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AGS East Cheshire Show 2024

June 14, 2024
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I have never visited the East Cheshire Show before; it has always seemed too far to travel, at a time of year when I am unlikely to have plants to exhibit.  But this year, it fitted in with some other things we were trying to do, so on the Friday at the end of May we found ourselves rolling up the M40 towards Birmingham.

The embankments were decked with white sheets of ox-eye daisies, but further away the meadows shone with the yellow sheen of buttercups, and the hazy white lace of cow parsley.  After this wet spring, this towered above the cars in places, making an impromptu hedge down the central reservation.

Arriving at the show

It was exciting, as we entered the show hall, to see that the benches were already filling with plants, and liberally covered with entry cards in anticipation of further exhibitors.

In between photography, I spent much of the morning catching up with a lot of old friends among the exhibitors from the North West.  Nowadays many of the old show community don’t want to travel so far, and they seldom come down to the Loughborough or Solihull shows.  It was great to see so many familiar faces I haven’t met since before CoVid.


Plants filled the nursery stands and plant sales table, and all were doing busy trade.

In a room upstairs they were making nice strong cups of tea; later on my wife Helen brought me some photos of the ham and cheese rolls and pork pies on offer for lunch, to top up my early morning Premier Inn breakfast.  I can confirm that all were excellent.

It seemed no time at all before judging had started, giving me the best opportunity to take some views of the show.

Miniature Garden Display

Near the door, there was an informative educational display put together by Razvan Chisu at the last minute, when Anne Vale was unable to attend the show.

Miniature Garden classes

One feature of this show is that it has miniature garden classes in the Novice and Intermediate sections, as well as the Open section.  I’m sure this is because they have been championed by local exhibitor John Dower.  These were won by Ilona Duffy (back right) and Razvan Chisu (left) respectively.

Open Section Miniature Garden with Accessories

In the Open section, there is a class for a miniature garden with accessories, which allows the exhibitors to give free rein to their sense of humour.  These two entries are from Carol Kellett (the winner) and Georgina Instone.  Interrupted, I intended to go back and photograph the third entry from Ellen Davies, but forgot, so my apologies about that.

Open Section Miniature Garden

There were four entries in the Open section class for miniature gardens, from:

  • Carol Kellett
  • Georgina Instone
  • John and Clare Dower (the winner) and
  • Peter Hood.

Multi-pan classes

In the Novice section, all the classes are for a single pot, except for one for two pans of rock plants, won by Judi Deakin.

Intermediate section

In the Intermediate section, David Harris won both the small-pan class for three pans of rock plants (left entry), and the class for three pans from a single continent.  Together, these helped ensure that he won the Tindall Shield for the aggregate for the section.

Campanula zangezura

Frank Dobson’s Campanula zangezura caught my eye.  It is a long time since I have seen it on the show bench, but with so many flowers, in bud, out and gone over, it is a tricky thing to show.  A judge’s note pointed out that it would be improved by painstaking dead-heading.

Small Multi-pan classes

Moving on to the Open section, here are the entries for:

  • Six rock plants – John & Clare Dower
  • Six rock plants (three in flower, three for foliage effect) – Bob Worsley
  • Six rock plants (three in flower, three for foliage effect) – Steve Clements
  • Six rock plants (three in flower, three for foliage effect) – Tommy Anderson (the winner)
  • Three rock plants from distinct genera – Tommy Anderson
  • Three rock plants requiring the same cultural conditions, with educational information
    • Don Peace
    • John and Clare Dower
    • Mark Childerhouse (winner)

There were several other three pan classes.  Some are discussed below, some I missed.  Again, sorry about that – there was too much going on and too many people to talk to.

Large three-pan classes

Finally, the three-pan classes from the large pan Open section:

  • Three rock plants – Tommy Anderson
  • Three rock plants – Michael Sullivan – Michael won with three huge silver saxifrages
  • Three rock plants for foliage effect – Bob Worsley
  • Three rock plants for foliage effect – Brian and Shelagh Smethurst
  • Three rock plants for foliage effect – Steve Clements (the winner)
  • Three dwarf shrubs – Carol Kellett
  • Three dwarf shrubs – Chris Lilley (winner)
  • Three rock plants from one family – Don Peace

Three large pans of Crassulaceae

The most keenly contested class was for three large pans of Crassulaceae, with five large entries.  These were from:

  • Carol Kellett
  • Chris Lilley
  • John and Clare Dower (second)
  • Martin Rogerson (third)
  • Michael Sullivan (winner)

Chris has won this class every time he has entered it this year, until now.

