BGA shows are great fun and we offer a warm welcome to newcomers who would like to have a go.  If you are new to showing you might not know where to start and you will probably have many questions.  We have tried to answer some of these below, but feel free to contact us if you want to ask anything.

Entering exhibits in BGA shows is straightforward and the shows are relaxed and informal. However, beyond reading the schedule closely – probably the most important piece of advice we can offer! – there are some points to follow, including RHS recommendations for preparation of vegetable and flower exhibits, which will help you in selecting, preparing and exhibiting your produce to its best advantage.  


General guidelines

•    Read the schedule (entry form) carefully!
•    Follow the rules – if the schedule calls for five specimens, do not enter four or six
•    Protect your exhibits well on the way to the hall – it’s amazing how much they roll around in a car even at 5mph!
•    Arrive at the hall in plenty of time to stage your exhibits.  The hall is open to exhibitors to 'stage' (i.e. set out) their displays from 09:30 – 11:00 am on the morning of the show.
•    When you get to the hall with your items, go to the Show Secretary’s desk to pick up your entrant tickets.  There will be one ticket to place by each of your exhibits.  If you are unsure what to do, any of the committee  will be happy to help.
•    The hall closes at 11:00am for judging and reopens to the public at 2:00pm for viewing and prize-giving.


Horticultural Classes

The information presented here is based on text from 'The Horticultural Show Handbook' (Royal Horticultural Society, 2008) and is used with permission.

Choosing your exhibits:
•    Judges are looking for vegetables, fruit, flowers, etc in excellent condition, that are the most uniform in size, shape and colour.  Uniformity in size is more important than impressive size unless the class calls for ‘largest’, ‘heaviest’, etc.
•    Fruits and vegetables should be ripe for eating – do not choose under ripe or over ripe specimens.
•    Exhibits should be free from any defect such as disease, insect infestation and damage, for example from garden tools.


Preparation of exhibits:

•    Keep your produce well watered as show day approaches so that they will be at their best when you pick them.
•    Collect your specimens as near to show time as possible – the fresher they are the better they will look on display.  Storing in the fridge will help to
preserve their freshness until it’s time to exhibit.
•    Specimens should be clean.  Remove soil by brushing, washing or wiping gently.  Avoid scrubbing as it can damage the surface.
•    Where applicable, handle fruits and vegetables as little as possible to avoid damage to any natural bloom.
•    Aim to make your exhibits look attractive with a neat symmetrical display, eg in a ‘wheel’ formation for peas, tomatoes, etc; in rows for beans; in a fan shape for carrots.  Align stalks towards the back of the table.
•    Pay attention to whether the schedule asks for a ‘plate of’ or ‘dish of’ as your exhibit might be disqualified for use of the wrong type of container.  If no container is specified, you can lay your exhibits directly onto the table.
•    Root vegetables – beetroots, carrots, parsnips, etc - must have the leaves cut so that approximately 75mm of leaf stalk remains, which should be neatly tied.  Apart from improving the presentation of the roots, this helps to make the exhibits anonymous as far as the judge is concerned. Water the soil before lifting to minimise damage to the root.  Take care when washing as any damage will show clearly after a few hours.
•    Onions should have the tops tied.  They are often staged on rings or soft collars.  Pickling onions must not exceed 30mm in diameter nor should the necks be tied.
•    Potatoes should be free from blemishes.  Wash very carefully in clean water with a soft sponge – avoid use of a coarse cloth or brush that might damage the skin.    Select medium sized specimens, generally between 175g and 225g.
•    Tomatoes should be staged on a plate with calyx intact and uppermost.  A small amount of sand on the plate can help to settle the fruit upright.

Flower Classes

The information presented here is based on text from 'The Horticultural Show Handbook' (Royal Horticultural Society, 2008) and is used with permission.

Floral Arrangements:
•    Make sure you interpret the title of the class you are entering and use appropriate plant material for that class
•    Keep within the measurements allowed
•    Condition your plant material thoroughly i.e. gather foliage 24 hours beforehand and stand foliage and flowers in buckets of cool water in a cool place
•    Ensure your plant material is in peak condition and there are no damaged leaves or blooms
•    The RHS 'The Horticultural Show Handbook' suggests "Beauty of form and colour, lightness of arrangement, happy harmonies or suitable contrasts always meet with general approval.  The use of suitable foliage, berries, fruits and seed pods, and accessories may be desirable and permitted or required by the schedule."


Mixed Flowers and other Cut Flower Classes (Roses, Dahlias, Daffodils, etc):
•    Choose exhibits that are in good condition, that is, when they are at their most perfect and all parts are fresh and free from damage due to weather, pests, diseases, careless handling, etc.
•    Standard show vases in a choice of sizes are provided by BGA for staging of cut flower and foliage exhibits to make the exhibits anonymous.
•    In vases of several examples of one kind of flower, choose exhibits that are the most uniform, that is, when they are most alike in age, size and form.
•    Dahlias - it isn't always obvious which dahlias are eligible for which Dahlia class at the Autumn Show - click here to open a PDF document which will help with identification.
•    Daffodils - it is equally difficult to sort out which of your daffodils are eligible for which class, so click here to open a PDF document which will help with identification. 


Pot plants including Cacti and Succulents:
•    The exhibit should be large for the particular type of plant, well-balanced in shape and in good health.
•    Plants should have healthy unblemished foliage (and flowers in the flowering plant classes).
•    Cacti/succulents should be as free as possible from defects, including damaged or missing spines, distorted bodies or leaves, abnormal marks, cobwebs, etc.
•    Pots or containers should be clean and undamaged.  Any staking should be neat and should not detract from the appearance of the plant.






Homecrafts & Handicrafts

Baking, other homecrafts and handicrafts seem to have gained in popularity recently.  How about showing some of your own items?    Anyone can do it - it's about having fun and trying to impress the judges with your skills.  It's also a chance to look at what wins and learn from other people's entries.  

Points to remember:
•    Read the schedule.  If it says a maximum of 8” for a pie, make sure it measures 8” or less or you will be disqualified.   Likewise, if it says 5 hot cross buns, 4 or 6 won't do!  
•    Give yourself enough time to set up.  You want to have time to set up your exhibit attractively and you don't want to drop or damage anything because you are hurrying.

Things a judge may be looking for:

Craft items:

Materials used – are they appropriate for the item, too heavy, too light, etc?
Stitching – colours chosen, is it neat, finished off
Textures – use of interesting textures and a range of textures will catch the eye of the judge
Colour – is it pleasant to look at?  Do the colours, stitches and any embellishments go together?
Finish – the judge will look closely at how your item is finished off - are the stitches neat, the ends sewn in almost invisibly?
Attention to detail – this is what will catch the eye of the judge.  What is special about your item, that makes it a bit more eye-catching than everything else on the table?



Presentation – the judge’s first impression will be what it looks like, so try to make your baking look special enough to stand out from the opposition – maybe a doiley on a pretty plate?  This is the time to use a ruler when you are cutting up your brownies.  Little details make a difference - for jam, for example, make sure you use an attractive jar or bottle, with no glue from old labels – and stick the label on straight!  
Aroma – after looking at your item, the judge might notice the aroma next.  Obviously it needs to smell good enough to eat!
Texture – the judge will take a small taste of your item and dry sponge cake or syrupy caramelised jam aren't going to win first prize.
Taste – obviously!  Probably the most important thing to think about, but your cooking needs to have passed all the other hurdles before the judge considers the taste.