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Pershore Early Spring Show 2020

March 2, 2020

Jon Evans gives a detailed picture of the Pershore Early Spring Show and showcases some of the wonderful plants to be found there.

A Riot of Colour

It was only a week since the South Wales Show, but in an early season like this one, the season would be moving on already.  There would be new and different species and genera out for the Pershore Early Spring Show.  This show would be closer to the centre of the country; as a result we would see some exhibitors who couldn’t make it to Caerleon. There is always a sense of anticipation about a show like this.  They provide an opportunity for a loose community of old friends to re-convene after the winter.  Who would be there ?  What wonderful plants would they summon up ?  Could the nurserymen tempt me with some tiny jewels ?

In the event, the show was a riot of colour.  Pans of Primula jostled for space next to the DionysiaCorydalis and Fritillaria had arrived en masse, together with a scattering of Mediterranean orchids and Pleione from Asia.


Last week’s show in Caerleon meant a long drive into the teeth of storm Dennis, so I was hoping for better conditions on Saturday on the way to Pershore.  I was disappointed.  At 7am, on the M4 at Newbury, I encountered driving rain and hazardous cross-winds.  This was much worse than I encountered on the way to Wales.

However, conditions improved quickly.  When I reached the high school in Pershore it had stopped raining.  The show hall was full of plants, and we even had some rays of sunshine.

Basking in the Sun

A little sunshine brings the plants to life – witness these three pans of Crocus from David Richards, and the three Iris from Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Artistic Classes

At the Pershore show, there are classes for paintings, drawings and needlework as well as plants.  I always photograph all the entries; I once organised the Art section, and it helped no end to have a record of who had entered what.

Rannveig Wallis found time over the winter to paint, as well as caring for her plants.  Here are:

  • Primula woronowii (in its natural habitat)
  • Gymnospermium albertii
  • Tulipa hissarica

Painting of Iris afghanica

Rannveig won the Florence Baker Award for the best painting or drawing with this painting of Iris afghanica.  I was curious about this, because I was sure I had seen it before (pictures can only be entered at shows in one calendar year).  Looking back into my records, I was right, and wrong.  Rannveig did enter a near-identical painting in 2013; this new painting was a mirror-image of the original.  Apparently, she has given away the first painting, but somehow in the tracing process the image got flipped, before she produced the new painting.  The first photo here is the original painting; the second photo is the new one.

Caroline Jackson-Houlston

Caroline won the Muriel Hodgman Art Award for the section aggregate.  She produced some lovely botanical studies.

Here are:

  • Orchis purpurea (botanical study)
  • Platanthera bifolia (botanical study)
  • Himantoglossum hircinum (botanical study)
  • Tristagma nivale (botanical study)
  • Pleione tongariro (portrait)


Caroline also exhibited some illustrated letters featuring alpines.

  • C is for Cyclamen (design)
  • I is for Iris (design)
  • O is for Oxalis (design)

Helleborus thibetanus

In the Intermediate section Gemma Hayes won the aggregate award, with this lovely drawing.

Tulipa greigii

Liz Livermore produced the only piece of needlework on display, with this striking depiction of a tulip.

Miniature gardens

Here are two of the miniature gardens entered, by Ben and Paddy Parmee and Mavis and Sam Lloyd respectively.  The judges preferred the second one, because it looks more established.

Small Six pan class

Once again I photographed the six pan class while judging was still in progress.  There were two entries, from Bob and Rannveig Wallis (mainly bulbs), and from Paul and Gill Ranson (Dionysia and Primula).  This week, the honours, and the E B Anderson Prize, went to Paul and Gill.

Crocus tommasinianus ‘Silver Lining’

At last I was able to take individual plants to photograph.  This was a most attractive C. tommasinianus cultivar from Sue Bedwell in the Novice section.

Crocus tommasinianus

In the Open section, Ian Robertson had a fine pan of the Crocus I showed last week.  He is still labelling this ‘C. tommasinianus / dalmaticus’, reflecting the debate last year.

Crocus pelistericus

This has always been one of the trickiest Crocus species, but the exhibitors seem to have worked out what it needs.  I believe the trick is to give it cool, damp, acidic conditions, with copious water when in growth, and not to dry it off in summer.  Ian Robertson was the magician in this case.

