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Kent Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 10 April 2015 by Tim Ingram

...continued - the Kent Alpine Show.

For those who organise the Show and bring plants the event begins the previous evening and early morning. The nursery stands can often be a display in themselves. There may be those whose eyes light up on seeing a rare plant they have been looking for for a long time, based on name alone and with no flowers (I am certainly one) - and all the specialist nurseries have these - but in general we are attracted by colour. Displaying plants is an art in itself, and both Pottertons and Aberconwy excel at this as you might expect from two of the finest specialist alpine nurseries in the country.

On the AGS stand itself, well you may be more likely to be led by name, and there are good garden plants here as well as really choice 'jewels' such as these dionysias to tempt the budding exhibitor.

For the real plantsman - well there are those species that you will hardly find anywhere else, such as Conandron ramondioides (here from Wildside) and Maihuenia poeppigii (Aberconwy): two plants as different in their cultural requirements as you might imagine but of great botanical interest.

As the Show itself fills up there must be a great sense of satisfaction for David Hoare and all those who have run the event for many years, and there is a huge temptation to want to join in displaying plants like this, which only grows as you look closely at specific examples as I show below. The second picture is the Show in full swing.

These are just a few plants that sang out to me. The middle/end of March is always a time when a great range of species begin to flower after the earlier snowdrops and crocus of late winter, and it does make these Shows (Kent, East Lancs., and in Scotland too) especially exciting and stimulating. Certain plant families predominate - the Primulaceae and Saxifragaceae - and the genus Narcissus amongst many bulbs, but there are plenty more and great scope to bring along different plants too. Certain exhibitors stand out too as these pictures show...

This is Dionysia 'Inka Gold' (from Eric Jarrett) and a second group of three plants from Eric which piqued my interest for the (slightly out of focus) pale yellow Androsace aff. flavescens at the rear.

Pleione 'Shantung Ducat' from Ian Robertson - so delightful and different from anything else in the Show.

This Primula 'Arduaine' was so beautiful that I forgot to record whose plant it was (my apologies) - and the reason why it appeals so much (not-with-standing all those remarkable dionysias, several of which I will show in a minute) is surely because of our native primrose, which is very nearly as beautiful and wouldn't be out of place at an alpine show.

Dionysia curviflora from Nigel Fuller - the Farrer medal plant - what can one say?! And the second picture, a group of three contrasting plants from Paul and Gill Ranson which just 'zing' to the observer.

In the same way I really liked this trio of saxifrages from Les Cheeseman, and this is a genus that we are learning more about - especially after visiting Adrian Young and the collection at Waterperry (which I will introduce in a later entry).

Finally a grouping of bulbs from Bob and Rannveig Wallis (which I also mentioned at the Fritillaria Group meeting from the day after the Kent Show). The Chilian 'Crocuses' may not be plants for the garden, but the Erythronium certainly is, along with quite a few other bulbs on display, and even - if you live in the right place - that exquisite Primula 'Arduaine', though here the situation is much more exacting. When some of these plants succeed in the garden as well as they do at the Shows there is an equal thrill and a great insight into their cultural requirements and of those from similar places.

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