East Lambrook Manor Gardens – Saturday 11th July

While East Lambrook Manor Gardens has not reopened to the public yet on regular basis it will be opening for the NGS this coming Saturday 11th July from 10.00am to 5.00pm. Adults £6.00, children under 16 free. Tickets must be booked and paid for online via the NGS website and the link for the booking page is ngs.org.uk/garden-tickets
The nursery, which is now open Tues to Sat 10.00am – 4.00pm will stay open untill 5.00pm on 11th July. The cafe is closed but visitors can picnic in the Orchard or Car Park if they wish.

Elworthy Cottage open this weekend (July 12th and 15th)

Elworthy Cottage is open for the National Garden Scheme on the Sunday 12th July from 11am to 1pm and from 2.30 to 4.30pm and on Wednesday 15th July for just the afternoon from 2.30 to 4.30pm. If you are intending to come, tickets must be booked and paid for in advance via the NGS website. The link for the bookings page of the NGS website is https://ngs.org.uk/product-category/garden-tickets/

The nursery is also open by appointment on other days please ring 01984 656427.

The June Newsletter: A Personal Take

In this awful time, we also have been very pleased to have a garden.  We have been removing and moving shrubs, some planted by the previous owner, some simply not successful and some planted in haste and regretted.

So, Caroline, where do the labels go?  Some I find in the compost bins along, occasionally, with trowels or secateurs, and some under the mulch at the other end of the border.  I usually blame the blackbirds but a few years ago we tried tying the labels to the plants but most of them disappeared too!  

We love baptisias too, but have failed to grow them successfully in our past and present gardens.  Both gardens had very different soils and conditions, so I can’t offer any helpful advice, I’m afraid.  Papaver rupifragum is giving us much pleasure as well, it can be a surprise where it chooses to go.

It was lovely to see the photos of the visit to East Lambrook Manor, especially with our friends doing what they do best – admiring and buying plants!

The visit to Kew Gardens was obviously a success, but the one photo which resonated with me was Strongylodon macrobotrys.  This bought back memories of a visit to a large and overgrown greenhouse in Madeira, where the flowering jade vine was rampaging through other vines.

‘Three of the Best’ – yes, Roy, I agree totally.  We struggle to grow climbing clematis in our very dry, free draining and poor soil, but the herbaceous types love it.  ‘Cassandra’ was our first and favourite; so much so, in fact, that we bought another and put it in a slightly sunnier position.  We don’t have C. x durandii but C. mandschurica has come into its own this year and fulfilled all of its eight foot.  I might try cuttings, wish me luck.  We have another which we have just moved, as it was in too shady a position.  Of course the label has run away, but from memory it is something like ‘Blue Ball Hill’.

I loved your photos, Marion, but sadly thalictrums do not thrive in our soil.  However, we love them so we persevere.  I have made a note to get Verbena macdougalii, as I like V. hastata.

Sally’s feelings on dahlias mirror my own.  Now they have been freed from their sticks and upturned pots we can have some fun with them.  Putting them in unexpected places, to brighten a border or catch the eye and bring out other similar colours – great.  It is many years since we visited Great Dixter but I haven’t forgotten the use of colour and unexpected combinations.  We owe Christopher Lloyd a debt of gratitude for allowing us to garden as individuals.

Looking forward to seeing all our HPS friends soon.

Sue Sheppard    

Gardener Needed in Taunton

Jennie has a small garden and is in need of a gardener with a good knowledge of plants. If you or someone you know is a freelance gardener who might spare her a couple of hours a fortnight, please would you contact her using the form below (on the website).

Ro FitzGerald’s lockdown daylily rescue!

My Beggars Roost Plants nursery has been closed for years now, but when it was active my speciality was Hemerocallis. The only ground we ever managed to cultivate, by excavating pits in the solid limestone substrate of this part of the Quantock coast, was given to the daylily stock plants. Most of these have now been here for more than a decade and the ground had become a wilderness of bindweed and broken labels, a reproach rather than a pleasure.

Lockdown has given me a wonderful opportunity, to audit and re-identify each clump as it comes into flower, and to check and refresh plants still in pots. The original card index (description, date of purchase, source, illustration etc) is still complete for checking and comparing, and I must admit that the close examination of each new flower has made me fall in love with them all over again!

