What a wonderful morning to be setting off for a show! Blue sky all around, with an early morning chill, and just a hint of mist over the fields and heaths, as I made the detour down to Petersfield to collect my stepfather David Philbey and his wheelchair, before setting off to Sutton Valence. This show is a bit nearer than some of the others I have visited recently, which makes such a convoluted route possible.
Fortunately David (91, deaf as a post, and walking with two sticks) had a tremendous day, coming home with boxes full of primulas from friends and the plant sales, and spending all day in endless conversations about his favourite subject, with a succession of friends he hasn’t seen for a year or so. Preoccupied with photographing the show, I saw very little of him all day but my wife Helen kept an eye on him to make sure he was enjoying himself.
When I entered the show hall, this little plant was the first to catch my eye and it remained the one I coveted most. It was in the class I had entered my Daphne gemmata ‘Sciringa’ in. I know which one I would have given the first to, but the judges thought differently, and somehow or other I won my third first of the year. They even took my plant up for consideration for the best plant in a 19cm pot. Surely some mistake chaps – after the hot week, it was shedding flowers every time you touched it.
The iris was so beautiful I was desperate to photograph it before it suffered in the heat of the hall. With the kind permission of the exhibitors, Bob and Rannveig Wallis, I took two pictures before judging started. At this point, I was having trouble with my LED panel and I had to stand the plant in the sunshine to get some light on it. Helen investigated the panel during judging, identified which of the six batteries was defunct and replaced it. The two pictures taken immediately after judging are less dramatic but show more detail of the plant.
By now the exhibitors had been cleared from the hall and I was able to start taking views of the show – and of the judges, starting their deliberations, tea-cups in hand.
It looked as though the judging of the artistic section had been performed early, so the judges could help with the plant classes. Gemma Hayes from Aberconwy Nursery had produced a number of studies in pen and ink, coloured with watercolour.
So here are:
Neotinea lactea (watercolour only)
Campanula raineri (pen and ink, in the class for a monochrome drawing)
There is a class for an image in a creative style; Gemma entered this picture of Pulsatilla alpina, produced using printing techniques. he wasn’t there so I couldn’t ask how it was done.
As at the Pershore Early Spring Show, Gemma entered this lamp design using an Arisaema in the class for a design inspired by alpine plants.
Liz Livermore has started entering needlework classes in the Intermediate section. Her two entries here were this card showing Fritillaria michaelovskyi and an image of Cypripedium calceolus which I very much liked. Unfortunately, I was called away at this point and forgot to photograph the Cypripedium on my return. Now I will have to wait until the autumn shows to complete my record of the art this year, unless Liz sees this and brings the piece to the East Anglia Show, or one of the others.
The only exhibitor in the Open section of the Artistic Section was Rannveig Wallis; she entered four lovely paintings:
Tulipa kaufmanniana in its natural habitat
After that, it was back to taking show views, and judges. In a few places, the Open section benches looked a bit thin. I think this can be put down to two things…
First, the show took place in mid-April, but with a schedule appropriate to its usual date in mid to late March, with plenty of classes for Primula, Dionysia and Saxifraga, but very few entries because of the season, and without the classes for later genera, particularly shrubs, which we see at the Midland Show.
Secondly, neither Paul and Gill Ranson nor Ian Robertson were able to attend the show; between them they would probably have brought at least 50 pots.
One of the highlights of this show was a large and well contested Intermediate section.
Ben and Paddy Parmee entered the six pan class in the Intermediate section but this grouping was not considered worthy of the AGS Award.
Anne Vale produced a very classy grouping for the small six pan class and won the AGS Medal. For the rest of the day, she was floating around on a cloud with a big smile on her face – this was the first six pan she had ever won in the Open section.
Lee and Julie Martin must have thought the judges were against them when their large three pan exhibit was only awarded a second.
Worse was to come: in the class for three pans of rock plants from a single continent they were again second, this time to Michael Sullivan’s three pans of Sempervivum (well, two Sempervivum and a Jovibarba), without a flower between them, despite their magnificent Iris babadagica.
Despite this, somehow they managed to win the Bluebell Hill Trophy for the Open section aggregate.
