Tips for Exhibitors

Set out below is some advice for our less experienced exhibitors & visitors, so they understand what the judges are looking for & how exhibits can be displayed to best advantage. These are based on RHS show guidelines ( for more information & detail refer to RHS publication 'The Horticultural Show Handbook 2008' ). Judges may eliminate entries that do not meet the schedule specifications. These tips are not intended as a comprehensive guide to showing but are more general advice on what judges expect.

Uniform shape & size is key with all vegetables so is their presentation. Vegetables should be displayed as attractively as possible on plates or directly on the display bench. Water thoroughly before harvesting for the show. Root vegetables should be washed carefully with a soft cloth & plenty of water.
Beans-Broad : Select strong, well filled pods of even colour. Cut pods from vines leaving a short section of stalk. Advisable to check one or two spare pods for condition & internal freshness. Display lengthwise across a plate with all stalks at one end.
Beans-French : As above
Beans-Runner : As above
Beetroot : Select roots about tennis ball size, or true to the cultivar. Avoid specimens that are misshapen, blemished, with poor skin colour, or which don't have a single small tap root. Small side shoots should be removed. Trim foliage to approx 75mm.
Brussels Sprouts : Cut tightly closed sprouts of uniform size from main stem using a knife & trim all stalks to same length. Do not remove too many outer leaves as this reduces depth of colour.
Cabbage : Select solid, clean heads with a good, waxy bloom & carefully cut from root @ base. Check for condition & pest damage & reject if poor. Remove any damaged outer leaves but take care not to over-strip. Display with approx. 50mm stalk except in collections.
Carrot : Select fresh, firm roots of good shape with consistent colour for full root length & no evidence of side shoots. Trim foliage to approx 75mm. Avoid specimens that have turned green at top. 
Cauliflower : Select only pest free, undamaged, tight headed examples. Exhibit with approx. 50mm of stalk except in collections. Trim back leaves to same level as outside curd just before staging. Cover white curds with clean paper to exclude light until just before judging.
Celery : Select disease & pest free, non-damaged heads with no heart-rot, slug damage or evidence of flower head formation. Tie around base & wash thoroughly to remove all soil & pests; trim roots & leave pointed butt end.
Courgettes : Choose young, tender, shapely & uniform specimens approx. 150mm long & 35mm in diameter. Display flat without flower attached.
Cucumbers : Avoid aging, yellowing, crooked, soft examples & those of irregular thickness. Display with short handle; OK with or without the flower attached.
Leeks : Choose firm, solid, parallel-sided specimens with no sign of softness or splits. Should be approx 150-350mm from root plate to button, leave tops on. Wash & trim roots carefully to present clean, unbroken roots.
Lettuce : Lift with the roots intact in the evening or early morning. Wash roots & wrap in moist tissue & plastic bag. Wash upside down , remove only markedly damaged outside leaves & lay on the show bench with firm hearts facing the front.
Marrow : Choose tender, young, uniform examples approx 12"-15" (300-380mm) long. Wipe clean & display on show bench.
Onions : Avoid soft, stained specimens with thick, immature necks & do not overskin. Tops should be cut & then tied or whipped with uncoloured raffia, waxed string or similar material. Roots should be trimmed back to basal plate. For best effect display on rings or soft collars.
Onion-spring (green salad) : Lift carefully, wash in clean water to remove all soil & display with roots attached.
Parsnip : Roots should be long, straight, evenly tapered & well developed. Take care when lifting & soak in water to carefully remove all soil. Wash thoroughly in clean water & trim tops to 100mm.
Peas : Select large, long pods free from pests & disease. When cutting from vine try to keep finger contact to a minimum to maintain waxy bloom & leave approx. 20mm of stalk. Check for internal damage by holding up to strong light. If alone display on plate.
Peppers : Select fully formed examples of correct shape, size & colour true to the cultivar. Multiple examples should be of uniform colour.
Potatoes : Choose ones which are medium sized for variety (approx 6 ozs ..170-200gms), with shallow eyes & no blemishes. They should not be greening. Display on a plate & cover with cloth to exclude light until judging commences.
Pumpkin : Select a well-formed, mature specimen of good colour.
Radishes : Select fresh, young, firm, tender, medium sized, bright coloured roots with no blemishes. Clean & trim foliage to approx. 40mm.
Rhubarb : Cut stalks which are fresh, straight & long with good colouring. Trim bulk of foliage to leave only approx. lower 75mm.
Shallots : Bulbs should be thoroughly dried & of uniform size (must pass thro' 30mm diameter ring) & colour with no staining or loose skin. Prepare as onions. Display on sand or similar material to keep upright on plate.
Swede : Choose fresh, tender disease-free examples with small tap root & true to cultivar. Remove dead leaves & wash carefully. As with all root crops it is advisable to check one or two spare roots for disease & internal condition.
Sweetcorn on the cob : Fresh green husks should be displayed with approx. one quarter of the grain exposed by pulling down husks from tip to base & removing a number of the husks; this should expose straight rows of tender, well-filled (not shrivelled) grains. Trim stalks.
Tomatoes : Select well shaped , clear skinned examples that are ripe but firm. Keep calyces attached & clean but don't polish to retain natural bloom.
Turnips : As Swedes.
Pick as close to the show as possible selecting fruit that is fresh, free from blemish, uniform in size, shape & colour. Cut from the plant (retaining stalks) more than schedule requires so that reserves are available when setting out; handle by the stalks & as little as possible to minimise fingermarks & retain original bloom.
Apple : Display with eye uppermost & stalk end downwards.
Apricots : As Peaches.
Berries (Straw, Raspberry, Black, etc.) : Select large, ripe fruits that are fresh, bright & free from blemish. Ensure stalks & calyces are fresh, green & all point one way on plate.
Currents (Black, red or white + Jostaberries, blueberries, etc.) :Reject malformed &/or damaged fruit. Lay out intact strings in approx parallel lines across plate with bottom of string at bottom of plate. Mound fruit in the centre.
Damsons : As Plums, cherries.
Gooseberries : As Plums, cherries. May be ripe or unripe dependant on season.
Grapes-Bunch : Pick as a complete bunch. Cut each bunch with a piece of lateral shoot on each side to form a T-handle.
Melon : Cut in similar way to grapes.
Nectarines : As Peaches.
Nuts : Remove husks & stalks before displaying.
Peaches : Cut without stalks or stems taking care not to split skin in the stalk cavity.
Pear : Best arranged around perimeter of plate with stalks towards centre.
Plums, cherries (& similar shaped fruit) : Lay out in lines across plate ensuring bloom undisturbed & stalks intact.
Quinces : Similar to Pears.
Make sure you read the schedule to ensure correct type, number & size of blooms prepared for class entered; additional blooms will not improve chances & may lead to disqualification. Also use of accessories are not expected except where stated in schedule & use may lead to disqualification.
Cut Flowers : Ideally start to consider entries 2-3 weeks prior to show; keep plants well watered & look for promising blooms. Cut as late as possible before show with long stems, use a slanted cut to improve water uptake once cut. Arrange to best advantage in vase removing any damaged petals or foliage.
Roses : Flower heads should be just opening.
Potted plants : Check pot/container size is within show schedule class limits. Display to best advantage removing any damaged petals or foliage. 
Basket plants : Prepare basket with appropriate liners & soil containing water retaining gel as necessary. Plant up from base using appropriate plants in basket sides & top. Keep well watered & fed. Prepare for show as above.