Floral Stories

“Farming and flowers have always flourished together”.

Slaley Show Floral Art section secretary Margaret Ogle explains how floral art classes remain a core part of our traditional rural village shows….

The first ‘numbered’ Slaley Show was a poultry show held on 21st August 1852. The newspaper of the time, the Newcastle Courant reported it as ‘exciting considerable interest; that same report remarked that a floral show was also being held on the same day most likely started by the vicar Reverend Blythe Hurst who had arrived in the village in 1850. He held a pot plant competition perhaps within his own home alongside St Mary’s Parish Church on Slaley’s Main Street. Other records report an 1848 show called the Slaley and Hexhamshire Floral and Horticultural Society Show; the real beginnings remain a mystery for the moment. However, both events eventually merged along with the village Sunday School festival. By 1870 it was officially known as ‘Annual Sunday School Festival and Flower Show’. One hundred and sixty-one years later, not counting cancelled shows due to weather, war and Covid, everything about these early events still holds true to this day; Slaley Show celebrates traditional village life and flowers have always been at the heart of it.

The Floral Art Section is well-supported and sits alongside other classes within the Industrial Tent which collectively have regularly housed over 1,000 entries overall. Amongst the farming community Floral Art is encouraged from an early age through the efforts of Young Farmers Clubs whose annual competitive rallies produce floral exhibits of a very high standard and with many local floral societies and clubs in the area, there are many hoping to win at least one of the five trophies on offer.

With flower costs rising Margaret Ogle, Slaley Show’s Horticultural and Floral Art Secretary has taken early preventative steps for this year’s show on Saturday August 12th to further encourage the young, newcomers and enthusiasts alike.

“What I think is off putting to new exhibitors is that Floral Art is thought to be costly”  says Margaret “Of course, special or rare flowers are expensive to buy because they come from all over the world. Growing your own does mean that it’s less costly (but weather dependent!) so we also have a class for an arrangement using a supermarket bunch of flowers, any variety, costing no more than £8. It’s called ‘Feeling the Pinch’ and there’s a foliage-only class to explore arrangements using no flowers at all.”

Margaret says “I just love flowers of all varieties and am aiming to enthuse and simplify our Slaley show’s floral art section to encourage more people to try” she says. Floral Art is a celebratory, ornamental or symbolic display of flowers and foliage for a purpose or a place, like a wedding, a hotel foyer or even a dinner table in your own home for your own enjoyment; it’s about enhancing the setting “You take into consideration colour, texture, composition, appropriate props, interior design and measurement restrictions…it’s an experimental art form. An ‘arrangement’ is centred on the flowers whereas an ‘exhibit’ requires props to complement the flowers to tell a story” Margaret explains. “It does take you out of your comfort zone” she says, “it requires an element of daring to give it a try but it’s very satisfying to have tried!”

The Slaley Show on Saturday 12th August has its usual two special Junior classes (for age 12 years and under and 13-19 years) and two Novice classes ‘A rose is a rose is a rose’ (requiring just 3 roses and foliage) and ‘Congratulations...it’s a girl’. For the more experienced there are the Open Classes e.g. ‘A hat for the Queen (Consort)’, ’Back in time’, ‘Designer Foliage’ and the more traditional ‘Lady’s corsage’ and ‘Gentleman’s buttonhole’ classes. There is a special class for a vase of a 100 year old variety of sweet pea which commemorates Slaley WI’s recent 100 year old birthday. Many packets were distributed in the village as well as being available to members.

Kay Duggan is this year’s Slaley Show Floral Art section judge.