Alpine Garden Society

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Exhibitors Newsletter, Spring 2003

 Another Show season is nearly upon us and your Shows Handbook is enclosed with this Newsletter.

First of all, my thanks to everyone who contributed to the success of the shows during 2002.  Let us continue to maintain the standards that make our shows a unique opportunity for members to see an amazing range of Alpine plants.  They are also an important shop window for the Society, vital for recruiting new members.

This year sees the Cheltenham show move to the Society's Headquarters at Pershore, an opportunity for you all to visit the AGS Centre and the Garden.  Looking forward to seeing you all during the coming year.                                                                         Jim McGregor

B Section Rules

We have had many requests over the years for a new Section in shows for exhibitors who have just won their Silver Medal but have not yet won their Gold.  We have always felt that if firsts in such a Section counted towards a Gold Medal, this would devalue the Gold which represents the highest level of achievement competing against the best Alpine growers in the country.  As a compromise, in 2003 there is a change in the rules that affects Exhibitors who won their Silver Medal during 2002.  You will note that in the 2003 Handbook, the rule at the head of each B Section states: 'Open to Amateur AGS Members who have not yet qualified for the Silver Merit Medal prior to January 1, 2002.'  This is not a misprint - it means that exhibitors who won their Silver Merit Medal at any time during 2002 can still exhibit in the B Section during 2003.  You still need 25 firsts in the Open Section to qualify for a Gold Merit Medal, so you will need to think about moving into the Open Section, but you can still enjoy competing if you feel that some of your plants are not quite up to Open Section standard yet.

On the next page, Rod Leeds gives some advice for exhibitors proceeding into the Open Section for the first time.

Moving up to the Open Section - Rod Leeds

A few thoughts on showing in the Open Section.  Much has been written and even more discussed on the subject of how to show successfully in the Open Section.  Some exhibitors express the view that there is a gulf between the plants needed to be successful in B Section and those necessary to do well in the Open.  I would like to offer a few practical suggestions to keep interest and motivation through the transition.  Historically the B Section was added to bridge that gap between just two Sections available to exhibitors.

Firstly, accept that some of the large [36cm] classes are initially beyond reach and concentrate on the small [19cm] classes.  Even here there are some small pans that have won Farrer Medals, mere striplings at a few years of age.  Admittedly it is usually an aged plant that has been nurtured for many years by an equally mature exhibitor that wins this accolade.

In every show there are classes for plants grown from seed.  These plants are often less than four years old and are quite transferrable from the B Section.  Likewise there are the ferns, saxifrages and primulas, seed grown or purchased plants that will fill a 19cm pot within a few years.  A bulb will take longer from seed, so concentrate initially on a class like 'Garden hybrid Narcissus' where, for example, N. 'Midget' can be bought in August, potted and grown on.  Don't be tempted to show in seven months as it will look too new and regimented, but wait until the next year when natural increase will have occurred, just what judges like to see.Later in the year, there are even more possibilities - Campanulas, members of the Compositae, Caryophyllaceae, Labiatae and foliage plants, all requiring regular repotting (2-3 times in a growing season) and then they could rival any plant in their class.  Remember to keep to 19cm pots.

In the meantime, grow on plants like orchids, some bulbs, shrubs, conifers and cushion plants for later show seasons.  At this point many growers begin to specialise, concentrating on certain types of plant.  By now you have probably found that certain plants do better for you, so stick to these.  Much pleasure can be gained from showing and from the extra knowledge acquired by doing research and talking to fellow exhibitors.

As to how to grow them, just ask the judges and experienced showers who will be very free with their expertise and maybe the odd plant.  The AGS Handbook 'Alpines in Pots' by Kath Dryden is very concise and is a must for those starting out, whether they show or not.  The older similar title by Roy Elliott is worth seeking out as are the other AGS Handbooks, all written by experts in their fields and full of great practical advice.

We took six years to obtain our Silver Medal, but that was at one annual show in East Anglia, and by then we had a bank of plants to use in the Open.  However, ask any exhibitor, this stock of plants is always changing - we all have fatalities.  Don't be deterred, keep exhibiting and I am sure success will come.

Some Rules to watch out for

Bulbous plants - Rule 27

A species is only acceptable in a class for bulbous plants at an AGS show if it appears in the list of genera on page 13 of the Shows Handbook (and, of course, if it is deemed sufficiently hardy).  The use of this list is intended to avoid arguments about whether a particular plant has a bulb, tuber, corm, rhizome, etc.  The list excludes genera such as Cyclamen (tubers), Corydalis (corms, rhizomes and fibrous roots), as well as all the Orchids.  However there are anomalies such as Iris, all of which are accepted as bulbous according to this rule, even though some are not.

To complicate the issue, at shows that are run under SRGC rules (every second year at Blackpool, Northumberland and Newcastle), any tuber, corm, or swollen rhizome is acceptable as a bulb.  Thus cyclamen, corydalis and so on can be shown in bulbous classes at these shows when SRGC rules apply!

When is a shrub not a shrub - Rule 23(f).

Rule 23(f) was introduced a few years ago in response to the increasing number of plants that were appearing in shrub classes but which did not fit into our intuitive notion of a shrub as a plant with a clearly defined persistent and obvious woody framework of branches.  We wanted to exclude plants that are 'technically' shrubs in the botanical sense, but which we felt were not in the spirit of the shrub classes, such as woody based perennials (some Violas, Clematis, Shortias), cushion plants that have a woody framework hidden inside the cushion, and so on.

Problem Genera

Androsace and Douglasia

All plants previously in the genus Douglasia are now included in the genus Androsace except for Douglasia vitalliana which is now Primula vitalliana.  Thus any class for Androsaces includes the Douglasias that are now Androsaces.  Any class that excludes Androsaces also excludes all the old Douglasias (except Douglasia/Primula vitalliana)

Rhododendron and Ledum

All the Ledums have recently been absorbed into the genus Rhododendron.  Thus any class for Rhododendrons can include a Ledum.  Conversely, any class that excludes Rhododendrons also excludes Ledums.

Sempervivum and Jovibarba

A slightly different problem appears in this case.  All the Jovibarbas were formerly classed as Sempervivums and there are many still labelled as such.  To avoid confusion, all classes for Sempervivums now also specifically include Jovibarbas in the class description.

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