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AGS Pershore Show 2023

March 3, 2023
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There’s no rest for the wicked.  I posted my diary entry about the South Wales show on Friday afternoon.  At 7am the following morning I was on my way to the AGS Pershore Show.

For complicated reasons, I had spent the night in Oxford, so my route ran up the A424 to Stow-on-the-Wold, and thence to Evesham.  It was a bright cold morning, and the verge glistened with patches of snowdrops.  In Burford a bright purple sheet of Crocus tommasinianus on one of the banks warmed my heart.

Arriving at the AGS Pershore Show

By 8.30 I was in the show hall.  Many more daffodils and corydalis than we had seen the previous week, fewer snowdrops, and the dionysias marching on.

An exhibit by Pugh’s Cacti at one end of the hall added a touch of the exotic.  Nearly all the plants I bought at the show came from their stand.


Before long, judging had started.  I took some photos of the huddle which develops when they are voting for the Farrer Medal plant.  The last photo shows the rest of the hall; stewards, including exhibitors whose plants are still in the mix, wait in silent anticipation of the result.

Artistic Section

Pershore is the first show which has an artistic section.  I was delighted to see that there were five exhibitors with about thirty paintings contesting these classes.  We don’t see art at many of the shows, so I am going to look at it in some detail.

One of my previous blog entries from 2015 describes the requirements and expectations for the different classes in the artistic section, with examples.  Sadly, we do not have the photography classes any more, and the classes for paintings, drawings and needlework have been renumbered slightly, but this is still a useful reference.

The post does not provide examples for the classes for a painting of part of an alpine plant (226, 227, 274), or for paintings in a creative style (228, 229, 275), as those were new at the time.  However, Anne Wright’s entries from that season (2015) provide an excellent exemplar.  First paintings of part of an alpine plant, and the last in a creative style.

Pictures of Alpine Plants growing in their Natural Habitat

Let’s start with the classes for plants growing in their natural habitat.  There have always been arguments about how much ‘habitat’ needs to be included, and at one point we used to see the background painted fully.  More recently the judges have accepted an indicative amount of habitat information.

In the Open section, Rannveig Wallis entered these three paintings:

  • Crocus biflorus subsp. isauricus
  • Galanthus plicatus
  • Iris caucasica.

For the Crocus and the Galanthus, the surroundings gave an indication of the habitat and companion plants.  However, the Iris painting gives a rather sparse and uninformative indication of sprouting grass, and could perhaps be improved.

In the Intermediate section, Lesley Travis entered a colour drawing of Soldanella alpina growing in the Dolomites.  Here the artist has included a full frame of surrounding habitat, probably working from a photograph.  This produces a very pleasing effect.  In the same class, new exhibitor, Rosemary Walker, entered a drawing of Thlaspi rotundiflorum.

Portraits of Alpine Plants showing characteristic Habit

The next group of classes specify for portraits of alpine plants showing characteristic habit (NB. ‘habit’, not ‘habitat’, which is not required).  Here Rannveig Wallis won with three paintings of bulbs (Iris rosenbachiana, Triteleia laxa and Fritillaria sewerzowii).  These captured the habit of the plants very successfully.  I wonder if Rannveig originally intended the Iris rosenbachiana painting as a botanically accurate study, since it shows the roots of the plant.  This entry won Rannveig the Muriel Hodgman Art Award for  the Artistic Open Section aggregate.

Competing with Rannveig, Caroline Jackson-Houlston entered three much smaller, more intricate paintings of Cyclamen graecum, Scilla greilhuberi, and Erythronium dens-canis.  Somehow, whilst beautiful, these do not capture the character and habit of the plants quite as well.

There were two entries in the one painting class for plants showing characteristic habit.  This painting of Fritillaria meleagris by Caroline Jackson-Houlston won the class, and the Florence Baker Award for the best piece of artwork.

A new exhibitor, Stephen Shelley, also entered this class with a painting of Erodium x variabile ‘Bishops form’.  Here he has captured the leaves beautifully, but the flowers don’t look quite right.

In the Intermediate section, there were two paintings in this style, Roscoea humeana by Stephen Shelley, and a Sempervivum by Rosemary Walker, which I failed to photograph (I was interrupted).  The Roscoea has the background included, but the class does not require this, and it detracts from the main subject, as it is hard to separate the two.

Botanically Accurate Studies of Alpine Plants

The third main group of painting classes is ‘botanically accurate studies’.  Caroline Jackson-Houlston’s Iris reticulata ‘Frozen Planet’ is a beautifully accurate and scaled rendition of the plant.

In the Intermediate section, Stephen Shelley exhibited a painting of Cyclamen cyprium ‘Galaxy’.  This does not achieve the level of accuracy required in all areas, though some of the leaves are painted beautifully.

Pictures in Colour of Alpine Plants

Also in the Intermediate section, there is a class for three pictures of alpine plants, in any of the styles described above.  Here, Stephen Shelley entered three studies of flowers from Narcissus, Erythronium and Primula.  These do not really satisfy any of the styles, and would be better as close-ups of the flower or other parts of the plant.  Nevertheless, Stephen won the Artistic Award for the Artistic Intermediate Section aggregate.

