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A North Wales Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: Caerleon Show pictures - Entry 15

I attended the S. Wales Show in Caerleon on Saturday for the first time and enjoyed the 'end of winter' feeling that a roomful of bulbs in full flower always achieves. I was surprised at the number of people who had braved the elements (wind and rain as usual this winter!) to be there, and the variety and quality of the plants they brough with them. Here are a few pictures and notes on some of the most notable, or in some cases to my eye most attractive, exhibits.

Pride of place must go to the Farrer Medal plant, a wonderful potful of the rarely seen Iris hyrcana, shown by the joint Show Secretaries, Bob and Rannveig Wallis, which received an Award of Merit and Cultural Commendation from the RHS Joint Rock Plant Committee when shown to it later in the day.. According to the AGS Encyclopedia of Alpines, "botanically this is no more than a variant of I. reticulata from the Hyrcanian forest region (Iran) by the Caspian Sea. The flowers are a little smaller and neater and a clear pale blue. The bulbs are almost spherical, whereas those of I. reticulata are drop-shaped".

There were plenty of other, less exalted (i.e. easy and cheaply available) but no less beautiful reticulata group irises on the benches, several large potfuls being staged by our Editor, John Fitzpatrick, including one of my favourties and a fine doer, I. histrioides 'Lady Beatrix Stanley', which has flowers of particularly good substance in a lovely clear blue shade. 



Iris hyrcana AM

Iris histrioides 'Lady Beatrix Stanley'

Another lovely iris, much less easy to cultivate, and certainly to exhibit in such perfect condition, was a pale form of I. galatica, again shown by Bob and Rannveig Wallis. It is closely related to Iris persica and comes from Turkey.

Iris galactica

There were, as you would expect, many snowdrops on display, including a number of varieties selected by one of our foremost galanthophiles,Dr Mackenzie, several of which received awards from the Joint Rock later in the day. However, I saw nothing that I liked as much as the splendid Galanthus 'Sophie North', which has not only the virtue of particularly fine foliage to show off the large, well marked flowers, but strong and unbending flower stalks that hold them aloft (but not too far aloft) and which withstand the howling gales in my N. Wales garden better than most. 

Snowdrops at Caerleon Show, 2014 Galanthus 'Sophie North'

Although I grow quite a few autumn flowering species, crocuses are for me essentially flowers of the early spring; what could be more uplifting than the sight of a wide patch of Crocus tommasinnianus basking, fully open in the February sunshine. Of the many pans on display I shall show you only three, The Crocus Spoon for the best pan was scooped by the Wallisses with a stunning potful of C. sieberi 'PJC 215', presumably selected or imported by Paul Christian? Next is the very distinct and appropriately named form  known as C. sieberi subsp. sublimis ftricolor, which is one of my favourites, especially since I saw it flowering at the edge of the snow on Mt. Chelmos during the AGS post-conference tour in 2011. Finally, an excellent golden crocus, also appropriately named C. 'Midas Touch'.

Crocus sieberi PJC251

Crocus sieberi subsp. sublimis f' tricolor AM Crocus sieberi subsp. sublimis, Mt Chelmos Crocus 'Midas Touch'

Two corydalis, of the substantial number shown attracted my attention, a large potful of C. popovii exhibited by Robert Rolfe that was awarded a Certificate of Merit, and the similar, but to my eye even more arresting (because of the brighter contrast of colours within its flowers), C. seisusmiana (syn. C. persica), yet again a product of the Wallis stable, and now the latest of their AM winning bulbs. Both are eponymous, the first named for Mikhail Popov (1893-1955), an eminent Russian botanist with a special interest in the flora of the (then) Soviet Central Asia, and the second  by Magnus Liden from Gothenburg for Arnis Seisums, whom I believe was the first to collect C. seisumsiana, in Nakhchivan in the Southern Caucasus.

Corydalis popovii

Corydalis sesumsiana A.M.

Finally, of the many worthy plants on show I have chosen one of the smallest, a 7.5 cm cushion of Dionysia 'Zdenek Zvolanek', shown by Tim Lever. My reasons for choosing this plant are, firstly, that Zdenek (or ZZ as he is affectionately known) is one of my best gardening friends, who helped me greatly in constructing my crevice gardens a few years ago, and secondly. because I love the colour of the flowers which is pretty close to those of the pollen parent, D.afghanica, a plant which I grew (with some considerable difficulty) for a few years from a cutting given to me by the late Peter Edwards at a Bristol show in the 1970s.

Dionysia 'Zdenek Zvolanek'
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