ags logo

Loughborough Autumn Show 2022

October 11, 2022
Content Sidebar

Exhibitors from North and South bring a magnificent display of Cyclamen, and a few other plants, to the Loughborough Autumn Show 2022.

Back to the Show Circuit

It seemed a long time since my last show, as I drove up the M1 through the dawn towards Loughborough.  After the South West show in March, all the shows within reach of me were cancelled, for a variety of reasons.

So I was delighted to be back, and even more delighted when I entered the show hall.  A carpet of pink and white covered the benches nearest the door.  This was a Cyclamen show in all but name.  The huge pots held the promise of a busy and exhausting day for me, with a strong potential for backache.  Brilliant.

Six small pans of Rock Plants

Looking beyond the pink monsters, Bob and Rannveig Wallis had produced an effective entry for the small six pan class: three cyclamen, Biarum marmarisense Simi Form, Oxalis speciosa and Allium callimischon subsp haemostictum.  They duly won the AGS Medal, and the Derby Group Trophy for the Open section aggregate.  They are catching up fast with Don Peace in the annual aggregate.  It will be interesting to see how things pan out at the last show of the season at Harlow Carr.

Three pans of Rock Plants native to any one Continent

Ian Robertson won the Bill Mackenzie Trophy for this class, with a fine grouping: Sternbergia sicula, Crocus niveus and Cyclamen graecum subsp candicum.  The Cyclamen was particularly fine.

Cyrtanthus sanguineus

The first plants I dared to remove from the benches.  I knew that none of them were of sufficient quality to trouble the judges; I only brought them to show the other members interest in such things. However, I wanted a personal record of some of them.

This Cyrtanthus is one of my favourite South African bulbs; the flowers have a lovely salmon-pink tint, but photograph a bit more orange than that.  I once had a pot with five flowers that I grew from seed from the late Cameron McMaster; the following year I lost every bulb to Narcissus fly.  It has taken me about 10 years to source some small offsets, and grow them to flowering size.

Nerine humilis

Normally Nerine humilis is a deeper pink than this.  I acquired this very pale form from Tim Lever at Aberconwy a few years ago, and like it very much.

South African Amaryllid

This lovely little plant came to me as a Hessea species, originating from seed collected many years ago in the Skaapriver Gorge in Namaqualand.  I brought it with me to discuss it with George Elder.  We are both of the opinion that it might be a Strumaria rather than a Hessea.  I will have to photograph the leaves when they appear to confirm that.  Either way, it is something neither of us have seen in flower before, and quite exquisite.


In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion about the naming of the Empodium species we grow.  It always appeared that there are two distinct species:

  • one under the name Empodium flexile (also including plants under the name E. namaquense)
  • the other which has borne the name E. plicatum.

However, when you check them against the available keys, our plants named E. plicatum seem to key out as E. flexile; we have struggled to find a name for the plants grown as E. flexile.

George has referred this debate to botanists in South Africa, and the answer confirms that

  • The plants we have grown as E. plicatum match the botanical description of E. flexile
  • The plants we have grown as E. flexile match E. elongatum, on the basis of the sterile appendages on the anthers, and the dark basal sheath.

This response is clearly a big step forward, and we hope that our interest might prompt more research on the genus.

So it was interesting to examine several specimens of this genus in flower.

Empodium elongatum

This is the plant formerly grown as E. flexile, exhibited by George Elder, and a fine specimen of it.  It has long sterile appendages on the anthers, and dark basal sheaths.  The leaves are well developed at flowering.  My own plant flowering in the greenhouse at the moment is very similar.

Empodium flexile

Now for the species formerly grown as E. plicatum, here exhibited by Bob and Rannveig Wallis, again a fine exhibit.  This is significantly smaller, with shorter tubes, and a prominent visible ovary above soil level.  It also has sterile appendages, though not perhaps as large as the ones on the above.

Note that this species occasionally has four petals instead of six – there is one in the foreground of the second picture.  The third picture shows a four petalled plant from a pan exhibited by Peter Farkasch.  Apart from the number of petals, these individuals resemble the others in the pan.

Empodium gloriosum (?)

Finally, here is a plant I received from the late Terry Smale as E. gloriosum, on the basis of the origin of the seeds.  It is reliably four-petalled, so clearly an aberrant form of whatever species it is.  In size, and superficial appearance, it resembles to the plant formerly grown as E. plicatum. We have seen that that occasionally produces four petalled forms. This makes it tempting to identify it as such.

However, the tubes of this are much longer, and have no sign of an ovary.  This plant also appears to have sterile appendages, but these are smaller than in the first two.  It also always refuses to open its flowers until early afternoon.  So maybe Terry was right (he usually was), and this is indeed E. gloriosum.

Sternbergia sicula

My final plant is another aberrant form, this time a rather attractive semi-double form of Sternbergia sicula.  This appeared in a pot of seedlings which Joy Bishop gave me seven or eight years ago.  It flowers every year, but seems very reluctant to increase vegetatively.

