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Showing Hints

General Hints

Read the Schedule to see what Classes are available to enter and tell others about it – spread the word!

Decide which Classes you might wish to enter and encourage family members and friends to enter something as well..

Plan ahead accordingly – some exhibits take a long time to prepare, others require only a few hours.

Read the Schedule again and check for any rules or conditions that may relate to your chosen Classes.

Submit your entry forms and fees before the deadline (up to 8pm on the Thursday evening before the Show) because this helps the Committee to plan space requirements and prepare exhibitor entry cards in good time.  Late entries are allowed up till 12 noon on the Friday but no late entries can be made or accepted on Show day because, by then, the Committee will have already allocated show bench space and it is unfair on other exhibitors, especially those who have already staged and carefully arranged their exhibits on the bench.

Please note that non-residents may telephone their planned entries to Paul Neve on 01482 633639.  The relevant entry fees will be collected from you in person when you collect your exhibitor envelopes on Show Day.  Swanland residents are expected to physically submit their entry forms together with fees direct to their nearest Committee member named in the Show Schedule.  An envelope pushed through the letterbox should suffice.

Allow sufficient time to stage your exhibits – don’t rush around at the last moment and risk a simple mistake which may cost you a prize! For example, if the Class calls for 5 Tomatoes then stage 5 tomatoes.  If you stage 6 by mistake, a kind judge may ask the Steward to remove one before judging your entry but, if you stage only 4 tomatoes, the Judge will have no option but to declare your entry as Not According to Schedule which is disappointing for everyone.

After you have finished staging, take time to examine your exhibits on the show bench before you leave the room.  Have you staged your exhibit in the correct Class? Have you staged the correct number of items?  Have you placed your exhibitor’s card with your exhibit and is it the correct one? Have you placed the card face down so that your exhibitor’s number is not visible to the Judge? Has anything been damaged or become misplaced?  Does your exhibit look as good as you can make it?  Remember, the way your exhibit looks when you leave the room is the way the Judge will see it! Have you collected all your staging paraphernalia and boxes?

Handicraft Section

Read the Schedule carefully!

Cross stitch will be judged on evenness of stitching and whether all stitches are in the same direction.

Knitting will be judged on whether the seams are sown neatly and whether the button holes have been stitched around.

Soft toys and any items that require the use of stuffing should have the stuffing inserted gradually in small amounts, rather than large lumps, in order to produce a smoother feel and more even result.

Produce Section

Read the Schedule carefully!

Jams and Pickles – Use a plain, straight-sided jar with a plain lids and no adornment eg no gingham covers!  Jars should be labelled but not too large and positioned approximately two thirds the way down the jar.  The label should show  the date made and the type of jam/pickle enclosed.  When staging, please ensure the jars are clean and polished to remove any finger marks.

Cakes – Read the Schedule carefully!  If the Class wording states a 7″ round tin then do not use a 9″ tin or a square tin, or you will risk disqualification.

Pastry should be cooked all the way through.  A quiche, for example,  should not be ‘soggy bottomed’!

Buns should be decorated as per Schedule wording.

A useful guide for exhibitors on craft, cookery and related activities and covering the guidelines followed by judges from the Womens’ Institute can be found here.

Art Section

We use peg board and mounting hooks for our exhibition stands.  Before staging, please ensure that your pictures are fitted with rings and horizontal string/wire ready to suspend from our mounting hooks.

Floral Art Section

Read the Schedule carefully so that you understand what is allowed.  If an exhibit calls for fresh plant material then do not use dried or artificial material, or you risk disqualification.  Similarly, ensure your exhibit fits within the size allowed and does not overhang.   Where the class bears a title then do some research to find out what the wording means or conveys; use a dictionary, encyclopaedia or the internet.  Remember you are painting a picture and trying to tell a story but using floral material as your medium. Use appropriate colours, contrasting textures and forms to enhance your creation.  Accessories and containers can often be useful additions but remember that the floral material must form the dominant feature of your arrangement.  Condition your floral material properly beforehand otherwise it may droop if it can’t take up water on Show day.

When you have finished staging your exhibit, stand back and look at it from the Judge’s position.  Are there any gaps?  Is it top heavy or does it look off balance? Have you obscured the oasis sufficiently? Has anything drooped out of place and does it still fit within the horizontal space allowed? Have you swept up any bits of loose material that might otherwise detract from your exhibit?

