Expecting to experience frustration with the eternal road works on the motorway, I decided to leave slightly earlier than last year. Unbelievably, the roads were all clear with not a single cone in sight. The light traffic was an additional bonus and I made good progress to the venue. Arriving earlier than envisaged, I expected to find the hall empty but was pleasantly surprised to find many of the exhibitors and members of the show team already busy staging plants and finalising the arrangements for the show.
The weather leading up to, and on the day of the show, had been cool but with little frost, which I am sure helped many of the plants entered. This was very evident in the lavish displays of Ericaceae which had been lacking at some of the previous shows. Large pans of rhododendrons and x Phylliopsis were at their best, the flowers with no trace of frost damage. It was not surprising then that the Farrer Medal went to Ian Kidman’s Cassiope lycopodioides ‘Beatrice Lilley’. Overhanging a 36cm pot, it was a breath-taking sight, so completely covered in flowers that no foliage was visible. This was certainly Ian’s day, for he also collected the Edinburgh Quaich for the same plant, and his smaller but similar C. lycopodioides ‘Rokujo’ received a Certificate of Merit. A Japan selection, this was in my view an even more attractive clone, regrettably rather challenging to keep in good condition.
In the Open Section’s large six-pan class, managing to bring along half a dozen plants in tip-top condition is no easy matter. The judges and the show secretary are always pleased if there is even one entry, nevermind the three present on this occasion, all of them very creditable. The winner was finally decided, the AGS Medal won by Ian Robinson (Shaftesbury). Tony Hollingworth (Sheffield) as runner-up had to content with a Certificate of Merit for his superbly-grown Fritillaria affinis var. tristulis, an exhibit your reporter greatly coveted! Tony also went on to win the Intermediate Section six-pan class. It was the only entry but a very worthy one. Let us hope for more next year.
Moving on, I was delighted to see Alkanna aucheriana, a plant I knew well when in Kent but had not seen for some time and thought might have lapsed from cultivation. It was a component of a first-place, three-pan entry from Martin and Anna Sheader (Southampton).
From even further afield (Isle of White), Ivan Pinnick gained a second the other side of the show bench with his Androsace villosa var. taurica. We seldom see good examples of this plant and there was considerable debate as to whether it or a northern rival, Androsace vandellii shown by Don Peace (Yarm), was the better plant. The decision went Don’s way… but only just. On the other hand, in the large pan Orchidaceae class (excluding Pleione), the judges had an easy decision when presented with a perfectly grown Orchis laxiflora by Barry Tattersall (Twickenham). Barry grows some remarkable terrestrial orchids and their appearance is always immaculate.
It is always encouraging when new exhibitors come along and enter an exhibit that turns heads. Steve Clements (Sleaford) not only collected the Donald Lowndes Memorial Bowl for most points in the Novice Section but also received a Certificate of Merit for his Ophrys ferrum-equinum. Many Ophrys prove far from easy in cultivation and we hope that he will continue producing (and showing) plants as good as this. However, the aggregate for the Novice Section went instead to Ian Sutton (Nottingham), who collected the Perry Cup as a reward for his efforts.
The winner of the Albury Trophy for maximum points in the Intermediate Section was local member Lesley Travis (Birmingham) but the best plant in this section was Ben & Paddy Parmee’s Narcissus jonquilla ‘Little Sunray’.
Daphne has always been well represented at this show. To encourage such entries, a well-known ex-nurseryman provided a trophy for three pans of the genus. But while the Blackthorn Trophy was won by Martin and Anna Sheader, it was left to the provider of the trophy to show us all how it should be done. Robin White picked up the Midland Challenge Cup for the best plant in a 19cm pot with Daphne modesta, a fairly recent introduction that seems to be settling in very well as there were also plants grown from home-produced seed on display. However, it was his plant of Daphne juliae forma alba, surely never previously exhibited, that caused particular excitement. Closely related to the well-known D. cneorum, this species is native to the Voronezh District south of Moscow. It differs from D. cneorum in its more upright habit and a more rounded inflorescence. White forms are very rare and ones as good as this rarer still. Robin was given a Certificate of Merit for the plant shown.
We expect to see a good representation of the genus Lewisia as the date is about right for the flowering of many hybrids and species. Probably due to the coldness of the spring, this year they did not appear in the usual numbers. It was left to a previous Director of Shows to save the day. Jim McGregor’s plant of Lewisia brachycalyx would have taken some beating even if we had had the expected numbers. The judges decided unanimously to award it the Roy Elliott Memorial Salver.
Sometimes we forget just how good our normal garden plants can be, that is until someone produces them at a show. Bob Worsley’s plant of the NE Asian Jeffersonia dubia was simply wonderful. The pale lilac flowers, overtopping the purplish, newly-emerged leaves would enhance any garden. This was duly awarded a Certificate of Merit.
It was left to one of the most reliable exhibitors to take home the rest of the awards, viz. the AGS Medal for a small six-pan, not more than two of any one genus, the Midland Primula Bowl for Primula petelotii and the Leschallas Cup for the Open Section aggregate. I refer, of course, to Don Peace.
One last plant that I would have loved to take home was Peter Farkasch’s Ranunculus ‘Gowrie’. Believed to represent the hybrid Ranunculus x arendsii (which can grow to 30cm), the small clump seen was only half that height. To me it was a picture of simplicity and elegance, the three generously-sized, creamy-white flowers contrasting with the darkish green foliage. Edrom Nurseries have listed this plant recently and one hopes it will soon be more generally available.
In conclusion I would like to thank show secretary John Harrison and ALL his team of helpers for staging such an impressive, good-natured show.
Author: Eric Jarrett
Photographers: Don Peace and Jon Evans