Kent AGS Show, 2017
We missed the Kent Show at its new location last year, but heard good reports of the venue. Most of the nurseries were housed in a hall separate from the main show, with a few sited outside. Plant sales seemed to go well during the course of the day and we certainly purchased a goodly number both for our rock garden and for the alpine house.
The main hall had the atmosphere of a craft fair, hosting a number of stalls not normally found at our shows, selling jewellery, cushions, bags, cards, bird boxes, ceramics and cider (including the opportunity to taste the product!) This approach may well be a way to encourage more visitors to our shows. In addition, the Saxifraga Society had a stand and, in one corner of the hall, there were auricula theatres, designed to show these interesting plants at their best.
An interesting exhibit from RHS Wisley was given a Silver Award. The display included a range of plants and demonstrated suitable composts for different types of plants.
The cool weather leading up to and during the show ensured that the plants exhibited were generally in excellent condition.
The Farrer Medal was awarded to Ivan Pinnick’s large pan of Ramonda nathaliae JCA 686. Despite its obvious age, this plant appeared vigorous and fresh, with its flowers in perfect condition. The same plant had been awarded a Farrer Medal at the Harrogate Show in 2009! Grown outside with no overhead protection, it had recently been rehoused, moving from a clay to a large but fairly shallow plastic pot. In the wild R. nathaliae grows in shady rock crevices, usually on limestone in northern Greece and Macedonia.
A beautiful pan of Iris schachtii was shown by Philip Walker in the Intermediate Section (entered on the day as I. reichenbachii). Philip received two awards for this exhibit, the Longfield Trophy for the best plant in the Intermediate Section and the Northdown Trophy for the best plant in a 19cm pot. This up-and-coming exhibitor was also awarded the Sastre Trophy for most points in the Novice Section. Another iris, delightful but much rarer in cultivation, was shown as part of a three-pane exhibit by Bob and Rannveig Wallis and also received a Certificate of Merit. The diminutive I. scariosa grows among shattered rock atop large outcrops in the Tien Shan range of Kazakhstan. Here it is subject to extremes of temperature and low moisture, conditions difficult to replicate in cultivation.
Another rare and interesting plant shown by Bob and Rannveig was an unnamed miniature gladiolus species – Gladiolus sp. RRW 9321. Grown from seed sourced near the Syrian/Turkish border, it frequents open grassland and is summer dormant.
Oxalis laciniata is considerably more variable in flower colour than other Palmatifoliae species and clones are well worth acquiring as they become available. Peter Erskine treated us a display of four very different ones, exhibited over two classes. One of these, unnamed, was very attractive clone and not seen by me before: O. laciniata A102/VC, has delicate white flowers veined with purple. One looks forward to this becoming distributed at some stage. O. laciniata inhabits steppe, moraine and rocky mountain slopes up to around 1,800m in the extreme south of Patagonia. In cultivation it grows best in an open, sandy compost. They are not the easiest of plants to exhibit, with relatively short-lived flowers that require warmth to open fully.
A neat plant of Viola spathulata in the class for one (small) pan native to Asia was awarded a Certificate of Merit: recompense for Keith and Rachel Lever, given that the same plant had been entirely overlooked a fortnight earlier, up at Hexham. This compact, cliff-dwelling Iranian species, which forms a mat of strap-shaped leaves, is gradually becoming more available and is well worth growing. In cultivation it produces a flush of flowers in March through to April, with occasional others through the summer. It grows well in an open but moist compost or in tufa. I find it fairly straightforward in cultivation, but very susceptible to red spider mite.
Many thanks to Adrian and Samantha Cooper for organising another excellent show.
Author: Martin Sheader
Photographer: Doug Joyce