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AGS East Anglia Show 2024

May 22, 2024
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After last year’s bitterly cold day in a dingy hall (see here), I was delighted:
a) to set off from Norwich on a warm sunny morning, and
b) to find the new venue in Attleborough is much better lit, with high windows on both sides of the hall

Even better, my photography table was about two yards from the hatch serving cups of tea, and lunch !  Both were excellent.

Show Views

Before long, the exhibitors had been sent out of the room, and a handful of judges started to assess the exhibits, with groups of stewards following along behind them.

As you can just see in the last picture, Doug Joyce was also taking pictures of the show; these often feature me in the background.  Thanks to Doug for these next two batches of pictures.

With relatively few exhibits, judging didn’t take long, and the exhibitors and public were soon allowed back into the hall.

Cut Flowers

At the request of the show reporter, I started with the cut flower class.  Diane Blyth exhibited a well-matched grouping in vibrant colours.  These are, respectively:

Daphne calcicola Phlox bifida ‘Ralph Haywood’
Daphne tangutica Jovellana violacea
Daphne pygmaea ‘Alba’ Rhododendron campylogynum ‘Patricia’

It was a bit of a surprise to find that the other entry in the cut flower class was from Mark Childerhouse.  Mark exhibited stems of six different silver saxifrages, each with a rosette of leaves, affording a chance for visitors to compare and contrast the different cultivars.  It may have been this educational aspect which won him first place.

Saxifraga ‘Snowflake’ Saxifraga callosa var. lantoscana
Saxifraga paniculata ‘Rosea’ Saxifraga x. gaudinii ‘Canis-Dalmatica’
Saxifraga ‘Correvoniana’ Saxifraga ‘Kathleen Pinsent’

Androsace septentrionalis

Two local exhibitors, Peter Lyle and Phil Webdale, contested the Novice Section.  They went head to head in the class for two pans of rock plants, with Phil’s plants, on the right, coming out on top and winning him the East Anglia Trophy for the section aggregate.  This entry included a fine pan of the annual Androsace septentrionalis.

Semiaquilegia ecalcarata

However, the Donald Lowndes Memorial Trophy for the best plant in the Novice section went to Peter Lyle for this Semiaquilegia.

Calceolaria lanigera

Alex O’Sullivan won the Intermediate section class for three pans of rock plants, and with it the Ken Aslet Trophy for the section aggregate.  The most attention-seeking plant in this trio was the 3ft high Calceolaria lanigera.  This was going to pose a problem to photograph.  I started out by aligning the head of flowers with one of the black boards on the walls of the hall.

Calceolaria corymbosa subsp floccosa

I have photographed a plant with the name Calceolaria lanigera on the label before, exhibited by Martin and Anna-Liisa Sheader at the Midland Show in 2008 – but although the leaves were similar that plant had a mass of yellow flowers (see below).  I believe they realised it was misnamed, for they exhibited a similar plant at the Summer South Show in 2013 under the name Calceolaria corymbosa subsp floccosa.

Certainly the little information I can find on the Internet suggests that the violet flowers on Alex’s plant are correct for Calceolaria lanigera (see here).

Eventually I summoned up my courage and carried Alex’s plant over to my studio, where I had to stand it on the floor to photograph the flowers against my background.

And then, equally carefully, I carried it back.  It was a relief to return it intact to the show bench.  At the end of the day, I saw Alex set off in his little classic sports coupe.  The Calceolaria was in the passenger footwell, bent carefully to fit under the roof.  I might have been less concerned if I had seen it arrive that way.

Saxifraga conifera

The second plant in Alex’s three-pan exhibit was familiar to me from my trip to the Picos de Europa in 2019, although it seemed to be new to most other exhibitors, and sparked a lot of discussion with its new shoots like little pine cones, starting red and then fading to green.

Celmisia angustifolia

The final plant in Alex’s three-pan was this Celmisia, which won the Suffolk Trophy for the best plant in the Intermediate section, as it did last year.

Viola pedatifida alba

I photographed one other plant grown by Alex O’Sullivan – this lovely little Viola.  Sadly, the judges did not deem it worthy to receive even a third place sticker.

Bletilla striata

One of the features of this show was the number of orchids.  We have seen lots of Pleione at the previous few shows, but here Cypripedium, Calanthe and others joined the competition.  Including a large pot of Bletilla striata, exhibited by Steve Clements.

This was the first alpine I ever grew in a pot; I bought it for £1 in Woolworths, and kept it on my bedroom window sill, where it increased and flowered for several years, until I went to university.

I’m not sure the camera got the colour quite right – I feel it should be a touch redder and less purple.

Platanthera bifolia

However, Steve lost out in the class for one pan of Orchidaceae to Neil Hubbard, who exhibited an excellent pot of the Lesser Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera bifolia) with four flowering stems.  I should have made more effort to separate the two central stems before photographing it.

