It seems like no time since I was photographing the Kent Autumn Show in October. But a couple of weeks ago I had to check through my bag of camera gear, recharge batteries, and prepare for the South Wales Show.
The warm, wet, windy winter has confused our plants. Some are blooming early, others rotting in the wet. So I was looking forward to seeing what the exhibitors could produce for the Show.
The night before the show I was nervous. Heavy rain and high winds were forecast for the morning, and I needed to be at the show early to put up a large exhibit of two hundred of my own photographic prints. In the end, I needn’t have worried – we got everything into the hall before the rain started in earnest.
The show hall was a mass of colour. The contrast between inside and outside the hall could not have been more pronounced.
The show secretaries for this show are never sure how many exhibits they will get; it is very sensitive to the whims of the winter. However, there is plenty of room, so as usual, I staged a large display of photographs around the hall. These photos had been taken at shows all round the country during 2018-19. I divided the display into sections containing plant portraits and close-ups. This is just a few of the fourteen panels on display.
Show photographers have to learn what they can and cannot photograph during judging. I am always keen to get on with the job, so I always start with the show views (above). Even when individual classes have been judged, the plants within them may be taken up for an award; taking them away is strictly forbidden.
However, I always photograph the entries for six pan classes in situ on the show bench. This is something I can do while the judges are still deliberating. This year, there were four entries, showing that the flowering season is well underway. Here they are – from Eric Jarrett, Paul and Gill Ranson, Ian Robertson, and Bob and Rannveig Wallis, respectively. Can you pick the winner? It’s not easy without seeing the plants in person.
In the end, the AGS Medal went to the last entry from Bob and Rannveig Wallis. I photographed all the plants from this exhibit, so you can see them in more detail further down.
Once the class for flower arrangements has been judged, it will not be considered again. The only award they might be eligible for is a Certificate of Merit, and I have never once seen one given to an arrangement. So this is another thing I photograph during judging, as soon as the class has been judged. In any case, I would rather carry the delicate arrangements in a near-empty hall. This confection of yellow, white and green came from Ben and Paddy Parmee.
There’s always a section of bench for ‘non-competitive’ exhibits. This is where exhibitors put surplus plants or those that are not sufficiently perfect for the competitive displays. I found this attractive poculiform snowdrop there, exhibited by Bob and Rannveig Wallis.
As soon as judging had finished, I sought out the best of the crocuses. I like to photograph these early as they can sometimes wilt in the warmth indoors. Peter Furneaux exhibited this pan.
Robert Rolfe brought two attractive pans of this pretty white cultivar.
I took a nice picture of these Crocus from Ian Robertson. There was much discussion about the identity of this plant last year when Ian exhibited it as C. dalmaticus. I think the conclusion was that it’s a good form of C. tommasinianus. Ian is now exhibiting it as such.
After the Crocus, I was delighted to see that Bob and Rannveig Wallis exhibited a pan of this stoloniferous Colchicum species full of flowers. We seldom see it at shows – it’s usually too early – what a treat.
Iris flowers can also suffer in the heat of the hall, so I moved on to them. This tricky one is becoming a more frequent visitor to shows. It was exhibited by Bob and Rannveig Wallis.
Bob and Rannveig also exhibited this fine pan of Iris zagrica.
Janis Ruksans has recently proposed a splitting of Iris zagrica into a number of separate species. This little iris, exhibited by Diane Clement in the New or Rare classes, is one of the new species created. I’m sure that this is identical to the plant exhibited above as I. zagrica.
It’s always a pleasure to see this primrose yellow bulbous iris. Normally we see pans exhibited by John Dixon, but Robert Rolfe was the exhibitor here. I think we can safely assume that the material came originally from John, his friend and regular chauffeur to shows.
I also photographed this pan of tulips from Vic and Janet Aspland early on, lest they deteriorate in the heat.
Sometimes when George Elder exhibits South African Romulea species, I have to wait until recalcitrant flowers open, long after judging. No such problems with this one – it was open in plenty of time for the judges to admire it.
George Elder also brought this curious South African Colchicum relative. It’s difficult to germinate, and to grow, and has taken George many years to achieve flowers.
I turned next to Hepatica. These again can struggle in the warmth of the show hall. Brenda Nickels won the Gwent Trophy (the aggregate for the Intermediate section) with plants including this little Hepatica.
In the Open section, Bob Worsley produced a sparkling array of Hepatica. This is his H. acutiloba. Diane Clement’s plants are not yet out.
From Bob Worsley.
This plant is no stranger to the photography table. I’ve photographed it at one or other of the spring shows for several years. Once again, the judges awarded Bob Worsley a Certificate of Merit – here it is in all its glory.
This striking plant from Bob Worsley is tricky to photograph. It’s hard to capture its incredibly deep colour. I think I did better this year than last, by underexposing the photo by a full two stops.
Finally, this is a Hepatica species from China. It seems to be uncommon in cultivation in the UK, and we see it infrequently at shows. It was exhibited by Bob Worsley.
Moving on now to Cyclamen, Roy Skidmore brought a nice white seedling of C. alpinum.
In the Open Section there was a magnificent specimen of this exhibited by Peter Furneaux.
Ian Robertson just pipped Peter Furneaux with this pan of the less common C. parviflorum. He was awarded a Certificate of Merit.