Floral Art rules (based on NAFAS Competitions Manual 3rd Ed, 2015) require exhibits to:

1.      Comply with any specific requirements as stated in the schedule wording eg measurements or components.

2.     Ensure that fresh plant material has cut stems placed in water or water-retaining material eg green oasis.  Permitted exceptions are air plants, fungus, fruits, cacti, grass turf, lichen, moss, succulents, vegetables and long-lasting plant material (including strong fibrous stems) which will remain turgid for the duration of the Show.

3.       Exclude any artificial plant material unless specifically allowed in the class wording.

Further details from NAFAS, Osborne House, 12 Devonshire Square, London EC2M 4TE –

Vegetable Classes

The following selection of hints refers to the exhibition of vegetables under National Vegetable Society (NVS) rules.  Ensure that all produce is clean and fresh and meets the number of specimens required to be staged. Try not to mix small and large specimens and remember that biggest is not always best!  Always bring a few spares with you just in case – accidents will and do happen.

Potatoes should be well-shaped, shallow-eyed, even-sized with clean, unbroken skins.  Wash carefully but do not polish.  Optimum weight is 200g per tuber.

Carrots, Beetroot, Parsnips and Turnips should be smooth-skinned, free from damage and disease, straight and well-coloured throughout their length. Turnips are normally cut by the Judge to assess flesh colour/disease.  Wash carefully, around rather than along the root, to avoid scratching the skin surface.  Avoid specimens with side or fanged roots or broken taproots. Stump-rooted carrots should have a pronounced stump (not a pointed) root end.

should be fresh, tender, straight, uniform in thickness and colour, with short handles and free from damage/disease.

should be tender with uniform shape and colour and flower still attached.  Optimum length is 150mm.

Leeks should have firm, white, straight, non-bulbous barrels with no evidence of damage or disease.  Foliage should be turgid and damage/pest-free.  By definition, a pot leek must not exceed 150mm in length between the root plate and the ‘button’ (point at which the lowermost leaf joins the barrel) and a blanch leek must exceed this measurement.

Marrows should be fresh, young and tender with uniform colour and flower still attached.  Optimum length is 400mm (200mm for round-fruited varieties).  These criteria do not apply to the heaviest marrow class.

Tomatoes should be firm, ripe, unblemished, well shaped and rounded.  Optimum size is 60mm for exhibition types and 25mm for cherry-fruited varieties. Calyces should be fresh.

Onions should be dressed (roots/foliage removed and necks tied with natural raffia), with clean, unbroken, well-ripened skins free from ribbing, softness or discoloration. If the outer skin splits during storage do not  remove it unless you feel sure that the next layer will dry in time for the Show date.  Try to ensure that all bulbs are matched for size and shape. These criteria do not apply to the heaviest onion class.

French and Runner Beans should be long, straight, shapely, fresh, tender, of good colour and with no outward signs of seeds in the pods.  One or more pods may be snapped by the Judge to assess condition. These criteria do not apply to the longest bean class.

Broad Beans should have long, straight, well-filled pods with unblemished skins.  Avoid aged pods containing seeds bearing black eyes; one or more pods may be snapped by the Judge to assess condition.

Peas should have long, fresh, smooth, well-filled pods with good natural bloom and colour.  Peas should be staged with some stalk attached.  One or more pods may be snapped by the Judge to assess condition.

Rhubarb is regarded as an exhibition vegetable rather than a fruit.  Stalks should be fresh, straight and of uniform weight and length.  Good red colouring and no sign of pest damage is advantageous.  Leaves should be trimmed back to 40mm approximately.

Shallots should be dressed (see Onions above), well-ripened, shapely and sound with no evidence of greening, purpling or broken skins.  Large exhibition shallots are usually of Hative de Niort cultivar and staged on a dish of dry sand. Do not use damp sand as this encourages roots to form!

Sweet Corn should have fresh, well-formed cobs with a good, even grain set.  Cobs should be staged with the silks attached.

Sweet and Chilli Peppers should be fresh and brightly coloured according to the cultivar.  Fruits should be of a good size and shape and free from damage.

