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Ulster 2018

April 7, 2018

See some of the plants exhibited at the AGS Ulster Show 2018.

Shortia uniflora (Exhibitor: Gordon Finch)

Shortia uniflora (Exhibitor: Gordon Finch)

The fine display of plants on the benches on the day banished our fears that this year’s Ulster show would be affected adversely by the long, cold winter and almost non-existent spring. While entries were down only marginally, there was a marked difference in the genera shown when compared with most Ulster shows of the past. For example, there were no gentians, and hardly any members of the Ericaceae, which usually had a strong presence in previous years.

Plants like hepaticas, early primulas and dionysias, however, were still bench-worthy and compensated for the absence of some of the regulars. The result was that Pat Crossley was able to chalk up another success in her long career as Show Secretary. As always, she and her team ensured that everything ran smoothly, and the judges were kept in line firmly, but sensitively, by the ever-cheerful Director of Shows, Martin Rogerson.

The show hall was enhanced by an informative and attractive special exhibit on the Burren prepared by George Sevastopulo. It occupied the space which once was the home of the late and much-lamented Artistic Section which, at least for this reporter, always added an extra dimension to the shows and is missed. George is a Burren enthusiast and visits regularly. As well as detailed graphics on the history, flora and geology of the region and the conservation issues that arise, the exhibit also included some thirty photographs of the Burren and its plants sourced by George from members of the Dublin Group. The exhibit generated a lot of interest and was given a Gold Award.

Primula ‘Clarence Elliott’ Pieris japonica ‘Erik’.

Members of the Dublin Group featured strongly among the exhibitors, underlining once again the dependence of each group on the other at show time. A very welcome feature of the show was the strength of both the Novice and Intermediate Sections which bodes well for the future. There were 164 plants from twenty exhibitors in the Open Section; fifty-one from twelve in the Intermediate; and thirty-six from six in the Novice Section.

Gordon Finch (Belfast) won the trophy for the most aggregate points in the Novice Section. One of his entries was a nice specimen of Shortia uniflora, an unusual exhibit in this section at any show. Best plant in flower in the section was Primula ‘Clarence Elliott’ from Triona Corcoran, (Dublin), and Triona also took the award for the best pan of Ericaceae on the Novice bench, Pieris japonica ‘Erik’.

Trillium chloropetalum

Trillium chloropetalum (Exhibitor: Kay McDowell)

The award for the highest total of aggregate points in the Intermediate Section went to Kay McDowell (Limavady), whose lovely, dark-flowered Trillium chloropetalum was adjudged best bulbous plant in the section. Gordon Toner (Limavady), of whom more later, was awarded a Certificate of Merit for a larger specimen of the same plant in the Open Section, which I suspect was the parent of Kay’s. Nancy Derby’s (Bangor) Shortia uniflora was the best plant in the Intermediate Section.

Hepatica nobilis

Hepatica nobilis (Exhibitor: Paddy Smith)

Hepaticas are appearing more often at the earlier shows and the late season saw more than usual at Ulster. Susan Tindall, (Ballynahinch), received a well-deserved Certificate of Merit for her fine exhibit of Hjaponica ‘Haruno-awajuki’ (the spelling “awayuki” is sometimes encountered). Paddy Smith’s H. nobilis was also much admired.

Pasque flower, Pulsatilla ‘Budapest Blue’,

Pulsatilla ‘Budapest Blue’ (Exhibitor: Gordon Toner)

Back to Gordon Toner, who is without a doubt now Ulster’s top exhibitor, and who had most aggregate points in the Open Section. He also got an AGS Medal for his large six pan entry; a trophy for his Trillium rivale, raised from seed; the Festival of Britain trophy for class 2, three pans rock plants, distinct genera, which included his eye-catching Pulsatilla ‘Budapest Blue’, for which he was awarded a Certificate of Merit. He was given this plant some years ago by Harold McBride who enjoyed the show and, with his wife Gwen, was a most welcome guest at the judges’ lunch.

Cyclamen persicum

Cyclamen persicum (Exhibitor: Paddy Smith)

Paddy Smith, (Navan), who in your reporter’s opinion is now Dublin’s top exhibitor, also brought home a lot of silverware. Paddy is well known as an expert grower of gentians but his talents are not confined to that genus. Few growers can match his skill with Cyclamen persicum, as evidenced by several fine specimens that he had on the bench. My favourite, although it came second in class for one pan rock plant grown from seed, was a most elegant specimen with white flowers and beautifully marked foliage. These plants are given careful watering by Paddy, who ensures that they are exposed to as much sunshine as possible during the summer so that the corms are well ripened.

Rhododendron ‘Snipe’

Rhododendron ‘Snipe’ (Exhibitor: Frank Lavery)

The winner of class 66 was Gavin Moore’s (Dublin) very nice Saxifraga stribrnyi. Paddy’s Ozothamnus coralloides was the best plant from Australasia and his three rock plants from seed, including another lovely Cyclamen persicum, earned him the Phoebe Anderson Trophy. Frank Lavery (Dublin) won the award for the best pan of Ericaceae with his well-flowered entry of Rhododendron ‘Snipe’.

Dionysia aretioides

Dionysia aretioides (Exhibitor: Billy Moore)

Finally, it is always difficult for a show reporter to write about her/his successes, but it must be done, so here goes. My Trillium chloropetalum ‘Bob Gordon’ was awarded the Frank Walsh Cup for the bulbous class 13; my Dionysia aretioides ‘Phyllis Carter’ got the award for the best plant in a 19cm pot; and its grandfather, or, maybe great grandfather was awarded the Farrer Medal. I have kept this dionysia going for about forty years, but I think this is only the second time that I was able to exhibit it as it’s usually going over by early April. I have good reason to be grateful for the late season – it’s an ill wind etc.


Author: Billy Moore
Photographer: Heather Smith