Contents of the Winter 2012 Northants News

                    My First Major  Show                          Doug Rowland

In the autumn of 1963 I gave up with Australian Zebra Finches, took the aviary down, put up a small glasshouse and began with cactus and succulents as a new hobby.

Plants were scarce and rather difficult to buy then, and soon after I joined the NCSS and there found a few fellow members to exchange seedlings and cuttings with. A member called Jack Gallon said he would meet me in Park Square and take me to the branch meeting across the road. Subsequently my little girl Diana came too. We caught the afternoon train to Luton, did a bit of shopping and then had tea at Lyons, or Marks and Spencer Cafeteria or even Bays fish and chip restaurant in Park Square. Then we met Jack, Bert and another good looking fellow from Baldock and went to the Luton branch meeting.

It was not long before the Branch Show came along, held in the College foyer and judged by Ron Ginns. Most of the cactus classes were won by a chap called George Linney who owned some very large cactus plants. Keith Grantham and Charlie Feetham won most of the succulent plant classes. George saw me looking at his plants and invited me to see his collection in Leighton Buzzard the following Saturday. The plants were all large Cerei, Mammillaria and large clustering Parodia, the like of which I had not seen before. The place smelt of systemic insecticide, as George did not like mealy bugs.

Shortly after, I took Diana on a Branch outing to a nursery in Worthing. On the way back Charlie came down the bus to collect the fares. George Linney sat across the way from me and asked if I had paid for my little girl. I told him that the arrangement was that children travelled at half price.  George said the Branch had pots of money in the bank and that the eight children on the bus should travel free of charge. George went up to the front of the bus and had a word with Charlie who hastily convened an impromptu committee meeting, resulting in Charlie coming down the bus again and giving the kids their money back.

Shortly after this the Luton Branch were asked to host the Area Show. These shows preceded the first actual ‘National’ of 1967 held in Nottingham. George was Show Manager, and Keith and Charlie joined Society officials to arrange the Show. They could not find a suitable hall in Luton, but one was eventually found in Harpenden. Schedules were printed and all went well. Jack and I were assigned to the branch plant sales outside in the foyer, so no stewarding for us. Exhibitors came all morning and we did well with our sales. As the staging time was ending towards eleven o‘clock, it was noticed that there were significant gaps in most classes and the committee investigated and discovered that Society Chairman Keith Mortimer had not arrived with his very large entry from the Leeds Branch. Just then, the caretaker appeared and said there was a phone call in his office for the Shows committee.

It was Leeds Branch calling from a motorway service station. Apparently they had set out in good time, but had had a blowout on the motorway. They had unloaded some of the boxes of plants to find the jack, wheel brace and tool kit, removed the spare wheel of the Bedford Dormobile from under the rear of the van and put it on. They then had travelled rather slowly to the service station as the spare wheel was not fully inflated. By now it was almost eleven o’ clock. Could they still come to the Show now they had tyres blown up and the blowout replaced with new tyre and tube? The committee at Harpenden were between the devil and the deep, blue sea. On one hand Hermann Jacobsen was coming and they needed a good entry. Alternatively, they could bend the rules and wait for the Leeds entry to arrive. On a very hasty vote it was decided to bend the staging rule and await the arrival of the Leeds entry. At about 12.30pm the Dormobile arrived and there was a lightning unloading and by 1pm all was ready for the judges who were asked to get a move on.

By opening time quite a crowd had gathered outside and Jack and I were kept very busy with plant sales. Herman Jacobsen amused himself by identifying badly named succulents and writing their correct names on the back of the labels. At two thirty the doors opened and the panic was over and eventually it was decided we had had a very successful Show.

Some months later, George Linney decided to enter some of his large cacti in to the Southern Area Show, being held at Croydon that year. On the journey down, George and his pal got caught up in the traffic. In those days most main roads ran through the middle of towns, bypasses and circular routes being almost unheard of then. George arrived with his entry ten minutes late and the doorman would not let him in as the judging was going on. A hastily convened meeting of the committee in the hall decided that George was ten minutes late and entries were closed. George was devastated and said he would never show again.

And he didn’t. A few weeks later the local Council sent out notices to tenants in the row of houses where he lived that they were taking half the gardens in his row to widen and rebuild the road. This left no room for George’s greenhouse and plants. He sold them all and the glasshouse, and I never saw him again.


Ed: Thanks Doug. I have very positive memories of early shows I have attended. The memory gets a bit clouded but I think my first was held in Manchester in connection with a National Convention. Or maybe there was a convention and there was just a large show, Manchester are good at those. I also remember those early Nationals at Luton Shows with what I thought at the time were tremendous plants. These were pre-camera days so I have no way of comparing quality. Since the Kidlington Show I can just pull up the pictures. Some show plants return every four years, and some do not.


                  Show Plants at Chelsea                         Roland Tebbenham

I was unable to visit the National Show this year, but I noticed some nice succulent plants at RHS Chelsea in May,

Amongst the succulents there were two Aeonium cultivars submitted for the ‘Chelsea Plant of the Year’ competition.  Though they did not win, they were highlighted in an article on the finalists in the RHS Plantsman magazine [September 2012 edition] with some background on their genesis and naming.

Aeonium ‘Cornish Tribute’ was raised by Trewidden Nursery in Cornwall where the owners have been intercrossing several species to obtain horticulturally valuable cultivars.  This one is compact with tight foliage and said to be ideal for outdoor containers.  It was named after a favourite beer of the nursery owners.

Aeonium ‘Logan Rock’ is larger than the first cultivar, with darker foliage and branches freely.  This one is named after the nursery owners’ local pub at Treen.  They sound like my kind of horticulturalists! 

We should keep an eye out for these for they may replace that favourite container plant Aeonium ‘Schwarzkopf’ in the future.  You may also care to speculate on possible names for the new cultivar you are working on.


Two new Aeonium Hybrids

Left: Aeonium ‘Cornish Tribute’

Right: Aeonium ‘Logan Rock’

Ed: This naming plants lark got me on a pondering session over a glass of Wolf-Blass Shiraz (and not just over the spelling of 'Schwarzkopf', or 'Zwartkop' as in the ISHP. I reckon that ‘Bombay Sapphire’ would be a great name. Of course the plant would have to be light blue like the bottle. ermmm… Senecio, Sedum, Echeveria, Pachyphytum, Graptopetalum. Gotta get my camel-hair paintbrush out straight away.

Naturally any hybrid that turned out red would be ‘Shiraz’.

On reflection, I would send back any beer that looked like ‘Cornish Tribute’ The FL says she would give it room though. The Aeonium that is.


Hints from Mrs Dell on spelling -

Echeveria ‘Topsy Turvey’ should be ‘Tipsy Purvey’

We are not going to let Mrs. Dell write the next book on Echeveria hybrids.


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