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Harlow Carr Autumn Show 2022

October 25, 2022
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Last weekend, I made the long journey up to Harrogate for the Harlow Carr Autumn Show, the last show of the season, held at the RHS Harlow Carr garden.  Because I am so busy during a show, we went up early, so we could spend Friday viewing the garden.  I described that excursion in a previous entry – here I want to focus on the show itself.


When I arrived it was still raining.  Once I had carried my single crate of plants from the car into the marquee, we discussed where to do the photography.  Reluctantly, I decided that the windy weather and passing showers were not suitable for doing the show photography outside the marquee.  So I set my gear up on the table kindly provided in the sunniest corner of the tent.

Show views

Plants packed the two long benches.  There had been some issues with email entries going missing, and the show secretary was trying frantically to set up more tables to accommodate the unexpected arrivals.  However, by the time judging started, all seemed serene.  This was the emptiest I saw the tent all day – as soon as the show opened people thronged in.  Even late in the afternoon, I had to dodge around eager visitors to carry plants to and fro.

Six small pans of Rock Plants

The only six pan entry came from Bob and Rannveig Wallis.  Sadly the judges deemed this grouping insufficient to win a first place and the AGS Medal.  Probably the Scilla ciliolata, which was not quite out, let the rest of the exhibit down.

Allium callimischon subsp haemostictum

By mid-October, the cyclamen, which dominated the shows earlier in the autumn, are joined by other things, including this lovely onion.  The flower buds are formed in the spring, and carried on what appear to be dead stems all summer.  Many an incautious exhibitor has found their plant fails to flower after being tidied up and having these dead stems removed in late summer.

I remembered this monstrous pan belonging to Mark Childerhouse from past shows; I photographed it at the same show in 2019, and again in 2021.  So this time I declined to carry it, and photographed it in situ on the show bench.

Biarum pyrami

Another plant which I am always reluctant to carry, and whose absence we remarked on at the Loughborough autumn show, is this famously stinky Biarum from Bob and Rannveig Wallis.  In the marquee, its fragrance seemed strangely subdued.

Narcissus elegans

We saw a few pots of Narcissus elegans at the Loughborough Autumn show, but Anne Wright brought some much better ones to this show.

Narcissus x perezlarae

I brought this plant because I had never seen it in flower at a show; I thought people would like to see it.  It was originally described from Spain in 1882 as a natural (wild) hybrid between Narcissus serotinus and Narcissus cavanillesii (then called Narcissus humilis).  The “serotinus” parent is, I think, now called correctly N. deficiens.  The wild cross is also recorded from Portugal where it is extremely rare. Indeed the N. cavanillesii parent, though common enough in parts of Spain, is critically endangered in Portugal.

N. x perezlarae grows on sandy or loamy soils including stabilised inland dunes in Cadiz province, S.W. Spain, in disturbed places like road margins with high humidity level. It also occurs in open fields dominated by Mediterranean-type scrub communities. My bulbs came from the collection of an enthusiast in Southern England, but derive originally from Cadiz.

The bulbs flower best if left undisturbed, and the pot is top dressed from time to time.  I grow this pan in a sunny greenhouse plunge where it has a hot dry summer, and it produced 16 flowers.  Last year it also produced buds, but all aborted, so this year I watered it heavily once it entered growth.

I entered this beautiful curiosity in the class for ‘New or Rare’, and won my first first place of the season. Hooray – I thought I was going to blank this year.  Just two more needed for my gold medal.

Galanthus peshmenii

I don’t recall seeing any snowdrops at Loughborough.  Two weeks later, at this show, both the autumn flowering species were in evidence.  Ian Robertson exhibited a fine pan of Galanthus peshmenii.

Galanthus reginae-olgae

In the Intermediate section, David Carver exhibited a number of different forms of Galanthus reginae-olgae, including ‘Autumn Snow’ and ‘Blanc de Chine’.

Hyacinthoides ciliolata

Anne Vale exhibited a neat pan of this autumn favourite.  Sadly, for many exhibitors, these are still in bud, and needed another week or two.  A shame they had to cancel the Autumn South show.

Sternbergia lutea Pamukkale

This is the first time I have seen and photographed this clone of Sternbergia lutea from Don Peace.  I don’t know how he has kept it in such good condition – he shared a picture of it on Facebook weeks ago – but I suspect a fridge was involved.

Colchicum baytopiorum

This plant is a long-time favourite of mine.  I have photographed many forms of this Colchicum, but I particularly like this clone from Bob and Rannveig Wallis, with the darker marks in the centre of the flower.

Crocus banaticus

As with Galanthus, so with Crocus.  At this show, we saw autumn-flowering Crocus for the first time this year.  This neat and beautifully presented clump of Crocus banaticus came down from the North East with Alan Newton, who surprised himself (and everyone else) by winning the Open section Aggregate, the North of England Horticultural Society’s Cup.

Crocus pulchellus

In the Intermediate section, David Carver produced Crocus pulchellus. He too won the section aggregate, in his case the Carter Shield.

