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AGS South West Show 2024

April 9, 2024
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After two sunny days visiting Knightshayes and RHS Rosemoor garden, the morning of the AGS South West show dawned overcast and bitterly cold.

As we climbed over the hills on the short trip from Barnstaple to Rosemoor, it was 2 degrees Celsius, and sleet was falling.  The road seemed distinctly slippery, and although we reached our destination safely, within an hour the switchback route from Umberleigh to Torrington was closed in both directions because a car had rolled.

First Impressions

As is often the case at this show, the benches seemed a little sparse, but there were some fine plants on display.  Sadly, too few exhibitors seem willing to travel a little further out of their way to reach this wonderful venue.  Normally the garden provides an excellent day out for the exhibitors once they have staged their plants; perhaps less so this year, given the distinctly wintry weather.

Near the window, a table held the show trophies; later on in the day, afternoon sunshine made them sparkle.

Six large pans of Rock Plants

Ian Robertson staged a large six-pan entry which looked good; three large Cyclamen, a huge pan of Pleione, Erythronium hendersonii and Narcissus cordubensis.  However, after much deliberation, the judges decided not to award it a first place; perhaps the daffodil let it down.

Three large pans of Bulbous Plants

Immediately opposite my photography table, Bob and Rannveig entered three large pans of bulbs – Acis trichophylla, Iris bucharica and Scilla melaina.  We will see some of those again later.

Miniature garden

My own exhibits did not fare well.  This miniature crevice garden planted with cacti received a third place in a class with two entries; no first was awarded.

Display of Alpine Plants

This display of Alpine Plants put on by the RHS Rosemoor Alpine Department received a Silver Award.  The magenta Anemone pavonina which I photographed last year was going to be stunning, but only just coming into bloom.

Flower Arrangement

David Carver won both the class for cut flowers, and the flower arrangement class.  The scent coming from the Daphne was appealing, and I loved the two gladioli in the arrangement. But the Narcissus bulbocodium hoops seemed to me to make it rather top heavy.

Gladiolus tristis hybrids

David Carver also exhibited two pots of Gladiolus tristis hybrids.  These are tall and have a tendency to fan out, so I had to restrain them in order to take pictures (first photo).  Neither found favour with the judges; I think they felt they were a bit tall for a show exhibit.

I thought they were lovely, particularly the deep crimson one.  I am not sure of the parentage of that one, but the scarlet and yellow one normally goes under the epithet Gladiolus tristis x huttonii. 

Although their parents are South African species, the scarlet and yellow hybrid at least is reasonably hardy in the open garden in Southern England.

Narcissus ‘Snipe’

By now the judges had finished their work.  Local member Helen Brown, who won the Dartington Trophy for the Novice section aggregate, showed a group of one of my favourite daffodils, with a few flowers out, and plenty of buds to come.

Pleione ‘Shantung Ducat’

Also in the Novice section I found a lovely pan of Pleione exhibited by Clive Lloyd.  Prima facie, this was one of the outstanding exhibits in the section; the individual flowers were beautiful.  However, closer inspection revealed that Clive had had to wire the stems, possibly because of the miserable overcast weather this spring.  As a result, this entry came second in its class.

Pleione x confusa

In the Open section, Ian Robertson exhibited this yellow Pleione.  I thought it was incredibly similar to ‘Shantung Ducat’ above, and wonder about its identity.  Pleione x confusa is one parent of ‘Shantung Ducat’ but is horribly difficult to grow, and I believe looks rather different.

Pleione ‘Glacier Peak’ x humilis

Clive Lloyd also exhibited two quite different Pleione hybrids which he acquired under the description Pleione ‘Glacier Peak’ x humilis.  Both were attractive.  I understand that a range of seedlings from this cross originating in Holland have been distributed; individual cultivars need to be selected and given clonal names.

Anemone x lipsiensis pallida

The Otter Trophy for the best plant in the Novice section went to Helen Brown.  I suspect she dug up this pleasing clump of primrose yellow flowers from the garden.  It looks too happy to be growing in a pot all the time.

