Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Harvest Produce on Show

The sun doesn't ALWAYS shine at Malvern, but there's still 
plenty to do and enjoy
As this year’s Malvern Autumn Show draws ever closer – 60 days to go as I write – there are still so many activities in the pipeline to which I want to introduce our Blog ‘followers’. The aim is to give you an idea as to what to expect, whilst introducing first-time visitors to the very wide variety of activities that you will find in the lee of the beautiful hills, on September 28th and 29th.

Veg to die for
It’s a Show for all the family, and a celebration particularly of HARVEST, in the fruit and vegetable sense. Produce that has been grown in gardens or on the allotment, reflecting the seasons no matter what the weather may have been. Lovingly transported to the Showground and displayed to perfection, it’s always fascinating to overhear onlookers’ comments as I walk around the various exhibits:

Giant vegetables to admire (but maybe not to eat)
Such as, “Our …. are better than that!!), or “Who would want to eat something THAT size?” But that is not the point. Whether you are looking at the work of amateur or professional growers, there is always something new to observe and many tips to absorb. Scientifically proven or ‘old wives tale’ matters not, you cannot fail to be impressed. This year the ‘UK National Giant Vegetable Championships’ are being held in the Harvest Pavilion – a ‘first’ for Malvern, as the competition moves to the Three Counties from Somerset. “It really is the battle of the beans, the meeting of the marrows and the conflict of the cabbages, and there’s a friendly, but serious rivalry amongst growers who sweat blood to produce the largest legume and keep their growing secrets close to their chest!”

Not the biggest of pumpkins; see right for a larger one
It’s the time of year, or will be, when Pumpkins are much in evidence, and word has it that this year there is to be a ‘Pumpkin Factory’ on the Showground. Quite what and where will follow in a later post, but rest assured, these flamboyant vegetables will be much in evidence, large and small, plain and striped.

A bit of fun - and not part of the Trug competition 
but in fact a very clever edible Show Garden
One of the beauties of the Malvern Autumn Show is that there are plenty of opportunities for amateurs to compete and display. Which is one reason that visitors will love the National Trug Championships, or to give it its full title the National Trug OF VEGETABLES Championship, which this year is being sponsored by Haygrove. And a bit of insider information from previous winner & Trug Championship event organizer, Mike Smith, who grows all his Championship winning vegetables under a Haygrove Garden Tunnel.  Mike says “I have been growing vegetables for showing for only 4 years, for the first 3 years using a small 6?8 glasshouse. After months of deliberation I decided on the use of a new tunnel." (Tip for competitors in local village shows; a tunnel clearly gives you a head start.) This year, there is to be a trug class especially for children.

If you want to keep chickens, you'll need a house and run
There’s also a complete section devoted to 'The World of Animals’, amongst which features productive chickens and ducks. The Poultry Marquee is home for the weekend to many breeds of domestic hens and waterfowl (geese, too). Chickens provide a regular supply of eggs and will consume meat scraps and surplus green vegetables, as well as many weeds. A large run is not necessary for a few fowl and keeping hens is a good introduction in creature care for children. And the eggs are useful, too.

Cuddling a cavy
Taking up less time than chickens to look after are rabbits and cavies – another reason to visit the World of Animals area with the family, with opportunities to talk to experts for advice, and the chance of cuddling a cavy (NB Sunday only). There’s an opportunity to buy rabbits and cavies whilst at the Show, but please be aware that ALL creatures are not just for birthdays or Christmas but require regular, daily ROUTINE care and attention for them to survive and thrive.

How are YOUR vegetables doing?
We still have much to tell you about; more will of course follow in future weekly posts as the details unfold. In the meantime, you may also enjoy the Moon Phase addition to the Blog (lower right hand-side). Although ‘gardening by the phase of the moon’ has its followers, the phases do also affect the weather, and that is vital for all gardeners.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Enjoying the 'Good Life'

Happiness at a previous Malvern Autumn Show
From now until the opening of the Autumn Show, I will be previewing the various sections in greater depth. Being the final Show of the year**, and celebrating “taste, grow, harvest, re-live (vintage) and entertainment”, it is an event not to be missed. If you haven’t already jotted the dates in your diary, please do so now, for it is on for only two days, Saturday 28th September and Sunday 29th. Each year the Autumn Show adapts its ‘content’, and shifts some activities from one location to another – and of course, we cannot show you exactly what you will see; the images in this post are taken from the last four Autumn events, but epitomise the spirit of the occasion.