Crocus kotschyanus

However, the two best pans of Crocus were in the Open section large pan classes. Both came from the same exhibitor, Ian Robertson.

Crocus goulimyi

This pan won the Crocus Award for Ian Robertson.  The Joint Rock Garden Committee (JRGC) awarded it a Preliminary Commendation subject to naming this particular clone.  I think the Crocus kotschyanus lost out because the judges felt some of the flowers looked tired.

Empodium elongatum

There were several pans of this Empodium (formerly grown as E. flexile), which I discussed in my account of the Loughborough Autumn Show.  Alan Newton exhibited the first, and Bob and Rannveig Wallis the second.

Lachenalia ensifolia subsp maughanii

Bob and Rannveig Wallis also exhibited this little South African bulb.  Although superbly grown and very compact, this again would have benefited from another week or maybe two.

Gladiolus stefaniae ?

This remarkable Gladiolus appeared in the Intermediate section, exhibited by David Carver.  He received it as Gladiolus stefaniae, and it has similarities with that, in terms of its habit, and the size and shape of its flowers (about 4 inches across).

However, Gladiolus stefaniae is known for its scarlet flowers with white markings.  I cannot find any reference anywhere to other colour variants, let alone this lovely pale peach.  So it seems probable that this plant is a hybrid; but it is hard to guess the identity of the other parent, which produced this beautiful colouration.

Nerine pudica

Nerine pudica is a plant I have long loved, but struggle to get to flower.  I first saw it exhibited by Ivor Betteridge in 2008.  The best plant I ever saw belonged to the late Bill Squire, with 15 (!) flower spikes in 2009.  This specimen flowered unexpectedly for Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Nerine humilis ex Piekeniers Kloof

I put the best of my remaining plants in the class for three small pans of bulbs.  This short form of Nerine humilis, with deep pink, frilly flowers, was the first component.

Massonia roggeveldensis hybrid

This pan of Massonia seedlings, sown in 2017 as Massonia roggeveldensis, was the second strand of my entry.  The judges loved this, and gave it a Certificate of Merit.  I think the seedlings are rather variable, and probably a hybrid rather than pure Massonia roggeveldensis.

Nothoscordum montevidense

This South American bulb was the final member of my three pan entry.  This has masses of small yellow flowers, and a lovely lemony scent, but determinedly refused to open during judging.  It needs warmth and sunshine to open, but fortunately these arrived after lunch and I was able to capture it at least half-open.    Despite this intransigence, I was delighted to find that the judges had given me another first.

Oxalis perdicaria (syn lobata)

Oxalis is another genus which typically waits for the sun to open its flowers.  As a result, this lovely pan from Bob and Rannveig Wallis failed to attract the judges’ attention.

Oxalis stenorrhyncha

Likewise, my own pot of Oxalis stenorrhyncha.

Spiranthes cernua Chadds Ford

Readers of my blog about the Loughborough Autumn Show will probably remember that I failed to photograph this orchid.  These specimens were tiring slightly, but still a fine exhibit from Steve Clements.

Stenoglottis fimbriata

Anne Vale exhibited this little orchid from South Africa.  This is another plant I have never photographed before, though I have several photos of the very similar, if not synonymous, S. longifolia.  I’m not sure what the distinguishing features are.

Androsace sarmentosa

The Joint Rock Garden Committee (JRGC) met at the show, and asked me to photograph this plant.  I’m not sure why, but I suspect that it had to do with clarifying some tangle of naming.

Dracocephalum species ex Iran

In the Novice section, the aggregate award, the Harrogate Salver, went to new exhibitor Kathryn Hern, who showed this pretty Dracocephalum species, just coming into flower.

Miniature garden

The West Riding Plate for the best plant in the Novice section also went to Kathryn Hern for this attractive miniature garden.

Flower arrangement

There was only one flower arrangement, but what a beautiful one from Fred and Pat Bundy.  For the first time for ages, I dislodged a stem of berries from the back of it when returning it to the bench.  My apologies for my fat fingers.

Saxifraga fortunei

Don Peace produced several pans of Saxifraga fortunei in full flower, earning some valuable first prizes.  Again I am sure there would have been more of these the following weekend, had the Kent Autumn show taken place.  The magenta form is ‘Eiga’, and the double white one ‘Shiranami’.

Gentiana Murrayfield

Twenty years ago, the autumn shows used to have large classes of autumn gentians.  I don’t know whether these have become more difficult to cultivate with climate change, or just waned in popularity, but this was the only substantial pot, exhibited by John Richards.  The JRGC awarded it a Preliminary Commendation.

Agapanthus Tinkerbell

I would like to turn my attention now to some non-flowering plants.  Alan Newton successfully entered this variegated Agapanthus in one of the foliage classes.

Rebutia heliosa var condorensis

Alan also won the class for a hardy cactus.  All the prizewinners were forms of Rebutia heliosa.  At the moment it is almost pointless to enter anything else.  I wonder how many of the plants we see are on their own roots; this species and its subspecies are tricky to grow to a decent size on their own roots, and it is often sold grafted on to a stock.  Over time, the Rebutia will grow down and surround the stock.

