T&M’s Sonia Mermagen has been helping long-time vegetable exhibitor Arthur Davies set up Thompson & Morgan’s stand at this year’s Suffolk Show.
Breaking news: Arthur and Mary’s display won the Notcutt Trophy for Best Exhibit in the flower tent and a gold medal!
I’d been drafted in to help veteran vegetable exhibitor and show-man, Arthur Davies, set up his T&M sponsored stand at this year’s Suffolk Show. Once I’d found the stand in the Flower and Garden Experience marquee, I saw that Arthur, his wife Mary and their helper, Ralph, had already made quite a start.
But there were still lots of boxes of vegetables to be selected, polished and arranged.
Boxes of veg…
…ready for the display
Arthur and Ralph were taking the outer leaves off cauliflowers at a rate of knots and impaling the naked caulis on long nails inside a triangular frame adorned with leafy conifer fronds.
Although Arthur hasn’t exhibited at the Suffolk Show before, he is well known to lots of the other exhibitors who have met him at some of the many other shows that he has been to in his 43 years as a ‘vegetable show-man’. Various nurserymen and old friends dropped by the stand for a chat.
Meanwhile, Mary was busy making basket displays of brightly-coloured peppers. She put me to work, stuffing the gaps with parsley.
My first attempt!
The first attempt
The finished article. (The cocktail sticks are to indicate to Arthur which ‘side’ should be facing the front when he comes to place the exhibit in the display.)
Placing the exhibits can be a precarious business.
Easy does it…
The display was starting to take shape.
Coming along nicely…
Luckily Andy brought the tops to the Thompson & Morgan seed stands!
Adding the header boards
All the exhibits need to be labelled.
Labelling the veg
And finally Arthur – after some finishing touches by Mary – declares the display ready for inspection by the Show’s judges on Thursday morning.
Ready for judging
Arthur and Mary with the finished display
The whole stand looks great!
T&M’s Suffolk Show stand
Arthur and Mary Davies
Sonia and Arthur
Arthur Davies at the Suffolk Show – last season for veteran vegetable exhibitor
Arthur with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
Thompson & Morgan’s vegetable ‘show man’, Arthur Davies, will stage his last impressive vegetable display at the Suffolk Show in Ipswich on 29th and 30th May, before hanging up his trowel for good at the end of this show season.
After over four decades of growing and exhibiting vegetables, winning an amazing 164 Gold Medals in the process, Arthur has decided to finally retire and to concentrate on his other pastimes, namely time-keeping at major athletic events and his grandsons’ burgeoning football careers. Arthur doesn’t like to miss any of their games and it appears that football runs in the family. Arthur’s son, Gareth, used to play for Crystal Palace in the Premier League and was also a Wales U21 footballer. Interestingly – and as a complete contrast to gardening, Arthur and his wife, Mary, have been acting as timekeepers in athletics for some years and have officiated at World and European Championships, the World Student Games and Grand Prix meetings.
Arthur’s career as an expert vegetable grower began 42 years ago when he was challenged by the great Percy Thrower, possibly the first TV gardener, to exhibit his vegetables with the professional growers at the Shrewsbury Show after spotting Arthur’s talent in the amateur section. Percy encouraged Arthur to ‘have a go’ in the professional tent and he won a gold medal in the first year. He has gone on to win the ‘Large Gold Medal’ for the next 39 years at the show. Arthur and his wife, Mary have been exhibiting every year since then, covering 5 or 6 shows a year. They have exhibited at more than 170 shows – including RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Royal Caledonian Show, Bristol Flower Show, RHS Malvern Show and Royal Welsh Show – and at many other horticultural events around the world, once even travelling to New Zealand.
One of Arthur’s impressive vegetable show displays
Each show display involves a great deal of preparation. Arthur grows over 80 varieties of vegetables himself and carefully schedules his seed sowing timetable to ensure vegetables are at their very best for exhibition at different dates in the year. The produce for each display is carefully lifted, cleaned and packed – a process usually taking 3 days – before being transported to the show site. A setting-up time of around 15 hours follows to make sure that the display is at its best.
On the Thompson & Morgan stand at the Suffolk Show this year, not only will visitors be able to admire Arthur’s vegetable display, but the first 300 children to visit the stand will receive a free packet of T&M’s ‘Butterfly Mix’ seed to sow at home.