Saxifraga seedling

While I was walking round the show, I also took photos of Michael Sullivan’s huge silver saxifrage seedling, because I didn’t want to carry it.  It hasn’t made any offsets, so this flowering will be the last hurrah for this clone.

Weldenia candida

Runner-up in this class (one large rock plant) was a large specimen of Weldenia candida, from Peter Farkasch.

Saxifraga stolonifera (?)

Bringing up the rear was a lovely saxifrage from Bob Worsley.  I think this was some form of Saxifraga stolonifera, but I didn’t photograph the label.

Larix kaempferi ‘Nana’

The last plant I photographed in situ was Bob Worsley’s large dwarf larch.  This used to be exhibited often, memorably by Lee and Julie Martin.  In recent years it has become more difficult to obtain, and I was very glad to see this old established specimen.

By now judging had finished, and the hall was filling with visitors.  Helen took some pictures – I was busy setting up to photograph individual plants.

Show Photography

Despite the crowded conditions, the show secretary, Bob Worsley, was very kind to allow me to set up a studio space in the main hall, using the stage as a table.  This had the advantage that the plants were a little higher than usual, and I didn’t have to bend to take photos, which is always what gives me backache.

Saxifraga ‘Yellow Mist’

One of the six exhibitors in the Novice Section was Ilona Duffy, who had a stall in the plant sales area selling handmade pots.  Many of her exhibits were presented in artistic containers, including this little silver saxifrage, nestled within a globose container designed to look like a cabbage.

Saxifraga ‘Southside Seedling’

Ilona won the Novice section miniature garden class with a pan of saxifrages, including a specimen of Saxifraga ‘Southside Seedling’ in full flower.

Salix nakamurana

However, the Greenwood Shield for the Novice section aggregate went to Judi Deakin, whose plants included this attractive willow.

Roscoea cautleioides ‘Jeffrey Thomas’

In the Intermediate section, Michael Wilson exhibited fine pot of this Roscoea cultivar, with its characteristic two-tone flowers, fading from primrose to a very pale yellow.

Allium flavum

Michael also produced an unusual and striking entry to win the Open section small pan class for a rock plant for foliage effect. This was Allium flavum, in bud.  With its twining, serpentine stems, it reminded me of the days when the Mid-West Summer Show had an award for the ‘wierdest plant’.

Paeonia obovata

The Intermediate section class for foliage effect went to Lew Clark with another unusual foliage subject, a peony.

Polystichum setiferum ‘Acutilobum’

I particularly enjoyed this fern, entered by David Harris.

Rhododendron ‘Lemur’

David Harris exhibited one of the outstanding plants in the Intermediate section – this neat red Rhododendron.

Rhodohypoxis baurii var. platypetala

However, the Rhododendron was pipped at the post by David’s own pan of Rhodohypoxis. This took both the Charles Graham Trophy for the best plant in the Intermediate section, and with the Kath Dryden Award for the best bulbous plant in the Novice or Intermediate section.

Allium crispum

Tommy Anderson exhibited this interesting white form of the Californian Allium crispum.  It was one component of a three-pan entry which I unaccountably failed to photograph.  I plead confusion, and offer Tommy my apologies.

Allium gomphrenoides

Peter Farkasch showed this rare Greek Allium to the Joint Rock Committee, where it received a Botanical Certificate.

Tritonia crocata

The onions were subtle and refined beside the most eye-catching plant in the show, Bob Worsley’s fine pan of this gaudy South African irid.

Carmichaelia crassifolia

The classes for plants new, or rare, in cultivation both had entries.  Brian Burrow entered a small plant of an interesting Carmichaelia (Fabaceae).  This was an erect, stick-like plant about 9in high.  Brian’s notes said it was recently introduced from the South Island of New Zealand.

I can’t find any reference to that name on the internet, but images of Carmichaelia crassicaule appear very similar.  That is described as a rare robust shrub up to 2m tall with erect leafless thick blunt-tipped grooved branches. Branches to 1cm in diameter, tip oval in cross section, grooves filled with white fuzz. Flowers small, pea-like, pale pink, streaked with purple.

