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Dublin AGS Show, 2011
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Dublin AGS Show, 2011

Despite the preceding very harsh winter, which brought with it unprecedented low December temperatures across the entire island, the show benches in Cabinteely Community School were full of plants of the highest quality for the Dublin Show. The relatively mild spring and several days of warm sunshine preceding the Show resulted in far fewer primulas, cyclamen and saxifrages than usual at the early Irish Show. Their relative absence was compensated by the presence of early androsaces, lewisias and an unusually full Violaceae class.

This year, Dublin was lucky to have Ray Drew, the AGS Director of Shows, in attendance. After the main judging was completed, he led the AGS Judges Forum, which proved invaluable to both experienced and trainee judges alike.  Although the forum is intended to ensure consistency in decision-making across all Shows, it also sparked a lively debate on the merits of allowing certain plants space on the show bench – exhibitors of Japanese double hepatica cultivars beware!

As always the Dublin Show was well supported by the Ulster Group, with exhibitors making an early start to drive south to arrive before the 10 a.m. staging deadline.  Several plants required every last minute on a sunny windowsill to open blooms that had closed up during their boot-confined journey.

One family of plants not adversely affected by the Ulster winter was Ericaceae.  George & Pat Gordon exhibited a fine three pan entry, two of which deserve special note.  George mentioned that their Cassiope lycopodioides ‘Jim Lever’(shown above) and Phyllodoce nipponica (shown right) are grown in the peat garden throughout the year.  This winter both buried under almost two feet of snow for much of December. However, clearly that neither plant was set back in any way, for both were heavily laden with a myriad of white bells.  To keep them in good health they are top-dressed with an ericaceous mix each year, and occasionally moved to other parts of the garden to take advantage of fresh growing conditions. The judges awarded the phyllodoce a Certificate of Merit.

There was another member of the Ericaceae in pristine condition in Dublin:  Susan Tindall’s Cassiope myosuroides was voted best plant in the show.  The Chinese native is extremely rare in cultivation, and given that the owner, noted for her prowess with such plants, has been unable as yet to propagate any stock, it is safe to assume that the challenge exceeds even that of rooting the notoriously stubborn C. wardii.  The plant has been grown in an open position in the garden for many years, but never appeared particularly happy, so two years ago Susan clipped it back to remove any dead material and encourage fresh new growth. Evidently this is the secret with this plant as it was a worthy winner of thebest in show award, a Certificate of Merit and the Jacki Troughton-Smith Trophy for best pan of Ericaceae. (Unfortunately the judges feltthat it was not quite of Farrer Medal standard.).  Susan also won the Margaret Orsi Bowl for best plant from North America with a specimen of Anemonella thalictroides ‘Oscar Schoaf’ in perfect condition.

As at many Dublin Shows past, Liam Byrne won the ACC Cup for the most first prize points in the Open Section.  Yet again, the importance of his contribution to the Show cannot be overemphasized.  Once more Liam exhibited a full car load of top quality alpines, two of which, Shortia soldanelloides var. intercedens (shown above) and Cheilanthes eatonii (shown right), were awarded Certificates of Merit.  The shortia was in excellent condition and narrowly missed out on several of the main awards, while the fern, shown in a 19 cm pan class, was a flawless example of a rather demanding plant to groom to show standard.


Not all the top awards were destined for local homes.  Ian Leslie from North Wales brought some very fine plants across the Irish Sea, and his 19 cm pan of Clematis tenuifolia ‘Ylva’ was in perfect condition for the day.  Grown in his alpine house, this six-year-old plant was a self-sown seedling, which germinated in the sand in which its parent was plunged. 


A Certificate of Merit was given to his very unusual, slow-growing Saxifraga marginata aff. karadzicensis, which prefers  an alkaline compost and given the right conditions produces a very impressive display.  Ian also won The Ulster Group Trophy for three pans raised from seed in the small Open Section.

Billy Moore was awarded an AGS Medal for the 19 cm six-pan class in the Open Section and a Certificate of Merit for a plant described as an ‘old friend’ during the awards presentation – a very distinguished Gypsophila aretioides (shown right) that has attained such a size that a hand-made pot was ordered to accommodate it. He also staged another loyal companion – a Saxifraga stribyrni (shown above) that won a Farrer Medal more than a decade ago and is now approximately 20 years old.


This reporter won the Barney Johnson Trophy for most first prize points in the Intermediate Section and the Waverley Trophy for the best therein with a small but well-flowered specimen of Androsace vandellii.  The same plant was also awarded the David Shackleton Trophy for the best pan Primulaceae.




Jimmy Lott won the Termonfeckin Trophy for the most first prize points in the Novice Section and the Brian Wood Trophy for one pan raised from seed with a fine Draba bruniifolia subsp. olympica.  Barbara O’Callaghan won the Millennium Cup for the best plant in the Novice Section for a very well-presented pan of Tulipa humilis (shown).


There was a very impressive photographic display in the Artistic Section.  The top awards went to Jon Evans from Farnham, England, and Maeve Spotswood from the local group for the most first prize points in the Open and Intermediate Sections respectively.



The Show was rounded off by the presentation of honorary membership to the Dublin Group for Val and Ian Keegan for their long-standing contribution. Val, who has been the Show Secretary for 21 years, is handing over the reins to Michael Higgins. He has the daunting task of following this – and the previous 20 – highly successful and enjoyable Dublin Shows!                                                                           

Gavin Moore
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