Newcastle AGS/SRGC Show, 2017
The murky morning was soon forgotten on entering the hall where a good range of blue, white, yellow and pink flowers lifted the spirits. This is always a show that delivers the best of Gentiana, Crocus and Cyclamen as it main attractions, but the 408 plants assembled contributed broader interest in their overall diversity.
Success was had by both joint Show secretaries, Alan Furness taking the Forrest Medal – the show followed SRGC rules this year – with Crocus banaticus ‘Snowdrift’, the most vigorous of the several albino clones named (in effect taking the double: it won him a Farrer Medal down at the Kent Show last year), while Alan Newton received the Ponteland Bowl for the most points in the Open Section. Among his numerous entries, two in particular stood out.
A selected Aruncus aethusifolius seedling differs from the general run by growing much more slowly and retaining its foliage for longer: at this stage of the year it is transformed into an exquisite dome of soft raspberry. Probably never before exhibited, Gentiana rhodantha [right] has a trailing habit, with pairs of heart-shaped leaves at pronounced intervals along the slender, prostrate stems. These terminated in one or two lilac-pink flowers with purple striping on the exterior of the trumpets and fringed plicae contrasting with the entire, ovate petal lobes. This is grown in sandy grit plus composted bark, and is an introduction from SW China (Hubei, Sichuan and Yunnan) where it inhabits grassy hill slopes at between 1,800-3,400m.
Stalwart exhibitors Bob and Rannveig Wallis took the AGS six-pan class and received an exceptional three Certificates of Merit for Hyacinthoides ciliolata [left], Empodium flexile and Cyclamen hederifolium subsp. crassifolium. The last of this trio now fills a 36 cm pot, reflecting its considerable age. It was raised from Cyclamen Society Expedition seed (CSE 93155) and was for a while identified as C. confusum before assuming its new title.
Continuing the Cyclamen theme, Bob Worsley won the Ewesley Salver for a handsomely flowered Cyclamen mirabile; he also staged a dinky Cyclamen intaminatum [right] combining deep pink flowers with well-marked leaves. Tommy Anderson fielded Cyclamen hederifolium ‘Ivy Ice’ with deep rose flowers, sometimes characterised as a part of a group that flowers in concert with its leaves, whereas your reporter has raised two generations that disprove this theory. An early flowering period and a colour range from white to deep rose are the chief attributes of plants with this common origin.
In sharp contrast John Richards exhibited two specimens of Origanum dictamnus. Endemic to Crete, this was once much collected by herbalists for its leaves (infusions have several alleged benefits) and became a rather rare plant except on inaccessible cliffs, though more recently it has been cultivated in some quantity and wild populations have recovered. The small rose pink flowers, offset by purplish-pink bracts, are produced in lengthy succession: this species continues to bloom in John’s alpine house for seven months. The silver grey stems root readily in sand after only a fortnight.
Saxifraga fortunei appeared in many guises, Christine Boulby again showing ‘Fumiko’, raised by Crûg Farm under BSWJ 6124 and named after a Japanese acquaintance. Previously seen at the same show in 2013, a comparison with the photograph taken then underlines its slow rate of increase [photo from the 2013 show].
The L.W. Browne Trophy went to Ian and Maria Leslie for Gentiana ‘The Caley’, whose smartly white-striped trumpets command attention, especially when staged amongst other more uniformly blue forms. Introduced by Ian McNaughton of MacPlants in 2009, it celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society in its long-established nickname form.
The late David Boyd was remembered both through a trophy in his name (this went to Don Peace’s well-filled pot of Galanthus peshmenii) and also a non-competitive display of photographs and notes on woodland gardening [top photo], painstakingly assembled by Mala Janes in the previous months and including many aspects of David's garden. The many hours of work involved and the high standard of this well-received exhibit were reflected in the Gold Medal it received.
Author: Dave Riley
Photographer: Peter Maguire