The Eckford Sweet Pea Society 29th Annual Show at Wem on 15th and 16th July.
By Phillippa Cooper and Janet Hankey
The weather just prior to the Show had been extremely variable. A period of hot, sunny weather meant that plants grew very quickly towards the end of June. The following drop in temperature resulted in considerable bud drop during the first half of July.
After sending off our entries for Division 2 (Old fashioned, pre 1910 blooms) and Division 4 (Spencer varieties, less than 200 cordon plants) we found it difficult to decide whether to actually compete at the Show. The blooms were certainly not at their best but we reckoned that the weather would have affected all other growers equally. Arriving at Wem on the Friday afternoon we realised that many exhibitors were of a similar opinion. The consensus was to stage as many vases as possible and minimise any gaps on the show benches. Unfortunately there were no entries for the 9 vases distinct in Division 1.
Friday evening at Wem is always a wonderful time catching up with friends. Everyone is so very encouraging, sharing tips and expert advice. John was struggling to find 9 blooms of sufficient quality for Division 4 and I wondered if there would any chance of entering the floral art classes.
Back in the marquee early on Saturday it was noticeable that there were a few gaps on the show benches. There were a total of 131 entries in Divisions 1 to 5 with a good number of junior entries and an excellent 42 entries in floral art. 6 businesses in the town had decorated their premises. It was particularly pleasing that there were 38 vases of pre 1910 varieties staged.
Saturday started off rather damp but fortunately the weather cleared and the crowds soon started arriving. We were able to speak to many people who were visiting for the first time. They were genuinely amazed by the range of colour, the perfume and the appearance of the show benches. Credit must go to Karen Good, show manager, and all of the team for making the show benches so attractive. I wonder what the visitors would have thought if they had visited in previous years when the benches were packed with many more entries.
The reputation of the Eckford Society and the importance of the Show within the town was recognised as the High Sheriff of Shropshire, Mr Charles Lillis and his wife Mrs Veronica Lillis, along with Mayor and Mayoress Cllr Edward Towers and Mrs Lynne Towers were welcomed to the Show.
One class that members of the Eckford Society are determined to enter, if possible, is the John Good Memorial Class (43). John was a wonderful gentleman, encouraging many amateur growers to enter the Show. Val Good M.B.E. once again “manned” the sale of Eckford seed and reported that there had been a huge interest in the pre-1910 varieties. Hopefully there will be a large number of novice entries in 2018.
On Saturday afternoon the Chairman of the Society, Mrs Wyllis Turner, announced the prize-winners. The prizes were presented by the Mayor. For the first time this year, Karen Good had arranged for inscribed awards to be given to trophy winners as a permanent memento of their success.
The prize winners are as follows:
The Bronwen Eleanor Perpetual Challenge Cup for the best vase in the Show was awarded to Dave Torrington of Litton, near Buxton, with a vase of John Gray. Neil Cooper of Whixall won the Archie Silvester Perpetual Trophy for the most points by a Shropshire Grower.
The trophy in Division 2, the Dorothy Eckford Perpetual Cup, was jointly awarded to Phillippa Cooper of Penn and Neil Cooper of Whixall. Arthur Rice from Southport won the Jack Timpson Shield for Division 3 and John Cooper of Penn was successful in Division 4 winning the NSPS Bronze medal for the best vase (Windsor).
John and Olwen Rowlands of Denbigh accumulated the most points in Special Classes and were presented with the Wem and District Rotary Club Challenge trophy. Congratulations go to Tom Atherton of Chorley who won the President’s Plate. Andy Hubbuck from Chesterfield won two awards : the Mike Jones Memorial trophy ( for mauve/ lavender, blue varieties) with a vase of Sir Jimmy Shand and the Wellington Silver Salver in the seedling class. The Albert Bennett Memorial Plate for Lord Nelson was awarded to Phillippa Cooper.
Division 5 (less than 100 cordon plants) was hotly contested. Graham Johnson of Shrewsbury won the W Jenkins Trophy for the best vase. Jim Parry of Ruabon was awarded with the Preston Brockhurst Trophy for the most first prizes and the Maurice Graham perpetual cup for the most points.
John Jones of Newcastle under Lyme was presented with the NSPS certificate for the best exhibit in the novice classes.
Congratulations go to all of the prize winners.
Visitors continued to flock to the Show on Sunday as the weather had improved. Many thanks must go to everyone on the committee along with the large number of helpers who made the show such a success.