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A look back at the 2012 Harrogate Autumn Flower Show

PUBLISHED: 17:35 06 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:18 20 February 2013

Carol Vorderman at the show to film a new food programme

Carol Vorderman at the show to film a new food programme

It's been one of the coolest and wettest summers on record but growers still managed to produce some exceptional displays at the Harrogate Autumn Flower Show. Show director Martin Fish takes a personal view

One of the highlights of the autumn show for me as a trained nurseryman had to be the displays in the flower halls. The range of plants was unbelievable and displayed to perfection.

Im one of the lucky ones as show director; I wandered around the flower halls when they were completely empty and enjoyed a sneak preview before judging took place. I absorbed the sights and scents from the displays of gentians, crocosmia, lilies, dahlias and other autumn flowering beauties. There was even more pleasure on the first day of the show as I watched the crowds admire these wonderful plants and cut flowers.

The autumn show is of course also renowned for its fruit and vegetable competitions and exhibitors travel to Harrogate from all over the UK with their prize specimens.

The North of England Championships and the National Vegetable Society show run side by side to create what is the largest vegetable show in the UK. Harrogate is also famous for the Heaviest Onion Competition which has been running since 1983.

Back in those days the heavy onions were weighing in around 4lbs, but over the years the weight has gradually increased to the point where this years winner, Peter Glazebrook broke his win of 2011 with a massive 18lb 1oz onion, setting a new world record at the same time. If weve gone from 4lbs to 18lbs in 30 years, it makes me wonder what the onions will weigh in at in another 30 years!

There were more heavy-weights among the giant vegetables at the show. These are hugely popular with visitors who come along to see the longest and heaviest specimens. Some were so heavy we had to enlist the help of local weightlifter, Jonathan Walker from Gambaru Fitness in Harrogate to lift them.

The fruit show is relatively new and with the support of the North Fruit Group entries are increasing each year. It was lovely to see the autumn fruits from individual gardens on display, plus those from commercial growers.

In the Specialist Societies marquee many national horticultural groups and societies hold their annual show and the result was thousands of flowers and plants all in one place. Without a doubt it was the largest display of its kind in Europe and as well as being able to admire the beautiful blooms, experts were there to give growing tips and advice. This year I thought the dahlias excelled.

Outside, the Garden Border Competition drew crowds. These small gardens or borders were all very different and designedto give people ideas and inspiration for their own gardens. Of the dozen designs, half were from Yorkshire - Harewood House, Ripon Walled Garden, Craven College, New Leaf Landscapes, Thirsk, PRW Gardening Services, Doncaster and Calderdale Substance Misuse Service.

Other designers were from around the UK and one even from Holland.
I always enjoy wandering around the many food stands, offering the finest produce in the county and from further afield. Within the Food Marquee was the Cookery Theatre hosted by two brilliant Yorkshire chefs, Stephanie Moon and Gilly Robinson. I was given a cookery masterclass on stage by Rosemary Shrager which was great fun and I now know how to bone and fillet a duck. Rosemary is a great friend of the show and a very talented and down to earth cook.

During the show a television crew were filming a new cookery programme called Food Glorious Food due to be screened next spring. The programme is presented by Carol Vorderman and local contestants brought along their favourite family dishes to be judged by a panel of foodies including Tom Parker-Bowles. Carol was at the show for two days and we even managed to get her marching along with the North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Band.

The Harrogate Autumn Flower Show with its friendly, relaxed atmosphere was a great way to end another gardening season with some fantastic plants and great vegetables.

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