After the storms and flood alerts of southern England, it was a great relief to experience a trouble-free flight to Dublin and to find that the sun shines on the righteous after all.
The Cabinteely Community school hall is light, airy and well-suited to stage an excellent display of alpine plants. Even the efficient tearoom’s floral table arrangements sparkled with alpines.
With a climate more akin to that of Scotland, it was no surprise to find number of first class ericaceous plants adorning the show bench. Leiophyllum buxifolium var. hugeri was beginning to show its potential, and although awarded the Margaret Orsi Bowl for the best plant from North America, was beaten to the Farrer Medal by a fabulous, white-belled dome of Cassiope selaginoides L,S & E 13284. Pat and George Gordon, the owners of both superb plants, grow them outdoors in a raised ericaceous bed without protection. They are top-dressed and fed occasionally and lifted only occasionally for shows. Two winters ago, they survived a covering of at least 30cm of snow. The Leiophyllum was acquired from Ian Christie approximately three years ago, making it probably around five years old. In which, it represents three years of supremely good cultivation by the owners!
As the first rays of sunlight shone through the windows, they delineated a small plant of Sebaea thomasii. This plant, frequently seen on the show bench nowadays, brings an infectious glow of gold to any show. Although a South African (Drakensberg) native, it really does not seem too dissimilar from that other member of the Gentianaceae, the smaller, palish lemon, Georgian Gentiana oschtenica. Its owner, Billy Moore, also showed a very deep rose form of the infrequently seen Trillium hibbersonii. Irish Shows have long been been famed for producing excellent pans of various trilliums. From the same family, Gavin Moore won the David Shackleton Trophy for the best pan of Primulaceae with a very neat Primula bracteata.
Ian Leslie trekked across from Bangor with a minute, but sparklingly electric blue Meconopsis delavayi, flowering three years after sowing; the blueness of the petals was accentuated by a fabulous golden boss of stamens subtended from the pendant, overlapping petals. Seed has been available from the SRGC exchange in the last few years. The plant shown is from this source; the seed sown on 14/01/2009. Grown in a slightly peaty compost and kept in a cool moist position, with some overhead protection in winter, it has flowered for the last two years.
Also shown by Ian was the European Saxifraga diapensioides: the almost flawless, chalk-spotted cushion was practically invisible under the creamy white, yellow anthered crown of petals. This plant was obtained from Sūndermanns nursery (Lindau, Germany) in the late 1990s and has is very slow growing. It has flowered reasonably well in previous years but never as well as this year’s display (hence the well-deserved Certificate of Merit). This may be a response to a repotting last year in a 50:50 JI2 with fine grit plus lime compost and also, possibly, a more liberal watering regime than in the past. The plant has been kept plunged in an open-sided frame which receives only morning sun.
As ever where a show has an Artistic Section, it supplied an attractive backdrop to the living plants. One steward said that her local ladies had come up trumps with their entries and indeed there were some beautifully detailed watercolours. At the front of the stage, David Lapsley’s photographs of flowers from his garden complemented those of the refreshments area.