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South Wales Show 2022

February 25, 2022
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It is great to be back at the first AGS show of the 2022 Season.

Friday – Storm Eunice

It seems just yesterday that I had to dodge fallen trees and improvise diversions in the aftermath of a gale on my way to the South Wales show.  But looking back I find it was in 2014.

The pre-CoVid South Wales Show in 2020 coincided with the arrival of storm Dennis, with heavy rain and gales forecast for the morning of the show, and flooding everywhere in the South Wales valleys.

This year, I found myself setting off for the show in the middle of Friday afternoon, planning to stay overnight and arrive early at the show, with yet another photographic exhibit to stage.  The red weather warning for high winds in South East England had only just expired.  When we set off, both Severn bridges were closed because of high winds from storm Eunice. The only alternative route was a long detour via Gloucester and Ross-on-Wye, aggravated by the closure of the A417 around Cirencester.

However, we were very fortunate.  Before we reached Swindon, where we would have to decide which way to go, the traffic overlay on Google maps was showing signs of movement in the queues approaching the Prince of Wales bridge.  By the time we needed to make a final decision, everything was green and running smoothly.  We had a straightforward journey, and arrived with plenty of time before dinner at the Premier Inn.

Saturday Morning, Bright and Early

However, originally we had hoped to set up the photographic display on Friday afternoon, as the show was in a new hall and it wasn’t very clear how much space there would be, or where.  Unfortunately, the storm meant that the school was closed on Friday, and setup was reorganised for 6am on the Saturday morning.  By the time we arrived at about 6.10am a willing band of helpers had already set up two rows of tables, and there was, in the event, ample room for the display I had brought.


We set to with a will.  While others were dressing tables and laying out classes, nurseries were setting out their stalls, and exhibitors were slowly appearing, we were setting up our display boards, and lining them with photographic prints.  These days a lot of work goes into making sure the prints come out of the box in the right order and can be put up easily and quickly, like wallpaper (though I have never found wallpaper particularly easy to hang).  By 8am we had finished, and were able to return to the Premier Inn for breakfast before the day started in earnest.

When we returned, the show benches were lined with plants, and the hall was bustling with exhibitors making last minute tweaks, enjoying a few words with colleagues they hadn’t seen for nearly two years.  There was just time for a quick circuit of the plant stalls before judging commenced.  A ‘bridge’ across the centre of the hall offered a convenient viewpoint.

The exhibitors had done a magnificent job, despite a few absentees because of the weather, the ongoing CoVid situation, or simply lack of potential exhibits at this point in the season.

Paul and Gill Ranson didn’t have the Dionysia classes quite all their own way.  Pauline Carless exhibited the large plant of Dionysia Annielle in the foreground.  I’m sorry, I didn’t take its portrait, so I thought I would mention it here.

Photographic Exhibit

The photographic exhibit I put up was largely the same as the one from 2020, since there was uncertainty about the available space beforehand.  It comprised two sections, showing plant portraits and close-ups taken at AGS shows in the course of 2018, 2019, and early 2020.

The second part of the photographic display was in the reception area, where it walled off a little ‘studio’ against the window where I could do the show photography.  It was bitterly cold in the reception area, particularly since the doors were wide open, and lashing with rain outside.  It was black as night outside, and the strong window light I had hoped for did not materialise until lunchtime.  My wife Helen was sat at the reception desk, with a coat on and a second coat, looking frozen stupid and wondering whether there would be any visitors at all.

We need not have worried.  By the time judging had finished, there was a small crowd waiting to be let out of the plant sales and refreshments area and into the show proper to see the exhibits.

The lighting on the early photographs was provided almost entirely by my LED panel.  By early afternoon I was having to block out stray beams of strong sunlight blazing in the window. Eventually I turned my ‘studio’ round so the background was between the sun and the plants, and used a reflector to redirect sunlight onto the plants.

Crocus angustifolius bronze form

Regular readers of this diary in years gone by will remember that I always start by targeting plants which are likely to go over, or otherwise fade from exhibition quality during the day.  At early shows, this means finding and photographing every pan of crocus I can, before they get too cold and close up, or too warm and the petals reflex.

