Vegetables for exhibition
Many gardeners are introduced to the possibilities of exhibiting through visits to shows, and the challenge has a fascination for many newcomers, besides those experienced in vegetable growing. Taking part can be (nearly!) as fun as winning a prize.
Timing Spring until winter
Difficulty Easy to start, difficult to reach the top level of exhibitors!
When to exhibit vegetables
The show season is from late-summer until early winter, with most shows occurring in late summer and early autumn.
How to exhibit vegetables
Although there are classes at some flower shows specifically for the biggest vegetables, the aim of exhibitors in most shows is to grow an even sample that conform to defined condition, size and uniformity, presented in the approved way. This is considered to test the growing skills of the exhibitor to the highest level.
Points systems are generally applied to judging, and it is highly advisable to follow a recognised pointing system. Recommendations on this and quality requirements applicable to individual vegetable crops are provided in the RHS publication 'The Horticultural Society's Show Handbook' (see Books and Societies section below).
Which varieties to grow
A common question is "What varieties are best for showing?" In fact, any well-grown cultivar (the official description for what is commonly called a variety) can be exhibited, success being determined by the skill of cultivation.
However, some cultivars scrub up especially well for the exhibition bench. Seasoned exhibitors often have personal favourites with which they are often highly successful, and their advice is generally worth taking. Established and widely available cultivars include:
BROAD BEAN: Exhibition Longpod, Imperial Green Longpod
DWARF FRENCH BEAN: Masterpiece (flat pods), The Prince (flat pods) or any round-podded cultivar, although flat podded peas are preferred by exhibitors
RUNNER BEAN: Enorma, Liberty
BEETROOT (round): Boltardy, Red Ace F1, Pablo F1
BEETROOT (long): Mammoth Long, Cheltenham Greentop
CABBAGE: Any F1 hybrid cultivar according to season of maturity
CABBAGE (red): Any F1 hybrid cultivar according to season of maturity
CARROT (long): New Red Intermediate, St Valery
CARROT (stump): Berlicum and Nantes hybrids, Chantenay selections
CALBRESE: Marathon, any good F1 cultivar
CAULIFLOWER: Any F1 hybrid according to season of maturity. Must be white curded
CELERY: Evening star, Mammoth, Morning Star
COURGETTE: Any F1 hybrid cultivar
CUCUMBER: King George, any F1 hybrid cultivar
LEEK: Mammoth Blanch, Mammoth Pot
LETTUCE (Butterhead): Any well-grown cultivar
LETTUCE (Cos): Little gem, Lobjoits
LETTUCE (Crisphead): Lakeland, Saladin
MARROW: Any F1 hybrid cultivar
ONION (over 8oz/250g): Ailsa Craig, The Kelsae
ONION (8oz/250g and under): Midsummer maturing = Toughball – overwintered; late summer maturing = Centurion. New Fen Globe, Sturon, Turbo, from sets, any F1 hybrid cultivar from seed
PARSNIP: Gladiator F1, Albion F1, any well-grown F1 hybrid
PEA: Show Perfection, Alderman
PEPPER: Bell Boy, Redskin
POTATO (white): Winston, Nadine
POTATO (coloured): Maxine, Kestrel
PUMPKIN: Any well-grown cultivar
SHALLOT: Hative de Niort
SWEET PEPPER: Bell Boy, California Wonder
TOMATO: Any F1 hybrid
TURNIP: Any well-grown cultivar
Available as seeds, and in some cases plants, from a wide range of suppliers, including specialist exhibition growers:
JBA Seed Potatoes
Tel: 01461 202567
Medwyn’s of Anglesey
Tel: 01248 714851
W. Robinson & Son (Seeds & Plants) Ltd
Tel: 01524 791210
Books and Societies
National Pot Leek Society
Derek Richardson, 147 Sea Road, Fulwell, Sunderland SR6 9EB
It is vital to carefully read the schedule prepared by the organisers. Visiting shows, perhaps taking pictures, is the best way to find out what a winning exhibit should look like. Joining specialist societies is a good way of finding help and advice from experienced growers.
The decision of the judge is final.
The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.