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South Wales Flower Show 2020

May 20, 2020

The first show of the season never fails to disappoint. The South Wales Flower Show 2020 was filled with the best and brightest plants that our exhibitors had to offer.

South Wales Flower Show Weather Complaints!

Almost every year that I can remember, exhibitors have complained about the weather.  This year they were fully entitled to do so. A week before the show, Tropical Storm Ciera had unleashed its fury in the form of rain and winds strong enough to blow over lorries on the M4 bridge.

We had hoped that this would be the end of it, but unfortunately Mother Nature had other ideas.

Tropical Storm Dennis was due to arrive on the morning of the show, bringing with further very heavy rain and gales. I managed to arrive at Caerleon while it was still brewing and unloaded my exhibits when it was relatively dry. Some other exhibitors were less fortunate

On entering the hall, you would have wondered what everyone was worrying about, given the spectacle of row after row of vibrantly-coloured plants. As is always the case at this first show of the year, dwarf bulbs predominated, though a strong challenge was collectively mounted by a large selection of dionysias.

Six Pan Category

It reflects the high standard of the show that the small six-plan class had no less than four very accomplished entries, challenging the judges to work out the pecking order. After some debate, the AGS Medal was awarded to hard-working show secretaries Bob & Rannveig Wallis of Carmarthen.

Crocus cvijicii formed the centrepiece, flanked by an elegant, dwarf, unnamed seedling of Galanthus plicatus ‘Trym’ (or rather a group of these; presumably ‘chipped’), with two Rhinopetalum fritillarias at the back (Fritillaria gibbosa and F. stenanthera), the nowadays seldom seen Iris ‘Sindpur’ (aucheri x galatica) and that early to flower, miniature grape hyacinth from the easternmost Mediterranean through to Iran, Muscari inconstrictum.

Flowering as early as January, and sometimes a desert-dweller from low altitudes, this has been referred to the genus Pseudomuscari, controversially.

The same exhibitors went on to win the Isca Prize for the Open Section Aggregate, the Farrer Medal (with Corydalis nariniana, another surprise, given the long, cold winters that normally lead to the best displays of flowers later on) and the AGS Seed Distribution Award, for best plant in the seed-raised classes, with Narcissus alpestris x cyclamineus.

Several of Rannveig’s seedlings bearing this parentage were on show, this one with pale citron, narrow trumpets and contrasting, whitish, gently flicked-back perianth segments.

Tulips and Cyclamen

Walking round the show benches and inspecting the plants, I was particularly impressed by two exhibits staged by Vic Aspland.  Tulipa orithioides was in full bloom and not too drawn, despite the dull conditions of the previous fortnight.  This dwarf relative of T.  turkestanica and T. bifloriformis was described from Uzbekistan’s Chulbair range near Sina but also occurs in Tajikistan.

It was also very welcome to see again the improbable hybrid Cyclamen x wellensiekii (libanoticum x cyprium). The Cypriot species is essentially an autumn performer, though the occasional stray flower can be found as late as February, enabling the union. Despite its parentage, this has proven hardy in some gardens.


Returning to the dionysias, a genus we regularly see at these earlier shows, I was very impressed by the quality and numbers of those on display. This was despite a very mild, often wet winter – conditions that lead to premature, often patchy flowering… and botrytis!

The 90th Anniversary Award went to a pan of Dionysia ‘Judith Bramley’, a chance hybrid between D. afghanica and (probably) D. tapetodes named by Michael Kammerlander in 1998. (The slighty bluer ‘Mike Bramley, a sister seedling, was selected from the same batch.)

Very rarely does this fine clone attain the size and condition of the specimen shown. Grown and exhibited by Paul & Gill Ranson, it also received the Mary Bing Award. The same exhibitors, who brought along the majority of the dionysias present, also took home a Certificate of Merit for Dionysia tapetodes ‘Brimstone’, a pin-eyed, sulphur-coloured example of this long-lived species raised by John Dixon nearly 30 years ago.


It is always good to see exhibitors from one’s own AGS Local Group doing well.

The Gwent Trophy for most aggregate points in the Intermediate Section went to Brenda Nickels from Malvern. The Caerleon Cup in the Novice Section went to Anita Acton of Wolverhampton, who exhibited a very fine Galanthus lagodechianus – a reminder that you do not of necessity have to compete with rare and difficult plants.

Another excellent snowdrop – in a show that took place this year after many had finished flowering – Local Group Member Roy Skidmore’s Galanthus ‘Acton Pigott No. 3’ was admired by many exhibitors.

This dates back to around 1993 and was one of several seedlings of G. plicatus ‘John Long’ to please Margaret Owen, whose garden in Shropshire, The Patch, held a connoisseur’s collection of snowdrops. The one most associated with her, and named for her husband, G. elwesii ‘Godfrey Owen’, she discovered at Wrentnall, some 10 miles further west.

Certificates of Merit

Bob Worsley from Woodford was awarded a Certificate of Merit for Hepatica japonica ‘Utyuu’ (one of seven plants considered for the best plant in a 19 cm pot), while his well-marshalled clump of Galanthus ‘Peg Sharples’ won him the Galanthus Goblet.

A usefully late-flowering G. elwesii hybrid, it is named for the woman who raised it in her coastal Cumbrian garden from seed sent by E.B. Anderson.

The final Certificate of Merit went to Ian Robertson’s venerable Cyclamen parviflorum, a species that is considered challenging to coax to such a size.

Unusual Plant

By far the most unusual plant present was the winner of Class 54 (one pan bulbous plant, excluding Iridaceae and Amaryllidaceae).  It is likely that very few of those present had previously encountered Androcymbium burchellii, exhibited by a long-time champion of the genus George Elder (Cardiff).

The plant on show was the result of patient care over the last 10 years. These predominantly southern African members of Colchicaceae are in part rodent pollinated and some have colourful floral bracts surrounding the small flowers.

Those seen were green, but other examples can be white-striped or entirely white. Native to Namaqualand and south-east to Swellendam, it inhabits clay and loam flats, flowering there from May to August.

Species from much further east have different requirements, and A. striatum (from Ethiopia to the Drakensberg, often growing in moist grassland and flowering in November-December) has several times been exhibited by George at the Pershore Summer Show in July.

Photographic Flower Show Display

Lastly, congratulations to Jon Evans who staged a panoramic Photographic Display of AGS Show plants for the years 2018-2019. Most deservedly, he was awarded a large Gold Medal for this outstanding enterprise, displayed on no fewer than 14 slightly concertinaed panels.

Thanks once again to the show secretaries and all their helpers who overcame the many difficulties that arise at any show – though flooding does not usually number among them!

Reporter: Eric Jarrett

Photographer: Jon Evans