It’s difficult to decide what is the most impressive element of Medwyn Williams’ vegetable displays. Is it the unblemished perfection right down to the smallest cherry tomato? Perhaps it’s the sheer variety on display or maybe the chance to see something different such as purple carrots. Then there’s the precision of the staging with one side an exact mirror of the other, each basket of fennel or tomato tower beautifully replicated.
It’s a combination that’s been winning over RHS judges and show crowds for decades making Medwyn a familiar face on the show circuit and the winner of 11 consecutive Chelsea gold medals, with top honours at many other shows, including Hampton Court and Malvern where this year he again won Best in Show.
“I’ve never had less than a gold including shows in America,” he says.
It all started with a square yard of soil prepared by his father and three packets of seeds: radish, mustard and cress.
It was a shrewd choice as the quick-growing seeds kept the eight-year-old Medwyn interested and he still remembers sharing a sandwich made from his first crop with a friend.
His father, a farm worker, was a regular exhibitor at local shows and Medwyn learnt his skill at events all over Anglesey, eventually staging his first exhibit of six kinds of vegetables at the county show.
“This is a hobby that went out of control,” says Medwyn, who is now 73.
Today, his displays are on a far larger scale and take a team of seven around 24 hours to put together; this year the Malvern stand featured a rugby ball made from tomatoes to mark Wales’ involvement in the World Cup.
Although Medwyn, whose business Medwyn’s of Anglesey started 40 years ago, has a “plan in my head” the final decision on what’s in and what’s left out is made at the venue. What underpins each exhibit is the symmetry that reinforces the achievement.
“You can fold the stand like a book because it’s balanced on either side.”
Getting that perfection is a long process with crops grown in raised beds, on benches, in greenhouses and polytunnels, sometimes in more than one place. To put together two baskets of 120 matching radish the team will grow around 500 plants and sometimes the weather will scupper their plans.
“We normally have white radish but they weren’t ready,” says Medwyn, looking at his Malvern stand.
What it does have is some new carrot varieties, two as yet unnamed. ‘Melodio’ develops very little core, ‘Short and Sweet’ is ideally suited to container growing and ‘Cosmic Purple’ (pictured below) is orange inside with a yellow core.
All have been tested by Medwyn: “I don’t put anything out to buy unless I’ve tried it.”
And it’s this passion for veg that keeps him growing and showing, although the two Malvern shows are the only events he now does.
“People ask ‘When are you going to retire?’ But how do you retire from a hobby? It’s very difficult because I love it.”