If there needed to be just one word to answer the question as to why anyone should visit the Ayr Flower Show, it would be inspiration. Yet there’s so much more on offer over the three days of the Ayr Flower Show. With activities for all the family, not everything is about the flowers.
Floral design and art
Many people come to the Ayr Flower Show to see the work of floral designers. Some of the work is created by florists who are award winners from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London. Each year we see these artists push the boundaries of design even though our rules for entry are quite tight. It’s a joy to see the flowers used to such good effect whether potted or spikes. It is here that you find out about plants you may not yet be aware of. The usual violet and cream of the Stellar Hybrid camassias for example is now, thanks to a chance find of a small population of pink Camassia leichtlinii in the wild in Oregon and a nursery’s subsequent work on selection, available in showy pinks and mauves.
It’s not just about the plants. Also included in the Flower Show are highly-skilled artists trading their wares. This includes walking sticks, jewellery, crochet work, knitted goods, greetings cards, cabinet-makers and more. Many of these artists work from studios that are not open to the public, so it is a rare opportunity to see the people began the goods on sale in local stores or online.
Meeting local people
If you are interested in Scottish plants and gardening, the Ayr Flower Show is full of experts, particular for plants that grow in the conditions found locally. Many of these experts will be happy to assist. There are also workshops to help you get started if you’re new to gardening as well as Question & Answer forums where you can ask for advice about how to save a plant that’s suffered with neglect, or when and how to prune a rose-bush, an apple tree or a vine.
At the competition tents you will find out more information about the clubs, societies and organisations that exist locally that you may want to join. It may be a floral society that meets once a month or a photographic society who organise trips in the summer. It’s an opportunity to see what is happening in the community.
Food and drink
The Ayr Flower Show offers some of the best local produce. There are vegetables on display in the highly charged competition tents. Here you will see a much wider range than you will fine in your local store. From venison to sausages, from flat bakes to eclairs there are many locally prepared foods for sale, including preserves and pickles, beers and wines.
Local food is also offered in the hospitality tent. Here you can have an afternoon tea with scones and cake and sandwiches. Perhaps a hunk of bread, a slab of cheese and a beer would fit the bill for you instead, or as well if you’re returning for a second day.
As you walk around the Show, you will likely have made notes on some of the plants that you’ve seen that you might like to try in your own garden. If you attend the Show on the Sunday, 90 minutes before closing at 5pm, there’s a sell-off from the trade stalls and competition tents at which visitors can acquire some of the excellent plants that have been on display. All you need to do is get the plant home and put it in the ground or on the windowsill.
Heritage plants and seeds are a popular part of the Ayr Flower Show, giving encourage to ensure the survival of species currently under threat. You can plant an apple tree that’s native to Scotland, like the Beauty of Moray, the Bloody Ploughman or the Cambusnethan Pippin.
If you have no space for a tree, growing heritage vegetables will reintroduce you to their true taste. You may have forgotten just how sweet carrots can taste and whilst your local grocer or supermarket may stock Maris Piper and King Edward potatoes, a finer tasting potato is the Harlequin or Pippa. If you want to stay close to Scottish roots, the Shetland Black potatoes, introduced to the Shetland Islands as far back as 1588, are believed to have been salvaged from a Spanish Armada shipwreck. When cut, these potatoes have a purple ring in them, but this disappears in cooking and turn a grey colour. There is so much to learn about heritage plants.
When you visit the Ayr Flower Show it is almost certain you will find new things that either provoke you or instruct.