Harrogate Spring Show – a personal view

The North of England Horticultural Society

The Harrogate Daffodil Show 2012

Since the appearance of the Harrogate Schedule for 2012 on this site a few days ago, I have tried to find a reason for the antagonism this has caused between the Northern Group and the Daffodil Society. All kinds of accusations have been made in what appears to me a concerted effort to demonise the Northern Group. At no time have the Northern Group had any wish to sour relations with the Daffodil Society. The purpose of this note is to summarise the facts so that people can decide for themselves.

More than 40 years ago daffodil showing was gaining in popularity and the NEHS asked the embryo Northern Group to run the daffodil show on its (NEHS’s) behalf. They provide the venue, the staging, vases and provide the prize money. The Northern Group organise the Schedule, the layout of the classes and generally run the show. Northern Group members are present on the Wednesday before the show organising staging tables, moss (purchased by the Northern Group) and attending to the needs of exhibitors through the night. An early presence is needed on Thursday morning for judging to commence at 7.30 am prompt. A representative presence is necessary between 9.30 am and 5.30 pm on the four days from Thursday through to Sunday. On Sunday afternoon the vases are emptied and stored away and the area generally cleaned up. Often interested parties who are not members of the Daffodil Society assist with these chores. The main Daffodil Society has never concerned itself with any of this. No remuneration or expenses are now involved in any of these activities.

The Northern Group have always been responsible for appointing judges and now pay their expenses. The five judges this year plus the senior steward are all experienced Daffodil Society judges and have all served on the main Daffodil Society Committee at some time. (Five judges are necessary in order to ensure that judging is complete by the time the paying public arrive at 10.30 am – which is some indication of who is really in charge.) Daffodil Society judging rules including the List of Approved Cultivars and Approved Miniature and Intermediate Cultivars are adhered to throughout. The only deviation from this I can think of is that exhibitors are not required to be members of the Daffodil Society.

The NEHS Harrogate Flower Show began over 90 years ago. All competitive classes were for amateurs only. In more recent times Clive Postles and Brian Duncan have paid the occasional visit but limited their involvement to novelty seedlings. In recent years it became apparent that more and more of the top prizes were being mopped up by fewer and fewer people with more than a passing interest in the sale of bulbs. As a consequence in 2011 the schedule was split into an open section that included all exhibitors and an Amateur Section that excluded professional growers. The Northern Group chose to use the RHS definition of an amateur because it is concise and easy to understand: “An exhibitor is an Amateur when they do not earn remuneration from the daffodil trade and neither does the exhibitor nor anyone living at the exhibitor’s address issue a catalogue of daffodil bulbs for sale.” It should be noted here that the Open Section still contains The North of England Championship, The North of England ‘Other Divisions’ Championship and The North of England ‘Miniature’ Championship plus all the single bloom classes – 56 classes in all. All in all the changes were a success to the extent that regular prominent exhibitors went out of their way to thank the Northern Group Committee. On this basis the Northern Group Committee decided not to change the schedule for 2012.

Having presented these facts I am even more at a loss to understand why members of the Northern Group continue to be vilified and indeed find it hurtful when old friends and fellow members of the Daffodil Society alter their attitude towards us. For myself, I caught yellow fever after a casual visit to the Harrogate Spring Show over 40 years ago and now we have a stage on which to present the Daffodil to upwards of 50,000 people. Why should anybody want to denigrate our efforts?

Richard Smales