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AGS South Wales Show 2023

February 24, 2023
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It looks like the last episode of our Dolomites holiday will have to wait.  Last Saturday was the first AGS Show of the new season, at Newport in South Wales.

Photographic Exhibit

Helen and I arrived early, during Friday afternoon, to put boards up ready for an exhibit of close-up photography.  Every year I try to bring a display to enhance this show; it provides a backdrop to complement the plants.  In difficult years when there are fewer plants than normal, the display augments the interest for visitors.

By the time judging started, it was clear that my display, while welcome, was far from necessary.  The two long benches were packed with plants.  An overhead walkway provided a convenient viewpoint for pictures looking down on the hall.

At the other end of the hall, the nurserymen and women were doing a brisk trade.  Many of the exhibitors had adjourned to the cafeteria area with toast and cups of tea whilst judging was in progress.

Galanthus nivalis ‘Ynys Mon’

At a busy show, it is always tempting to try to start photography before judging has finished.  But I have to be very careful not to remove any plant the judges might not have finished with.  I tend to concentrate on plants which were second or third in single pan classes, particularly in the junior classes.

This time I chose a tiny poculiform snowdrop, exhibited by Bob and Rannveig Wallis.  This is a clone which Rannveig selected from her sister’s garden (in Anglesey ?).  Poculiform means that instead of three outer segments, and three shorter inner segments, the cultivar has six long outer segments.  I always love tiny snowdrop cultivars, and this was no exception.

Galanthus ‘Compton Hobbit’

Diane Clement exhibited three pans of snowdrop cultivars grown from seed.  All showed signs of Galanthus ‘Trym’ in their ancestry, with prominent green marks, and the curious flower shape.  This is usually described as inverse poculiform, where there are six inner segments, rather than the six outer segments in the cultivar above.

Galanthus ‘Compton Rambler’

Also from Diane Clement.

Galanthus ‘Compton Seedling No 7’

The third of Diane Clement’s seedlings.

Galanthus ‘Woodpeckers’

The small-pan snowdrop class was won by a pot full of G. ‘Sophie North’; for me the real star was this pristine little yellow cultivar, again exhibited by Diane Clement.

Galanthus ‘By Gate’

In the Novice section, Mike Acton exhibited a pan of a large G. elwesii cultivar named ‘By Gate’, perhaps where it was found.  This helped Mike win the Caerleon Cup for the Novice section aggregate.

Galanthus nivalis ‘Lovesgrove’

In their small six-pan entry Bob and Rannveig Wallis exhibited another poculiform Galanthus cultivar, again from her sister Solveig’s garden.

Galanthus angustifolius

The Galanthus Goblet for the best pan of snowdrops was awarded to Bob and Rannveig Wallis for this pan of Galanthus angustifolius.

Iris rodionenkoi

Peter Furneaux exhibited this little Juno iris in one of the classes for plants grown from seed.  It would surely have won the class, had he remembered to label it with the date of sowing; sadly, because of this omission, it was deemed NAS (not according to schedule).

The label in the pot named it Iris nicolai, but Bob Wallis quickly recognised it as the rare and recently described (2015) Iris rodionenkoi.

By now the judges had finished their labours, and the show was thronging with visitors.

Crocus ‘Rainbow Gold’

I always try to photograph all the crocuses early in the day, before they suffer in the heated hall.  David Carver brought this little hybrid.

Crocus vernus hybrid

Bob and Rannveig Wallis exhibited a larger pan of a somewhat similar plant, grown from their own seed from Crocus vernus.  They suspect that the pollen parent was C. cvijicii, which was growing in the same frame.

Crocus cvijicii

There were several pans of the latter on the show bench, this one exhibited by John Dixon.

Crocus gramensis

Some of the pans I would previously have called Crocus cvijicii now carried the label Crocus gramensis; Ian Robertson exhibited this one.  I believe that the new name (2019) applies to plants from Mt. Gramos in the northern Pindos which were previously considered to be Crocus cvijicii.

But I am no crocus-buff, and have not followed the debate well enough to be able to distinguish the two by botanical detail.