Crocus vernus hybrid

Moving on to the bizarre, this curious hybrid appeared from C. vernus seed for Bob and Rannveig Wallis.  It is certainly unusual, but not altogether to my taste.

Crocus sieberi

There were a number of C. sieberi clones on the bench.  The first shown here is ‘Hubert Edelstein’ from David Richards, followed by ‘Ronald Ginns’ from Ian Robertson.

Crocus sieberi x. veluchensis

Ian Robertson exhibited this little hybrid, perhaps my favourite Crocus of the day.

Iris avromanica (Ruksans)

After the debate last weekend, Bob and Rannveig Wallis changed the name on their pan from Iris zagrica to I. avromanica.  The Joint Rock Garden Committee awarded them a Certificate of Cultural Commendation.

Iris hyrcana

I loved this striking little pan of Iris hyrcana from Bob and Rannveig Wallis.  You may have spotted it earlier, basking in the sunshine.

Iris svetlanae

This lovely yellow Juno Iris came from the small six pan exhibit staged by Bob and Rannveig.

Iris winogradowii

This bulbous Iris species is somewhat trickier than the common I. reticulata cultivars.  it is supposed to respond to cool conditions and well-drained, humus rich soil.  Again Ian Robertson did the trick on this occasion.

Erythronium caucasicum

This little Erythronium appeared as Rare in cultivation, exhibited by Diane Clement.  Certainly, it is seldom seen at shows, though I have exhibited it myself in the past.  It is related to E. dens-canis, the European Dog’s Tooth Violet, but comes from Azerbaijan and Iran. It may well be easier to grow in a shaded, moist spot in the garden, rather than in a pot.

Colchicum trigynum

Other than C. szovitsii, the spring-flowering Colchicum seldom appear at shows.  They are not grown widely, and usually they are over before show season.  So this is another unusual exhibit from Diane Clement.

Fritillaria baisunensis (Ruksans)

A glance at the label suggested that this was a Fritillaria species I had never photographed before.  Closer examination suggested that it was a plant I had photographed regularly in previous years, but under a different name (F. bucharica ‘Pulkhakim’).  Usually, as here, Bob and Rannveig Wallis exhibited it.  Apparently, Janis Ruksans published it as a new species last year.

Fritillaria chitralensis

Again from Bob and Rannveig, this beautiful little yellow Fritillaria is closely related to the familiar F. imperialis, but much smaller and more refined.

Fritillaria sewerzowii

I have always rather liked this species.  There were two pans of it on the show bench.  The first, labelled ‘yellow form’, was from Bob and Rannveig Wallis, the second, with a touch more green in it, was from Andrew Ward.

Fritillaria stenanthera

George Elder, the exhibitor, is rather dismissive of this plant.  Perhaps a little embarrassed by its success over the years, he says it has been retired.  But at the last minute he was short of a good third pan in his entry for three pans of bulbous plants.  Retired or not, the judges awarded it a Certificate of Merit.

Galanthus ‘Compton Seedling No 2’

There were still a few snowdrops on display, though noticeably fewer than the previous week.  This is another seedling from Diane Clement – the ‘Compton’ denotes her ‘stable’.

Galanthus ‘Kildare’

Ben and Paddy Parmee exhibited this very different, long-petalled cultivar.

Narcissus cyclamineus

Staying in the Amaryllidaceae, I’m going to move on the daffodils now.  Harry Fletcher, a new exhibitor to me, won the Henry Hammer Cup for the Novice section aggregate with plants including this lovely little pan.

Narcissus fernandesii

My friend and local group member, Mike Morton, won a first with this beautifully scented jonquil.  Brilliant !

Narcissus ‘Snow Baby’

The Tomlinson Tankard for the Intermediate section aggregate went to Lesley Travis.  This fabulous white trumpet daffodil helped her on the way.

Narcissus x. incurvicervicus

This little N. triandrus hybrid is always so delicate and refined.  It is a shame it is so difficult to grow.  You wouldn’t think so, looking at this exhibit from Bob and Rannveig.

Ornithogalum balansae

Several different species of Ornithogalum featured on the benches.  This one, from Bob Worsley, seemed a little more striking than those with a rosette of flowers at ground level.

