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AGS Loughborough Autumn Show 2023

October 10, 2023
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This year it was easy for me to appear early at the AGS Loughborough Autumn Show.  Instead of making the long early morning drive from Surrey, we travelled up on the Friday and spent the night with family in Nottingham.  This allowed a leisurely alarm at 7am, and a relaxed 30 minute drive.

Nevertheless, the show seemed to have crept up on me unawares; I spent the whole day in a state of mild confusion.  To start with, I had forgotten the piece of paper telling me which classes I planned to enter my plants in.  Things just got worse from there.  It is a wonder I managed to record the exhibitors’ names for all the plants I photographed.

Artistic Section

By the time I had staged my plants, had a quick look round the plant stalls, and set up my camera gear, judging had already started.  In fact, the artistic judges had already finished, so I could photograph the entries.  I seem to have missed one class; I guess it was on the back of the boards facing the wall, and I didn’t find it.  But it was exciting to see four artists competing in these classes.

Primula vulgaris

I was particularly glad to see a cross-stitch rendering of Primula vulgaris, exhibited by Georgina Instone.  We have only seen very occasional pieces of needlework exhibited, mainly by Liz Livermore, since Jean Morris retired from exhibiting at the end of 2017.

Rosemary Walker

Rosemary is a new exhibitor this year, who entered a number of paintings and drawings.  These need more finesse to compete with long-established exhibitors like Rannveig Wallis, but we all need to start somewhere.

Sandra Clements

Sandra is another exhibitor who has entered for the first time this year.  I particularly liked her ink drawing of Dionysia esfandiarii, and the painting of Ophrys ariadne in a creative style.  The first two images are of a digital art design featuring Hepatica jamatutai and Hepatica pubescens, which is intended as a repeat pattern for fabric.

Stephen Shelley

Our third new exhibitor is Stephen Shelley.  My apologies to him that I failed to photograph one of his entries.  His botanical drawing of Crocus vernus in pen and ink was very crisp and nicely composed.

Rannveig Wallis

However, all these new exhibitors will have to work hard to reach the standard of veteran exhibitor Rannveig Wallis.  Her two three-painting entries were both exquisite, and won her the Thorpe Trophy for the aggregate in the artistic section.  In addition, her painting of Galanthus plicatus won the Art & Craft Trophy for the best piece of painting, drawing or needlework.  I think perhaps I preferred the Crocus.

Once I had photographed the artistic entries, I checked my studio set-up.  No time for views of the benches; I needed to photograph the crocuses the moment judging finished.  The early morning sunshine was already fading, and I was worried they would close.

Autumn Flowering Narcissus

In order to try things out, I photographed three daffodils I brought along to try to get them identified.  In vain; the other exhibitors seem confused about the current nomenclature.  Just as I was when I explored various different accounts in the days before the show.  However, here are plants which came to me labelled Narcissus miniatus, N. serotinus and N. obsoletus (which I suspect should now be N. deficiens).

Narcissus elegans

For comparison, here is Bob and Rannveig Wallis’ much better plant of the more distinct Narcissus elegans.

Ipheion hirtellum

Judging had not quite finished, so here is my own pan of Ipheion hirtellum.  It was lovely the previous morning when I put it in the car; sadly the stems had drawn and flopped with one day enclosed.  The sun helped capture some of the beauty which made me bring it.  But this was the very last picture I took with sunshine all day.

Crocus niveus

Crocus niveus is a species we see in a variety of shades. Here is a near white form from Ian Robertson, and another nice lilac and white form from Don Peace.

Crocus goulimyi ‘Dirou’

Ian Robertson staged a large pan of a neat, purple clone of Crocus goulimyi.

Crocus goulimyi var. leucanthus

I loved this pale lilac form from Bob and Rannveig Wallis – so graceful and delicate.

Crocus serotinus subsp. salzmannii f. albus El Torcal

This crocus clone is famed because of the large, Farrer-winning pan of it which Robert Rolfe used to exhibit.  Here, Ian Robertson exhibited a smaller, but still pleasing pan.