Phycella bicolor

In the Intermediate section, Dick Fulcher exhibited a most unusual and striking South American amaryllid.  The internet plant nomenclature databases suggest that we should now call this Eustephia coccinea.  Whatever the name, the scarlet trumpets were beautiful.

Tropaeolum azureum

Dick Fulcher also brought an excellent pan of Tropaeolum azureum, from Chile.

Fritillaria affinis

I really enjoyed the subtle beauty of this North American Fritillaria, entered by Jim Loring in the Intermediate section.

Saxifraga ‘Crinoline’

The Dartmoor Trophy for the Intermediate section aggregate went to Duncan Bennett.  Duncan is a saxifrage enthusiast, and he displayed a number of new and unusual hybrids, including this cultivar arising from crossing S. iranica and S. dinnikii.

Saxifraga ‘Kirke’

This cultivar, also exhibited by Duncan Bennett, is the result of a cross between S. x dinniaris and S. sempervivum.

Saxifraga ‘Waterperry Carole’

One final, lovely new saxifrage cultivar, again from Duncan Bennett.  I imagine from the name that Adrian Young produced this seedling.

Anemonella thalictroides ‘Oscar Schoaf’

Alistair Hudson won the Cornwall Trophy for the best plant in the Intermediate section with this Anemonella.  A great plant in a somewhat unusual pot.

Primula ‘Coy’

There were very few primulas in the Open section, probably as a result of the warm and early spring.  This old hybrid produced by Margaret Earle was a favourite of my stepfather, David Philbey.  George Elder has exhibited it with some success in recent years.  It is always a little grudging with its flowers.

Primula x pubescens

Martin Rogerson’s unnamed Primula x pubescens always seems to time it right for this show.  This year it looked stunning, though it was close to going over, and I had to be careful not to handle it roughly in case flowers fell off.

Cyclamen persicum

Bob and Rannveig Wallis had a nice pan of Cyclamen persicum, with white flowers with deep red noses.

Cyclamen libanoticum

Some of Ian Robertson’s largest Cyclamen looked a little tired; it is not surprising – I have seen and photographed them at several shows.  I suspect this might be the same plant I photographed at the South Wales show a month earlier, but it still looked pretty good to me.

Cyclamen persicum forma albidum

This is an all-white form of Cyclamen persicum, again exhibited by Ian Robertson.

Cyclamen persicum forma puniceum

I always love the colour of this form of Cyclamen persicum – another from Ian Robertson.

Cyclamen pseudibericum

Another stalwart of the spring shows, Cyclamen pseudibericum, is a familiar entry by Ian Robertson, and sometimes lasting until the Midland show in mid-April.

Cyclamen rhodium subsp vividum

This last Cyclamen from Ian Robertson is a later flowering species, which doesn’t appear on the benches until late March or April.

Dionysia ‘Geist’

At each show so far this year, Paul and Gill Ranson have brought crates of Dionysia, to compete with the spring bulbs.  This looks like the end of the run.  They still had plenty of small plants, like this good-sized specimen of Michael Kammerlander’s D. ‘Geist’, but I expect that the larger ones were stripped of their flowers in the few days after the show, to avoid botrytis setting in.

Dionysia ‘Lauren’

‘Lauren’ is an unnumbered f2 hybrid from Alcyone, originating from Michael Kammerlander.  The long tubes clearly reflect its D. microphylla ancestry, and the wonderful colour is reminiscent of D. freitagii.  My memory is telling me that it was named for Paul and Gill’s daughter, but I expect that Paul will quickly tell me I’m all muddled up again. [Edit: apparently my memory is correct.  This is a ‘plunge’ seedling given to Paul and Gill during a visit to Michael Kammerlander, and named for Lauren who was with them at the time.]