Daubenya aurea

George Elder showed both the red and yellow forms of this South African bulb.  He also has a seedling from crossing them which is a lovely orange, but that didn’t make it to the show.  The flowers demonstrate considerable cultivation skill.  Although I have flowers regularly on the autumn-flowering species of Daubenya, I find this species quite tricky, and have never managed to get it to bloom.

Lapeirousia oreogena

However, this fantastic pan of South African Lapeirousia was the pick of George Elder’s plants.  This plant won the Ashwood Trophy for the best bulb, and the Audrey Bartholomew Memorial Award and the 90th Anniversary Award, both for the best plant in a 19cm pot.  I have never even managed to get it to germinate.  George says the trick is to obtain fresh seed, and sow it immediately.  It is notoriously difficult to capture the deep velvetty blue/purple; these photos don’t do too badly but the depth of colour is not quite there.

Gennaria diphylla

This little orchid hails from the western end of the Mediterranean, blooming in Spain and Portugal, and nearby islands.  It appears occasionally on the show bench in early spring; here Sue Bedwell was the exhibitor.  It is seldom photographed, for it is not the most eye-catching of plants, but it has a quite charm nonetheless.

Habenaria tridactylites

This is another green orchid, quite closely related to the Gennaria.  This plant is endemic to the Canary Islands, and was exhibited by Steve Clements.

Ophrys tenthredinifera

Steve Clements also exhibited two pans of the Mediterranean Sawfly Orchid.  The first of these was in the Novice section, and won the Susan Clements Memorial Trophy for the best plant in the Novice and Intermediate sections.  I have photographed it in the Picos mountains at the end of May, but in its normal habitat near sea-level in the Mediterranean, all the orchids flower very early, and people visit them in February or March.  It still seems curious to me that plants in cultivation in this country don’t adjust to our more northernly latitude, and flower when our native orchid species do, from late May to July.

Pleione ‘Riah Shan’

Steve Clements also won a Certificate of Merit for this pan of Pleione.  The large pan is magnificent, but it makes it difficult to capture the exquisite charm of the small jewel-like flowers.

Corydalis macrocentra

The Corydalis season is advancing apace, and Bob and Rannveig had many different species in bloom.  I just chose a few.

Corydalis maracandica

Also from Bob and Rannveig.

Corydalis popovii

This Corydalis comes in white and pink forms (from Edward Spencer and Bob and Rannveig respectively).  It is always good to photograph both so you can compare them.

Corydalis solida

Bob Worsley exhibited this lovely pale pink clone of C. solida.  If it wasn’t ‘Beth Evans’ it is quite close to it.

Corydalis verticillaris

Finally, a small but crowded pan of C. verticillaris from Bob and Rannveig.

Daphne blagyana ‘Brenda Anderson’

It was good to see this compact form of D. blagyana in the Novice section, exhibited by David Carver.

Veronica bombycina

Eric Jarrett earned a Certificate of Merit for this silver foliage plant.  He also receives the photographer’s award for the heaviest pot.  Later in the year pale blue flowers will cover the foliage; I took photos of it at the Midland Show last year.

Cyclamen coum

Ian Robertson is one of the men to beat at Cyclamen Society shows, with huge and ancient specimens.  Most of his plants here were much smaller, but he did bring one big one for me to carry.

Dionysia tapetodes ENF92/1

I did not photograph many Dionysia this week; many of the exhibits were plants I photographed at Caerleon.  I thought this was a good dome of D. tapetodes from Paul and Gill Ranson.

Dionysia termeana

Eric Jarrett once won a memorable Farrer medal at Loughborough with D. termeana.  This is a younger successor, growing on.

Dionysia ‘Mike Bramley’ MK9801/18

Last week I showed you D. ‘Judith Bramley’.  This is Paul and Gill’s plant of another D. afghanica hybrid named for her husband Mike, a lovely man who was taken from her much too soon.  Together they made wonderful secretaries for the Chesterfield show.

Dionysia ‘Zdenek Zvolanek’ MK9801/14

This hybrid is named for the inspirational Czech crevice gardener.  It has similar parentage to ‘Mike Bramley’, but is slightly darker in colour.  Again Paul and Gill were the exhibitors.

Dionysia hybrid MK06458/2

More surprisingly, this plant from Paul and Gill also has genes from D. afghanica, but this plant is an f2 (second generation) hybrid and has white flowers.  Like the others above, it was raised by Michael Kammerlander.