Crocus serotinus var albus

Although not the treasured clone, this white form of Crocus serotinus exhibited by Bob and Rannveig Wallis was very similar.

Crocus mathewii ‘Brian Mathew’

However, everyone’s pick of the crocuses was this form of Crocus mathewii, with its deep purple throat, yellow anthers and bright orange stigma.  Ian Robertson exhibited two pans of it.  The larger one won him the Farrer Medal, and an Award of Merit from the Joint Rock Garden Committee.

Sternbergia greuteriana

This year, the cold spell in August triggered early flowering in many autumn bulbs.  Perhaps as a result, there were no large pans of Sternbergia on the show bench.  Certainly my own plants all flowered early and sparsely in the first half of September.  However, Henry Fletcher managed to conjure a pleasing small pan of Sternbergia greuteriana, which won the Minera Trophy for the best bulbous plant in the Novice or Intermediate section.

Sternbergia species ex Iran

Don Peace exhibited an intriguing Sternbergia species from Iran.  Despite much discussion, there was little consensus about its identity, and Don went off to delve deeper into the literature.

Empodium elongatum

For most people, Empodium had also finished flowering; certainly Bob and Rannveig Wallis’ Farrer-winning pan was over the previous week.  However, I was lucky to get a late-emerging pan of this species (formerly grown in the UK as E. flexile).  This little pot filled the car with a citrus scent on our journey up to Nottingham the previous day.  Nevertheless, it was fortunate to be awarded a first over the Lachenalia maughanii shown below.

Empodium flexile

Smaller still was a tiny form of Empodium flexile (formerly grown as E. plicatum) exhibited by David Carver.  Nearly all the material in this country is one clone derived from plants obtained by Harry Hay. This seemed different, and reminded me of plants I saw a few years ago, collected and grown by Bill Squire.  David won the Marjorie Dudfield Cup for the Intermediate section aggregate.

Lachenalia corymbosa

David Carver also exhibited a lovely small pot of Lachenalia corymbosa.  This form has upright racemes of flowers, and was previously Polyxena brevifolia.  Other exhibitors usually refer to it as Lachenalia corymbosa ‘racemose form’.  It is very different from the normal form which was Polyxena corymbosa.  The last image is of this – a wonderful pan shown by RHS Wisley, back when Paul Cumbleton was in charge of the Rock Garden section there.

Lachenalia maughanii

Bob and Rannveig Wallis exhibited another Lachenalia, this time L. maughanii which produces tight clusters of white flowers in a little cup formed by the leaves.  I have never found either Lachenalia corymbosa or L. maughanii easy to grow.

Colchicum boissieri

There were several pans of Colchicum, but most had flopped in the heat of the hall.  This deep violet form of C. boissieri, exhibited by Bob and Rannveig, was a welcome exception.

Colchicum stevenii

This little Colchicum, also exhibited by Bob and Rannveig, always appeals to me.  I have tried to grow it several times without success.

Bukiniczia cabulica

In the Novice section, Sue Bedwell exhibited this curious foliage plant.  I am sure I have photographed the same thing at Kew under the name Dictyolimon macrorrhabdos, but curiously, looking in the online nomenclature databases, the two do not appear to be synonyms.

Hyacinthoides ciliolata

Mike Acton won the Wirral Trophy for the Novice section aggregate with plants including this little blue Hyacinthoides.  But it was the foliage of his Hepatica japonica ‘Blue Sandan’ which won the Crosshall Goblet for the best plant in the section.

Mammillaria gracilis ‘Arizona Snowcap’

Colin Sykes exhibited this eye-catching cactus in the Intermediate section.

Sedum furfuraceum

This Sedum exhibited by Carol Kellett attracted the eye of the show reporter.

Cryptomeria japonica ‘Green Pearl’

Although there were several plants on the show bench bearing berries, this conifer exhibited by David Carver won the Leicester Group Trophy for the best pan in cone, seed, fruit, or autumn coloured foliage.

