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Loughborough Spring Show 2022

March 18, 2022
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Exhibitors from North and South meet at the Loughborough Spring Show, producing a magnificent display of plants, and endless conversations, catching up after CoVid.

We made the familiar journey to the Loughborough Show on another bright, sunny spring morning.  I had forgotten that the show was at a new school on the same campus at Shepshead. However, when we arrived a stream of people carrying plants in and out of another building told us immediately where we needed to go.  The new hall worked pretty well, perhaps better than the previous venue.  I had an excellent location for doing the show photography, just out of the main hall, and next to a large north-east facing window.

We arrived at 9am, quite late by the normal exhibitor standards, and the benches were already packed with plants.  The show secretaries expressed concern that the number of entries was down on pre-CoVid levels.  In compensation, there were large entries in the Novice and particularly in the Intermediate section.

This is always the show where the exhibitors from the south meet those from the north.  Some years, it makes sense to have shows in the south before those further north, but this season has obviously been early everywhere.  Two of the best northern growers were complaining that some of their best Primula allionii had already gone over.  Nevertheless, plants packed the benches, including most of the early spring genera we have come to expect.

Small six pans of Rock Plants

At this show, there are four different six-pan classes; it is important to photograph the entries before the hall fills with people.

There were no entries in the large six-pan class, but Don Peace mustered a pleasing mixed grouping (two Corydalis, two Primula, an Eranthis and a Fritillaria) to win the AGS Medal for the small six pan class.

Small six pans of Rock Plants grown from seed

The class for six pans of rock plants grown from seed by the exhibitor went to Bob and Rannveig Wallis, with:

  • three varying Fritillaria,
  • a Cyclamen,
  • a white form of Iris nusairensis (which I meant to go back and photograph singly but forgot – I think it was probably the clone I photographed at the Kent show in 2014), and
  • a pretty little Narcissus bulbocodium subsp. tenuifolium which is shown below.

Intermediate six pans of Rock Plants

In the Intermediate class for six pans of rock plants, David Carver staged the sole entry, but was only awarded a second place.  I didn’t hear the feedback from the judges.  They may have felt that the group was not very well matched, or contained a number of very small plants.  They may have had doubts about the hardiness of the Daphne genkwa.  Hardy or not, it was a fine plant and beautifully grown.

Three pans of Rock Plants with educational information

Whilst I had the camera in the hall, I photographed Paul and Gill Ranson’s winning entry in the class for plants with cultural information.  I thought this was a beautifully balanced three pan entry.  Robert Rolfe chuntered at me because I hadn’t seen fit to record his own (admittedly fine) second placed entry.

Three Large pans of Rock Plants

I thought I would also photograph this large and extremely heavy entry from Mark Childerhouse in situ.  Three monstrous saxifrages:

  • ‘Allendale Ghost’
  • ‘Allendale Charm’
  • ‘Mary Golds’

I had an uneasy feeling that at least one of them would win an award, and I would have to carry it to and fro.

Cyclamen persicum

As at the Pershore Show, Sue Bedwell took the aggregate trophy for the Novice section (in this case the Beacon Trophy).  I found this Cyclamen persicum attractive both in leaf and flower.

Scilla bithynica alba

Sue Bedwell also brought this lovely white form of what is for some a familiar garden weed.  The white form seems most attractive.

Intermediate Section class for one pan of Narcissus

The competition was very strong in the Intermediate class for one pan of Narcissus.

Narcissus hybrid AW 2374A

So strong in fact, that this lovely little N. bulbocodium hybrid raised by Anne Wright and exhibited by David Carver didn’t get a look-in.  That meant that I could steal it from the bench whilst judging was still in progress, and photograph it.  I always find it valuable to take a ‘test plant’ like this to check the cameras are set up correctly.

Narcissus bulbocodium var citrinus

This fine pan of Narcissus won second place in the Intermediate daffodil class for Steve Clements.  Apparently the experts say this is N. bulbocodium var citrinus, not N. romieuxii as the label claimed.

Narcissus cordubensis

This wonderful grouping of N. cordubensis triumphed in this tough Intermediate class for Heather Barraclough; it went on win the Royal Bank of Scotland Award for the best pan of bulbs in the entire show.

