“Monday is assessment day so the garden has to be ready on Sunday evening” I keep telling myself. Very heavy rain is forecast on Sunday night and I cover the dressed bed with a tarpaulin to avoid a pool of water forming on the middle of the bed. All the bedding has been sprayed with weatherproofing chemicals but the weight of a lot of water could cause problems should someone sit on the bed. “We’ll be back well before 9.30AM to take the tarpaulin off” I say to my husband. My time for assessment is 10.30AM-I am the first B2B garden to be scrutinized. The plan was to have an hour to do some ‘plant tickling’ as it’s referred to in the show garden circles.
We have booked 2 nights in the Bucklow Hill Premier Inn, the Sunday and Monday, and get to the show site at 9AM. There is a kerfuffle at the B2B cluster and Tina (who has been helping Briony with her planting) rushes up to me. “I hope it’s ok but we have been on your garden to remove the tarpaulin-we’ve been told assessment is now at 9.30AM. OMG we didn’t know what to do and Andy said we have to take the cover off because the judges cannot see it!” Andy has designed the Manchester garden and is my other B2B neighbour Andy Walker. Andy has been the best build neighbour one could hope for! “We’ll leave you to sort out your gravel shouts Tina who is disappearing into the ferns next-door!”
I step onto my garden to start plant tickling and 5 judges appear around the corner. I am politely asked to disappear from earshot while my garden is assessed. “Let’s hope there were no broken grasses!” I say to my husband, who is probably thinking about the lie-in that could have been. “It would be funny if one of the judges got a big wet arse” he says to me as we sit in the exhibitors catering tent over a cup of tea. Mmm-I’ll hold that thought.
We spend the rest of the day feeling mildly redundant. My daughters arrive mid-afternoon and we are now a complete team in the pending doom. I have a time slot at 1.30PM on Tuesday during which I must present my garden to the judging panel, or “do the big sell” as Carol put it. Carol works for NACRO and has employed Andy to make their show garden, she is terrified of giving their presentation and we go through each other’s speeches whilst watering. After the presentation the other judging panel further assess the garden.
We all enjoy a lovely meal that evening and I forget about tomorrow’s speech. The feeling of dread returns the next day as we sit on camping chairs awaiting my assessment. Finally the judges arrive and I am called over to my garden where they tell me what’s going to happen. I get my first sentence out but the rest of my speech gets lost in my throat. “I’m sorry I just can’t remember what I was going to say” I blurt. “Take some time- you were just telling us about sleep” offers one of the judges calmly. I finally spit it all out and it’s all over!
EXCEPT- as we de-camp to let them assess the garden there is a terrible sight to behold! Both terrible and fabulous…ALL five judges are on the bed- a bed made for 2 people……..
“It’s a good sign -they are having fun on your garden” says Janet. All I can think about is the terrible prospect of wet bottomed, or even worse, injured angry judges!
“We should be told at 2.30PM what medals we have got” says Carol, then I’m off back home. Andy has gone to London and she is left to receive and convey the results to the team by phone. They said 3.30PM at the gate I said, thinking the later the better. We sit around for more than 2 hours chatting and picnicking. One of the judges appears with white envelopes. We each get our envelope (I am pleased just to get one) and the judge hurries away after telling us we will get feedback later on that afternoon. “I am going to the loo, I can’t open it” I thrust the envelope into my husband’s hand. When I return 10 minutes later he has looked, as have my daughters. “Will I be happy?” I ask. ”Very” he says. I was and still am delighted with my silver medal! Janet is also very happy, and we are all suddenly exhausted. “Just the show to do now” I say as my daughter places the medal certificate into its placeholder on the garden sign.
The feedback comes with 2 of the judges, one of whom I recognize from my Gardens Illustrated magazines. It is both written and further clarified verbally. I agree with it all and they point out that a couple of simple things would have pushed it up to a silver-gilt. I really am pleased with my silver and note down the faults for next time!
Janet Haigh has posted her blog about the quilt and the show garden from her perspective Janet Haigh!
Next time: the show