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Kent Autumn Show 2019

November 4, 2019
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My journey to the Kent Autumn Show was rather more straightforward that that to Harlow Carr, though I did pick up my stepfather David Philbey from Petersfield en route, which added about an hour each way to the 90 minute trip.

David had a wonderful time, catching up with old friends and collecting Primula cuttings and my wife Helen very kindly spent most of the day with him, helping negotiate obstacles to his wheelchair. This show, as many others, is not entirely wheelchair-friendly and they had some difficulty with the entrances to both the plant sales area and the gents. But both enjoyed the show and will be back next year.

I am sorry that I didn’t get around to taking any views of the show this year. Even though Ian Robertson’s plants didn’t make it (he had to abandon plans to attend due to illness), the show was full of photo-worthy plants and I worked hard all day. I did miss seeing Ian’s wonderful crocuses and huge cyclamen this year though.

Artistic Section

The Artistic Awards went to Rannveig Wallis (Open Section) and to Liz Livermore (Intermediate Section) with her needlework.

Flower Arrangement

Lee and Julie Martin produced a lovely flower arrangement which had a beautifully controlled palette. This could easily have been ruined by the addition of yellow Sternbergia flowers.

Crocus laevigatus

As always, I started with the crocuses. This is a dwarf form of C. laevigatus from Crete, exhibited by Mike Morton.

Crocus goulimyi  subsp. leucanthus

It was great to see Lee and Julie Martin, particularly since they had been unable this year to visit the Harlow Carr show, which they usually attend. This is their large pan of Crocus goulimyi subsp. leucanthus.

Crocus goulimyi  ex Agia Sofia

This was another pan from Lee and Julie Martin. I was puzzled by the label; there is a clone of Crocus goulimyi collected by Mel Jope near Agia Sofia, which Lee and Julie have exhibited successfully before. I remember the judges debating in the Joint Rock Garden Committee (JRGC) whether or not its curious markings indicated virus.

From the label, I wasn’t sure whether this was the original collection by Mel from Agia Sofia, or seedlings from that cultivar, so I asked Lee and Julie. Lee says he sowed all the seed he collected from their pot of  ‘Agia Sofia’ MELJ 9652 on 22.5.2012 in the hope of getting something similar, or even better than the original. The pot on show contained two very similar seedlings which were selected as they were the only two of any merit – the others were just a plain pale purple without any feathering which were put in the garden. These two seedlings are proving to be more vigorous than the original, which strangely is only just coming into flower this week.

Crocus longiflorus

I always love the delicate colours of Crocus longiflorus – here exhibited by Lee and Julie Martin.

Crocus asumaniae

Moving on now to some more unusual Crocus, this pan was another exhibited by Lee and Julie Martin.

Crocus cartwrightianus

Don Peace exhibited this pan of Crocus cartwrightianus. I have seen clones with stronger markings, more like Crocus mathewii, but this one was very charming.

Crocus nerimaniae

Finally, Bob and Rannveig Wallis exhibited a nice group of Crocus nerimaniae. This is rare in cultivation and was only described in 2004 by Turkish botanists. There was a lot of debate about the streaking on the petals of at least three of the corms. Many pundits thought this was indicative of virus.

Colchicum baytopiorum

Moving on now to Colchicum. Mike Morton received a red sticker for this lovely group of Colchicum baytopiorum.

Colchicum cupani  subsp. cupani

Mike Morton also exhibited this pan of Colchicum cupani subsp. cupani, which came from the same source as the pan I have exhibited at the Loughborough Show for the last couple of years. When we received it, it came with the name Colchicum cousturieri but I was told last year that this should now be Colchicum cupani subsp. cupani. Having been perfect at Loughborough last year, my own plant was not yet fully out.

Colchicum pusillum

I queried the identity of this little plant with one of the judges. It was exhibited as Colchicum cupani subsp. glossophyllum by Alan Blackman but it was very small and just looked wrong. After some discussion, it was deemed to be Colchicum pusillum, as it has too many leaves at flowering time to be Colchicum cupani.

Nothoscordum montevidense

Despite spending the previous week in the car, my pan of this Nothoscordum was still looking good. In fact it looked even better the following week at home, when I finally managed to photograph it in full sunshine (last picture).

