Although the growing season is coming to an end and life begins to get a bit easier in the vegetable garden, October and November are still busy months for us
Every year for our Autumn Festival here at Hyde Hall I am tasked with putting together a display of the pumpkins, squashes and gourds that have been grown in the summer. You may remember reading about them in previous blogs but now is the time of year when visitors can really appreciate the fruits of our labours.
I look forward to putting the display together as it gives us an opportunity to be creative, contrasting the different shapes, sizes, colours and textures together to create something that is visually striking. The display is usually in one of the empty beds in the vegetable garden and this year we designed a three-sided display, creating different levels and angles using hay bales to give a sense of height. This makes it difficult to see all of the display from just a single viewpoint and adds to the level of interest and excitement (above left).
Fifty four different varieties were squeezed into the 3m x 3m space, and this year’s bumper harvest ensured there were no gaps left unfilled! We place the biggest pumpkins first and, although we didn’t have a record breaker this year, ‘Atlantic Giant’, ‘Bix Max’ and ‘Paton Twins Giant’ all came good, meaning we had a good structure to place the smaller varieties around. A 'guess the weight of the pumpkin competition' was also held during the Autumn Festival and the biggest ‘Atlantic Giant’ weighed in at an impressive 69.5kg (just shy of 11 stone).
Some of the best performers this year were winter squash ‘Crown Prince’ that proved to be prolific, producing 13 good size fruits that are perfect for eating and the smaller squash, ‘Buffy Ball’, that produces tennis-ball sized, creamy-yellow fruits that we harvested two to three dozen fruits from. Of the new varieties we grew for the first time, squash ‘Black Futsu’ (right) was the most interesting as its dark-green fruits matured to a pale orange-red in the sun and the lovely grey-blue blooms on the fruits reappeared every morning as the dew evaporated. I will report back on how they taste when we take the display down in a few weeks’ time.
Read RHS Advice on how to grow pumpkins and squashes as well as how to store them.