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Kent Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 14 June 2016 by Tim Ingram

The South-West Show at Exeter

The South West Show, Exeter. Saturday April 30th, 2016.

A quick look at the third of the AGS Shows that we attended this spring. In the same way as the East Anglia Show and 'Rocky Flower Show'  this has a very enjoyable ambience. The school in which it is held is easily accessible from the M5 and with plenty of space and good light. (For us I think the prospect of the Show moving to RHS Rosemoor much further to the west in Devon will mean that it is not really viable to attend because of distance, although this could be an interesting venue if it gathers sufficient support from members and nurseries. I have memories of visiting there before it became an RHS Garden, and of a magnificent plant of Gladiolus cardinalis growing in a pot next to the house, a species that Keith Wiley says is a great success in his garden at Wildside).


Lee & Julie Martin bring so many striking plants to the Shows and fortunately there is help at hand to carry them into the Hall...

This Petrocoptis glaucifolia grown by Lee & Julie. In earlier days this went under the name Lychnis Lagascae and gets no great praise from Farrer in 'The English Rock Garden', so perhaps the viewer will make their own mind up - or perhaps Farrer was at times quite elitist in his view of plants?

There were a superb variety of plants available for sale at the Show so I will just illustrate this in a few pictures, especially for the benefit of anyone reading this who wonders where many of the plants displayed at these Shows, and much else, can be obtained.

A fine batch of Lewisia tweedyi which Tim Lever had bought along from Aberconwy.

This is a selection of plants from 'Pine Cottage' and my eye was caught by the striking foliage of Brachyglottis insignis. John G. writes about this in one of his diary entries from last year, and shows a large free flowering example in his garden: I am hoping this will eventually succeed as well in a sunny spot in Kent and it came home with us, along with a small number of other interesting things...

Pine Cottage also had several species of Rhododendron including R. edgeworthii, which John has also written about in his latest Diary entry. I have marvelled at the rhododendrons grown at Wakehurst Place, where they are perfectly situated in a steep 'valley' of acid soil; they are not plants (the larger species anyway) that we can readily grow in our dry garden but I can easily see how they can grow on you given the right climate and place.

There were certainly fewer plants displayed at the Show than in previous years, and the southern Shows are a long way for many exhibitors to come to - the burgeoning benches in many of the Shows further north do suggest a much stronger involvement there than we find in the south (a reverse of the way the N/S divide may often be viewed). Even so there were some wonderful examples and for anyone new to growing alpines no shortage of inspiration and interest. 

These are a few examples, starting with this remarkable plant of Daphne petraea 'Lydora' from Lionel Clarkson.

Daphne petraea 'Lydora'

Saxifraga 'Golden Prague' (Duncan Bennett)

Saxifraga 'Golden Prague'

Androsace villosa kosopolyanksii (Alan & Janet Cook)

Androsace villosa kosopolyanksii

Iris reichenbachii (Tim Lever)

And this very interesting Californian Allium crispum, grown by George Elder from seed sown in Dec. 2009.

Thanks, as ever, for everyone involved in organising and running the Show and making it such an enjoyable day.

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