Tecophilaea violiflora

Having photographed my ‘test plant’, I moved on to this, from David Carver’s Intermediate six pan entry.  This is the ‘other’ species of Tecophilaea – we are much more familiar with T. cyanocrocus – and very beautiful indeed.  I have never photographed it before at a show, and have seen it only once many years ago.  Some people were querying its identity, but it looked correct to me.  I have sown seeds of it several times over the years; I wish they had grown.

These two little plants (the Narcissus hybrid and the Tecophilaea) were really my favourite plants in the whole show – I felt I could happily go home now and avoid carrying the monsters.

Fritillaria acmopetala subsp wendelboi ‘Zwanenburg’ (?)

This little plant, again from David Carver, aroused more interest; Bob Wallis asked me to photograph it so that he could investigate its identity.

Viola cotyledon

Firsts in the Intermediate section were hotly contested.  Sixteen exhibitors entered a total of 157 plants.  This rosulate Viola exhibited by Alex O’Sullivan was one of the successful plants.  It is one of the two he grew from seed and exhibited last autumn at Hyde Hall, but rather bigger now than it was then.

Primula hoffmanniana

This little petiolarid Primula from NW Sichuan seems to have become suddenly become more available in the UK recently, and a number of nurseries list it.  I think that is probably because it has been grown previously under different names, including P. moupinensis and possibly P. odontocalyx.  Alex O’Sullivan exhibited this as well, again in the Intermediate section.

Primula marginata ‘Caerulea’

Henry Fletcher from Derby won the Outwoods Trophy for the Intermediate section aggregate.  Most of the plants he exhibited were members of the Primulaceae family, including this nice specimen of Primula marginata, and the Dionysia below.

Dionysia aretioides ‘Bevere’

This fine clone of D. aretioides, exhibited by Henry Fletcher, recalls to mind the late Ron Beeston, who selected and introduced it.

Anacamptis morio subsp. longicornu

Neil Hubbard exhibited several fine specimens of European orchids.  I didn’t realise that Anacamptis longicornu has now been reduced to a subspecies of Anacamptis morio.

Himantoglossum robertianum

Neil also exhibited this Giant Orchid.  The judges queried its hardiness, as it is best known from Crete and Rhodes.  However, it is widespread throughout the Mediterranean basin, and I have photographed cultivated plants growing outdoors and flowering in April in a meadow in Essex.

Pleione humilis x ‘Glacier Peak’

When I see the name John Dixon on an exhibitor’s card, I expect to see a Dionysia, normally a very heavy one (though he also shows fine pans of Crocus pelistericus and of Iris winogradowii).  However, John also exhibited a pan of Pleione.  With a compost consisting primarily of bark, this was so light it was ridiculous.  It is always a challenge to get a good composition in photographs of Pleione, even when they are spaced attractively as in this exhibit.  Probably I should have rotated the pot to capture the symmetry better, but nevertheless I was pleased with these results.

Crocus pestalozzae subsp. violaceus

Already, the season for Crocus species is nearly over; few pans were on the bench.  Clare Oates brought this charming form of C. pestalozzae.

Crocus biflorus subsp. pulchricolor

Eric Jarrett has exhibited this pan in previous years.  At this show, it remained resolutely closed during judging (that end of the hall was quite cold with the outside doors open); I had to wait until nearly the end of the show to photograph it.

Erythronium grandiflorum var pallidum

Most Erythronium are relatively easy to grow in a woodland environment.  They are a little more awkward in pots, and often difficult to show well, because they need to stay cool.  E. grandiflorum is an exception; although it flowers in vast sheets in its native Rockies, most growers in the UK find it very tricky to grow.  Diane Clement brought this exhibit – apparently var pallidum because of the white anthers.

Iris peshmenii

Bob and Rannveig Wallis brought some lovely pans of Iris, including this plant, which I first photographed three years ago at the Early Spring Show.

Iris reticulata ‘White Caucasus’

Bob and Rannveig Wallis exhibited this Iris reticulata cultivar in the same three-pan exhibit as the Iris peshmenii above.

Ipheion dialystemon

I didn’t notice this plant until far too late, even though it won the American Trophy (for the best plant from the Americas) for Bob and Rannveig Wallis.  This plant nearly always needs to be photographed as soon as judging has finished, before the flowers close.

Asphodelus acaulis

David Charlton exhibited a well-flowered plant of this asphodel from North Africa, which reminded us all of the fine specimen Ivor Betteridge used to exhibit.

