It is a few years now since I attended the Autumn North show – I haven’t been since it was moved to Harlow Carr.
This year, encouraged by the loss of the Autumn South Show, and by the reports of wonderful weather and autumn colour in the garden in 2017, Helen and I decided to make the trip, pick her mother up from Nottingham, and make a weekend of it in Harrogate.
Unfortunately, the weather didn’t co-operate. Both our trip up on the Friday, and the return journey on Sunday, were marred by persistent rain, lorries, and spray. However, we had a good time in Harrogate, staying at a very comfortable B&B, and eating out two nights in excellent pub restaurants. For the first time in several years, I had a full English breakfast before going to the show, not that that stopped me visiting the cake counter later in the day.
The twin halls at RHS Harlow Carr made an excellent venue, though the light which should have filled the show halls was somewhat weakened by persistent drizzle, and we only had one glimpse of sunshine, for about 5 minutes, around 2 o’clock.
The small pan classes, with part of the Intermediate section, were in one room which seemed full of colour; the large pan classes, further Intermediate classes and the Novice section were in the other. Don Peace, the official show photographer, and I set up photography tables in opposite corners of the small pan room.
The first plant I photographed – the one I used to check my setup and camera settings – was this small pan of crocus from Lee and Julie Martin. I was keen to do all the crocuses as quickly as possible, before they deteriorated in the warm atmosphere.
Next was this interesting near white form of Crocus kotschyanus subsp. kotschyanus, again from Lee and Julie, with just the faintest hint of lilac.
Again from Lee and Julie Martin. Always a favourite of mine, with its two-tone colouration and yellow throat.
An unusual crocus from Lee and Julie.
However, the attention grabber in the small pan classes, and many people’s pick for the best plant in a 19 cm pot, was this fine pan of C. goulimyi, exhibited by Alan Furness, perhaps considered a little uneven by the judges.
This lovely form of C. goulimyi, collected by Pat Nicholls and Roy Skidmore, won a Certificate of Merit for Lee and Julie Martin.
The plant judged best in show was a large pan of Crocus banaticus ‘Snow Drift’, exhibited by Alan Furness. I include a couple of pictures of a much smaller pan exhibited by Alan Newton, as they show the detail of the individual flowers better.
Moving away from crocus now, a second Certificate of Merit went to Lee and Julie Martin for this Sternbergia.
Runner-up to the Crocus banaticus ‘Snow Drift’ in the large bulbous class was this fine pan of onions from Mark Childerhouse.
By this point in the season, the autumn-flowering snowdrops are appearing; this pan was exhibited by Don Peace.
Anne Wright produced a lovely three-pan exhibit of different forms of Galanthus reginae-olgae.
Also from Anne Wright was this fabulous, neat little pan of Scilla lingulata.
Of course, Anne Wright’s first love is daffodils, and she produced this delicate specimen of N. elegans.
Now some South African bulbs. This well-flowered pan of Lachenalia (formerly Polyxena) pygmaea was exhibited by Bob Worsley. It has a very distinctive, and to me rather unpleasant, scent.
Following on from Bob and Rannveig Wallis’ Farrer-medal winning pan at the Newcastle Show, Lee and Julie Martin exhibited a much smaller pan. I love the acid yellow colour, and though many people claim it smells like lavatory cleaner, perversely, I find the scent rather attractive, and love it when I walk into the greenhouse and smell, before I notice, the first flower.
I first grew Empodium flexile under this name, from material received from Mike Salmon, and though the two are supposed to be synonymous, with Empodium taking precedence, there were some small differences in the way the underground organs grew and multiplied (the plant I received as Curculigo, I produced an extended structure like a ginger root in a netted tunic before splitting up). This plant was exhibited by Alan Newton, and was photographed for the close-up opportunity.
Peter Farkasch’s pan of N. filifolia produced a good flush of flowers this year.
A really attractive deep pink clone of Nerine humilis var. humilis from Fred and Pat Bundy.