Dionysia hybrid NLJ1

The next Dionysia from Paul and Gill is a complex hybrid produced by Norman Jobson, resulting from crossing D. bryoides with a hybrid between D. microphylla and D. ‘Chris Grey-Wilson’.  Here the strongest resemblance is to D. bryoides.

Dionysia yellow hybrids

Paul and Gill also exhibited a number of little plants with yellow flowers which they had raised from seed.  These involved some of the newer and more unusual species, and sometimes the yellow flowers are rather unexpected.  These are, respectively:

  • Dionysia PMR19R2332H/1 – an f2 hybrid from rhaptodes x revoluta
  • Dionysia PMR-DZ18R3089H/1 – an f2 hybrid from a cespitosa hybrid
  • Dionysia PMR-DZ2118H/14 – another f2 hybrid, this time rather unexpectedly from a freitagii hybrid

Dionysia hybrid PMR-MK1140/6

I photographed this plant at the Loughborough show two weeks earlier.  At Rosemoor, it was still just OK, but near the end of its season.  This is the seedling that Paul Ranson has never managed to propagate successfully.

Dionysia ‘Selene’

The primose-yellow flowers of ‘Selene’ are always a joy at this show.  A slice of moonlight shining into the hall (Selene was the Greek moon goddess).  This hybrid blooms slightly later than the main flush of Dionysia, and extends the season for Paul and Gill.

Dionysia ‘Tess’

‘Tess’ is another favourite of mine, again a plant which flowers a week or two later than many, and also from Paul and Gill Ranson.

Dionysia lamingtonii ENF-MK1823/1

Here is one final plant from Paul and Gill – a D. lamingtonii clone originating from a seedling raised by Nigel Fuller from Michael Kammerlander seed.

Daphne modesta

Sticking with the yellow theme, here is Daphne modesta, exhibited by Dot Sample.

Sarcochilus species

My second exhibit was in the class for Orchidaceae.  It was up against stiff competition, so I didn’t expect it to do any good, even though I think it is beautiful.  The judges didn’t disappoint me – apparently one of them wanted to throw it in the bin.  This is an Australian genus, from the mountains of Queensland, and the plants are about as hardy as Dendrobium kingianum (will survive a light frost, but best kept frost-free). Dendrobium kingianum appears occasionally at shows and seems to be accepted as a ‘hardy’ orchid.

Pleione grandiflora hybrid

One of the orchids which beat mine was this lovely Pleione grandiflora hybrid from Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Pleione grandiflora

In the large pan classes, Ian Robertson staged a fine pan of the species Pleione grandiflora, with quite deep yellow lips.

Calanthe discolor x aristulifera

As well as the Pleione, there were Calanthe in flower on the benches, perhaps because of the early season.  Clive Lloyd exhibited this lovely plant in the Intermediate section.

Calanthe discolor x tricarinata

The pick of the orchids at the show was a different Calanthe hybrid, from Ian Robertson in the Open section, which won the Graham Lovell Salver for the best pan of Orchidaceae.


In the class for three pans of Orchidaceae, David Carver exhibited three Serapias.  These are, in order:

  • Serapias lingua ‘Richard Manuel’ – the yellow lipped form which received a Preliminary Commendation at the Midland Show last year
  • Serapias olbia dark form
  • Serapias parviflora x lingua – only just starting to flower.

Fritillaria recurva

No one could miss this tall scarlet Fritillaria from the west coast of North America, exhibited by David Carver.  It stood at least two feet tall, with orange-red checkerboard bells.  I didn’t even try to photograph the ‘whole’ plant.  This is difficult to grow, and seldom appears on the show benches.

Fritillaria eastwoodiae

Bob and Rannveig Wallis exhibited three seedlings of another seldom-seen species from Californica.  This is often thought to be a hybrid between F. recurva and F. micrantha; certainly it is a lot smaller than F. recurva, though these seedlings shared the bright red colouration of F. recurva to varying degrees.  Most specimens I have photographed previously have been a deep golden orange.

