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I have been wooed through the garden clubs I attend to enter the world of competitive plant shows.  My curiosity was raised last summer when I visited my first AGS show and this Easter I made the decision to compete in my AGS group’s show next Easter and ordered some miniature bulbs in readiness.  It was during a conversation at that show that I learnt about the ‘open garden’ competition at the Malvern Spring show.  I was assured it was open to anyone and it was worth entering particularly because if you entered 5 classes you received a free pass to the show for all four days (equivalent to £95 worth of tickets).

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Feeling inspired I requested a show schedule and spent an evening pouring over the classes to see what I could enter.  Despite having been to the show every year, bar one, for the last 10 years I had never really noticed this competition and so wasn’t sure what the competition would be like and what some classes really meant.  I decided to play safe and enter succulents as I knew they would be looking good on the day whereas categories such as narcissus, flowering shrubs, rhododendrons etc were much less predictable especially this year.  You have to put in your entry form a week in advance so you need to be able to judge what will be peaking when and this was to be quite frank all a bit beyond me.  I decided to enter: 3 succulents in 6″ pots, an echeveria, a succulent in a 10″ pot and two photography classes.

You have all day Wednesday until 6:45am Thursday to stage your plants at the show so Ben, my eldest, and I went down on Wednesday evening after dinner.  I have to admit to being quite intimidated about the competition that was there.  My 3 succulents in 6″ pots definitely didn’t stand a chance as I had gone for all Sempervivum and other entries were a mixture of far more interesting succulents – but I know for the future.  My photos whilst OK are taken with a bridge camera and cannot compete with images taken with SLRs and I think photographs are very subjective to judge but it meant I had my 5 entries.  I concluded that I had an outside chance with my two large succulents; an Echeveria Elegans and an Aeonium tabuliforme.

This morning I arrived at the show around 9 and after having a look at the show gardens before the forecast rain I plucked up the courage to see how I had done.  Unsurprisingly the photographs didn’t get ranked; the competition was stiff with at least 20 in each category.  My three succulents in small pots also as expected didn’t rank.  My Echeveria missed out and one which looked almost identical and wasnt in flower, like mine, came second – I suspect its foliage was in better shape but it was so hard to tell.

However, as I approached the last entry I could see a blue card in close proximity, my heart missed a beat.  Surely not, surely I couldn’t have won a prize on my first outing especially as the entries are judged to RHS standards.  But no there is was in glorious bright blue  – a 2nd place for my Areonium tabuliforme.  I was so incredibly excited but resisted the overwhelming urge to jump up and down and shout “I won a prize” – there would have been disdainful looks!!  Sons were texted with the news and dutifully responded with congratulations.

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I spent the rest of today with a big grin on my face and a spring in my step.  I  also  spent a lot of money on some fabulous plants, garnered useful cultivation  information from lovely nurseryman, spent one and half hours moving plants on the plant creche, met up with Victoria and Michelle and helped Victoria in her hosta dilemma which got quite saucy but we shan’t go there.

Before I left with my haul I went back to the competition and went through the classes I thought I might be able to enter in the future and look photographs of the winners and how they were presented so I can see what I need to strive for next year. Oh and I won £3 for my second prize which was the same as I paid to enter the five classes so I have broken even and got free tickets – what more can a mad gardener ask for!!

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