This is notoriously difficult to grow, and for me the best plant in the show.  I was surprised that it was not awarded at least a Certificate of Merit.

Calanthe ‘Takane’

Steve Clements also exhibited a pan of Calanthe ‘Takane’.  I think this is one of the two which were in his small 6-pan exhibit at the Midland Show three weeks previously.

Cypripedium acaule

I was amazed to find that Neil Hubbard had a specimen of Cypripedium acaule on the bench.

This is very rare in cultivation and I have never photographed it before.  Indeed there are no photos in the AGS Digital Library, which suggests it hasn’t appeared on a show bench since about 2007.

In the AGS Slide Database there are just five images of plants in pots, one in 1989, 1990 and 1992 (probably all the same plant), and another in 2006 exhibited by Barry Tattersall at the Malvern Show.

Cypripedium parviflorum subsp parviflorum

More familiar plants were also on show.  Don Peace brought his pan of Cypripedium parviflorum subsp parviflorum, which won Farrer medals in 2018, 2019 (twice) and 2022.  Here, he had to be content with a Certificate of Merit.

Cypripedium ‘Emil’

Instead, the Farrer medal for the best plant in the show went to this pan of Cypripedium ‘Emil’, also exhibited by Don Peace.  Thanks to Doug Joyce for the picture of Don with his plant.

Pleione aurita

Alan Newton exhibited a fine pan of Pleione aurita, one of the parents of Pleione ‘Ueli Wackernagel’.  This showed clear similarities with Don Peace’s plants of ‘Ueli Wackernagel Enigma’ at the Chesterfield Show.

Pleione ‘Kima’

Alan Newton also exhibited Pleione ‘Kima’, a hybrid between P. aurita and P. chunii.  This looks quite similar to P. chunii, but is apparently more amenable in cultivation.

Pleione ‘Nyiarongo’

Don Peace exhibited another cultivar which was new to me.  It is a lovely, lovely thing, but I was a little concerned about the marbling in the petals, and wonder if it indicates the presence of virus.

Pleione ‘Taal Red-tailed Hawk’

This is another cultivar from Don Peace.

Pleione ‘Mauna Loa Glossy Starling’

However, the biggest and best pan of Pleione came from Steve Clements.

Allium akaka ‘Alan Edwards form’

So many times in the past, I have photographed Allium species at this time of year with their leaves cut off completely, or cut down to a little green spear.  So it was refreshing to see this Iranian species exhibited by Maurice Bacon in its natural condition.  I am sure the dying leaves were marked down by the judges, but to me, this was how the plant should look.  And the flower heads were a wonderful colour.

Allium peninsulare

Neil Hubbard won the Sudbury Prize for the best pan of bulbs with this pan of the Californian Allium peninsulare.

Iris hoogiana

Diane Clement exhibited this lovely Iris.  Another new species to me.

Arisaema ringens

Diane also brought this familiar Arisaema.

Asarum heterotropoides

Alan Newton has always been keen on the genus Asarum, the wild gingers.  This one comes from China.

Asarum macranthum

Another Asarum from Alan Newton, this time from Taiwan.  You have to explore, under the leaves to find hidden treasure.

Anemonella thalictroides ‘Kikuzaki Pink’

I wasn’t familiar with this neat double pink cultivar of Anemonella thalictrioides, exhibited by Don Peace.

Dicentra peregrina x oregana

I have photographed this Dicentra hybrid from Don Peace before.  The whole plant isn’t particularly impressive, but I thought it would make a good close-up.

x Jancaemonda vandedemii

Alan Newton brought a well-flowered pan of this intergeneric gesneriad hybrid.  Normally, this is a cross between Jankaea heldreichii and Ramonda myconii, but Alan says he used Ramonda serbica.  I haven’t photographed a good plant of it since 2013, when Robin White exhibited it at the Summer South Show.

Alan just pipped Don Peace to the Norfolk Trophy for the Open section Aggregate.

The class for three pans for foliage effect was hotly contested, with four entries from, respectively, Diane Clement, Anne Vale, Michael Sullivan and Steve Clements.

Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears’

Steve Clements won the class with three pans of Hosta, one gold, one variegated, and this one with glaucous blue foliage.

Woodsia subcordata

The Barbara Tingey Trophy for the best fern went to Don Peace for this pan of Woodsia subcordata.  Don grows lots of ferns, and they always look great at this time of year with their new fronds.

Notholaena standleyi

Unusually, Neil Hubbard won the class for a plant rare in cultivation with a fern.  This pretty little species, the Star Cloak Fern, comes from Southwestern USA and Northern Mexico.

