My First Show Entry


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).


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.


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!!

38 Comments on “My First Show Entry

  1. Congratulations! Kudos for you for trying, and what a nice reward. And now you have something fun to look forward to next year. All the best.

    • Hi PP – I had to be pushed by my sons but it was a real laugh and not at all scary as I thought it would be

    • Hi GFAS – I suspect you are right. I bought an echeveria today purely for showing next year!!!!!!!

  2. Congratulations! This post brings back memories of attending flower shows with my mother.

  3. Well done Helen, I used to live in Bromyard before moving up here to Manchester….I miss the Hereford / Worcester/ Shropshire area, but the Family are here 🙂

  4. Good news, Helen – now I’ll wait to see you you do with p.marginata! I’ve never done this stuff; much happier just to supply plants for Chelsea and see them on telly. Then I don’t have to do all the work of cleaning them up and coaxing them into flower! But that house leek thing that you won with is strangely attractive; I shall have to find one.

    • Hi Kininvie – oh I would completely panic if I had to provide flowers for a show, so much pressure to do well for the designer whereas this is just for me. I’m not doing that coaxing business just entering things that look good on their own! I can see sales of aeonium tabulforium increasing as we speak

  5. Well done!! I have huge admiration for your determination and keeness at having a go. Here’s to even more success next year.

  6. That is so cool Helen – well done and I love the Aeonium tabuliforme (I keep sowing seeds of then … but in vein I fear). I also suspect that you will now have the “show bug” it is rather addictive 🙂

    • Hi Karen
      Rob gave me the plant 3 yrs ago when Michelle and I went to Chelsea and I carried it on the underground and home in a plastic beer mug!! I am already thinking about next year

  7. Yay! Well done you 🙂 Victoria told me all about the sauciness later 😉

    Twas a grand day – meeting up with gardening buddies and buying stuff for the garden. Perfect.

    • Hi VP
      We were much amused as was the stall holder, I told him that we were sophisticated but he wasnt convinced!!

  8. Oh well done Helen on taking the plunge and congratulations on a much deserved success. I’m so pleased for you. Have been suffering from Malvern withdrawal symptoms all day so hope you post more about it all soon 🙂

    • Hi Anna
      My photos this year are shockingly poor as I was so busy doing other stuff but I will post some pics at the weekend

  9. Congratulations Helen. Very exciting and well-deserved. I feel your joy.

  10. Congratulations! That’s brilliant on your first outing, onwards and upwards for next year.
    You can add me to the list of those thinking “I definitely want one of those Aeoniums!” 🙂

  11. Geat – you have the bug! I still think the ‘funniest’ show on TV was the one where the plants, cakes were competing and winner eventually ended up at Highgrove The intensity of the competiion for longest carrot, biggest pumpkin, tallest sunflower etc showed gardeners are nutters! I have just been raking leaves on the drive of my new home in the B&B in rain! Big acre garden, orchard, palms, cyclids, bromiallds ( no roses) type garden.We are going around to Sandi’s to look at my plants to see what we can have here! I just want them to have a happy home!

  12. Congratulations, it is the story we all secretly live. You carry the torch for a lot us, those that believe that the wonderful is free tickets and new plants.

  13. Congratulations Helen! Fantastic result for the first show you have entered. Some people spend all their life entering shows and never win anything so you should feel rightly proud. Well done!

  14. That is so great! Well done and looking forward to reading about your future career winning more prizes.

  15. Fantastic! Well done you. Do please tell us all about the plants you bought there too!

  16. Such a prestigious award – congratulations! We dithered about going to Malvern this year, and eventually decided to spend the time in our own garden instead, so it’s great to read about your multiple trips!

  17. Oh how exciting, I’m just thrilled for you. I love reading your blog and marvel at all the work you do in your garden. Unfortunately, I live in Alberta, Canada where we don’t dare put any plants out or expect much from our perennials before the May long weekend, which is still 2 weeks away. I’ve bought a few hanging baskets and potted on a dozen geranium seedlings. They can go out during the day but must come inside at night for fear of a frost. I couldn’t do anything in the yard last year because I had shoulder surgery so lots of work to do this year!

    • Hi Janice
      I always delay planting out tenders or half hardy until the end of May as I really dont trust our weather.

  18. That’s awesome — all of it! Congratulations on placing and on the whole experience! It’s sounds so fun and interesting as well as a bit daunting. Impressive!

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