Meeting Reminder: Sat 22nd – Stephen Griffith – ‘Abbotsbury – Past, Present and Future’

Saturday 22nd February – 11.00am

Stephen Griffith – ‘Abbotsbury – Past, Present and Future’

Stephen first arrived at Abbotsbury Subtropical Garden in the aftermath of the great storm of 1990, when hundreds of trees were lost.  As Head Gardener, he set about repairing the damage and discovering the history of the garden.  He has since travelled the world in search of new plants, bringing his finds back to thrive in the shelter of Abbotsbury’s microclimate.  Now its Curator, he will guide us around the garden and perhaps inspire us to experiment with more tender plants ourselves.

Plants for Sale will be provided by Desert to Jungle

Reminder: Coach trip to the Orchid Festival at Kew Gardens

Hello: Tickets are available for the Kew Coach Trip. If you wish to visit Vellacot please add that by hand to the booking form.

Wednesday 4th March

Coach trip to the Orchid Festival at Kew Gardens

Combined coach and entry price is £36.00 for those aged 60 and over, and £37.70 for everyone else

Immerse yourself in the tropics this winter by exploring the wonders of Indonesia through Kew’s iconic 25th annual orchid festival.  Rainforests and volcanoes will be brought to life inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory through an exotic array of vibrant orchid displays.

Over 5,000 species of orchids can be found in Indonesia, alongside the staggering wildlife found nowhere else on earth.  This year’s festival is a celebration of the cultural and natural diversity that is scattered across the country’s archipelago of 17,504 islands, and the scientific discovery being made by Kew’s intrepid scientists.

As well as visiting the orchids, there will be plenty of time to enjoy the rest that Kew has to offer.

NB – As Kew tickets have to be pre-purchased, there will be no refunds for illness within the last week.  The coach will depart from Hankridge Farm, Taunton and there will also be a pick up at Great Western Rd car park (free) in Clevedon.

Kew Orchid Festival

Young Propagators Society

Jane Hunt came across an interesting new enterprise on-line, the Young Propagators Society (YPS).  Here is their description of the society.

This society was formed with three intentions; to aid the dissemination of propagation knowledge through the generations; to encourage more young horticulturalists into propagation and nurserymanship roles; and to inspire learning of all areas of the natural world. Our focus is on smaller scale but specialist and scientific knowledge of propagation. Alongside the YPS magazine, we will also have a Facebook group for discussions on propagation, and we hope to have an annual symposium of workshops and talks.


Happy New Year and Three Reminders

Happy New Year to all, here are three things to start the year with:

Reminder 1: Next meeting on Saturday 18th

Saturday 18th January – 11.00am

David Usher – ‘Gertrude Jekyll: Her Plants and Designs’

David was Head Gardener for 15 years at Hestercombe Gardens, near Taunton, where he restored the gardens to Gertrude Jekyll’s original design from the many drawings that were available to him. This talk covers Jekyll’s career, from her beginnings in horticulture to the designs which made her one of the most influential women in the history of British gardening.

Reminder 2: Plants for Sale

David Usher will not be bringing plants for sale, Sue Applegate has been invited to come and sell plants. She will be bringing a selection, including some bare-rooted peonies.

Reminder 3: Subscriptions

Subscriptions for 2020 are now due. £5 single and £8 joint.

PoTM: Hardy Cyclamen

Plants are opportunists. For every seemingly impossible situation there is something: perennial, tree seedling, grass, that finds that niche just the perfect place to spend its life. Many of us gardeners find dry shade particularly difficult to fill, but of course there are plants that thrive in such a spot: many of them very beautiful.

Hardy cyclamen are well suited to arid conditions. They prefer shade, and those that flower in the winter months are the most welcome in our gardens. Cyclamen coum starts into growth early in the New Year. It originates in the Caucasus and is completely hardy here. Its fat, pink little flowers sit atop rounded leaves; sometimes dark green, sometimes exquisitely silver.

The much less widely grown C. repandum is a larger plant altogether, that prefers draining, humous-rich shade, flowering in April and May. It remains dormant for much of the year, so it can seem suddenly to sparkle when the scented pink flowers pop up beneath an acer in its fresh spring-green livery. The scalloped leaves appear with the flowers. Cyclamen repandum comes from the Italian Mediterranean so in colder gardens in the UK they can be subsumed by a late frost.

