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South West Show 2022

April 5, 2022
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The AGS South West Show 2022 at RHS Rosemoor delivered a feast of colour to tempt visitors out of the lovely spring gardens.

Sitting here watching snowflakes tumble outside the window, it is hard to believe that Saturday was a beautiful spring morning.

We drove across the North Devon hills to Rosemoor, stopping to watch a hare lollop across a meadow.  The road from South Molton across via Umberleigh to Torrington is always a roller-coaster, but perfectly navigable on a dry spring morning.  The banks on either side glowed with primroses, and in places wood anemones, underneath the blackthorn.

Plants filled the Open Section benches comfortably, though the junior sections seemed rather sparse compared to pre-CoVid shows.  In particular, the number of nurseries with plants for sale has declined dramatically since the last show three years ago.  I guess this is a direct result of the hardships brought by CoVid, which forced many small growers to move to mail order to survive.

Views of the Show

All too soon, judging started, and I was able to take a few views of the show in a relatively empty hall.

Multi-pan Entries

Whilst doing this I tried to capture some of the multi-pan entries, so here are:

  • Bulbous plants – three large pans from Bob and Rannveig Wallis
  • Dionysia – three large pans from Paul and Gill Ranson
  • Narcissus – three large pans from Bob and Rannveig Wallis
  • Orchidaceae – three large pans from Ian Robertson
  • Primula – three large pans from Martin Rogerson
  • Saxifraga – three large pans from Duncan Bennett

Ipheion dialystemon

I also grabbed a photograph of this Ipheion from Bob and Rannveig Wallis, which I failed to capture at the Loughborough Show.  Again the flowers failed to open fully all day.  This was a fine plant, but not a patch on the pans Cecilia Coller used to exhibit – see my photos from for the London Show in 2009, and the Loughborough Show in 2015.

Sales Stands

Barred temporarily from the show area, exhibitors and visitors explored the sales area, in particular the AGS Members Sales table, and then the garden and tea-room.  On one of the tables in the sales area, someone had composed a pleasing bowl of hellebore flowers.

Trophy Deliberations

Back in the show hall, the judges had reached the point of deliberation over the trophy winners, in particular the line of contenders for the Farrer Medal.  One of the features of this show is that many of the trophies are attractive paintings, featuring the work of Cornish artist Marjorie Blamey among others.

Six Large pans of Rock Plants

As the previous week at Theydon Bois, the trophy for six large pans of rock plants (in this case the RHS Sewell medal) went to Ian Robertson.  His selection included three Cyclamen, two Pleione and the Cypripedium formosanum which won the Farrer medal last week at Theydon Bois.

Display of Alpines

The Alpine department at RHS Rosemoor received a Gold medal for a fine display of alpines.

Pulsatilla pratensis

This display featured a fine, deep purple specimen of Pulsatilla pratensis which received a Certificate of Merit.

Plants from RHS Rosemoor display

A number of other plants from the RHS Rosemoor display caught my attention.  So here are:

  • Cyclamen repandum
  • Scilla hughii – not a plant we often see on the show bench
  • Anemone pavonina – people asked why I was photographing a pot that was ‘just’ an Anemone pavonina, but what a beautiful colour.

Gladiolus caeruleus

David Carver exhibited this fine pan of South African gladiolus in the Intermediate section.  This helped him win the Dartmoor Trophy for the Intermediate section aggregate.

Tulipa ‘Little Beauty’

This tulip was another plant from the Intermediate section, again from David Carver.

Cyclamen x schwarzii

One final plant from David Carver’s entries in the Intermediate section – a hybrid between Cyclamen libanoticum and Cyclamen pseudibericum

Cyclamen persicum

Despite David’s efforts, the Cornwall Trophy for the best plant in the Intermediate Section went to Jim Loring for this lovely pan of Cyclamen persicum.

Dionysia hybrid ‘Selene’

Paul and Gill Ranson exhibited a host of Dionysia, mostly in small pan classes.  These were highly successful, and helped them win both

  • the Peter Edwards Memorial Trophy for the most first prize points in Primulaceae Classes, and
  • the Exeter Trophy for the Open section Aggregate, with 17 firsts totalling 27 points (Bob and Rannveig won 13 for 23 points).

This large pan of Dionysia ‘Selene’ received a Certificate of Merit from the judges.  Selene was, of course, the goddess of the moon in Greek mythology, and the choice of name reflects the beautiful pale primrose-yellow shade of the plant.

Dionysia sarvestanica subsp. spathulata T4Z1044

This species is relatively new in cultivation; I first photographed it in 2012.  It seems relatively amenable in cultivation – this was a large pan from Paul and Gill Ranson.

