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.

Vegetable Masterclass Weekend




Friday 2nd – 4th November 2018

Dear Friends,

This will be my 20th consecutive Masterclass Weekend for gardening enthusiasts and I have tried to make it as interesting as possible whilst at the same time taxing our brains a little. It’s certainly increasingly difficult to continually get new speakers on varied topics. I am however convinced this weekend will be every bit as good as all the others we have enjoyed in the past.  Although very challenging and time consuming, I have had great fun formulating every weekend over the years and a few of you have even attended all previous 19 weekends.

The cost for the whole weekend this year is £235.00 per person. Should you be bringing a wife/husband or partner, who will not be attending the lectures, the cost will be £170.00 If they intend to be at the weekend  please send a deposit of £80.00 per person with the enclosed booking form, as soon as possible, to guarantee your reservation.

The hotel is tightening up on reservations and I’m only allowed a limited number of bedrooms. I would appreciate it if you could send your deposit in as soon as possible, so that I can pre book your rooms in plenty of time.  

Should you have any queries please don’t hesitate to give me a ring and I look forward to seeing you for another great and unique Masterclass Weekend.

Yours Sincerely




Friday 2nd – Sunday 4th November 2018



Friday 2nd November

 16.00 – 18.30 Arrive at The Royal Victoria Hotel to check in and relax before dinner.

18.30 – 19.50 A four course evening meal will be served (you may order wine at your table)

20.00 – 21.15The Cultivation and Propagation of Agapanthus, Nerines and Clivias’ by Steve Hickman, Hoyland Nr Barnsley.   Steve is the son of a Yorkshire coal miner who used to help his Dad in his greenhouse & garden from being able to walk! The coal miners all used to grow and Show chrysanthemums, tomatoes & geraniums, all of them had gardens teeming with a huge variety of vegetables. So you could say gardening is definitely in his blood having had his own greenhouse from being about 8 years old full of Cacti & succulents galore.

At 18-21 years old Steve attended Askham Bryan College & Cambridge University Botanical Gardens where he qualified with a National Diploma in Horticulture in 1977. Steve has a wide experience of gardening having worked in the South Pacific for 2 years, Saudi Arabia 1 year, Hong Kong 2 years and now finally home at Hoyland Plant Centre for the past 33 years.

In the beginning Hoyland Plant Centre produced all manner of hardy nursery stock for the wholesale trade and they also supplied plants to their Landscaping side and to their local market stalls. Twenty five years ago they began exhibiting at local Garden Shows and plant fairs. Steve and his wife Elaine, as well as their son Colin, have been growing Agapanthus for 25 years and have progressed with their exhibits to a standard second to none.

Hoyland Plants are now famous for their Agapanthus, Nerine & Amarine displays and specialise in educational exhibits. Steve and his family have won Gold Medals at every flower show consecutively for the past two years. Coupled with the medals, they have also won many trophies and last year were awarded the Best Educational Exhibit of the year for their 25ft display at the Chelsea Flower Show, no mean feat.  They are also an RHS Master Grower, as there are only 11 Master Growers in total, a very prestigious award indeed and they have 3 consecutive Chelsea Gold Medals. Hoyland Plants have 3 National Plant Collections in their nursery – namely, Agapanthus, Tulbaghia and Clivia and shortly they will be applying for a fourth collection – Amarine.

21.15 – 21.30 Question and Answer session.

21.30 – Time to relax after your long journey and perhaps share your gardening experiences with some of the speakers, fellow growers and exhibitors. Why not even enjoy a night cap at the bar before retiring!

Saturday 3rd November

8.009.00 Cooked Breakfast.

9.00 – 10.15 ‘Growing Chillies and Peppers’ by Dean Finley, Arelesy Bedfordshire.   The chilli lab started life as a small back yard project over ten years ago and is now one of the UK’s largest suppliers of chilli plants and fresh fruits reaching almost 20,000 plants and 1000 kilos from its new home on a 1.4 acres site.

The art of chilli growing – Dean is a keen promoter of chilli growing supporting the NVS and numerous charity / schools projects over the years. Along with sponsoring and mentoring several smaller chilli farms and an open door policy for anybody who wants to pop by for a bit of advice or just a cuppa.

The chilli lab gained the name from being Europe’s largest test site for hydroponic manufacturers trialing grow systems, nutrients and growing media.

The talk will cover – The origins of the modern chilli and its past uses Propagation and cross breeding Pests and crop specific diseases Early care and growing under horticultural lighting Preparing for a quality crop Over wintering and its challenges. This I’m sure will be a very interesting talk on a vegetable that we don’t see enough of on the show benches.

