Fighting for the prominence of Vegetables within the Horticultural Sphere
13th Aug 2003
One thing that I always seem to be fighting over is the prominence of vegetables within the horticultural sphere. They always seem to be looked upon as the poor man's gardening hobby where he has to, or so it would seem to some, plant vegetables to survive. The fact however is that today"s growers are far from that, indeed some of the exhibitors that I know are reasonably well off and grow vegetables for sheer joy, just to taste the quality of their produce resulting from their own sweat and toil. If you haven't grown and eaten your own fresh new potatoes, broad beans and peas straight from the garden, then you really are living in a supermarket world. Although everything there certainly looks fresh and convenient, I can assure you, for taste, they don"t come anywhere near your own freshly grown produce.
Young people today don't seem to have the will to turn over the soil and grow their own vegetables; it doesn't somehow seem to be quite the thing to do these days and the BBC certainly don't help the situation. When I used to present gardening programmes on Welsh television, I always used to give prominence to fruit and vegetable growing. Nowadays however it seems to be looked upon as rather boring to just sow seed, thin the plants out and generally show how to look after them until harvest time. The letters and phone calls that I have received from growers all over the country seem to imply that there is an obvious imbalance between what the BBC show and what the real gardener wants to see.
Chelsea this year was a perfect example of this where the absolute minimum of air time was given to exhibitors in the Marquee, just like myself, who spent hundreds of hours growing near perfect specimens for what is the most prestigious show in the world. What I believe was transmitted was programme after programme extolling the virtues of gardens that real gardeners are totally remote from. I was always under the impression that the Chelsea Flower show was a place where you could visit the gardens, copy their horticultural excellence, and repeat them at home. Of course you can do this if you have pots of money or if you like engineering; the feature of watering running up hill was certainly an engineering feat with little if anything to do with gardening.
I wonder if the Worlds premier show is now becoming like many of the London fashion shows, just like the gardens we see at Chelsea, they too are so far out from the real world that you never see anybody wearing them. Well I certainly haven't, and I just hope that this is not a trend that is going to continue. Certainly allow the frontiers to be pushed a little, we obviously need to know about new trends and ideas, but we also need to have our feet firmly on the ground so that Chelsea can still be the inspiration for gardeners that I feel it should be.
RHS Wisley Garden
Having had that off my chest! what a breath of fresh air it was to meet up with Sherie Plumb once more at the recent early Summer fruit and Vegetable show held at the RHS Wisley Garden on the 9th July; It's not very often that we see a lady giving the men a real roasting. The quality of her exhibits are now hard to beat, and that is not just by specialising with one or two different vegetables, Sherie grows a whole range of them to the highest of standards. The top class for any vegetable grower, at any show, has to be the collections and Sherie won both, the collection for six kinds (picture attached) as well as the collection for four kinds. Two vegetables really impressed me, her potatoes and Runner Beans, they were both numerous in the classes and outstanding in sheer quality, indeed the same sort of quality would almost certainly place her amongst the cards at any later National shows. Her collection of six kinds were, Show Perfection Peas (with the single mandatory opened pea by the judge having thirteen peas in it) Virgin Cauliflowers, Stenner Runner Beans, Malin Potatoes, Trevor Carrots and Carmen Cucumbers.
She was also very dominant in the potato classes exhibiting superb dishes of Kestrel, Malin and Winston. She also won the potato class for a dish of two different kinds with Kestrel and Winston. Sherrie's main competitor was John Trim who always stages marvellous quality exhibits, unfortunately on this occasion he came across Sherrie on top form and came second to her in many classes. He did however win, quite clearly, the class for round beetroot with the old well established Boltardy.