Doing a bit for the RHS

Last weekend I did a bit of volunteering for the RHS Cardiff Flower Show. It was the first time I had done anything like this and didn’t quite know what to expect. The flower show in Cardiff is held in Bute Park behind Cardiff Castle and I have been going for quite a few years although I don’t go every year. There are quite a lot of exhibitors there and 2 lovely Floral Marquees as well as crafts and food stalls by small producers stretching from chocolates and cheese to various alcoholic offerings and jewellery etc. The Sunday wasn’t a lovely sunny day like the Saturday and the ground was a bit muddy in the frequent showers (see photo below) but it was well attended and a really good show.

My role was to do a shift in the floral marquees starting at 12 on Sunday and finishing at what I thought would be 6pm but in fact turned out to be about 5pm and during the afternoon I had a 2 hour break. My job was to answer questions asked by visitors and although my sash said “Plant Finder” it wasn’t only plants I was asked about but where the toilets were, where the demonstration tent is, where can I get coffee, did any of the exhibitors sell garden kneelers and what time is it?

Above are the peonies I ordered, am such a sucker.

Believe it or not I did also get asked about plants. Here is a flavour of the kind of questions,

  1. “I want to buy a plant with the ‘A-Toni’ in it”, me “I’m sorry, am not sure if I have heard of a plant called a-tony”, visitor “No with the name ‘Tony’ in it – after my …” (can’t quite remember this bit it was either ‘partner’, ‘cat’ or ‘dog’), me “Ahhh I see, now let me think – there is a climber called Montana”, visitor “Have been told about a rose called Montarda but I don’t want a rose”, me “Well a Montana is well worth the money and would give you years of enjoyment, you might want to try the climber stand where they sell Clematis they may be able to help”, visitor “Where would they be?”, me consulting map “There are a few …” well you get the gist, anyway off she went, am not sure if I really helped as wasn’t quite prepared for that kind of question, but I’ll know next time. Hope she found something.
  2. “Excuse me I am looking for a plant that grows with tomatoes that puts off insects, I have been told by suchandsuch that a Coleus is a good one to try”, (Btw I have never heard of this plant) me “Well I know that marigolds make good companion plants for tomatoes, what was the name of the plant again? Was that a herb do you know”, I write the name down intending looking it up in my break, “A Coleus, supposed to put off greenfly and other insects”, me “Hmm, not heard of that one, you could try …” I name a few herbs and general plants stands and off they go. By this time I am beginning to worry that other than correctly telling the time and knowing where the toilets are I am not doing to well.
  3. “I am looking for a Bourganvillea”, ah now I know this one as I had been admiring the stand after our orientation session on the previous Thursday, I get out my map. “Here it is, we are in tent no. 1 and you need tent no. 2, so from here you walk out the entrance, into no. 2 and it will be on your right in the corner”, am showing the visitor the map, she hesitates, “Are you sure?” She says, “Yes, yes, just in the corner”, “Ok” and she starts to walk off, fortunately I look up from the map and see the Bourganvillea stand in the corner diagonally opposite IN THE TENT I AM STANDING IN “Stop! WAIT! I’m wrong, its over there LOOK”, I am pointing, the visitor is looking at me either like I am a crazy demented person or just plain stupid. She looksand sees the stand, I breathe a sigh of relief, moment saved. Phew. Only bit I didn’t understand though is why she then walked off in completely the opposite direction? Odd that.

That should give you a flavour of 1. The kinds of questions and 2. How my answers were not quite perfect, except for where the toilets were, I got that one exactly right both times.

Here are some photos (bit random, I am really not a great photographer),

One of the gardens (sorry didn’t make a note of who)

I want one.

Have to say that I would certainly do it again. I didn’t just get asked questions but chatted to a lot of people, they might have thought it was odd that a complete stranger started chatting to them who wasn’t trying to sell them anything. That’s the wonderful thing about plants though, like people walking their dogs frequently chat to other dog walkers plants generate chit chat. Lovely.

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