Tuesday 14 February 2012

Good plants at the RHS Show

Early morning at the Lawrence Hall
One of the most surprising bits of news from the RHS recently was about its decision to sell a 999 year lease of the Lawrence Hall to Westminster School, for £18 million, using the capital to fund developments in its properties and activities. I don't care for selling the family silver, in general, and the price does not seem very high for such an important bit of London property, but hopefully the money will enable advantageous benefits for the Society elsewhere. Part of the deal is that the RHS will continue to have four shows a year there, so for now the situation will not change much, though already the dates for the October show have had to be changed to suit Westminster School: we shall have to wait and see how things develop.

Anyway, today was the first of the shows under the new arrangements and there was nothing to suggerst that anything was different. I got to the hall in good time for a committee meeting, arriving early enough to find them almost empty save for the judging parties and a few other committee members, also taking advantage of the easy viewing. With many of country's senior plantspeople gathering together, the February show is a very social occasion and there's a lot of catching-up to do. This is perhaps fortunate, as the quality of the show itself has diminished over the years and there seem to be fewer and fewer exhibits of note each year.

Helleborus 'Anna's Red'

There were, however, some excellent stands and exciting plants to see. Ashwood Nurseries' large display of hellebores was outstanding, and outstanding on it was a mass of a wonderful new cultivar, 'Anna's Red', bred by Linda and Rodney Davey and named for Anna Pavord. I do not know what the breeding is, but it would appear to be complex: my guess is that H. lividus is involved somewhere in the ancestry, contributing the beautiful foliage mottling and large bracts.

Snowdrops on Avon Bulbs' stand: another Gold Medal for Alan Street, who has spent much of the past month bemoaning the shortage of good plants...
By far the most exciting display was mounted by Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones of  CrΓΌg Farm Plants, displaying a diversity of plants collected on their plant-hunting travels round the world. It is so good to know that there are still plants 'out there' to be introduced and experimented with in cultivation, and which have never been exhibited before. Here are a trio of beauties from their Gold Medal-winning display today.

Maianthemum amoenum B&SWJ 10390, from Guatemala

Shortia sinensis

Oreopanax floribundus B&SWJ 10669 from Colombia.


  1. I have considered going to this show for the last couple of years having never been but have got the general impression that the actual show isnt that great and probably not worth a 7hr round trip.

    I was pleased to see that Crug was awarded a Gold but then I dont think I would expect anything less of them. Those introductions look very interesting

  2. john in Nova Scotia15 February 2012 at 19:51

    That Shortia sinensis! I think I need a pacemaker.

  3. It was a great show, we loved the Crug stand and another well deserved gold.

    Helen, we have friends who travel up from Cornwall for the show each year, so may be worth giving it a go, we have enjoyed it the last couple of years.

  4. Wonderful plants, wonderful pictures: I am outraged that the RHS is selling off some of its assets, where will this end? I must have missed it in any bulletins that came out - presumably the membership was asked to vote? I would not have voted for the sale.

  5. Do you think Shortia sinensis might be any easier than galacifolia?

  6. @PG: I have attended every February show since 1983 bar one (1990)- my favourite horticultural event of the year.

    @John in NS and Paul: Yes, an absolute stunner! Many Chinese plants are easier in cultivation than their North American counterparts, it seems, but I have no idea about this one.

    @June: the information re the sale of the lease was announced to the general membership in an insert in the February issue of 'The Garden', which everyone promptly binned without reading. It was entirely an executive transaction it seems.

  7. Guilty as charged: I am too busy gardening, cataloguing plants and seeds planted, and making and drawing plans for new bits of the garden - not new bits - of course the garden is as old as it is everywhere - new ideas to try out - e.g. to make a rock bank leading out of the pond and round it part way so the hedgehog I disturbed the other day can get out if he falls in. Poor thing, I covered him up again and hope he survives - he is getting a custom built house later in the year. No time to read inserts, then.


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