Flower arrangement

Mavis and Sam Lloyd have always produced beautiful arrangements, and this was no exception, though there was another excellent exhibit in the class from Anne Vale which must have run it very close.  I wish I had photographed that one as well to show the comparison.

Fritillaria ariana x. bucharica

Don Peace produced this hybrid originally, but Bob Worsley grows it very well, (far better than Don himself, according to Don).  It clearly takes after F. bucharica rather than F. ariana, but F. ariana was the seed parent.

Fritillaria carica

Don Peace exhibited this elegant pan of F. carica himself, as part of his winning small six-pan entry.

Fritillaria crassifolia subsp crassifolia

Bob and Rannveig Wallis won the Richard Regan Trophy for the best plant in a 19cm pot for this fine pan of F. crassifolia.

Fritillaria gibbosa yellow form

I have photographed this yellow form of F. gibbosa from Bob and Rannveig before, but I always find it most appealing.

Fritillaria kittaniae

This little fritillary won an Award of Merit and a Cultural Commendation from the Joint Rock Garden Committee (JRGC) for exhibitors Vic and Janet Aspland.

Gymnospermium albertii

The JRGC awarded Vic and Janet another Cultural Commendation for this Gymnospermium.

Lachenalia aloides var vanzyliae

I think Peter Farkasch brought this Lachenalia along as a judge teaser.  It is a lovely plant, but many people questioned its hardiness.  He was adamant that it is hardy in a cold greenhouse.  My own greenhouse heater comes on at 2 degrees C, yet I have stopped growing these fleshy-leaved Lachenalia because I used to get the leaves burnt off regularly (mind you, they did catch the morning sun).  The species which used to be Polyxena are fine. [ I have consulted some friends from the Southern African Bulb Group who grow these species – it will be interesting to hear what they say about hardiness.]

Narcissus bulbocodium subsp. tenuifolium

This is the little daffodil we saw earlier in Bob and Rannveig Wallis’ six pans grown from seed.  They received a Cultural Commendation for it from JRGC.

Narcissus moschatus ‘Nadder Moon’

Bob and Rannveig also sent this Narcissus for consideration by JRGC.  This received an Award of Merit and another Cultural Commendation.

Narcissus obesus

Narcissus obesus is always one of my favourite daffodils; this pan from Bob and Rannveig was a pleasure to photograph.

Corydalis ‘Lentune Rouge’

There were many pans of Corydalis on the benches, but most of them looked a little loose and slightly past their best.  One exception was this named clone produced as a hybrid (C. kusnetzovii x C. solida) by Don Peace which won a Certificate of Merit.

Helianthemum pannosum

Eric Jarrett entered this little rockrose in the silver foliage class.  Personally, I would love to see it covered in its little yellow flowers.

Diosma ‘Pink Fountain’

Now for a quick look at a couple of flowering shrubs.  I found this little evergreen shrub from South Africa exhibited by John Savage very attractive in an understated way, though its hardiness is definitely a little suspect, and even planted in the ground it might succumb to a hard frost.

Pieris japonica ‘Bonfire’

This lovely Japanese Pieris is significantly hardier than the Diosma above; another exhibit from John Savage.

Callianthemum anemonoides

Don Peace has raised a number of plants of this from seed from Ivor Betteridge’s excellent clone.  I photographed some of them at the Early Spring Show two years ago, though it seems like yesterday, with no shows for most of 2020 and 2021.  Now of course, they are bigger and better.

Hepatica japonica

Hepatica appeared in profusion on the benches.  The judges’ pick was this cobalt-blue specimen which won a Certificate of Merit, and must have been in contention for the Farrer Medal.  I expected this pot to be quite light, as the soil for Hepatica usually contains a lot of bark.  I had forgotten that Chris Lilley exhibited it.

Hepatica japonica ‘Touryoku’

Bob Worsley exhibited this very fine plant of a double white Japanese cultivar.

Hepatica japonica

My favourite Hepatica was this deep velvety purple seedling from Bob Worsley.

Hepatica pyrenaica hybrid

I very much enjoyed seeing this neat, simple cultivar from Clare Oates.

