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South West Show at RHS Rosemoor 2019

March 27, 2019
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It doesn’t sound like much of a recipe for fun – get up at 5am, drive 180 miles, spend 7 hours carrying plants about, drive 180 miles back and get home at 8pm, but this was a wonderful show, full of familiar, friendly faces and I thoroughly enjoyed the day. I hope these pictures capture the event for everyone.

The last time I was in Devon was about three weeks ago, when I went down to give a lecture to the South Devon AGS Group. I had planned to go down and stay for at least one night, if not two, to see something of the Devon landscape but, in the event, other commitments made this impossible, so I drove down, gave the lecture and drove back the same evening (madness, but sometimes you are forced to do these things).

By going down in the morning, I was at least able to make myself time for an afternoon walk up the Dart Valley, but on the day in question they had had about a month’s worth of rain in 48 hours. There were still frequent heavy and persistent showers, which meant waterproof coat, trousers and camera cover, and walking boots. I walked for about two hours in pouring rain before the sun finally came out, got soaking wet feet (walking boots not up to crossing the frequent foaming knee-deep torrents running down the side of the valley) but thoroughly enjoyed the excursion. I was pleased with some of the pictures of the woodland in pouring rain, and of the river in raging spate.  Fortunately, I had a spare change of clothes in the car.

Enough of that. At 5am on Saturday morning, I was again setting out for Devon, this time to make the trip to the Rosemoor show. Once again, circumstances had decreed that I couldn’t spend any longer than necessary in this land of primroses. For the first 100 miles or so we drove through low cloud and drizzle but the weather brightened a little as we approached the show. Primroses gleamed from the banks beside the road and, from a photography view, I had bright overcast conditions all day – excellent light.

I had brought a crate of plants with me to exhibit but with no great expectations. The two plants I really wanted to exhibit were both left at home as they wouldn’t open in time. With a three week gap before the next show I can attend, it is likely they won’t make it to a show this year.

My first impressions of the show were excellent; lots of good and interesting plants I wanted to photograph, including several Fritillaria which were missing from or poorly represented in my display earlier in the year and not too many pots that looked unmanageably heavy. Even the obvious Farrer candidate looked relatively portable.

Tropaeolum brachyceras

As usual, I will start with a few views of the show. The third picture shows my Tropaeolum brachyceras, which was runner-up to the much smaller, but apparently more difficult to grow T. azureum next to it. I was a little surprised to discover this assessment, as I have never found T. azureum any more awkward than the other Chilean coastal species; they will all spend a year dormant from time to time.

Small Six pans of Rock Plants

The AGS Medal for the small six pan class went to Ian Robertson, for this mixed grouping. It has to be mixed, for the rules forbid more than two plants from the same genus.

Large Six pans of Rock Plants

Unusually, at this show the layout of the benches usually means that the two six pan classes are back to back at the end of one of the benches. More unusually, both were won by the same exhibitor, Ian Robertson, who earnt the RHS Sewell Medal for this collection. There are no constraints on the composition of the large six pan and four of Ian’s six plants were pans of Pleione, supported by a large Cyclamen pseudibericum and a Fritillaria which is featured later on.

Three small pans of Bulbous Plants

The Veitch Trophy for three small pans of bulbous plants went to Lee and Julie Martin for these three pots of Fritillaria. The F. bithynica in the centre is featured later.

Cut Flowers

Here are cut flower entries from (left) Pauline Carless and (right) Ben and Paddy Parmee.

Flower Arrangements

Inspiration struck. While the judges were still working hard, I could visit, remove and photograph the flower arrangements, once that class had been judged, as they wouldn’t be in consideration for any of the major awards. So here are flower arrangements from Ben and Paddy Parmee and then Mavis and Sam Lloyd.

Tropaeolum hybrids

The late Rosemary Wilson was a great enthusiast for the genus Tropaeolum. She used to let her Chilean coastal species run riot in her greenhouse and cross-pollinate freely. She would send seed from these plants to the AGS and SRGC seed exchanges as hybrids. These are some of the results.

I entered these three plants grown from seed just to show people the variety of colours possible in Tropaeolum hybrids, with no expectation of doing well, the plants weren’t good enough and were only just beginning to flower.