Dionysia ‘Tethys’ PMR-MK03579/2

Although a relatively old hybrid (2003), this plant exhibited by Paul and Gill is extremely rare and difficult to cultivate.  As a result, only a handful at most of the most skilled growers have plants.

Primula allionii BB03/3/4

I showed a photo of this last week, and grumbled about the colour.  This week Brian Burrow’s own plant was on the bench, and received an Award of Merit from the Joint Rock, subject to being given a clonal name.  Here are two photos, one using artificial light, and the second, subtlely better one using only daylight from the window and a big reflector.

Primula allionii BB05/12/3

Pleased with the results I was getting in the window light, I took several other P. allionii clones.  This is another of Brian Burrow’s selected seedlings.

Primula allionii ‘Eleanor Parker’

Brian Burrow also raised and exhibited this cultivar.

Primula allionii ‘Steven Burrow’

Unsurprisingly, given its name, this is yet another Brian Burrow seedling.

Primula allionii

Perhaps it wasn’t covered in flowers like the smaller ones, but this was a fine large pan of P. allionii from Eric Jarrett.  Eric exhibited this plant under the cultivar name ‘Elke Weiss’, but some readers will have noticed a thread about it on the Scottish Rock Garden Club forum.  There, Rudi Weiss, who named ‘Elke Weiss’ after his wife, commented that this was a beautiful plant, but not the true ‘Elke Weiss’, which he posted a picture of.  I would like to thank Maggi Young for bringing this to my attention.  Eric has had the plant for 10 years, and unfortunately at the moment we cannot identify which cultivar it might be.

Primula allionii ‘Grangefield Carol’

This was another nice new P. allionii cultivar, this time exhibited by Robert Rolfe.

Primula ‘Joan Hughes’

Mark Childerhouse received a Certificate of Merit for this lovely large pan of this well-known hybrid.  It is popular with exhibitors.

Saxifraga ‘Torrisholme Rose’

There were several saxifrages at the show; my favourite was this little pink cushion from Mark Childerhouse.

Hepatica acutiloba

I photographed several Hepatica plants last week; this week they received awards, so here they are again.  First up is Bob Worsley’s H. acutiloba, which received a Cultural Commendation from the Joint Rock.

Hepatica japonica ex ‘Tessin’

Bob Worsley’s little dark purple seedling received a Certificate of Merit from the show judges.

Hepatica japonica ‘Sai Chou’

This is another of Bob’s plants which I photographed last week; here it received a Preliminary Commendation from the Joint Rock.

Hepatica japonica ‘Utyuu’

Likewise, Bob’s deep blue, picotee cultivar received a Preliminary Commendation.

Hepatica ex yamatutai

I was rather taken with this little hybrid, raised by Bob Worsley from seed from H. yamatutai.

Hepatica japonica

Paul and Gill Ranson exhibited this pretty Hepatica japonica seedling in their winning small six pan entry.

Eranthis ‘Guinea Gold’

This is the winter aconite hybrid beloved of exhibitors, here exhibited by Don Peace.  It is easy to think of it as a pot plant, and perhaps not hardy in the open garden, but I know that it thrives in Robin and Sue White’s garden, in a carefully prepared woodland bed.

Ypsilandra thibetica

Finally, the Farrer medal plant.  It is not the first time Diane Clement has won with this plant, and it always makes wonderful close-ups.  Three years ago, also at the Pershore Spring Show, I took this photo of her being photographed with it.

What a tremendous show!  It bodes well for the next few weeks.  Huge thanks to all those involved in organising it, and running plant sales, book stall and catering.  Thanks also to the exhibitors who responded with generous enthusiasm to the request to help dismantling the tables and restoring the school layout.  I was delighted to see this; it is something more show secretaries might consider asking.  Many hands make light work, particularly at the end of a long day.

Hesperantha oligantha

Finally, one plant from my greenhouse this afternoon.  This is a South African member of the Iridaceae.  It is determined to lie across the other plants, as most of them do.  In the wild, under the South African sun, they grow much shorter (6 to 10cm – mine are in full sun and at least twice that).  But what a fabulous colour !  This is a species which is now rare and endangered in the wild, but available from a few sources in cultivation.

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