Gardening: Five Autumn garden shows to look out for in North London

Highgate Horticultural Society Autumn show

Highgate Horticultural Society Autumn show - Credit: Nigel Sutton

The sound of a brass band is a great stir to happy expectation, so to approach the Hampstead Garden Suburb Autumn Flower Show on a sunny afternoon with Grimsdyke Brass striking up, was altogether cheerful.

Highgate Horticultural Society Autumn show

Highgate Horticultural Society Autumn show - Credit: Nigel Sutton

The Horticultural Society’s event, along with that of Muswell Hill, started off the autumn flower show season, followed by Hornsey Allotments, Hampstead then Highgate.

Each of these local gardening society shows has its own character and strengths, but what they have in common is commitment to the tradition of celebrating the beauty and usefulness of plants, and the skills involved in their cultivation. As Lynne Featherstone, MP, expressed it at the Muswell Hill Horticultural Show at Pages Lane, in a disordered world, we should treasure good people doing positive things, such as sharing the joys of gardening.

At the Hampstead Garden Suburb show, as well as the profusion of flowers and vegetables (the latter grown most notably by Chris Page and Ken Murrell) there were some bright Mini Gardens made by children. In August, linking up with the Community Library, members of the Horticultural Society ran a project to reach out to children, who had clearly enjoyed using the attractive materials provided to make their cheery gardens. Maddy Jenne displayed a more sophisticated Mini Garden at the Central Hornsey and District Allotments and Horticultural Society (CHADAHS) show. Maddy had made her garden with real plants growing in a bed of cress, with a carefully laid gravel path leading to a wigwam, and a scallop shell of water for a pond.

The Chadahs show had several remarkable exhibits, not least Gary Sycamore’s extraordinarily long trusses of small fruited tomatoes and Jenny Kruss’s little Cucamelons, set out with an invitation to try one. Cucamelons, which have a few alternative names, including Mouse melons, are among the vegetables promoted with beguiling enthusiasm by James Wong. He claims that they taste of lime and cucumber. And they do, roughly speaking. They are annual climbers, native to Mexico, so this sunny summer has been good for them. At the same show, Julia Grant retained her title as the Cosmos Queen and Colin Roberts showed chrysanthemums in no fewer than nine classes. Taking the trouble to grow show chrysanthemums is unusual now, so it was good to see them.

Hampstead Horticultural Society always engages good speakers and, had I not had to move on to the Chadahs show, it would have been interesting to hear Richard Wiltshire talking about the future of allotments. He used to be in charge of managing allotments for a local authority and, from what Anne Rowe says, minds about them a lot, their history, changing fortunes, current popularity and, with hope, continuance. As Anne remarks, Camden residents are lucky that the borough supports allotments (as are Haringey residents, much more so than those of Islington). As to the show itself, the Society would love more Hampstead gardeners to join and bring in their beautiful flowers and produce to exhibit, to boost the amount that is loyally put on show.

At the Highgate Horticultural Society Show Laura Boothman was celebrating the end of her first full year as a plotholder at Highgate Allotments with four First Prizes. Initially covered in brambles now, after her hard work, it has yielded winning raspberries, Jerusalem artichokes, marigolds and a pumpkin, with runner beans, beetroot and cosmos winning lesser prizes. Other Highgate plotholders also contributed to the show, Jean Morley, whose beautiful mixture of Michaelmas daisies won a certificate for Best Exhibit in Floral Classes, and Michael and Marie Donagher, with fine onions and dahlias.

Most Read

Laura, an enthusiastic committee member, was busy assembling bunches of flowers and vegetables for the inimitable auctioneer, Roxane Stirling, to sell off in support of the Society. This auction, full of good humour and wonderful produce, rounded off another season of local flower shows with energy and panache.


?1. Plant spring bulbs, in pots or in the open ground. If necessary, protect bulbs in pots against squirrels by putting mesh across the tops. Then remember to take it off when the bulb shoots start showing.

?2. Ponds will soon need netting to stop autumn leaves from falling in and rotting.

?3. To store apples you don’t need to buy the special trays advertised in catalogues – the light wooden trays thrown out by greengrocers work fine.

?4. The only fairly local National Gardens Scheme opening left this year is the beautiful arboretum at West Lodge Park, Cockfosters Road EN 14 0PY, Sunday, 26th October, 1 – 4pm. But highly recommended is a trip to Kingston-upon-Thames on Sunday 12th Oct. The approx 9 acre Watergardens, Warren Road KT2 7LF, open 2.00 – 4.30pm, are a delight. The 4 acre garden of Warren House, Kingston Hill, KT2 7HY, open same day till 5pm, sounds good too.