Monday 18 April 2011

Alpines Without Frontiers

Gentiana acaulis

I spent Thursday to Sunday at the 8th International Rock Garden Conference - 'Alpines Without Frontiers', held at the East Midlands Conference Centre at the University of Nottingham. About 300 people attended, from 20 countries, ranging from South Africa to Japan and Romania as well as more likely provenances. Such a gathering is immensely stimulating, bringing together people from all backgrounds and levels of experience in the broad field of rock gardening. Many friends were there, some made at the last conference in Edinburgh in 2001, and not seen since, others seen more regularly, and of course there were new friends to be made. 

Veterans of the International Rock Garden Conferences:
Ray Cobb (L) attended the first in 1951, while Otto Fauser from Melbourne has attended the past six

We had the opportunity to hear 19 lectures (which I did, more or less - funny how a dark hall induces drowsiness...) and attend two afternoons of workshops. On Saturday a superb show was staged, with some magnificent specimens on the benches, at which the images here were taken. The corridors and halls were decorated by a superb display of photography and artwork, and several gardens had brought displays about their work with alpines, giving us a lot to look at.

Meconopsis delavayi
The talks were almost all about plants in the wild, inspiring us to get out and see these beauties, and then try to grow them. Not surprisingly, some genera reappeared time and again, especially in a series of talks on the Sinohimalayan flora - there was a heavy concentration on Meconopsis and Primula, and Rheum nobile featured frequently. Rosulate violas received their mead of adulation and we learnt a lot about Fritillaria. I spoke about African alpines and also gave a workshop on snowdrop propagation. What was in short supply were talks on actual rock gardening, but the two we did have were splendidly vivacious in each case, with Ian Young from Aberdeen and Keith Wiley from Devon expounding their particular, but very different, techniques and styles - though sharing a common love of Erythronium.

The amazingly black Primula euprepes,
a new introduction from China
It was a fantastic event, and all credit must go the conference team led by Kit Grey-Wilson and Robert Rolfe, and everyone from the Alpine Garden Society who had clearly worked incredibly hard to ensure its smooth running and success. In 2021 (yikes!) it will be the turn of the Scottish Rock Garden Club to host the conference and many of us are already looking forward to it.

The show on Saturday afternoon: Todd Boland
from Newfoundland taking notes at the left.
The Farrer Medal was won by the big Trillium grandiflorum
in front of him, shown by Chris Lilley

Second in contention for the Farrer Medal was this
Cypripedium Ursel Grex, but it was given an Award of Merit
 by the RHS Rock Garden Plant Committee.

1 comment:

  1. I wish we had exhibitions like this here in the states to bring some excitement back into new plant introductions and exceptional plant growing!!

    That G. acaulis and P. euprepes are absolutely remarkable!!


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