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AGS Loughborough Show 2023

March 17, 2023
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Loughborough is usually the biggest and busiest of the early Spring shows.  The exhibitors from the first shows in the south run up against a tide of magnificent plants from the North.  This year, bad weather prevented some exhibitors from coming south, but it was still a terrific show.

Weather Worries

I didn’t need my alarm clock on Saturday morning – I was wide awake by 4am.  The weather in the week running up to the show had been awful, with unpredictable falls of snow, and icy roads.  Even Friday night there was a forecast of a hard frost;  I was concerned there might be problems on the roads.

In the event, I need not have worried;  it was cold but dry when I left.  The sunrise was magnificent, clouds suffused with red then flushed with gold as the sun rose.  The only problem I encountered on the journey was a road closure less than half a mile away from my destination; fortunately I was able to find a way round.

Snow on the Pennines

By 8am I was at the show.  There were big plants there, but not as many as I had feared.  Normally, this is the first show at which we see plants from exhibitors in the North-West.  This year, with bad weather all week, snow on the ground and problems crossing the Pennines on the M62, almost all of my friends from this part of the country had decided not to risk the journey.  However, it was great to meet a small contingent off the ferry from Ireland, including old friends.

Waiting for the Off

Before long, the benches were full, the exhibitors had retired for a cup of tea and a chance to peruse the sales tables.  The hall was crowded with judges and stewards.

Problems with Sunshine

Beams of bright sunlight from the high windows illuminated small patches of the benches, and made some views almost impossible to photograph, unless I resorted to taking two images and using HDR (High Dynamic Range) tools to combine them.

After these wider views, I turned to photographing some of the three-pan classes in situ.  These included three pans of Corydalis from Don Peace.

Dionysia classes

The most impressive classes were those for Dionysia.

Here are some entries from Paul and Gill Ranson.

By now judging had started.  This magnified my problems with the sunshine – judges move, so I couldn’t use HDR.  These angelic souls are Paddy Smith, Chris Lilley, and Jim McGregor.  Followed by Ray Drew, Ian Kidman, Bob Worsley and Gavin Moore.

Six Pans of Rock Plants grown from Seed

Three of the four six-pan classes had no entries, a sign perhaps of missing exhibitors.  In the fourth of these, for six pans of rock plants grown from seed, Bob and Rannveig Wallis were awarded First.


As always Crocus come first.  Brenda Nickels exhibited this fine pan of white flowers as Crocus (White).

Crocus vernus albiflorus

John Dixon produced a small pan of the white form of this subspecies, to complement the lilac form he showed two weeks ago at Pershore.  NB. aphids John !

Crocus biflorus subsp pulchricolor

My favourite Crocus on Saturday was this pan exhibited by Eric Jarrett.  I have photographed it several times over the years.

Tulipa regelii

In the class for plants which are new or rare in cultivation, Bob and Rannveig Wallis showed this legendary tulip with its curious ridged leaves.  I have only photographed it once before, when shown by Joy Bishop.  I hoped that the flowers would open further in the course of the day, but if anything they closed up.

Tulipa humilis albocaerulea oculata

By contrast, when I revisited this tulip from Anne Vale later in the day, the flowers were much further open, so I took it back for a second photograph.

Gagea peduncularis

I photographed this Gagea from Bob and Rannveig Wallis last week at Theydon Bois, but it looked even better at Loughborough.

Gagea fibrosa

However, Bob Worsley’s lovely Gagea fibrosa only deployed its full glory late in the morning, after the judges had passed it by.

Corydalis solida ‘Lentune Gemini’

In the class for plants which are new or rare in cultivation, Don Peace exhibited this Corydalis solida seedling.  It has one curious feature; the individual flowers have two spurs rather than one (see the centre of the last image).  This led to speculation that the parent had been pollinated by a Dicentra, and we were looking at an intergeneric hybrid.

Corydalis popovii

Peter Farkasch brought some nice specimens of this striking Corydalis, with flowers of deep, deep purple and white.