Astragalus sachalinensis

There were further interesting plants in the class for plants rare in cultivation.  Brian Burrow exhibited a rather untidy looking Astragalus called A. sachalinensis.  It is native to the Sakhalin island at the far east of Russia, but Brian’s notes mentioned that it has recently been re-discovered in New Zealand, having been believed extinct there for many years.

Myriopteris yatskievychiana

Don Peace also exhibited in this class.  His plant was a little fern from Mexico, formerly included in Cheilanthes.  The judges could not separate the two exhibits and awarded equal firsts.

Three rock plants grown from seed

Nearby, Mark Childerhouse entered three saxifrages in the class for three rock plants grown from seed.  Two appealed to me in particular.

Saxifraga pentadactylis

The first was this specimen, grown from seed received from the late Eric Rainford.  Brian Burrow was adamant that it was nothing like Saxifraga pentadactylis, but a different species, which Brian had found with Chris Lilley in the Pineta Valley in Spain.  As you all know, I am not a botanist, but it reminded me very strongly of a plant that I found on a trip to the Picos de Europa in 2019, which was subsequently identified as Saxifraga pentadactylis subsp willkommiana (see here, towards the bottom of the article).

Saxifraga squarrosa

The other plant in Mark’s three-pan entry which I photographed was this species, from the Dolomites, with a very tight and congested hummock of rosettes.

Saxifraga erioblasta

Mark Childerhouse also exhibited a beautiful specimen of this species from the Sierra Nevada mountains in Southern Spain, with its curious little green buds.  This won the Cheshire Salver for the best plant in a 19cm pot, and a Preliminary Commendation from the Joint Rock Committee.

Cut Flowers

I noticed this lovely grouping of cut flowers from Brian and Shelagh Smethurst early on in the show, and promised myself I would carry them to my studio and photograph them against a background if time permitted.  Fortunately, the hall emptied a little, and it was straightforward to move these delicate subjects.

Three large pans of Cushion Plants

Mark Childerhouse also won the class for three large pans of cushion plants, and altogether his successes helped him secure the Cheshire Challenge Trophy for the Open Section aggregate, something I think he has never managed before.  The plants in this three-pan entry were:

  • Gypsophila aretioides (not pictured)
  • Benthamiella patagonica F&W 9345
  • A fabulous cushion of Draba ossetica

Solidago virgaurea minuta

Elsewhere, the enterprising John and Clare Dower entered this little Goldenrod to win the class for Asteraceae. It made a very neat little cushion.

Viburnum opulus ‘Nanum’

Don Peace’s Viburnum is one of my favourite foliage plants, and I have photographed it before.

Sempervivum arachnoideum ‘Arctic White’

The class for a large pan of Sempervivum had seven entries, but Michael Sullivan’s exhibit won, and received a Certificate of Merit.

I don’t know how all Michael’s huge pans of Sempervivum and Saxifraga fitted in his van, but they meant that he was a desperately close runner-up to Mark Childerhouse in the Open section aggregate.  Both had 12 first points, but Mark had 2 second points, where Michael had one second and a third.

Rebutia ‘Splendour’

The class for a hardy cactus went to David Charlton with this free-flowering hybrid.

Pyrrosia hastata

Don Peace’s Pyrrosia hastata is something I have photographed several times in the last couple of years, often at the request of the show reporter.  This year, its new fronds have been forced upwards in a new and different way, like a crown of antlers.

Daphne jasminea

An aged specimen of Daphne jasminea won another first for Mark Childerhouse, and a Certificate of Merit.

Spiraea morrisonicola

Another shrub, Henry Fletcher’s neat mound of Spiraea morrisonicola also won a Certificate of Merit.

Gaultheria procumbens

Chris Lilley’s Gaultheria procumbens was spectacular, though the close-up shows that the flowers were aging slightly.


There were many pans of Marsh orchids on the show bench, under various different names, some species and others hybrids.  I think my favourite was this pan from Vivian Self, which bore no identification below the genus.