Brassicas are not only edible - they are decorative too
The ‘Good Life Pavilion’ encompasses just that: living the good life in terms of what you can grow and harvest from your own plot, no matter how small. You are bound to be inspired by the Edible Show Gardens which vary significantly in style from year to year. The more gifted and experienced the designer, the greater the spread of planting and the intricacies of the design, as in that of Paul Hervey-Brookes garden in 2009. The brassicas were spectacular and I spent time talking to Paul about how decorative such plants can be – they need not be confined to the vegetable plot! Even the walls were used; edible sweet chestnuts nestling in their spiky cases in mossy crevices.

Talking to Paul Harvey-Brookes is always a pleasure 
(and I do so admire his gardens)
Jollity in the 'Good Life' Pavilion
There are bound to be pumpkins in September – a striking addition to the green of Summer. Maybe not this year; you never know, for themes vary; but everyone involved will have something that will shout ‘colour’. Something similar could well feature in this year’s ‘WI Baking and Craft’ competitions; pumpkin pie, perhaps, or sculpted and carved in readiness for Halloween.

An informal gathering after the hard work is done
A busy little boy
It’s always a delight to see children participating along with the adults. Their gardens will either be entirely fantastical or very down to earth; but what is so very important is that they are learning by doing - getting their hands dirty - which is far more fun than assimilating facts off a page. Most are deadly serious about what they are creating, and love to tell you in great detail about their garden design, and the plants and how they grew them. Gardeners of the future: we all have to start somewhere so when you visit this year's Show, do make a point of seeking out what the youngsters are up to.

A chic and conceptual garden in which 75% of plants are edible
Discussing ideas 
with Maria-Luisa Medina
From rural scenarios to something more theatrical, futuristic and perhaps urban chic. Such a very clever interpretation which was heavily influenced by the Mediterranean background of the designer, Maria-Luisa Medina - the winner in 2010 of the prestigious ‘Chris Beardshaw Mentoring Scholarship’.

Chris commented at the time: "We have shown Maria-Luisa the importance of developing a strong design in order to meet a client brief. Too many people begin with a plot and think ‘now what can I do with that space?’ which immediately restricts the creativity of any design." I was able to discuss with Maria-Luisa her conceptual approach: "All the show gardens must have a 75% edible content and it enabled me to introduce my interest and passion for different cultures and flavours.”

Epitomising rural England
Looking figuratively beneath the surface of any Show Garden is always fascinating; and I love that first foray into the 'Good Life Pavilion' each year to see what designers and exhibitors will be offering in the way of ‘grow, harvest and taste’. I’ll be back again next week previewing another aspect of the Show, as more details emerge of what is on offer.

** There is one more Show organised by the Three Counties this year – the Malvern Caravan Show (4th-6th October); the link at the right will take you to the Show website.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Autumn Show Preview – Floral Heaven

Colour and scent at Malvern, come the end of September
It may seem that the Malvern Autumn Show is still some long way off, but you can be sure that all those involved with floral displays and selling plants have the date firmly in their sights (September 28th & 29th) and are keeping a close eye on their stock. So whilst we gardeners are enjoying a heat-wave we may have thought was a thing of the past (the summer jet stream has moved north), nurserymen will be watering, watching for pests, shading plants from scorching, and all the other techniques used to ensure that what they exhibit and sell at the Autumn Show will be in peak condition.

Seek them out in the RHS Flower Show in the Wye Hall, in the Floral Art section (also in the Wye Hall), and in stalls around various parts of the Showground. Meanwhile, do remember to book your tickets, and take a look at the Autumn Show website, along with my Malvern Scrapbook Pinterest Image Board where you can see images at a larger size from all the Shows. 

This is an interim post before resuming previews of specific sections of the 2013 Autumn Show in greater depth. Images (courtesy Ray Quinton) were taken at the 2012 Show.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Autumn Show - looking forward

Enjoying a day at the 2012 Malvern Autumn Show
Can you have a love affair with a place, or days in time? A longing to re-visit, because of the inspiration you know is there, waiting for you to discover it? It is like this for me whenever I am heading towards the Malvern Hills and the Three Counties Showground; and today, I am there again in spirit, for I begin previewing this year’s Malvern Autumn Show in earnest, with weekly posts between now and the actual Show (28th-29th September, 2013).