Corydalis sewerzowii

Among the largest pans lurked this fabulous deep yellow species, grown by Peter Hood, which received a Certificate of Merit.

Anemone heldreichii

Bob and Rannveig Wallis showed an attractive lilac-pink form of Anemone heldreichii.  Lovely flowers, but many more leaves, which made it a challenge to photograph.

Callianthemum anemonoides

The Callianthmemum exhibited by Don Peace which I photographed last week was still in great condition, and in a larger pot than I remembered.  This won the Webster Trophy for the best plant native to Europe.

Cyclamen pseudibericum forma roseum

Despite the absence of Ian Robertson, there were still plenty of Cyclamen on the benches, but only one attracted my attention.  Denise Bridges showed this beautiful form of Cyclamen pseudibericum forma roseum; I loved the marbled leaves.

Dionysia hybrid ‘Evie Jane Nicholls’

Now let us turn our attention to Dionysia.  We have already seen some of the multi-pan entries.  I photographed this hybrid between D. aretioides and D. teucrioides for the first time at the Loughborough show in 2020.  Grower David Charlton has two plants of a similar size; sadly neither was fully out, but I suspect both may be travelling to Kendal this coming weekend.  The original plant was raised from seed by Pat Nicholls, and has been named for one of his grand-daughters.

Dionysia tapetodes JRD 95/1/1

John Dixon’s heavy, seed-raised D. tapetodes, which won the Farrer medal last weekend, was still in good condition, and just as heavy.  Here it was runner-up, and won a Certificate of Merit.

Dionysia tapetodes ‘Kate’

John also entered another seed-raised D. tapetodes, now distributed under the clonal name ‘Kate’.  This was an equally impressive plant, but was just showing a few small gaps.  Maybe they will fill in before next week.

Dionysia bryoides

A couple of weeks ago, I showed two plants of the same clone of D. afghanica, to show the variation which can develop with culture.  Here are two plants of D. bryoides, the first exhibited by Derek Pickard, and the second winning a Certificate of Merit for Eric Jarrett.

Dionysia ‘Eric Watson’

Hybrids between Dionysia bryoides and the yellow species (in this case D. tapetodes), can produce some unusual ‘prune and custard’ results which are not to everyone’s taste.  This one is an old cultivar, named after Eric Watson.  I am glad I photographed Anne Vale’s plant – it turns out I have never photographed it before.  I wonder why ?

Dionysia ‘Ewesley Iota’

This is another old and rare hybrid, exhibited by Paul and Gill Ranson.  It must be one of those which is difficult to grow to any size; I don’t think I have ever seen it any bigger than this.

Dionysia hybrid MK99310/27

Eric Jarrett showed another old hybrid with a Michael Kammerlander seed number, in this case an f2 hybrid from Dionysia ‘Emmely’.

Dionysia sarvestanica subsp spathulata

Eric also showed a good plant of this yellow species.  I wonder about the origin of this plant, but I didn’t get a chance to ask.  It didn’t look quite like other specimens I have photographed of the normal T4Z1044 clone; if it wasn’t that but a seedling, then could it be a hybrid ?  The flowers seemed larger and more overlapping than I remember.

Dionysia lamingtonii ENF-MK1823/1

Paul and Gill Ranson showed a fine plant of Dionysia lamingtonii.  I suspect this is a sister cutting to the plant shown by Nigel Fuller last week, both propagated from the original seedling Nigel raised in 2018 from seed from Michael Kammerlander.

Dionysia hybrid MK0357/11

I photographed two plants of this hybrid between D. iranshahrii and D. bryoides.  Anne Vale exhibited the larger, but looser specimen; the small tight one came from Paul and Gill.

Dionysia hybrid PMR-DZ18R2395/2

I also enjoyed this hybrid seedling Paul and Gill exhibited, grown from seed from D. zschummelii.

Dionysia zschummelii T4Z166/Go2

This plant of that species, Dionysia zschummelii, was even better and won the Richard Regan Trophy (for the best plant in a 19cm pot) for Paul and Gill.

