Picture of Medwyn Williams

Medwyn Williams

Hello. I'm Medwyn Williams – eleven times Gold medal winner at the Chelsea Flower Show, Past Chairman of the Royal Horticultural Society Fruit Vegetable and Herb Committee and President of the National Vegetable Society.

Success and Failure at the Vegetable Show


Reflecting on the success and failures of show growing and this year the large exhibition onions and the blanch leeks have not grown to expectations.

Large Exhibition Onions & Blanch Leeks

There’s no doubt that my entries at the National shows will be somewhat curtailed this year as the large exhibition onions and the blanch leeks have not grown to expectations. As I said a few weeks ago, the centre bed of onions simply refused to grow on and the leeks were also very slow to move. However I might still be able to get a couple of onions and leeks that I could perhaps make use of in the National Mini Collection that is always so difficult to win.

NVS Mini Collection

Two years ago I was very happy when I realised that I had won the Mini Collection at the NVS National championships when they were hosted by the Welsh Branch at Margam Park. This collection is for three kinds of 20 pointed vegetables, two of each kind. This particular class is always well entered with regularly over twenty good entries for the judges to contend with. In all my years of exhibiting at the National, this was the first time for me to win this class having been placed on numerous occasions. The vegetables that won it for me that year actually had onions and leeks as part of it with long carrots being the third kind.

I intend to have a go at it again this year, even if the leeks and onions may not be up to my standard, there are of course a whole range of 20 pointed vegetables that I could use in it. In my case I always seem to have good long carrots, indeed it”s very rare that I am out of the cards in the long carrot class. At the moment they are again looking very good with strong powerful tops on them (picture attached) The second vegetable this year could well be parsnips, they are looking the best that I have ever grown at this time of year


For the past few years I have definitely been totally out of it with parsnips, last year was the worst ever as they had hardly gone down at all into the bore holes. They certainly had big shoulders on them which somewhat increased the expectations of great things to transpire. There is nothing so disappointing when you realise that all the hard work of boring holes, sieving of the materials, and the mixing of the pile of compost was in the end to no avail. However if the parsnips do turn out to be reasonably good ones, then, from my past experience, a high majority of them within the bed will come usable.

Potatoes, Peas or Celery?

The third vegetable could either be Potatoes, Peas or Celery, as the National this year is being held in September as part of the Harrogate show, I can see my peas being out of the equation as they tend to succumb to the powdery mildew from late August onwards. This leaves potatoes and Celery, I have always refrained, whenever possible, from staging potatoes in a mini collection as, for some unknown reason, they seem to generate low points from some of the judges.

Even if the potatoes are really well grown, they seem to pale into insignificance with some judges when compared to the large onions, leeks and celery which are always so imposing. In the end, if my Morning Star celery continuous to grow as well as it’s doing at the moment, then it will be celery that will form the last of the three vegetables.  I often wonder if the pointing set up for potatoes could make them get less points than, for example, leeks and onions.

With the judging criteria for potatoes, the 20 points maximum is broken down into five categories whilst the celery, leeks and onions have four categories. If we base this on the fact that nothing is absolutely perfect, then if the judge is mentally taking into account all the meritorious attributes, then the potato with five possible attributes will inevitably have lower points.

Judging Vegetables 

I well remember one National, many years ago, when a pair of judges seemed to have really lost it with the potatoes in the Mini Collection. Not a single dish of potatoes were awarded more than 13 points whilst the large vegetables were anything from 14 to 18 points. I might be totally wrong on this point, as I am sure my friend and National Judge colleague Malcolm Evans will be quick to put me right. However, talking from past experience, my potatoes would have to be really good before I venture to put them in as part of my Mini Collection.

Another reason for thinking this way was when I was responsible for arranging the Judging exam for the National Vegetable Society Welsh Branch. As part of the practical examination on dish of five potatoes would normally be staged and the judging candidate would be asked to point the dish, breaking the points down into their five categories. I don’t think I ever saw a dish pointed higher than 15 with the norm being around 13 points. Having said all the above as a grower and exhibitor and not as the NVS chairman, I sincerely hope that more growers will have a go this at the Mini Collection, most of us can manage to grow two good 20 pointed vegetable, so come on, have a go at Harrogate this year.


Growing Parsnips

25th July 2007 I am often asked what is the best method of growing both long carrots and parsnips for the show

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