Tea in a vintage caravan
If you have only just discovered Ann’s Malvern Jotter, let me explain: it provides a series of posts to help you enjoy your visit to a specific Show, so you will know in outline what to expect, leaving you more time when you arrive at the Showground to enjoy your visit. There’s always so much to do and see that a ‘first-timer’ can find it all somewhat bewildering. It’s a bit like the first day at secondary school, it always helps to have someone metaphorically hold your hand; by the second year you know the ropes. (Apologies to readers who already follow the Blog, you will understand and know what I mean.)

Enticing display in the Good Life Pavilion (2012)
Every Show at Malvern provides old favourites and many new aspects and themes, and this year’s Autumn Show is no exception. With the focus on Grow Your Own and a healthy, sustainable lifestyle, food and its provenance including cookery, there is very much a feeling of harvest in all its senses. New for this year is that the Cookery Theatre will be centre-stage in Avon Hall (south side of the Showground) and home of the ‘Festival of Food and Drink’.

Learning new skills: by the Fishing Lake (2011)
Apart from that, there’s an emphasis on education in the Discovery Zone, including - by the lake - fishing and pond-cam, pumpkin factory and mushrooms for the masses. There’s also a Plant Fair featuring nurseries who have never exhibited at Malvern before. 'Landscaping Live' continues to promote the benefits of quality landscaping for an average garden, whether this is through engaging the right professional or a DIY project. For 2013 it has been agreed to have one garden with parts of this being worked on during the show.  The Show organisers are delighted to be working on this project with Acorn’s Hospice to celebrate their 25th anniversary.

Vintage farm machine still in working order (2012)
Other returning ‘regulars’ are the Midland Championships for the National Vegetable Society and the National Finals of the Young Farmers Tug of War Competition with teams from all over England (Saturday only), plus various activities in the Forestry section. Always enjoyed is The Orchard Pavilion, and 'edible' show gardens in the Good Life Pavilion. The programme this year in the Activity Arena includes a Dog Agility competition final on each day, and a daily parades of dogs, horses and other animals in the World of Animals area. Not to be ignored are other distinct features: the Harvest Pavilion, Forgotten Skills, Country Pursuits Marquee, Blacksmithing and Archery plus shopping opportunities galore, including a Plant Fair, Guild of Crafts from Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, Countryside Shopping Pavilion and stands all around the Showground.

I'm discussing a fine crop of apples in the Orchard Pavilion (2012)
There is so much more to tell you about on my list including the many desirable activities and exhibits on the theme of Nostalgia. This post is just a taster; all in all the Malvern Autumn Show is an event with a great atmosphere and something for everyone. I’ll be back next week with the next Preview,  and meanwhile, please keep visiting the various links provided in this Blog - and remember to purchase tickets so you can enjoy all that is  on offer. 

All images in this post courtesy of Ray Quinton, 
and do take a look at my 
 'Pinterest' Showground image board.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

And now ....

We are between Shows, looking back at, and assessing, the last - and forward to the next. As this is an interim post, we thought a photo-collage of each would provide a reminder of the one, and an opportunity for you to buy tickets in advance for the other.

My final collage from the many images that I and my 
photographer husband took during 
the 2013 Royal Three Counties Show

The ‘Royal’, as it has become known, or to give it its full name - the ‘Royal Three Counties Show’ was a roaring success, as 95,000 people came from all over Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and beyond, to enjoy the very best of British food, farming and countryside! Show organizer, the midlands-based Three Counties Agricultural Society, said it was delighted that its newly titled event had gone so well, and that it was looking forward to building on that success in the future. (A date for your diary: Next year’s Royal Three Counties Show is set for 13th-15th June, 2014) – three jam-packed days of family entertainment and fun, all in celebration of our great British farming world and countryside.)

Previewing this year's Malvern Autumn Show - more to follow
in the weeks ahead. (Images courtesy Ray Quinton)
And so to this September, and the ‘Malvern Autumn Show’ – 28th-29th September, 2013. A veritable feast for the senses in more ways than one, focussing on a true celebration of harvest: food, the countryside, gardening - and nostalgia. It’s a show for food and gardening lovers, and hosts a range of gardening talks, vegetable displays, cookery demonstrations, vintage tractors, crafts and, as ever, so much more.  I start Show Previews in earnest next week, so do keep visiting to discover all the various aspects being arranged for your enjoyment. Click here for advance ticket sales.