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Ulster AGS Show, 2022

April 9, 2022

‘A happy show’ was Show Secretary Pat Crossley’s verdict on Ulster’s 2022 event. And she was right because there was real joy and an air of celebration among those attending, many of whom hadn’t seen each other for almost three years. As many readers will know, there are two Irish shows each year, held in Ulster and Dublin in April, one at the beginning of the month and the other at the end, alternating annually between the two Local Groups. Each is dependent on exhibitors from the other, without which both shows would be significantly poorer. There was good participation from Dublin on this occasion.

Pat has been in position for an astonishing forty-three years and holds the record for the longest serving AGS show secretary. This year she faced considerable obstacles in organizing the show and for a time there was serious doubt that it would happen. It is usually held in Greenmount College, an ideal venue, but this year the college was not available due to Covid precautions. Eventually, a Parish Hall in Belfast, St Bride’s, agreed to host the Show but was much smaller and lacked catering facilities. Apart from venue problems, Pat had endured personal crises, having lost her beloved husband, Gordon, before Christmas last year and suffered a serious leg injury from which she is still recovering. Despite all, she persevered and to the delight of both groups the 2022 Show was confirmed. So, Pat has another successful show under her belt, deserving a medal for her determination and perseverance. Director of Shows Martin Rogerson ensured that everything was done by the book.

As with other 2022 shows the number of exhibitors and entries were noticeably down. Based on my own experience I think this was partly pandemic-related as missing the annual discipline of grooming our plants, some of us may have let things go a bit. It was also due of course to the loss of some exhibitors for various reasons. One noticeable absentee was George Sevastopulo, who died last September and is greatly missed. Nonetheless, the plants on show were of generally high quality, much enjoyed by members and the general public.

In 2019 the Novice Section was excellent; this year there were very few exhibits due, I deduce, to Covid but also possibly to Brexit because of which it is no longer feasible for members in either part of Ireland to purchase plants from nurseries in Great Britain. Also, with the closure of Timpany Nursery there is no specialist alpine supplier on the island. A healthy Novice Section is an important indicator of the long-term future of any show. I hope the paucity of entries this year is a one off. Cilla Dodd won the Section Aggregate trophy.

In the Intermediate Section, the best plant was adjudged Daphne x susannae ‘Tichborne’ shown by Montalto Estate, Ballynahinch. A nice potful of Narcissus x primigenius from Spain, exhibited by Jamie Chambers (Sandycove) was voted the best bulbous plant. Gordon Finch (Belfast) won the award for most points in this Section. Gordon, the current Chairman of the Ulster Group, is a very keen plantsman, sure to gain many honours at future shows.

Gordon Toner (Limavady) received a Certificate of Merit for a fine Trillium grandiflorum, grown from seed, which was not quite in full flower – a week later it would have been a strong contender for best plant in show. He is arguably the Ulster Group’s strongest exhibitor and grows trilliums superbly. He won the Cooke Cup for most points in the Open Section and the Garratt Cup for the best plant grown from seed.

Trillium grandiflorum exhibited by Gordon Toner at the AGS Ulster Show

Trillium grandiflorum exhibited by Gordon Toner at the AGS Ulster Show

Gavin Moore’s large pan of Saxifraga porophylla was awarded a Certificate of Merit. Grown in a standard alpine compost, it benefits from alpine house conditions. He also prevailed in the large bulbous class with a young, well-flowered Trillium chloropetalum ‘Bob Gordon’.

Saxifraga porophyllum

Saxifraga porophyllum Class 10 Cert of Merit Gavin Moore Dublin

Two Certificates of Merit came my way, one for a large pot of Celmisia semicordata ‘David Shackleton’; the other for Trillium chloropetalum ‘Bob Gordon’, parent of Gavin’s plant. The Celmisia also received the award for the best plant from Australasia. Grown in a free-draining compost with added humus, it spends most of the year outside but is brought into the alpine house in deep winter. The trillium suffered minor travel damage on the journey from Dublin – transporting plants any distance all too often incurs such forfeits.

Paddy Smith (Navan) again won the Cowan Trophy for his Gentiana clusii, also the recipient of the SRGC Quaich for the best plant in a 19cm pot. Paddy is among the top exhibitors at Irish shows and was also awarded the Farrer Medal for a really well-flowered pot of Hepatica nobilis. This late-flowering clone, obtained from Aberconwy Nursery about twelve years ago, is kept outside in shade and repotted annually in a compost of 50% grit, 20% perlite, 20% leafmould and 10% loam, to which is added a small amount of Vitax Q4, bonemeal and lime.

Gentiana clusii exhibited by Paddy Smith at the AGS Ulster Show

Gentiana clusii exhibited by Paddy Smith at the AGS Ulster Show

I have little doubt that the 2023 Ulster Show will return to their former glory as all the exhibitors from both groups, inspired by this show, seem to have been fired up with enthusiasm to do better next year. Here’s hoping.

Reporter: Billy Moore

Photographer: Heather Smith