My unreliable memory tells me that this plant was exhibited by Ian Robertson, but it may have been Vic and Janet Aspland – I failed to photograph the exhibitor’s card.
The last Cyclamen I photographed was this one. Its a hybrid between Cyclamen cyprium and Cyclamen libanoticum, exhibited by Vic and Janet Aspland.
Being the right time of year, there were many different Dionysia on the bench. Many of these were exhibited by specialist growers Paul and Gill Ranson. They won a Certificate of Merit for this cultivar.
Here is another selection of D. tapetodes, raised and exhibited by Paul and Gill Ranson.
This Dionysia is an f2 hybrid. It was raised and selected by Nigel Fuller, but exhibited by Paul and Gill Ranson.
This one is an f1 hybrid from D. curviflora, exhibited by Paul and Gill Ranson.
Several exhibitors displayed this unusual hybrid, so I’m guessing it was distributed by someone. This specimen was exhibited by Paul and Gill Ranson; it seems fairly close to straight D. tapetodes to me.
Paul and Gill Ranson won the Mary Byng Award for the best plant in a 19cm pot. They also received the 90th Anniversary Award, which is being given at every show this year for the best plant in a 19cm pot. This one is a hybrid between D. tapetodes and D. afghanica; it always brings to mind the lovely lady for whom it was named.
This is another plant that was much debated last year, and is now recognised as a hybrid. John Dixon was the exhibitor.
The next plant – an f2 hybrid grown by Paul and Gill Ranson – is a great favourite of mine. The fluted petals seem to give it extra charm.
This plant from Paul and Gill Ranson is much larger and has much bigger flowers. It’s a hybrid between D. freitagii and D. aretioides.
I’ve never photographed this Dionysia species before. It was exhibited by Paul and Gill Ranson.
Although many Dionysia were in full flower, the Primula allionii are slightly later. The only plant of real note was this seedling of Brian Burrow’s, exhibited by Robert Rolfe. It was hard to capture the true colour – it should be warmer and pinker than in the picture. These pink/magenta cultivars are always a struggle, particularly under artificial lights. The only time I’ve ever captured it really well is in daylight in an alpine house.
The colour of this Anemone blanda from Vic and Janet Aspland was fabulous. This plant didn’t impress the judges. Probably they thought it was too drawn, but I have some sympathy with the exhibitor. It has been a difficult spring for light levels, with unremitting murk and rain
This Eranthis is always lovely and difficult to grow. Diane Clement’s plant was a little tired in the heat, hence the close-up of the best flower.
I loved this new Pleione hybrid last year and it was good to see it again. Here exhibited by Don Peace.
Next, I turned to the snowdrops. At the first two or three shows there is always a focus on snowdrops. I’ve photographed many cultivars over the years. This was one which was new to me, exhibited by Roy Skidmore.
Another new cultivar to photograph, this time from Diane Clement.
This plant from Diane Clement is something I’ve chosen to photograph several times. This time, I found an angle from above that captures the curious wide open flowers.
Anita Acton won the Caerleon Cup for the Novice section, squeezing ahead of a new exhibitor, David Carver from Devon. Her plants included this unusual little species snowdrop.
Bob Worsley won the Galanthus Goblet for the best pan of snowdrops for this exhibit.
From snowdrops to daffodils. Bob and Rannveig Wallis exhibited three very different clones from this cross. The second won the AGS Seed Distribution Award (the best plant in the seed-raised classes).
George Elder won the class for a single pan of Narcissus with this lovely clump of difficult ‘Dinah Rose’.
Bob and Rannveig Wallis exhibited a very nice selection of N. romieuxii. It had large frilly primrose yellow flowers.
My favourite daffodil, however, was this beautiful white hybrid from N. triandrus. Again, exhibited by Bob and Rannveig Wallis.
Once I’d photographed the daffodils, I moved on to the Corydalis. This is a genus I love to hate because I find them difficult to photograph well ! Slowly I have realised that they work best photographed from a lower angle. This was an excellent specimen of C. sewerzowii from Bob and Rannveig.
This plant won the Farrer medal at the Pershore Early Show in 2018. This year, it was again victorious, and won the Farrer medal for Bob and Rannveig Wallis.
Now the closer look I promised earlier at the plants in Bob and Rannveig Wallis’ winning six pan exhibit. First, this lovely Crocus. I photographed it right at the start of the show to catch it at its best.
Next the two pans of Fritillaria in the entry. One of them was this little pot of F. gibbosa seedlings.
The other was this pan of F. stenanthera.
Next was this Muscari. I’m really pleased with this photograph of it – it captures how striking the electric blue and purple flowers were.
Plant number five was this fabulous Iris. I’ve only just realised that this Juno hybrid, exhibited by Bob and Rannveig (I. aucheri x. I. galatica) is different from Iris ‘Sindpers’ (I. aucheri x. I. persica)! They look very similar and I’ve always put the different labels down to spelling.
The last plant from Bob and Rannveig’s exhibit was a fine group of snowdrops, a seedling from ‘Trym’.
Overall, this was a marvellous show. Huge thanks are due to Bob, Rannveig and their small group of helpers, particularly considering the weather. We really appreciate all the effort that goes into staging a show and look forward to more successful events as the season gets off to a cracking start.
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, Jon 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 firstname.lastname@example.org