Two hundred and fifty quid! Better than a poke in the eye, don't y'think? This is the first prize in each of the adult classes in Mr Fothergill's Sweet Pea Competition at Capel Manor Gardens on July 18th.
While some serious competing will no doubt go on in the class for the National Sweet Pea Society, in the other classes each bunch of mixed blooms will be judged on its overall appeal.
There's also a class this year for garden writers and broadcasters, which is how in a burst of enthusiasm I am now in possession of a packet of Tiller Girls, a new mix from the seed company (I've calmed down, and note with slight disappointment that reward in this class is more for the love of it, rather for any filthy dealings with disgusting lucre).
I foresee tears and tantrums. I haven't grown sweet peas for ages, mostly because mine never seemed to get going, but hung around the three-foot mark, showing little interest in the view from higher up.
Still, John Fothergill stresses that the amateur classes are aimed at normal gardeners. "Entrants do not have to be expert growers. We want as many people and schools as possible to have a go and join in the fun," he said.
And competition co-ordinator, Pim Dickson said, "No one should feel their blooms are not good enough to enter. It is only a bit of fun." There should be plenty of entries from schools, as the competition has so far proved very popular with them.
I fear that just throwing seeds in and hoping won't be enough. Last year's winner, hobby grower Keith Thompson explained that he nets his plants to protect against pollen beetle, pinches off the tendrils and side shoots to encourage long stems and large blooms, adds plenty of farmyard manure to his soil and fertilises with blood, fish and bone just before he puts out the young plants. And he waters regularly. (Now, why did mine only reach three feet? It is a puzzle.)
Although many experienced growers will have started their sweet peas before Christmas, it's not too late. "Sweet pea seed can be sown in small pots of compost and placed in the greenhouse or on the kitchen windowsill any time during January or February", said John. "The seedlings grow away well as the days lengthen to provide stocky young plants for setting out to their flowering positions in March or April".
The competition, which was first held in 2013, has also been moved two weeks later this year, to ensure that more people's peas are in full bloom. If you can't make it to Capel on the day itself, you can post them in a plastic drinks bottle (more details are on the Mr Fothergill's blog), but it's certainly bound to be a gorgeous display.
In the meantime, here's a rundown of the prizes for the various classes:
1 General Class £250/£150/£100.
2 General Postal Class £250/£150/£100.
3 Individual Junior Class* £125/£75/£50.
4 Individual Junior Postal Class* £125/£75/£50.
5 School/Group Junior Class £250/£150/£100.
6 School/Group Junior Postal Class £250/£150/£100.
*These prizes will be given as Garden Centre Gift Vouchers.
I'll have to wait and see how my Tiller Girls turn out. If you're a garden blogger, why not take part for the trophy? Do let me know if you're taking part and I'll brace myself for loving mine purely for their personalities.