Daylilies have an odd position in the world of small nurseries, because they have every quality of easy cultivation, health and long life, and some make glorious garden plants, but they are almost impossible to sell! My current stock also proves that they are equally impossible to kill, and their beauties are undeniable, so I’m still a passionate believer in their worth. Some of the big early spiders like ‘Dancing Crab’ and ‘All American Windmill’ have filled the ‘June hiatus’ with truly glamorous colour and form.

However the size of my patch here is very limited, and like Topsy they do keep on growing, so somehow I must reduce the biomass. Duncan Skene when he was running his ABRAXAS gardens in Frome, which many of you will remember with delight, decided to control his numbers by concentrating on Deciduous rather than Evergreen varieties, so I’ve decided to follow this plan and make a sensational offer!


Now that driving within the county is admissible, people could come here to dig their own. I’m still pretty well isolating but getting into the garden does not involve going through the house, and Lilstock certainly has very fresh air and almost no people.

So PLEASE GET IN TOUCH (use the form below on the website) if this might appeal to you. I can email a list and then photographs. Varieties include some of the very handsome crimped and textured plants launched in the 1990s or early 2000s such as ‘Glacier Bay’, ‘Wyoming Wildfire’, ‘Serenity Morgan’ and ‘August Morn’; some loyal older border plants like the sturdy reds ‘Charles Johnston’, ‘Red Rum’ and ‘James Marsh’; two of the near-blacks ‘Bela Lugosi’ and ‘Night Beacon’; a completely opposite colour in the bright gold and strong presence of ‘Chicago Sunrise’; some special colour forms with contrasting ‘eyes’ like ‘Always Afternoon’, ‘Nefertiti’ and (of course) ‘Bette Davis Eyes’; and some which are worth growing for their names alone like ‘Little Pink Umbrellas’ and ‘Possum in a Sack’!

I’m confirming more correct names every day, and although Lilstock is very out-of-the-way I can send the map and directions used when the nursery was open. All you would need to bring is compost bags or crates, a big fork and plenty of muscle!

Complete this form to send a message direct to Ro Fitzgerald

PoTM: Gone Fishing – Dierama

There are some plants that we grow in our gardens that are useful, easy, and hard to dislike: oriental poppies, Siberian irises, hardy geraniums. There are others that are fussy but beautifully rewarding: blue poppies, Trilliums, Hepaticas. And there are those that are quite simply irresistible: Angels’ Fishing Rods (Dierama) certainly fall into that ‘must have’ category.

And so they are bought on sight, taken home, and walked around the garden looking for a place to stay. Gardening books and friends are consulted and they all concur: ‘Angels’ Fishing Rods’ have to be next to the pond. In they go. They flower. Winter comes and it rains. And next year the clump has reduced in size and refuses to flower. It is a frustrating and disappointing tale.

How gracefully the name describes the flowers: Angels’ Fishing Rods, but how misleading that name can be. Dieramas, like so many South African plants, experience in the wild both summer rains, and winter drought. The former doesn’t usually pose a problem in England’s damp and pleasant land, but the latter can prove more difficult to imitate. The solution is to grow dieramas in rich soil that drains well: uphill, above a pond; along a gravel path; or, most successfully of all, between the cracks of a sunny paved terrace. Here their roots will enjoy the condensation beneath the paving flags in summer, and any excess water will run off during the winter. Once established they will set their own seed and the bare flagstones will soon be edged with new dieramas: a waving pink meadow.

Dierama pulcherrimum is the species most commonly grown. It makes an evergreen grassy clump from which emerge tall wiry stems alight with silvery-pink bells that dance in the slightest breeze. Selections have been made whose flowers are all shades from white (D.pulcherrimum ‘Guinevere’), through pink to darkest wine red (D.pulcherrimum ‘Merlin’ and D.pulcherrimum ‘Blackbird’).

But South Africa is home to many other species of dierama. Among them, D.medium is usually the first to flower in May and June on 60cm stems, the bells a distinct 1930s mauve. Followed by D.igneum and D.dracomontanum, both very alike with salmon red flowers about 50-65cm tall, in June. And finally D.pulcherrimum holds sway at about 1-1.5m tall in July and August.

The topmost flowers quickly set seed before the lower ones have opened. The seedpods, like lead shot, weigh down the stems almost to the ground. Harvest the seed, keep it somewhere cool, and sow it in spring. Pot up the seedlings in little clumps as soon as they are big enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame.