10.15 – 10.30  Question and Answer session

10.30 – 10.45 Coffee / Tea Break

10.45 – 12.00 ‘Growing Shallots and other Vegetables’ by Jim Robinson FNVS Endmoor nr Kendal.  Jim started growing vegetables solely for the kitchen in 1980. His showing career started in 1983, not with vegetables however, but with sweet peas, this following a visit to the Southport Flower Show. While taking sweet peas to local shows it seemed a good idea to take a few vegetables as well so out went the traditional varieties of Early Onward and Scarlet Emperor and in came Greenshaft pea, Liberty beans and Dok cauliflowers, all good enough varieties for the local shows.

Over time the vegetables became more successful than the sweet peas but both continued to be grown side by side until pressure of work made a choice necessary.   About 1987 a bag of shallots arrived, courtesy of his Father in Law, a keen grower and shower of chrysanthemums and fuchsias (but not of vegetables) with the instructions to start them off in pots around Christmas time and plant out when the weather improved.   To Jim’s surprise red cards followed at three local shows that year(this seems easy) and “ Growing Onions and Shallots” by Daniel Calderbank was purchased.

More red cards followed in subsequent years including a “best in show” at a chrysanthemum & dahlia show (they had a small veg. Section), a couple of firsts at Harrogate and a “best in show” at the Hative de Niort festival at Palnackie. The sweet peas did make a brief comeback in the early 2000’s with four firsts from four entries at the Lakeland Rose Show. Jim’s best year with shallots was 2014 with firsts at the National, Scottish, Northern and Midland Branch Championships and best in show at the Welsh Branch Championships.  Jim also won the shallot class at the National in 2016. Jim also shows leeks, onions, celery and cucumbers but has had most success with shallots.

12.00 – 12.15 Question and Answer session

12.15 – 14.15 A buffet lunch after which you have an opportunity to take a walk around the grounds of the Royal Victoria Hotel or perhaps a walk down to the Snowdon Mountain Railway in the village of Llanberis.

 14.15 – 15.30 ‘How Biology works in the Soil’ by Clive Pearson, Blackburn.  Clive has been associated with commercial horticulture and Amenity industry for nearly forty years he has vast experience in both markets. Over the last ten years he has been involved in developing plant Bio health systems using Worm Cast, Wormcast Tea and thermophilic compost tea, he is the first to produce a Compost Tea system which requires no extra additives.

Clive was part of a winning team which took GOLD at Chelsea flower show with the Wormcast garden; he has advised and supplied product programmes to numerous prestigious venues with fantastic results from Wembley to helping the Paton Brothers achieve the British record for the largest pumpkin. His association with such venues has given him the credibility to be one of the leading technical advisors and manufacture of these products on the market today.

Clive’s talk will be based on the experiences he has seen in the industry over the last 40 years, he is both FACTS and BASIS registered for commercial Horticulture and Amenity, so is able to advise on aspects of plant health from the use of Chemicals, and how using biology, will improve your plant health.

This will be an interactive session Demonstration of brewing a Compost Tea, and looking through microscopes at the results.

15.30 – 15.45 Question and Answer session.

15.45 – 16.00 Coffee / Tea Break

 16.00 – 17.15 ‘Breeding Vegetables for the Home Gardener’  by Simon Crawford, Foston on the Wolds, Driffield.  Simon began his career in horticulture in 1978 as a plant breeder with Asmer Seeds, a small UK based Seed Company. He began working on greenhouse and outdoor tomatoes, introducing the varieties Red Alert, Tornado and Cumulus into the Northern European market. During this time he embarked on projects with a number of annual ornamental species including Petunias, Viola and Pelargonium.

After eight years with Asmer an opportunity arose with the Ball group at their new research facility based outside Cambridge in England. Simon started work with Ball Research UK in 1986 as a flower breeder, responsible for Impatiens and Petunia research in Northern Europe. After three years some internal changes within the Ball Company allowed Simon to move with his family to Pan American Seed’s research centre in Elburn, Illinois where he continued to focus on Impatiens breeding, but also worked on a variety of annual and herbaceous plants.

After undertaking some consultancy work for W. Atlee Burpee in the USA in 2006 Simon eventually became a full time employee of Burpee Europe in 2011, initiating a European tomato breeding program in Yorkshire. Recent introductions include: tomatoes, Crimson Crush, Oh Happy Day, Cherry Baby, Bountiful, Baby Boomer, Super Mama and Cherry Falls. He is now occupied with re-establishing the Burpee range of vegetable and flower seed varieties across Europe.