Crocus corsicus forma albus

In the new and rare classes, Ian Robertson showed this lovely form of Crocus corsicus, familiar to me from previous years.  The white petals have yellow backs which give them a creamy glow.

Crocus hueffelianus

Here are two very different clones of this crocus, both from Ian Robertson.

Crocus pelistericus

Growers normally consider Crocus pelistericus to be a difficult species, requiring summer moisture, but a few exhibitors grow it well, including Ian Robertson.  One of the difficulties seems to be to get the inky blue flowers to appear and bloom synchronously.

Crocus pestalozzae

However, George Elder won the Crocus Award for this delightful little pan of Crocus pestalozzae.

Eranthis hyemalis ‘Schwefelglanz’

Another genus which tends to deteriorate in the heat of the hall is Eranthis.  I have not photographed this pale, straw-yellow cultivar since the days of the RHS spring shows at Westminster, so I was pleased that Diane Clement brought it along in such good condition.

Eranthis longistipitata

Peter Furneaux exhibited a much smaller species of aconite which I had heard about but never seen previously.

Eranthis x. tubergenii ‘Guinea Gold’

I intended to complement my photos of the two winter aconites above with the large pan exhibited by Don Peace in his large three-pan exhibit.  However, by the time I got to that end of the bench, the sides of the petals were starting to curl inwards in the heat, so I decided to give it best.

Narcissus cantabricus ‘Antiquera’

In the Intermediate section, David Carver exhibited a range of different daffodil cultivars in small pots, and won the Gwent Trophy for the section aggregate.

Narcissus ‘Snook’

Also from David Carver

Narcissus ‘Swiftlet’

A tiny, pale yellow N. cyclamineus hybrid from David Carver.

Narcissus ‘Pet Lamb’

I very much liked this little cultivar raised by Brian Duncan, again exhibited by David Carver.

Narcissus ‘Trumpet Voluntary’

This cultivar, raised by Ann Wright and exhibited by David Carver, attracted a lot of interest among exhibitors.  But the large flowers on such short stems bothered me somewhat; when I have photographed it before, the flower stems have been 6-9in long, not 2-3in.  Maybe they will elongate with time.

Narcissus ‘Wee Dote’

My personal favourite among David Carver’s daffodils was this little hybrid, holding its tiny, primrose yellow trumpets up high.

Narcissus cantabricus ex var. petunioides.

Of course, there were lots more daffodils on the show benches; many of them came with Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Narcissus romieuxii

Also from Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Narcissus perez-chiscanoi

This slightly taller trumpet species seems to be thriving for Bob and Rannveig.

Narcissus ‘Noddy’

I always love this little cross – one of a series of seedlings Rannveig Wallis raised by crossing Narcissus cyclamineus with Narcissus alpestris.

Fritillaria rugillosa

This tiny Fritillaria species is newly named (2021) from specimens from the Fergana valley.  Bob and Rannveig Wallis exhibited it last year – this year the pot has rather more flowers.

Androcymbium burchelii subsp. burchelii

As well as his crocuses, George Elder brought a number of South African bulbs, including two Androcymbium with their curious, boat-shaped green flowers.

Androcymbium aff. eucomoides

The larger of George Elder’s two pans of Androcymbium.

Massonia citrina

George Elder also brought a beautifully grown pan of Massonia citrina, with a curious yeasty scent to attract rodent pollinators.  The judges loved it, but for me the flower was showing signs of age.  The intense lemon-yellow was fading around the edge of the cluster of flowers, and when the flowers first open I find the scent has a citrus note which fills the greenhouse.

Cyclamen coum

Ian Robertson exhibited some beautiful Cyclamen.  The first I photographed was this fine pan of Cyclamen coum.

Cyclamen parviflorum

The best of Ian Robertson’s cyclamen was this fabulous, large pan of the rare and difficult Cyclamen parviflorum.  This was many people’s choice for best in show, but it lost out in the voting, and received only a Certificate of Merit.

