Just Perfect!

During the week Harold McBride, a gardening friend in Northern Ireland, forwarded a photograph taken at the recent Alpine Garden Society show at Cabinteely, Dublin. The photograph was taken by Paddy Smith of the A.G.S. and was of a plant displayed by Billy Moore, a long time AGS member and perennial exhibitor at the Cabinteely show.

Trillium chloropetalum ‘Bob Gordon’ at the Alpine Garden Society’s show in Cabinteely, 2017. Exhibited by Billy Moore. Photographed by Paddy Smith

Billy’s plant this year was of one of those plants which would stop you in your tracks if you encountered it in a garden or on the show bench. It is, quite simply, both outstandingly beautiful and perfectly grown. Beyond that, it has connection and provenance which all who have seen it and know of it appreciate so very much.

This is Trillium chloropetalum ‘Bob Gordon’, named for Bob, who gardens in Northern Ireland, because it was among some self-sown seedlings in his garden that he gave to Billy. Bob has a form of Trillium chloropetalum in his garden which grows with unbounded vigour and which seeds with abundance in his garden. I have had such seedlings from Bob and they have continued to thrive here with me but I have not been as fortunate as Billy to have one which produced yellow flowers.

Naturally, as we all would be, Billy was thrilled with his new plant and gave it Bob’s name to remember Bob’s kindness and to attach Bob’s name to a truly special plant and that is what is so pleasing – the plant and the man are so well matched. Harold McBride commented, “This yellow form of T. Chloropetalum  is probably the best plant of Irish origin  to emerge for many years .  It also fittingly bears the name of one of Ireland’s most generous and talented  gardeners who was, of course, the raiser” while Margaret Young, of the Scottish Rock Garden Club, added:  “I could not agree more – a truly lovely plant, and it’s “friends and associates” are some of Ireland’s nicest and best- gardeners!”

Trillium 'Bob Gordon' photo Anne Repnow
Trillium chloropetalum ‘Bob Gordon’, photographed by Beryl McNaughton at the joint AGS/SCRC Northumberland Show at Hexham. 

I saw this plant at the 2016 Cabinteely Show and thought it was magnificent but, with Billy’s care, it looks even better this year. He exhibited it at the A.G.S./S.R.G.C Northumberland Show at Hexham where the plant was awarded a Certificate of Merit – a dress rehearsal for Dublin, Billy commented. When exhibited at Cabinteely it was awarded the Farrer Medal, the highest award from the Alpine Garden Society recognising an excellent plant, well grown!

Well done to Billy and to Bob!


Paddy Tobin

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society visit our website or follow us on Facebook


A Display of Gems

Each year in April the Dublin branch of the Alpine Garden Society holds its show at the Cabinteely Community College and it is an opportunity to view the most beautiful plant gems imaginable and, of course, an opportunity to meet some of the people who are gems of the gardening world.

A visit to the dentist before leaving Waterford had us decided to avoid a restaurant and we had a light lunch with coffee from the flask in the carpark. The society members had been inside much earlier to stage their displays and for the judges to appraise them. While we ate we observed members arriving with plants for the members’ plant sale – quite a feature of the event and an opportunity to acquire some very nice plants. We watched one member, one we know well, as he practically wore a path from car to hall with his deliveries and we also could see the earlybirds forming a queue for the 1.30 opening.

The Members’ Plant Sale area is the first encountered on entering the hall and is always a source of good plants – at a good price.

Once indoors we headed for the members’ plant sales where Mary added some of Harold McBride’s “Waverley Seedling”s to her collection of Primula auricula. We don’t know what colour the flowers will be but Harold always has good plants so it is worth the chance and there is the excitement of the wait to see what we have bought and it is nice to have a plant raised by a friend.

Once into the main hall I was greeted by the plant of my dreams – there is always a plant we dream of and would wish to have. There are several reasons I long for this plant – this one is Trillium chloropetalum ‘Bob Gordon’. Some years back, Bob gave Billy Moore some seedlings of Trillium chloropetalum from his garden. Billy grew them on to flowing size and found he had some with yellow flowers – T. chloropetalum is usually a rich bungundy – so he knew he had something special. He grew it on before showing it at an AGS show in Belfast where the members of the Joint Rock Committee  commended it highly and suggested it deserved a cultivar name – a recognition of its worth. Billy, of course, named it after Bob Gordon who had given him the seedlings.