Pinguicula grandiflora

I always tease Mark Childerhouse that he only grows saxifrages, even though he exhibits plenty of other plants which I have photographed often.  At this show, he really managed to surprise me, not only with the cut flowers I showed above, but with this healthy-looking pan of the insectivorous Pinguicula grandiflora.

Rhododendron benhallii ‘Honshu Blue’

In the carpark before the show, Diane Clement spent what seemed like hours picking dead flowers off this Rhododendron (formerly Menziesia ciliicalyx).  It was worth the effort; she received a Certificate of Merit for it.

Rhododendron multiflorum ‘Spring Morn’

Diane Clement’s entry for three pans of Ericaceae also included this smaller Rhododendron, also formerly Menziesia, together with a small cultivar of Pieris japonica.

Lewisia cotyledon

As we enter late spring, more and more Lewisias appear on the bench.  These two fine pink specimens of Lewisia cotyledon were both exhibited by Martin Rogerson, the first as part of a three-pan exhibit.

Lewisia cotyledon x brachycalyx

Alan Newton exhibited a lovely lemon yellow Lewisia hybrid.

Lewisia rediviva hybrid

Diane Clement exhibited a stunning deep magenta specimen of Lewisia rediviva.  After some discussion, she and Martin agreed it was probably a hybrid, with this deep colour and rather early flowering.

Rebutia ‘Celebration’

The cacti which Anne Vale has been exhibiting all spring are now producing buds, and in this case flowers.

Rebutia species

This Rebutia from David and Liz Livermore was also in full flower.

Mammillaria laui subsp dasyacantha

The three pans of Mammillaria which Anne has been exhibiting in classes for plants from North America, or plants from one continent, are also producing flowers.  Mammillaria laui subsp dasyacantha looked particularly striking with little garlands of magenta flowers around its heads.

Three small pans from the Southern Hemisphere

The judging of this class was particularly interesting.  There were three entries:

  • Three Celmisia species from Alan Newton (not often seen in the south)
  • Three cushions from Mark Childerhouse, including two Benthamiella and a small plant of Burkartia lanigera
  • Three big specimens of different clones of Rebutia heliosa – a very slow-growing hardy cactus species from Bolivia, exhibited by Anne Vale. One was in flower, the other two producing prolific buds.  All three must have been at least 20 years old, and all were in excellent condition.

After much debate the first went to Mark Childerhouse.  In AGS judging, I think plants with buds which are not out score worse than plants without buds at all.

Rebutia heliosa

Here are Anne’s three plants individually:

  • Rebutia heliosa var condorensis
  • Rebutia heliosa white spined form
  • Rebutia heliosa – a wonderful specimen

Rebutia hoffmannii

By contrast, this huge and ancient specimen of Rebutia hoffmannii did win a first for Anne, even though it looks like it has not yet awoken from its winter slumbers.

Globularia meridionalis ‘Horts form’

Among the more familiar alpines was this Globularia from Don Peace.  A good garden plant.

Gypsophila repens ‘Alba’

Anne Vale showed this interesting, semi-double form of Gypsophila repens.  Another good garden plant, slugs permitting.

Androsace hirtella

Mark Childerhouse found one, late-flowering Androsace to bring to the show.

Saxifraga berica

In case you were worried that Mark Childerhouse had stopped growing saxifrages, here is a fine plant from him of the difficult S. berica, which comes from limestone caverns and shady cliffs in Northern Italy.

Saxifraga cebennensis hybrid

Here is a very neat little Saxifraga cebennensis hybrid, also from Mark Childerhouse.  He gave me a small plant to try on the shady side of a new tufa-filled trough I have put together in my garden.  You can tell this plant is a hybrid, because the sticky, hairy leaves do not have the notches which are typical of the species.

Saxifraga pubescens subsp iratiana

Mark also brought a nice specimen of this compact subspecies of S. pubescens, with the red veins and anthers in the flower which are typical of the subspecies.

Saxifraga pubescens ‘Snowcap’

In the large-pan classes, Alan Newton exhibited a large and well-flowered cushion of the cultivar known as ‘Snowcap’.

Helichrysum pagophilum

Alan also exhibited a good silvery cushion of this Helichrysum from the Drakensberg mountains in South Africa, which tends to be grown as a foliage plant because of its reluctance to flower in cultivation.

Sempervivum arachnoideum ‘Arctic White’

Before the show, Michael Sullivan told me that he had been preparing a large six-pan entry consisting of six pans of Sempervivum, but aborted this plan because at least three pans in the entry had to be in flower.  I can’t find this ruling anywhere in the handbook, so I would be interested to know where it is stated. [ Note from Michael – it is rule 29.  I had looked through the rules deliberately, and didn’t notice it, distracted by the bold print ‘Multi-pan classes’ on rule 31 just below.

