ags logo

Early Spring Show Harlow 2019

March 2, 2019
Content Sidebar

Although the AGS Early Spring Show was held at the same school it has been held in for many years, building works meant a change of hall and a change of location and routine for everyone helping or exhibiting, with difficult access up stairs to get into the show hall and the team providing catering for the public, for the exhibitors and for the judges no longer had access to the school kitchen. In these difficult circumstances the wonderful display of plants, hectic sales hall and smooth administration was a triumph.

The long, foggy drive to Pershore was replaced by a much shorter trip on easier roads (motorways all the way), through increasing drizzle. With just one crate of plants and my show photography gear to carry, I parked immediately in the tennis courts behind the school, rather than fighting with the other exhibitors for a temporary space near the show hall. That was a decision I regretted slightly when I found I had to carry my crate of plants something like 200 yards through the drizzle and up a flight of steps in order to stage them.

My first impressions of the new show hall were rather disappointing (the old one which has been familiar for many years is being demolished, with care, after asbestos was found in the roof). The overhead lighting was very orange, the windows were largely blocked by heavy curtains which couldn’t be drawn back and what little daylight did filter in was obscured further by murky conditions outside which were producing the drizzle. I was sharing the show photographer role with Doug Joyce, who in the end was happy to do a lot of the carrying (for which many thanks) and take just a few shots, leaving the bulk of the photography and processing to me. He was even more damning about the conditions than me – the Black Hole of Calcutta was mentioned more than once.

However, I staged my few plants and then departed for a quick scout round the plant sales, before retrieving my camera and associated paraphernalia and returning to the show hall. In my absence, Director of Shows Martin Rogerson had taken heed of the grumbling photographers and had demonstrated his agility by scaling the monkey bars to wrap the curtains around beams and whatever else could be found, increasing the light levels considerably.

Encouraged, I unpacked my gear, set up a studio in the corner in the brightest possible place and emulated my comrade Doug by setting to to take some shots of the show hall during judging.

Dionysia tapetodes

I made a point of photographing in situ this huge specimen of Dionysia tapetodes, exhibited by John Dixon, with a view to avoiding the need to carry it, unless it won one of the show awards.

Three pans of Dionysia

Next to the D. tapetodes, John Dixon exhibited a neat three pan entry of yellow Dionysia. Back right is D. tapetodes ‘Kate’, which was to require further attention later.

Iris pamphilica

To my great delight, the Farrer Medal (Best in Show) went to Colin and Elaine Barr, who were staunch supporters of the London Show when I used to run it, but who are at best occasional exhibitors, and have never won a Farrer before. You can see their pride and delight from the final picture, which Doug Joyce took, of the pair with their winning plant. Furthermore, this plant itself, Iris pamphilica is an old friend, which I have photographed before, but never in such great condition, or with so many flowers. Shortly after I photographed it, the iris was spirited away by the Joint Rock Garden Plant Committee (JRGC), who gave it an Award of Merit and a Cultural Commendation.

Iris peshmenii

Near the Iris pamphilica was a Juno iris I have never photographed before and was afraid would go over, so I grabbed it quickly, though it wasn’t on any of the ‘required’ lists. This is Iris peshmenii exhibited by Bob and Rannveig Wallis, and I thought it was lovely.

Iris aucheri

Sticking with this theme, my friend and local group member Mike Morton had brought this beautiful blue Juno (exhibited as I. kuschakewiczii – grown from AGS seed).

Crocus tommasinianus

The season has already passed from Galanthus, Crocus and Corydalis to Narcissus, Primula and Dionysia, but the Crocus Award was to be presented at this show and it went to C. tommasinianus exhibited by Ian Robertson (as C. dalmaticus) the previous week when it was in even better condition.

Crocus rhodensis

AGS Associate Editor Robert Rolfe brought this interesting novelty, and staged it as a non-competitive exhibit.

Trillium nivale

Mike Chadwick brought this Trillium from Kent – it normally flowers a bit later in the season.

Fritillaria aurea

This was another plant I made sure I photographed early on, before the flowers suffered in the heat of the hall. (Exhibited by Robert Rolfe.)

Pleione  ‘Riah Shan’

Steve Clements exhibited two pans of this lovely little pleione, one in the Intermediate section and one in the Novice section, where he won the Essex Award for the section aggregate. I struggled a bit to find a good angle on the larger, Intermediate section pot, before I realised that the smaller pot from the Novice section would make a much better picture.

Pleione  ‘Mother’s Day’

This lovely, delicate bloom was also in the Intermediate section, exhibited by Peter Hurren.

