Last weekend I was back in the UK to attend the Southport Flower Show. As part of the Garden Roadshow team we used to attend Southport every year but there had been a gap of a couple of years while they tried something new. But we were back with a vengeance this year. In fact I think I have been working at the show most years since 1989 – longer than I care to think about.
The Southport Flower Show has always been one of the most important of the gardening year with great efforts from amateur growers and specialist societies as well as nurseries. But it is not just a garden show and there is lots to see even if you are not a keen gardener with an arena with displays as varied as motorcycle stunt displays, birds of prey and performing dogs.
I will give some glimpses of the show over the next few days but first, the reason I was there – the roadshow. Every day we answer questions from the audience and give various talks in between. The type of questions we get always varies according to the time of year and also what day it is. That sounds a strange thing to say but we rarely get camellia questions at Southport because other things are on people’s minds in August. And it is likely that people that attend on the first days are keen gardeners so the questions tend to be very varied but on Sunday, when the the bell rings at 4pm and the nurseries sell off their stands, the questions tend to be more lawns and weeds.
Over the years there have been more and more questions about fruit and veg and it was no surprise to find that fruit questions dominated the days at Southport. With the rise in interest in growing your own a few years ago, people are just discovering the problems and the subject of the show was, without doubt, plums. It was impossible to avoid descending into ‘carry on’ humour when the question involved drooping plums, wrinkled plums, tiny plums or the poor man who had grubs in his plums.
Every day there is a guest celeb at the show and most joined us to give a talk on our ‘stage’ and a Q&A session. On the first day it was Matthew Wilson (of Radio 4’s GQT) and on Friday the lovely Carol Klein. On Saturday it was Christine Walkden’s turn and on Sunday Sir Roddy Llewellyn. We also had Eric Knowles use the stage, talking about Moorcroft pottery with which he is involved.
Tomorrow – new roses from CK Jones