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Tips for Showing


Tips for Showing

Vegetables, Flowers and Cookery exhibits

The following tips and suggestions are what judges will usually be looking for in the perfect exhibit. Remember that whilst judges follow RHS Rules, some may have personal likes and dislikes.  However, by following these tips you should stand a better chance of being among the prize winners. This will enhance your enjoyment of participating and the more exhibits you enter, even if they are not ‘perfect’ (everyone will have experienced the same rotten weather!) the better the show will be and you will gain invaluable experience. Show whatever you grow!

For more information, the “The Horticultural Show Handbook” (no pictures!) is available from the RHS. Also available (lots of pictures!) is the ‘RHS Great British Village Show - what goes on behind the scenes - how to be a prize-winner’ by Thane Prince & Matthew Biggs.

Always read the schedule for the detail for each class. It’s such a shame for your entry to be marked ‘Not According to Schedule’ (NAS) after all your hard work.


Some of the trophies are awarded for success across a range of classes, some are totalled across the summer and autumn shows. The winner of each class scores 3 points, second scores 2 points and third scores 1 point.  The total scores for each competitor are added across the different classes that are identified for the relevant prizes. For example: The winner of the Kekewich Cup for floral art in the summer show will be the one who gains the most points across classes 54 to 57, (or as stated in the current list of prizes and trophies).


These are judged on condition, uniformity, size, shape and colour.

Pairs or sets of produce should be matching as far as possible


Select for similar shape and size, with shallow eyes. Carefully wash, without damaging the skins, to remove all traces of earth.  They should be of good size, not too large or small (around 170g to 225g).  The exhibit will be marked down for defects, i.e., misshapen, damaged by slugs, worms, blight or green due to exposure to light.


Harvest carefully to maintain a long taproot by watering well beforehand & easing them gently from the soil.  They should be carefully washed with a soft cloth, especially round the top of the shoulders.  The skins should be undamaged & the roots should be similar in size and shape, with a long taproot.  The leaf stalks should be cut to a length of 75mm.  They will be marked down if they display damage by carrot fly, grubs & green colouring around the shoulders due to exposure to light.


Harvest and prepare as for carrots. They should be well washed and without blemishes.  Choose seed varieties which are resistant to canker, which is unsightly on the show bench. Good weight is advantageous.


Harvest with a long tap root, as with carrots.  Carefully trim any side roots, leaving just one root and wash with a soft cloth to ensure they are free from any earth.  The skins should be undamaged and they should be of a similar size and shape.  As a rule of thumb the ideal size for a globe beetroot is 50-75mm.  The leaf stalks should be cut to 75mm.  If they are too large and woody, they will be marked down. Rubbing them with oil to enhance their appearance is not allowed.


Tomatoes should be regular in shape and size, firm but fully ripe showing the true colour of the variety.  They should be unblemished but not polished and have their fresh green calyx attached. ‘Small’ varieties should not exceed 35mm diameter.


Display with 2cm stalk attached. They should be fresh, straight and not over mature.  They should have a short handle (ie the thin end to which the stalk is attached), and can have the dead flower attached.  They should be blemish free and retain their natural bloom.  Care must be taken when handling or washing as this may remove the bloom.

Runner beans and French beans

Beans should be exhibited with some of the stalk (the handle) attached.  They should be straight and of equal length and uniform size.  They should be fresh and not coarse or stringy.  The seeds should not be over prominent in the pod.  The judge may snap one of the beans to check they are fresh.  They should have a good, even colour and be free from blemishes.


Cabbages should be of a good size and colour and have a firm, solid heart. The leaves should, as far as possible, be free from insect damage. Make sure there are no slugs or grubs lurking in the foliage.  Try to maintain the ‘waxy bloom’ on the leaves, which will disappear with too much washing and handling. The roots should be cut off and some of the outer leaves if damaged, but keep as many leaves as possible and around 50mm stalk.  They should be fresh and, if more than one, of equal size and shape.


These should adhere to any size limits and display an even, all over good colour.  They should be displayed with at least 2cm stalk attached.  The skin should be unblemished.


Courgettes should be fresh, ideally around 15cm in length and of uniform shape and size.  They should have a good overall skin colour and no blemishes. Attached flowers are beneficial.  Do not cut too close to the fruit, as about 2cm of stalk should be attached.  They should be clean without need for washing, as this can be detrimental to their natural appearance. Round cultivars should be approximately 75mm diameter


They should be fresh, ripe but not over ripe and starchy.  The ears of corn should be even, regular (in line) and fully formed over the whole cob.  They should have at least 2cm stalk attached. The husk and dead filaments should be present.  To display, the outer leaves on one side only should be neatly peeled back and tucked under the cob to display a section of corn.