Sternbergia lutea

There were several pans of Sternbergia on the benches, both S. sicula and the larger yellow goblets of Sternbergia lutea.  The first neat group, exhibited by Sue Bedwell won the Crosshall Goblet for the best plant in the Novice section.  The magnificent, larger pan won the Minera Trophy for the best bulbous plant in the Intermediate or Novice sections for Michael Myers.

Colchicum baytopiorum PB224

Bob Worsley exhibited this attractive little pan of Colchicum, in perfect condition.

Narcissus cavanillesii

This charming little plant comes from North Africa and the Iberian peninsula, though it is hard to recognise as a daffodil.  Bob and Rannveig Wallis always grow it beautifully, and it rewards them by flowering well.  I have several pans of it, from different sources, and just one flower this year.  Rannveig says the trick is not to repot them, but that hasn’t worked for me yet.

Rhodophiala bifida pink form

David Carver exhibited this lovely pink form of Rhodophiala bifida in the Intermediate section.  I find it much more difficult than the red forms, and the bulbs of it I grow have not flowered since 2018.  I am tempted to move it, and most of my other pots of Rhodophiala, out of the greenhouse into the cold frame, where the red forms are flourishing for me.

Eucomis vandermerwei Leopard

David Carver brought a fine variety of plants from the far west of Devon, and took back the Marjorie Dudfield Cup for the Intermediate Aggregate for his efforts.  This neat little selected form of Eucomis vandermerwei was his.

Biarum ochridense

One of the more popular bulbous genera at the show was Biarum, prominent for their scent if not their floral display.  I don’t think the photo does justice to this little specimen from Michael Myers.

Biarum dispar

Bob and Rannveig Wallis put this little species up before the Joint Rock Garden Committee; it received a Botanical Certificate and a Cultural Commendation.  Again poor photos I’m afraid.

Biarum marmarisense Simi Form

More attractive perhaps, at least in scent, was this interesting form of Biarum marmarisense exhibited by Bob and Rannveig Wallis in their small six-pan entry.  I love the way the lobed spathe flares and rolls back.

I can never look at this plant without remembering the manipulated image I made of it for the Artistic Section in 2015, when we still had photography classes.  That featured dirty grey zombie fingers among the blooms, struggling to dig their way out of the compost.

Biarum marmarisense

This larger pan, also exhibited by Bob and Rannveig, went on to win the Farrer medal the following week at Hexham.

These are another bulb I grow but cannot flower, despite letting them get pot-bound, and sitting them on the top shelf of the greenhouse, where they get a long summer bake.  Maybe a clay pot would help.

Biarum davisii

However, my favourite Biarum was these pot-bellied little spathes exhibited by George Elder.  For some reason they remind me of a tea service out of a Disney film.

Oxalis flava white form

Not a bulb, but…  This was an interesting white form of Oxalis flava exhibited by David Carver.

Spathoglottis affinis

There were a few orchids in the show hall, mainly Spiranthes cernua Chadds Ford, which I somehow failed to photograph.  Among these was this interesting and attractive yellow Spathoglottis, exhibited by Steve Clements.  He says he treats it like a Pleione.

Caryopteris Camara Pink

This small shrub from John Savage caught my eye, in particular because it was pink.  Most Caryopteris  are blue.  I’m not sure quite how big this will get – some of the genus make quite large shrubs eventually.  A quick internet search did not yield a UK source, though several nurseries in Europe offered it for a (considerable) price.

Pernettya mucronata Lilian

The autumn shows always have classes for plants with cones, seeds, fruits or autumn foliage.  As a result several exhibitors specialise in this area.  John Savage is one of them; he exhibited this fine specimen.

Gaultheria procumbens Big Berry

However, the Leicester Group Trophy for the best plant with cones, seeds, fruits or autumn foliage went to Steve Clements for this exhibit from the Intermediate section.  This plant caused me a little difficulty and a lot of amusement when it appeared on the trophy list as ‘Galanthus procumbens Big Berry’; fortunately that was easily and quickly rectified.

Foliage plant and cushion classes always seem to feature at the autumn shows, so here are a few exhibits from those.

Bolax gummifera

First, a young mound of the once familiar show plant Bolax gummifera, exhibited by Henry Fletcher in the Intermediate section.

Raoulia x petrimia Margaret Pringle

As well as his bulbs, David Carver brought this fine cushion of a difficult Raoulia.

Leucophyta brownii

The show reporter asked me to photograph this exhibit from John Savage in the silver foliage class.  I was glad to do so; it is an Australian plant, and something which has appeared often on the show bench.  There are no photos of it in the AGS Image Library.

Sempervivum arachnoideum Parsons form

It would be a shame to consider foliage plants without looking at Sempervivum.  This clone of Sempervivum arachnoideum always seems to attract the judges attention – here winning a Certificate of Merit for Chris Lilley.