This first pan is from David Carver, a relatively new, young and enthusiastic exhibitor who attained his Silver Medal at the show, and also won the Gwent Trophy for the Intermediate Section aggregate.

Crocus cvijicii x veluchensis Rainbow Gold

David Carver also exhibited this interesting hybrid.  It has potential, and has been acclaimed elsewhere, but this appeared to be a fairly recent acquisition, and the clump was not mature enough to give a strong account of itself.

Crocus sieberi var tricolor

My final crocus from David Carver was a fine exhibit of this familiar but always striking cultivar.

Crocus olivieri subsp balansae Zwanenburg

David Richards exhibited a cheerful pan of this old cultivar.

Crocus pelistericus f albus

However, there were two crocuses which ranked highly on most people’s lists of the plants they most wanted to take home.  The first was this lovely white form of Crocus pelistericus, exhibited by Ian Robertson.

Crocus vernus hybrid

The second Crocus desiderata was this hybrid pan from Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Galanthus seedling

Once I have photographed the crocuses, I can move on to less ephemeral blooms.  My first snowdrop is an interesting green-tipped seedling exhibited by Roger Norman in the Intermediate section.

Galanthus Broadwell

Bob Worsley exhibited a fine pan of G. Broadwell – a cultivar I have never photographed before.

Galanthus nivalis Alan’s Treat

This snowdrop appeared at this show in 2017.  It is a lovely, green-tipped, poculiform selection from G. nivalis, cleverly named for Alan Street at Avon bulbs.

Galanthus nivalis Lovesgrove

Bob and Rannveig Wallis exhibited another poculiform form of G. nivalis, this time pristine white.

Galanthus reginae-olgae subsp vernalis MT 4027

Bob and Rannveig Wallis also brought this very tidy small-leaved, beautiful form of G. reginae-olgae subsp vernalis. I think they said it came to them from Jim Archibald.

Galanthus ikariae

Last but not least.  The Galanthus Goblet for the best pan of snowdrops went to Don Peace for this fine clone of G. ikariae.

Corydalis kusnetzovii

Now a brief look at Corydalis.  There were quite a number in the show hall, but few were calling out to be photographed.  Don Peace produced an attractive dark pink form of C. kusnetzovii.

Corydalis popovii

I have photographed this plant every year for many years now. It always does well, and this year won a Certificate of Merit for Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Corydalis schanginii subsp ainae

Another plant from show secretaries Bob and Rannveig Wallis.  This is always my favourite Corydalis as a photographic subject.  I love the slightly taller stems, wreathed with little yellow and white figures, with their arms in the air.  They always remind me of Advard Munch’s The Scream.

Fritillaria ariana

There are seldom many fritillaries at this show – they start appearing slightly later in the season.  George Elder brought a strong single stem of F. ariana, but it was curiously compressed at the top.  It would be nice to think that the stem will elongate and separate the tiers of flowers at the top to create a really impressive specimen, but the lowest tier of flowers has already lost the strong pink of the new flowers.

Fritillaria rugillosa

Bob and Rannveig Wallis exhibited a small pan of the newly named F. rugillosa in the ‘New or rare in cultivation’ class.  This name applies to a small plant in the Rhinopetalum group from the eastern fringes of the Fergana valley.  I wonder whether this material is new to them, or whether it is something they have exhibited before, probably as F. gibbosa.  It is a shame I didn’t manage to get all three flowers in focus.

Gagea peduncularis

Bob and Rannveig Wallis also brought a fine small pan of this Gagea.  I love these tiny bulbs which make masses of small yellow stars, but I have always found them impossible to grow.  Apparently Bob and Rannveig don’t have the same problem.

Scilla mischtschenkoana

This is another plant which we see regularly at the early shows, in spectacular flower, and winning another Certificate of Merit.  Not a great picture – I should have taken it from a lower angle – but at least you can see the quality of the plant.


