Next Meeting: Saturday 18th, Helen Picton

Helen Picton – ‘Daisy Days – The Rise, Fall and Renaissance

Helen Picton is the third generation of Pictons to be running Old Court Nurseries in Colwall, Herefordshire. The nursery has specialised in Michaelmas daisies since 1906; growing, breeding and now preserving these invaluable autumn-flowering plants. Helen trained as a botanist at the University of Reading before returning to the nursery to work full time in 2009. She now co-runs the nursery and garden.

This talk tells the story of Michaelmas daisies from Virgil right up to the modern day, and includes the birth and development of Old Court Nurseries, which houses the National Collection with more than 430 varieties.  Helen will give a taster of the diversity of plants covered by the term ‘Michaelmas daisy’, as well as some essential propagation and growing tips.

All meetings start at 11am, with the hall open prior for tea, coffee, biscuits and chat.

Hadspen House Booklet Search

Sonja Harris asks:

Does anyone have a copy of the visitor booklet / leaflet for Hadspen House when it was under the ownership of the Hobhouses? It also served as a plant list and entry ticket, I understand. 

I have one from Sandra and Nori Pope’s time, but no earlier.

With thanks

Early Spring Plant Fair Looking Fabulous

With the Plant Fair less than three weeks away now, we hope to tempt anyone who has yet to book by announcing the list of wonderful stallholders who will be bringing their plants and garden-related items for your delectation!

  • Gardener’s Blacksmith
  • Avon Bulbs
  • Longacre Plants
  • Elworthy Cottage
  • Wild Thyme
  • Pottertons Nursery
  • Triffids Nursery
  • CB Plants
  • Floyds Climbers
  • Gardeners’ Delight
  • Hilltop Garden
  • Phoenix Perennial Plants
  • Leesa’s Not Just Alpines
  • Beans & Herbs
  • Heartsease Plants

Plus the popular HPS plant stall. 

Added to the attraction of all those fabulous plants that you really need to get for your garden, the Yeo Valley Garden is already looking really fabulous. There will also be delicious food items to buy in the cafe and shop – bring your cool bag to stock up on Yeo Valley products.

Ticket sales are hotting up now and one of the morning arrival slots has now closed so book your tickets as soon as possible. Go to the tickets website to book your place right away.

Jane Hunt.

Early Spring Plant Fair at Yeo Valley Organic Garden

25th March 2023

Tickets for the Fair are now available to purchase online. Go to the booking site via this link or the button under the poster on the Somerset HPS website. There is a small discount for HPS members.

However, you can attend the Fair for free by becoming a volunteer on the entrance gate for a two hour session during the Fair. We still need one person to help from 9.30am to 11.30am and two people to man the gate from 1.30pm to 3.30pm (last entrance to the Fair is at 3.00pm but there will be some minor clearing up afterwards).

The role involves checking tickets against a list which will provided – there is little or no money handling involved. Visit the Fair and the garden for free before or after your stint on the gate.

If you feel unable to volunteer in a committee position, this is your opportunity to show your support and help us raise vital funds, keeping the cost of membership to the current low level we all enjoy.

If you can help, please get in touch with Jane Hunt via the contact page.

Belated Reminder – Feb 18th Meeting

Saturday 18th February – West Monkton Village Hall 11am

Tom Clarke – ‘Exbury Gardens – The First 100 Years’

Created just over 100 years ago, Exbury spans over 200 acres of the New Forest. Tom is Head Gardener at Exbury. He says: “The 1920s were the golden age of woodland gardening, and Exbury was at the cutting edge of this movement. The location, climate, existing oak woodland and acid soil all allowed for the creation of one of the finest gardens of its kind in the UK. Combine this with the legacy of the great plant hunters, and the extensive plant breeding programme at Exbury, and we are fortunate enough to have inherited a truly wonderful garden packed full of horticultural treasures.” A lecture not to be missed!

Garden Visits on February 24th

February 24th – Visit to two Dartmoor Gardens 

Our first visits of the year are just 3 weeks away; another encouraging sign that spring really is on its way! 

