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Harlow Carr Show 2018

October 14, 2018
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It is a few years now since I attended the Autumn North show – I haven’t been since it was moved to Harlow Carr.

Harlow Carr show view 2018

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.

Crocus serotinus subsp. salzmannii ‘El Torcal’

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.

Crocus kotschyanus subsp. kotschyanus white form

Next was this interesting near white form of Crocus kotschyanus subsp. kotschyanus, again from Lee and Julie, with just the faintest hint of lilac.

Crocus niveus

Again from Lee and Julie Martin. Always a favourite of mine, with its two-tone colouration and yellow throat.

Crocus asumaniae JATU-070

An unusual crocus from Lee and Julie.

Crocus goulimyi

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.

Crocus goulimyi ‘Laconian Pearl’ PN-RS 09-01

This lovely form of C. goulimyi, collected by Pat Nicholls and Roy Skidmore, won a Certificate of Merit for Lee and Julie Martin.

Crocus banaticus ‘Snow Drift’

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.

Sternbergia sicula

Moving away from crocus now, a second Certificate of Merit went to Lee and Julie Martin for this Sternbergia.

Allium callimischon subsp. haemostictum

Runner-up to the Crocus banaticus ‘Snow Drift’ in the large bulbous class was this fine pan of onions from Mark Childerhouse.

Galanthus peshmenii

By this point in the season, the autumn-flowering snowdrops are appearing; this pan was exhibited by Don Peace.

Galanthus reginae-olgae

Anne Wright produced a lovely three-pan exhibit of different forms of Galanthus reginae-olgae.

Scilla lingulata

Also from Anne Wright was this fabulous, neat little pan of Scilla lingulata.

Narcissus elegans

Of course, Anne Wright’s first love is daffodils, and she produced this delicate specimen of N. elegans.

Lachenalia pygmaea

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.

Empodium flexile

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.

Curculigo namaquensis

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.

Nerine filifolia

Peter Farkasch’s pan of N. filifolia produced a good flush of flowers this year.

Nerine humilis var. humilis

A really attractive deep pink clone of Nerine humilis var. humilis from Fred and Pat Bundy.

Oxalis massoniana

One of the first Oxalis to flower in the autumn, from Lee and Julie Martin.

Oxalis perdicaria var. mallobolba


Cyclamen graecum – Open Section

The pick of the Cyclamen at this show was this pan exhibited by Ann and Mike Morton from my local group – congratulations Mike!

Cyclamen graecum – Intermediate Section

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.

Cyclamen maritimum

In the Novice section, this C. maritimum won the West Riding Plate for the best plant in the section for Steven Squires.

Cyclamen graecum subsp. candicum

One of my favourite exhibits of the day was this tiny, perfect plant from Tommy Anderson.

Cyclamen mirabile

A lovely Cyclamen mirabile, exhibited by Fred and Pat Bundy.

Cyclamen hederifolium ‘Starlight’

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.

Cyclamen hederifolium ‘Tilebarn Greville’

As well as plants in flower, exhibitors put Cyclamen into foliage classes at the autumn shows – this was from Tommy Anderson.

Cyclamen coum

From Tommy’s wife, Pamela Anderson.

Cyclamen mirabile ex ‘Tilebarn Nicholas’

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.

Cyclamen purpurascens

Exhibited by Tommy Anderson.

Cyclamen persicum

My favourite of all the cyclamen in leaf, from David Charlton.

Tanacetum leontopodium

Silver foliage from Alan Newton.

Polystichum setiferum ‘Plumosum Densum’

A very striking fern from Brian and Shelagh Smethurst.

Pyrrosia drakeana

A Don Peace exhibit I have photographed several times this year, but it caught my eye again.

Sarracenia purpurea

Autumn foliage from an unexpected source, from David Morris in the Intermediate section.

Aruncus aethusifolius

A more familiar source of autumn colour, from Alan Newton.

Gaultheria mucronata

Probably the best of the plants in seed, berry or cone, from Barry Winter.

Petrocosmea begonifolia

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.

Petrocosmea coerulea

A Petrocosmea I don’t think I have photographed before, from Dave Mountfort.

Petrocosmea flaccida

From Alan Newton.

Petrocosmea sericea

Needing another week, and another show, to be seen at its very best, again from Dave Mountfort.

Fuchsia microphylla

I always enjoy these small-flowered fuchsia species, here exhibited by Michael Wilson, though the judges aren’t always keen.

Gentiana ‘The Caley’

A more familiar autumn offering; the best of the gentians, exhibited by Mala Janes.

Liriope muscari

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.

Orostachys iwarenge

A plant I did photograph at Loughborough, exhibited by David Charlton, but the flowers were more developed two weeks on.

Saxifraga fortunei ‘Rubrifolia’

Bob Worsley produced the best pan of S. fortunei.


Spiranthes odorata ‘Chadds Ford’

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.

Lewisia tweedyi white form

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.

Primula capitata

Not often we see a primula at an autumn show – from Barry Winter.

Flower arrangements

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.

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 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