Plants of the past on display at 150th Leeds Flower Show

Elizabeth Bidgood
Elizabeth Bidgood
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horticultural history came to life at the 150th Leeds Flower, Vegetable and Craft Show.

To celebrate its anniversary, keen growers recreated the Leeds Horticultural Society’s first annual show, held in June 1864.

The special marquee recreating that event was one of the attractions at the show, held at The Grammar School in Alwoodley.

Elisabeth Bidgood, retired chairman of the society, designed the layout and decor of the marquee, as well as replicating plants mentioned in a report of the 1864 show which was published in the Leeds Mercury.

The article says that the show aimed “to encourage throughout the district generally a taste for the cultivation of plants and flowers, and an emulation in the production and maintenance of the finest qualities.”

The show was held in the The Drill Hall of The Leeds Volunteer Rifles in Oxford Row, which was “dressed with garlands and foliage”, and flowers including roses and pansies, plants and bouquets were displayed.

It was a success, with 2,500 visitors and takings at the door of £72, an impressive amount for the time.

Most were provided by the gardeners of wealthy local families and visitors to the marquee at this weekend’s show could see replicas of the entries such as lemon trees, plant varieties introduced in the same era and even pineapples growing.

In the main show, gardeners, craftspeople and cooks from across the district showed off their produce in more than 200 classes.

Oversized onions and lengthy leeks were the centrepiece of the vegetable categories, along with an array of the finest examples of everything from tomatoes to marrows.

Eyecatching floral art arrangements which saw participants test their creativity were a hit with the crowds, as were the baking classes which showcased all sorts of tempting treats.

Beautiful blooms inspired visitors, while the most unusual classes had to be the weird and wonderful cacti.

Show visitor Vivienne Rivis, who lives near Harrogate, said: “I was very impressed by the standard of the exhibits.

“The fruit and veg displays gave me something to aim for in my own local show next year.

“I particularly liked the displays by other societies, which showed how much horticultural expertise is available in the Leeds area – now I know where to go for advice.”

For information on Leeds Horticultural Society, visit

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