This, the most southerly of our shows, is set in beautiful Dorset countryside that was enhanced this year by a lovely sunny day. Not too hot, not too cold: just perfect. The royal wedding and Cup Final notwithstanding, exhibitors and visitors alike flocked to the spacious venue provided by the refurbished Queen Elizabeth School, receiving a really warm welcome from show secretary Bill Squire, and members of the Hampshire/Dorset Group who also provided enticing refreshments throughout the day. It was good to discover that entries had increased by about 20% over last year with 322 plants on display; both the Novice and Intermediate Sections being well-supported by local members and others. At the far end of the hall additional interest came from two separate exhibits: a photographic competition primarily for Local Group members, which was won by Christine Hughes with close-up photographs of Meconopsis, and a display of auriculas by the local branch of the National Primula and Auricula Society.
On entering the hall from the plant sales area, one was immediately faced by Martin Rogerson’s colourful entry of six large pans of Lewisia, which was awarded an AGS Medal. Other members of the genus were scattered throughout the hall, including a neat Lewisia columbiana grown from seed by Sue Collins that earned her the Downland Trophy for the best plant in the Novice Section. The Novice and other Sections also contained several interesting orchids grown by local exhibitor Michael Powell, who won the John Blanchard Cup for the most first prize points in the Novice Section. These included the South African Disa sagittalis that has featured in these reports before and an attractive hybrid of two Japanese species, Amitostigma x enomotoe.
Back in the Open Section, Lee and Julie Martin staged a huge and floriferous Campanula aff. andrewsii that was awarded a Certificate of Merit, as at Wisley the previous week, and along with their other exhibits won them the Stanton Award for the Open Section aggregate. This monocarpic Greek species was grown from seed sown in 2015 and had undergone frequent repotting into a gritty, loam-based compost containing dolomitic limestone. As is becoming usual at this Show, a number of cacti were exhibited but relatively few of them were in flower. A striking exception was Vic and Janet Aspland’s nine-year old specimen of Lobivia schieliana var. leptacantha, its anagrammatic generic name betraying its origin in the mountains of Bolivia.
Classes for bulbs appeared to be less well supported than in previous years, Allium species in particular being less prominent. However Ben and Paddy Parmee staged a particularly fine clump of Tulbaghia cominsii, grown from three bulbs obtained eight years ago, that gained them the New Forest Trophy for the best plant in the Intermediate and Novice Sections from a Dorset/Hampshire Group member and, along with their other exhibits (including a fine flowering specimen of the difficult Dicentra peregrina) the Brian Radcliffe Trophy for the Intermediate Section aggregate.
At present, T. cominsii is not uncommon in cultivation but it is critically endangered and possibly extinct in the wild following destruction by road building of its only known locations near King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape. Coming from a summer rainfall area that is frost-free, it is winter dormant and borderline hardy. Although surviving in the open garden in milder parts of country, when grown in pots it needs to be kept on the dry side and, in my experience, at temperatures not much less than minus 4°C if it is to reawaken in the spring. Tulbaghia species hybridise readily, so segregation from other species is essential if seed true to name is required.
A rather different bulb, Arisaema amurense, appeared in several classes, giving an opportunity to compare its various forms that in part reflect its wide distribution from Japan, through Korea and north-eastern China into Siberia. The Korean form, with dark striped spathes and holly-like, non-prickly prickles on its leaves, was shown by Martin Rogerson and Edward Spencer. Martin’s plant had received an Award of Merit from the RHS Joint Rock Garden Plant Committee at Wisley the week before but on this occasion Edward’s more compact but less photogenic version found favour with the judges.
Edward Spencer showed two plants that were awarded Certificates of Merit. One was a very well-flowered and compact Phlox grayi that had been obtained from Parham Bungalow Plants five years ago. Grown in a free-draining loam-based compost containing plenty of grit and sand and kept under glass with minimum shading, it had been repotted yearly, burying the twiggy base to stimulate new growth. The other was a six year old plant of the high Himalayan alpine Incarvillea younghusbandii with six large flowers and the residues of at least five others
A Certificate of Merit also went to Mark Childerhouse’s large, evenly-flowered Saxifraga reuteriana. A close contender for the Farrer Medal, this mossy saxifrage grows on limestone outcrops around Antequera in southern Spain and has never been common in cultivation. After flowering it does back to large dormant summer buds. Although apparently not too difficult to maintain, dieback of the centre of the cushion in larger plants is a problem and producing a plant of this size was a considerable achievement.
The plant that did win the Farrer Medal, a first for Anne Vale, was a compact specimen of the hybrid Rhododendron ‘Arctic Tern’ smothered in dense, many-flowered, white inflorescences and fortuitously placed on the bench between two examples of one of its parents, Rhodendron trichostomum, the other being a species from Section Ledum. The plant is one of a pair (the other formed part of Anne’s winning entry in the next door class) that spend the year standing at either end of the Vales’ patio. They are grown in sandy ericaceous compost of which the top two inches are replaced every year with the addition of a fertiliser containing Sequestrene.
Fierce competition in the class for an arrangement of cut flowers is becoming a feature of this show. Out of four fine entries, that from Lee and Julie Martin, containing 16 distinct varieties, was judged the best. I was not surprised to learn that construction of such an arrangement is no simple matter. The flowers have to be grown, picked, stiffened by standing in water and then arranged; a process that takes Lee at least three hours and involves much manipulation with tweezers and cocktail sticks.
Finally, after 18 years, this was Bill Squire’s last show as its secretary. For many of us he has been such a stalwart for so long that it is hard to imagine the Wimborne Show without him. We owe him a huge vote of thanks for all his hard work and give him our very best wishes for the future as he departs for pastures new. Anyone who has witnessed the enthusiasm of the Parmees for all things alpine will be delighted to hear that Ben is taking over from Bill and we wish him every success in his new role.
Author: George Elder
Photographer: Jon Evans