including the Miniature, Miniature Cactus/semi and Waterlily. Plus a few runner up spots.
At the regional shows I've done ok winning a few trophies at Kent and Surrey with the highlight being my win in 2016 at Surrey in the Championship class beating the great Dave Spencer.
Moving forward to 2018 we have big plans in place including a special display at the Edenbridge and Oxted Show to commemorate the 100 years since the end of WW1.
As I write this I still haven't decided what varieties to grow this year,but with the first signs of life beginning to show on the tubers in the greenhouse,it won't be long until I make up my mind!
Oh and I nearly forgot to mention that I've started growing a few Daffodils and some late Chrysanths just to help support some of my local shows!.
It's been a long time coming but here it is at lastÖ...my report for the 2014 shows.
I started off my show season at the National Sweet Pea Show, which was held in Abingdon in Oxfordshire. My Sweet Peas were probably the best I had ever grown them but I still couldn't get the length of stem that I would have liked. I was also struggling to have twelve distinct varieties for the championship class. Quite literaly on the day however, I managed to cut enough to enter the Daily Mail Cup class.
The journey to the show was horrendous, taking some four hours instead of the predicted hour and forty five minutes! Typical Friday afternoon traffic and the dreaded M25. We got there eventually and staged until the early hours before making the long drive home. Very tired but no choice as Dawn had to work on the Saturday morning.
We returned on the Sunday morning but this time the drive up was lovely. When we got there we were surprised to see that I had come second in the championship class. Being beaten by the great Keith Brewer from the Isle of Wight with Roger Parsons in third place. A fantastic result.
Next was Biggin Hill horticultural show where the results were split between myself and my Dad but as usual he beat me to win the best exhibit!
Next up was the Kent County Show at Detling where I had decided to stage a trade exhibit as well as entering into the competative classes. With the help of my family we put up a fantastic display including baskets of individual varieties most of which were supplied by my Dad due to the stems on mine becoming so short. A wedding display complete with tiered cake and an afternoon tea display. We were rewarded for our efforts with the Top Gold Award and the Premier Award for the most outstanding exhibit. Not bad for our first attempt! I was also lucky enough to win the six vase class in the competative class in the Kent Federation flower show beating off stiff competition from my Dad amongst others!
Onwards to the Dahlias and I'll try and keep it brief. Not just because there wasn't much to shout about this year but it was such along time ago now I can't remember how it went!
First was the Edenbridge and Oxted Agricultural Show where we put on our usual display as well as several vases in the competative classes.
We won a Gold Award for the 4th year running. The top gold still alludes me but I heard from a reliable source that the judge commented that ďHe's getting better and better each year but I can see some of the oasis in his basketsĒ. So 2015 will see some strategically placed moss in every basket to hide up the oasis! I'm determined to win the Top Gold Award one year.
I had a pretty disasterous time in the competative classes only picking up a few places throughout, however, the standard was very high with some very good exhibitors attending this year. Next was the National Dahlia Show at Wisley where I picked up a few seconds and thirds in some of the championship classes but alas no red tickets this year. Flowers just not good enough this year. We also supported the NDS by putting on a huge display over the weekend which we put up on the friday evening. On the Sunday was also the Kent Dahlia Show where again the heavy schedule meant that I hadn't been able to prepare as well as I would have liked. Again, a few tickets but nothing of note. Then onto Surrey which was the same and then I made the leap and went to Harrogate. A long five hour journey and an overnight sleep in the back of the van. This time things were a little better and I came second in the miniature ball championship and second in the small semi cactus championship and first in the two vases of waterlily dahlias with one vase going up for best vase. It didn't get it but it still went up! What a friendly bunch they are up there and made me feel very welcome so I hope to go again in 2015, I was even offered a cup of tea! Sadly you don't get that at Wisley. Finally, Sittingbourne, where I finally managed to win something but sadly very little competition this year. There was also the small members shows at the Kent and Surrey societies which were good fun to finish off the season.
So my conclusion for 2014 was one of an enjoyable year of showing but there is certainly room for improvement. A reduction in Dahlia varieties and numbers is definitely needed.
