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Kent Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 23 March 2014 by Tim Ingram

Spring AGS Show in Kent

Spring AGS Show in Kent

The privilege of writing a diary is that it is personal; but the responsibility is that it is of relevance to those who read it. A personal view of an Alpine Show is bound to leave a lot out, but on the other hand there is a 'feel' or ambience which always comes across, especially if you have been closely involved with them for many years, and that is analagous to visiting an art gallery - some images do stand out. The Spring Show in Kent (now 21 years old) is always exciting, as are all Shows at this time of year because of the great diversity of plants brought along, and more simply because spring lives up to its name! This year did seem to have an extra buzz, there were more visitors than I remember before, and that unique mix of plants, nurseries, photographic displays and general horticultural bonhomie, that made it a thoroughly enjoyable day.

This then is an overview of the Show meant to complement the fine images put onto the website by Jon Evans and the record of plants displayed and awarded: you could say a journalist's appreciation; a letter from a Kent gardener; or a diarist's eye view.

Before saying any more though the question about the name of the Society, raised again in the March Journal, resulted in a flutter of comments at the Show. One, from one of the most respected nursery-people, is that the Society should be renamed the Alpine Plant Society. My critique over the years has been that the AGS does not appeal to 'gardeners' as much as it could. But this suggestion takes the (initially) opposing view that the actual term 'Garden'  may dissuade those who come from a purer sense of discovering the plants in their natural habitats and the importance of conservation (and organisations like 'Plantlife' for example do tend to attract younger people with strong concerns for the environment, or the BSBI, seriously inclined older plants-people who study the change in plant distributions over time. See later for why I still include 'gardeners' amongst them). Many people who simply gain recreation from mountainous places may have an interest in the plants too, but not actually in gardening with them. This then can be seen as a very valid suggestion, even if like me you have gardened all your life with alpines and woodland perennials (and often many other plants too). Changing 'Garden' to 'Plant' provides a more inclusive and catch all impression - and yet in essence doesn't change the Society at all in its fundamentals. Discussing this can show how difficult it is to take a reasoned and positive approach to change, and yet how important subtle changes in the way the Society appeals to a wider cross section of people are likely to be.

In truth the need is probably to raise the profile of the Society - and alpine gardening in general - across all its varied strands, and those who contribute to the SRGC Forum will see this more clearly. I would argue that gardening and specialist nurseries remain a vital part of this, because gardening is amongst the strongest underlying drivers of conservation when practised in thoughtful and sustainable ways. Furthermore gardening has always, and will always, be a social activity that connects people and puts them in closer touch with the environment around them. It can also be highly artistic and of cultural significance - and it may be fair to say that conservation, like charity, begins at home.

So - the Alpine Plant Society? The APS? A change for the better or no change at all? A good place to start a discussion at the very least. Let me add a debating point: 'Acronyms are really short hand for those in the know - not of especial relevance in themselves? Discuss.'

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