Primula  ‘Pink Aire’

By this time, the judges had finished with the Novice section. Two members of my local group, Bob and Val Brooks, were exhibiting for the first time with a selection of Primula cultivars. I was delighted to find that they had won both the Dartington Trophy for the section aggregate and the Otter Trophy for the best plant in the section, Primula ‘Pink Aire’.

Primula  ‘Broadwell Chameleon’

Exhibited by Bob and Val Brooks, in the same three pan exhibit as Primula ‘Pink Aire’.

Primula allionii  ‘Pale Venus’

Again from Bob and Val Brooks.

Iris aitchisonii

Jim Almond was helping me with the photography, though as at Loughborough he was conveniently unable to carry anything remotely heavy. As a result, this Iris he exhibited, which won both a Certificate of Merit and a Cultural Commendation from the Joint Rock Garden Committee (JRGC), found its way into the photography corner almost immediately after judging had finished.

Iris lutescens

Immediately opposite us, and equally needing to be photographed before they deteriorated, were two other irises, the first from Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Iris pumila JJA 199590

The other iris near us was this glorious form of Iris pumila exhibited by Lee and Julie Martin. Ostensibly, this is from a Jim Archibald collection, which would not be surprising as he always collected wonderful forms. However, the number has become corrupted, and no obvious reformulation of it yields a suitable description on the lists on the SRGC forum. The plant is now distributed by Aberconwy Nursery, but by the time I arrived there (at 9.30am), they had sold all the plants they had.

Fritillaria affinis var. tristulis

One of the things which excited me when I first arrived was the number of pans of Fritillaria in wonderful condition and crying out to be photographed. Perhaps surprisingly, many were in the Intermediate section. This lovely pan was exhibited by Jim Loring.

Fritillaria sororum

Staying in the Intermediate section, Colin Everett staged a wonderful three pan exhibit of Fritillaria, all of which I photographed, starting at the back with this pan of F. sororum.  Apparently, during judging, one of the judges suggested that this was an exhibitor who shouldn’t be exhibiting in the Intermediate section. Quick as a flash, Bob Wallis responded that this was an exhibitor who should be encouraged to remain in the Intermediate section. I think those two remarks tell you everything you need to know about the quality of his plants, which won four firsts and the Cornwall Trophy for the best plant in the section. I have never photographed a plant exhibited as F. sororum at an AGS show.

Fritillaria eastwoodiae

The last time I photographed this was at the Exeter Show in 2003, before I was doing show photography, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to have another go, courtesy of Colin Everett’s skills. It was exciting to see that someone had managed again to grow some of these Californian Fritillaria species to the quality needed to exhibit them.

Fritillaria recurva

The third member of the three pan exhibit from Colin Everett was the startlingly scarlet Californian species F. recurva, another which I have very seldom photographed (I think this was the third time in 20 years).

Fritillaria crassifolia

Colin Everett also exhibited this neat and beautifully grown pan of F. crassifolia.

Fritillaria purdyi

Supposedly slightly easier than some of the other Californians, and certainly more frequently exhibited, this pan of F. purdyi also came from Colin Everett.

Fritillaria ehrhartii

The final plant I am going to show you from Colin Everett is this Fritillaria ehrhartii from the Aegean. This is the one which won the Cornwall Trophy for the best plant in the Intermediate section, though the vote against the F. purdyi above was very close.

Fritillaria davisii

Despite the wonderful quality of his exhibits, Colin Everett did not win the Dartmoor Trophy for the Intermediate section. Instead, it went to Ben and Paddy Parmee, whose plants included this nice pan of F. davisii.

Fritillaria bithynica

Moving on now to the Open section, this Fritillaria was exhibited by Lee and Julie Martin as part of their three-pan entry which won the Veitch Trophy.

Fritillaria hermonis  ‘Lebanon form’

Again from Lee and Julie Martin, this very green form of F. hermonis, a familiar exhibit at this show over the years.

Fritillaria argolica

Ian Robertson staged this charming pan of F. argolica as part of a three-pan entry of plants grown from seed, together with F. aurea and the F. davisii below.

Fritillaria davisii

A very nice even pan of this from Ian Robertson, much darker than the clone exhibited by Ben and Paddy Parmee (shown above).

Fritillaria kotschyana

Another nice plant from Ian Robertson.