Pogonia ophioglossoides

Another orchid from the USA was exhibited by Steve Clements. This wasn’t as well-flowered as it could have been, and Steve said his best pot wouldn’t be in flower for another week or so.  Nevertheless, it was a species I have never managed to photograph, so I was pleased to do so.

Campanula betulifolia

This show was just a little early for some of the species which I used to see at the Summer Show South at a similar time of year.  The flowers on Peter Farkasch’s lovely Campanula were only just opening.

Campanula ochroleuca

Another Campanula species made a neat and attractive exhibit for Brian and Shelagh Smethurst.

Celmisia gracilenta

Although it can be grown happily out of doors in a shady peat bed, this pretty little Celmisia is a popular pot subject for exhibitors, in this case John and Clare Dower.

Chaenorhinum origanifolium

This is another species which makes a good garden plant.  It comes from the Iberian peninsula, where I am familiar with it in the Picos de Europa, as, I am sure, are the exhibitors John and Clare Dower.

Geranium argenteum

Brian Burrow exhibited this most attractive Geranium, which I used to grow, once upon a time.  Sadly the plant is no longer with me.

Gypsophila tenuifolia

Yet another good garden plant, indeed one of my favourites, here exhibited by Steve Clements.

Primula aurantiaca

John Richards exhibited a stunning candelabra Primula from China, which I have never seen before.

Thalictrum kiusianum

This little Thalictrum from Japan, exhibited by Tommy Anderson, is a stalwart of the early summer shows, although again it will flourish in a choice spot in a shady bed.

Lewisia rediviva hybrid

These days, Martin Rogerson has become the main exhibitor of Lewisia.  This little hybrid was very attractive, but I didn’t notice it until all my gear was packed away, so I have to make do with a cropped version of one of the show views.

Lewisia leanna alba

Fortunately, I did notice and photograph this lovely white species, again from Martin Rogerson.

Lewisia ‘Ben Chance’

This named pink hybrid cultivar was about the last plant I had energy to photograph, again exhibited by Martin.

Saxifraga vayredana

I can’t finish without showing you the Farrer Medal winner.  This was a fine specimen of Saxifraga vayredana, exhibited by my good friend David Charlton.  Having won the Farrer, it went before the Joint Rock Committee and received an Award of Merit.  Thanks to Don Peace for the image of David with his super plant.

Hieracium villosum

Finally, my favourite plant at the show was this hairy old friend from the Dolomites, exhibited by Tommy Anderson.  Tommy showed two plants, the second of which (smaller, but neater) received another Certificate of Merit.

Younger Visitors

One of the highlights of the show was seeing Tim Lever (Aberconwy Nursery) showing his son Daniel some of the show plants.  I didn’t have time to change the camera settings, so there is some motion blur, but I was pleased to get the picture.  Daniel then said he wanted to go back to his mummy, so I took a break from photography, and went into the plant sales to greet Gemma, whom I haven’t seen for a long time.  I hadn’t realised she was there until I saw Daniel.

Packing up

All too soon, the prizes were awarded, and it was time to take the plants home.  Some exhibitors still carry their plants, either singly or in black plastic crates, but nowadays most use collapsible trolleys to wheel their treasures out to the car park.  Thanks to Helen and her phone for the pictures.

The Pudsey Pig

Then it just remains to pack the plants carefully back into your car boot.  Here is Peter Hood, packing his car.  But plants were not all Peter had to pack.  There is another award at the show, some might say the premier award, which I haven’t mentioned yet.  Many of the exhibitors congregate in the local hostelries for lunch.  This happens at many of the shows, particularly the further north you go, though I am always too busy to accompany them.

When the Summer North show used to take place in Pudsey, there was an informal eating competition, with a prize known as the Pudsey Pig awarded to the person deemed the biggest glutton.  Since that show moved, the Pig became a travelling award, before settling into a new home in East Cheshire.  And this year, Peter was named the winner.

So thanks to Bob Worsley and all his merry band of helpers, seen and unseen, who combined to make this a really memorable show, and in particular to the upstairs team who provided the excellent rolls and pork pie which I ate between photos.

That’s my last show till the autumn.  I won’t be at the Wisley show, but hope someone will post some pictures while I enjoy the Swiss flora.  I do have some pictures from various trips visiting gardens and plant-hunting in England, but I don’t know whether they will see the light of day, or be swallowed up by a wave of images from the Alps.

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