Nothoscordum hirtellum

Partnering the previous plant in an entry in the class for three pans of new or rare plants, my pan of Nothoscordum hirtellum had two buds which opened in time for the show. Again, it looked excellent the following week in full sun at home. It is a real challenge to get these plants to stay compact; they need to come out from under glass as soon as buds form and sit in full sun. This year, with incessant cloud and rain, even that has not been sufficient, though they are not sprawling the way they do under glass.

Narcissus viridiflorus

The final plant in my three-pan entry was this Narcissus, which has been in flower since the end of September. Somehow or other, despite the lack of competition, the judges decided that these three plants were of sufficient quality and rarity in cultivation, and I was awarded my seventh first of the season. This year has been astounding for me – normally I am lucky if I get one first prize in the Open Section all year.

Gladiolus martleyi

George Elder exhibited this lovely South African Gladiolus.

Romulea autumnalis

George Elder also exhibited a pan which stubbornly refused to open during judging, presenting the judges with a handful of stripy buds. Almost as soon as the judges had passed, a shaft of sunlight moved round to it and it proved to be a revelation in pink.

Oxalis flabellifolia

When looking for plants which need to be photographed quickly, I cannot concentrate entirely on the bulbous (monocot) classes. Oxalis are also prone to close as soon as the sun and warmth go off them. This pan was exhibited by Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Six small pans of Rock Plants

Bob and Rannveig Wallis won the AGS Medal for the small six-pan with a group of fine plants.

Oxalis perdicaria  ‘Cetrino’

In this six-pan Bob and Rannveig Wallis included another Oxalis, the lovely cream form of Oxalis perdicaria.

Hyacinthoides ciliolata

Also in Bob and Rannveig Wallis’ small six-pan entry, this small pot of Hyacinthoides ciliolata was much more pleasing to my eye than the large pot with which they won the Farrer Medal (see below).

Pterostylis coccina

Another plant from Bob and Rannveig Wallis’ six-pan entry, this Australian orchid won them the Keith Moorhouse Trophy for the best plant in a 19cm pot.

Narcissus obsoletus

My final selection from this small six-pan entry was one of two pans of Narcissus obsoletus exhibited by Bob and Rannveig Wallis. Photos of both pans are included here.

Narcissus elegans

Bob and Rannveig Wallis also showed a pan of Narcissus elegans, so visitors could try to work out the differences between the two.

Narcissus viridiflorus

The Narcissus elegans formed part of a three-pan exhibit by Bob and Rannveig Wallis in the class for plants requiring the same cultural conditions. The theme of the entry was ‘Mediterranean Bulbs which are difficult to flower’ and the chief recommendations where infrequent repotting and a long warm summer bake. This entry also included Narcissus viridiflorus and Muscari parviflora (see below).

Muscari parviflora

The third member of this three-pan exhibit by Bob and Rannveig Wallis was this Muscari, which I have never seen or photographed before.

Galanthus peshmenii

Both Lee and Julie Martin and Mike Chadwick exhibited small pans of Galanthus peshmenii. Mike’s clone had a slightly larger green mark.

Lachenalia ensifolia  subsp. ensifolia

George Elder exhibited four different Lachenalia which were formerly included in the genus Polyxena. This one was given a Certificate of Merit by the show judges and an Award of Merit by the JRGC.

Lachenalia ensifolia  subsp. maughanii

I think this little plant is my favourite of this group, though I cannot grow it as a neat compact plant like this exhibit from George Elder. The JRGC gave this plant a Preliminary Commendation.

Lachenalia longituba

Lachenalia longituba is probably the most familiar of the former Polyxena. When I first started growing South African bulbs, in the ’90s, Polyxena longituba was quite widespread in cultivation in the UK, but not under that name. Plants and particularly seed received as P. corymbosa, P. ensifolia, P. odorata etc. usually turned out to be the same thing, but it was not known from the wild. Terry Smale’s very useful website says of it: “The common species in UK collections because it was sent over by Harry Hall in the late ’60s. It is grown under a number of names because no botanist realised that it was a new species until 2000. The above name was then published after ‘rediscovery’ of the species in the wild. ”

The name P. longituba was first published by AM van der Merwe in the South African Journal of Botany 2001, for material from two populations in the Komsberg, discovered by Gordon Summerfield in 1997 and by JC Manning in 1998. AM van der Merwe says “The plants of the one population were meagre with off-white to very pale pink flowers… The plants of the other population were more sturdy with lilac flowers…”

The plants shown, exhibited by George Elder, were grown from seed from the rediscovered material sown in 2001 (?), received from Silverhill as Polyxena sp. nova, and have a slightly stronger colouration than the material originally in cultivation. The shortness of the leaves at flowering time is not because of this, but a testament to George’s cultivation skills, and was recognised by the JRGC with a Cultural Commendation.

