Shrewsbury Flower Show took place on 8 and 9 August. I had the privilege of being invited to be part of a new venture – the “Our Futures” marquee. Most of the show consists of very traditional things – floral displays, vegetable competitions, traders’ stalls, show jumping, cookery demonstrations, brass bands, horticultural talks, musical events, fireworks and a commemoration of the events of 100 years ago when the show did not happen because the first world war had just begun.
Alongside all this traditional content the organisers wanted to look towards the future and invited a selection of local people and organisations to participate. There were the organic gardeners, Friends of the Earth, Boningales’ Nursery (green roofs), me and Emma Lawrence (illustrator of my book). Emma did a fantastic job keeping small children busy with a colouring competition and craft activities and I had a stand focussed on perennial vegetables.
I have never been at an event like this before and it was very interesting to observe how people reacted to things they were (in all probability) unfamiliar with – such as perennial vegetables. One lady spoke to my partner and was insistent that the very large oca plant I had on display was clover; even after being told what it was she did not seem able to absorb that and went on her way saying “I never knew you could eat clover”. On the other hand I chatted to a man who uses the wild edibles and flowers in his garden to put in his lunch time sandwich and is growing all sorts of very interesting things.
The plants I had on display were not in any way forced into being something they were not, they were in pots of course, but otherwise they were as natural as they would be in the garden. This was in stark contrast to the magnificent floral displays and show gardens which were obviously designed and put together so as to be eye catching and magnificent. I am not knocking that at all, those gardens and displays were beautiful; however they conformed to what is expected at these events and it seemed to me that my less extravagant and less showy plants just did not register on many people’s radar as they walked past. Of course many people go to a show like that for a good family day out and with so much else going on the horticultural side may not be interesting to them.
My three pots (and me!) outside the marquee. The organisers asked for them to be at the doorway, but even though we later rearranged them they did not have the impact they might have done had they been in a more enclosed space.
A rather more showy display!
A show garden
Another show garden (both of these had Great War themes), this one harks back to the use of horses and dogs (out of sight) in that war.
Having said that, there were a significant minority who did stop to look, to read the displays and to ask questions. I came away with a list of people interested in more information and the possibility of collaborating with other local organisations on joint gardening projects. If I am asked to go back next year, and I hope I am, it will be with a slightly sharper sense of how to attract the attention of the general public and some focussed ideas that they may be able to relate to a little more easily.