Keep them as dry as you dare in winter. Pot them carefully, into deep pots, for the following three springs. Dieramas produce long, brittle tap roots and for this reason it is important to avoid damaging them during the potting process. They should be ready to plant out and flower in their fourth year.

Once they are happily diving south for Australia out in the garden, they don’t like to be disturbed. But to propagate named forms, the clumps do have to be lifted. This is best carried out in spring. Insert a garden fork deeply around the clump, and gently coax it out of the ground. Wash off the surplus soil with a hose so that the roots are visible and then carefully prise off little clumps of corms with their tapering fleshy roots.

Only use the fork if brute strength departs, and then only to loosen and bisect the main clump. Discard any damaged corms or broken tap roots to prevent them rotting underground and infecting their neighbours. Then replant the divided clumps in soil improved with garden compost, and water them in well. They may well sulk for a season while they get over their shock, but they will recover.

And, with luck the following summer you will have angels fishing in your garden.

You will be the envy of all: an expert dierama grower.

Sally Gregson, https://millcottageplants.co.uk

Elworthy Cottage

Elworthy Cottage have an extra opening for the National Garden Scheme this month and will now be open on the morning of Saturday 27th June with just one timeslot from 11am to 1pm. If you are intending to come, tickets must be booked and paid for in advance via the NGS website. The link for the bookings page of the NGS website is https://ngs.org.uk/product-category/garden-tickets/

The nursery is also open by appointment on other days please ring 01984 656427

Mike and Jenny Spiller

Elworthy Cottage NGS Open Days

Elworthy Cottage have added some extra openings for the National Garden Scheme this month and will now be open on Thursdays 11th, 18th & 25th and Saturday 20th & Sunday 21st June.

If you are intending to come, tickets must be booked and paid for in advance via the NGS website and will be for timeslots 11.00 to 12.30, 12.45 to 2.15 & 2.30 to 4.00.

Bookings can only be made from the Monday of the week in which the opening occurs, the link for the bookings page of the NGS website is https://ngs.org.uk/product-category/garden-tickets/

The nursery will be open by appointment on other days from Monday 15th June but only to those who have booked to visit the garden on NGS days.

SFGC Garden Photos Gallery Invitation

Dear Member Clubs,

I do hope that you all are all keeping well and managing under these most unusual circumstances we find ourselves in!

I thought it would be rather nice that we have some photographs of your gardens, perhaps with a little article on what you have been doing, projects maybe or just usual tending and maintenance.  Any little snippet would be most welcome and I am sure would be of much interest to our readers! We would of course, with your permission, print some for our Autumn Newsletter.

Do please send your photos to David Talling our webmaster, who will be pleased to publish them on the Federations website. Addresses of course are not required, however, a persons name or a ‘club’ name could be acknowledged if they so wish.

David can be reached on: webmaster@sfgc.org.uk

Update from Chair Caroline Reeves

I hope everyone is keeping healthy in these troubled times. However it does appear that normal business is resuming at least for some of us. We’ve had our chimney swept and carpets laid this week with some trepidation I must admit and I’m sitting here listening to the builders singing at one neighbouring house and the sound of chainsaws from another!

Unfortunately, normal HPS Somerset Group activities cannot be resumed as yet therefore the decision has been made to cancel the following events planned for 2020.

  • Tuesday 2nd and Wednesday 3rd June – Cancelled self drive visit to Vellacott
  • Tuesday 16th June – Cancelled self-drive Visit to Westbrook House
  • Saturday 4th July – Cancelled Plant Swap and Lunch
  • Sunday 5th July – Cancelled HPS Somerset Group Summer Plant Sale at Lower Severalls
  • Thursday 30th July – Cancelled Coach Trip to Broomhill, nr Dorchester, and Abbotsbury Sub Tropical Gardens

For refunds please contact Penny Berry.

Wednesday 2nd September

The self drive visit to Babbs Farm is still going ahead but subject to cancellation. Please use the booking form to reserve your place.

The lecture meeting in September will happen if the government’s guidance allows us to, and providing the hall is open for business. It may not be possible to hold the 50:50 plant sale but we will let you know ahead of time.

In the meantime you can stay in touch via HPS Somerset Instagram which is hosted by Jane, and also the national HPS Facebook Group.

Keep well,

Caroline Reeves


Due to uncertainty regarding the status of the events above, the newsletter will be published on a slightly delayed timetable and is close to going to print.