Dionysia ‘Inka Gold’

When I photographed this tight mound of buttercup yellow flowers, exhibited by Eric Jarrett, it bore a label with the name D. tapetodes.  I was curious about this; it looked identical to the hybrid D. ‘Inka Gold’ (the second picture shows Paul and Gill Ranson’s plant of the latter).  Eventually, Eric confessed that he had inadvertently switched two labels.

Dionysia ‘Selene’

This was one of the biggest Dionysia from Paul and Gill Ranson, and is always one of my favourites.

Dionysia oreodoxa

It might look as though the flowers on this plant from Paul and Gill are rather sparse, but this species always has an elegant spacing between the flowers – it is one of the things I like about it.

Dionysia tapetodes ‘Kate’

There was one more Dionysia I needed to photograph, and that was John Dixon’s D. tapetodes ‘Kate’, which had won another Certificate of Merit.  I photographed this last week at Pershore, and knew how heavy it was.  Fortunately John was around, and agreed to do the heavy lifting.

Primula allionii BB 87/3/2

Sadly, (or fortunately, depending on your viewpoint) there were no huge P. allionii; two exhibitors told me that their best large plants were already going over.  This was the largest at the show, a fine specimen of an old cultivar produced by Brian Burrow (the first number gives the year of sowing), exhibited by Clare Oates.

Primula allionii ‘Duncan Lowe’

However, the were plenty of perfect little P. allionii in the small pan classes.  This one represents years of dedication from exhibitor Eric Jarrett – it is a slow and tricky cultivar.

Primula allionii BB 03/5/13

As so often, many of the best P. allionii were clones raised by Brian Burrow from seed. This plant was part of Don Peace’s winning small six-pan exhibit.

Primula allionii ‘William Burrow’

As always, Geoff Rollinson brought some perfect specimens.  This is another of Brian Burrow’s seedlings, with almost too many flowers on it.

Primula allionii BB 09/48/1

This darker Brian Burrow seedling exhibited by Geoff Rollinson attracted a lot of attention.  I offer you two different versions of the photo.  If you are viewing it against a dark background, the colour of the first will look correct; against a bright background even the second may look a little dark.

Primula x gothoburgensis

I photographed this novel hybrid from Robert Rolfe last week at Pershore.  This week, it looked even better, with the flowers a little lighter and an attractive frothy air.

Saxifraga ‘Tysoe Robin’

Finally, we come to saxifrages, appearing in force for the first time this year.  This dark red hybrid from Eric Jarrett was one of my favourites – lovely colour and the perfect size for photography.

Saxifraga x lhommei ‘Cecil Davis’

This silver saxifrage won the small pan cushion class for Chris Lilley, with its intricate rosettes, and was much admired.

Saxifraga ‘Coolock Kate’

Mark Childerhouse exhibited most of the big pots of Saxifraga on display.  I always love the colour of ‘Coolock Kate’.

Saxifraga scardica var korabensis

This more unusual Kabschia saxifrage is a local variant from Mount Korab on the border between Albania and Macedonia, introduced in 1990 by Jan Burgel.  It won the Webster Trophy for the best plant native to Europe for exhibitor Mark Childerhouse.

Saxifraga ‘Allendale Ghost’

That leaves one more plant – one of those monster saxifrages I showed earlier.  This is S. ‘Allendale Ghost’, and it won the Farrer Medal for Mark Childerhouse.  When John Dixon had carried his Dionysia for me, he took it upon himself to go and find Mark, to perform the same service.  I was very glad.  Unfortunately the internet makes all these cushions look the same size; make no mistake, this plant was huge, filling a 36cm pot.  And so were its companions in the three pan class.  I didn’t move the other two though S. ‘Allendale Charm’ in particular looked very fine indeed.

As always, thanks to all the people who helped to make this show happen in an excellent new venue. As I said at Pershore, it takes a great deal of effort from many people to make a show like this a success.  So, many thanks to the nurserymen and the catering team who fed and watered the masses.  Thanks to all those who helped set up the show, run the front desk and book stall, and then break everything down at the end of the show.  Thanks to all the exhibitors who travelled long distances to the show despite the rocketing price of petrol, bringing such a fine display of plants, and particular thanks to the two who carried the two heaviest pots for me.

I’m sorry this has taken so long to post.  I have had a lot on my plate recently.  I hope things will be back to normal soon.

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 Alpine Garden Society (AGS), and has been treasurer of the local group in Woking for many years. He is particularly 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 at all these shows. 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