The morning of the show started with hazy sunshine, a little chilly to start off, but we have all got used to that this year. The usual breeze blowing across the car park was missing though, allowing even the most delicate exhibits to be carried in without mishap.
This winter’s cold spell, followed by a couple of weeks of balmy weather had certainly worked their magic. I can’t remember such a blaze of colour greeting the visitors to the Kent Show for some years. The benches, especially the small pot size classes, were particularly well supported by dionysias, saxifrages and primulas.
The large six pan class was won by David Hoare, the Show Secretary, with six magnificent saxifrages and the small six pan class was won by the Kent Group’s ex-Show Secretary, Eric Jarrett. Eric was also awarded the AGS 80th Anniversary Award for the best plant in a 19cm pan , a lovely plant of Dionysia oreodoxa, a difficult dionysia to grow to show standard.
The Ivor Barton Trophy was awarded for six monocyledons rather than bulbous plants for the first time, a result of recent rule changes. It went to a group of six orchids grown by Richard Emmanuel. The Longfield Trophy for the best plant in Section B was awarded to a 19cm pan of a white Cyclamen coum ‘Lake Effect’ raised by Tony Jenkins. The Invicta Trophy for the best plant in Section C went to Anne Vale, a first time shower this season, for a well-flowered hybrid dionysia.
Five Certificates of Merit were awarded, reflecting the general very high standard of plantsexhibited this year. They were as follows: Maureen Ledgerton for a large pan of Crocus vernus albiflorus, Eric Jarrett for Chionohebe pulvinaris in a 19cm pan, Jon Evans for pan of Fritillaria sp. unknown, John Kemp for a pan of Iris zenaidae and to a large pan of Narcissus jonquila minor for Bob and Rannveig Wallis. The emphasis was certainly on the bulbous subjects, though in general the number of monocotyledons shown was lower than usual.
In class 18 Ray Drew showed a pan of Corydalis curviflora var rostronii ‘Blue Heron’ which stood out by the sheer intensity of its flower colour set amongst the myriad of pink, yellows and whites, favoured by most early spring flowersr. Ray commends this plant for pot culture, and considers it a good garden plant. ‘Blue Heron’ is a cultivar which has not been widely available until recently but has quickly gained popularity owing to its intense blue colour. It requires a cool spot and light shade in the garden.
Ipheion sellowianum shown by Cecilia Coller in class 24 is a reliable plant to grow in all parts of England. It comes from Uruguay but tolerates our winters in a bulb frame. It dies down well after flowering in midsummer to remerge again in late winter. In southern counties it is advisable to occasionally water the dormant pan in warm weather, if the soil dries out completely flowering may be sparse or even non-existent the following spring.
Saxifraga retusa was shown by Eric Jarrett in class 48 as part of his winning small six pan entry. S. retusa is not often seen at the shows, it is a smaller-flowered relation of the more common S. oppositefolia. Eric grows his plant in very gritty humus-rich soil in a cold-frame, but S. retusa can be tried outside in a trough, which suits its small size more than a raised bed. It occurs on european mountains from the Pyrenees to the Carpathians and the Tatras.
Amongst the numerous dionysias in various shades of yellow on the show bench, the one that grabbed my attention was Dionysia odora x tapetoides MK0353/2, grown by Paul and Gill Ranson and shown in class 52. There are many hybrids with the same parentage, all of them yellow, but this cultivar caught my eye; it is a deep egg-yellow and, unusually, thrum. Having started exhibiting by growing primulas, I instinctively prefer thrum flowers, the yellow splash of colour filling the throat of the flower is more pleasing to my eye. Paul tells me pin-flowered seedlings tend to produce larger flowers and are therefore favoured by growers.
In Section B, a white flowered Cyclamen coum ‘Lake Effect’ invited a second look with its unusual flowers. The curious name became apparent on closer inspection of the flowers. At first glance the petals appear to be serrated but then one sees they are totally smooth and it is the petals that are tightly pleated creating the impression of fine ripples on water. The pristine white enhanced this effect far more than a pink or red ground might have. The plant was grown by Tony Jenkins from Cyclamen Society seed son in 2005. I understand that Ashwood Nurseries are developing this cyclamen seed strain further.