It was only a small show but judging still hadn’t finished. I suppose I could have photographed the flower arrangements but I focused on capturing some of the striking plants in situ on the bench. Here we have a fine Clematis marmoraria hybrid from Michael Sullivan and Iris pumila subsp. attica x. acutiloba subsp. longitepala from Ray Drew.
Anne Vale’s Sanguinaria was sitting in a pool of sunshine and looked very attractive. I was particularly struck by the backlighting on the leaves.
In the end, the Farrer medal went to the plant with the longest name; this extraordinary Iris hybrid exhibited by Ray Drew.
A magnificent plant from Lee and Julie Martin. Awarded a Certificate of Merit but inquisitive judges managed to discover a couple of dead flowers and that was enough to scupper its Farrer chances.
Class 5 for one pan of Primulaceae was hotly contested between Androsace villosa from Nigel Fuller and Androsace villosa taurica from Mike Chadwick (see below).
In the end, the first went to Mike Chadwick’s Androsace villosa taurica and with it the David Wisdom Trophy for the best pan of Primulaceae, which probably hinged on the result in this class.
Another winner from Mike Chadwick.
Michael Sullivan’s Clematis was magnificent but largely ignored by the judges, though it won its class. Possibly because, although exhibited as a Clematis marmoraria seedling, it was clearly a hybrid, probably with Clematis petriei. Rather surprisingly, this was the heaviest pot I carried all day.
Lee and Julie Martin exhibited this lovely Townsendia. I photographed it twice, once at the beginning of the day, in case it closed, and again at the end of the day in case more buds had opened. But, in fact, comparison of the two images shows more or less identical coverage.
Barry Tattersall’s Jersey orchid which we saw at Solihull was still in good condition, despite the hot weather, and won another Certificate of Merit. There are some closer views of single spikes in the blog on the Midland Show.
Runner-up to the Anacamptis was this elegant Cypripedium hybrid from Bob and Rannveig Wallis.
Not flowering perhaps quite as well as the year it appeared at the Malvern show, John Kemp’s Junellia was still good enough to be awarded a Certificate of Merit.
A lovely neat pan of Ericaceae from Lee and Julie Martin.
Martin and Anna Sheader brought along this little Daphne, which appealed greatly to the show reporter. I did point out that this was a mere infant beside the plant Robin White showed at Solihull, but anyway, here it is.
After weeks of shows, seeing flower arrangements by all manner of exhibitors, it was great to see one by the master, Lee Martin, with his characteristic restrained use of colour. Definitely worth a photographer’s ‘Certificate of Merit’.
The other one I would like to award goes to the caterers. At show after show there have been no bacon butties; here there was not only bacon but the most excellent sausage baps. With mustard! I was tempted to abandon the photography to indulge myself more fully.
For me, the star of Anne Vale’s six-pan exhibit was this little crucifer. It is something we very seldom see on the show bench; in fact I don’t think I have photographed it before. Hard to obtain and tricky to grow, this plant was beautifully compact and well-furnished with flowers.
This clone of F. crassifolia from Mike Chadwick had a nice solid yellow as its base colour.
Bob and Rannveig Wallis exhibited a most graceful yellow clone of F. pyrenaica with the cultivar name ‘Bernard Tickner’ after that great Suffolk plantsman, brewer and conservationist who created the Fullers Mill garden in West Stow.
A small but fresh plant of Viola pedata bicolor from Mike Chadwick. It was nice to see it again; I haven’t photographed it for four or five years, since Lee and Julie Martin and Robin White used to show it so well.
Another novelty which I haven’t photographed before; an annual, or short-lived perennial rosulate Viola exhibited by Martin and Anna Sheader. It is not the showiest of plants; I think some of those buds are open.
There were still a few Dionysia on the show bench, mostly hybrids involving the later species D. involucrata or D. microphylla. This is a hybrid between the two, exhibited by John Dixon.
The white form of D. involucrata, probably from the strain originating at Gothenburg Botanic Garden, exhibited by Nigel Fuller.
This Primula hybrid was exhibited by Nigel Fuller, though the hybrid was raised by Brian Burrow. I think all the seedlings with names in this sequence (BB/10/21/x) are from the same seed pod and are the result of crossing a P. allionii x. carniolica hybrid with P. albenensis.
A nice small Cyclamen persicum from Lee and Julie Martin.
