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AGS North Midland Show 2024

April 12, 2024
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I have never been to the long-standing show at Chesterfield.  For years, I considered it just that bit too far to drive in a day.  So I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit the show this year.

My wife Helen wanted to spend some time with her mother in Nottingham, so we drove up on Friday to visit.  On Saturday morning I went up to the show, and picked her up again on my way back south.

Arrival at the show

I arrived at the show in breezy sunshine.  That breeze would pick up during the day, until things were blowing around outside and Jackie Potterton (who had a plant stall outside the entrance) was forced to pack up.

Inside, the show benches were full of colour.

Display of AGS Activities

At one end of the hall, John Savage had put together an instructive display about AGS Activities, for which he received a Gold Medal.

Six large pans of rock plants

Show secretary Chris Lilley’s large six pan entry dominated the entrance to the hall.  Surprisingly, this grouping included three different Andromeda in the front row; the back row contained a Vaccinium, flanked by two different Dicentra.  Fortunately, although definitely large, these were in plastic pots and light, ericaeous compost; much lighter than his normal fare.  The judges were happy to award Chris the AGS Medal for this exhibit.

Andromeda polifolia compacta

From Chris Lilley’s six pan entry.

Dicentra cucullaria

Also from Chris Lilley’s six pan entry.

Large Three-pan Classes

After photographing the six-pan entry, I went round the show, trying to photograph the winning three pan entries.  I did this first at the South Wales show, and the exhibitors enjoyed the sense it gave of the show, so I have made a rod for my own back.

I couldn’t do this in class order, as I was dodging judges and stewards, so I hope I didn’t miss any classes.

Here are:

  • Three large pans of rock plants exhibited by Don Peace
  • Three large pans of rock plants – one Cyclamen, one bulbous, one for foliage effect exhibited by Bob Worsley
  • Three large pans of bulbous plants exhibited by Steve Clements
  • Three large pans of rock plants – one Primulaceae, one bulbous and one dwarf shrub exhibited by John Savage
  • Three large pans of rock plants from different continents exhibited by Bob Worsley
  • Three large three pans of dwarf shrubs exhibited by John Savage
  • Three large pans of rock plants for foliage effect exhibited by Bob Worsley
  • Three large pans of Sempervivum exhibited by Chris Lilley

Three large pans of rock plants from North America

The judging of this class caused much debate.  John Richards entered three well grown alpines in flower – Trillium kurabayashii and two forms of Lewisia tweedyi.  However, he came second to Anne Vale, who entered three large pans of Mammillaria, none of which were in flower.

The Mammillaria combined really well as a group, but the plants in the other exhibit were all in flower, and there are several pundits who feel that the Mammillaria are not sufficiently hardy.

One Large pan of Orchidaceae

Three lovely pans of Pleione contested the class for one pan of Orchidaceae.  In the end, the places seemed to reflect the principle that biggest was best.

Miniature Garden

Carol Kellett won the Steve Furness trophy for a miniature garden without accessories.  I photographed this as I was going round – I didn’t want to have to carry it.

Small Three-pan Classes

Moving on to the small pan classes, here are:

  • three small pans of rock plants – three entries
  • three small pans of rock plants exhibited by Ian Instone
  • three small pans of rock plants distinct genera excluding Primulaceae exhibited by John Dixon.
  • three small pans of Primula exhibited by Chris Lilley
  • three small pans of rock plants – one Cyclamen, one bulbous, one for foliage effect – winning entry exhibited by Bob Worsley
  • three small pans of rock plant – one Cyclamen, one bulbous, one for foliage effect exhibited by John Savage
  • three small pans of Orchidaceae exhibited by Neil Hubbard
  • three small pans of bulbous plants – two entries
  • three small pans of bulbous plants exhibited by Don Peace
  • three small pans of Fritillaria exhibited by Don Peace
  • three small pans of new or rare plants exhibited by John Richards
  • three small pans of rock plants from seed exhibited by Bob Worsley
  • three small pans of rock plants with educational information exhibited by Don Peace.

