|From this..... to this..... with lots of the co-operation and camaraderie typical of flower growers it seems!|
It's nearly two weeks since the maelstrom began, setting up our West Midlands Flowers from the Farm stand at the NEC for RHS BBC Gardener's World Live. Having only attended the show as a visitor before, I had no idea what the exhibitors' experience would be, but having now come out of the other side of it, I feel nothing but positive about it. It was absolutely fantastic, if exhausting!
Luckily, as we were showcasing British grown cut flowers, we didn't have quite the same stress levels as we would've had designing a show garden - at least with cut flowers, you can harvest only the ones which are looking great and pop them into position - not quite the same tricky business as trying to bring on plants to exactly the right stage of flowering in time for the show. Just trying to do that for plants to fill our hamper and wheelbarrow displays was difficult enough! Out of the three foxgloves potted up, only one chose to co-operate and put a flower spike up at the right time. Grrrrr.
Working closely with other local growers from the group was great - it was brilliant to get together with familiar faces again, and to meet new growers who haven't yet managed to make it to any of our West Midlands meetings. Penny of Wayside Flowers, and Maria of The Flower Patch were invaluable in helping to organise the show and kept me going through thick and thin - I think our blend of skills and personalities made us something of a killer team! Penny was calm and practical, and brought prior experience of exhibiting at the NEC on a corporate level to the table, Maria (and her family) was a treasure trove of handiness - knocking up blackboards, designing posters and leading the charge (voiceless, as it disappeared during the course of the show) during 'have a go' buttonhole sessions with visitors. And then there was me - a bit Tiggerish in my over-enthusiasm at times, but dragging all and sundry in my wake. Thanks to all who allowed themselves to be dragged (Polly, Judith, Kate, Jayne and Heather), to More By Design for the loan of the splendid chairs and to my mum for all her flower-related needlework.
Visitors were really taken with the stand, and our information postcards about Flowers From the Farm disappeared as quickly as we could replenish supplies, obviously there's a lot of interest in locally grown flowers out there! Asking visitors if they had heard of the organisation and its work, there was something of a mixed response - some had spotted us in the media previously, but for others we were the first point of contact. After being bombarded by enthusiastic growers, lots of people left knowing more about British cut flowers than when they arrived!
Our scented displays of relaxed country flowers were also snapped up as fast as we could scribble reservation names on labels on the final day, and several people told us "You're the best stand here". The RHS judges almost agreed, giving us second place in a beauty contest which we newbies didn't even realise we were part of. I subsequently discovered that meant we'd won a prize of £200 which will be used for expenses for future shows now that we've discovered what we're capable of - a massive increase on our budget of unlimited goodwill which generated the impressive display above. First prize in our sights next year??!!
Even managed to catch up with old friends, Urban Herbs and to cheer an exhausted looking Kate with a flower crown in the final hours of the final day!
|Lena from BBC2 Big Allotment Challenge visits|
|Toby Buckland looking a little scary at the Gardeners' World Theatre next door to our stand. Sorry Toby!|