Two plants were exhibited in two different classes in the Novice section. Both won firsts, so the Sastre Trophy for the Novice section aggregate was shared between Bob Charman from the East Surrey group (who exhibited Iris lineata) and Alex O’Sullivan, down on holiday from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, who exhibited Asyneuma pulvinatum.
The Asyneuma was judged the best plant in the section, so Alex won the Invicta Trophy.
Our native Herb Paris always looks attractive in a pot. This one was exhibited by Ben and Paddy Parmee. In the garden, if well suited in a shady location and leafy compost, it can become a bit of a thug; I know of a patch six feet across.
Bob and Rannveig Wallis are always producing unusual Trillium species. Here they produced two I haven’t photographed before.
In the same three pan exhibit as Trillium foetidissimum, Bob and Rannveig Wallis exhibited a surprisingly pale, pink form of Trillium grandiflorum.
This was the final plant in Bob and Rannveig Wallis’ three-pan exhibit.
Of course, the camera never shows us scale. This was a much smaller Allium, again from Bob and Rannveig Wallis.
Another onion from Bob and Rannveig Wallis. Until I picked it up to carry it over to the window, I had forgotten that this one smells strongly of cloves.
A nice South African Romulea from Bob and Rannveig Wallis. This remained obdurately closed during judging. By the time I photographed it just after lunch, the flowers were nearly all open.
There were some nice small pans of Serapias. Here we have Serapias lingua from Bob and Rannveig Wallis and Serapias neglecta x. lingua from Barry Tattersall.
The Northdown Trophy for the best plant in a 19cm pot went to Barry Tattersall for this pan of Anacamptis – another survivor from Solihull.
A very cute little Narcissus from Mike Morton in my local group.
Looking now at some of the plants in the Intermediate section. This Delphinium was exhibited by Ben and Paddy Parmee.
Also from Ben and Paddy Parmee.
The Jean Elliott Trophy for the Intermediate section aggregate went to Andrew Ward. His plants included this eye-catching pan of the familiar red form of Anemone pavonina.
Philip Walker exhibited a striking pale form of Arisaema amurense.
This pretty Primula was exhibited by Maurice Bacon as P. limbata which it is not. I think we have now established that it is Primula halleri; it is lovely whatever the name.
The show reporter wanted me to photograph some of the Narcissus in the Intermediate Section, so here are Narcissus ‘Segovia’ exhibited by Ben and Paddy Parmee and Narcissus ‘More and More’ exhibited by Janine Doulton. Unfortunately, at this point I had another glitch and failed to photograph Narcissus ‘Rikki’ which she had also requested. This is becoming a too frequent occurrence recently.
The plant which distracted me was this fine Trillium rivale from Pauline O’Leary.
A striking white Muscari cultivar, from David and Liz Livermore.
However, the plant which won the Longfield Trophy for the best plant in the Intermediate section was this magnificent Petunia from John Millen.
It is a pity there isn’t a more accessible show next weekend; if the buds keep opening, by then it will look superb and would be a plausible Farrer contender. John lives very near this show in Kent; the only options next weekend are the East Lancs or Ulster Shows.
Back in the Open section, I found an unusual Edraianthus from Martin and Anna Sheader.
Another plant I photographed last weekend, also from Martin and Anna Sheader.
This little white Lamium with red markings was from Lee and Julie Martin.
Last year, I was excited to photograph this wonderful conifer from Lee and Julie Martin with flowers on/new cones forming. This year, it had a new crop of cones forming but also old cones from last year.
This plant from John Dixon was the best of the cacti on display. I hope he can manage to get it to a show when it is in flower in the summer.
A nice tight cushion from Nigel Fuller.
Lee and Julie Martin exhibit this in the foliage classes almost all year long. There is always one show when I photograph it.
Finally, a superb pan of one of the most photogenic of succulents, from Michael Sullivan.
As always, I would like to thank Adrian and Samantha Cooper and all their team of helpers from the local groups for organising and running this excellent show and arranging such wonderful weather.
Sometimes the nurserymen who draw the short straw and end up under the awning outside look distinctly chilly by the end of the day; on Saturday they were the happy ones.
Thanks also to the exhibitors for bringing such a diverse selection of plants, even if Barry Tattersall’s Thelymitra stubbornly refused to open for me to photograph.
And finally, thanks to the caterers, whose sausage bap will live long in my memory.
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