Harrogate is a justly famous place. One only needs think of its setting, close to the Yorkshire Dales and taking its moto, Arx celebris fontibus, it is world famous for its Springs the first of which was discovered in 1571 by William Slingsby.
On Friday morning I travelled the 4 hours from the Cotswolds up to Harrogate for the annual Autumn Flower Show at the invitation of the organisers for lunch with the President and other invited guests. The show is held at the Great Yorkshire Showground and organised by the North of England Horticultural Society. When we arrived the show was already bustling with eager plant hunters and garden lovers, carrying under their arms everything from the more unusual plants such as Eupatorium capillifolium, and to antique dog carts, and Olive Jars. I know that dogfennel will be very common to readers in the south eastern parts of the USA, but to us it is still rather new and with its dissected feathery leaves it looks stunning in herbaceous borders, green gardens and as a statement or punctuation mark. In Florida the dogfennel is widely eaten by the scarlet bodied wasp moth storing the plants toxins in its own body to help fend off predators. To me the most unusual thing about this member of the daisy family is the fact it is wind pollinated.
Within the floral halls, nursery stands were beautifully displayed and at the President of the Society informed us at the lunch that this had been a golden year with more Golds handed out than ever before, something from the standard I could well believe.
A new world record for large vegetable's was also set at the show for the heaviest onion, at over 14 lb.! I forgot to go and look at this monster and much as I admire the ambition and determination of giant veg. growers I do wonder how one would cook them and what they might taste like.
In the flower arranging pavilion there were some fantastic floral arrangements, I know at this years coming Boston Flower Show there is to be a container gardening section, which sounds very exciting but at Harrogate a theme was television series, such as 'The Good Life' and 'Rising Damp'. My favourite was 'Steptoe & Son', bits of aged wood and rusty corrugated iron sheet where transformed with flowers and foliage to become a inspired arrangement. My favourite was however, in the Pedestal section, under the heading 'Drama' a suspended column of rich electric red twigs held a huge bouquet of velvety roses and glossy Aspidistra leaves through it. The simple but stark combination really was a show stopper and the arrangement scooped first place. On Aspidistra, A. 'Milky Way' is an intriguing variegated version with slivery blotches along the glossy deep green leaves.
All in all the show, which dates back to 1911, is rather special and I enjoyed what I hope is my first of many visits to it. Now as Autumn fast approaches us Malvern Autumn Show is the last big show before October taking place over the last weekend of September.