Lachenalia pygmaea

The final Lachenalia/Polyxena shown by George Elder was this one. Again, it is much more compact than I can manage.

Strumaria chaplinii

George Elder also brought a few Strumaria, though the majority are going to flower late this year. The pick of these was probably this one with a cloud of little white flowers.

Nerine humilis

Normally we see quite a variety of Nerine species at the autumn shows. This year there were fewer than usual, but this was a nice pot of N. humilis from George Elder.

Nerine sarniensis x pudica

This fabulous plant is a hybrid between N. sarniensis and N. pudica, again from George Elder.

Lithodraba mendocinensis

Alex O’Sullivan won the Sussex Trophy for the points aggregate in the Novice Section.  Most of his plants were interesting and unusual cushion plants.

Nassauvia darwinii

Another unusual cushion plant from Alex O’Sullivan.

Cyclamen graecum  subsp. candicum

David and Liz Livermore won the Kent Trophy for the Intermediate Section aggregate.  Their plants included this attractive little Cyclamen graecum.

Cyclamen cilicium

The Halsted Trophy for the best plant in the seed-raised classes went to Don Peace for this Cyclamen.

Cyclamen colchicum

This plant, I am assured, is the elusive Cyclamen colchicum, exhibited by Anne Vale.

Cyclamen graecum

Much to my delight, Mike Morton from my local group won the class for Cyclamen graecum ‘group’ with this plant, perhaps profiting a little from Ian Robertson’s illness.

Cyclamen graecum  subsp. candicum

The small pan classes contained some wonderful Cyclamen, this one exhibited by Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Cyclamen graecum

Lee and Julie Martin showed this fabulous deep pink C. graecum, with wonderful foliage.

Cyclamen cyprium

Lee and Julie Martin also exhibited two excellent specimens of Cyclamen cyprium.

Cyclamen hederifolium

One more from Lee and Julie Martin; this white form of C. hederifolium with attractive silver leaves was also theirs.

Three large pans of Rock Plants

I only had time for a few of Lee and Julie Martin’s plants. Here is their winning entry in the large pan class for three rock plants. After all was counted up, we found that they had won the Harold Bishop Trophy for the Open Section aggregate.

Saxifraga fortunei

Don Peace showed some interesting cultivars of S. fortunei. These are, respectively, S. fortunei ‘Beni Zakura’, ‘Eiga’ and ‘Shiranami’. The JRGC awarded Preliminary commendations to ‘Eiga’ and ‘Shiranami’.

Saxifraga fortunei  var. incisolobata  f. pilosa

However, my favourite form of S. fortunei at the show was this one with a cloud of tiny stars, exhibited by Alan Newton.

Coprosma petriei

Alan Newton also exhibited my pick of the plants in berry seed or cone, in the form of this Coprosma.

Aruncus aesthusifolius

Alan Newton produced my favourite entries with autumn foliage. This Aruncus is an old favourite, grown by many exhibitors for autumn colour.

Roscoea purpurea  ‘Red Gurkha’

It was a bit of a surprise to find this Roscoea exhibited for autumn colour by Alan Newton. Surprisingly effective.

Hyacinthoides lingulata

The most eye-catching plants in the show were two pans of Hyacinthoides from Bob and Rannveig Wallis. They received an Award of Merit and a Cultural Commendation from JRGC for this pan of Hyacinthoides lingulata.

Hyacinthoides ciliolata

Next to the H. lingulata, H. ciliolata is smaller and more compact and has a distinctly different habit. This plant also recived an Award of Merit and a Cultural Commendation from JRGC, as well as the Farrer Medal for the best plant in the show.

That’s about it for this season. My thanks to Adrian and Samantha Cooper for organising an excellent show and to all the local group members who worked hard all day in so many different capacities. As in the spring, the sausage baps and cups of tea were excellent.

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