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Dublin AGS Show, 2022

April 30, 2022

On the damp, grey, last day of April, exhibitors and friends arrived at Cabinteely Community School, Dublin, for the first time since 2019. So good to be able to return to the familiar venue after cancellations due to the pandemic. The greyness of the morning ended at the door; the genuine warmth of the Irish exhibitors was evident as members greeted each other after a long absence. How cheering to see well-filled benches with plants in pristine condition, the only exception where quantity was concerned in the Novice Section. But show secretary Gavin Moore must have heaved a huge sigh of relief at the variety of plants presented to such a high standard. Superb gentians and trilliums were much in evidence, and the reappearance of two classes of dwarf conifers was noteworthy. In the Novice Section, a well grown, well-presented Leiophyllum buxifolium subsp. hugeri (often nowadays reassigned to the genus Kalmia) gained the Millennium Cup for Cilla Dodd. This three-year-old dwarf shrublet from eastern USA had been pot grown, and the exhibitor says it is attractive in bud, in full flower and in the autumn, when its leaves turn reddish.

Leiophyllum hugeri exhibited by Cilla Dodd

Leiophyllum hugeri exhibited by Cilla Dodd

The Waverley Trophy for best plant in the Intermediate Section was Triona Corcoran’s Primula henrici, grown in a gritty mix and kept under glass. One of Gordon Toner’s exquisite specimen plants of Trillium grandiflorum won him the Margaret Orsi Bowl for the best plant from North America. Seed raised and reared in a mix of garden soil and leaf-mould, with added blood, fish and bone, they are kept in pots rather than lifted. Rhododendron ‘Wren’, covered in primrose yellow flowers, attracted the Jacki Troughton-Smith Trophy for the best pan of Ericaceae, as well as a Certificate of Merit for exhibitor Pat Kennedy. The same award went to Val Keegan’s large pot of Narcissus bulbocodium, the bulbs planted in two layers.

Meticulous exhibitor Billy Moore entered a graceful Arisaema kiushianum, developed from just one corm four years ago. He also deployed a shimmering silver Celmisia semicordata ‘David Shackleton’, a gift from Helen Dillon 20 years ago, recipient of a Certificate of Merit. A free-draining but reasonably moist soil is suitable. Billy potted this up five or six years ago in a mix of John Innes no. 3, grit, perlite and leaf-mould. It has been potted on twice since then and spends most of the year outdoors, except for a couple of months in midwinter, when it is brought under glass to protect the foliage from weather damage.

Celmisia semicordata 'David Shackleton' exhibited by Billy Moore

Celmisia semicordata 'David Shackleton' exhibited by Billy Moore

Gentian King Paddy Smith again had several pots of outstanding quality, much admired by everyone. A brace of bright blue Gentiana verna both received a Certificate of Merit and one gained the LW Browne Memorial Trophy. Paddy emphasises that these plants benefit from a few liquid tomato feeds during the growing season, and that their foliage discolours if exposed to full sun. He grows them all from seed. His light blue Gentian verna can be traced back to a Co. Armagh exhibitor, who over 40 years ago bought it from a truck for two shillings and sixpence, at the side of the road in Co. Clare while on his honeymoon. It had been dug up from the Burren! Changed times now.

Gentiana verna

Gentiana verna exhibited by Paddy Smith

Show secretary Gavin Moore excelled, gaining a third Farrer Medal with a magnificent, fully flowered large pot of Primula henrici that also won the David Shackleton Trophy for the best pan of Primulaceae. This is kept in a plunge bed in the alpine house. A few weeks before the show he felt the plant was in decline, and intended to take cuttings and put the remainder on the compost heap. Yet suddenly it filled out and was absolutely perfect on show day.

Primula henrici exhibited by Gavin Moore

Primula henrici exhibited by Gavin Moore

Gavin also received the new George Sevastopulo Award for most first points in the Open Section. The Dublin Group commissioned a wonderful painting of Burren flowers by Susan Sex in memory of George, who died in September. The Burren and its plants were dear to him, and he shared his love and knowledge of the area with many in the Dublin and Ulster Groups on his guided tours. He was so missed as a judge, and for the demonstration he did each year prior to the prize giving, which always drew a large crowd.

During the entire afternoon live background music added to the atmosphere, encouraging the general public to enjoy the exhibits, support the plant stalls, buy ballot tickets for a lavish range of prizes, and purchase afternoon teatime treats. The catering was again carried out most successfully by Gavin’s wife Niamh, their daughters and friends: well done! The quiet harmony of everyone working well together was carried through by Diane Clement, who oversaw the judging.

This was indeed a superb show, with a general feeling of joy and everyone glad to have a little bit of normality restored after a three-year gap.

Reporter: Pat Crossley

Photographer: Rory O’Hanlon