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Fulham Horticultural Society returns with a riot of colour in its autumn show

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Image captionImage 1: Sophie Willows (pictured) picked up the Junior prize at this year's show for her ‘garden on a plate’ entry

The classic and the creative shared centre stage at the Fulham Horticultural Society’s autumn show last weekend with gardeners pulling out all the stops for the event’s post-lockdown return.

Taking inspiration from social media trends, the event showcased the latest in grown-from-seed avocado trees and lychee plants alongside traditional displays of flowers, vegetables and handicrafts.

An explosion of cerise, yellow, purple and red chrysanthemums and dahlias greeted visitors to the annual show on Saturday (11 September) after a hiatus last year.

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Image caption: Image 2: Celia Dowson (pictured) scooped the prestigious Beatrice Hunt Memorial trophy

Returning to its regular home at St Etheldreda’s Church in Fulham Palace Road, the event was a chance for local gardeners to share their horticultural hard work.

See more pictures on our Flickr photo gallery

Fulham Horticultural Society chairman Eddie Robinson said the quality of entries had been impressive, given the poor weather over the past few months.

“This has really set the benchmark,” Eddie said. “I am very impressed with how all the entrants have done considering the weather we have had. “Everyone has gone to a lot of effort and the turnout has been fantastic.

“It is excellent to see the show back on again as it is such an important event in our society’s 97-year history.”

Looking for you

The society is keen to welcome more new members to try their hand at growing, whether in gardens, allotments, on balconies, windowsills or patios, added Mr Robinson.

Among new gardeners entering this year’s show was Celia Dowson, 29, who scooped the prestigious Beatrice Hunt Memorial trophy for her plants grown from seed in her bathroom.

The local ceramics designer propagated stones from avocados and lychees after being inspired by the grow-your-own trend on social media.

“I had always wanted to try growing from seed, I even tried a mango stone and pomegranate tree,” she said. “I would definitely encourage anyone to have a go as you can do it even if you don’t have a garden.”

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Image caption: Image 3: Pedro Garcia (pictured) is only slightly taller than his jaw-dropping Trombetta squash

Squashing the competition

From growing unusual plants in the bathroom to having fun in the allotment, it was no surprise to see Jane Niesler and Pedro Garcia’s jaw-dropping Trombetta squash attracting awe from judges and visitors alike.

Measuring around 4.5ft in length, Mr Garcia, 63, joked he planned to “make a huge soup for everyone” with the whopping summer squash, which hails from Italy and can be used like a butternut squash.

“I never expected it would grow so big,” he revealed. “I had to hang it up to let it keep growing, otherwise it would have curled up like a trombone.”

Judges including renowned horticulturalist Andrew Fisher-Tomlin, Shaun Cole and Geraldine Berridge cast their experienced eyes over the show produce, that ranged from perfect potatoes and parsnips to mouthwatering jams and cakes.

Having entered 16 classes at the show, 70-year-old Stewart Whitten was celebrating 50 years of gardening at Fulham Palace Allotments with a sweep of eight first prizes.

Among his winning entries were a 26-inch runner bean, shallots, carrots, rhubarb and chrysanthemums.

“Gardening really relaxes you,” explained Mr Whitten, attending the show with daughter Tracy, 42, who collected two trophies on his behalf. “I go to the allotments for a couple of hours every day and you just forget everything. There is so much work for the show, but it is nice to see it all out on display.”

Know your onions

John Rielly, 62, spent almost a year nurturing his kelsae onions for the show, so was delighted when the bulbs were awarded first place in the ‘onions over 250g’ category.

Weighing in at around 3lb each, the trio of onions impressed judges with their size, shape and uniformity.

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Image caption: Image 4: John Rielly shows his onions

Now pet care company director Mr Rielly has his sights set on national vegetable contests but added “I need to step up my game to compete at a national level”.

For Abel Hadden, 68, the joy of seeing a vase of dahlias at home spurred him on to keep growing, despite “awful weather” and he was rewarded with seven first prizes, including four for his favourite flowers.

“Gardening was a wonderful escape during lockdown and dahlias make me smile, they are ridiculously cheerful,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Willows family also benefited from the fresh air when they got stuck into gardening.

