Giles Newby Vincent


“A Decorative Celebration of Sweet Peas”

A floral display with Sweet Peas to predominate (any type or types including species) arranged in one or more decorative vases, bowls or containers of any description, together with ‘cottage garden’ summer flowers and foliage. Front facing within a space 2’6” deep, 3’ wide and 3’ high, against a white lined marquee backdrop. The use of additional backdrops and accessories are permitted to add to the dramatic effect of this larger scale arrangement.

First prize: a piece of Georgian antique silver

Second prize: £250

Third Prize: £125


The NSPS Committee have very kindly agreed to a suggestion that I made recently, to fund a ‘one-off’ decorative class for 2017. This class will be included in both of next year’s National Shows, at Woburn Sands on June 28th & 29th and at Driffield on 19th July. Next year will be the 40th anniversary of a memorable moment in my life, hence my idea to remember it by making a special gesture to the NSPS.

Whilst staying with my grandmother in Dorset back in July 1975, I noticed a copy of Bernard Jones’s inspiring ‘Complete Guide to Sweet Peas’ in a second hand

bookshop in Swanage. It looked rather interesting. Twenty five pence changed hands and I became the proud owner of my first gardening book. Bernard Jones’s text was wonderfully straightforward, the black and white illustrations were clear, and it was a good read. I was hooked. The timing was good, as I was living at home and had a good-sized plot to work with. I also had several weeks in which to study my new bible and to order seeds in time for an autumn sowing. Inevitably I ordered far too many different varieties. The catalogue descriptions were enticing, and of course I wanted to try them all. Thinking I was being very self-disciplined, I therefore restricted myself to 300 plants - in just 35 different colours...


That winter I double dug my planting trenches, did my best to follow Bernard Jones’s advice, and eagerly awaited my first flowers. Unfortunately, not everything went according to plan. The summer of 1976 was exceptionally dry and hot, with weeks of unrelenting drought. But I was undeterred, and that autumn a new growing season beckoned. Since growing sweet peas was far more interesting than studying for A levels, I soon had a cold frame full of tiny plants - this time in rather fewer varieties. The weather the following season was kinder than before, and by June 1977, my cordons seemed to be doing well.

So one overcast afternoon in July 1977, I borrowed a friend’s car, carefully packed my sweet peas, and set off for London from Myrtleford Cottage, near Weobley in West Herefordshire. It was an adventure - I really had no idea what to expect. Youthful confidence and enthusiasm overcame a nagging fear that I was about to make a complete fool of myself. So I joined the other seasoned exhibitors, and worked through the night to arrange my flowers in the cavernous and somewhat daunting RHS Horticultural Hall at Vincent Square. I had not been to a National Show before and knew nobody, but everyone was very kind.

Later the following morning I was immensely honoured - and also amazed - to discover that I had won the NSPS Burfoot Trophy. Shortly afterwards, a beautiful two-handled Edwardian silver cup - still a treasured possession - was graciously presented to me. I was then introduced to the great Bernard Jones, who signed my copy of his book. It was an unforgettable experience. Apparently I was - and remain to this day - the youngest person in the history of the RHS (and perhaps also the NSPS) to win a trophy at a National Show as a first-time exhibitor. I was just eighteen.

Since then much time has passed. University, and then the demands of a busy international career as an architect and interior designer took over, and for many years I had little time to grow sweet peas. Nonetheless, my fondness for a very special flower and my gratefulness to the NSPS remained. I often looked at my handsome silver cup and wondered how I might one day be able to make a 'pay-back' gesture to a Society that had been so supportive to me as a teenager.

Forty years later, it seemed to be a good moment to do something about it. Hence my proposal to fund a special decorative class - The Myrtleford Trophy. Both winners will receive a piece of Georgian antique silver, which I hope may in time represent as many happy memories for them as the silver cup that was presented to me by Lady Fairbairn so many years ago.



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© Roger Parsons