Sempervivum arachnoideum var laggeri

Unfortunately, the show reporter also asked me to photograph this magnificent pan, again from Chris Lilley.  In a day of huge pots, this was without doubt the heaviest.  Chris needs to put a Government health warning on his plants.

Petrocosmea longianthera-thermopunctata complex

Another Certificate of Merit went to this huge Petrocosmea exhibited by Dave Mountfort.  I tend to think of them as African violets, in small pots, but this plant is certainly no shrinking violet.

Primula poissonii

This Primula exhibited by John Richards was one of the more unexpected exhibits, lurking in the class for new or rare plants.  Unfortunately, at the point I photographed it the sun had gone, and I had to make do with artificial light, which rather spoils the colours.

Flower arrangement

There was only one flower arrangement, but it was a most attractive one, from Anne Vale.

Three large pans of Cyclamen

There were so many fine Cyclamen, it was hard to choose which to photograph.  In most classes there was tight competition between Bob and Rannveig Wallis and Ian Robertson.  In this class, Bob and Rannveig came out fractionally ahead.

Cyclamen hederifolium var crassifolium

This is the biggest and heaviest of the plants shown above, which won a Certificate of Merit the following week at Hexham for Bob and Rannveig.

Cyclamen hederifolium Stargazer

Of course, not all the Cyclamen on the benches were huge.  This little plant of Stargazer, with upturned flowers, was in the Intermediate section, exhibited by David Carver.

Cyclamen confusum

Long regarded as a subspecies of Cyclamen hederifolium, Cyclamen confusum is a tetraploid form from the southern Mediterranean, in particular Crete.  It has thicker, fleshier, glossy leaves with what Kit Grey-Wilson described as a poorly defined hastate pattern.  I photographed two different plants at the show, in differing shades of deep red / purple. Neither had leaves present at flowering. Roy Skidmore exhibited the first in the Intermediate section; the second won a Certificate of Merit for Ian Robertson.

Cyclamen intaminatum

Some beautiful plants come in small packages.  I have photographed Ian Robertson’s pan of Cyclamen intaminatum many times over the years.  I love the mix of flower colour it produces.

Cyclamen mirabile

There were some lovely plants of Cyclamen mirabile at the show.  The first I photographed is a pristine white form with beautiful leaf markings from Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Cyclamen mirabile Tilebarn Nicholas

The second plant of Cyclamen mirabile I photographed is from the Tilebarn Nicholas strain, whose leaves are flushed with pink or purple, at least when they first appear.  This time the exhibitor was Ian Robertson.

Cyclamen rohlfsianum

This plant is another old friend.  Bob and Rannveig Wallis have exhibited this lovely deep pink form of Cyclamen rohlfsianum many times over the years.  They have mastered the watering necessary to get it to come into flower before the leaves appear. This also won a Certificate of Merit the following week at Hexham.

Cyclamen graecum

This is another plant from the Novice section, exhibited by Sue Bedwell who won the Wirral Trophy for the section aggregate.

Cyclamen graecum subsp candicum

In the Intermediate section, Roy Skidmore exhibited two miniature forms of Cyclamen graecum subsp candicum, with tiny leaves.  I have always loved these; this was the plant I most wanted to take home with me.

Cyclamen graecum subsp candicum

This is another, larger form of the same species, exhibited by Ian Robertson.  Again a beautiful plant.

Cyclamen maritimum

Here is another miniature form, this time of Cyclamen maritimum (formerly C. graecum subsp anatolicum), exhibited by Bob Worsley.  The second photo has my pen waving at one side to give an impression of scale.

Cyclamen maritimum

Of course, not all plants of Cyclamen maritimum are by any means miniature.  Here are two much larger plants which both won Certificates of Merit, from Anne Vale and Ian Robertson respectively.

Cyclamen maritimum

Of course, I have been building up to the monster.  This huge and beautiful plant won the Nottingham Group Trophy for the best Cyclamen, and the Farrer Medal for the best plant in the show for Ian Robertson.  This was the seventh time it has done so, making it possibly the most successful plant ever at AGS shows.

Artistic Section

However, I have not quite finished my coverage of the show.  There was a small artistic section, where Rannveig Wallis exhibited four watercolours.  The painting of Iris narbutii won her the Art and Craft Trophy for the best piece of artwork.

I am sorry this report has taken so long – it has been a rather difficult week for me, and I have had few evenings at home.  I am planning to go to the Harlow Carr show this coming weekend.  After that, I hope I will have time to return to documenting my trip to the Dolomites (Day One: Boe and Vallon, and Day Two: The Ru de Pisciadu).

I would like to thank all those who worked so hard to make this show happen, both beforehand and on the day, and in particular the guiding hands of Martin Rogerson and Neil Hubbard, who helped resolve any little difficulties.

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 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 still visits many shows each year to catalogue the extraordinary achievements of the exhibitors, and is actively involved in other plant photography, both in gardens both public and private, and on 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