George Elder produced one of the most interesting exhibits in the show, with three different Androcymbium species in the class for three pans New or Rare.  These are (front to back) A. eucomoides, A. burchelii and A. ciliolatum.  I have photographed two of these before but not the last.  Sadly I could not find a good angle for a photograph this time, so the only one I have a portrait of is A. burchelii.

Massonia sempervirens

I myself brought this plant for the seed-raised classes.  Again it is a species which is rare in cultivation in this country.  I raised it from seed I received from Holland about three years ago; sadly, with Brexit that source is no longer open to us.

This species was described in 2010 based on a cultivated plant that was grown from seed with uncertain origin. Because of this it is not recognized by some taxonomists, especially in South Africa, as plants could not be found in the locations cited and the original material was limited in floral characters. Photos of plants resembling those in cultivation have been taken in the wild in the Amatola Mountains of the Eastern Cape, at Mount Tor Doone in the Hogsback area.

Plants remain evergreen in cultivation (with some water), although those who have studied Massonia species in habitat have never observed an evergreen character.  The virus hawks were suspicious of my plant, because of the streaking in the leaves, so I will be attempting to get it to set seed.

Gethyum atropurpureum

The second plant I brought was an amaryllid from Chile.  This is perhaps more interesting than attractive, and the deep red / black flowers are a reminder that it is pollinated by carrion flies.  Fortunately, I don’t find the scent quite as offensive as that of some of the Biarum species – it is a deep spicy smell rather than overtly redolent of rotting flesh.  This is Bob Worsley’s plant, which was in better condition than mine.

Narcissus romieuxii

The early daffodils were in full flower.  Anita Acton exhibited this pretty clone of N. romieuxii in the Novice section.

Narcissus Trumpet Voluntary

In the Intermediate section, David Carver exhibited the lovely N. Trumpet Voluntary, raised and named by Anne Wright.

Narcissus Noddy

Bob and Rannveig Wallis have now given the name ‘Noddy’ to one of several N. alpestris x cyclamineus hybrids they have exhibited previously.  I photographed this as an unnamed hybrid in 2018, and again in 2020.

Narcissus Nadder Moon

In the Open Section, Ian Robertson exhibited a fine pan of the Narcissus alpestris cultivar Nadder Moon.  In many shows this would have won a first, and possibly further awards.  Here it was in competition with the Farrer medal winning plant, and missed out narrowly.

Narcissus bulbocodium Arctic Bells

The Farrer medal (for the best plant in the show) went to this lovely pan of hoop petticoat daffodils exhibited by David Richards.  Again, I should probably have done a better job of photographing it, so my apologies.

Anemone pavonina purple ex Mt Hymettus

Bob Worsley exhibited this Anemone in the seed-raised classes.  As I walked past with it, he asked me why I was photographing it, when it had not even won its class.  The answer is that these anemones always make spectacular photos, particularly in close-up.

Anemone biflora

Another Anemone won yet another Certificate of Merit for Bob and Rannveig Wallis in the Open section.  This spectacular red flowered species is a plant we used to see every year on the show benches, partly because it was one of Ivor Betteridge’s favourites, but which has appeared seldom in the last few years.

Hepatica japonica ex Blue Sandan

Mike Acton won the Caerleon Cup for the Novice Section aggregate.  His plants included this pretty seedling from Hepatica japonica Blue Sandan.

Hepatica yamatutai

David Carver exhibited a small specimen of Hepatica yamatutai in the Intermediate section.  I was very taken by the magenta backs to the petals, which I haven’t photographed before.  These appeared both on this specimen and on a larger plant in the Open section, exhibited by Bob Worsley.  I guess that when the flowers are fully mature and make a white dome, the magenta backs are less evident.

Hepatica japonica

Bob Worsley exhibited many large pans of Hepatica.  Most were only just coming into flower, and will no doubt reappear at this weekend’s show in Pershore, with the flowers further developed and the better for it.

Hepatica henryi

Another lovely Hepatica species from Bob Worsley.