In Collections, the Judge normally points vegetables and the following list shows the maximum total points that may be awarded under NVS rules for some of the commoner kinds.  Different vegetables attract different judging criteria but points are awarded primarily for factors such as condition, size, shape and uniformity.

Exhibitors should aim to stage higher-pointed kinds in vegetable collections as far as possible.  A poor potato may easily outscore a perfect radish!

Aubergines 18, French Beans 15, Runner Beans 18, Globe/Cylindrical Beetroot 15, Long Beetroot 20, Green/Red/Savoy Cabbages 15, Stump Carrots 18, Long Carrots 20, Cauliflowers 20, Trench Celery 20, Self-blanching Celery 18, Cucumbers 18, Garlic 12, Blanch/Pot Leeks 20, Lettuce 15, Marrows/Squashes 15, Okra 18, Large Onions 20, Onions from Sets/250 gm or less 15, Parsnips 20, Potatoes 20, Pumpkins 10, Radish 10, Exhibition Shallots 18, Sweet Corn 15, Sweet/Chilli Peppers 15, Exhibition Tomatoes 18, Beefsteak Tomatoes 15, Cherry-fruited Tomatoes 12, Turnips 15.

Further details of the Judge’s Guide can be obtained from National Vegetable Society, National Secretary, 4 Canmore St, Kinghorn, Fife KY3 9RH –

Fruit Classes

Dessert Apples should be of optimum size and colour for the variety, shapely and with stalks intact.  Avoid specimens that are damaged, show blemishes or signs of disease.

Cooking Apples should be large, shapely and solid with undamaged eyes with stalks intact and with a skin colour characteristic of the variety with no blemishes or disease.

Plums should be large, ripe, of good colour with bloom intact and stalks attached.

Raspberries should be fresh, large, ripe, bright, with fresh calyces and stalks attached.

Flower Classes

A vase is defined as a vessel for displaying cut flowers in water and having a height greater than the diameter of its mouth.  A bowl is defined as a similar vessel having a mouth diameter equal to, or greater than, its height.

Pot plants normally grown for their ornamental foliage effect but in flowering mode at the time of the Show are not debarred from entering the flowering pot plant class.

Blooms and foliage should be unblemished and free from bugs and disease.  Keep the stalks as long as possible, immersed in water and in proportion to the size of container used. Note the size of container allowed for certain classes and do not exceed the specified limit or you risk disqualification. Uniformity is important so avoid mixing large and small specimens, if possible.  Unless otherwise indicated in the rules, the use of oasis, wire netting or crumpled paper can help to support your stems and assist staging of your blooms to face the front and not touching one another. Make your exhibit as visually attractive as possible; in a close competition, effective staging may be the deciding factor.

The Horticultural Show Handbook (8th Ed, 2016) produced by the Royal Horticultural Society covers the judging of fruit, vegetables, flowers and ornamental plants, gardens and allotments, hanging baskets and outdoor-planted containers according to RHS judging criteria. This publication also offers useful hints to exhibitors, judges and show organisers.

Further details can be obtained from RHS Enterprises Ltd, RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey GU23 6QB –

Photography Classes

Photographs should be within the required size and will be judged on:

Clarity ie focus quality and brightness.

Composition ie where are the strong points within the picture.

Balance ie obeying the rule of thirds.  For example, the horizon should not appear in the centre of the picture and strong points should appear where the thirds intersect.

Framing ie the use of clouds, trees, tall buildings etc to enclose your scene. This term refers to picture composition; it does not mean the use of an external picture frame.


If you are fortunate to win a trophy then please look after it and keep it safe until the due return date the following year.  Silver and silver plated items will oxidise and turn brown over time. Minor tarnishing can be removed by washing the affected item in soapy water with a non-abrasive cloth and then polishing it dry. If the item is badly tarnished then use a silver polish BUT please do read the manufacturer’s instructions first!

Exhibitors winning any of the Show trophies are solely responsible for engraving them at their own cost, should they wish to do so. The prize money we award to trophy winners is intended to provide a token payment towards the cost of engraving, should trophy winners choose to spend their prize money in this way.  The Committee will periodically examine all trophies for general condition and capacity for further engraving and will replace plain banding as appropriate.

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