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East Cheshire AGS Show, 2022

June 4, 2022
AGS East Cheshire Show and Plant Fair 2022

AGS East Cheshire Show and Plant Fair 2022

A fortnight after the silver saxifrage extravaganza that he nobly transported to the Harlow Carr Show, Michael Sullivan once more undertook the long drive north, this time the day before the event. His purpose was twofold. Primarily he wished to enter two exceptional, specimen plants of Saxifraga ‘Tumbling Waters’, each spreading well over a metre, spilling multiple sprays in every direction, the innumerable flowers in peak condition. The larger of two, with a dozen main stems and other subsidiary ones in support, was unanimously voted the Farrer Medal winner. But his second reason was philanthropic, for he had ordained that this plant be presented to the winner of the Intermediate Section aggregate, and the other to the recipient of the Greenwood Shield (most points in Novice Section). Both were grown in plastic pots, which they filled: even so, they were ripe for a further move into 36cm containers. I trust that the abundant floral displays were soon removed in order to build up the strength of the plants – and perhaps out of necessity, to enable them to fit into their new owners’ vehicles.

Saxifraga 'Tumbling Waters' exhibited by Michael Sullivan at the East Cheshire Show

Saxifraga 'Tumbling Waters' exhibited by Michael Sullivan at the East Cheshire Show

Such barnstorming exhibits are the hallmark of our shows, but added spice comes from less obvious exhibits that repay a thorough inspection. John Richards had two Greek plants of note. The first, Allium heldreichii, as seen 20cm tall (it can reach over twice this height) had shuttlecock umbels of close-packed, lilac pink flowers, the narrow, upright leaves few in number and not detracting from the performance. It has a scattered distribution that includes Mt Olympus, at up to 2,000m, flowering from June to August. Inula verbascifolia, shown for its elegant white foliage rather than the bright yellow hawkweed flowers, is more extensively distributed, from Croatia to the easternmost Mediterranean. Some authors prefer the designation Pentanema verbascifolium. A plant of cliffs and rocky places, it had formed a tidy clump and would be a welcome addition to a dry garden or sand bed.

When judges approve of a plant, rather gnomically they often refer to it as ‘singing’. Well, two duets of Primula flaccida from the same exhibitor were in full flower, heavily perfumed as is the general way of Section Soldanelloides. If sown before Christmas and coaxed into germinating the following spring, then pricked out early on, liquid fed and repotted at least once, seedlings will flower in just over a year. In cooler gardens they will perennate; in most others summer heat makes them behave as biennials.

Chris Lilley had two plants of Taiwanese Spiraea morrisonicola, the larger of them in an Open Section three-pan, teamed with a floriferous Saxifraga ‘Southside Seedling’ and Arisaema triphyllum, whose green cowls were present in quantity, just below the canopy of fresh leaves. A smaller plant of the Spiraea, entered in the dwarf shrub class, had surprisingly been sown as recently as 20/01/20 but had already grown to c. 15cm in diameter. Found at up to nearly 4,000m, it will reach an ultimate height of 50cm, the small corymbs of pale pink flowers reddish in bud. Several dwarf species from eastern Asia have been introduced comparatively recently – but give me S. japonica ‘Nana’ every time. On the other hand, in the same class Chris Bowyer’s white-flowered variant of Trochocarpa thymifolia was another newcomer, with the advantage of a contrast between the tiny leaves and the grape-like, pendent spikes. This species has been in British gardens since around 1940, usually in its red-flowered guise, and pot-grown specimens in excess of 30cm tall and through are rare. As with many fellow Tasmanians, a gritty but humus-rich, lime-free compost, never allowed to dry out, is indicated.

rochocarpa thymifolia alba - Chris Bowyer

You can expect the plants just mentioned to flower for weeks on end. Others send up short-lived salvoes that do not necessarily coincide with a show date. Peter Farkasch had a large Weldenia candida (in a larger still terracotta long tom pot) with around a dozen flowers: it had a few days before (and was set to deliver) more generous displays. He had better fortune with a dwarf Roscoea humeana, the shoots newly-emerged with pale lavender flowers carried just above the topdressing. His larger, more populous panful of blackish violet R. ‘Harvington Evening Star’ was almost as dwarf but clearly more vigorous, to the point that division would be beneficial, thinning out the subsidiary crowns and deploying them in follow-on pots. This procedure is usually carried out in late winter or earliest spring, but can also be conducted soon after flowering, watering well and leaving the pots in cool shade for at least a week to allow re-establishment.

Roscoeas have increased greatly in popularity: the silly expression ‘poor men’s’ orchids’ is little used nowadays. But it’s true that their crystalline, almost waxy flowers have an orchid-like quality. Steve Clements once again staged Pogonia ophioglossoides, the flower count having more than doubled since its previous 2019 outing. Grown from a single tuber that was obtained some eight years ago, it needs constant moisture but is far hardier than the exotic appearance of its Cattleya-like flowers might suggest, at least in its northerly localities (those from Florida might be less tolerant of a bitter winter).

Pogonia ophioglossoides exhibited by Steve Clements at the AGS East Cheshire Show

Pogonia ophioglossoides exhibited by Steve Clements at the AGS East Cheshire Show

It was accorded the Cheshire salver (best plant in a 19cm pot) with a bare minimum of debate: the same was true of the Charles Graham Trophy winner, David Carver’s Verbascum x ‘Letitia’. This was a particularly densely formed – and densely flowered – mound of this popular hybrid, this state of affairs probably induced by its slightly root bound state. Other noteworthy plants from the same exhibitor included a glistening silver Convolvulus boissieri, with numerous flower buds evident, Raoulia x petrimia ‘Margaret Pringle’ (whose foliage is much greyer and hoary) and a well-established, hard as nails Cryptomeria japonica ‘Tenzan-sugi’, an enduringly popular choice among miniature conifer for exhibition purposes.

Lew Clark brought a new approach to the miniature garden class in the Novice Section, which I enjoyed more than any other such concoction, in any section, that I’ve witnessed in a long time. Two half splits of an urn had been cradled to form a shallow bowl, with Sedum spathulifolium ‘Cape Blanco’ at the back, set off by a gun metal grey dwarf Carex, then an intermix of lilac and white tuffets of Erinus alpinus in the middle and to the left, the whole fronted a mat of Saxifraga paniculata that poured over the shard edges and was punctuated at intervals by the elegant vertical accents provided by a dwarf version of Nassella (Stipa) tenuissima. Full marks!

Reporter: Robert Rolfe

Photographer: Don Peace, Razvan Chisu