Malvern, like Harrogate, is a show within a show. Exhibitors and visitors have the advantage of viewing the superb plants on the benches of the AGS show before setting off to enjoy the variety of offerings in the RHS marquees, the myriad plant and garden sundries stalls and the artistic delights of the ‘crafts’ pavilion. For exhibitors especially, it`s an early start and a later than usual finish, but it is well worth making the extra effort.
There seemed to be more entries than ever this year, or perhaps the pots get larger. Certainly stewards were hard pressed to make room on the benches as the plants arrived in a steady stream. As always there was lots of colour, but also a large entry in the Foliage class – ten strong three pan entries which must surely have tested the judges. It was won by a threesome showing not only foliage in superb condition, but a pleasing balance of colour and texture. The plants were Celmisia gracilenta, Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ and Podophyllum delavayi. Other foliage-related classes included the Sempervivum with nineteen large pots on the bench, and Fern with twenty-five, not to mention the Cushion and Conifer classes. These provided the eyes with a welcome rest from colours which ranged from the showy pinks of the Lewisias, through the cooler blues of some of the first Campanulas to appear on the benches this season, to the gentle yellows and browns of some of the Cypripedium.
One of the highlights of the show was the number of Orchidaceae on the benches and in particular the Cypripediums and Serapias. At one time these types of plant seemed to be benched by a small group of exhibitors, but encouragingly, from the names on the cards, the number of members growing these plants is expanding. There were no less than six pots of Cypripedium calceolus, two of which were var. parviflorum; all delightful. In ‘B’ Section a potful of Serapia lingua thoroughly deserved its red sticker, and in the open section pots of S.bergonii, cordigera and parviflora x lingua also caught the eye.
There was inevitably a Farrer Plant from this assemblage; Petunia patagonica with at least fifty flowers. The award for the best plant in a 19cm pot went to a well-flowered, tight cushion of Androsace alpina; not easy to grow to this size and to keep in character. Grown from seed, it was a lovely pink form. As testimony to the quality of the plants on show, in addition to the special awards, no less than five Certificates of Merit were awarded. These were to Campanula radchensis, Cypripedium calceolus, Ledum groenlandicum var. compactum, Gilia caespitosa and a Paris sp.
The Society`s shows are a great opportunity to see lovely plants, but, as importantly, they provide an opportunity to meet others, share experiences and to learn from more experienced growers how to succeed with a few more of the amazing range of alpines available to us today; Malvern was once again the perfect example of this. Thank you to Brian and Jo and their hard-worked team.