Fritillaria graeca

Many other exhibitors admired Bob and Rannveig’s pan of this tiny form of Fritillaria graeca.

Fritillaria reuteri

In the past, Bob and Rannveig have won Farrer medals with this plant.  This pan wasn’t quite in that condition, but was getting close.

Chionodoxa luciliae

The huge blue flowers of this familiar garden bulb won a Certificate of Merit for Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Narcissus iohannis

I was curious about this little daffodil exhibited by David Carver under an unfamiliar name published in 2011.  Many authorities treat this as a synonym of Narcissus triandrus, though its features differ sufficiently for Spanish authorities, including Rafa Diez Dominguez, to separate it as a distinct species.

Narcissus obesus ‘Lee Martin’

Much more familiar was this fabulous clone of Narcissus obesus exhibited by Bob and Rannveig Wallis.  This is named for the late Lee Martin, who won several Farrer Medals with it.  I remember Lee’s pan well, and photographed it at the South West show in Exeter in 2004, and again in 2014.

Narcissus rupicola

David Carver exhibited this little group of the charming and tiny Narcissus rupicola.

Narcissus bulbocodium x triandrus

A number of different names are applied to the natural hybrids between N. bulbocodium and N. triandrus, depending on the forms of each species involved.  The seedlings resulting are quite variable, but nearly all are beautiful.  Here are:

  • Narcissus x cazorlanus exhibited by David Carver (first picture)
  • Narcissus x emeritensis exhibited by Bob and Rannveig Wallis

Another name used for similar crosses is N. x consolationis, but no plants appeared under that name this time.

Iris bucharica

Bob and Rannveig Wallis exhibited two pans of different clones of Iris bucharica.  The first was supposed to be the one grown as Iris orchioides, but there seemed to be little difference between them.  Both were a little taller and floppier than ideal.

Iris bucharica (orchioides)

Iris bucharica

Iris nusairiensis

Bob and Rannveig also exhibited two forms of Iris nusairiensis – both with tissue paper thin petals, but one creamy white and the other the most delicate pale blue.

Allium circinnatum

This tiny onion from David Carver intrigued me – I have never seen it before.  It hails from the eastern Mediterranean (Greece and Turkey), but has very distinctive leaves, coiled and covered in fine hairs.  These seem like an adaptation to an arid climate, and would be more familiar on a South African bulb such as Gethyllis.

Tecophilaea violiflora

David Carver has been showing this unfamiliar species of Tecophilaea for about 3 years now.  This year it was shorter than previously, but I was pleased to see that the bulb had multiplied.

Calochortus albus x monophyllus

We seldom see Calochortus in flower in the UK.  They hail from North America, and are tricky to cultivate, so it was exciting to see this plant exhibited by Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Geissorhiza inaequalis

George Elder exhibited this lovely lilac-pink bulb from South Africa.

Three small pans of bulbous plants

This year the Veitch Trophy for three small pans of bulbous plants went to George Elder.  His entry included:

  • Erythronium oregonum
  • a fine pan of the South African Colchicum relative, Wurmbea recurva, whose flowers are almost black unless backlit. The judges awarded this a Certificate of Merit
  • a great pan of the chocolate brown Fritillaria davisii, which received the East Devon Trophy for the best plant in a 19cm pot.

Erythronium oregonum

Wurmbea recurva

Fritillaria davisii

Acis trichophylla

Finally (I said we would come back to it), here is Bob and Rannveig’s pan of Acis trichophylla near where I set up the photography table. I have wanted to photograph this beautiful plant for many years – somehow I never seem to make it to the shows at which it appears, so I was delighted to finally get a chance to do so. It was fabulous, and deservedly won the Farrer medal.

Although it is a long way to travel, this is one of my favourite shows of the season.  In part that is because of the wonderful venue, but largely it is because of the friendliness, generosity, and hospitality of the local group and RHS staff who run the show.  So huge thanks to Jon and Kana Webster and all their team for a fabulous weekend, and I hope to see you all again 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