Well this year was quite an eventful one to say the least with a mixture of highs and lows. Firstly, the Sweet Pea season. Having grown over 600 plants with the plan to be to enter the twelve vases of fifteen stems at the national show, yet again the weather put paid to achieving this for the second year running. A cold night two weeks before the show caused the usual bud drop. Iíll be trying to come up with some ingenious experiments to combat this problem in 2014. I did manage to enter the three vase class and came second which considering the standard of entries I was very pleased and in fact it was the best three vases I think Iíve ever staged.
Then came the Kent County Show where I was able to enter the championship class, six vases of seven which I won. Not only did I win the best exhibit in the Sweet Pea classes but my exhibit also won the best exhibit in the whole show.
Then on to the Dahlias, I was asked early in the year if I would be willing to put on a display at the National Dahlia Show which had relocated to the RHS Gardens at Wisley. Being such a prestigious venue I couldnít refuse but had to make the decision to grow a lot more plants than I have previously grown. I was also contacted by Lullingstone Castle to see if I could do a display for them. Not wanting to let anyone down I grew around 660 plants, over two hundred more plants than the previous year. The plus side was that I would have plenty of blooms to choose from. The downside was that I would have less time to spend on each plant and therefore the quality of the blooms suffered slightly. Not enough to effect the display blooms but at the highest level it showed.
In July I received a phone call from BBC Gardeners World to see if I would be willing to be filmed for the series. Of course I agreed and at the end of August just before the bank holiday weekend a film crew came to the plot on a glorious sunny day and filmed what will hopefully be an informative and entertaining piece to be aired in the spring of 2014. The following day the weather was not so kind and I spent the morning cutting flowers for my first show in heavy rain. The first show being the Edenbridge and Oxted Agricultural Show. It didnít go as well as we would have liked. The weather put us several hours behind and by the time we had finished the display stand it was about 2am. I sent Dawn off to the caravan to get some sleep while I carried on with staging the individual vases until 5am. I eventually climbed into bed at 5.30am and was back in the marquee at 7am to help with stewarding duties. The Sunday passed like a blur as I was so tired, the highlight was winning our third gold medal award in a row, however, I didnít really enjoy it until the Monday after a great nightís sleep! I didnít do very well in the individual dahlia classes, the first indication that growing so many more plants had effected the quality. A big thank you to my team consisting of my long suffering wife Dawn, my parents, Bryan and Lyn, and my children, Daniel, Holly and Ethan. No time to rest on my laurels though and it wasnít long before the Kent Dahlia Show. I put in quite a few entries and did ok but couldnít compete against the big boys this year in the championship classes.
Then came the National Show. I did have a good flush to cut from and was pleased with most of what I put on the bench but my miniature ball were a disaster compaired to 2012. A mixture of my mistakes and the very hot weather leading up to the show causing bleached blooms did not help. Although I couldnít achieve the highs of 2012, I did manage to get amongst the top three in the miniature cactus, miniature and waterlily championship classes and won the 9 miniature class and the basket class, staged with the help of my eldest son Daniel. Over all I was very pleased with my efforts but know that I can do better. The Dahlia show was part of the RHS Wisley Autumn Show which was on for five days.
The Dahlia show itself ran from the Wednesday to the Friday and then at the weekend the marquee was filled with information about the Dahlia and also included a display put on by members of the NDS that had donated their spare blooms. It also included a display by ourselves. I say ourselves as again I couldnít have done it without the help of Dawn and my parents. 2014 is my first year at supplying plants to the public via mail order and this was a great platform to advertise this micro business. The show was a massive success for everyone involved. The NDS were thrilled with the number of visitors that viewed the exhibits and they also received many new members. The RHS seemed to be more than happy with how it all went and as I write this Iíve just learnt that the show is going to be held at Wisley again in 2014.