Cystopteris dickieana

Don Peace won the fern class with this fresh green specimen.


Don Peace also entered a three-pan exhibit of three different species of Pyrrosia.  These are Pyrrosia drakeana, P. hastata and P. sheareri.  The second of these received a Preliminary Commendation from the Joint Rock Committee.

Paesia scaberula

Sue Bedwell exhibited this graceful, feathery species – always a favourite of mine.

Blechnum penna-marina subsp alpinum

Another Preliminary Commendation, and a Certificate of Merit went to this fern exhibited by Michael Wilson.

Flower arrangement

There are two classes for flower arrangements at this show, one of which is for foliage and shrubs with no flowers allowed.  David Carver won both classes.  I particularly liked the face he created in the foliage arrangement.

Gentiana scabra

By far the most eye-catching gentian at the show was this one from John Savage.  But it did not meet with the approval of the judges, who felt it was too easy to obtain and grow.

Petrocosmea longianthera-thermopunctata complex

As always at these autumn shows, Dave Mountfort exhibited a fine plant of this Petrocosmea with the curious and unwieldy name.

Saxifraga cortusifolia ‘Tini’

There were several of these autumn-flowering saxifrages.  John Savage exhibited this red one.

Saxifraga fortunei ‘Eiga’

The Saxifraga Group Salver went to Don Peace for this plant, which was so successful at the autumn shows last year.

Caryopteris x clandonensis Pink

John Savage exhibited a pretty pink shrub which I have not photographed before.

Spiranthes cernua ‘Chadds Ford’

This American Ladies’ Tresses orchid is a familiar staple of the autumn shows (now apparently considered to be a hybrid ‘x bightensis’).  Steve Clements exhibited two fine pots of it.

Pterostylis coccina

But the pick of the orchids, considered for the Farrer medal, was this Australian species from Bob and Rannveig Wallis, which received a Certificate of Merit.

Oxalis perdicaria

The Pterostylis was in a large three-pan with a large pan of Hyacinthoides ciliolata and this Oxalis, which together helped Bob and Rannveig win the Derby Group Trophy for the Open section aggregate.

Allium callimischon subsp haemostictum

Every year, at one of the autumn shows, I photograph a pan of this Allium, because the tiny individual flowers are so beautifully marked.  Georgina Instone exhibited this one.

Cyclamen cilicium

Although many familiar Cyclamen we normally see at the autumn shows were already over (in particular Ian Robertson’s champion C. graecum anatolicum), nevertheless Cyclamen pink dominated the show benches.  I found this little C. cilicium from Bob Worsley very attractive.

Cyclamen hederifolium

One of the highlights of the Intermediate section was this little C. hederifolium from Sue Bedwell.

Cyclamen intaminatum

Cyclamen intaminatum is always delicate and lovely.  This pan exhibiting variation when grown from seed belonged to Ian Instone.

Cyclamen rohlfsianum

I was pleased with my own plant of C. rohlfsianum.  This year, for the first time, this has produced flowers from underneath, as well as from the centre of the tuber.

Cyclamen graecum subsp graecum

Two small plants of C. graecum in contrasting colours from Ian Robertson and Bob and Rannveig Wallis respectively.  Both delightful.

Cyclamen confusum ‘Raspberry’

This raspberry-pink form of Cyclamen confusum belonged to Ian Robertson.  A fabulous colour, and many people’s choice for best cyclamen at the show.

Cyclamen africanum

However, the judges awarded the Nottingham Group Trophy for the Best Cyclamen to this large and graceful Cyclamen africanum, also exhibited by Ian Robertson.

That’s all the photos I have.  As usual I ran out of time, not plants.  It seemed a long drive back home, in heavy traffic because the M40 was closed.  My thanks to all who made the show possible, including hard-working local group members, nurserymen, exhibitors, judges and visitors.  The filled rolls and cups of tea were excellent.

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 reached his Gold Medal at shows, at the rate of roughly one first per year.

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