Hepatica nobilis Elkoneyer Heidi

This is an unusual Hepatica cultivar, placed as a non-competitive exhibit by Bob Worsley.

Hepatica japonica ex Tessin

However, two of Bob Worsley’s Hepatica found particular favour with the judges, and received Certificates of Merit.  In recent years, Bob has exhibited an exceptionally dark purple (almost black) seedling from the Japanese cultivar Tessin.  This is another seedling from the same parent, but a slightly lighter colour – a rich deep magenta – and it looked magnificent.  Probably my favourite plant of the day.

Hepatica japonica Utyuu

The second Hepatica to win a Certificate of Merit for Bob Worsley was this old friend.  Again it is a beautiful plant, and one we are likely to see looking even better this coming weekend.

Helleborus x hybridus picotee seedling

Brenda Nickels exhibited this pretty picotee Hellebore seedling.  It was unfortunate to be in the same class as Bob Worsley’s Hepatica Utyuu.

Cyclamen pseudibericum forma roseum

There were a few Cyclamen on the benches at the show.  I photographed just two, both exhibited by master grower Ian Robertson.  I chose this one for floral appeal.

Cyclamen parviflorum

This is the second cyclamen from Ian Robertson.  A better plant than the first, and a true alpine, but somehow less photogenic.

Primula ‘Arduaine’ x bhutanica

Don Peace won the Mary Byng Award (for the best plant in a 19cm pot) with this Asiatic Primula hybrid.  He tells me he intends to name it Lentune Lovelace, after Ada Lovelace, the computer pioneer.  There were several Primula allionii cultivars on the benches, but somehow none of them grabbed me.

Small pan class for six Rock Plants

The AGS medal for six small pans of rock plants went to Paul and Gill Ranson, with this collection: three Dionysia, two Primula allionii and a Saxifraga.

Dionysia freitagii GW/H883/EGW

I took two of the Dionysia cultivars from Paul and Gill Ranson’s six-pan entry for individual portraits.  The first was this very old clone of D. freitagii.

Dionysia hybrid Claire ENF/MK03146/7

This is the second Dionysia I photographed from Paul and Gill Ranson’s six pan exhibit.  This hybrid was raised and exhibited by Nigel Fuller, and named for his grand-daughter.  Nigel’s own plant appears in my diary entry on the Early Spring show in 2019.

Dionysia hybrid Ewesley Legacy

Here is another of Paul and Gill Ranson’s Dionysia hybrids, this time raised by Eric Watson.

Dionysia hybrid MK99310/27

This lovely cultivar is a hybrid raised from seed from Dionysia Emmely by Michael Kammerlander.  Paul and Gill Ranson exhibited it.

Dionysia hybrid

This is another Dionysia hybrid which Paul and Gill Ranson exhibited. It is a complex hybrid raised by Norman Jobson. The seed parent is a hybrid between another hybrid (microphylla x (viscidula x freitagii)) and the well-known hybrid ‘Chris Grey-Wilson’.  The pollen parent is another hybrid (viscidula x khuzistanica).  Whatever the nomenclature difficulties, it is a pretty thing.

Dionysia tapetodes PMR10R1314/16

The judges awarded the AGS Seed Distribution Award for the best plant raised from seed to this Dionysia tapetodes seedling raised and exhibited by Paul and Gill Ranson.

Dionysia hybrid Norlynn Susan

Just to demonstrate that other people also exhibited Dionysia, here is a very dark hybrid raised by Norman Jobson and exhibited by Eric Jarrett.

And here is Eric, the show reporter for the day, enjoying an erudite and plant-filled (or maybe not) conversation with fellow exhibitor Don Peace.

That’s all this week.  I was somewhat distracted all day, and my mind was not altogether on what I was doing, so my apologies if I failed to photograph your plant, or made a poor job of it.

As always, shows do not happen by themselves, and this one would not have taken place without the sterling efforts of Bob and Rannveig Wallis and all their helpers, and of the school staff who came in at 6am to help set up the show tables.  We must not forget the exhibitors who braved miserable weather and traveling conditions to bring a fine display to South Wales.

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