Trillium chloropetalum 'Bob Gordon' - grown by Billy Moore  (2)
Trillium chloropetalum ‘Bob Gordon’ which was raised by Billy Moore from seedlings from Bob Gordon’s garden. 
Trillium chloropetalum 'Bob Gordon' - grown by Billy Moore  (9)
Trillium chloropetalum ‘Bob Gordon’
Trillium chloropetalum 'Bob Gordon' - grown by Billy Moore  (4)
Trillium chloropetalum ‘Bob Gordon’

Quite simple, this is a fabulous plant, with a distinct colour for a Trillium – even T. luteum is not as good a yellow as this. It is also one which would make an excellent garden plant – while I admire greatly the many plants the AGS members display I realise that many would not make good garden plants but would require pot culture and a level of care and attention which would be more that I would wish to give. Trillium chloropetalum, on the other hand, is an easy and excellent garden plant – seedlings from Bob’s garden have simply romped along in our garden – and I am especially delighted that Billy has put Bob’s name to such an outstanding plant.

Further along the same bench was a much smaller plant which stopped every visitor in his/her tracks. Paddy Smith has shown Gentiana ligustica at previous shows over previous years and it has continued to improve and to impress even more with each showing. The blue of gentians has something magical about it and invariably catches the eye and the admiration of viewers. Paddy has grown this specimen to a very high standard so that his display represents not only a beautiful plant but an example of the wonderful skill of the grower.

Gentiana ligustica - grown by Paddy Smith. First Prize (5)
Gentiana ligustica grown to perfection by Paddy Smith

It is plants, such as the above, which make the AGS shows so wonderful. There is a purity here – thoughts of garden design, plant combinations, colour coordination and those many other considerations of the garden maker can be put aside – and the visitor can focus purely on the beauty of the individual plants and this is a pure joy.

Moving from plant to plant and from bench to bench is a slow process and this is as it should be so that there is time to admire at length the beauty which is presented and the skills which brought them to us. This slow  movement is guaranteed by meeting so many people, great gardeners and great friends, some of whom we meet only once a year, and who are as much an attraction as the plants on the benches so the pleasure of visiting the Cabinteely show is on many levels and a rich and wonderful experience.

Some photographs from the show to give you a flavour of the occasion: 








Paddy Tobin

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society visit our website or follow us on Facebook

Label that Memory

While cutting down a now large clump of crocosmias I came on a label in the centre which read, “Crocosmia Bristol/Severn Sunrise/Sunset.” Check the name. From Anna Nolan. Sept. 02″ .

Crocosmia'Severn Sunrise'
Crocosmia’Severn Sunrise’

I know now that this is Crocosmia ‘Severn Sunrise’ and I have enjoyed it in the garden for the years since I received it as a gift from Anna when we visited her garden in September 2002. It is odd the memories which we attach to gardens but most engrained in my mind are the directions we used to get to her. We travelled up the N11 – long before the new layout there at present – and, after passing St. Brendan’s Hospital in Loughlinstown, would keep our eyes peeled for a pair of service stations, one at either side of the road. When we passed the one on the left we knew it was time to move to the right hand lane and do a U-turn to move to the opposite carriageway. Such a move nowadays would probably bring Dublin traffic to a standstill for hours. We then passed the other service station and took the next left and though we knew the address, 12 Shanganagh Vale, it was always the planting which guided us to the house. There was no doubt but that you were arriving at the home of an enthusiastic gardener as Anna’s plantings extended out on to the pathway outside her home

Front garden - you knew straight away that this was the garden of a plant enthusiast.
Front garden – you knew straight away that this was the garden of a plant enthusiast.

Anna always had what we might call tasty plants, something different, new and interesting. She created a beautiful garden but was first and foremost a lady with a passion of plants. She was very active in local gardening societies and had been especially involved in the Dublin branch of the Alpine Garden Society from its very beginnings. Shirley Lanigan in her “Irish Gardens” wrote, “This is a perfect, tiny town garden that earns its keep all year round” and it was Carmel Duignan who recalled a French journalist commenting when he visited that the garden was “Tres chic”.

At the back of the house, a beautiful garden
At the back of the house, a beautiful garden
Anna showing the garden
Anna showing the garden
I recall these steps had only recently been built when we visited in September 2002 and Anna was so delighted with them
Tea, cakes, chat and plenty of beautiful plants

It was always a pleasure to visit and her gardening friends remember her with great fondness as, unfortunately, Anna passed away in 2009. So, it is good to have a well inscribed label and a plant in the garden which preserve her memory for us.

As an aside, Anna came to visit our garden with the Irish Garden Plant Society on one occasion. Her husband, Seán, was one of the party but Seán was not particularly interested in gardening, certainly not an enthusiast at any rate and, soon after arriving, someone commented that he was a bit grumpy because he was missing a football game on the television. Seán and I slipped away from the group and I set him up with television, bottle of whiskey and glass and I believe no visitor has ever enjoyed our garden so much.

Some of the plants from Anna’s garden photographed in September, 2002:


And rain never deterred the enthusiastic gardener.
And rain never deterred the enthusiastic gardener.

Paddy Tobin

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society visit our website or follow us on Facebook