Update from Cathy Rollinson, National Chair, with additions from the Somerset Group Committee (in italics).
I am starting this edition of Group News in the hope that you will have emerged from this period of cold and snow and wind relatively unscathed. I think we will all be looking at what we grow with new eyes. The areas where plants haven’t survived will doubtless be seen by true hardy planters as opportunities for new planting and will give us a focus when we look at what’s on offer at plant sales tables and plant fairs.
The sad and unexpected news of Pauline Cooper’s death in early January has left the Society in urgent need of a Coordinator for the Seed Distribution Scheme. Judi Deakin, has already written to Group Secretaries inviting expressions of interest, but I cannot emphasise too strongly how crucial this role is.
The Shropshire Group have been handling the Scheme for some years now. There is a very efficient system in place and they have agreed to continue for another year, but we do need to plan ahead and think about whether another Group might take responsibility for the exercise with a new Coordinator.
Next year’s exercise starts very soon with instructions to donors going in the July Newsletter, so we need someone to take over the leadership as soon as possible. Shadowing the Shropshire Groups over the coming year would be a tremendous help to an incoming volunteer. The seed distribution is an important way in which the Society delivers its charitable object of promoting the growing of hardy herbaceous perennials and for many of our members the arrival of the seed packets in the depths of winter is one of the highlights of the year.
If members go online they may well find their standing orders have been updated to reflect our need to comply with regulatory ring-fencing requirements, sending their membership payments to the new bank account.
Marketing and Publicity
We have had a vacancy for a Marketing and Publicity Officer for several years and I am delighted to report that we now have a volunteer to take on this role. Anastasia Reynolds is a relatively new member of the Society, living in Northamptonshire. Her full-time job is running marketing for Millbrook, an automotive test services provider, where she has responsibility for all aspects of marketing and PR, including internal and external communications. I shall work with Ana initially to support her as she gets to know the Society and its people. It is a relief to have someone in this role as we do really need a professional to guide us in getting across the message about the HPS. The Somerset Group is still looking for someone to fulfil this role within the Group too. We have a list of contacts to publicise our big events, but we need someone to write to them at the relevant time.
Over the last year, our total membership has increased – the first increase in 18 years and the society now has 7,096 members, up 3.76 per cent on last year. Two years ago, it fell to its lowest level for nearly 30 years – just 6,829. There has also been an increase in the number of members joining local and special interest groups, with the latest figures showing that almost 70% of national members are also members of groups.
Kenneth Black Bursary Fund
We have about £200,000 tied up in the bursary fund and we really want to make more awards to young horticulturists. Anna Peacock has produced a new leaflet to promote the bursary scheme and these are being sent to all Groups in the hope that you will help to make it known locally, by spreading the news to colleges, botanic gardens and to head gardeners.
We have published a new booklet on Ferns, written by Neil Timm of the Fern Nursery in Lincolnshire. Copies are available to order online or by contacting the office. Sally will also be bringing copies to the ALD/AGM.
The Conservation Scheme needs a new Coordinator. Jan Vaughan has offered to cover the role for the time being, but her new role as Chairman will require a significant time commitment, so a replacement would be warmly welcomed.
Jan has produced a new leaflet for members to promote it and it would be good if Committees would look for an enthusiastic volunteer to get together a small group of growers. I know that some people have been involved in the past and were put off by the form-filling. The admin is now much less onerous, so growers can concentrate more on conserving the plants and the annual meeting is a great opportunity to meet other coordinators and share experiences, as well as picking up new plants.
The more widely we can grow the plants in the scheme, the more information we can collect about how they do in different conditions and, of course, the more good, garden-worthy plants can be conserved and shared. The Somerset Group is also looking for a Conservation Scheme Co-ordinator so that the Group can participate in the Scheme once again. If you are interested in propagation please consider taking on this role.
Jan would be more than happy to visit Groups and talk about the Scheme and can still be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.
If anyone is planning to give a talk about the Society, there are two Powerpoint presentations – one on the HPS and another on the theme of ‘What is a Hardy Plant?’. Peter Ryder, Treasurer of the Northampton Group, has helped to update them and the images and layout are now more consistent, making it easier to pick and choose and create your own talk. If you would like a copy of the presentations, please contact the office. I would be happy to talk to anyone who is unsure of how to use the package or tailor it to their requirements.
Our next event will be the Annual Lecture Day and AGM to be held in Tiverton on 24th March. Thanks to the Devon Group for taking on hosting this important event in our calendar. After that, the events come thick and fast and I look forward to meeting many of you throughout the year. Please come along to the many events organised by the local and Special Interest Groups around the country.