When I picked up my stepfather David Philbey from Petersfield, it was a beautiful morning but as we travelled west and south it grew steadily murkier.
I had an exhibit with me which wanted sunshine so that was a shame. The school hall in Wimborne was distinctly gloomy when we arrived, when it is normally light and airy.
However, the benches in the hall were relatively crowded. There were more plants from more exhibitors than ever before, particularly in the Intermediate Section, where several local exhibitors competed fiercely with travelling exhibitors.
The combination of gloom and packed benches meant that the only way I could muster sufficient light for the photography was to open one of the fire escapes and set up my studio in that. The downside of this is that I know full well that working in that fire escape means a constant stiff breeze blowing across the subject and a constant stream of exhibitors seeking a short cut to and fro between the hall and the carpark.
The first plant I photographed, because it was not in the show proper, but merely a non-competitive exhibit, was the Iris gatesii grown by Robin White, which had spent a week with me, and which I was returning after the show (see my last blog on Blackthorn in May). What a beautiful flower!
Next I moved on to the flower arrangements. I have finally realised that these are exhibits I can photograph immediately after the class has been judged, as there is no chance of the judges needing to examine them further.
Paddy Parmee had gambled on the dramatic and unusual, with an exhibit composed almost entirely of Welsh poppies (now Papaver cambricum), supported by a few Ranunculus buttons and some Pulsatilla seedheads. This was much admired by other exhibitors, but the poppies did not last in good condition very long in the heat of the hall.
Dot Sample and Lee and Julie Martin (the winners) produced more traditional but exquisite posies.
Ben and Paddy Parmee gained some measure of recompense by winning the cut flower class. Although this is how they were laid out on the bench, I realise now that I should have swapped over the Tulipa and the Ranunculus for the photo. The plants in this entry were:
By this time the judges had finished their work for the day (unlike some of us, who were just starting) and the hall had filled with visitors; more, I think, than I have ever seen there.
Stephen and Ang Lobley won the John Blanchard Cup for the Novice Section Aggregate and the Downland Trophy for the best plant in the section for this specimen of Sarmienta repens.
Moving on now to the hotly contested Intermediate Section, this little Lewisia from James Watson was rather appealing.
Brenda Nickels produced several fine plants including this fern, a photographer’s favourite.
This interesting Saxifraga cultivar was also exhibited by Brenda Nickels.
Local group member Russell Beeson had several attractive entries, including Triteleia ixioides ‘Starlight’ and this Hebe diosmifolia.
Nick Fry exhibited this lovely Australian orchid I have never photographed before. Oops – this is not a Diuris, as previously captioned, but a Disa, as labelled by the exhibitor. A senior moment I’m afraid; my thanks to Steve Clements for pointing this out.
However, the Brian Radcliffe Trophy for the Intermediate Section went to Andrew Ward. His plants included this good white cultivar of Allium karataviense, exhibited as ‘Snow Queen’ but I think that was an aberration. The only white cultivar I can find any reference to on the internet is ‘Ivory Queen’.
The New Forest Trophy for the best plant in Intermediate or Novice Sections from a local group member went to Michael Dyer for this dwarf larch.
Lee and Julie Martin won the AGS Medal for a fabulous all-white grouping in the class for six small pans of rock plants.
This lovely Campanula is one beautiful selection from that six pan from Lee and Julie Martin.
Dot Sample exhibited the normal blue form of this Campanula in another class.
Here is the lovely Lamium armenum, also from Lee and Julie Martin.
I don’t remember which class it was but Mark Childerhouse entered a very fine, varied group of three Saxifraga. These were, respectively, S. cinerea, S. erioblasta and S. ‘Jaromir’ – a wonderful red flowered cultivar.
Mark Childerhouse also entered a lovely pan of Saxifraga pedemontana ‘Mt Kazbek’, which was awarded a Certificate of Merit.
The AGS Medal for six large pans of rock plants went to Martin Rogerson for this grouping of Lewisia. Looking back over the year at some of the six pan entries that have been refused a first place, it seemed a little puzzling that this one was awarded one. Martin himself was the first to admit surprise.
One last Dionysia to photograph in flower this season, from Paul and Gill Ranson. I don’t know why this is so late this year; I often photograph it at the Midland show a month earlier.
This flax exhibited by Diane Clement comes from the Balkans. It is hard to see how it differs from the other yellow species available.
This is a plant I have photographed before at this show several times. I think the judges considered it for a Certificate of Merit but decided they had seen it grown better previously (more compactly), although I have never seen it with so much flower.
Anne Vale produced a plant of this Petunia species well covered with flowers.
A fresh-looking plant of Pinguicula grandiflora from Diane Clement.
When I see the flowers open, I always photograph Townsendia species on sight. This one was exhibited by Lee and Julie Martin.
This interesting shrub from the South African Fynbos was exhibited by George Elder. I wonder how hardy it is.
This Coronilla from Dot Sample was not a species I was familiar with.
When the selection of the Farrer Medal plant started, one of the Cypripedium seemed to have a lot of support but in the end the award went to this Daphne from Martin and Anna Sheader.
This desert plant from North America has always been a favourite of mine, though I have long since stopped trying to grow it. It was good to see that Dot Sample manages still to keep it going.