Little Sophie Willows, six, of Fulham Prep School, exhibited her ‘garden on a plate’ entry, complete with rabbit, cat and tiny trees, while parents Sarah and Judd scooped prizes for their flowers and apples.

Winning the Toms Memorial Cup for the best exhibit, semi-retired horticultural teacher Charles Dowson, 67, had first place success in some ten categories ranging from beetroot and peppers to leeks and onions.

Having started planning for the show in February, Mr Dowson said he was still surprised to take home the best in show award for his collection of five vegetables.

Comprising Picasso potatoes, countess parsnips, sweet candle carrots, mammoth leeks and spanish red onions, the keen gardener said he was “really happy with my collection” especially as “cold nights in April meant we were a month behind by the middle of May”.

“Gardening gives me the freedom to express myself,” he added. “It calms you down and gives you space.”

To find out more about the Fulham Horticultural Society, visit the Fulham Horticultural Society website.

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Image caption: Image 5: Fulham Horticultural Society chairman Eddie Robinson (pictured left) with semi-retired horticultural teacher Charles Dowson (right)

First prize winners – autumn 2021

Flowers and plants

  • Chrysanthemums, incurved or intermediate, two blooms, one variety – Stewart Whitten
  • Chrysanthemums, incurved or intermediate, one bloom – Stewart Whitten
  • Chrysanthemums, three stems – Stewart Whitten
  • Dahlias, under 50mm, three blooms – Abel Hadden
  • Dahlias, 50-100mm, three blooms – Fulham Palace apprentices
  • Dahlias, 100-150mm, three blooms – Fulham Palace apprentices
  • Dahlias, 150-200mm, one bloom – Abel Hadden
  • Dahlias, single, three blooms – Abel Hadden
  • Dahlias, mixed, five blooms – Abel Hadden
  • Roses, two stems any variety – Eddie Robinson
  • Flowers, one kind not specified elsewhere – Fulham Palace apprentices
  • Vase of mixed flowers – Sarah Willows
  • Pot plant, cactus or succulent – Celia Dowson
  • Pot plant, foliage – Celia Dowson
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Image caption: Image 6: Sarah Willows

Vegetables and fruits

  • Brussels sprouts – Charles Dowson
  • Leeks, three, top trimmed – Charles Dowson
  • Onions, three, up to 250g – Charles Dowson
  • Onions, three, over 250g – John Rielly
  • Shallots, nine, over 30mm – Stewart Whitten
  • Tomatoes, five, cherry – Fulham Palace apprentices
  • Celery, two, roots trimmed – Fulham Palace apprentices
  • Potatoes, five white, one variety – Abel Hadden
  • Potatoes, five coloured, one variety – Abel Hadden               
  • Carrots, three with 80mm top, stump root – Stewart Whitten
  • Carrots, three with 80mm top, long root – Stewart Whitten
  • Beetroot, three with 80mm top, globe root – Charles Dowson
  • Courgette – Alex Ellerington
  • Beans runner, nine pods – Charles Dowson
  • Beans runner, longest – Stewart Whitten
  • Beans dwarf French, nine pods – Charles Dowson
  • Collection of vegetables, five different kinds – Charles Dowson
  • Any other vegetable – Pedro Garcia/Jane Niesler (Trombetta squash)
  • Rhubarb – Stewart Whitten
  • Peppers – Charles Dowson
  • Cucumber ridge – Abel Hadden
  • Cucumber, any other variety – Charles Dowson
  • Apples – Judd Willows
  • Any other fruit – Charles Dowson


  • Jar of jam (stone or soft fruit) – Eddie Robinson (gooseberry)
  • Jar of jelly – Kerry Dowson (crab apple)
  • Jar of chutney – Alex Ellerington (green tomato)
  • Vegan brownie – Nicole Coleman
  • Chocolate cake – Alex Ellerington


  • Item of needlecraft – Julian Peach
  • A ‘Thank You’ card – Julian Peach
  • A knitted scarf – Nicole Coleman
  • Photograph of ‘The Beauty of Fruit and/or Vegetables’ – Ian Richardson


  • A garden on a plate – Sophie Willows
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Image caption: Image 7: Abel Hadden
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Image caption: Image 8: Stewart Whitten

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