Pictures of the Flower or Other Parts of an Alpine Plant

By contrast, in the class for parts of a plant, Stephen entered three pictures of which only one could really be considered a picture of part of the plant.  The two Cyclamen (perhaps with the Cyclamen cyprium ‘Galaxy’ discussed above) would make a better entry as portraits of alpine plants showing characteristic habit, in class 222 or 270.

In the Intermediate section, new exhibitor Sandra Clement entered an attractive painting in oils of the flower of Ophrys ariadne.  In the same class, Rosemary Walker entered a painting of Aquilegia alpina.

Pictures of Alpine Plants in a Creative Style

The final classes for paintings are described as ‘in a creative style’.  Lesley Travis entered a lovely painting of Cypripedium calceolus, in habitat, glowing with spring sunshine.

In competition, Sandra Clements entered a rendering of Galanthus ‘Trymposter’, described as an ‘enhanced sunograph’.  A sunograph is a pseudo-photographic technique of placing the subject on light-sensitive paper or cloth, and then exposing it to sunlight.  When rinsed, an image in white and blue is produced, which the artist has then enhanced by drawing in the details of the flowers.

Monochrome Drawings of Alpine Plants

Finally, we have the classes for monochrome drawings, in pencil or ink.  Judges have always tended to prefer ink over pencil, for its contrast and drama.

In the Open section Stephen Shelley entered this drawing of Cyclamen graecum.  Although it does not really quite have the level of precision expected in this section, the drawing had good composition, and a sense of style and movement, with the twisted petals of the flowers well captured.

In the Intermediate section, three exhibitors entered drawings:

  • Lesley Travis with a pencil drawing of Cyclamen cyprium
  • Rosemary Walker with Eryngium alpinum
  • Stephen Shelley, with a study of Fritillaria

Of the three, the Fritillaria study stands out.  Although it is not strictly to the class definition (monochrome drawing of an alpine plant), this was a pleasing composition and captured a 3D feeling to the individual flowers, where the other two drawing feel a little flat, though the Cyclamen leaves in particular are lovely.

Six pans of Rock Plants

Time now to return to the plants.  The show had two six pan classes to photograph – I wanted to do so before the show opened.  Bob and Rannveig Wallis won both, collecting the AGS Medal for six small pans of rock plants, and the Roger Smith Cup for six pans of rock plants grown from seed.  These two wins helped them capture the Mooney Cup for the Open section aggregate.

I intended to photograph the Corydalis aitchisonii from the first collection, but forgot.  However, you should see the two daffodils from the collection grown from seed later on.

Crocus aerius

As always, I wanted to photograph the best of the Crocus early on whilst they were still in prime condition.  I thought this C. aerius from Bob and Rannveig Wallis was lovely.  Other exhibitors say it is difficult to grow and maintain, but Bob and Rannveig make it look easy.

Crocus vernus subsp. albiflorus

Crocus vernus subsp. albiflorus is a small flowered taxon found in the Alps, which includes purple as well as white-flowered plants. Nearly all the pans we see at shows are of small white forms.  So it was a pleasure to see and photograph this lilac form exhibited by John Dixon.  In 2010, I photographed a very similar pan, also exhibited by John; I wonder if they are the same material.

Eranthis x. tubergenii ‘Guinea Gold’

After failing with it last week at Newport, I wanted to catch Don Peace’s winter aconite (not the same plant) before the petals curled.

Iris kolpakowskiana

Bob and Rannveig Wallis received a Certificate of Merit for this beautiful pan of Iris.

Iris svetlanae

In the same three-pan exhibit, Bob and Rannveig included the lovely yellow Iris svetlanae.  I well remember the wonderful pan of this which Ivor Betteridge used to exhibit.

Iris winogradowii

Another Certificate of Merit went to Don Peace for this iris.  It was beautifully grown, but personally I prefer more space between the bulbs so I can see the individual flowers, as in this larger pan from John Dixon.

Colchicum hungaricum

Diane Clement brought this charming little plant.

Pleione ‘Riah Shan’

I photographed Don Peace’s small pan of this last week; here is a larger one from Steve Clements.  The flowers are all neatly arranged and facing forward; I suspect the pseudo-bulbs have been stored all winter, and were replanted, with buds carefully oriented, a few days before the show.

Pleione ‘Glacier Peak’ x. humilis

Last year, I struggled to find a good angle to photograph this Pleione from John Dixon; I struggled again at Pershore.

Corydalis popovii

Although the flowers of Corydalis do not usually collapse in the heat of the hall, the stems do extend, so they are another genus I target early on.  Don Peace received a Certificate of Merit for this pan of C. popovii.

Corydalis kusnetzovii ‘Pale Form’

I always love the neatness of this little Corydalis from Don Peace.

Corydalis sewerzowii

Another first for Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Daubenya aurea

George Elder was delighted to be able to exhibit both yellow and red forms of the South African bulb Daubenya aurea, both grown from seed in 2016.

Fritillaria gibbosa

I have photographed this plant so many times over the years, but I can’t resist doing so.  Bob and Rannveig Wallis present them beautifully.

