Kendal AGS Show, 2017
For many of us this has been a mild, forward, mostly frost-free spring, one of the earliest in recent years. Nevertheless, plants enjoyed a proper dormancy earlier in the winter, particularly in the east. As a consequence, the early Shows have enjoyed bumper entries of well-flowered plants. Kendal was no exception, and few gaps in the benches could be discerned (except in the two Androsace classes: surely mid-March is too early for most of the genus, even in such a precocious year?) Credit then to Geoff Rollinson whose Pennine fastness nevertheless provided an example of the tricky American A. lehmanniana, the sole representative of the genus on display. Indeed, he had even managed a precocious entry for another North American, A. ochotensis, at Loughborough a week earlier. Surprisingly, his excellent Dionysia gaubae, with just two or three flowers in late bud but the rest in full flood, wasn’t considered for a higher award, for all that it won its class: one of the most attractive of the mid-season species, it was seen as a 27cm mound that set a new standard.
Massive pots and gut-busting displays at the top end of the bench are perhaps more typical of later Shows. For the AGS Medal (large) award, the Hoyles very creditably summoned up six huge, immaculate domes, all of potential Certificate of Merit standard, sourced from some of the most reliable show-stoppers in the genera Dionysia, Primula and Saxifraga. My favourite, perhaps, was an immaculate Primula allionii ‘Mrs Dyas’ [left], but it would be invidious to choose between them. Not content with this triumphant exhibit, they conjured up three only slightly less gargantuan domes to also win the large three-pan class, including an excellent P. allionii ‘Eureka’, surely the best of the whites.
Yet none of these could compete with the Forrest Medal winner (it was the turn for Scottish rules at this joint AGS/SRGC Show), appropriately earned by the most successful of a substantial Caledonian contingent of travelling exhibitors, Cyril Lafong, winning his 57th Forrest (there was a brief discussion – it might have been his 56th!) Since Boyd Kline of Siskiyou Rare Plant Nursery found a particularly well-marked Trillium rivale growing at the base of a tree at the 8-Dollar Reserve near Medford in Oregon and christened it ‘Purple Heart’, this freely-multiplying selection has won favour with exhibitors. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that it has never been exhibited to a higher standard; an appropriately heroic staging. Cyril staged another wonderful exhibit, a magnificent potful of the standard dark blue form of Tecophilaea cyanocrocus that received a Certificate of Merit. The flowers were particular large, forming a uniform platter of shimmering colour.
Now, a couple of selections that were new to me and which I particularly admired. Ivor Bettridge showed a form of Erythronium hendersonii with nodding pink buds contrasting with white flowers labelled ‘Pacific Clouds’, derived from a Jim & Jenny Archibald 1992 blind gathering. This is another fine species which hails from the vicinity of Medford in south-central Oregon, sometimes increasing almost exclusively by means of seed but in this fortuitous, near albino form reliably forming offset corms.
Amongst a welter of fashionable Hepatica, Brian and Shelagh Smethurst presented H. japonica ‘Takumi’ with small, neat upfacing flowers of a luminous violet, offset by a green centre.
The virtue of ‘the good form’ was also amply demonstrated by Don Peace’s two good pots of Scilla x allenii ‘Fra Angelico’. This hybrid between the former Chionodoxa siehei and Scilla bifolia has been transferred from x Chionoscilla to Scilla now that Chionodoxa has been reclassified within Scilla. Less attractive offerings of the same pairing were scattered around the tables, showing the superior qualities of this clone to advantage.
My final choice brings me back to Frank and Barbara Hoyle who won a strongly contested class for species Saxifraga with a solidly flowered dome of what was labelled S. scardica subsp. korabensis. This tightly growing form, from Macedonia, seems to have little to do with S. scardica and is apparently more closely related to S. marginata which develops forms almost as congested on Timfi in north-western Greece. Some aficionados consider S. korabensis merits specific rank. Whatever its true allegiance, this is one of the best of the species Porophyllum saxifrages for exhibition.
Finally, it must be noted how strongly the junior classes were contested at this very successful venue. The Novice Section boasted nearly 50 plants, while over 130 were exhibited in the Intermediate Section. This is greatly to the credit of Alan Oatway and his team whose publicity is exemplary. The main hall and the many plant sales tables were thronged for several hours: in a few short years this has become one of our leading shows.
Author: John Richards
Photographers: Jim Almond and Don Peace