However, having cleaned the pots etc, Michael brought all his pans of Sempervivum anyway, entering three in the class for rock plants, and three more in the class for three large pans of Sempervivum, in which he beat Martin Rogerson.  All were big pots in really good conditon.  Another Sempervivum, S. arachnoideum ‘Arctic White’, won Michael the class for a single pan of Sempervivum.  I think that was the heaviest pan I carried all day.

Here are:

  • three large pans of rock plants native to any one continent (Michael Sullivan)
  • three large pans of Sempervivum (Martin Rogerson)
  • three large pans of Sempervivum (Michael Sullivan)
  • Sempervivum arachnoideum ‘Arctic White’ (Michael Sullivan).

One large Cushion plant

The judges were unable to separate the entries for one large cushion plant from John Dixon (Dionysia tapetodes ‘Kate’) and Mark Childerhouse (Benthamiella patagonica F&W9345), so both received first prizes.  Unusual in a class with only two entries.

Small pan class for Four Rock Plants

One of the most contested classes was the small pan class for four pans of rock plant, two in flower and two for foliage effect.  These entries are from:

  • Alan Newton (the winner)
  • Anne Vale
  • Diane Clement
  • Steve Clements

Cypripedium cultivars

I was particularly interested in the pans of Cypripedium in the entries from Diane Clement and Steve Clements.  Both exhibitors had the same two clones from the same source, but the plants were mis-named on arrival.  Steve Clements had named the two cultivars as ‘Aki’ and ‘Bernd’  as a best guess; Diane Clement showed both in the same pot as Cypripedium kentuckiense x fasciolatum.

Here we have plants labelled:

  • Cypripedium ‘Aki’
  • Cypripedium ‘Bernd’
  • Cypripedium kentuckiense x fasciolatum

Small three-pan Entries

By this point I had photographed pretty much all the plants I wanted to cover, and started going round the show taking pictures of all the three-pan entries.  You have already seen many of these images, but here are:

  • three small pans of rock plants from seed exhibited by Diane Clement
  • three small pans of rock plants from seed exhibited by Neil Hubbard
  • three small pans of rock plants with educational information exhibited by Alan Newton
  • three small pans of rock plants with educational information exhibited by Don Peace
  • three small pans of rock plants exhibited by Alan Newton.

Rhododendron trichostomum

Maurice Bacon exhibited a huge plant of Rhododendron trichostomum in the Intermediate section, which I photographed earlier in situ during judging.  But now, I looked across the hall, and caught it in a patch of sunshine, with a lively conversation between Maurice and other members of the Essex group taking place behind it.

Since I had already photographed all the plants requested by others, this angled sunlight provided a great opportunity, and I spent the next half hour trying to capture other plants in these beams of sunlight.  So here are:

  • Cypripedium acaule exhibited by Neil Hubbard
  • Iris hoogiana exhibited by Diane Clement
  • Calanthe ‘Takane’ exhibited by Steve Clements
  • Calceolaria lanigera exhibited by Alex O’Sullivan
  • Cypripedium parviflorum subsp parviflorum exhibited by Don Peace
  • Cypripedium ‘Emil’ exhibited by Don Peace

Ramonda nathaliae

Then my eye chanced upon a pan of Ramonda nathaliae, exhibited by Martin Rogerson, and I remembered photographing the Farrer-winning specimen exhibited by the late Ivan Pinnick at the Midland Show in 2017 (right at the bottom), back-lit with sunshine.  So I took Martin’s plant to my photography table, and improvised backlighting with my LED panel.

x Jancaemonda vandedemii

Having done that, it was inevitable that I would try the same thing with Alan Newton’s x Jancaemonda.

That was my last plant; they were about to start the presentations.  I would like to thank all my friends in the East Anglia group for organising a great show in an excellent new venue, and in particular the ladies and gents in the kitchen who kept me going with tea and rolls.

Having packed up my gear, I found myself sitting outside the front of the hall, watching the other exhibitors leave as I waited for Helen to arrive after a day in Norwich with our boys.  Fortunately she appeared before everyone had gone, and we could start the long trip home.

Image of Jon Evans Jon Evans

Jon lives and gardens on the north side of the Hogsback on the border between Hampshire and Surrey, on a heavy clay soil. He is a long standing member of the AGS and has been treasurer of the local group in Woking for many years. He is interested in bulbs of all sorts, particularly those from South Africa, and has recently won his Gold Medal at AGS shows after about twenty years.

However, he is best known within the AGS as an enthusiastic amateur photographer. For about 10 years he was responsible for organising the artistic and photographic section of the AGS shows around the country, and also for organising the show photography. During this period, he set up and ran the AGS Digital Image Library. He still visits many shows each year to catalogue the extraordinary achievements of the exhibitors, and is actively involved in other plant photography, both in gardens both public and private, and on outings to view and photograph wild flowers in the UK.

If you have any comments or queries for Jon, you can contact him direct at