Autumn flower show opens in Harrogate

Sweet scented petals form a riot of colour and the size of the prized vegetables just keep getting bigger. Sure signs that Harrogate Autumn Flower Show is well and truly underway.

A visitor looks at the chrysanthemums on display at the Harrogate Autumn Flower Show at the Great Yorkshire Showground. Pictures: Tony Johnson.

Britain’s premier autumn gardening event continues throughout the weekend after today’s opener and there is no shortage of attractions for the 35,000-plus visitors who are expected to descend upon the Great Yorkshire Showground in search of gardening inspiration as the seasons change.

Expect fine exhibits of horticultural prowess across 43 fruit and vegetable classes and championships featuring everything from chilli peppers to pineapples, while a host of new features have been added this year.

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Show director Nick Smith, of organisers the North of England Horticultural Society, said the show had evolved to reflect current interests and trends in the gardening world.

Margaret Robinson from Lancaster, winner of the best in show display.

Mr Smith said: “We have a new plant pavilion which is going down really well and it really shows off the plants to their best capacity, and this year our showground has a new Green Lane for all the practical things that people need in their garden.”

The lush results of summer may be fading but the on-set of autumn should not encourage any lack inspiration in the garden, he said.

“It’s about practicality, we love spring and our spring show which is all about aspiration but autumn is about looking at your garden in a different way and thinking about what you can do that will make a difference to your garden next year.

“The beauty of autumn is that you have had the benefit of the seasons to see what has grown well and what hasn’t and it is an ideal time to look at what you have got for next year. It’s the perfect time for planning.

Joe Atherton from Mansfield, winner of the heaviest onion.

“Think about what your garden looks like at the moment and what you need for next year and head down here.”

The show’s plant pavilion is located in the showground’s new £11m exhibition hall and Mr Smith said the space had added “a huge amount” to the show.

“For visitors to come in here with all the extra light, height and space to move around, it is an absolute pleasure for us.”

Among the attractions are two street scenes and larger scale gardens along ‘The Avenue’, the show’s world famous giant vegetable competition which sees challengers from all over the UK compete for the title of heaviest and longest across 13 different classes and a new ‘Dark Side’ feature takes visitors on a journey through the twilight zone of the horticultural world, including poisonous plants, tips on creating the perfect evening garden and a chance to meet “creepy carnivores”.

Judges with the giant vegetables at the weigh-in.

Up and coming landscapers are trying to kick-start their show garden careers as part of another new attraction and there displays from nearly 80 top UK nurseries.

Over the weekend, leading horticultural experts will be on hand to share their gardening tips in the Kitchen Garden Live area, the Dig-It Garden Theatre and the Garden Advice Bureau.

The annual show is not just about marvelling at the exhibits, it also serves as a one-stop-shop for garden supplies shopping and boasts a cookery theatre and stalls selling a variety of handmade crafts.


Megan Suley pictured amongst the flowers. Picture: Simon Hulme

Giant veg is always a draw at the show and there are a record 202 entries this year.

Slaithwaite’s Paul Bastow won the heaviest cabbage weigh-in with a 25.4kg specimen; the heaviest Gigantomo tomato winner was Walter Stringfellow from Hornby, Wakefield at 1.415kg; and the winner of the heaviest onion was Joe Atherton from Mansfield (7.01kg).

John Smiles from Tong, Bradford, was named the show’s Master Gardener and, elsewhere, a Gold Award winning garden from Harrogate-based charity Horticap includes a shed made from recycled materials that has a solar panel on its roof which is used to recharge allotment tools and mobile phones.

Margaret Robinson from Lancaster, winner of the best in show display.
Joe Atherton from Mansfield, winner of the heaviest onion.
Judges with the giant vegetables at the weigh-in.
Megan Suley pictured amongst the flowers. Picture: Simon Hulme