With average temperature records above average for June and July and considerably below average for August this year, accompanied by poor light levels throughout the summer, it was a surprisingly 'usual' Autumn Show South. The show was, as usual, top-heavy with Cyclamen - although it could be argued from a totally empirical basis that this year was quite outstanding - with the normal smattering of choice bench-mates. The terms usual and normal should not be seen as being in any way derogatory, to achieve the usual with this years climatic vagaries called for far from usual skill and dedication on the part of the exhibitors. Entries arrived worryingly slowly but picked up to give respectable numbers by close; the cooler weather helping to hold the precocious blooms which threatened to fall prior to the main event - with only one southern show to hit timing needs to be immaculate.
Michael Dyer came up trumps in the Novice section, winning the Sussex Trophy for the most first prize points. With two three-pan and four single pan firsts, Anne Vale was the clear winner of the Kent Trophy for the most first prize points in the Intermediate section. Anne also won the L W Browne Trophy for the best Gentian in the show, an eye-catching Gentiana sino-ornata hybrid.
The Harold Bishop Trophy for the most first prize points in the Open Section was won by Cecilia Coller with, above all else, six 'three-pans' to accompany a fair number of singles. Amongst her total wins was also the only six-pan class in the show, gaining her an AGS medal - where would the Show department be without Cecilia?
The quality of the show is best illustrated by the fact that no fewer than five Certificates of Merit were awarded. The first going to a stunning plant of Crocus vallicola, grown from seed by the exhibitor back in 1992. A large flowered selection which is no stranger to the show bench, travelled all the way from Hexham and shown by Alan Furness. The clump went backwards a few years ago but has thankfully recovered to something approaching its former glory.
Bessera elegans, a semi-desert Mexican member of the Themidaceae family was another recipient. Shown in the Intermediate section by Colin Rogers of Holloway ,North London, it is thought to be too tender for outdoor cultivation in the UK but Colin grows this on his roof-garden, only covering the pot when the bulbs go dormant. Best given the protection of an alpine house in all but the mildest winter areas. Grown in a 50/50 JI/grit mix.
Paul and Gill Ranson, best known for their cushion plants, appeared delighted to be awarded a Certificate for a bulbous plant. A well flowered pan of Crocus banaticus; for a while placed into the monotypic genus Iricrocus due to its 'iris-like' structure but now just seen as the odd-ball of the Crocus family.
Coconut isn't a smell often associated with alpine plants but Empodium flexile, shown by Rannveig and Bob Wallis, has a scent very close to it. Another certificate winner; a South African plant which really needs the protection of an alpine house to give of its best. Looks to all intents and purposes like a thin petalled Sternbergia.
Its not only show plants that can be awarded certificates of merit, as shown by Peter Maguire of Gosforth. His photograph of Androsace alpina caught the attention of the judges who were keen to acknowledge the skill of the artist - the image shown, right, is a poor representation of the actual photograph exhibited.
The Autumn Show South has a very well represented artistic section and the winners of the Artistic awards for the most first prize points in the Open and Intermediate sections were Jon Evans of Farnham and Ju Bramley of Chesterfield respectively. The benifits of exhibiting in the artistic classes are that you don't have to get up at stupid-o'clock in the morning to drive to the venue - it can all be done by post !
Here's Jon hard at work as show photographer.
As mentioned in the introduction, this was another year of outstanding Cyclamen, many shown by Ian Robertson, an outstanding Cyclamen grower. The Halstead Trophy, awarded for the best plant specifically from seed-raised classes went to Ian for a plant of Cyclamen graecum ssp. candicum.
He was also awarded the Farrer and consequently the Saunders Spoon ( best Cyclamen) for an outstanding plant of Cyclamen graecum ssp. anatolicum.
Not content with taking the honours with his Cyclamen, he was also awarded the Keith Moorhouse Trophy for the best plant in a 19cm pot with an amazingly floweriforous pot-full of Narcissus cavanillesii; grown to bursting in a plastic pot (his secret to success) and 'double-potted' into clay for the show.
With thanks to Dave Hoare and his band of merry helpers, this show draws a close to the show season in the south of England for 2010.