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Kent Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 14 April 2015 by Tim Ingram

...continued - the Exeter Alpine Show

The first time visiting the Exeter AGS Show for quite a few years and this was an enjoyable day at a good venue close to the M5 and uniquely located for alpine and other keen gardeners in the south-west. This is a view of the plant sales - a pretty impressive range of alpines, woodland species and bulbs available, attracting just a few people!

Gardeners may not be so aware that AGS members have as much interest in choice woodland plants as in true alpines, something worth stressing more given such good plants available from Wildside and Longacre in particular, both of whom were at the Show. Two plants we picked up were the small Asarum epigynum, a species with fine silver-veined leaves, and Ourisia 'Loch Ewe' (from Tale Valley Plants), a soft-pink hybrid between the vivid red O. coccinea and white O. macrophylla which arose at Inverewe Garden. It's a moot point if this will adapt to a coolish damp spot in our often summer dry southern garden but I've always wanted to grow it. Time will tell and I will certainly picture it if it does.

April is the month when woodland genera really come into their own - as I will show in a later entry. It is an excellent time to plant as the weather warms and soil is still moist before trees and shrubs leaf out, and this is evident in the way that so many woodland species naturally germinate seed in winter into spring. This flower arrangement highlights how many small bulbs are flowering now too, which a look at the Show itself also brings out.

The Exeter Show may not have the central location that results in such a wealth of plants for display but there was no shortage of good examples. I have already mentioned the paintings by Marjorie Blamey and here is another fine lady honoured by a beautiful selection of Primula allionii, Anna Griffith (who wrote the 'Collins Guide to Alpies and Rock Plants' in 1964). 

Primula allionii 'Anna Griffith'

(Anna Griffith is pictured and affectionately profiled, after her award of the Lyttel Trophy, by Roy Elliott in the AGS Bulletin Vol. 34, p. 90, 1966).

Corydalis solida is not only a colourful plant in a pot but a good garden plant too in woodsy soil, and will seed around when different selections are grown close together.

The red forms are especially showy (as above) and below with two other species of Corydalis shown by Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Corydalis seisumiana was picked out for special mention by Jon, as more photogenic than many, but comes from the summer dry climate of Armenia and needs the protection of an alpine house or bulb frame. (I often leave seedlings of the commom native fumitory to spread in the garden because it is so attractive in leaf and flower, and very different to other garden plants, and on a different plane these choice Corydalis species do stand out at the early alpine shows).

Corydalis seisumiana

I liked these three very contrasting plants from Eric Jarrett, which show that a daisy and saxifrage can compete well with a dionysia! - and more seriously just how well these plants are grown at the alpine shows; something to aspire to.

Here is Viola spathulata (exhibited by Martin and Anna-Liisa Sheader), a species from Iran which is profiled in the 'Plant Awards' booklet for 2010/11 based on a plant shown by Ian Kidman, 'as concise and comely as could be wished'. A really delightful little vlolet.

Viola spathulata

Finally two plants - one, Iris nusairiensis grown by Bob and Rannveig and over twenty years from sowing seed! What an opportunity to see a plant that only a relative handful of people will have in cultivation. Quite exquisite and special. And second a much more common and familiar plant, Saxifraga longifolia - a form 'Aitana' - (shown by Brenda Nickels) of such wonderful symmetry. Make a note to visit the Exeter AGS Show next spring if you can!

Iris nusairiensis Saxifraga longifolia 'Aitana'
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