Bakewell AGS Show, 2017
A cool, though bright start to the day and many of our more optimistic members, dressed in light summer clothing, were soon reaching for jumpers. Rain was also forecast for later in the day, but held off until we were loading our vehicles at the end!
The ‘Farmers Hall’, where the show is held, is ideal in many ways. There is plenty of parking (free to exhibitors with a parking permit) with the bonus of being able to drive up to the doors to unload, a café is attached to the hall and it is just a short walk into Bakewell itself, with its idyllic setting on the banks of the river Wye.
This year our show secretary decided to change the layout of the hall, relocating the trade stands at the entrance, while the show itself was staged further to the left. I felt this worked well. Also, as an experiment, the entrance fee was waived and it seemed to me that this encouraged many more visitors to pop in and admire plants they had never seen before: in previous years the majority walked straight past. I heard one visitor comment that they had not appreciated the variety of plants loosely termed ‘alpines’. Many thanks to Bob and Brenda Worsley and their helpers who worked so hard to make it such a successful show.
The show itself, if my memory is correct, was ‘greener’ than last year. There were lots of flowering plants, but the dominant ones were ferns, foliage and cushions – perhaps a comment upon the weather this year? The best plant in show, although not given a second Farrer Medal this week (it received this medal at Wimborne eight days earlier), was a large Stachys candida grown by Martin and Anna-Liisa Sheader. The Ralph Haywood Memorial Trophy for the best dwarf shrub went to a large, well-flowered specimen of Leptospermum scoparium belonging to Michael Sullivan. Certificates of Merit went to the rare Campanula peshmenii shown by the Sheaders, full of flower but with numerous buds as well, and to a fine clump of what was labelled Arisaema erubescens [right], although after much debate this has been identified as A. ciliatum subsp. liubaense instead. The larger of two potfuls exhibited by Peter Farkasch, this was in close contention for best plant in show.
It was heartening to see the sizeable number of entries – 102 in all – and the quality of the entries in the Intermediate Section this year. Among the unusual plants found here, several hardy (and near hardy) orchids featured. Michael Myers brought along a selection of Tongue orchids, helping him to win the Tindall shield aggregate trophy. Of these, his Serapias lingua [left] in the six-pan class also won the two awards for the best plant in the Intermediate and Novice sections. A plant of seasonally damp meadows, maquis and even light woodland in southern Europe and the Mediterranean, it is re-potted every year, dried off in summer and then potted into a gritty mix of sharp sand, Perlite, John Innes no. 3, fine bark and leaf-mould. Bought from a nursery in South Yorkshire just three years ago, it had already formed a good clump. Michael also entered an attractive pot of S. parviflora: both are grown in an unheated greenhouse and given fleece protection in severe winters.
Serapias lingua also occurs in northernmost Africa, whereas Disa uniflora [right] is from the opposite end of the continent, occurring by streams on South Africa’s Table Mountain. Neil Hubbard had grown this in a 50/50 mix of composted bark and perlite, the pot left standing in about an inch of water to prevent drying out. Another representative this genus, Michael Myers’ D. Unilangley gx., represents the hybrid between D. uniflora and D. langleyensis. Both growers stressed the need for the use of non-stagnant rainwater, a cool position with no direct sun, the avoidance of compost compaction by adding sphagnum moss to open it up, and regular slug control! Michael repots his plant annually in early spring and considers it fairly hardy if given alpine house protection and fleece covering in particularly cold spells. With its large, vividly coloured flower, D. uniflora was perhaps the more striking exhibit.
Another of Neil Hubbard`s South African plants, eye-catching in the main for its foliage, Resnova megaphylla is a member of the Hyacinthaceae from eastern Transvaal, only described in 2012. It has some resemblance to Massonia in its leaf form but the flower spike is fairly insignificant. The leaves, dotted with what might be described as pimples, in close up brought to mind tiny floating islands of dark green vegetation on a slightly paler green sea. Grown in a 50/50 mix of John Innes no. 3 and sharp sand, it dies down in the autumn and is left dry all winter. It is repotted each year, mainly to confirm that bulb is still there!
Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ [right] was one of the plants that helped Dave Kennedy win the Novice Section aggregate. He also won the class for miniature gardens with a pan full of various succulents and had a further win in the Intermediate Section, beating four rival entries with a well-grown Cheilanthes.
Bred by Gary Dunlop in Northern Ireland, Roscoea ‘Ice Maiden’ combines the taller stature of R. cautleyoides with the more shapely flowers of R. humeana, which in this case were whitish with a faint tinge of yellow. The specimen on show, with six noses from a single crown, was ready for splitting, which exhibitor Robert Rolfe intends to carry out at the end of the two or three week flowering period. It is grown in a mix of John Innes no. 2, sharp sand, grit and perlite, requiring plenty of water while in growth. The dormant tubers are vulnerable if a hard frost causes the contents of the pot to freeze through; plunging the pot for much of its depth in sand guards against this. This hybrid is fertile, setting seed in quantity seed which germinates easily, though seedlings raised have yet to flower.
This onetime Summer Show North enjoys strong support from growers who come down from Middlesbrough, Lancashire, Northumberland and other parts of northern England. Tommy Anderson had a much-admired plant of the SW Turkish, scree-dwelling Centaurea pestalozzae, the yellow flowers carried just above neat rosettes of pinnatisect leaves. Rarely offered, this came from Parham Bungalow Plants and has grown on steadily in a standard alpine compost of John Innes no. 3 and grit, in a position that receives full sun. While a number of the genus are too tall, and out of proportion in a small rock garden, quite a few of these dwarf species fit in well. Some years ago I fell in love with pink-flowered C. aegialophila when I first saw it on the shore of the Akrotiri salt lake in Cyprus, and at the Wimborne Show this year Vic and Janet Aspland had the delightful Greek C. raphanina with its purple flowers.
Don Peace was given his Dicentra peregrina x formosa subsp. oregana almost a year ago to the day, on a visit to Gothenburg Botanic Garden where this interpretation, christened Gullefjun Group, was raised. He says that, while he has only grown it for a short time it is more vigorous and certainly much easier to grow than the Japanese/NE Asian D. peregrina. The subtle coloration of its flowers, in particular, provided much of its charm.
Meconopsis dhwojii was one of three members of the genus shown by John Richards in the class for a trio native to one continent, in combination with M. racemosa in both blue and white forms. Native to Nepal on mountainsides over a considerable altitude range (2,600 – 5,500m), it forms attractive overwintering rosettes that easily succumb to winter wet under garden conditions. In his Northumberland Alpine Garden blog, John observes that following previous such failures he decided to place a cloches over half his plants, yet after a dryish winter all survived, whether cloched or not! A monocarpic species, this specimen had been raised from Meconopsis Group seed, fed heavily with Tomorite when young, potted on into a humus-rich compost and given cool, moist conditions in part shade. He recommends delaying planting out until the seedlings have reached a good size in their pots.
An authority of long-standing on the genus Primula, John also entered Primula malvacea in the class for plants rare in cultivation. In the accompanying notes he described it as the type but rather aberrant member of Section Malvacea. Western Yunnan representatives such as this tend to form only a single whorl of flowers; those from drier areas to the east typically bear verticillate inflorescences. This stock derives from David and Stella Rankin’s introduction, the first sampling, dating from the 1990’s, having died out within a few years. Best grown under glass, where it should be kept cool and not too wet, its hardiness is suspect, though it has withstood -8C when kept on the dry side.
Author: Dave Mountfort
Photographers: Don Peace and Jon Evans