Flowers and Fireworks, a Shrewsbury Institution

By guest blogger Laura Noszlopy

The Horticultural Society hosted another great Shrewsbury Flower Show this weekend. This year’s event drew big crowds again, despite the dismal weather on Friday morning, and the Quarry Park felt busier than ever by the time the sun came out on Saturday. The show is really a Shrewsbury institution. There are staple events and displays that never change, and growers and stallholders who return every year, but there are also occasional surprises.

The 2015 Climate Change theme inspired some really interesting innovations in the garden design categories and in the Our Future marquee. Local primary schools worked together to produce a floral train and local groups had been working since Spring to come up with stunning, thoughtful natural show gardens. One of the Gold Awards this year went to Shropshire and Edges Permaculture Network (look for them on Facebook if you’d like to find out more). Nancy Lowe, Kerry Lane, Annie Kelsey and Mark Stefan headed up the garden design and planning for “Permaculture” (you can see more at http://www.designwithnature.org.uk/links/ and http://www.thenaturalgardener.org.uk), which integrated graceful, sustainable planting and serene landscaping. 

According to natural horticulturalist Nancy Lowe, the garden drew a huge amount of interest from visitors at the show. She explained how “the vast majority of plants are edible plants, chosen because they are good for wildlife and pollinate other plants in your garden and keep them free from pests.” Part of the scheme involves focusing on locally sourced plants and locally coppiced wood for the structural design elements and stepping-stones. “There was loads of interest on the day and people asking all about permaculture and natural gardening,“ she said.

The growers’ tents are traditional highlights of the show. Somehow the expert gardeners managed to produce huge and beautiful crops again this year, despite desperately challenging growing conditions. It is always great to see the beekeepers and the wonderful things they make with honey and wax. Children and adults alike gaze at the complex innards of sections of hive, full of busy bees. Given the threat to the world’s bee population, and therefore the future of food production, it’s so important that people learn about these amazing creatures. One stall offered handmade wax-based creams and cosmetics, as well as the opportunity to make a real wax candle. The honey tasting table stayed crowded all weekend, with visitors tasting the huge variety of delicious, locally produced honeys. There are also contests for “garden on a plate”, “dried fruit jewellery”, “food collage” and such, not to mention the wines, cakes and other produce. It’s like a village fete on the grandest scale.

In addition to the array of specialist horticultural and foodie stalls and displays, there are food and craft halls, a beer tent and live music. Celebrity chef Tom Kerridge (of the two Michelin-starred Hand and Flowers pub in Marlow) gave cooking demonstrations and there was falconry, sheepdog displays, showjumping, a motorcycle stuntman (still alive after last year!) and even jousting on horseback in the arena (Knights of the Damned). The children’s area was also busy and fun with circus acts, kids’ gardening workshops, face painting and music. In the main field, Mr Alexander’s Travelling Show gave fantastic and hilarious vintage performances that delighted audiences throughout the day, and a ride on the authentic steam-powered carousel was a popular experience for all ages.

Saturday evening drew huge crowds (possibly the largest in many years) for Scottish duo The Proclaimers. The marching bands played brilliantly as usual, with an added jazz twist. Another astounding and beautifully choreographed firework display, watched by hundreds of families on a balmy August evening, rounded off the show.

Photos by Richard Hammerton.

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