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AGS South Wales Show 2024

March 5, 2024
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At 3pm on the Friday before the South Wales show, you would have found Helen and me sitting in a Starbucks, just off the M4, waiting until we were allowed to start setting up at 4pm in the school where the AGS South Wales show takes place.

The coffee recharged our batteries a little after a week of last-minute planning, and the long drive, so when we arrived at the school, while the other helpers were carrying around and erecting tables, we were carrying in and putting up display boards, and then boxes of pictures.  Our effort was worthwhile; by 6pm we had nearly finished; only a few boards were left till the morning.

The Flowers of the Dolomites in June

By the time the exhibitors arrived in the morning it was finished. Over 350 prints of landscapes, habitats and flowers, all labelled with names, locations and comments, together with panels of information about the area, the locations and habitats etc.

Dionysia ‘Charleson Emma’

I saw this Dionysia hybrid and admired its large, well-formed primrose yellow flowers on the Aberconwy stand at the Pershore show.  When I got home, I realised it was a cultivar I had never photographed, so I emailed Tim Lever and asked if he could bring me a plant to photograph at the South Wales show.


Soon the judges’ tea arrived, to prepare them for action.

At this point, the exhibitors retired to the other end of the hall, for a leisurely breakfast and a little shopping.  A bridge across the atrium provides a fine location to watch and photograph what is going on.

Down in the hall, the judges were soon busy.  The benches were packed quite tightly, and there were plenty of tricky decisions to make.

Six small pans of Rock Plants

I always try to photograph the six-pan classes at this point, on the table in the hall, but before the show is opened to the public.  In this case the E B Anderson Prize for the small six-pan went to Bob and Rannveig Wallis for a fine mixed group – three Fritillaria, a Narcissus, a Chionodoxa and a Cyclamen.

Large three-pan classes

Since I had plenty of time before the judging finished and I could start taking away plants to photograph them, I decided that for once I would go round and photograph the winning three pan entries.  Very few of these classes were contested, but not all the entries were awarded a first.

So here are the winners of the large three-pan classes:

  • Three pans of Rock Plants (Don Peace)
  • Three pans of Rock Plants from a single genus (Paul and Gill Ranson with Dionysia)
  • Three pans of Primulaceae (Paul and Gill Ranson, again with Dionysia)
  • Three pans of Cyclamen (Ian Robertson)
  • Three pans of Papaveraceae or Ranunculaceae (Bob and Rannveig Wallis with Corydalis)
  • Three pans of rock plants for foliage effect (Bob Worsley – Trillium, Impatiens and Asarum)
  • Three pans of cushion plants (Paul and Gill Ranson, with two large Dionysia and Gypsophila aretioides).

Small three-pan classes

I moved on to the small three-pan entries.  So here are the winners of those:

  • Three pans of Rock Plants (Don Peace)
  • Three pans of Rock Plants from a single genus (Paul and Gill Ranson with Dionysia)
  • Three pans of Primulaceae (Paul and Gill Ranson, again with Dionysia)
  • Three pans of Dionysia (Paul and Gill Ranson)
  • Three pans of Papaveraceae or Ranunculaceae (Peter Farkasch with Corydalis)
  • Three pans of bulbous plants (Bob and Rannveig Wallis)
  • Three pans of Amaryllidaceae (David Carver)
  • Three pans of Iridaceae (Bob and Rannveig Wallis)
  • Three pans of rock plants grown from seed (Paul and Gill Ranson with Dionysia)
  • Three pans of new or rare rock plants (Paul and Gill Ranson with Dionysia)
  • Three pans of bulbous plants grown from seed (Bob and Rannveig Wallis).

Intermediate Section three-pan classes

Still with time to kill, I continued to the Intermediate three-pan entries.

  • Three pans of Rock Plants (Anita Acton)
  • Three pans of Primulaceae (Sue Bedwell with three different colours of Cyclamen persicum)
  • Three pans of bulbous plants (Sue Bedwell)
  • Three pans of rock plants for foliage effect (Roy Skidmore with Cyclamen)

Sempervivum ‘Arctic White’

The Novice section was nearest to my photography ‘studio’, and as always the section the judges finished with first, so the first plant I photographed was this neat pan of Sempervivum from new exhibitor Theo Grove, a friend of Ben and Paddy Parmee

Narcissus cyclamineus

Also in the Novice Section, Christine Jarvis exhibited a pan of the familiar but still lovely Narcissus cyclamineus.

Hepatica japonica ‘Isari-Bi’

My final plant from the Novice section was this familiar deep pink cultivar of Hepatica japonica, also exhibited by Christine Jarvis who won the Caerleon Cup for the section aggregate.