Three small pans of Rock Plants in Flower, grown from Seed

There is a special award for this class, the Fieldhouse Trophy, which was won by Steve Walters.  I took this image whilst going round the show, fully intending to take these three pots out to my studio in the foyer later on.  Sadly, it slipped my mind, and this (lousy) picture is all I have.  My apologies to Steve.

One pan of Cactus

One of the more popular classes was for cacti in a 19cm pot, with five entries, all but one being forms of Rebutia heliosa.

Intermediate Section

In the Intermediate section, there were only two three pan entries:

  • Three pans of bulbous plants exhibited by Steve Spells
  • Three pans of rock plants exhibited by Anita and Mike Acton

Novice Section

Finally, in the Novice section, I found a class for three pans of rock plants – one Cyclamen, one bulbous, one for foliage effect, entered by Christine Jarvis.

Flower Arrangement

I photographed one other entry before returning to the foyer – Anne Vale’s flower arrangement.  When judging was nearly over, I went back and carried it out to the foyer for more serious attention.

Erythronium ‘Joanna’

I always seek out first the plants which might deteriorate in the show hall conditions.  Erythronium are notorious for this, the petals wrinkling and curling up out of their preferred cool humid air.  So this pan from Diane Clement was next.

Erythronium ‘Ryedale’

This larger pan of Erythronium won Della Kerr the Chatsworth Trophy for the best pan of bulbs.

Pleione Rakata gx. ‘Shot Silk’

Now I turned to the plants in the Novice Section. Catherine Pennington exhibited a good pan of Pleione.

Primula marginata ‘Inshriach’

I very much enjoyed the flowers and the farina on this small pan of Primula marginata from Sue Spells.

Hepatica americana

The Nottingham Junior Challenge Trophy for the Novice Section aggregate went to Christine Jarvis.  Her plants included a very neat little Hepatica.

Iris pumila x aphylla

Christine also exhibited this lovely Iris hybrid.

Iris ‘Wee Harry’

In the Open Section, Bob Worsley exhibited this rather attractive Iris called ‘Wee Harry’.

Armeria caespitosa ‘Bevans Variety’

The Nottingham Shield for the Intermediate Section aggregate went to Michael Wilson, who exhibited this fine pan of Armeria caespitosa ‘Bevans Variety’ – a good garden plant.

Pleione ‘Ueli Wackernagel Enigma’

The Open Section was dominated by a fine display of Pleione from several different growers. I took lots of pictures of them; all were in great condition and very photogenic.  And, of course, the pots were all very light.

Don Peace had at least two pans of Pleione ‘Ueli Wackernagel Enigma’, though I have a feeling there may have been more.  It is one of my favourites.

Three small pans of Rock Plants with Educational Information

One of the outstanding exhibits for me was Don Peace’s group of three Pleione cultivars with cultivation information.

These three Pleione cultivars were:

  • Pleione Asama ‘Red Grouse’
  • Pleione Betty Arnold ‘Palm Swift’
  • Pleione Vesuvius grex ‘Phoenix’

One Large pan of Orchidaceae

The class for one pan of Orchidaceae in the large pan section was equally spectacular.

Don Peace was third with a fine pan of Pleione Berapi ‘Purple Sandpiper’.

John Craven came second with a lovely pan of Pleione ‘Shantung Ducat’.

In first place was Pleione Glacier Peak ‘Everest’ from Steve Clements.

Pleione aurita x speciosa

Diane Clement also exhibited Pleione.  This is her Pleione aurita x speciosa.  [Thanks to Don Peace for the name correction.]

Pleione grandiflora

Best of all, and a contender for best in show, was this wonderful pan of Pleione grandiflora from John Craven, which ended up winning a Certificate of Merit.

Orchis anthropophora

In the small pan classes, another orchid won a Certificate of Merit.  This time it went to Steve Clements for a good pan of the Man Orchid, Orchis anthropophora.