Primula allionii ‘Eveline Burrow’

There weren’t many Primula allionii or hybrids on the bench.  It seems to be a late and difficult season, and many of the exhibitors who specialise in them were absent.  One which caught the eye was Eveline Burrow, raised by Brian Burrow.  It was exhibited here by Heather Barraclough in the Intermediate section (first two pictures), and Don Peace in the Open section (last two).

Primula ‘Lepus’

Don Peace’s fine specimen of Primula ‘Lepus’ which I featured last week, caught the attention of the judges as well this week, and received a Certificate of Merit.

Saxifraga andersonii

Mark Childerhouse showed this little saxifrage species from Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan.  Although the AGS Encyclopaedia says it is “well established in cultivation where it has not proved too difficult”, I suspect that is not particularly accurate, as these are the first pictures I have ever taken of it.

Saxifraga ‘Allendale Ghost’

The Farrer medal went to this huge saxifrage grown by Mark Childerhouse.  Despite the difficult season it was covered in flowers.  I worried about carrying it, but in the end it turned out not to be quite as heavy as John Dixon’s big Dionysia.

Hepatica japonica ‘Isari-Bi’

A new exhibitor, Christine Jarvis, exhibited this fine magenta Hepatica japonica cultivar.  Christine went on to win the Beacon Trophy for the Novice section aggregate.

A very similar plant appeared in the Open Section under the species name but with no cultivar identity.  I wonder whether this was just coincidence, or whether the two are one and the same.  Bright magenta forms are certainly common enough.

But there seems to be a feeling among some exhibitors that attaching a cultivar name indicating a Japanese origin may alienate the judges.  I guess the thinking is that the Japanese have spent a huge amount of time and effort breeding and selecting Hepatica cultivars, and the judges are averse to ‘over-selected’ forms of plants.  For me, this is something the judges should determine by examining the plant, not the name; I couldn’t see anything that seemed ‘over-selected’ about this.

Three pans of Hepatica

Bob Worsley also entered a fine three pan exhibit of Hepatica, I think in the class requiring cultural notes.  These are:

  • Hepatica pyrenaica x insularis (pink, at the front)
  • Hepatica japonica (a deep indigo blue form)
  • Hepatica transsilvanica ‘Connie Greenfield’ (anemone-centred, at the back). This last plant seemed very similar, or perhaps identical to Hepatica Ellison Spence.  I have found comments on the internet suggesting both.

I am afraid I didn’t photograph the notes.

Iberis pruitii Candolleana Group

This Iberis belonged to Peter Hood.  It was refreshing to see something a bit different on the show bench.

Flower arrangement

Once again, the winning flower arrangement came from Anne Vale, and featured those yellow, ‘Rosebud’ primula flowers.

Jovibarba heuffelii ‘Henry Correvon’

As always, there were some hefty pans of Sempervivum and Jovibarba.  At a spring show, I don’t always get time to photograph them, but this one exhibited by Martin Rogerson took the fancy of the show reporter.

Oroya peruviana

Colin Sykes exhibited this much admired, cold-hardy cactus from high up in the Andes in Peru.

Maihueniopsis subterranea subsp pulcherrima

This compact mound of green bodies with straw-coloured spines is another high elevation cactus from the Andes, and won a Certificate of Merit for exhibitor Chris Bowyer.

Mediterranean terrestrial orchids

Show secretary, Neil Hubbard produced a fine three-pan exhibit of Mediterranean terrestrial orchids. These are:

  • The tiny but lovely Neotinea lactea. I think this close-up is probably my favourite image of the day
  • Anacamptis morio subsp. longicornu
  • The beautiful furry lips of Ophrys fusca.

I was delighted to find that this meant he has won his Gold Medal.  Congratulations!  If I am lucky, I might be able to emulate him later in the year.

Colchicum capense subsp. ciliolatum

Another of Neil Hubbard’s plants also attracted a lot of attention.  This time it was a South African bulb, from the genus Androcymbium, which has now been subsumed within Colchicum, though there is relatively little visual similarity.

