Australian painting of cactus best in London show

The paintings of Queensland mangroves and assorted exotic cacti purchased in Australia didn't look out of place among wildlowers, ferns and fruits from all over the world. Neither did Dierdre Bean and Annie Hughes, two Australian artists Lynda and I met at the 2012 Royal Horticultural Society Orchid and Botanical Art Show at Lindley and 'the other' Hall, Westminster.

There was a third artist from Australia, not present when we visited in the early afternoon today. Hundreds of paintings but only one Best Painting in the RHS London Botanical Art Show 2012: Annie's prize winning picture of Astrophytum ornatum (above). Annie's other cacti were equally exotic and exquisite, including this Astrophytum myriostigma onzuka.

Dierdre has set herself the task of painting all 40 or so mangroves in Australia and six or so of these were on display today. While they didn't win the big prize they go one of the silver gilt awards and brought to life a group of plants most of us would barely notice.

There were lots of other pretty paintings, some even by non-Australians... Local artist Julie Trickey's selection of large fading flowers, appropriately called Larger than Life, was just a little bit different.

Across the road, in the neighbouring hall there were real flowers, orchids, and plenty of them.

Perhaps a few too many of the large blowsy ones in purple and and orange, but as always a few favourites. This is the orchid I illustrate at the top of my blog, with me peering intensely into it's flower - Angraecum sesquipedale, the one with the big nectar spur that excited Charles Darwin and me.

I also liked the display of living orchids next to their portraits - both benefit from the association.

But then even a blowsy orchid looks good when there are enough of them.

And there were some educational displays, including these striking posters about how orchid flowers are pollinated.

All primed now for the Chelsea Flower Show in May where I shall, as always, look out for the lupins!