ags logo

Harlow Carr Autumn Show 2023

October 27, 2023
Content Sidebar

Our route to Harlow Carr was a long and meandering one.  The show was just one stop on a week-long road trip, involving two lectures to AGS groups.  Fortunately we were able to stay in Harrogate on Sunday, and visit Harlow Carr garden itself.

Getting to Harlow Carr

We set off on Wednesday morning to visit old friends who have just moved to a village near Kidderminster.  The next day we got up promptly, and spent a happy hour or two visiting the spectacular garden at Powis Castle.

Powis Castle

Powis Castle stands at the top of a steep south-facing slope, which has been turned into a series of terraces, packed with plants, including many slightly tender ones.  For example, several different Abutilon cultivars were thriving.  But the garden’s main claim to fame is the yew trees, known as ‘tumps’, which grow across the front of the castle, and then boil down the slope in a hedge 30ft high. Since Victorian times, these yews have been clipped into massive, cloud-like lumpy natural shapes.

After Powis, we called at Treborth Botanic garden to see their South African bulb collection.  Some were under glass, but there was also a new outdoor bed where hardier species were thriving.  After a quick meal, I then gave a talk to the North Wales AGS group; it was great to see so many old friends there.

The Wetherby Whaler

Next morning we set off in persistent rain and low cloud, which accompanied us all the way to the Pennines.  However, by the time we crossed the hills the sun was trying to come out.  We stopped for a late lunch at the old Harry Ramsden’s Fish and Chip Restaurant in Guiseley.  This had lots of memories for us. Helen’s family used to eat there as a special treat, so it was a place we went to when I first visited her family home near Halifax.

The restaurant is now owned by the Wetherby Whaler chain.  They have kept the traditional ambience without making it a parody of itself.  The food, particularly the fish, was exceptional.  Here is my plate before adding the mushy peas.  I should also mention the amusing carpet, with yellow whales bobbing through the waves.  These photos were taken by Helen.

After spending a night in Harrogate, we arrived at the Harlow Carr show fresh and early.  It was a good show, perhaps the best of the three autumn events.  So I worked hard all day photographing plants, with no chance to explore the garden.  Fortunately we were staying another night, and could spend a sunny Sunday wandering round Harlow Carr.  The salvias, late perennials and grasses were spectacular in the autumn sun.

Our return trip took us, via a visit to the Japanese garden at Tatton Park, to speak to the East Cheshire AGS group in Wilmslow.  Eventually, after calling in Nottingham, we made our way back down the M1, and round the M25.  900 miles in total.

The Show itself

Now, back to the matter in hand.  The halls used for the show are full of sunshine, with a row of large windows along one side.  However, they are quite small, and the location means there are lots of visitors.  As a result space can be at a premium, and I was glad to find a corner by the window to set up my studio, though the sun was quite bright.  At times, when the crowds were at their peak, I had to stop, and move my tripod out of the way to avoid obstructing the visitors. However awkward, sunshine always gives the pictures a bit of sparkle, and I was generally pleased with the results.

Both rooms were full of Cyclamen and autumn Saxifrages, with a backbone of foliage plants and a scattering of autumn bulbs.  In particular, there were lots of pots of autumn crocus; some years these flower too late to make the shows.

Individual Exhibits

Three small pans of Crocus from Don Peace

Three small pans of Rock Plants, also from Don Peace.

The large pan class for three bulbous plants, exhibited by Anne Wright.

Galanthus peshmenii

Ian Robertson’s Galanthus peshmenii

Galanthus reginae-olgae cultivars

Three small pans of Galanthus reginae-olgae cultivars from David Carver

Pleione x. Confirmation grex

The plant which really caught the eye was this large pan of Pleione, exhibited by Ian Robertson.


After a few photos of the show halls, I went downstairs to snap the nurseries, squeezed into the downstairs room.  Here are:

  • The AGS Plant Stall
  • Aberconwy Nursery with Tim and Rachel Lever
  • Edroms Nursery with Terry Hunt
  • Neil Huntley busy selling at Hartside Nursery
  • Pottertons Nursery
  • Primrose Bank Nursery

Back upstairs judging had not yet finished; I was desperate to start photographing the crocuses, before they collapsed in the warmth of the hall.  I grabbed these images while the plants were on the benches.

Crocus goulimyi ‘Agia Sofia’ MELJ9652

I started with crocuses which had not won their class, as the judges would probably not need these again.  Ian Robertson exhibited this pan of a Crocus goulimyi clone collected by Mel Jope in Greece.  The late Lee Martin used to exhibit it regularly; hawk-eyed judges always complained that the markings on the petals meant it was virused, but it comes true from seed.  In this case, the flowers were tiring quickly in the hot sun.