Fritillaria michaelovskyi  x. kurdica

Of all Ian Robertson’s Fritillaria, this one, from his large six-pan entry, attracted the most interest. I have photographed it before in previous years but I think this is the best I have seen it.

Fritillaria minima

Moving on now to Bob and Rannveig Wallis’ plants. Here is F. minima, another I don’t have many pictures of.

Fritillaria reuteri

Again from Bob and Rannveig Wallis, but not fully out, otherwise this might have been a Farrer Medal contender.

Fritillaria reuteri var. lutea

The lovely yellow form of F. reuteri from Bob and Rannveig Wallis, built up with love and care over many years from a single bulb.

Fritillaria yuminensis

A lovely form of one of my favourite plants, again from Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Erythronium californicum

Also from Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Erythronium  ‘Margaret Mathew’

A nice even grouping of E. ‘Margaret Mathew’ from George Elder.

Narcissus bulbocodium x. triandrus

A lovely miniature Narcissus hybrid from Bob and Rannveig Wallis.

Narcissus triandrus x. bulbocodium

This Narcissus hybrid raised and exhibited by Bob and Rannveig Wallis was awarded a Preliminary Commendation by the JRGC, presumably subject to being given a clonal name but I didn’t hear what name it was to be given.

Narcissus bulbocodium conspicuus

At some shows, one plant stands out as the obvious Farrer Medal contender (though it doesn’t always win one) and here it was this clump of Narcissus exhibited by Jim McGregor. So obvious was its superiority that none of the judges could find an alternative contender to propose, so the only question was whether it was good enough to win the Farrer. The answer was unanimous. Later on, the JRGC gave it an Award of Merit.

Tulipa cretica  ‘Chania’

A very fine open-flowered form of T. cretica from Lee and Julie Martin.

Eucomis regia

A spring-flowering Eucomis from George Elder.

Trillium rivale

This fine, large-flowered form of Trillium rivale was another of the plants that helped Ben and Paddy Parmee to win the Intermediate Section aggregate.

Tristagma sessile

I grew this from AGS seed sown in September 2008. This plant represents an area of botanical confusion and I brought it to the show to try to clear up what its name should be – no such luck. T. sessile is now treated in the Kew Plant list and elsewhere as the correct name for the plant formerly known as Ipheion sessile or Tristagma recurvifolium, which has single wide open flowers in November and is very unlike the plant exhibited.

This plant is what circulated in cultivation in this country 10-20 years ago under the name Tristagma sessile, with clusters of flowers with fluted, striped petals produced in March, clearly a different species from Ipheion sessile. I am not sure what it should now be named correctly.

Tristagma bivalve

My T. sessile was certainly similar to the plant exhibited as T. bivalve by Bob and Rannveig Wallis, but their naming of that was also uncertain and there is clearly more work for the botanists to do to sort these plants out.

Pleione formosana  ‘Oriental Splendour’

To my eye, this pan exhibited by David Oakey in the Intermediate section was the most photogenic pan of Pleione on display.

Cypripedium formosanum

Lee and Julie Martin presented an attractive pan of Cypripedium formosanum.

Orchis pauciflora

This pan of Orchis exhibited by Bob and Rannveig Wallis was the winner of the Graham Lovell Salver for the best pan of Orchidaceae and the East Devon Trophy for the best plant in a 19cm pot. Barry Tattersall, who in most years might have made a contest of this, was absent from the show, preparing his entries for the Hardy Orchid Society show the following day.

Rhododendron leucaspis

I thought this little Rhododendron from Dick Fulcher would make a striking photo but I didn’t quite get enough backlighting from the window to capture the beauty I had seen.

Sempervivum ‘Quintessence’

Howard Wills staged some wonderful entries of Sempervivum, beautifully grown and neatly presented. Most found little favour with the judges, for they were in classes for flowering plants, but they were most attractive and interesting for the visitor. I picked this one out as an example to show some of the patterns created by the rosettes.

Saxifraga  ‘Donnington Deva’

This saxifrage from Duncan Bennett looked fresh and neat in a class on its own in the Open section.

Cyclamen persicum

Lee and Julie Martin were awarded a Certificate of Merit for this Cyclamen persicum with its wonderful leaves.

Dionysia hybrid ‘Bernd Wetzel’

Most of the early shows have had a good number of Dionysia but they haven’t featured much in my reports, partly because I have photographed most of the plants I have seen many times before and partly because, after a warm winter, many of the domes of flowers have not been as perfect as they have been in previous years.