The presentation will cover current breeding objectives at Burpee in tomato, sweet pepper, cucumber and melon. Simon will discuss eating quality, disease resistance and visual appearance as criteria for breeding and selection and how new improvements find their way into seed packets for vegetable growers in the UK.

17.15 – 17.30 Question and Answer session.

17.30 – 18.15 Time to relax and do your own thing before your evening meal, you may even feel the need to enjoy a drink at the bar!

 18.15 – 19.30 You can now indulge yourself in a four course evening meal. (you may order your wine at the table from the Victoria’s reasonably priced selection)

19.30 – 20.45 ‘Nano Technology – The efficient methods of plant growth ‘by Stephen Brookes, Liverpool. Stephen is a hydroponic shop owner at NPK Technology in Liverpool as well as NPK Technology Moreton in the Wirral. While running the two shops, Stephen runs NPK media, a company that works with businesses in the hydroponics and horticulture industry to produce marketing campaigns, such as videos, websites, graphic design and music production amongst other aspects of branding and promotions.

Within the NPK Media Company, Stephen produces a YouTube series aimed at indoor growers to show all the aspects of growing so that any grower whether new or experienced can improve their taste, size, yield and general crop health. The NPK Show is available on YouTube to subscribe and watch the videos.

Lastly, Stephen owns a company called NANO Hydroponics, they manufacture nanoparticle plant fertiliser additives for the hydroponics and horticulture market. The big reason for nanoparticles being so effective is how efficiently they are taken up by the plant and how the plant uses them, which is also what Stephen is talking about in ‘The efficient methods of plant growth’.

The efficient methods of plant growth

With all growers looking at producing the best plants they possibly can, it can sometimes lead to a battle of expenditure. Whoever spends the most and has the best facilities tend to do the best, or so it seems. To be an efficient grower means you can spend less on your plants but can easily beat an inefficient grower in size, taste and yields even though the inefficient grower might well have spent more.

It’s a matter of science, technology and experience. Who’s the better grower may be the question on everyone’s lips, but being the most efficient grower is the real secret behind the best growers of today.

20.45 – 21.00 Question and Answer session.

21.00 – By Popular request after last year we will again be entertained by Howard Hughes a Magician and a member of the Magic Circle

Sunday 4th November

8.00 – 9.00 Cooked breakfast

9.00 – 9.15 Photo call, bring your camera along and take a group photo as a memento of the occasion.

9.15 – 10.45 ‘How to grow Potatoes for Exhibition’ by Alistair Gray, Brechin. I have always enjoyed the challenge of growing potatoes but unfortunately I had to give up showing for a few years due to work commitments. However, my wife, Mary, and I continued attending the shows and the potato “Kestrel”, shown by Peter Clark, caught our eye. I told Mary I would love to wash some of those, to which she replied, “Nobody is going to let you wash their potatoes. You will have to grow them yourself.”

This was a challenge as I had no garden left! – Only a small area to the front of the house. I then spoke with Peter Clark and told him what Mary and I had just been discussing and he said with a laugh we should grow them in bags. With some help from Peter, we started to prepare an area for the bags and the rest is history. We still enjoy growing and showing potatoes and sharing what we have learned with others.

Good old Kestrel!

10.45 – 11.00 Question and Answer session.

11.00 – 11.15 Coffee / Tea Break

11.15 – 12.30 ‘Gardeners Question time with the Speakers’. A roundup of the weekend.  It doesn’t matter how well you listened to the talks, there’s always that gardening problem or question that you forgot to ask that may be still bothering you.  It allows you the opportunity to ask the speakers further questions on vegetable growing that may not even be related to any subject discussed during the seminar – why not challenge them with a problem that’s been a source of worry to you for so long.

12.30 – Traditional Welsh Sunday Lunch before departing.

*Will all speakers note that the time limit allowed will have to be adhered to and will only vary to suit circumstances outside my control*

The 2019 Seminar will be held from the 1st to the 2nd November.


Medwyns of Anglesey




Growing Parsnips

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

Read More »

2 thoughts on “Vegetable Masterclass Weekend

  1. Dear Medwyn

    Are there still places available for the weekend? My husband and I may be interested.

    Kind Regards
    Laura Holland

  2. looks like a varied and interesting line up and if its as good as last year I will be delighted.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *