New home as autumn flower show upoots fom Harrogate

Sarah Richardson, a florist at Leafy Couture at Arthington, on the  miniature railway she  at the  Harrogate  Autumn Flower show.
Sarah Richardson, a florist at Leafy Couture at Arthington, on the miniature railway she at the Harrogate Autumn Flower show.
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For the best part of a century it has come and gone with the seasons, but Harrogate’s annual celebration of the end of the gardening year is about to be uprooted.

The autumn flower show, famous for its giant vegetable competition and in particular its onions the size of spacehoppers, is scattering its seeds 16 miles along the Ure Valley and will re-emerge next September, transplanted half an hour up the A1.

Barry Hogg from Doncaster arranging displays at the  Harrogate  Autumn Flower show.

Barry Hogg from Doncaster arranging displays at the Harrogate Autumn Flower show.

Newby Hall, the privately-owned, 18th century country house at Skelton, near Ripon, will take over hosting duties for the show after its final outing at the Great Yorkshire Showground, which opens today.

Its new home would make the event more cost-effective, said the North of England Horticultural Society, the charity which organises it.

The larger spring flower show will remain at the showground and return there next April.

Newby Hall, a Grade I listed mansion furnished by Robert Adam and Thomas Chippendale, and its surrounding gardens, are already established attractions, and the addition of the flower show would give visitors two days out for the price of one, the society said.

“There are no other major national gardening events or flower shows that include admission to award-winning gardens and a stately home as well,” said spokeswoman Camilla Harrison.

There has been an autumn flower show in Harrogate since 1934. The first ones were staged within Valley Gardens before a move to the Exhibition Halls and finally, in 1995, to the showground.

The move to Newby will mean the autumn event will no longer be held within the town boundaries.

Its director, Nick Smith, said it had been a question of economics.

“Any good attraction or event should regularly review what it is able to offer and ensure that it stays both relevant and vibrant for its visitors. We have carried out that process over the last year,” he said.

“We are thrilled to become the first national gardening event to offer future visitors all of their favourite show features, plus access to a fabulous stately home and gardens.”

Up to 40,000 visitors attend the autumn event, many attracted by the competitions and “shows within a show” staged by vegetable societies and other horticultural associations.

The spring show, which is a day longer, attracts up to 60,000 people.

“We have always opened and closed the gardening season with two very distinct events. We can now celebrate those differences by offering two very different venues,” Mr Smith said.

Newby, a rambling country pile that was one of several put aside to accommodate the Royal Family, during the Second World War had their evacuation from London become necessary, has been owned since the 1920s by the Compton family, and by their ancestors before that.

In 2007, the building was used as the setting for a TV adaptation of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.

Its grounds include 15 “garden rooms”, herbaceous borders and woodland walks, connected by a miniature railway.

Its current owner, Richard Compton, said he was “proud and excited” to be hosting next autumn’s event, and added: “The combination of the flower show, the gardens and the hall will create an incredible experience.”

As exhibitors set out their stalls at the showground yesterday, there were signs of things to come. Garden designer Nick Fryer had recreated Newby’s grounds in miniature, and the Leeds florist Leafy Couture had laid on a locomotive.