Crocus goulimyi ‘Mani White’

Don Peace was runner-up in the one pan Crocus class, with a fine specimen of a familiar autumn flower.

Three small pans from a single genus (Crocus)

Here are the plants from Don Peace’s entry for three small pans from a single genus (Crocus).  First Crocus cartwrightianus ‘Michel’, then Crocus goulimyi, and finally a fine form of Crocus niveus.

Crocus tournefortii

David Millward had come down from Scotland, I think primarily for the JRGC meeting. With him, he brought this Crocus.

Crocus ligusticus

However, David Millward’s best plant, and the most striking pot in the room I was working in, was this pan of Crocus ligusticus, which duly won the Mr & Mrs W H Nortcliffe Memorial Trophy for the best plant in a 19cm pot.

Galanthus reginae-olgae

Crocus were not the only bulbs at the show.  Autumn-flowering Galanthus cultivars brought splashes of white to the benches.  Here are the three I featured earlier, exhibited by David Carver:

  • Galanthus reginae-olgae ‘Autumn Snow’
  • Galanthus reginae-olgae ‘Ruby’s Green Dream’
  • Galanthus reginae-olgae ‘Tilebarn Jamie’

Galanthus reginae-olgae ‘Blanc de Chine’

David also exhibited a slightly larger pot of Galanthus reginae-olgae ‘Blanc de Chine’.

Galanthus bursanus ‘Alpha Teutonic Helmet’

Michael Myers exhibited this pan of a Galanthus bursanus cultivar.  The name was unfamiliar to me so I looked it up.  Galanthus bursanus is a new species of snowdrop described in 2019 from populations in Bursa Province, Northwest Turkey.  Like the other autumn-flowering species, it flowers before the leaves appear, and is reputed to be highly fragrant.

Galanthus peshmenii

Galanthus peshmenii, exhibited by Ian Robertson, was the main contender with David Millward’s Crocus for the best plant in a small pot.  In the end the judges awarded it a Certificate of Merit.

Galanthus ‘Dryad Countess’

Anne Wright exhibited three new snowdrop hybrids.  The first was Galanthus ‘Dryad Countess’.

Galanthus ‘Dryad Duchess’

This Anne Wright hybrid won her a Certificate of Merit from the show judges, and a Preliminary Commendation from the JRGC.

Galanthus ‘Dryad Princess’

Anne Wright’s final hybrid was ‘Dryad Princess’ – awarded another Preliminary Commendation from the JRGC.

Narcissus deficiens

Anne also exhibited a pan of daffodils under the name Narcissus deficiens, which received a Certificate of Merit.

Sternbergia greuteriana KV866

Don Peace exhibited the only pan of Sternbergia at the show. Sternbergia greuteriana is now considered synonymous with S. lutea.  The plants exhibited under this name are usually smaller, with narrower petals, than typical S. lutea.

Massonia roggeveldensis hybrid

My own pan of this South African Massonia attracted a lot of interest.  The seed came from a plant of Massonia roggeveldensis in cultivation, but the seedlings are clearly hybrids, probably with Massonia pygmaea which flowers at the same time.  This genus is highly promiscuous in cultivation, and plants have to be isolated to get seedlings which come true.

The last photo, taken by Tony Goode, is of true Massonia roggeveldensis, exhibited by George Elder at the Southern African Bulb Group meeting last weekend.

Empodium elongatum

Alan Newton exhibited a nice small pan of another South African, formerly grown in the UK as Empodium flexile.

Lachenalia longituba

One final South African bulb.  Bob Worsley exhibited this Lachenalia species (formerly Polyxena).  The flowers were in great condition.  This species usually has well-developed leaves when it flowers, so that shouldn’t count against it.

Novice Section Aggregate

Two novice exhibitors from the same village shared the Harrogate Salver for the Novice Section aggregate, both scoring three firsts.  They were Catherine Burns, who exhibited this Saxifraga cochlearis ‘Minor’ and Kathryn Hern, whose plants included Cyclamen mirabile.

West Riding Plate

The award for the best exhibit in the Novice section went to Catherine Burns for her miniature garden.

Small Six Pans of Rock Plants

The AGS Medal for the small six-pan class went to Alan Newton.  This gave him the boost he needed to win the North of England Horticultural Society’s Cup for the Open Section aggregate.

Allium thunbergii

One of the cornerstones of Alan Newton’s six-pan entry was this neat pan of Allium thunbergii.

Allium thunbergii album

Alan Newton also exhibited a lovely white form of this onion species.