Narcissus ‘Elka’

Sue Bedwell took the Gwent Trophy for the Intermediate section aggregate narrowly from Roy Skidmore.  We have already seen her two three-pan entries; I singled out this little pan of Narcissus ‘Elka’ for further attention – it has always been one of my favourites.

Isca Prize

In the Open section, the aggregate was clear cut, and will be obvious from the three-pan images I posted.  Paul and Gill Ranson’s Dionysias collected nearly twice as many points as anyone else, so the Isca Prize went to them.  However, that does not give the full flavour of the show; 18 exhibitors entered plants in the Open section, and 15 of them went home with at least one First Prize sticker.

Callianthemum anemonoides

Don Peace was awarded a Certificate of Merit for his Callianthemum; such striking beauty, but so ephemeral.

Hepatica japonica ‘Kurotaiyou’ (?)

Although I photographed it at Pershore, David Carver’s little Hepatica caught my eye again.

Hepatica japonica ‘Anstonian’

However, the pick of the Hepatica, and my own pick for the Farrer, was this fine exhibit from Chris Lilley, which received a Certificate of Merit.  I have photographed this plant regularly over the last 10 years or so, since it was a small but distinctive seedling.

Pleione ‘Riah Shan’

At the show reporter’s request, I reprised my efforts at Pershore to photograph Don Peace’s Pleione ‘Riah Shan’.

Flower arrangement

I always try to photograph the flower arrangements.  With its low skirts, this one from David Carver was particularly difficult to carry, so I photographed it on the show bench, before moving it and trying again.

Cyclamen coum ‘Porcelain’

Ian Robertson brought some fine pans of Cyclamen, but none of them were quite perfect.  This clone of Cyclamen coum, with its distinctive, lined petals, always attracts attention despite its small stature.

Cyclamen libanoticum

In a rather larger pot, we could all admire the beauty of Ian’s Cyclamen libanoticum.

Dionysia hybrid JRD-MK06458/1

Focusing now on the serried ranks of perfect pastel domes exhibited by Paul and Gill Ranson, let’s start with a Dionysia afghanica f2 hybrid raised by John Dixon from Michael Kammerlander seed.  This is almost indistinguishable from D. afghanica itself, and appears almost as tricky to grow.

Dionysia ‘Mike Bramley’

This D. afghanica hybrid, named for Mike Bramley, former show secretary at Chesterfield, is one we see more frequently.  Paul and Gill seem able to grow it to a larger size than the species, and their efforts were rewarded with another Certificate of Merit.

Dionysia hybrid PMR-TBG1268b/5

This yellow flowered Dionysia shown by Paul and Gill is an f2 hybrid from a plant grown as a wild hybrid of D. khatamii x (?)janthina JLMS02-07/JM1.  I assume the lovely pale yellow colouration, with deeper centres, must have come from the unknown pollen parent, since D. khatamii, D. janthina, and the putative hybrid between them, all have petals in shades of lilac.

Dionysia ‘Selene’

I always love the ice-cream tones of Dionysia ‘Selene’, and I photograph Paul and Gill’s plant every year.

Dionysia hybrid PMR-DZ19R1890H/1

This little hybrid raised by Paul and Gill is rather different.  It is an f1 hybrid ex drabifolia, and seems to be producing a flat mat, rather than a domed cushion.  It will be interesting to see how the cushion evolves.  D. drabifolia is usually treated as a synonym of D. diapensifolia, but the recent monograph by Liden and Mehregan simply concludes that “although placed into synonymy with D. diapensifolia, it is not similar to that species”.  [ Paul points out that this is the corrected name for the plant which has been grown as D. termeana.  After a confusion with the names on the original specimen sheets, the plant was re-described. ]

Dionysia tapetodes PMR10R1314/16

By contrast, this D. tapetodes clone, again raised from seed by Paul and Gill, has a very pronounced domed cushion.

Dionysia freitagii EGW91/6

The pick of Paul and Gill’s Dionysia was a medium-sized cushion of Dionysia freitagii, well-covered with flowers, which won the Mary Byng Award for the best plant in a 19cm pot, and went on to win the Farrer medal for the best plant in the show.  I have certainly seen larger specimens, mainly grown by Derek Pickard who specialises in that species, but not of this clone, and probably not from a grower in the south.

Polystichum setiferum ‘Congesto-crispum’

Show reporters are urged to cover the full variety of plants at the show, so I usually get asked to photograph foliage plants or ferns.  This one was exhibited by Chris Lilley.

Pyrrosia hastata

Since Don Peace first exhibited this in September last year, it has been on almost every show reporter’s list.