Our first stop is at Higher Cherubeer, near Winkleigh on the edge of Dartmoor.  This is a naturalistic woodland garden with national collections of snowdrops and species cyclamen.  These are set among numerous winter-flowering shrubs and many salix and cornus whose winter stems enhance this impressive early spring garden which sits so comfortably in its surrounds.  Our hostess Jo Hynes will give us an introduction to the garden and be on hand to answer any queries.   There should be plants on sale and tea/coffee and cake will be served.

There have recently been (at least) 2 good articles on this garden which can be viewed from the following links:

Our second visit of the day is to Stone Lane Gardens near Chagford, an RHS partner garden, where we can see their National Collection of birches in all their winter glory.  Although we miss the usual sculpture garden for which Stone Lane is also well known, the sight of the birches, some maybe already with their catkins, but still with their stark leafless silhouettes and bright trunks, should be memorable.  The head gardner Paul Bartlett, will give us an introduction and history of the garden.  Tea/coffee and biscuits will be served and pre-ordered trees can be collected – not too big though we shall only be in a mini-bus!

Their website is :

The bus will leave Taunton Hankridge Farm (just off the M5) at 8.30 and we expect to be back at approximately 4.30pm.  If there is sufficient demand we could also stop at the service station next to the Tiverton exit of the M5 to collect/put down passengers.  Stout footwear will be in order, and probably waterproofs too, being Dartmoor in February.  Packed lunches should also be brought as there are no other catering facilities available on the day.  Both venues however have loos for our use! 

If you have any other queries about the visit please contact Kate Harris at or
to book please contact Penny Berry Tel 01278 662 720 or email

Flower Competitions

Helen and Roy Stickland got in touch to help clarify the flower competitions we run.

The rules of the competitions are as follows.  Members are invited to bring a flower and/or a pot plant to each of our seven meetings at West Monkton Village Hall throughout the calendar year.  The entries will be judged by our guest speakers and the top three in each section will be awarded points:  3 for 1st, 2 for 2nd and 1 for 3rd.  Points will be accumulated during the year, and the overall winners will receive gardening vouchers as their prize. 

  1. For the flower section, the requirement is a single flower (usually displayed in a vase) if that is how the plant grows, e.g. a narcissus or a dahlia.  If it is a flowering shrub, for example with clusters of flowers along the stem, then it is the whole stem that you display.  The point is that it is not a flower arranging exhibit, so multiple blooms or stems are not what we are looking for.  If you are an Ikebana fiend then you’ll know, of course, that even a single bloom may be displayed artistically!
  2. For the pot plant section, much the same rule applies. The requirement is for a single plant growing in a pot.  For a plant that naturally produces little offsets all around the central growth, as many succulents do, you do not have to remove all the offsets!
  3. During January to April there is an additional category of a cut flower from a bulb.

Bring something along for the Jan 14th meeting to liven up the room.


Meeting reminder: Charles Chesshire and The Art of Dishevelment

On Saturday 14th of January at 11am we resume our monthly meetings.

After a lifetime of travelling the world designing gardens, studying plants, writing and teaching, Charles has settled near Bridport in Dorset where his garden design business is based alongside his rare plant nursery. Charles has been curator of Burford House Gardens and consultant to Sudeley Castle and Sezincote Gardens in Gloucestershire.

This talk is a personal, and occasionally tongue-in-cheek, exploration of the levels of control we assert over our gardens, taking a tour through the garden from perfect order to anarchy, a journey that is part psychological, part historical and part political.

At every meeting we have the Plant of the Month competition. For 2023 we will remind everyone to bring along an offering to expand the competition. Your mission is to bring either a cut flower and / or a pot plant, or both. The competition is usually judged by the Speaker and points awarded towards an annual award at the AGM.

Let’s give Roy and Caroline some competition this year – find your best plants and bring them along on Saturday.

See you on Saturday,


Refreshments rota

Happy New Year to all,

I have arranged refreshment volunteers for our next meeting.

On Saturday there will be a Tea & Coffee volunteer form on the welcome desk for members to add their names & contact details for the remaining meetings this year.

Mike Vernoum