Nerine undulata

Centrepiece of Alan’s six-pan entry was this fine pot of Nerine undulata.

Oxalis perdicaria ‘Cetrino’

In the middle of the front row, Alan used the primrose yellow form of Oxalis perdicaria (syn. O. lobata).

Petrocosmea iodioides

The final plant I photographed from Alan Newton’s six-pan entry was this Petrocosmea.

Petrocosmea forrestii

Elsewhere, Bob Worsley exhibited a neat plant of the diminutive Petrocosmea forrestii.

Abelia ‘Francis Mason’

I rather liked this little Abelia exhibited by John Savage.  It is a compact form, but I don’t think it will stay pot-sized for long – a Google search reveals hedges made of it.

Fuchsia microphylla

Tom Green exhibited another attractive dwarf shrub.  I’m not sure whether this is a compact cultivar, but some cultivars can reach 4-6ft high in the open garden.

Gaultheria crassa ‘John Saxton’

This Gaultheria with its bright red berries was another winner for Alan Newton.

Coprosma petriei

However, the Ralph Haywood Trophy for the best shrub, and a Preliminary Commendation from the JRGC, went to Show Secretary Ian Instone for this Coprosma.  Worthy compensation for his efforts.  The beauty of this plant is only appreciated up close.

Androsace villosa GFS 73

I knew I was asking for trouble taking this Androsace exhibited by John Dixon for photos.  It was in a cushion entry with two of John’s huge Dionysia, which caused me backache in the spring.  The Androsace was slightly smaller, but contained more water and a higher proportion of granite chippings, to judge by the weight of it.  Nevertheless, I loved the way the light shone from its hairy rosettes, and I was determined.  I shall be looking out for it in the spring.

Pyrrosia hastata

As well as the crocuses, Don Peace exhibited his usual array of ferns, including the curious Pyrrosia hastata with its dramatic ivy-shaped leaves.  In the absence of the Wallises, whose plants had reached the end of their season, these helped him win the Annual Open aggregate for the season quite comfortably.

Flower arrangements

There were two excellent entries in the class for flower arrangements.  The first came from David Carver, the second, taller, more elegant, and winning entry came from Fred and Pat Bundy.

Gentiana ‘Berrybank Sky’

John Richards brought two pans of autumn gentians south.  The first was Gentiana ‘Berrybank Sky’.

Gentiana ‘The Caley’

The second, larger pot was his Gentiana ‘The Caley’.

Saxifraga fortunei ex ‘Rubrifolia’

There were many autumn saxifrages on the benches.  I photographed several of these last year, and didn’t want to make a comprehensive record.  But I found this seedling exhibited by Mark Childerhouse rather striking, with its red stems.

Saxifraga cortusifolia ‘Tilda’

John Savage exhibited a fine pink form named ‘Tilda’.

Saxifraga fortunei ‘Shiranami’

Finally a white cultivar from Tom Green

Cyclamen hederifolium

Time now to turn to Cyclamen.  David Carver won the Colin Field Memorial Trophy for a plant in the Intermediate Section grown from seed with this C. hederifolium.

His huge array of plants helped him win the Carter Shield for the Intermediate Section Aggregate and his 5th Silver Bar.  He also ends up winning the Intermediate Section aggregate for the season.  But after winning his 5th Silver Bar, next year his plants will all have to go in the Open Section.

Cyclamen graecum subsp. candicum

This was an attractive little plant exhibited by Derek Pickard.

Cyclamen mirabile

I always love Cyclamen mirabile, and this plant from Don Peace was no exception.

Cyclamen confusum ‘Raspberry’

As usual, the biggest, best and heaviest Cyclamen came from Ian Robertson.  This one received a Certificate of Merit.

Cyclamen cyprium

Another Certificate of Merit went to this lovely, delicate Cyclamen cyprium, again from Ian Robertson.

Pleione x ‘Confirmation’ grex

Ian Robertson added the Farrer Medal to his haul, with this fabulous pot of Pleione.  It was one of those shows where the Farrer plant really does grab you across the room.  The JRGC gave this plant an Award of Merit and a Cultural Commendation.

This was an excellent show, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time here.  I would like to offer my thanks to Ian and Georgina and all their team, many of whom are now personal friends, for all their hard work organising the event.  Next, thanks to the judges, stewards and exhibitors, without whom the benches would be sadly bare.  Thanks also to the RHS staff at Harlow Carr; the garden makes a superb venue for the show and means that it attracts lots of visitors.

Finally, thanks to my ever-patient wife Helen, for accompanying me and navigating on this absurd road-trip.  Not to mention the endless cups of tea she forages for.  Without her, I would struggle to get to many of the shows.

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