From my point of view the whole five days was a huge success, for Dahlia growers in the south east that may have been put off by the long drive to the previous venue at Shepton Mallett, this was a chance for them to have a go at the top level. Being so close to the M25 meant that it would take about the same time to get there for the furthest exhibitors travelling from the North. Also, being part of the RHS Autumn Show it meant that the Dahlia marquee was visited by tens of thousands of people over the five days. To see the marquee full of people admiring the exhibits was fantastic. At the weekend I was amazed at the response to our display and was thrilled at all the positive feedback that I received. It made all the effort worthwhile.
Just to complicate matters this weekend was also the same one as the Surrey Dahlia and Chrysanthemum Show and so I had to tear around like a mad man early on the Saturday morning cutting yet more flowers before getting to Wisley and then preparing them in the evening. Up again early Sunday for staging, assisted by my glamorous assistant Dawn! Then back down to Wisley in the afternoon for the last couple of hours and to help close down the show. Not much to shout about in relation to my performance at the Surrey show, needless to say I need to prioritise in 2014 whether I concentrate on the exhibition side or the display side. I will decide over the coming weeks. I used to think I was indecisive but now Iím not so sure!
The next Wednesday was Sussex C & D show at Hassocks. Several of the regular exhibitors were absent due to the forthcoming Harrogate show but we still managed to put on a very good show. Richard Thomas was the main winner. I did manage to pick up one trophy but as the only entrant in the class it wasnít something to brag about!
The next weekend was devoid of any specialist shows which was lucky for me as I had been asked by Tom Hart Dyke from Lullingstone Castle if I could put on a display of Dahlias at the Castle for their first ever Autumn plant fair. I was to have pride of place in the Great Hall. What a fantastic venue. We were positioned right in front of the beautiful fire place for everyone to see as they entered the Great Hall. Although the weather wasnít as good as it could have been we still had a very enjoyable day and again had some fantastic feedback from the many visitors. A very big thank you to Tom and his family for making us feel so welcome, and for their kind hospitality. Already making plans for the event in 2014 and working with Tom during the year.
Finally, the last two weekends of shows which included the Kent Dahlia members show where I entered a few classes and also had a crash course in judging as I was about to take my judging exam the following weekend. I was paired up with Dave Gillam who gave me some invaluable tips on what I should be looking for. Then came the Sittingbourne show where I put in pretty much everything I had worth picking! I didnít have time to stay for the results as I had to rush off to Essex to take my judging exam. I thought the exam went well but you can never be sure until youíve heard the results. I sat there amongst the other entrants and one by one the successful candidates names were read out. Little did I know that Dave Gillam and Richard Thomas, two of the NDS Executive committee members had made sure that I would be left until last, just to make me sweat a little longer. Eventually my name was called and I was awarded a certificate for passing. Oh how they laughed, just like a couple of children! Last but not least was the Surrey members show where I finally won a multi vase class beating my good friend Richard Thomas into second place. It was about time I had beaten him this year!
All in all a mixed bag this year and the challenge for 2014 is to try and overcome the serious problem of bud drop with the Sweet Peas and to decide what to concentrate on, whether it be the Dahlia displays or trying to compete on the show bench at the highest level. I thoroughly enjoy doing the displays but at the same time I also love competing against the best growers in the country. Iíve got to find the right balance but the main thing as that it remains enjoyable.
The year got off to an unusually dry start where we experienced hose pipe bans and exceptionally high temperatures through March. However, the weather turned for the worse and it didnít seem to ever stop raining after that!
The sweet peas showed early promise with the strongest plants that I have ever grown. I put this down to soil preparation as I had worked hard to trench in a nice layer of manure for them. However, all my plants are grown outside and we had far too many cold nights well into June. The affect on them was clear to see with bud drop affecting most varieties. I had high hopes of exhibiting at the National show in Christchurch but alas on show day I had no more than twelve stems with two or three blooms on that were ready to cut.
I had two aims for the season, one was to exhibit at the National which obviously failed and the other was to produce all the flowers for my wedding and wedding reception at the beginning of July. Luckily for me the weather improved just in the nick of time and I was able to pick bucket after bucket full of lovely scented flowers for use during the two days. My wife Dawn looked amazing and had a fabulous posy of sweet peas to carry, while all the family had buttonholes of sweet peas and ladyís mantle.