Dionysia hybrid ‘Hiero’

Paul and Gill included this hybrid in their large three pan exhibit.  Eric Jarrett raised and named this hybrid between D. caespitosa and D. gaubae under the number ECJ11/1.  I’m not sure of the significance of the name – hiero normally appears in English as a prefix meaning sacred or holy, but there was a tyrant in Syracuse named Hiero between about 270 to 216/215 BC.

Dionysia hybrid ‘Norlynn Sunrise’

Paul and Gill also exhibited this charming hybrid raised by Norman Jobson.  They had two plants, one large and one small, but I have never seen it before.  Its parentage includes D. bryoides and D. iranica.  I loved the two-tone effect produced as the newly open flowers were slightly darker yellow than the older ones.

Dionysia iranica

Paul and Gill exhibited two different clones of D. iranica.

  • The first two pictures are of CIA203(TBG8) introduced in 2016
  • The third picture is JLMS 02-65, which was introduced in 2002, with denser flowers and a more angular shape to the petals.

Dionysia khuzistanica DZ I 00-48-ENF1

By contrast, D. khuzistanica has neat notches in the end of the petals.  This time Paul and Gill exhibited a cutting of a seedling raised by Nigel Fuller (ENF).

Dionysia microphylla GW/H1302

Another plant from Paul and Gill.  This is the old familiar clone of D. microphylla collected in 1971 by Grey-Wilson and Hewer – I think the only one in cultivation.  Since it comes from north-west Afghanistan, it seems unlikely that others will be introduced.

Dionysia bryoides DJP/B015

A lovely little plant of D. bryoides from Paul and Gill.  This clone hails from Derek Pickard. This is one of the species which we see quite often as a small plant, but which is difficult to grow much bigger than this.  I wonder how many of the different clones I have recorded over the years are still in cultivation.

Dionysia hybrid ‘Maria’ MK9407/1

The last Dionysia from Paul and Gill is a hybrid of D. bryoides raised by Michael Kammerlander, and named for his wife.  You can see why he did so – it is a lovely plant.  However, Paul says it has inherited its parent’s intransigence regarding cultivation, and he has never grown it to this size before.  This might explain why I have never before photographed a hybrid dating from 1994.

Primula marginata x (?) hirsuta

There were very few pans of Primula on the bench, and most of them came from Martin Rogerson.  I photographed just this one – a pleasing P. marginata hybrid with good colour and a nice white eye.

Saxifraga ‘Allendale Elf’

Local grower Duncan Bennett exhibited most of the saxifrages on display, including this nicely grown cushion of ‘Allendale Elf’.

Saxifraga apiculata alba

Late in the day, I decided to photograph another of Duncan Bennett’s saxifrages.  It proved to be a mistake – this was probably the heaviest pot I carried all day.

Draba ‘Buttermilk’

This Draba hybrid from Martin Rogerson is well known to exhibitors, though not a plant I have photographed before under this name – I suspect it may come from a grower in the North.  It is quite similar to a plant which people used to exhibit as D. longisiliqua x ossetica, but I don’t know whether that cross has been named, or whether this is something entirely different.

Corydalis solida ‘White Knight’

The Corydalis are nearly finished for this year, but Bob and Rannveig Wallis exhibited a nice white form of C. solida.

Daphne wolongensis ‘China Pink’

David Carver’s Daphne attracted a lot of attention among the other exhibitors.

Daphne modesta

David’s Daphne lost out in its class to this fine plant from Dot Sample, who won the East Devon Trophy for the best plant in a 19cm pot.  Some clones of D. modesta seem to stay compact – others regularly make long shoots and need to be clipped.

Rhododendron leucaspis

I loved this little Rhododendron from local exhibitor Dick Fulcher.

Tropaeolum azureum

Dick also exhibited this tidy plant of T. azureum from Chile.

Millettia japonica ‘Hime Fuji’

This little shrub from Roger Clark was rather intriguing.  It didn’t find any favour with the judges, but I quite liked it.  It is closely related to Wisteria, but much more dwarf, and often used as a subject for bonsai.

Miniature Garden

As the spring progresses the miniature gardens come into their own.  Mavis and Sam Lloyd produced thia one.

Cut Flowers

David Carver won the Open section class for six cut flowers.

Flower Arrangements

In the neighbouring class for flower arrangements, Mavis and Sam Lloyd’s arrangement (the second image) pipped David Carver.

Paeonia cambessedesii

My own exhibits were rather less noteworthy.  I received a note asking me to bring whatever I could as entries were low (‘empty your greenhouse’) so I took a large Daphne gemmata which was barely beginning to open and various other plants, with no thought of success.  However, I was pleased to be able to stage a Paeonia cambessedesii I had grown from seed to flower (2nd).

