Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Finally some spring colour

As promised, a tantalising sniff of spring from the RHS Great Plant Fair in London. This is a traditional show held in the RHS Hall in Vincent Square, very much in the format of the old monthly shows, the RHS used to hold. I was there in the role of a judge which is both challenging and a privilege, as we get to see the show in its pristine state without the crowds. Inevitably colour was limited and no doubt some nurseries had struggled to bring together a quality stand in a very cold spring.

When I used to exhibit, I regarded the judges as pernickety and decidedly mean! I never got a Gold Medal myself! Now having been on the other side for a number of years, I like to emphasise how carefully the stands are examined by both the judges and the moderators. Decisions are carefully scrutinised at the moderation meeting, awards challenged and sometimes altered. We do like to give Gold Medals when they are justified but all those who receive them can know that they have truly achieved a standard of excellence. Yesterday our judging panel allocated only one Gold Medal but we also awarded throughout the range giving two Silver Gilts, three Silvers and two Bronze. A good indication that we were carefully analysing the exhibits we were judging.

A well deserved Gold Medal for Eleplants nursery, although the moderators criticised the use of excess leafshine on some of the evergreens. Personally I loved the way the Coprosmas glowed!

Chrysanthemums Direct - a Silver Gilt but can't they think of another way of displaying these lovely blooms?

Jacques Amand - spring blooms in a range of containers
Another pic of Jacques Amand

Plants for Presents exhibited a great range of Citrus plants, many in fruit but the staging in a heap of straw didn't enhance the stand which only achieved a Silver.

A wonderful display of daffodils form RA Scamp presented in a very formal and traditional style - no marks for originality and innovation.

Richard and Sheena Drane brought a collection of cacti. Fortunately I have rarely had to judge cacti as I would find it difficult to be objective, judging a collection of the same plants that have probably been displayed at numerous shows in exactly the same way!

Sea Spring Seeds created a very informative display showing how many salads can be easily grown in small spaces and achieving them a Silver Gilt

Kelnan Plants brought a selection of Restios
Sadly some nurseries did not get good awards and in each case there were valid reasons why they were penalised and they will receive constructive comments to help with the future.

Whilst Heucheras usually get high awards, the judges felt the cultivars on display were limited and drab in colourings, resulting in just a Silver for Heucheraholics

The early Clematis from Floyds just hadn't really made it and Armandii was the only one in flower. The regulations clearly state that marks cannot be given for plants that are not doing what they are grown for. I'm sure the Bronze medal will be a disappointment.

Daisy Roots displayed a collection of dogwoods which simply lacked impact, having no other plants to separate or contrast them. They too only got  a bronze.

And to end on a positive note just a few specific plants that caught my eye! Just my personal selection of plants I'd like to grow. With my overnight bag to carry and a trip across London followed by a train journey, I decided not to purchase!

Limequat - a pretty little citrus - maybe one to try in my California garden

D'Arcy and Everest had a wonderful display of Sempervivums in troughs, many displayed in imaginative ways such as this, achieving them a Silver Gilt
Helleborus 'Burgundy'

Helleborus orientalis 'Blue Lady'

Labelled Helleborus 'Green Corsicus' -  Updated name from Chad - thanks - should be called Helleborus x nigercors 'Green Corsican' a hybrid between H. niger and H. argutifolius

Helleborus 'White Beauty'

Iris 'Rhapsody' - probably a reticulata hybrid

Streptocarpus 'Harlequin Dawn' - inevitably from Dibleys as are the next two

Streptocarpus 'Harlequin Lace'
Streptocarpus 'Denim'


  1. Hi Ian, great to hear an insight about the show from a judge's point of view, and fascinating to know some of the points that were considered in arriving to those decisions. Some of the exhibitors really need to change or vary their display more regularly...

  2. I think the Hellebore is a naughty name! It is Helleborus x nigercors ‘Green Corsican'. It is a TC clone from Joseph Heuger's Glandorf Nursery. It is one of those hybrids between H. niger and H. argutifolius that we had been told weren’t possible and are now all the rage.

    Thanks for posting this show. I miss the monthly shows both becase they stopped being monthly and because I have moved out of London so they are now too far away to get to!


  3. Updated name and extra information appreciated! You'd never believe the nomenclature on some nursery labels at these shows or maybe you would!

  4. Ian.

    Firstly, I am glad I found your blog. Its excellent. I have been telling many where I work about your past exploits at Nottingham Uni and have said its a model landscape to look at for the future of green space. Anyhow, the RHS show looked good and was unable to go, sadly for someone who manages parks teams the day was dreary so i decided to go home but a big thanks for the pictures.