Fritillaria aurea x pinardii

Don Peace also brought quite a number of Fritillaria hybrids, all as far as I know raised by Don himself.  This was one of the most attractive, with wide open, golden bells.

Fritillaria ‘Lentune’ hybrids

Don’s more complex Fritillaria hybrids, and indeed cultivars of other genera which he has produce, all carry names branded with the name Lentune.  His website says “’Lentune’ is the name of our village (Kirklevington) as recorded in the Doomsday book. Before the church was built it was simply Levington = Leven town = the town on the river Leven = Lentune. Or so the village history society reckon”.  There are lots more Fritillaria on the website which didn’t appear at the show.

The ones which did make it to the show are:

  • Lentune Laggard
  • Lentune Lustre
  • Lentune Slate
  • Lentune Lovat

Fritillaria alfredae subsp glaucoviridis

Don’s exhibits also included Fritillaria species.  I particularly enjoyed this glaucous green one.

Fritillaria meleagris alba

One last Fritillaria from Don Peace.  He had several pans of Fritillaria meleagris, and I always love the white form.  I have tried to grow this several times from seed, but always end up with pots of purple ones which get planted out in  the garden.

These, together with the Pleione and the many other plants he brought, earned Don the Gould Trophy for the Open section aggregate.

Chamaelaucium species

And now for something completely different.  John Savage exhibited a wide range of shrubs, including this interesting plant from Western Australia.  I always photograph these when I see them; the flowers tend to open in sequence rather than all at once, so this is well-flowered.  They are not reliably hardy in the garden in the UK, except perhaps in sheltered spots in the south, and are best kept just frost-free.

Diosma ‘Pink Fountain’

John also exhibited this lovely shrub, hailing from the Cape Province of South Africa.  Again, it is not reliably hardy, but what a beautiful thing.  I was intrigued that the name ‘Pink Fountain’ was given to a plant that appears to have white flowers; searching the internet with this name yields a mixture of pink and white plants.

Rhododendron ‘Pintail’

In the small pan classes, John had a small plant of this Rhododendron cultivar, covered in flowers.  I was puzzled to see it so compact, and suspect it may have been clipped to keep its shape.

Andromeda polifolia compacta

John’s best plants were Andromeda.  This one won the Chesterfield Vase for the best pan of Ericaceae.

Andromeda polifolia ‘Blue Ice’

In the small pan classes, John had another Andromeda, which to my eye was even better.  Either the judges know something I don’t, or it just failed to catch their eyes when they were looking for ericaceous plants.

Gypsophila aretioides caucasica

In the cushion classes, Ian Instone had a perfect green dome of Gypsophila.

Anisotome imbricata subsp imbricata

Geoff Rollinson’s Anisotome from the South Island of New Zealand was here again, this time in flower.

Haastia pulvinaris subsp minor

I photographed this ‘vegetable sheep’, again from the South Island of New Zealand, at the Loughborough show.  Still marvelling at Geoff Rollinson’s skill in growing it, I wanted to try again, and I think I caught it better this time.

Woodsia polystichoides

I loved the tiny new fronds on this Woodsia.  Don Peace tells me that it is not a small form; the fronds will get larger, and the plant will be in a much larger pot by the time of the East Anglia show

Ranunculus montanus ‘Molten Gold’

This is one of my favourite plants, and it brings back old memories for me.  I grew it in an area of rock garden I was given when little, when it performed wonderfully.  Since then I have tried to grow it and failed several times; my voracious molluscs always find it eventually.  Evidently, Don Peace has no such problems.

Saxifraga ‘Allendale Bonny’

There weren’t many saxifrages on the show bench, but this one, from Geoff Rollinson, was fabulous.

Pulsatilla vulgaris ‘Papageno’

Bob Worsley brought a fine specimen of this fringed Pulsatilla cultivar, in an extremely heavy long clay pot.

Primula bullata var. bracteata

The AGS Seed Distribution Award for the best plant grown from seed went to Peter Hood for this unusual Primula from Yunnan.