Cyclamen hederifolium, the ivy-leafed cyclamen, is native to Southern Europe and Turkey, and seems to be completely at home in our gardens. It starts flowering in August, and continues throughout the autumn. The leaves are beautifully marbled and remain until early spring to accompany snowdrops, species crocus and winter aconites. It is a wise gardener who buys C. hederifolium in leaf. Each intricate leaf-pattern is unique to each plant.

The flower colours vary from deep wine-red, to pink, and red-nosed white, painting the ground beneath the trees in pools of colour.
The flowers develop hard, round seed capsules with a point on a coiled stem, the better to corkscrew down into the ground. But to thwart their intentions, armies of ants march to pillage the sweet-coated seeds and carry them back to their nests in triumph. You can almost feel the seeds winking. They have succeeded on both fronts.

In due time, from the ant-tunnels amongst the tree roots, or maybe the lawn or the garden path, the seeds germinate and produce plantlets with well-marked leaves and eventually the typical red, pink or white flowers. And if carefully chosen by the gardener these good parents will produce good offspring.

Sally Gregson

January 2020

Lyme Regis: A Screening of Five Seasons: the Gardens of Piet Oudolf

Beat the winter blues and transport yourself to beautiful gardens in New York, Chicago, the UK and Holland. A 75- minute documentary on the internationally renowned Dutch garden designer.

Sunday 12 January at 3pm, The Marine Theatre, Lyme Regis; bar opens 2pm. All welcome.

Tickets online at – £6 plus £1.06 booking fee

See our website at for details

PoTM: Camellia sasanqua

About 20 years ago I visited the gardens of Japan to admire their subtle, concealed beauty, and perhaps to understand them a little better.  We all know they are enigmatic, controlled, but they seemed to connect on a very deep level.

It was December when I first visited some of the major Japanese gardens.  But far from being sterile and lifeless, their ‘emptiness’ was highlighted by one or two strategically placed Camellia sasanqua.

In Japan, traditionally native plants are grown singly to celebrate a season, and to focus the visitor’s mind on their especial beauty.  (I can remember vividly queuing with my friends and colleagues to take a picture of a single blue gentian!)  Less is certainly more.  But on that cold, dry December day the pink camellia shone in the mid-winter sunshine.  Its crisp, single flowers were perfect.  One or two petals lay artfully on the ground.

It reminded me of a story of one very great, pioneering tea-master, Sen no Rikyu, who created and popularised the tea ceremony in Japan.  He was training his son in the ways of garden-making and asked him to sweep away the fallen petals of a camellia.  The son duly obeyed to the best of his ability, but his father was not impressed.  He ordered the boy to clear more petals.  Again, he obeyed.  Again, Father was unimpressed.  Once more, the boy was told to finish the job.  “There, father.  There are no more fallen petals now.”  Rikyu then held the camellia by its main stem, and gave it a firm shake.  Petals cascaded to the ground.  “There, boy. That touch of naturalness is what we’re after”.  You can imagine the boy’s reaction.

Since my encounter with these very special, winter-flowering camellias, I have found quite a few named varieties and bought them.  I have C. sasanqua ‘Plantation Pink’, now in a 20-litre pot of ericaceous compost outside my lobby window, sheltered from the north and east.  And last year I bought a C. sasanqua ‘Yuletide Red’ that was covered in single, Christmas-red flowers with a boss of bright yellow stamens.

They spend the winter on the north side of the house, where the walls protect them from the worst of the weather.  They are not quite so hardy in the UK.  And they face west: a trick I learned when we gardened in the acid soils of Kent.  If the flowers get frosted, it is essential to let them melt and warm up again as slowly as possible.  They are pruned to shape only during the six weeks following flowering. This is the only time of year when camellias, and rhododendrons, make ‘extension growth’.  At any other time the flower-buds will already be forming.

So once again, this Christmas, I am hoping that the waxen flowers of these camellias will lend a glow and a warmth to the cold air.  I plan to pick just one or two buds and bring them in for the festive table.

Sally Gregson
December 2019