ags logo

Cleveland 2018

March 31, 2018

See some of the plants exhibited at the AGS Cleveland Show 2018.

Several Cleveland-based exhibitors attending the Kendal Show the previous week had found their route home blocked by snow, obliging them to spend the night in Cumbria. Having the next show on their doorstep, in Stockton-on-Tees, was some sort of consolation. Even so, the weather remained unpleasant, with heavy rain throughout the day (ferrying plants from car boot to show hall without sodden petals required ingenuity) and decidedly cold for the time of year. What a change from 2017, when summer-like temperatures were evident.

Exhibitor: Frank & Barbara Hoyle

Exhibitor: Frank & Barbara Hoyle

On entering the hall, attention was immediately drawn to a splendid large six-pan entry from Frank & Barbara Hoyle, made up of two primulas, Dionysia aretioides, Saxifraga ‘Cumulus’, Pulsatilla vernalis and Tulipa schrenkii. For good measure, they staged a further large pan of Dionysia aretioides that received the Farrer Medal, along with a Certificate of Merit for their second, almost identical specimen.

Dionysia aretioides

Dionysia aretioides (Exhibitor: Frank & Barbara Hoyle)

Frank & Barbara have spent many years growing and showing vegetables, a pastime well embedded in their Lancashire locality, so the transition from giant vegetables to giant alpines has been seamlessly accomplished. Chatting with Frank, he told me that his plants sometimes look ‘scruffy’ when not in flower. This prompted me to ask him about his use of fertiliser, expecting a non-committal answer from an experienced Lancashire vegetable exhibitor. However, he readily told me all he uses is a granular product with the brand name Charge, regularly top-dressing his plants with this (the product is readily available on the internet).


Trillium nivale (Exhibitor: Alan Spenceley)

A couple of other ‘large’ exhibits gained awards. The best plant native to North America, Trillium nivale, shown by Alan Spenceley, received the David Baker Vase. Easily the largest and oldest of its kind at our shows, it is almost annually in contention for some or other trophy. The Blackthorne Trophy for best Asiatic Primula went to Tom Green with his Primula megaseifolia x juliae, a plant that relishes cool conditions.

Narcissus alpestris

Narcissus alpestris (Exhibitor: Alan Furness)

Now hardly ever offered in commerce, Narcissus alpestris was shown in a high altitude form by Alan Furness. Smaller than the similar N. moschatus, it was deemed under-powered by some judges until they were told by experienced visitors to the high Pyrenees that it was perfectly in character!

Fritillaria tubiformis

Fritillaria tubiformis (Exhibitor: Don Peace)

A change of mountain range – this time the Maritime Alps – and a further fine exhibit of bulbs, Fritillaria tubiformis, was shown by Don Peace in a small three-pan class. Typically large flowered with a silvery sheen on the exterior of the purplish petals, some of the goblets were tilted almost at right angles to the short stems, rather than pointing downwards and skirting the grit topdressing.

Saxifraga 'William Shakespeare'

Saxifraga 'William Shakespeare' (Exhibitor: Eric Rainford)

Many Saxifraga cultivars continue to be created and introduced into cultivation, with two newcomers exhibited by Eric Rainford. Both were superficially similar, though with different parentages and from different breeders. Anything with a Tysoe prefix was raised by the late Dr David Walkey and references his Warwickshire address.

Saxifraga ‘Tysoe Burgundy’ (‘Tysoe Splendour’ x ‘Kineton’) has itself proved a good parent – and for that matter a grandparent to some of David’s last seedlings from 2013/2014, a further batch of which have recently been named.

S. ‘William Shakespeare’ (lowndesii poluanglica) is of Czech origin and dates back at least 20 years. The rounded flowers are reminiscent of its Nepalese mother but this selection is not nearly as tricky to grow.

Saxifraga oppositifolia

Saxifraga oppositifolia (Exhibitor: Geoff Rollinson)

Contrasting with these new hybrids were excellent examples of Saxifraga oppositifolia, a species once routinely exhibited (the especially floriferous clone ‘Theoden’ was particularly popular, and a small plant appeared at Cleveland) but only occasionally entered in recent years. Geoff Rollinson exhibited a form called ‘Seren y Gwanwyn’, introduced by Aberconwy Nursery, in a 19cm pot, in which the petals’ venation gives a delicate striped effect. More striking still, Mala Janes’ Certificate of Merit-winning exhibit was a gift from a friend long ago, and resulted from a cutting taken in Norway long ago. The plant from which it came had not been in flower but a finer choice could hardly have been made!

Other geographical variants of this circumpolar species can also reward – one from Iceland continues to prosper over 30 years since it was first seen at an old Nottingham Show. It is absent from the Caucasus, where a fascinating collection of endemics occurs, a few of them as showy as S. oppositifolia (S. dinnikii and S. columnarisare the obvious nominees). A fellow Porophyllum species of very different appearance, S. desoulavyi is a true alpine from Ossetia and Balkharia. George Young’s plant had been raised from seed sourced at around 2,300m. And talking of true alpines, local AGS Group members had created a colourful small garden, backed by display boards showing the various continents, entitled ‘The World brought to your Garden’, their efforts recognised by the bestowal of a Gold Award.


Narcissus_cordubensis (Exhibitor: Heather Barraclough)

Disappointingly no entries were staged in the Novice Section, though there were some fine entries in the Intermediate classes. Sue Flannigan’s Dionysia ‘Annielle’ received the North Riding Trophy for the best pan of Primulaceae therein and Heather Barraclough exhibited a sizeable clump of Narcissus cordubensis to receive the R. A. Hodgson Trophy for the best plant in this section.

Finally, a couple of primulas that attracted my attention. Primula valcuvianensis is a localised Italian variant of P. hirsuta, described in 2005 from Monte Nudo in the Bergamo Alps east of Lake Como. Found on dolomitic cliffs at relatively low altitudes (c. 500-1,200m), the plant exhibited by Brian Burrow was well flowered and provided a rare opportunity to inspect this taxon at close quarters and debate its ‘otherness’. Also up for debate was the identity of Rod & Shirley Johnson’s beautifully staged exhibit labelled P. bhutanica ‘Sherriff’s form’. Some suggested it was maybe P. ‘Arduaine’ instead, a distinguishing feature being the shape of the calyx, better examined before the flowers develop and get in the way.

Author: Chris Lilley
Photographer: Don Peace