Cyrtanthus falcatus

This was my other entry – a South African amaryllid no doubt viewed with suspicion by the judges.  I have several bulbs now, from different sources, including some from seed.  It grows happily in a large cold greenhouse for Robin White at Blackthorn.  Like many other AGS bulb growers, I keep my greenhouse just frost-free, and it seems fine, but I only get flowers occasionally.  It prefers at least a part-shaded location.

Muscari armeniacum ‘Gul’

Dot Sample exhibited a fine pan of this pink selection of Muscari armeniacum, which seems to come true from seed.

Lachenalia vanzyliae

Dot also brought this beautiful Lachenalia – it was a challenge to get the colour correct.

Three pans of Irises

Now back to that entry by Bob and Rannveig Wallis in the large pan class for three bulbous plants.  I did in the end carry all three to the window where I was working:

  • Iris bucharica
  • Iris graeberiana x magnifica
  • Purple form of Iris suaveolens

Iris suaveolens Helveolus Group

In the neighbouring class for one large pan of bulbous plants, Bob and Rannveig entered a huge pan of Iris suaveolens Helveolus Group.  This was another contender for heaviest pot of the day, and did win a Certificate of Merit for its exhibitors.

White form of Iris attica

Finally, here is a white form of Iris attica from the same exhibitors.

Veitch Trophy

At this show there is a trophy for the small-pan class for three pans of bulbous plants.  Bob and Rannveig Wallis win this frequently, and this year was no exception.  I started by photographing the three pans on the show bench, and then took each back to my ‘studio’ for a closer look.

  • Tulipa armena JCA 7673
  • Iris nusairiensis
  • Narcissus alcarensis

Narcissus bulbocodium

Bob and Rannveig also exhibited some excellent pans of daffodils.  We have seen their entry for three large pans of Narcissus already.  Here are two different clones of Narcissus bulbocodium.

Narcissus Angel’s Whisper

This Narcissus formed another part of Bob and Rannveig’s three pan exhibit.

Narcissus ‘Sennocke’

My favourite daffodils were in smaller pots.  This is a tricky cultivar which we seldom see on the show bench – no problem for Bob and Rannveig.

Narcissus alpestris hybrid

This Narcissus alpestris hybrid was my favourite plant in the whole show.  The flowers were much smaller than typical N. alpestris, and open more widely.  I wonder what it had crossed with – Narcissus triandrus perhaps ?

Fritillaria cirrhosa

Fritillaria is another genus which was not much in evidence this year, though there were some spectacular exhibits the last time we were here.  Colin Everett says his collection was badly set back by watering errors last spring, but I didn’t have time to enquire further to understand what had gone wrong.

Anyway, there were a few plants to photograph.  Ian Robertson exhibited this pan of F. cirrhosa, a plant which I have strangely never photographed previously.

Fritillaria macedonica

In the new or rare classes, Ian Robertson exhibited this tiny plant under the name F. macedonica.

Fritillaria reuteri

Bob and Rannveig Wallis exhibited my last frit, and it won the Farrer medal for the best plant in the show.

Orchis pauciflora

Bob and Rannveig did not confine their entries entirely to bulbs.  This little European orchid has done well for them before.

Pleione formosana ‘Oriental Splendour’

That little Orchis was not the only orchid in the show.  Ian Robertson brought several fine pots of Pleione, two of which graced his winning large six-pan exhibit.

Pleione rakata ‘Shot Silk’

These small pans seemed to be trying to make a good picture.

Pleione x confusa

Not so the larger pans.  Here the flowers peered every which way, in a confusing muddle, making it difficult to find an attractive angle.

Pleione grandiflora

This species from Ian’s six-pan exhibit was a particular challenge.  Ian complains that the petals reflex and sag soon after the flowers open, making the plant look tired long before pans that have been in flower for longer.

Pleione formosana ‘Avalanche’

This white form of Pleione formosana was the star of Ian’s six-pan, and won the Graham Lovell Salver for the best pan of Orchidaceae.

Well that’s about it. Time to pack up the photography gear, gather up my plants, and then take a quick walk around the garden before setting off.  I’ll cover that in my next diary entry.

Thanks as usual to everyone who contributed to the successful running of the show.  To all those who helped on the reception desk or the plant sales tables, to all those who worked to set up or break down the tables, to those who stewarded or judged, and to everyone who brought plants to brighten the benches.  And above all, thanks to the RHS Rosemoor team, and to Show secretaries Jon and Kana Webster who make this such a friendly and welcoming event.

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