Saxifraga lhommei Cecil Davies

In the Intermediate section, Michael Wilson was awarded a Certificate of Merit for this neat cushion of saxifrage rosettes.

Dionysia esfandiarii SLIZE259-CL3

Unfortunately, the show reporter wanted to include some cushion plants.  I photographed this monster from John Dixon in the spring, so I knew I was in trouble.  This was, by far, the heaviest pot I carried all day.  I shall be extremely reluctant to do so again, unless it covers itself in flowers.

Arenaria alfacarensis

By contrast, Ian Instone’s Arenaria was much more manageable.  It presents an immaculate green dome, but for some reason seems to have fallen out of favour with the judges.

Gaultheria Pearls

As always at the autumn shows, there were plants with berries and autumn foliage.  This was another winner for Alan Newton.

Gaultheria itoana

Less familiar, and harder to photograph, was this little species from Tom Green.

Cyclamen confusum Raspberry

Finally, I am going to look at some of the Cyclamen which graced the benches.  I think this plant from Roy Skidmore is probably the same one I photographed at the Loughborough Autumn show, but it seems to have gained a clonal epithet since then.

Cyclamen hederifolium Stargazer

The last species may have been called C. confusum, but if ever a plant was confused it is surely this one.  This is Cyclamen hederifolium Stargazer, again from Roy Skidmore, with its upward facing flowers.

Cyclamen hederifolium

In the Intermediate section, David Carver won the Colin Field Memorial Trophy for a plant grown from seed with this neat silver-leafed specimen.

Cyclamen graecum subsp candicum

This big cyclamen exhibited by Ian Robertson was a bit of a puzzle.  I assume it was named ‘subsp candicum’ because of its parentage, but that subspecies normally has white flowers with purple tips; this plant is a strong mid-pink.

Cyclamen graecum subsp candicum

This tiny plant from Roy Skidmore is much more typical of the species.  I may have photographed it at Loughborough, but I don’t care – I love these tiny forms.

Cyclamen graecum subsp candicum

Likewise this lovely specimen from Bob Worsley, which won the Mr & Mrs W H Nortcliffe Memorial Trophy for the best plant in a small pot.

Cyclamen graecum subsp graecum

This was another neat plant, this time from David Charlton.  There were so many fine specimens, it was hard to decide which ones to select and photograph.

Cyclamen graecum subsp graecum Rhodopou

A very beautiful form of Cyclamen graecum from Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Cyclamen maritimum

This was another plant I thought I probably photographed at Loughborough, this time grown by Bob Worsley.  I am not sure how the exhibitors keep them in good condition – my own plants from that show are long gone.  How many of these specimens spend their weekdays in a cool shaded frame, or even in a fridge, and only come out to play at weekends ?

Cyclamen mirabile Tilebarn Nicholas

David Charlton brought this lovely specimen of Cyclamen mirabile Tilebarn Nicholas.

Cyclamen purpurascens

Not all Cyclamen are exhibited for their flowers.  This plant made a fine foliage entry for Bob Worsley.

Cyclamen rohlfsianum

Just two more.  Bob and Rannveig Wallis received a Certificate of Merit for this Cyclamen rohlfsianum.  That is two in a row, for they received the same award at Hexham.  This is the third show it has been at this year, and it still has no significant foliage.

Cyclamen intaminatum

The Farrer at this show went to a much smaller plant, Cyclamen intaminatum exhibited by Ian Robertson.  This is always a miniature species, and although it was physically smaller than some of the other plants I have shown you, it was a large, mature specimen of a species which is hard to grow to any size.

Open Section Season aggregate

So what of the Open Section aggregate for the season ?  After the Hexham show the situation was finely balanced, with Bob and Rannveig Wallis, who won 33 first points at that show, just 3 points behind Don Peace.  Surely if they came to Harlow Carr they would overtake him ?  It was not to be.  The decision about the small six pan class was pivotal (6 points gone astray), but that would not have been enough on its own.  At the end of the show, and season, Don was 10 points clear, and wins  the Giuseppi Cup.  Commiserations to Bob and Rannveig.

Thanks to Everyone

I would like to offer my thanks to show secretaries Ian and Georgina Instone and all their team of AGS helpers, for delivering an exceptional show under a most trying set of circumstances.  They wouldn’t have been able to do it without tremendous support from the RHS Harlow Carr team, so huge thanks to them as well.  Not to mention the exhibitors, the judges, and the visitors, all of whom combined to make this a great show.  Surely we can find ways of resolving or avoiding some of the problems which beset them, not least the emailed entries which went astray.

Narcissus broussonetii

Sunday night saw me make a long and exhausting drive back home from Nottingham in torrential rain.  I spent the journey wondering if I could have organised my entries differently to gain a third first, and thus my elusive gold medal.  When I got back my ponderings were answered.

A most beautiful scent filled the greenhouse.  The source of this, once located, was my first ever flowers on this extremely rare daffodil from Morocco.  This plant is my last remaining bulb from a 2007 sowing of seed from the late Mike Salmon of Monocot Nursery.  I believe I can credit the summer baking we had this year for the flowers.  If only…

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