My idea of heaven is a warm tent, damp grass, a hint of diesel, livestock calling, the heady scent of the flowers, bales of hay and a brass band playing.

I am Mary Sharpe and I have been running the Floral Art Section of the County Show since 1984 but an exhibitor since 1979.

I was studying to be a Floral Art teacher in 1979 and learnt all the usual styles and designs. I was invited to attend a competitive show at Nottingham and I was blown away by the inventive, colourful and altogether amazing exhibits.

That was forty years ago. I entered a few shows and got a few prizes for floral art including Best in Show at Derbyshire County Show in 1982. Then I entered the Derbyshire County Show at Spondon in 1984. The rain poured down, the show was a disaster and the Society lost all its money. The Floral Art Manager threw in the towel and I picked it up.

RPX_2646 RPX_2644

I suddenly found myself part of the Derbyshire County Show Council of 50 Members all with various interests and ideas. This was a new world. I was responsible for the Floral Art exhibits at the Show. I did the schedule, booked the people to erect the staging and loved every minute of it. The Horticultural Manager gave up the job and I then ran one big tent combining Horticultural Trade and Floral Art and it worked well.

Things jogged along for a few years. The show got bigger and better and we managed to secure the lease of our current showground opposite Elvaston Castle in 2000. I was, by this time, Chairman of the Show. A dear friend and her husband took over as Floral Art/Horticultural Managers for the twelve years that I was Chairman. Floral art numbers were declining at this time because fewer people were entering shows.

In 2005 I gave up the Chairmanship of the Show and went back to the gentle therapeutic world of Floral Art/Horticulture – only it’s not!! It is keen, obsessive, stretching, challenging and a ton of fun. The exhibitors are a wonderful group, with friendships made over the past 40 years. They get up at 5.00am to get the flowers they need. They tote boxes, staging and drapery over sunlit and sometimes rainy muddy fields to put on a show for the public of Derbyshire. They love it and it means so much to them. To the public it is just a pleasant collection of flower arrangements but the exhibitors put their heart and soul into it. They plan, grow plants, buy plants and covert plants grown by others. They research obscure titles for other angles and study colour, design and form.

Most exhibitors are members of local Flower Clubs under the auspices of NAFAS (The National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies) and they are familiar with NAFAS rules. Our judges are always NAFAS qualified judges.

The judge usually puts a comment card if he/she feels that a little constructive comment will help. The public read these with interest – often disagreeing loudly about a particular point.

Over the past two years we have welcomed a new tranche of exhibitor. They are young people who love plants and gardening and who are looking for a challenge. Does this sound familiar. However, they are often not members of flower clubs and sometimes break the rules but our judges are always kind and the more experienced exhibitors are often willing to pass on tips and suggestions.

Our numbers are up. In 2018 we had 56 beautiful exhibits plus a superb exhibit from the Floristry Teachers at Derby College’s Broomfield base and a colourful display of fruit and vegetable from the North Derbyshire branch of the National Vegetable Society.

We will be welcoming a NAFAS representative in the tent who will be happy to chat to exhibitors and members of the public alike.

This year’s titles include:

A world full of colour – floral art from around the world
A basket of summer flowers from the garden
Circles in your mind
An exhibit in which the container is fashioned from natural plant material
Petite perfection
Carnival Time – an Afro Caribbean headdress.

The Derbyshire County Show has given me 40 years of memories. My world has been infinitely enhanced by being part of it. I know farmers, bee keepers, horse enthusiasts, dog breeders, poultry breeders and rabbit enthusiasts all of whom are now friends. Join us on the 23rd June 2019 at our showground opposite Elvaston Castle. Look out for the Floral Art/Horticultural Tent. See if you agree with the judge!!