Chionodoxa cretica

Bob and Rannveig Wallis exhibited one of my favourite spring bulbs, the lovely Chionodoxa cretica, which is apparently now a Scilla.

x Chionoscilla allenii ‘Fra Angelico’

Since the botanists now include all of Chionodoxa within Scilla, this familiar plant exhibited by Don Peace is no longer an intergeneric hybrid, but simply an interspecific one, Scilla x allenii ‘Fra Angelico’.

Tecophilaea cyanocrocus var violacea

This plant, popularly described as the Chilean blue crocus, is a stunning colour; it is always a big hit with visitors to the spring shows.  However, it is now rare and endangered in the wild, so it is reassuring that it can be grown well in cultivation.  Bob and Rannveig Wallis exhibited this pan of the violet tinted form.

Fritillaria wendelboi

I photographed several of the Fritillaria at the show the previous week at Theydon Bois, but there were a few new ones to pick out.  This little species came from the Intermediate section, where David Carver exhibited it.  It helped him towards the Outwoods Trophy for the Intermediate section aggregate.

Fritillaria baisunensis/baysunensis

Bob and Rannveig Wallis exhibited this little plant under the name recently coined and published by Janis Ruksans (International Rock Gardener 114 June 2019) for plants which he collected in Pulkhakim in Uzbekistan.  These bear a strong resemblance to Fritillaria bucharica, and have been exhibited for some years under the name Fritillaria bucharica Pulkhakim.

Fritillaria aff. bucharica Pulkhakim

Indeed, David Carriage exhibited a taller, but otherwise similar plant under the name Fritillaria Pulkhakim.  Pulkhakim is not a clonal name – it is the area in which these plants were discovered.

Fritillaria ‘Lentune Fox’

I photographed this hybrid raised by Don Peace at Theydon Bois, but it looked even better here. It is F. pinardii crossed with a previous hybrid between F. aurea and F. pinardii.

Fritillaria ‘Lentune Eyecatcher’

Another of Don’s hybrids was even more eye-catching.  This one is the reverse cross, with the previous hybrid as seed parent.

Narcissus bulbocodium conspicuus

Daffodils were much in evidence.  Ian Sutton exhibited this pan in the Intermediate section.

Narcissus cordubensis

Still in the Intermediate section, this fine pan came from Heather Barraclough.

Narcissus fernandesii

Many of the daffodils came from David Carver, who specialises in them.  This was a lovely little group of jonquills.

Narcissus ‘Gypsy Vale’

David also exhibited a fine new cultivar I have not seen before.  Raised by Brian Duncan, it is a hybrid between N. obvallaris and Narcissus ‘Gipsy Queen’, but the flowers are larger than the latter, with a more open trumpet.

Narcissus ‘Giselle’

Again from David Carver, this clump of Anne Wright’s Narcissus ‘Giselle’ in a tiny pot won a Certificate of Merit.  What a lovely little thing !

Narcissus asturiensis var lagoi

However, the Narcissus Salver went to Bob and Rannveig Wallis for this pan of daffodils from their Open section exhibit of six pans raised from seed.

With the win in this six pan class, Bob and Rannveig claimed the Charnwood Forest Trophy for the Open section aggregate at the show, and just squeezed in front of Paul and Gill Ranson in the annual Open Section Aggregate.

Trillium nivale

My last plant is this familiar Trillium from Eric Jarrett.  Several flowers were not fully open, and there were buds to come, but the judges decided it had done enough to receive the American Trophy (best plant from the Americas) and the Royal Bank of Scotland Award (best pan of bulbs in the show).

This is always a great show, delivered by a dedicated and hard-working band of volunteers, ably marshalled by show secretaries Neil Hubbard and Martin Rogerson.

But of course they couldn’t do it without the efforts of the judges, and above all the exhibitors, who braved dubious weather to bring all these fabulous plants.  Once again, I didn’t stop taking pictures until the award ceremony was under way.

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 is progressing slowly towards 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