Narcissus ‘White Petticoat’

The Geoff Smith Salver for the best pan of bulbs in the Novice or Intermediate sections went to Ben and Paddy Parmee for this beautiful exhibit.

Galanthus krasnovii

This fantastic pan of the rare, and I believe difficult, G. krasnovii was exhibited in the Novice section by Deborah Leonard and was awarded a Certificate of Merit.

Dionysia tapetodes  ‘Kate’

This is the Dionysia I referred to earlier, raised and exhibited by John Dixon, and named after his daughter (?). This was probably runner-up for the Farrer medal and winner of another Certificate of Merit.

Fritillaria hermonis

Ben and Paddy Parmee won the Epping Trophy for the Intermediate section aggregate. I was resisting photographing their Primula forbesii, which I suspect will look better later in the year, and will probably need to be photographed then, so I chose this neat little pan of Fritillaria.

Narcissus cyclamineus

Also exhibited by Ben and Paddy Parmee, and probably dug up from their garden where it seems to self-seed happily, was this pan of Narcissus cyclamineus.

Fritillaria bucharica  ‘Pulkhakim’ form

These photographs give no sense of the scale of this charming fritillaria from Bob and Rannveig Wallis. It looks quite large and vigorous, when in reality this is no more than a six inch pot. I sometimes feel that in these standard ‘plant portrait’ shots, all plants look the same size, and it is something I have been trying to find a solution to.

Dionysia  ‘Norlynn Heather’ NLJ0507/1

This Dionysia hybrid (between D. bryoides x. D. ‘Chris Grey-Wilson’) was raised by Norman Jobson and is a lovely colour. Here it was exhibited by Paul and Gill Ranson, who won the Elliott Bowl for the Open section aggregate from Bob and Rannveig Wallis by the narrowest of margins – they tied on first place points, they tied on second place points, but Paul and Gill won more third places, a result, so Rannveig announced, of filling up the car with ‘rubbish plants’. There is a keen spirit of competition at the shows, but a sense of humour as well.

Dionysia cf. robusta CIA45-1(TBG5)

From the new or rare classes, exhibited by Paul and Gill Ranson.

Dionysia  ‘Annielle’

A small but neat specimen of the hybrid Dionysia ‘Annielle’ (D. curviflora x. tapetodes MK8809/2) also from Paul and Gill Ranson.

Himantoglossum robertianum

Barry Tattersall exhibited this pan of orchids for the third show in a row and I photographed it again as it was due to be considered by the JRGC, but in the end they decided not to make an award.

Narcissus bulbocodium

This tiny clone of Narcissus bulbocodium was raised from seed from N. bulbocodium var. tenuifolius by Bob and Rannveig Wallis. I resorted to unconventional, and probably rather unsuccessful measures, to demonstrate its diminutive stature. These flower stems are no more than 3 inches high.

Fritillaria serpenticola

From the moment I entered the show hall, I wanted to photograph this tiny yellow fritillaria exhibited by Ian Robertson. It was one I felt was not well illustrated in the display I put on in Caerleon.

Muscari anatolicum

Exhibited by Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Chionodoxa albescens

Again from Bob and Rannveig Wallis. It is so lovely, I photograph it every year.

Hyacinthus orientalis subsp. chionophyllus

This hyacinth from Bob and Rannveig Wallis was past its best, but Doug thought that one spike would make a great closeup, and he was right.

Narcissus bulbocodium

We were nearing the end of the lists we had been given to photograph by now, and this N. bulbocodium clone from Bob and Rannveig Wallis was one I selected as being photo-worthy. The light has caught it particularly well and I thought it looked stunning.

Corydalis  ‘Lentune Rouge’

Don Peace’s hybrid between C. kusnetzovii and C. solida.

Ophrys lapethica

I was intrigued by this tiny ‘bee orchid’ from Barry Tattersall last year and photographed it several times. This year, I think I got some better close-ups.

Ophrys mammosa

Another ‘bee orchid’, this time from Steve Clements in the Novice section. Again, I was pleased with the close-up – the LED lighting was working well for these.

Cymbidium tortisepalum

One final orchid, again from Steve Clements, and again selected by Doug Joyce on the grounds that it wasn’t a plant we had photographed before, and that there was a good close-up there somewhere.

Dionysia aretioides  ‘Bevere’

By this point there was just one plant on the ‘required’ lists and the two winning six pan exhibits to photograph. Doug and I had been waiting for some time for this plant to return from the JRGC and suspected that they had gone to lunch without returning it, but in the event the business part of their meeting was overrunning and we had to wait. This won a Certificate of Merit for David Charlton, though I didn’t see him, and suspect that someone else brought it for him.

