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Newcastle AGS Show, 2009, at Ponteland (with SRGC)
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Newcastle AGS Show, 2009, at Ponteland (with SRGC)

The Ponteland team produced another blip-free show (or so it always seems) with exhibitors and visitors from north of the border as well as from the deep south. There were plenty of excellent plants on display and some very competitive classes although there was a noticeable absence of major cyclamen exhibitors this year.

Sternbergia greuteriana

Perhaps the brightest and most eye-catching plant on the show bench was John Bunn’s superb pot of Sternbergia sicula (exhibited as S. greuteriana) which shone like a beacon from one corner of the hall. This was awarded the Newcastle Trophy for the best plant in sections B & C and whilst it was generally accepted that the plant was indeed Sternbergia sicula it generated several debates concerning the current status of this and allied species within the genus. It seems this is another battleground where the lumpers and the splitters are fighting it out!

Galanthus peshmenii

There were a couple of large pans of the usefully autumn flowering Galanthus peshmenii from Turkey. The general onlookers seemed divided about the general merits of each with some expressing a preference for Ian Leslie’s plant enhanced with tastefully arranged leaves amongst the top dressing (apparently most blew away between car and show hall!), but the judges picked out the larger of the two for a well deserved Certificate of Merit (Ian Kidman).

Dionysia esfandiarii 'SLIZE259' A second Certificate of Merit was awarded to a large plant of Dionysia esfandiari SLIZE 259 (exhibited by John Dixon) - certainly the largest I’ve ever seen, and in perfect condition. The lack of flowers at this time of year makes for a less spectacular exhibit but the upside is that a naked cushion much better allows the cognoscenti to see the true condition of the plant – this one was superb. 

Diplodium coccinum The plant that won the premier award of the day was a very fine specimen of Diplodium coccinum. This year the show was operating under SRGC rules and thus the ‘best in show’ was award a Forrest medal. The same plant had similarly triumphed at Loughborough show the previous week thereby joining the small group of plants that have achieved the Farrer/Forest double. The exhibitor (Barry Tattersall) had brought the plant all the way from Twickenham to Northumberland in the hope of success and the judges clearly agreed it was a journey worth making. Known to most us under its ‘old’ name of Pterostylis coccina (often seen as Pterostylis coccinea) this Australian ‘Greenhood orchid’ likes a light and airy lime free compost mix (although others have had success with a standard alpine mix of JI3 and grit). It takes a summer rest before reawakening to give its autumn display and should appeal to the ‘bulb brigade’ who like to be able to take a traditional holiday break whilst their plants lie dormant (the confusion over naming notwithstanding).

Crocus tournefortii The genus Crocus provides a significant autumn spectacle but the peak performance can be fleeting and a refusal to open their flowers in dull/cold conditions can add to the exhibitors’ frustration. Crocus tournefortii is one of the (very) few crocus species that remain open regardless of the ambient conditions and on a day when many of the crocuses on show were reluctant to fully open their flowers this species had something of a head start. An exhibit of a well coloured clone of this species was given the 80th anniversary award for the best plant in a pot not exceeding 19cm. It was the best form selected from a small number obtained several years ago and then allowed to multiply naturally (a slow but consistent process). Seed is often set but this is assiduously removed so as not to ‘contaminate’ the selected form.

Cyclamen mirabile

The Ewesley Salver for the best cyclamen in a 19cm pot went to Sue Gill’s fine plant of Cyclamen mirabile exhibited in section B. It was a nice illustration of the fact that the major awards do not always go to the ‘premier league teams’.

Celmisia spedenii

The autumn shows have classes for plants ‘showing autumn colour’ and these often provide the plant judged to be the overall ‘best foliage plant’ but on this occasion the autumn colour was beaten by the shining silver of Celmisia spedenii to clinch the Millenium Trophy for Ian Leslie.

Goodyera schelchtenaeliana

Other plants that stood out from the crowd included a couple of Chinese orchids. Alan Newton’s Goodyera schelchtenaeliana would surely have won the award for the most unpronounceable name

Spathoglottis pubescens

whilst a plant of Spathoglottis pubescens had recently moved house (with Trevor and Angie Jones) from Hertfordshire to Norfolk before undertaking another long car journey to the show hall and back.

And to cap it all, Alan’s Specials (Bacon AND Black Pudding baps) were back on the breakfast menu by popular request – thanks Alan!

Don Peace
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