However, the season is moving on and the later cultivars seem to be flowering better, probably because they haven’t been producing occasional flowers all winter. Paul and Gill Ranson produced an array of excellent plants, including several cultivars I have not photographed before, which helped them win the Peter Edwards Memorial Trophy for the aggregate of points in the Primulaceae classes and the Exeter Trophy for the Open Section aggregate.

This plant of Dionysia ‘Bernt Wetzel’ (HJ9401, D.tapetodes x. aretioides) was awarded a Cultural Commendation by the JRGC.

Dionysia bryoides JM-MK9707/138

A near-perfect small plant of Dionysia bryoides from Paul and Gill Ranson.

Dionysia hybrid ‘Francesca’ MK9244/3

Another small plant, but in this case the largest I have ever seen of this very slow, tricky f2 hybrid ex D. ‘Monika’ from Paul and Gill Ranson.

Dionysia khatamii 2013-107sG-GBT

It may seem strange that I photographed this plant, with its rather gappy cushion of leaves and scattered flowers, but this is a clone of D. khatamii that I have never photographed, and a rather different colour from those that I have. Exhibited by Paul and Gill Ranson of course; none of the other main Dionysia growers made it to this show.

Dionysia hybrid ‘Norlynn Tracey’

One of Norman Jobson’s hybrids I have never seen before, here shown by Paul and Gill Ranson. It is believed to be D. ‘Ewesley Iota’ x. tapetodes.

Dionysia hybrid PMR-MK1155c/10

This is a new f2 hybrid ex D. esfandiarii which Paul and Gill Ranson raised but have never exhibited before.

Dionysia zagrica JZZ05-55/BB2

A fine pan of D. zagrica from Paul and Gill Ranson.

Dionysia hybrid PMR12R2704/1

This D. zschummelii x. khatamii hybrid from Paul and Gill Ranson is another I haven’t photographed before.

Primula  ‘Janet Aldrich’

Moving on to Primula. This is one of my step-father David Philbey’s seedlings, named after an American student who worked at Wisley for 2-3 years about 20 years ago. Its seedling number is DPP 219-95, which tells us that it was his 219th seedling to flower, in 1995.

Primula  ‘Lost Label’

We all have one of these but Martin Rogerson’s plant seemed a particularly fine one. It looks vaguely familiar but I can’t put a name to it.

Primula  ‘Ron Beeston’

A new Primula hybrid which has been distributed recently, here exhibited by Martin Rogerson.

Primula x. pubescens

There were no notes giving sowing date etc. and it is an attractive clone, so I suspect this is probably another plant which has lost its label – again from Martin Rogerson.

Pulsatilla grandis

Finally, Paul and Gill Ranson exhibited two seed-raised plants of the lovely pale-blue Pulsatilla grandis.

I would like to thank all the local group members for making this show such a friendly and enjoyable one. In particular, show secretaries Kana and Jon Webster, who quietly made sure that everyone was happy and that the photographers had lunch and a constant supply of tea. It was a particular pleasure to meet my dear friends the old show secretaries Bob and Di Dark, who have now moved to the frozen north but were down in Devon visiting their old haunts and friends. Here is a photo which Di took of me at work, with Bob just squeezing into the frame on the left.

With the extra half hour (the show closed at 4pm), I had photographed pretty much all the plants I wanted to, apart from the lovely Primula ‘Rachel Kinnon’ from Martin Rogerson which I have not seen for several years (people kept on interrupting me when I was about to pick it up and I didn’t get back to it). So, lots of pictures and lots of plants carried but despite that I felt relatively good – I hadn’t carried anything like the gross tonnage of the Loughborough show.

It may seem peculiar to have gone all that way and not found time to visit the lovely garden but that was how it worked out for me. My wife Helen and most of the other exhibitors did go out into the garden and came back with glowing reports, so the location clearly added to their enjoyment of the day.

I had planned, once everything was packed up, to spend an hour walking round the garden to relax after the exertion of the day. In the event, I didn’t feel the need to walk the exhaustion out of my legs and was more concerned about the long day and the length of the drive back, so we set off immediately and got back about 8pm. I thoroughly enjoyed the day and the show – I hope these pictures capture the event for everyone.

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