One of the first Oxalis to flower in the autumn, from Lee and Julie Martin.
The pick of the Cyclamen at this show was this pan exhibited by Ann and Mike Morton from my local group – congratulations Mike!
In the Intermediate section, David Morris exhibited a very attractive small plant, well-flowered with good leaves and perhaps more delicacy than the large pans.
In the Novice section, this C. maritimum won the West Riding Plate for the best plant in the section for Steven Squires.
One of my favourite exhibits of the day was this tiny, perfect plant from Tommy Anderson.
A lovely Cyclamen mirabile, exhibited by Fred and Pat Bundy.
The upward facing forms of C. hederifolium are unusual, but I am not sure they are to my taste. This one came from John Savage.
As well as plants in flower, exhibitors put Cyclamen into foliage classes at the autumn shows – this was from Tommy Anderson.
From Tommy’s wife, Pamela Anderson.
This charming exhibit was placed in the Open section, in the class for plants grown from seed showing variation. The mix of leaf patterns from the C. mirabile seedlings was lovely.
I removed two flowers from the pan to focus attention on the leaves, but I felt guilty about it, and apologised to the exhibitor, Robbie West, when she returned to the hall. I don’t like removing even dead flowers from other people’s plants, and very seldom do it, but it made a huge difference to the presentation of the pot.
Exhibited by Tommy Anderson.
My favourite of all the cyclamen in leaf, from David Charlton.
Silver foliage from Alan Newton.
A very striking fern from Brian and Shelagh Smethurst.
A Don Peace exhibit I have photographed several times this year, but it caught my eye again.
Autumn foliage from an unexpected source, from David Morris in the Intermediate section.
A more familiar source of autumn colour, from Alan Newton.
Probably the best of the plants in seed, berry or cone, from Barry Winter.
This little pot of Petrocosmea won the Mr & Mrs W H Nortcliffe Memorial Trophy (effectively for the best plant in a 19 cm pot) for Vivien Self.
A Petrocosmea I don’t think I have photographed before, from Dave Mountfort.
From Alan Newton.
Needing another week, and another show, to be seen at its very best, again from Dave Mountfort.
I always enjoy these small-flowered fuchsia species, here exhibited by Michael Wilson, though the judges aren’t always keen.
A more familiar autumn offering; the best of the gentians, exhibited by Mala Janes.
This is the plant from Ron and Hilary Price I meant to photograph, and forgot, at the Loughborough Autumn Show, still looking fabulous two weeks later.
A plant I did photograph at Loughborough, exhibited by David Charlton, but the flowers were more developed two weeks on.
Bob Worsley produced the best pan of S. fortunei.
Another of my favourites, from David Morris in the Intermediate section. I grew this a long time ago, but it succumbed to the attentions of the slugs.
Now some plants we don’t normally expect to see at the autumn shows. First a white form of Lewisia tweedyi, from seed sown this January, by John Richards.
Not often we see a primula at an autumn show – from Barry Winter.
There were three lovely flower arrangements, which I badly wanted to photograph, but it was a nervous business carrying them from the other show hall and down the connecting corridor in the crush of people. The first is from Peter Hood, the second from Fred and Pat Bundy, and the winner from Lee and Julie Martin, who won the aggregate for the Open Section
That’s about it. The weather, and exhaustion, prevented me taking photos of the glorious garden. I’m sorry it has taken so long, but I have been having, and continue to have, computer problems.
Congratulations to Ian and Georgina Instone for putting on such a splendid show and thanks to all their willing team of helpers, both from the local AGS groups and from the RHS, particularly the ladies who produced an endless supply of tea and wonderful cakes on a damp and dull day. I must make the trip again another year.
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 especially 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 is still actively involved in plant photography, both at shows (he visits many shows each year to catalogue the extraordinary achievements of the exhibitors) and in gardens both public and private, and he makes regular 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 email@example.com