Alpine Garden Society

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Newcastle AGS Show, 2005

Gentian Display  ’O Autumn,laden with fruit and stained
With the blood of the grape. Pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof,

Autumn showed no positive signs of passing when viewed beneath the shady roof of Ponteland’s Memorial Hall. Perhaps, the full light of the sunny morning failed to penetrate to the innermost parts of the hall but the illuminating influence of cyclamen, gentian and colchicum compensated with reflected colour. Additional ‘stage lighting’ supplemented that from the pendant lamps above the tables, in shades of silver, gold and red, creating pools of colour as busy exhibitors loaded the benches with entries in classes for foliage and fruit. Once the hall was cleared for judging the full impact of this northern festival of Michaelmas was manifestly evident and, with the doors flung wide to admit the highlighting quality of natural light, the Show came alive as the curtain went up on another successful display, this year under Scottish rules.

Shortia soldanelloides ilicifolia Staged at one end of the hall and mimicking the sky of that crisp October morning, was a display of ornata section gentians brought south from across the border and demonstrating another Celtic attempt to produce, by hybridisation, plants suitable for troughs and other containers, the declared aims of the breeding programme being to create compactness of habit with excellence of flower.

The blood of grapes may not have been evident, but the viticulturists’ raw material was amply replaced with the fruits of Gaultheria and Coprosma which combined with those pinks, reds, yellows and blues of the alpinists’ traditional autumn display, to intoxicate all who, metaphorically, drank of its diversity.

Peter Cunnington
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