The school where this show is held was totally rebuilt a couple of years ago. It now offers a hall flooded with natural light and as such ideal for displaying plants. On the warmest April day recorded, many exhibitors wore summer clothing; a few hardy individuals even opted for shorts.
Many of the shows I’ve attended this year have had fewer entries than usual in the Open Section large pan classes. This event followed that pattern.
For the second week in succession, the same plant was adjudged best in show. Ian Kidman received a second Farrer Medal for his Cassiope lycopodioides ‘Beatrice Lilley’, which was still in superb condition. It also won The David Baker Vase for best plant native to North America.
North American plants are to the fore in this show report. Phlox griseola, shown by Frank & Barbara Hoyle, received a Certificate of Merit. In nature, on the high plains of Utah and Arizona, it forms slow-growing mounds of dense foliage that are firm to the touch. The flower buds are delicately tinged pink, turning white on opening. Thought not to be available in UK commerce, this specimen had been raised from Alplains (Colorado) seed and had all the attributes of an excellent show plant. Frank & Barbara also received The Blackthorn Trophy for the best Asiatic Primula with Primula henrici.
A further Certificate of Merit was awarded to Don Peace, the show photographer, for his Androsace vandellii.
Brian Burrow exhibited Lewisia oppositifolia var. richeyi, grown from wild-sourced seed some thirty years ago. This species, from the Siskiyou Mountains of northern California and southern Oregon, is typically ranked among the less showy lewisias. The root stock is located well below ground level, with a length of the leaf-bearing stems also underground and a straggly appearance can result. However, var. richeyi has markedly shorter stems and forms distinct rosettes, making the flowers appear larger and more appealing. Brian grows most of his plants in a compost mix of 60% grit, 20% John Innes No. 2 & 20% peat-based potting compost.
The best plant in the Intermediate Section, awarded The R. A. Hodgson Trophy, was a further North American plant, Tiarella ‘Spring Symphony’. Exhibited by Raymond Hurd in the class for one pan Saxifragaceae, this is one of numerous cultivars that have become available over the past decade, some selected for their patterned foliage but the majority chosen for their floriferousness and flower colour.
Viola douglasii, exhibited by Ian Kidman, found in California and Oregon, is a violet with bright rich yellow flowers, the centres patterned with dark brown veining in this case. The deeply dissected leaves disappear in the summer months, when the plant retires below ground and is best treated as a bulb.
My final North American plant is a bulb, Erythronium ‘Margaret Mathew’, reputed to represent the cross E. oregonum x. E. tuolumnense. Dave Riley’s clump in a small pan had mustered some 20 flowers that had not curled up in the heat – the usual response to high temperatures where members of this genus are concerned.
Your reporter entered six pans to win an AGS Medal in the Large Open Section, one of them the slow-growing Rhododendron megeratum ‘Bodnant’. Performing very well when container-grown, this notable, small-leaved and yellow-flowered form was raised at Bodnant Garden, North Wales. Also in the display was Primula ‘Kusum Krishna’, other examples of which appeared at this show. Christine Boulby had a particularly good specimen that received The North Riding Trophy for best pan of Primulaceae.
Michael Wild exhibited Fritillaria meleagris in the Novice Section, winning the Crosthwaite Cup for the best plant in this section and also the Aileen Harness Memorial Cup for the best bulbous plant in the Novice Section.
A fragrant South African bulb, Lachenalia purpureocaerulea, exhibited by Peter Farkash, was an unusual entry in the small one pan rock plant in flower class. Given originally to Jill Agg, co-proprietor of onetime nursery Choice Landscapes, as part of a Lachenalia collection, it is native to the SW Cape, growing on gravel flats. Propagation is straightforward from leaf cuttings, which form bulbils at the base.
An exhibit by Tom Green of Iberis taurica was admired and much discussed. His plant displayed flowers suffused with varying shades of mauve, whereas seedlings from the same stock, present elsewhere on the show bench, had pure white petals. I’ve grown several plants from Tom’s seed with similar results.
Recently re-introduced from Tibet and China, Androsace mariae was shown in a white form by Brian Burrow. Usually pink- or purple-flowered (and occasionally gentian blue), this rather tricky species only rarely produces albinos – although all the plants that have flowered so far from this particular introduction have been white.
My final plant choice, Viola kosaninii, was shown by Dave Riley. Grown from seed obtained from a Czech collector, this close relative of V. cazorlensis and V. delphinantha is found in Macedonia, NW Greece and Albania. A rock crevice dweller that prefers a part-shaded position, it is best grown in a pot filled with a gritty compost and given a deep top dressing.
Author: Chris Lilley
Photographer: Don Peace