Fritillaria uva-vulpis ‘Kew form’

The other fritillary I photographed at the show was this one, exhibited by George Elder.  The markings in the flowers always make intriguing photos.

Galanthus ‘E. A. Bowles’

Diane Clement exhibited this snowdrop. Perhaps not as good as it was last year, but still a fine pan.

Galanthus ‘Galadriel’

In the Intermediate section, Alistair Forsyth exhibited this one.

Muscari inconstrictum ‘Levant form’

Last week at Newport, I photographed the Cypriot form of Muscari inconstrictum (first two pictures).  Here Bob and Rannveig exhibited the startling colour of the Levant form (pictures 3 and 4).  This has a completely different habit and flower from the Cypriot form; are they really the same species ?

Narcissus ‘Arctic Bells’

First-time exhibitor Louise Nicholls won a first in the Novice section for this neat little pan of Narcissus ‘Arctic Bells’.

Narcissus bulbocodium ex Morocco

A neat primrose yellow hoop petticoat daffodil from Bob Worsley.

Narcissus cantabricus x. triandrus

The Narcissus triandrus hybrids have started to flower.  This one was at the back of Bob and Rannveig’s entry for six pans grown from seed.

Narcissus ‘Dinah Rose’

George Elder showed a fine pan of Narcissus ‘Dinah Rose’, raised originally by Jim Archibald.

Narcissus x. incurvicervicus

Diane Clement exhibited this naturally occurring sterile hybrid between Narcissus fernandesii and N. triandrus subsp. pallidulus.

Narcissus moschatus ‘Nadder Moon’

In the large pan section, Ian Robertson had a fine large pan of Narcissus moschatus ‘Nadder Moon’.

Narcissus ‘Snow Baby’

Steve Clements exhibited this as Narcissus ‘New Baby’, but surely there has been some confusion.  ‘New Baby’ is a jonquil hybrid, whereas this matches the pans of Narcissus ‘Snow Baby’ elsewhere in the hall.

Narcissus ‘Candlepower’

For me, the most refined of the established miniature trumpet daffodils is ‘Candlepower’, here exhibited by Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Narcissus asturiensis

The best pan of daffodils in the hall was this fabulous exhibit from Alistair Forsyth in the Intermediate section.  It won the Susan Clements Memorial Trophy for the Best plant in the Novice or Intermediate sections, and the Audrey Bartholomew Memorial Award for the Best bulbous plant.  For me, it was the best plant in the show.  Alistair also won the Tomlinson Tankard for the Intermediate section aggregate, and his Silver Medal.  I imagine he had a good evening.

Narcissus asturiensis x. alpestris

However, my favourite plant – the one I most wanted to take home – was this little hybrid from Bob and Rannveig’s exhibit of six pans grown from seed.  Though in some ways the hybrid between dwarf and giant seems fantastical – imagine if the parents were dogs and not flowers…  Who would expect to get such beauty from such a liaison ?

Cyclamen persicum forma puniceum

Ian Robertson won firsts for some fine pans of Cyclamen.  This is his large pan exhibit for three Cyclamen.  From that exhibit, I selected this lovely plant to photograph.

Cyclamen coum

This dark form of Cyclamen coum won a Certificate of Merit for Ian Robertson.

Dionysia afghanica GW/H1308

Again, it was mainly the small pans of Dionysia which captured my interest.  Here are two very different specimens of the same clone of Dionysia afghanica; the one on the left was exhibited by John Dixon, the one on the right by Paul and Gill Ranson.

Dionysia ‘Ewesley Legacy’

Paul and Gill Ranson won a Certificate of Merit for this pan of Dionysia ‘Ewesley Legacy’.

Primula ‘Arduaine’

The Primula allionii were not yet at their best, and I contented myself with this pan of Primula ‘Arduaine’ from Don Peace.

Hepatica japonica ‘ex Blue Sandan’

Mike Acton won the Henry Hammer Cup for the Novice section aggregate.  His plants included this pretty Hepatica japonica seedling.

Hepatica japonica

In the Intermediate section, Lesley Travis also exhibited some nice forms of Hepatica japonica.

Hepatica japonica ‘Hoho Beni’

In the Open section the plants tend to be older and larger; this Japanese cultivar belonged to Bob Worsley.

Hepatica japonica ‘Utyuu’

This plant also belong to Bob.  I’m pretty sure it is the cultivar ‘Utyuu’, which is familiar from recent years, though it wasn’t labelled as such.  Perhaps it needed to be a day or two further out.

Hepatica japonica forma magna

The judges preferred the pristine flowers of this plant from Don Peace, which was awarded a Certificate of Merit.

Gymnospermium altaicum

So what of the Farrer medal for the Best Plant in the show ?  That went to this fine large specimen of Gymnospermium altaicum from Vic and Janet Aspland, together with the Ashwood Trophy for the best plant in a 19cm pot.

All too soon, my photography time was gone, and I was retracing my steps through the Oxfordshire villages to collect Helen who was singing in a concert in Oxford. Now my week has gone too, and before long I will be off to Theydon Bois.

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