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I know you’ll all be glad to receive another of these emails, you can read the SHPS privacy notice by visiting this page, which is also linked from the bottom of the home page. If you have any questions about the privacy policy you can contact us by replying to any of our regular emails, or use the Contact form on the website.


Open Gardens

43rd Cerne Abbas Open Gardens (via Jane Hunt)

25 Private Gardens Open June 16th and 17th, from 2-6pm

  • Day ticket to all gardens £7.00
  • Ticket for 2 days £10.00
  • Accompanied children free

Teas in St Mary’s Church from 1:30 pm Plant Stall from 1 pm

Free Car Park (DT2 7GD) open from 11 am

Proceeds divided equally between: Cerne Valley Scout Group & Dorset County Hospital Cancer Appeal


Isle Abbotts Gardens

Historic village dating from Saxon times, located on edge of Somerset Levels with many thatched stone cottages. C13 Grade I listed church is described as ‘The Jewel in the Crown of Somerset Churches’. Open church tower. 3 well-established unique gardens with many exquisite herbaceous borders.

  • Greggs: ⅓-acre garden of many parts, shrubs, borders and vegetable beds joined by winding paths.
  • Monks Orchard: ¾-acre garden developed over 14 yrs. Many large mixed borders with lots of unusual plants. Stunning views. Plants for sale propagated from garden. (Home of our member Maureen Bradshaw)
  • Monks Thatch: Front garden is a charming Elizabethan style topiary herb garden with water features and gazebo. At the rear is a seductive, private exotic paradise water garden with boardwalk, bridge, spiral courtyard and tropical planting.

Visit the church tower and take a train tide too.

Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th June, full details on the NGS website here.


25th Anniversary Lecture | Roy Lancaster

We are privileged to have our President,Roy Lancaster as our guest for our 25th Anniversary Lecture on Saturday 23 June, 2.30 for 3.00 pm.  It is a special event and we would like to have a good crowd to welcome him.  We are issuing invitations to surrounding Groups to join us as visitors.  Members of Somerset Group have free entry, but you must book a place with Janet Murley ( who will send an email confirmation (or a ticket if you book by post) which you should bring with you as an entry pass.  If you do book by post please remember to include SAE for Janet to send you your ticket.

All visitors will be very welcome and the cost for them will be £5.00 which they can pay in advance by cheque sent to Janet (Marigold Cottage, Whitnage, Tiverton EX16 7DT) together with SAE for the return of the ticket.  Visitors arriving without a ticket can pay their £5.00 on the door.

Roy Lancaster’s latest book will be on sale at a discounted price and he will be willing to sign a few copies on the day.  Please let Janet know if you might be tempted to buy a copy so that Roy will have some idea of how many copies to bring.

Roy is always a lively and authoritative speaker with a breathtaking range of knowledge and experience, making this an event not to be missed.

Group Plant Sale 2018

Saturday 28th April – 10.00am – 12.30pm
West Monkton Village Hall Admission: £1

A diverse range of hardy perennials – many unusual – will be on offer at our annual Plant Sale, as well as shrubs, annuals and vegetable plants. Come early to grab a bargain. Everyone is welcome, so bring your friends and relations!

Members can contribute to the plant sale in two ways:

(a) Occupy a table in your own right. If you would like your own table, please contact Roy Stickland. The charge will be £5, payable on the day. This will be waived if you commit to donate all your takings to charity. There are only 16 tables available and they are allocated on a first come, first served basis. NOTE: ALL 16 booked, sorry.

(b) Grow plants to donate to the Group table. If you have plants to donate to the Group table, just bring them along (labelled with the plant name) on the day (please note this is not a 50:50 sale).

Meeting Reminder – Timothy Walker – Saturday 14th April

Saturday 14th April – 11.00am

Timothy Walker – ‘Two For The Price of One’

The former director of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden & Harcourt Arboretum, Timothy Walker is a lively and engaging speaker whose talks are always amusing and informative.  This talk is particularly useful for those of us with small gardens which demand maximum impact and value from the plants grown in them, as it features plants whose characteristics give us two or more reasons to grow them.  Flowers and fruit is an obvious combination but scent, foliage and autumn colour also count.  A useful and entertaining lecture.



