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East Anglia 2023

May 13, 2023

The East Anglia show was a compact show in a new venue, Morley village and sports hall, with room for plant stalls both inside and out.

The show benches somewhat reflected the unusual growing conditions of this year – some plants having been very warm in the few hours of hot weather that we have had, but most were a bit behind the season.

There was a nice selection of trilliums on the benches, with several that caught my eye, including Trillium grandiflorum ‘Snowbunting’, Trillium grandiflorum ‘Gothenburg Pink Strain’, with beautiful pink-flushed flowers and super fresh foliage in peak condition, and in the same class Trillium flexipes x sulcatum which was a much bigger plant, with slightly dusky pink flowers. In class 60 there was a very compact and delicate plant of Trillium grandiflorum ‘Roseum’, which had been grown from seed sown in 2005.  In the AGS Medal Class in the Open Section  there was the only yellow Trillium of the show, Trillium luteum (Chris Lilley), with its characteristic spotted leaves and yellow-green bracts. However, the best Trillium, in my opinion was Trillium simile, which was awarded the Sudbury Prize for the best bulb in the show and was grown expertly by Martin Rogerson.  It had a wonderful contrast between the pure white bracts and black ovaries, held enticingly above the mid-green foliage.

The Farrer medal plant was Peonia wendelboi, grown by Chris Lilley. The plant was originally grown by Jim Archibald, and was given to Chris in 2004. The seed was collected around 2000, so the plant was 22 or 23 years old. It is not very floriferous, but the quality of each flower is amazing. It comes from the Taylish Range in northern Iran. It was described in the Alpine Gardener in 2014, by Henrik Zetterlund and Janis Ruksans.

Paeonia wendelboi - Chris Lilley

Here are my selected highlights of interesting plants on the benches:

Asarum maximum with dark black flowers peeking out from under glossy green foliage. A plant that is excellent for shows, grown by Ian Instone and given a Certificate of Merit.

Asarum maximum exhibited by Ian Instone

Asarum maximum exhibited by Ian Instone

Primula sieboldii was also represented, as the season has been a little late and we saw a few strong entries. They are always nice to see, the true snowflake primula.

Primula sieboldii exhibited by Ian Instone

Primula sieboldii exhibited by Ian Instone

There was a strong show of Lewisias, especially the cotyledon types and their hybrids. Mike Sullivan filled the benches with his super-size pots of huge hybrids, absolutely glorious.

Don Peace had some excellent ferns in the two fern classes: Woodsia obtusa, a great little compact fern, just unfurling, and Woodsia polystichoides (Russian Form), which won the Barbara Tingey Trophy for the best fern in the show. It was also later taken to Joint Rock committee and given a PC (preliminary commendation), subject to its named form, Russian Form, being confirmed.

Geranium glaberrimum, was grown by John Dixon.  The plant is from Turkey, and is quite unusual. It is slightly tender, it can lose all its leaves in winter and go dormant. However, if grown in alpine house conditions it can stay evergreen. It has nice bright fuchsia-pink flowers but the leaves have a very peculiar scent, not unlike that of Melianthus major. .

Geranium glaberrimum John Dixon

There was just one Calochortus on the show bench which was the bright yellow Calochortus amabilis of medium height, usually found in meadows with longish grass, by which they are almost disguised. The flowers are very hairy on the inside when they open. The plant was very well grown by Neil Hubbard.

One particularly choice plant at the show was Viola cotyledon grown by Alex O’Sullivan. He got the seed originally from Vojtech Holubec in 2019. When it germinated, the seed was pricked out directly into the long tom pot it was exhibited in at the show. It is grown in a mixture of grit and volcanic rock. The plant had three rosettes in 2021 and received a Certificate of Merit at Hyde Hall. However the three rosettes were eaten by slugs, but the plant recovered well enough this spring to gain another Certificate of Merit. Alex keeps the plant in the brightest place in the greenhouse and does not overwater it.

Viola cotyledon - Alex O'Sullivan

Another interesting plant on the showbench was Iris cristata which is equally at home on the show bench as it is growing in the garden. It is a small crested iris from North America, not to be confused with bearded irises. This plant was grown by Ian Instone, and he tells me that they got the plant originally about 10 years ago at Southport Flower Show. The plant has been grown in this pot all the time, and can be propagated from the rhizomes which grow over the pot.

Iris cristata exhibited by Ian Instone

Iris cristata exhibited by Ian Instone

My final selection was a stunning shrub of Rhododendron benhallii (synonym Menziesii ciliicalyx).  This was a very well-grown specimen, from Japan, exhibited by Diane Clement, and awarded a Certificate of Merit. The whole plant was covered in very fine hairs, apart from the exquisitely pink hanging bells, giving it a slight interesting halo.

Rhododendron benhallii exhibited by Diane Clement

Rhododendron benhallii exhibited by Diane Clement

The show had a few interesting and unusual gems for visitors to see.  Because of the unusual weather conditions, some plants that would not usually be at the same show, were suddenly sharing show bench space.

Kit Strange