There was a huge marquee on the lower lawn. It was where amateur gardeners could bring things that they had grown in their own gardens and have them judged. I say ‘amateur’ in that they are not paid for their hard work but they are very professional and very accomplished at what they do. Certain plants seem to have more passionate interest in them than others.¬†

Roses are one of them. They are not a native of the U.K.. The Romans brought them to these islands to decorate the gardens of their villas, possibly from Asia. They have escaped from the gardens and wild roses are found across the country in woodlands and hedgerows. Over the centuries they have become interwoven in our culture, especially the red rose of Lancashire and white rose of Yorkshire. We have changed them over the centuries, raising different varieties for different forms, shapes, colours and perfume. People devote their lives to producing the perfect rose and like to bring them to shows, such as this, to have it judged. Similar shows will be occurring all over the country at this time of year from small village shows to the huge extravaganzas at places like Chelsea and Tatton. It’s lovely to go to Tatton and Chelsea and see what can be achieved by famous gardeners with ¬£million budgets but I enjoy the charm of local shows. Here’s some of the roses that I liked…

Sweet Peas are another plant that people are passionate about. It grows wild in the countryside but has been changed by gardeners to create hundreds of varieties with myriad colours and a wonderful perfume. It’s especially popular in the north of England where the working men in the factories, with not a lot of money or space, could grow this plant…

Chrysanthemums are another flower that excites plant enthusiasts. They were very popular in the last century but then fell from favour with their gaudy colours and shapes. But they are having a comeback now…

It wouldn’t be a garden show if the Woman’s Institute didn’t have a stand. The Woman’s Institute is a venerable organisation set up in the early twentieth century. It was set up in 1915 to allow women to get involved in food production in World War I. It had a reputation for producing food and pushing Christianity, ‘Jam and Jerusalem’ and was the province of forceful, middle class ladies with agendas. Of late it has changed, though it still won’t admit men. It still does great jam and cakes but has been involved with more serious issues affecting women and their families. Famously, they became involved with a project to raise money for cancer research when the husband of one of the WI ladies in Yorshire died of it. They wanted to raise some money for a bench for the hospice where he died. They hit on the idea of doing a nude calendar. It shocked the more staid members of the WI but the calendar was a huge success. It became a play and a movie that was a huge hit around the world. We are lucky enough to know the writer, Tim Firth. On the original calendar the WI ladies, who were all of a certain age, spared their blushes with strategically placed domestic items. My favourite line from the film was when one lady was having her picture taken with her modesty preserved by two cherry topped buns. One of the other ladies says ‘I think we’re going to need considerably bigger buns!’ Sunflowers also appeared in the pictures and, since, have become associated with the Women’s Institute.

Some more spectacular vegetables grown by amateurs in the own gardens, including some of the biggest leeks I’ve ever seen. All beautifully presented…

More random plants I liked…

I liked young William’s vegetable/fruit dinosaur that won him first prize…

And a flower filled train…

This tank was part of a garden designed to bring the injuries that some of our soldiers have suffered in recent wars to people’s attention…

The county of Lancashire has something of an image problem. It’s seen as the home of big cities like Manchester and Liverpool. That’s true. And it’s seen as a place filled with decaying, old industrial towns with social problems and high unemployment. True, but 30 years out of date. The continuing success of Manchester and, increasingly, Liverpool is giving these old towns a new lease of life. People visit Manchester to enjoy the city vibe and then head north to the Lakes. If they slowed down they would see how beautiful Lancashire can be. Here views across the stunning Ribble valley… ¬†

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