No time for a honeymoon as the Kent Show was almost upon us the following weekend and I, again, had high hopes of a good picking. Alas, it was not to be, we had constant heavy rain followed by terrible hail storms that ripped the peas to pieces. I did manage to win the six vase championship class, pipping my Dad into second place, but to be honest, any closer than four feet away and they looked terrible! There was not a decent vase in the whole show but we had all made an effort and put on a good display for the public.
Then it was time for the dahlias. I donít think I have ever witnessed such a wet summer and although dahlias like plenty of water it even got too much for these causing an outbreak of Dahlia Smut to affect the leaves. I have never had a problem like this before and did not know what it was until I found the diagnosis on the internet. I had to strip the infected leaves from the plants and spray with a fungicide to try and control it but because of the constant wet weather it was difficult finding a break in the weather in order to spray effectively. Even feeding them was a bit of a hit and miss affair. Although I struggled to control the infection when it came to the show days some of my flowers were better than I could have wished for.
My first show was the Edenbridge and Oxted Agricultural Show where I managed to win the best exhibit, best vase and silver medal and most points and came a very close second to Dave Kent in the championship class. Iím gunning for you this year Dave! I also won a gold medal award for my display of dahlias and was informed by the judges that had it not been for the spotting on the leaves I would have won the top gold award. So again, this year Iím going to try even harder!
Just a few days later we headed off to the National Dahlia Show at Shepton Mallet. The first time I had entered the National since I was fifteen. An incredible and also exhausting experience but was rewarded for our efforts winning the Fred Oscroft Cup in the miniature ball championship 3 vases of five each a different cultivar. I used Jomanda, Maryís Jomanda and Blyton Lady in Red. We also won the picture frame class along with several of the novice classes and a third in the miniature championship, intermediate championship and miniature cactus/semi championship. So all in all, a fantastic few days.
The following weekend was the Kent Dahlia Show and little did I know that the lads from Kent and Essex had planned to show me exactly how it was done by putting me in my place in their miniature ball championship class. This required just two vases and could include the same cultivar in both. I put a vase of Maryís Jomanda and a vase of Jomanda in and although they didnít have the size that some of the other exhibits had I was quite pleased with them. They were all the same size with perfectly matching centres, possibly a little young but Iíd always choose a younger fresher set than those that were just hanging on. I must confess that I wasnít too confident as I was up against Andrew Aspital, Dave Spencer and Dave Gillam who are generally invincible. I didnít have time to study them prior to judging as I was rushing around towards the end as usual so was ushered out of the hall in time for judging.
On my return to the hall in the afternoon there was much commotion. Firstly, we were told that my mum had fallen over soon after arriving and had hurt her face so my dad had taken her to hospital. We couldnít get hold of either of them on the mobile so had no idea where they were so had to hope that someone would call us at some point with news. Secondly, one of the committee came up to me and shook my hand and said well done. I quickly said that I hadnít looked around yet so had no idea what he was talking about. We made our way through the congested hall where to my surprise I saw the red ticket under my exhibit. I couldnít believe I had beaten the big three, and neither could Chairman Andrew Aspital! He came up to me and told me about their plan to put me in my place and how their plan failed miserably, all done with good humour throughout! I also walked away with the small cactus/ semi championship with a vase of Ruskin Myra and a vase of Ryecroft Zoe and a few other red tickets along the way.
The following week was the Surrey C & D Show where I was unable to make it three in a row. Unfortunately, they do not have a miniature ball championship and have just a miniature championship. My miniature ball, although a pretty good set, could not compete against the miniature decoratives on display. We did, however, manage to win the National Dahlia Society of New Zealand Bronze Award for a basket of dahlias up against some stiff competion. There was a small level of criticism towards the judging of the basket as it was mentioned by some that you canít have touching blooms and therefore we should have been disqualified, however, when we looked up the regulations it stated that it is merely undesirable to have touching blooms and therefore could only be down pointed. The quality and overall appearance of the display carries more points and therefore the judge might well have taken all this into consideration when awarding the prize. We will be trying to win this again this year and would rather sacrifice a few points for touching blooms than to have a exhibit full of gapping holes!