This is one of the loveliest Salvia, albeit not terribly hardy. It was exhibited again by Dot Sample.
Michael Sullivan exhibited this white seedling from Leptospermum scoparium nanum ‘Kiwi’. The white / pale pink colouration is certainly unusual and distinctive but the internet would suggest that there are other similar cultivars out there.
I always admire Lee and Julie Martin’s plant of this larch.
Last year, Anne Vale won the Farrer Medal at this show with this Rhododendron. This year she had to settle for a consolation prize in the form of a Certificate of Merit.
Ben and Paddy Parmee exhibited this lovely white form of Dicentra peregrina at the East Anglia Show, two weeks previously. Here it looked much more impressive, as more flowers have opened.
This beautiful lily from northern India and China is renowned for needing cool, humid, shady conditions so it is a bit of a surprise to find it thriving for Ben and Paddy Parmee in the Southampton banana belt.
This very fine red-leaved form of Polygonatum tessellatum from the Himalayas was also exhibited by Ben and Paddy Parmee.
This very beautiful pink Ramonda was exhibited by Simon Bond. As I look at it now, I wonder if it might be R. nathaliae and not R. myconi.
My final shade-lover is this fine pan of Trillium from Vic and Janet Aspland. Surprisingly light!
There was a good scattering of Cypripedium around the hall, many of them exshibited by Diane Clement, who won the Stanton Award for the Open Section aggregate.
She entered three of them in the class for three pans of rock plants from a single continent, and won the Bill Mackenzie Trophy.
At least two of her pans were this cross which she exhibited at the East Anglia Show. The largest of these was awarded a Certificate of Merit.
A different hybrid of C. parviflorum, also from Diane Clement.
This deliberate hybrid exhibited by Bob and Rannveig Wallis was stunning.
However, the plant that I most wanted to take home with me was this tiny Cypripedium from Diane Clement.
Martin and Anna Sheader produced two interesting pans of Oxalis. The first was a new and vigorous clone of O. laciniata, obtained by crossing the cultivars ‘Seven Bells’ and ‘Purple Haze’. Sadly the close-ups I took were all spoiled by the breeze.
The second Oxalis exhibited by Martin and Anna Sheader was this fabulous, compact, deep magenta clone of Oxalis adenophylla, named ‘Annukka’. This attracted a lot of attention and was probably on everyone’s wish list – certainly mine.
The Wimborne Show always seems to be full of onions and this year was no exception. My favourite was this Californian species exhibited by Bob and Rannveig Wallis.
Peter Farkasch exhibited this fine pan of the dwarf (6-8in) form of Lilium dauricum.
Dot Sample produced a striking clump of a white clone of out native Scilla verna. When you see them in the wild, you occasionally encounter whites but they are usually squinny things, without the vigour seen here.
George Elder exhibited a wonderful pan of this South African bulb, grown from seed sown ten years ago and flowering for the first time. I have grown and flowered it myself but what I got was four inch spikes of rather miserable flowers. George’s plant reminded me why I first wanted to grow it.
There were some fine Lewisia on the bench. I could have photographed any of these plants from the class for one pan of Lewisia but instead chose two different orange Lewisia cotyledon hybrids from Martin Rogerson’s six pan entry.
I loved this white form of Lewisia leanna, exhibited by Peter Farkasch.
We always see some interesting Sedum at the summer shows. This one was exhibited by Lee and Julie Martin.
Michael Sullivan brought the dark fleshed Sedum furfuraceum in flower.
We are becoming accustomed to cacti at this time of year. This lovely creamy-white Rebutia hybrid was exhibited by Vic and Janet Aspland.
Finally, let’s go back to the exhibit I took with me which needed sunshine. This was a miniature crevice garden, planted with cacti and succulents. Perhaps the show came a week or so too early for it; certainly there are 4 or 5 more cacti in flower now, in a wide range of colours. However, I felt it looked very competitive in the class and was slightly disappointed when it was only second.
The judges felt that it needed to be more established and it looked like it was constructed yesterday. That is rather depressing, as I haven’t touched it since last summer but because of the xeric nature of the planting, the rocks don’t grow moss the way a tufa garden does. I guess in a few years there will be lichen on the rock but they have been in a plastic bag in the garden for about five years and it hasn’t happened yet. If I show this regularly at the summer shows (and I can’t make East Cheshire this year), maybe it will be more convincing.
One of the hidden gems in the miniature garden was this little Graptopetalum. It is a plant I find difficult to maintain. It has a tendency to lose its roots at the slightest hint of moisture in the winter and, of course, the rosettes which produce flowers then die. Perhaps it will be more amenable planted out in the garden than it is in a pot – certainly this plant came through last winter unscathed.
Well that’s it. My thanks to all the exhibitors for producing these beautiful plants and to Ben and Paddy Parmee in their first show and all their team for doing such an excellent job. In a way, the shadow of Bill Squire hung over it; he died so soon after retiring as show secretary and is fondly remembered; I had several conversations about him during the day. Nevertheless it was a terrific display and, as I said earlier, I think there were more visitors than I have ever seen at the show.
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 email@example.com