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North Midland 2019

April 6, 2019

A new dawn; a new day at The Arkwright Centre. A new venue for any show is always a concern – will it be okay? Well, the hall ceiling was fine, bathed in a tulle covering that created a lovely, even ambience of light (though this is not a permanent feature, I’m told). The in-house catering was ace: coffee on tap and a good sandwich lunch deal. A little limited on space for the nursery stands, so thank goodness it was a sunny day for those positioned outside. The car park was above a slope to the side of the hall and maybe not quite big enough but everyone managed to cope.

All this underpinned a wonderful display of alpine and woodland plants, with every colour flower represented, from white through yellow, numerous shades of blue and on to black. Rhododendrons, pulsatillas, daphnes, androsaces, asarums, primulas, cassiopes and pleiones forming the bulk, with some new and interesting plants interspersed for good measure. The Large Open classes were a little sparse but here a definite highlight was Chris Lilley’s six-pan entry. And there were 31 plants in the Novice Section which was very pleasing to see.

The judges awarded the Farrer Medal to Geoff Rollinson’s Androsace villosa. Some 12 years old, it has thrived in his usual compost of 60% grit with John Innes No.3, the pot housed in a sand plunge to prevent sudden drying out. A worthy winner.

An amazing Cassiope lycopodioides ‘Beatrice Lilley’ formed a perfect mat of flowers overlapping a heavy 36cm clay half pot. Ian Kidman repotted it last year and grows it outside in a frame, where it is watered every day without fail. This tender loving care had been amply repaid.

Daphne rosmarinifolia ‘Gold Strike’, shown by Alan Furness, is a Ron McBeath/Jens Nielsen introduction.  Alan has grown it for five years and finds it slow-growing, though not completely deciduous in his conditions, where a complement is retained throughout the winter. The pot stands on capillary matting and, as such, the compost is moist throughout the growing season. The species is native to western China and Myanmar, some forms up to 1m tall, others (such as this clone) much dwarfer.

In the new and rare classes, a very appealing Paraquilegia caespitosa was shown by Lawrence Peet, the seed sent back from Tajikistan by Vojtěch Holubec and sown in January 2018. Another sand plunge resident, it is kept partly shaded and evenly watered, though cautiously so during its mid-autumn to early spring dormant period. I was also fascinated by Astragalus loanus in the same class. A Utah endemic, it is kept in the alpine house as it does not take kindly to the British climate. The seed needs scarifying with sandpaper to germinate but the resultant plants can be temperamental, only two seedlings surviving with exhibitor David Charlton out of the dozen he initially raised. A very well-drained compost, no overhead watering and a deep topdressing of coarse grit are recommended.

Another plant that took the eye was Asarum maximum, exhibited by Bob Worsley. So tightly-packed were the flowers under their canopy of foliage that you had to stoop down to see them. Five years it’s been in its pot, which is kept on the floor in the greenhouse, under the bench, in the shade and well-watered in the summer.

A compact, floriferous form of Pulsatilla vernalis exhibited by Frank and Barbara Hoyle looked very much in character, even if the flowers didn’t open fully in the subdued light of the hall. From seed obtained in the Picos de Europa seven years ago, it lives outside all year in its pot, a typical mountain flower and the epitome of the alpine spring.

A challenging day for the judges, reflected by lengthy debate when the awards were decided upon. But, in summary, a very successful and enjoyable show in its new home.


Author: Jo Walker

Photographers: Don Peace and Robert Rolfe