Getting braver and winning


Some regular readers will recall that back in May I plucked up the courage to enter some plants into the Malvern Spring Show Open Garden competition and I won a second prize.  The experience gave me some much needed confidence and so it didn’t take much to persuade me to have a go at entering an Alpine Garden Society show today.

I had been dithering as usual and the Erodium I was thinking of entering started to lose its flowers so there was no point entering it.  However, an email exchange with the show secretary and time spent scanning the show schedule got me fired up and I found myself wandering the garden to see what I could find to enter.  Whilst I have lots of succulents the majority are Echiveria and Aeoniums which are not hardy and therefore no eligible to enter so it was the Sempervivums or Jovibarba.  I remembered some Allium sikkimense which I had bought from Cotswold Garden Flowers last year and which were flowering very well in the border.  They have the most wonderful bright blue flowers.

In the end I rounded up plants for 5 classes:  3 distinct rock plants (Athryium, an alpine geranium and a sempervivium); a rock plant in flower (another sempervivium); a bulbous plant (the allium); one pan Crassulaceae (a Jovibarba) and 1 pan for foliage effect (a chiastophyllum).  I had planned to enter a conifer but the nice people at the Scottish Rock Garden Club Forum advised that it wouldn’t be considered an appropriate entry so I left that one behind. My round-up of likely suspects are above.


I staged my plants early which was good as it has been ridiculously hot today.  Just like the Malvern Spring show I was welcomed, shown how to stage plants and encouraged. My entries were in the Novice section (not the plants in the photo above they are in the Open, or shall we say advanced section).  Mine didn’t have many flowers on them and flowers, when appropriate, equal points so I didn’t have very high hopes.


When you get to the advance classes you are very clever and can grow impressive immaculate cushion plants like those above.  I don’t really like them but I do know how hard they are to grow so I admire the dedication and skill involved.  I prefer the more floriferous entries like the Campanula in the second photograph.  However, I would love to be able to grow the plant below which is another Campanula and also a cushion plant – Campanula asperuloides.


I returned in the afternoon to see how my plants had fared and I was amazed and thrilled to discover that my Allium had been awarded a first, my group of three a second, which was very good considering the lack of fl2013_07130027owers, and my Sempervivum a third.


I was very surprised as I really hadn’t made  much effort and my range of plants to choose from was quite limited.  A chat with another Novice, Pauline, who had a few more shows under her belt led me to go and buy a range of plants from one of the nurseries at the show.  I bought a range of plants with the hope that in a year’s time they will have bulked up and some will be in flower and give me more choice when selecting my entries.

Yes, I do plan to enter again.  My next goal is to go up to Intermediate class.  This will take 10 firsts, so 9 more but there are shows all over the country I can enter including the AGS show at the Malvern Spring show and also one in Solihull which isn’t too far.  I realised talking to exhibitors that I have so much to learn; not just all the new plants many of which I have never heard of, but also all about cultivation and showing but  then again that is why I am loving entering the world of showing.

17 Comments Add yours

  1. Gwen says:

    Very well done Helen. its easy to get ‘hooked’ on exhibiting. Good luck with your future entries.

  2. Congrats Helen and how very exciting…I look forward to reading more about your first place ribbons and one day best in show!!

  3. pianolearner says:

    congratulations 🙂

  4. That is so cool! Way to go, you!

  5. Kylee Baumle says:

    That is SO exciting!! Congratulations!

  6. kininvie says:

    Fascinating, Helen. I do admire your courage here. Have you thought of the encrusted saxifrages? – So easy, and so spectacular when in bloom. Or edrianthus pumilio?

  7. Yvonne Ryan says:

    Yes definitely a plantaholic – especially loved the cushion campanula!!

  8. Yvonne Ryan says:

    Just listening to weather report – snow – sw gales – hail (south west cold direction in Southern Hemisphere of course) further south and middle of North Island. Sun been coming in here but going to be an inside day for me – try to get rid of head cold. My landlady and 2 daughters families have gone off to Sydney and Fiji for 10 days. The snorkelling will be a lot warmer than the pool here at about 12 degrees!

  9. Brave girl! What fun.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Marian
      I kept telling myself that if I could fly to San Francisco on my own with connections then I got show a few plants at a show and I was right. Feel very positive about the whole thing

  10. Julie says:

    Exciting read and well done too!

  11. Diana Studer says:

    Congratualtions, what fun!

  12. Pauline says:

    Well done, congratulations on your awards, you must be feeling very pleased !

  13. I’m chuffed to bits for you, did you win lots of money.. 😉
    I’ve got a lack of shows around here, the only suitable local prospect is Bank Holiday August weekend and I’m a bit busy then.

    Anyhow… well done you.!

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