Primula subpyrenaica

John Richards exhibited this little plant from the Pyrenees.  It belongs in the Auricula Section of Primula, but has recently been separated from P. auricula on a morphological basis, and has been published with this name.  In the wild, it is confined to an area of less than 4kms long in the Serra de Picancel, Spain.

Primula denticulata var alba

John Richards also exhibited this magnificent specimen of a familiar garden plant.  Easy to grow in the garden if you are not troubled by vine weevil.

Primula hirsuta

This Primula hirsuta from John Richards brought back memories of the days when I would travel to shows with my stepfather, and crates and crates of European primulas.

Primula elatior subsp pallasii

This was a fantastic plant, with huge flowers, which John Richards raised from seed collected in Anatolia.

Three small pans of Primula

In the small pan class for three pans of Primula, Chris Lilley exhibited three yellow hybrids, which Brian Burrow had given him.  These are, respectively:

  • Primula ‘Alans Seedling’ – I have no knowledge of this. I wonder if the Alan in the name is Alan Newton ?
  • Primula ‘Lindum Goldrush’ – raised by the Thompsons.
  • Primula ‘Mary Chapman’ – this was one of David Philbey’s seedlings (DPP 811-07) which was sown in 2006 and flowered first in 2007.

No parentage is recorded for ‘Mary Chapman’, but at the time David was vigorously crossing yellow hybrids (with P. auricula in them) with white P. allionii and P. x pubescens, including P. ‘Broadwell Milkmaid’, in an effort to produce a yellow hybrid with the stature and growth habit of P. allionii.

In the end some of his seedlings came quite close, but he never really separated the yellow colour from the P. auricula genes controlling leaf size and stem length, and in particular the P. auricula tendency not to offset vigorously.

Primula henrici ACE 1671

The Finley Swift Trophy for the best plant in a 19cm pot went to Geoff Rollinson for this pan of Primula henrici.

Primula ‘Stella’

This large plant of Primula ‘Stella’ went up for the Farrer, and in the end won a Certificate of Merit for Geoff Rollinson.

My stepfather, David Philbey, first encountered this at an AGS West Sussex Group local group show in Chichester around 1990, grown by Stella Tribe from Southampton.  Stella was always very coy about where she got it from, just saying it had come from the garden of one of the senior AGS members in that area, so in the end David named it ‘Stella’.

David pestered her all day for a cutting, which seemed a bit importunate at the time, and eventually at packing up time, she pulled a shoot off the side and gave it to him.  A year or so later she was asking for a cutting back, as she had lost the main plant.  So it was fortunate that he had been so determined.

David propagated this plant heavily, and gave it to all his friends – Nigel Fuller, Eric Jarrett, Brian Burrow, Ian Kidman and others.  All the material in cultivation since that time can be traced back to that one cutting he begged from Stella.

Androsace barbulata

As well as Primulas, there were a few Androsace on the bench.  David Charlton exhibited this little pan of Androsace barbulata.

Androsace villosa GFS73

At the autumn show in Harlow Carr last year, I photographed a cushion of Androsace rosettes, exhibited by John Dixon.  This is a cultivar of Androsace villosa collected many years ago in Bulgaria by George Smith, who wrote the book about Androsace.  Now at last it was in flower.

Androsace villosa var. taurica

Finally, Geoff Rollinson exhibited a wonderful white dome of Androsace villosa var. taurica.  This won the John and Gill Saxton Memorial Trophy for the best plant native to Europe, and, of course, the Farrer medal for the best plant in the show.

I had a great day.  The bacon, and sausage, rolls and cups of tea provided by the hall’s catering staff were excellent.  Lots of visitors came; the ladies manning the entrance were busy most of the day.

But best of all I had the chance to chat to some friends I haven’t encountered yet this year at shows, just because I was a little further north.  In particular, it was a joy to meet again my old friend Ju Bramley, who only ever comes to this show now.

So thanks to Chris Lilley and all his team of helpers for staging a great event.  I hope the show will continue, and that I will be able to visit next year.

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