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One of the country's most enduring flower shows reaches a landmark anniversary and continues to nurture our love of gardening says Martin Fish
Its incredible to think the Harrogate Spring Flower Show celebrates its 85th birthday this year and it continues to grow from strength to strength. I declare my interest here as show director but there is no doubt the event organised by the North of England Horticultural Society has become an essential part of the gardening calendar in the county and for many further afield.
The NEHS was formed in Leeds in 1911 and originally held small, regular horticultural events in Leeds, Bradford, Harrogate, Manchester and Newcastle. All activity was suspended during the First World War and when in 1921 the NEHS decided to start its shows again the first one was held in Harrogate at the Winter Gardens.
The shows have remained in Harrogate ever since, with a break during the Second World War. From the humble beginnings back in the early 1920s, the shows gradually grew in popularity attracting many specialist growers from across the North of England. In the 1940s the show moved into the famous Valley Gardens in Harrogate and were held there until 1997 when the shows eventually outgrew the gardens and moved on to the Great Yorkshire Showground, where both the spring and autumns shows are held each year.
Back in 1911 when the society was formed its aims were to support horticulture and to organise first class shows, and to this day those aims remain. The shows now attract almost 100,000 visitors a year to marvel at the wonderful exhibits and the NEHS gives help and support to around 50 groups and organisations.
For many the heart of the shows has always been the nursery exhibitors who come from all corners of the UK to display their plants. One hundred nurseries attend the spring show with an amazing selection of plants ranging from tiny alpines, spring flowering bulbs, bonsai, fruit trees, cacti and herbaceous perennials and many more. Whatever type of plants you are trying to find for your garden, you are sure to find them from the nurseries in flower halls one and two.
Outside the show gardens are always very popular and this year eight gardens are being created by colleges, landscape gardeners and designers. Each garden is very different and for 2012 the gardens include a mixture of modern and traditional features, but all are designed to be realistic, achievable and affordable in the garden.
The Harrogate Spring Flower Show also boasts what is probably the largest floral art marquee of any show. Flower arrangers compete in the many classes to produce fantastic traditional and contemporary arrangements.
The floristry section of the marquee also produces wonderful displays by students training to be florists or by experienced florists. And for those wanting to learn a little more about flower arranging there are talks and demonstrations throughout the day.
As more people become interested in gardening it is essential that information is readily available and at the shows there are various ways you can find out all you need to know. The Garden Roadshow has a panel of experienced gardeners who answer gardening questions throughout the day and give demonstrations on seasonal subjects. For those who want to ask a question on a one to one basis there is the Gardening Advice Bureau in the Specialist Societies marquee where trained horticulturists and members of the Institute of Horticulture will help to solve your gardening problems.
If its advice on growing fruit and vegetables then Kitchen Garden Live is the place to be. Speakers including Yorkshires well-known gardening expert Joe Maiden will be giving tips on how to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs. And finally for those who like to get their hands dirty, you can literally have a go! This new area is being run in conjunction with Askham Bryan College where BBC Radio Yorks gardening expert and college lecturer Nigel Harrison, with the help of his students, will demonstrate and then encourage people to have a go at laying turf, block paving, planting a border and Yorkshire dry stone walling.
There will also be a great assortment of gardening stands selling everything from packets of seed, fertiliser, gardening tools, greenhouses, lawn mowers and garden buildings. There is also a large crafts and gifts marquee, including a Made in Yorkshire area.
Food is very popular at the show with the Deliciouslyorkshire stands and in the Food Marquee there is the Cookery Theatre where leading chefs will be rustling up some very tasty dishes using the finest local ingredients. Rosemary Shrager will be at the show on the first day (April 26th) to take part in a cookery challenge with me (no prizes for guessing who will win). She will also sign copies of her latest book, Rosemary Shragers Yorkshire Breakfasts.
The Harrogate Spring Flower show has everything for both experienced and budding gardeners, plus lots, lots more to make a great day out. The show runs from Thursday, April 26th until Sunday, April 29th at the Great Yorkshire Showground.
Tickets: Thurs/Fri/Sat: 13.50 when booked before noon on April 17th; 16 on the gate. Sun: 11.50 in advance; 14 on the gate. The VIP day is 99 per person. Call 01423 546157 or visit flowershow.org.uk for more details
Gardening jobs for April
Early varieties of potatoes can be planted into the vegetable garden from the beginning of the month, but remember to protect the new shoots from frost as they appear a few weeks later.
Feed lawns with a spring lawn feed to encourage healthy new growth.
Plant gladioli corms, approximately 5cm deep in groups, to give late summer colour in borders.
Prune winter flowering jasmine when the last of the flowers have faded by cutting out old shoots. New growth made during the summer will flower next spring.
Sow carrots, beetroot, parsnips and peas directly into prepared soil in the vegetable plot.