Select for uniform shape & size. Ensure that they conform to any weight or size restrictions. Onions may fail if they are oval & will not pass through a ring of the specified size. The onions should be well ripened, firm, with a dry, unbroken, unblemished & ripe skin. They should not be over-skinned.  The roots should be trimmed neatly & the top (the neck), should be thin & bound neatly with raffia.  They can be staged upright on soft rings.

In the summer show, where the class states the onions are shown ‘as grown’, they should be clean, with roots washed and tops presented neatly.


Leeks should be thoroughly washed with the soil teased from the roots, which should not be cut off.  The flags (leaves) should not be cut, and be in good condition.  The barrel of the leek should be straight and even, not swollen (bulbous) at the base. The longer the blanched (white) part of the barrel, the better. The leeks should be uniform in size & shape.  Tie the flags loosely with strands of raffia in two to three places along their length.


Shallots should be prepared as per onions, and can be displayed neatly on a plate of dry sand.

Apples and pears

These should be displayed with stalks attached & not be polished.  They should be uniform in shape & size, with skins free from blemish, discolouration or bruising. Specimens should be fresh, and not over-ripe.

Soft fruit

Raspberries and other soft fruit should be exhibited with stalks.  They should be fresh, free from damage and ripe but not over ripe.  Currants should be displayed as bunches (sprigs) where possible.


Where the class refers to the number of blooms, ensure there are no additional buds. Foliage should only be used where specified – where described ‘for effect’ then foliage other than that of the flower itself can be used. As with vegetables, flowers should be fresh, clean, undamaged and typical of the variety/species.


Blooms must be clean, fresh & of similar size.  The perianth and corona should be free from nicks, tears etc.  Unless the variety characteristics are different, the flower should be near to a right angle to the stem. One leaf placed behind each flower and slightly taller can be used to enhance the display.  Daffodils can be cut up to a week before the show date and kept in cold water in a cool dark place.  They can be brought into the warm and light a day or two before the show so that they are at their best on the day.  It is good if the petals can be symmetrical, and in identical positions for each flower.  This can be achieved by gently twisting (clocking) the stem/immature seed head at the back of the flower.  Kitchen roll can be used to pack the vase to help the display.  The exhibit that ‘sits up and stares the judge in the face’ is going to be noticed! 

Hanging baskets

These should be colourful, harmonious and eye catching.  Plants should be closely grouped to hide or almost hide the basket.  They should be well balanced and selected to form an attractive display for a long period.  There should be no obvious signs of damage from weather, pests or disease.



Cakes should be well risen, and of even shape and baking.  Any fruit should be evenly distributed through the cake.  A domed top with slight cracking is acceptable for fruit cakes. The cake should not bear the marks of the cooling rack, or visible testing holes.


Use clean jars, free from commercial trademarks and unmarked lids.  Preserves should be labelled with the main ingredient and the day, month and year of making. 

  • Jams, jellies and marmalades should be filled to the brim to allow for shrinkage.  For the top use a well-fitting wax disc and cellophane, or a new twist top (a wax disc is not needed). 
  • Lemon curd should be covered with a wax disc and cellophane. 
  • Chutney or pickles should have half an inch of head space between the contents and the lid, and the jar must be topped with a vinegar-proof lid.  Chutneys must be a minimum of two months old.

Cooked potatoes and beetroot

These should be of even size and colour.  They should not show marks for testing (cook a ‘spare’).


Our handicraft section in the Autumn show is developing, with scope for a wide variety of exhibits.  Items should have been completed in the last 12 months.


Flowers used for the floral art classes should be cut from plants that have been grown by the exhibitor for at least 6 weeks before the show.  Bought flowers may not be used. Note the size restrictions for each class in the schedule and remember that displays can droop and therefore spread in the time before judging, so stay well within the limit.

The condition of the flowers and foliage is important.


·       Check the times in the schedule or on the website.

·       The class numbers that you want to enter should be sent to either secretary the week before.

·       Bring your exhibits at the time stated, and you will be given a card for each class you have entered.

·       ‘Stage’ each exhibit on the relevant section of the bench, and put your card next to it with your name facing down. If there isn’t enough space, talk to the show steward or secretary, please don’t move other exhibits yourself.

·       Please leave the hall before the judges arrive, nobody is allowed in the hall during judging apart from the show stewards.

·       When doors open, come and see how you have done and compare notes with other exhibitors. 

·       The trophies are presented later in the afternoon, and then you can take your exhibits home.

V7b 2024