Dionysia hybrid ‘Clarissa’ MK98193/2

Paul and Gill Ranson won the Isca Prize for the Open Section aggregate with a bootload of splendid Dionysia specimens.  Perversely, I didn’t photograph the larger plants (I have seen them all before), but focused on smaller plants.  Some of these were new to me, such as this little yellow one, with just a hint of pink around the edges of the petals.

Dionysia hybrid ‘Cristina’ MK01221/1

Also new to me was the curiously coloured ‘Cristina’ – cappuccino, caramel ?  or perhaps, with the hint of purple, damson.

Dionysia hybrid ‘Ewesley Theta’ EGW93/3

These brown shading to purple flowers announce an old friend, Dionysia ‘Ewesley Delta’, a hybrid between Dionysia afghanica and D. tapetodes, raised so many years ago by Eric Watson, but extremely difficult to grow and seldom seen much larger than this.

Dionysia hybrid ‘Zdenek Zvolanek’ MK9801/14

Paul and Gill won the Mary Byng Award for the best plant in a 19cm pot for this perfect dome of Dionysia ‘Zdenek Zvolanek’, another hybrid between Dionysia afghanica and D. tapetodes, and equally difficult.

Hepatica yamatutai

Roy Skidmore exhibited this lovely white form of Hepatica yamatutai, which has red backs to the petals, giving it a slight rosy glow.

Hepatica pubescens

My favourite Hepatica is always this one, grown here by Bob Worsley.

Hepatica japonica ex ‘Tessin’

Bob Worsley also exhibited the deep purple Hepatica seedling which the judges got so excited about last year.  It is still terrifically difficult to get the colour right in photographs, and I am not quite happy with it.

Hepatica japonica seedling – ‘Tessin’ x. ‘Meiko’

Diane Clement exhibited another Hepatica seedling from ‘Tessin’, this time double, but an equally difficult shade to photograph.  I think the first image gives the best colour rendition.

Hepatica japonica ‘Okingu’

Diane Clement also brought this lovely cultivar.

Aylostera (Rebutia) heliosa

Anne Vale received a Certificate of Merit for this cactus – I always love the patterns of spines.

Flower Arrangement

Anne also produced this flower arrangement, something of a contrast to the cactus.  It was a contentious entry; some of the judges did not approve of the presence of miniature roses.  However, in the end they did award a first.

As I carried it back to the bench, a number of flowers fell from the bottom edge of the arrangement.  I was mortified – although I photograph the arrangements regularly, it is several years since I damaged one.  Anne waved away my apologies, as the arrangement was put together on Thursday.  This won’t stop me trying to record them; I think it is important to recognise these ephemeral works of art.

[ Postscript: Anne tells me these were not rosebuds, but Primula ‘Rosebud’.  That makes sense – I thought they didn’t look quite like roses and besides, how would she grow rose buds in February.  Unfortunately, Anne forgot to put the list of flowers included in the arrangement on the bench, until after judging, which contributed to this confusion.]

Pleione ‘Riah Shan’

For several years now I have seen and photographed Steve Clements’ pans of this Pleione at the early shows.  I know that Don Peace has also admired it, and here he exhibited a small pan of his own.

Small pan class for six rock plants

Bob and Rannveig Wallis won the AGS Medal for the small six-pan class with this lovely collection.

Muscari discolor

In the six pan, Bob and Rannveig exhibited two lovely pans of Muscari, first M. discolor, with its purple heads ringed with white tips.

Muscari inconstrictum Cyprus form

Also in their six pan, Bob and Rannveig exhibited the Cyprus form of Muscari inconstrictum, and received a Certificate of Merit for it.

Scilla mischtschenkoana

This unpronounceable Scilla from Bob and Rannveig Wallis was perfect on the day.  It needed to be, to win the Farrer Medal for the best plant in the show, ahead of the cyclamen shown earlier.

Alpines in Close-Up

So what of the photographic display I had arrived on Friday to put up ?

The judges had seen many of the photos before, but not for some time, or in this combination.  It made a spectacular adjunct to the show, and in the end they gave me a Large Gold Award.

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