The day dawned grey and overcast with intermittent fine drizzle; the previous weekend there had been snow (again) and the following weekend has been the coldest, wettest Easter I can remember in years.  There were local road closures following a devastating fire at a neighbouring property.  All this added up to the most inauspicious start imaginable to our plant fair.  Thankfully the drizzle stopped before the gates opened, and it stayed dry until evening.  So we were very lucky with the weather.  Despite the unpropitious start there was a queue of people at the gates and 907 people had come through by the end of the day. YES! Over 900!  The best ever by an astonishing margin of 25%.  Mike has worked overtime on publicity and, my word, it really paid off, and the result for the Group, taking into account pitch fees and sundries on the day, amounted to just over £720.  As Mike put it so succinctly, it was our best-ever plant fair.  If we work at it we might even top the 1000 next year!

As I chatted to people waiting at the gate, it was clear that we have a great reputation, with some regular visitors looking out for the publicity and making sure to get there promptly.  Not surprisingly, therefore, it was not long before people were seen going out carrying several bags, and a few minutes later waving their entrance ticket to come back for more.  This year we had four additional pitches in an unused part of Mike’s nursery area and this enabled people to visit all the stalls via a circular tour of the site.  This undoubtedly worked very well, and with 20 nurseries on parade it gave the punters plenty of ground to cover.  There was a remarkably good selection of plants available, despite the appalling growing conditions.  It was a tribute to all the nurseries that they could offer such an amazing range of attractive plants.  They went away generally happy with their sales, with some reporting ‘best ever’ results.  I suspect some of the customers had a ‘best ever’ haul!!

Most of the day the place was buzzing, and I must thank everyone who came to help and provided plants for us to sell.  It was all very busy and very rewarding. Here’s to 2019!

Roy Stickland

Photos courtesy of Mike Werkmeister

Tea Organiser Needed for Our Meetings

Our current tea organiser Biz Gibbs is moving to Totnes so a vacancy has arisen for someone to take on managing the tea and refreshments for each group meeting.

The role is that of a team leader, responsible for ensuring that there is always a crew in the kitchen for each meeting, which means maintaining a rota, which of course needs to bridge the periods when we don’t have meetings, so the co-ordinator needs to plan ahead. He/she needs also to get to know people and to compile the rota through personal contacts and only in case of real need should the Chairman have to make an announcement and circulate a clipboard for people to sign on. This will happen occasionally e.g. at the beginning of a new session, but not on a regular basis.

Other responsibilities include:
  • To do the provisioning so that the workers in the kitchen will have everything they need on hand
  • To be part of the serving team as needed
  • To consider a new idea of asking for cakes for each meeting and coordinating cake donations, if possible
If you have the interest and time to take this on, please get in touch (by replying to this email) or to Roy. Without a volunteer we will all get thirsty, so please consider this important role.

Update from Cathy Rollinson, National Chair

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.

Seed Distribution

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.

Standing Orders

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.

Ferns Booklet

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


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.


Reminder: HPS Somerset Early Spring Plant Fair

Saturday 24th March 

East Lambrook Manor, South Petherton, Somerset, TA13 5HH

10.00am – 4.00pm     Admission: £4      HPS and RHS members: £3.50

Our popular Early Spring Plant Fair always brings folk out after a long winter, and this one is bigger than ever.  With 21 specialist nursery stalls nestled all over the gardens of East Lambrook Manor, each one glowing with the jewel-like flowers of spring, who can resist?  It’s the perfect way to kick off the new season and buy something special for your garden. Don’t forget that East Lambrook’s own nursery will also be open, offering a wide selection of perennials, and the gardens themselves will be bursting with early spring colour.

Refreshments available at the Malthouse Cafe on site.