Yesterday I participated in something pretty amazing. I was invited to join the judging team for the New Zealand Flower and Garden Show. It was a real honour and a privilege to be involved in this way in such a prestigious event in the New Zealand Gardening Calendar. The show in its current form is in it’s second year and while last years was inspirational, this year feels even better and in future years will grow to be bigger and more impressive as the amazing garden designers vie to improve their already outstanding gardens. As a nation we haven’t had such an event since the devastating 6.3 Christchurch earthquake in 2011 stopped it in its tracks. We should be so thankful to the lovely Kate Hillier for returning show gardening on such a scale to our horticultural calendar.
Being a judge sounds very glamorous and I have to admit I was slightly excited and very nervous, especially as the other judges were the ‘who’s who’ of garden celebrity, people I had long respected and have been inspired by. I shouldn’t have worried so much as, like in any sphere of the gardening universe, these gardeners were the nicest people and passionate about the same things as me – all things green and good! But the work of a judge is serious. The responsibility falls heavily to make the right decisions, and to do a good job an early start is required. I presented myself to the judge’s tent at 7:30am! I’m not normally out of bed by then on a normal day! We were greeted with a breakfast of bacon butties which is apparently an RHS tradition and it felt special to be part of something even bigger than the show we were standing in the middle of.
It was a long and rewarding day. We even had the pleasure to delivering the prize medals to the garden designers once our deliberations were done. Watching the reactions of folk who had been awarded prizes worthy of their efforts just made it even more wonderful. Like the roar of delight of the school children who found out they had a golden garden, and the tears of joy, and I suspect relief, when the vibrantly rich Pollinator’s Paradise had gold added to their colourful garden.
Once the judging was done and dusted for the day, it was a quick change into a fancy frock and back for the official opening. The remarkable Jackie Clark was MC and every time I see her addressing an audience, she impresses me with the ease, grace and flawless humour she delivers her message. Then it was a delight to see the wonderful Maggie Barry up on stage. When her TV show was in its prime, I wasn’t a gardener – I was a poor student. But found myself on the Saturday morning after the Friday night show, unexplainably drawn to a garden centre where I would be compelled to purchase some poor plant that didn’t stand a chance as I promptly ignored it as my studies took precedence… Until the following Saturday where my collection of half dead plants in pretty pots grew…
By the end of the night I found myself comfortably rubbing shoulders with old friends, new friends, those who inspired me, and those who will continue to inspire me. The designers, fellow judges, media folk, and the unflappable and incredible organisers all came together to make it a day I’ll never forget.
However, from a horticultural point of view there was barely a moment to sit and contemplate the incredible workmanship and finer details of the gardens as I raced on by to perform my duties. I barely took any photos, which isn’t like me at all – I’m a happy snapper who clicks with wild abandon. So, I’m going back tomorrow to soak it all in.
I want to especially thank the NZ Flower and Garden Show for inviting me to be a part of something truly special. And if you are in the Auckland Region from today to Sun 2nd Dec, I encourage you to pop along to the Trust Arena. You won’t be disappointed. There is something for everyone.
Come again soon – I’ll do another update after my next visit that will let the pictures do the talking.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
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