Rebutia heliosa

I loved the patterns as the light fell across this cactus, exhibited by Anne Vale.

Corydalis firouzii

I rather liked the pale yellow colour scheme of this Corydalis from Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Corydalis darwasica

George Elder was awarded a Certificate of Merit for this exceptionally compact and desperately slow specimen of Corydalis darwasica.

Corydalis popovii

Peter Farkasch staged some nice Corydalis in the 19cm pot classes, including this dark form of Corydalis popovii.

Corydalis seisumsiana

A form of C. seisumsiana with creamy-white spurs rather than the usual red, also from Peter Farkasch.

Corydalis verticillaris

A third fine Corydalis from Peter Farkasch.

Fritillaria chitralensis

Bob and Rannveig Wallis’ exhibits included this fabulous yellow fritillary.

Fritillaria graeca

A very nice clone of Fritillaria graeca from Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Fritillaria stenanthera

George Elder exhibited a fine pot of Fritillaria stenanthera, not quite fully out, raised from seed sown in 2000.

Fritillaria ariana

One plant which really stood out was this very vigorous, deep pink form of Fritillaria ariana, raised from seed sown in 2009 by George Elder.

Galanthus ‘Straffan’

Martin Rogerson won the Galanthus Goblet for this pan of G. ‘Straffan’, but as he said in the prize-giving, it seemed a bit of a fraud, when there were only two pans of snowdrops on the bench, and both were his.  Normally we see many more at this time of year – the season is very early.

Gladiolus watermeyeri

I was pleased to see David Carver exhibiting a small pan of the South African Gladiolus watermeyeri.  It is never a tidy plant, and these stems were hanging over the side of the pot, but the flowers are fabulous, and eventually I managed to get one to look at the camera.

Trillium nivale

Eric Jarrett’s Trillium was another plant considered for the Farrer by the judges, but it came away with nothing.

Iris kolpakowskiana

The show reporter asked me to photograph this Iris from Bob and Rannveig Wallis, but to be honest it was in better condition the previous week.

Iris nusairiensis ‘David Mowle’

Bob and Rannveig’s dwarf clone of Iris nusairiensis was lovely though.

Iris rosenbachiana

Always one of my favourites, this time exhibited by George Elder.

Narcissus bulbocodium genuinus RWM 84-26

David Carver is very keen on dwarf Narcissus, and brought a wonderful array in small pots.  This is one of the best clones of Narcissus bulbocodium, with nice big trumpets on short stems.

Narcissus bulbocodium Propeller Group

We have already seen David’s entry for three small pans of Amaryllidaceae.  The plant at the front is this small Narcissus bulbocodium cultivar, with twisted perianth segments. The plants behind that are Narcissus scaberulus, and Narcissus ‘Angel’s Whisper’ (?).  I intended to go back and photograph those as well, but got distracted.  I must remember to take the N. scaberulus when I next see it – it is something I have never photographed.

Narcissus fernandesii

A fine pot of N. fernandesii from David Carver.

Narcissus Sweet Petite’

An extremely miniature trumpet daffodil, raised, I think, by Anne Wright, but exhibited by David Carver.

Narcissus x christopheri

One final daffodil from David Carver.  This is a wild hybrid between N. assoanus and N. papyraceus, which I have never seen before in cultivation.

Narcissus ‘Eira’

Bob and Rannveig Wallis raised this deliberate hybrid between N. triandrus and N. cantabricus; it is very beautiful, but I believe even they find it tricky.

Narcissus bulbocodium subsp tenuifolius ex SB185

This tiny, primrose yellow clone of Narcissus bulbocodium subsp tenuifolius earned a Certificate of Merit for Bob and Rannveig.

Narcissus ‘Nadder Moon’

This fabulous potful came with Ian Robertson, and received another Certificate of Merit.

Tulipa cretica

Ian also received a Certificate of Merit for his fantastic pan of Tulipa cretica.

Tulipa cretica ‘Dikti’

However, it was Ian’s low-growing form of Tulipa cretica with pink backs to the petals which would have received the ‘most coveted’ award from the visitors and other exhibitors.

This wasn’t a big show, but the benches looked crowded, and there were some exceptional plants, as indicated by the number of Certificates of Merit given out.  I would like to thank all those who made it possible – Bob and Rannveig and their team of helpers, the nurserymen who travel long distances to stand and sell plants all day, the exhibitors, the stewards and judges, and of course the visitors, without whom the day could not be a success.

In particular, I would like to thank the local group member who stayed to the very end of the breakdown, and helped me and Helen take our boards and pictures out to the car.  Without such support, doing these big displays would be impossible.

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