The most unusual consequence of Covid – a giant pumpkin at the Chelsea Flower Show

·3-min read
A giant pumpkin weighing over 800lbs is moved into position - Jamie Lorriman
A giant pumpkin weighing over 800lbs is moved into position - Jamie Lorriman

Giant vegetables tend to be the preserve of the traditional village fete, as local rivals compete for top prizes with their mammoth marrows and colossal carrots.

The Chelsea Flower Show is considered a rather more high-brow affair, where well-heeled visitors peruse elaborate floral displays by top designers.

This year, however, the two worlds collide as a giant pumpkin takes centre stage at the Royal Horticultural Society's annual extravaganza.

It is a far cry from the dainty spring bulbs that traditionally dominate the colourful displays.

However, as the 2021 event takes place in September for the first time in the show's 108-year history, the focus has duly shifted to the autumn harvest.

The pumpkin, weighing almost 800lbs, was carefully manoeuvred into position at the Royal Hospital Chelsea on Sunday ahead of the new-look show's opening this week.

So heavy is the vegetable that it had to be transported on a forklift truck before being delicately lowered on to a bed of straw.

The pumpkin will form part of the autumn market scene - Instagram/bwhitesveg
The pumpkin will form part of the autumn market scene - Instagram/bwhitesveg

The pumpkin, grown by amateur gardener Ben White, from Essex, will form part of an autumn market scene in the Great Pavilion Piazza.

It is the first, and probably last, time that a giant vegetable will make an appearance at the show, which was moved from its usual date in May to take into account Covid-19 restrictions. Mr White, 32, a senior designer working in the construction industry, started growing giant vegetables as a hobby four years ago.

He soon had to abandon his garden and relocate to a farm, where he now rents an allotment-sized piece of land.

"I bought some giant pumpkin seeds and just got the bug," he said.

"They've grown bigger and bigger each year."

His giant pumpkin was lifted into a van on a pallet, using chrome slings, wrapped in foam padding and secured with straps, before being slowly transported from Essex to Chelsea.

Mr White's giant pumpkin, nicknamed Greta, features in an RHS display called the Global Growth Vegetable Garden harvest.

The pumpkin was grown by amateur gardener Ben White, from Essex - Instagram/bwhitesveg
The pumpkin was grown by amateur gardener Ben White, from Essex - Instagram/bwhitesveg

"I think it will be the first and last pumpkin on display at Chelsea, just because of the time of year, so it's a great privilege," he said.

Today, there will be a sizeable royal contingent at the show.

They will tour the gardens and see displays including the RHS Queen's Green Canopy Garden before Chelsea opens to the public tomorrow.

Her Majesty, 95, who has been patron of the show since 1952, will miss the event for the first time since 2005 as she remains on holiday at Balmoral.

When the show is over, Mr White will take his pumpkin to a local weigh-off and then display it outside his house to raise money for the Essex & Herts air ambulance service.

After Halloween, he will break it down and dole out slices to friends and family in the local community before feeding the rest to animals on the farm.

However, his impressive effort has taken its toll and he plans to take a year off growing next year so he can go on holiday with his girlfriend.

"You can't go on holiday when you're putting in so much time so I'm going to take a break," he said.

"But I'll certainly be back to the giant veg after that, maybe cabbages or marrows next time."

Last year, the Chelsea Flower Show was cancelled for the first time since the Second World War, with the Queen instead sending a virtual message for the RHS's online festival.

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