Then onto Sittingbourne Show for the last big show of the Dahlia season for me. After many years of trying I eventually beat my nemesis Fred White in the championship class. Every year I try to win this class but Fred always seems to pip me but this year at long last it was my turn! I put up three vases including a vase of 5 Mary's Jomanda, 5 Amber Festival and 5 Jomanda. This is a very enjoyable show as there are plenty of classes and as it's the last big show we tend to put in everything we have left. I won the Silver medal for the best exhibit in the Dahlias for this exhibit and also the trophy for the most points. I didn't get it all my own way as Fred won the bronze medal for the best vase which he won with a vase of Ryecroft Zoe. He also won the trophy for the best exhibit in the championship classes A to D with a vase of Ruskin Myra and Mary's Jomanda.
All that remained was the Kent Dahlia members show and Surrey members show which I enjoyed a mixed bag.
All in all this was without doubt my best year to date and now the pressure is most definitely on for this year.
Edenbridge and Oxted Show '11
2011 was to be year to remember, beginning at the first show of the season for me, the Edenbridge and Oxted Agricultural Show.
I had entered every class in the Dahlia section which totalled more than twenty vases of flowers ranging from pompoms right up to giant blooms.
While inspecting my plots three days before the show I realised that I had far more blooms than I would actually need and came up with an insane idea. I contacted the show organiser and asked him if he would like me to put a display together, I knew it was late notice but it seemed a shame to let all these blooms go to waste. He agreed and said he would ďsqueeze me in somewhereĒ! I then went home and plucked up the courage to throw this idea at the fiancťe, Dawn, to see if she though I had lost my marbles! To my surprise she thought it was a great idea if slightly mad, but, after enlisting some logistical support from my parents, I got to work on planning the display.
I borrowed tables and staging from my Dad and we already had some backdrop material so all I had to do was cut the flowers. I began cutting flowers at six am on the Saturday morning and didnít finish until around eleven. Then I had to sort out all the best blooms, cane and tie them all carefully into buckets, then put all the other varieties into buckets ready to transport to the show.
I had already set up the staging on the Friday so it was just a case of transporting and staging the flowers. Well, after a lot of hard work and a very late night and early morning we finished making up baskets and over twenty vases.
We had to leave the marquee around eight am while the judging took place and a nervous couple of hours were spent walking around the show site, looking at cattle, sheep, horses and hundreds of trade stands. When we were allowed back in we were left waiting around an hour before the prize cards were brought in. To my surprise we were awarded a gold medal award which was just fantastic!
I also won many prizes in the Dahlia section, coming second in the championship class to Dave Kent, General Secretary of the National Dahlia Society, which I was thrilled to bits with, and also the Banksian medal for the most points in the Dahlia section.
The show was open on both the Sunday and the Monday and was attended by thousands of visitors and we were amazed at how many people stopped at our stand and took photos, it was like being at Chelsea Flower Show!
About half an hour before the end of the show on the Monday our stand was visited, for the second time, by the President of the show, Lady Perrin, and she said how wonderful she thought my stand was. She told me she was awarding me the Winston Churchill Memorial Trophy for the best exhibit in the whole show. Somewhat in shock, I had to receive the award in front of several thousand people in the main arena at the end of the prize giving ceremony!
Surrey Chrysanthemum and Dahlia Society Show '11
The Edenbridge and Oxted Show was a memorable show for me and just when I thought things couldnít get any better I managed to beat two of the best Dahlia growers in the country, Dave Spencer and Dave Gillam, at the Surrey Chrysanthemum and Dahlia Society Show in the miniature Championship class. I did catch them both studying my blooms during the afternoon, trying desperately to find fault in them! I guess they werenít used to seeing blooms far superior to their own!
The pressure is now on for 2012 and fingers are crossed that the Olympics donít get in my way of success this year!