Small six pans of rock plants grown from seed

Bob and Rannveig Wallis won the Jane Baldry Memorial Trophy with six pans of bulbs grown from seed.

Small six pans of rock plants

There were two entries on the small six-pan class, from Ian Robertson and from Paul and Gill Ranson respectively. Paul and Gill won the AGS medal for the class.

Narcissus  ‘Elka’

That was it; the lists were finished. I knew immediately what I would photograph first.  The few plants I had brought in had somehow won me two firsts in the Open section. A red-letter day when I normally win one every other year, a small step nearer to my gold medal, and producing a slightly ridiculous sense of glee and a little happy dance. In many ways I was lucky – there were better daffodils in the Intermediate section and in some of the multi-pan entries in the Open section. Nevertheless, I was pleased by the grace and delicacy of this little pan of N. ‘Elka’. I had to repot it earlier in the week – it had been half tipped-out by a night-time visitor to the garden.

Narcissus moschatus

My second first was also for a daffodil, and again somewhat fortunate, but I was still pleased with the plant.

Narcissus moschatus  ‘Nadder Moon’

In the large-pan classes, Ian Robertson staged a wonderful large pan of Bob and Rannveig Wallis’ selection of N. moschatus named Nadder Moon, with green backs to the flowers.

Narcissus x johnstonii

I have always loved the form of this Narcissus, here exhibited by Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Narcissus ‘Oxford Gold’

New to the show benches this year, and a cultivar we hadn’t photographed before, this N. bulbocodium selection, exhibited by Peter Hurren, is huge. Many of the nurseries in the sales area were selling pots of it, so it would appear to be a new mass offering from the Dutch growers.

Narcissus henriquesii

A fabulous pan of this jonquil from Maurice Bacon. By now the sun had come out, and was casting bars of shadow from the windows across where we were working, so we had been forced to lower the curtain, and the lighting had become quite dingy.

Narcissus jonquilla

This is N. jonquilla itself, grown from their own seed by Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Fritillaria ariana

Another pan of F. ariana grown by Bob and Rannveig Wallis from JJA seed sown in December 1999. Again I thought it would make a good close-up.

Fritillaria gibbosa

Likewise F. gibbosa, also from Bob and Rannveig Wallis, though the limited lighting was causing me great difficulty.

Fritillaria gibbosa yellow form

Another pot with no sense of scale. This tiny yellow form of F. gibbosa from Bob and Rannveig Wallis was no more than four inches high.

Fritillaria pinardii

A nice dark form of F. pinardii from Mike Chadwick. Again, it was the closeup that I wanted.

Fritillaria davisii

An interesting colour form of F. davisii from Ian Robertson, grown from seed from a yellow form, and possibly the result of some hybridisation.

Mukdenia rossii

This is always a ‘banker’ for Lee and Julie Martin at this show.

Flower arrangement

One of Lee Martin’s great unsung skills is the production of these wonderful flower arrangements. I steeled my nerve, and took my life in my hands, to carry this across the hall to the window and back again.

Dionysia  ‘Claire’

A quick visit back to the Primulaceae classes. This hybrid was raised and exhibited by Nigel Fuller, and named for his grand-daughter.

Primula allionii JF9128

An old P. allionii clone from Jules Fouarge in Belgium, exhibited by Nigel Fuller.

Primula allionii  ‘Tamara’

Another lovely clone, raised by Nigel Fuller and named for his daughter.

Sanguinaria canadensis

Finally, Doug and I had been waiting for this pan of the lovely single form of S. canadensis from Joy Bishop all day. It wasn’t open for judging, nor for most of the day, but the sunshine in the afternoon brought it to life.

Thanks to Kit Strange and all her helpers for staging an excellent show in very tricky circumstances and for keeping a smile upon her face in the midst of adversity. This photo of her was taken by Doug Joyce.

It was wonderful to see past master exhibitor Cecilia Coller, though she wasn’t exhibiting. Again a photo by Doug Joyce.

Thanks also to all the ladies and gents who brought me cups of tea during the day, and to Ray Drew, who provided some small bottles of lager for the judges’ lunch which brightened the mood in photographers’ corner considerably. Last but not least, to Doug Joyce for his companionship and able assistance which made it a pleasure to perform this potentially gruelling task.

Next week I will be doing it all again at the Loughborough show. A bit of a daunting prospect; I suspect there will be serried ranks of huge pots there, journeying down with Frank Hoyle and the other exhibitors from the north.

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