Newsletter Editor

Since my plea for a new newsletter editor to take over from Stuart, I am pleased to say that Marion Jay has agreed to take on the role. Members may know that Marion is the current editor of Cornucopia and was previously the newsletter editor for Hertfordshire Group before she and Bill Hodgson moved to Somerset.  She is therefore particularly well suited to build on Stuart’s excellent work and I very much look forward to Marion’s contributions in future editions.

She will of course need the support of members in providing material for her to publish, whether it is an account of our visits,plant fairs, photographs, information about plants or events of particular interest, questions or tips about gardening issues. The list of possibilities is a long one – anything that you would regard as interesting if you were to read about it in the newsletter is a pretty good guide. An editor will generally prefer to have too much material than not enough, so please don’t be shy. Share your thoughts with Marion, and through her with the rest of us.

(Send your articles, news, photos and newsletter contributions using the Contact form on this site, or by replying to any of the news emails you receive and Marion will reply directly by email)

In her most recent email to me, Marion concluded by saying, “Now all we have to do is to find a new chairman!”     Just so.   One member has suggested that we should limit the tenure of the post to three years, and it is true that some Groups have written that into their constitution. Somerset has not done that, but it is worth emphasising that a potential candidate can certainly make it a condition of being elected that they will do it for only a specified period.  It is emphatically not a job for life!  But it is a lively and enjoyable job which each individual will do in their own way.  Please give it some thought, talk to Jane, Stuart and/or other members, put on your negotiating hat and let’s get it well and truly cracked before the AGM in November.



Forde Abbey Volunteers Needed

We have again been offered a stall at the Garden and Harvest Festival at the Forde Abbey on Sunday 16 September. Roy Stickland will be overseeing the day but he will need help on the stall to tell visitors about the Society and the Group and perhaps sell a plant or two. He particularly needs a couple of able-bodied folk on for the first session, 9.00am to 11.00am, to help set up the stall.  In return, helpers will receive a free ticket to the event and there is free parking on site.

If you can help, please would you contact Jane Hunt (by replying to this email) indicating whether you would prefer a two hour morning or afternoon slot. Tickets for Forde Abbey volunteers will be available to collect from Jane at the Group’s 15th of September lecture meeting when we will also have our popular 50/50 plant sale. Please would you also let Roy have any donations of plants to sell at Forde Abbey at that meeting if you are not going to the Festival.

Jane Hunt

Newsletter Editor and Group Chairman Needed

Please read this carefully and consider your response

30th November is the deadline for contributions for the next newsletter. This may seem a long way ahead and in some respects it is. But first we have an important issue to resolve to ensure that we are able to continue with the publication of the newsletter. We are seriously close to ceasing publication and we need your help.

Stuart gave notice two years ago of his intention to stand down because of other pressures, but continued to produce the newsletter in the hope that someone would come forward to take over. This has not happened and Stuart is now unable to commit to carrying on by default any longer. A replacement editor must be found and Stuart will gladly fully brief the new editor to ensure publication continues as in the past. Failing that, we shall rely on up-dates (such as this one) to inform you of booking arrangements for visits, programme events and any other ad hoc items. The journalistic items such as Chairman’s Letter, write ups and pictures from visits and occasional magazine items will disappear.

Despite all our efforts, we are in real danger of ending the year without a chairman and without a newsletter editor. Please don’t let that happen. There is a wonderful vibrancy about the Group at the moment and it would be a great pity if that were to be jeopardised. It was encouraging that we welcomed new members to the committee last year and they have already assumed important roles, but we need a couple more volunteers to help perpetuate the “vibe”. Whilst it is true that the key posts of Secretary and Treasurer remain occupied we cannot be complacent. Some Groups in recent years have been forced to close down for want of people to take on those key roles. Please don’t allow Somerset to be added to that list.

Please talk to Jane, Stuart or myself with offers/proposals to fill the vacant posts.


TV Gardening Competition

Via Jane Hunt:

My name’s Ailsa, and I work at the TV company Crackit.

We’re embarking on a brand new gardening competition show for Channel 5, filming this summer, and we’re looking for talented amateur gardeners from across the country to take part.

We were hoping the Hardy Plant Society might be able to help us get the word out by circulating some information about the show, and details about how to apply. You can find this information below.

I understand you may want to ask further questions about the show – I’m happy to answer these! Please feel free to get in touch via email or phone. My office number is below, and my mobile is 07935 724 211.

All best,

TV Gardening Competition – Channel 5

TV production company Crackit is looking for pairs of brilliant, enthusiastic, amateur gardeners with serious green-fingered talent to take part in a brand-new gardening competition for Channel 5. If you’re up for an exciting challenge or would like to nominate two people who would be, we want to hear from you!

The pairs:

We’re searching for pairs of gifted gardeners from across the UK who are passionate about all things horticultural – and are willing to showcase their amazing gardening skills.

Both of you must have already created at least one fantastic garden. It could be your own back garden, a friend or relative’s plot, or a community space – as long as you are not a professional gardener.

You should have a genuine relationship with one another – whether that’s because you are partners, siblings, friends, colleagues or otherwise.

Both of you must be available to film on the weekends between 25th and 26th August and the 29th and 30th September.

How to apply:

If you think you fit the bill (or know someone who does) please get in touch via the email address below – ideally with good quality photos of your garden!


The sun continued to shine with scorching intensity as fifteen nurseries set out their stalls for our new summer plant fair.  Would the hot weather draw in the crowds or deter them?   How would the plants fare, and would the punters buy them if they needed a pickaxe to make the planting hole, and regular, copious doses of water to ensure the plant’s survival?  Understandably, therefore, there was some nervousness as the day approached.

There were issues too about nursery access into the garden and how they would fit harmoniously into the space.  Some nurseries had chosen to have their pitches around the car park area just outside the resident nursery to make unloading and setting up easier, also hoping perhaps to attract the visitors on their way in from the car park. This was the most exposed area, and as the sun moved round the heat in the afternoon became very oppressive. In the garden itself the spaces were nicely filled with impressively colourful stalls with plenty of room for customers to wander between them, and there was an excited buzz as the number of visitors increased.  One of the benefits of a plant sale at this time of the year is that there are plenty of plants of impressive size in full bloom; a great attraction for customers.  Yet, paradoxically, the experience of some of the nurseries is that as a general rule July is not a good time to hold these events, and they are beginning to avoid them after the end of June.  This was obviously another risk factor in contemplating this project right from the outset.                                     

It was rewarding to note that the customers who came were avid buyers, and were to be seen staggering out with multiple bags of plants and coming back in for more.  The number of visitors was 264, a modest but reasonable first-time result.  It obviously takes time to build the reputation of an event such as this so that numbers grow year on year.  There is a kind of ‘critical mass’ necessary to ensure that there is enough potential business for all the stall holders, and this may take a couple of years to become firmly established.  Obviously not all nurseries will have done equally well but customer reactions seem to suggest that this was a successful event.  Some nurseries did better than they had expected and were very positive about the location, the setting and customer response.  Our own stall was well visited and plant sales were excellent, but we could do more to draw people in and talk to them about HPS; it’s amazing how few visitors actually know much about us.

We are very grateful to Mary Pring, ably supported by Catherine Bond (from CB Plants, the resident nursery at Lower Severalls), for collaborating with us in this new venture. There will be lessons to be learnt and the next stage is to seek systematic feedback from the nurseries to determine whether and in what form we can make it an annual event.  One thing is certain; we must not assume this year’s weather is the norm.  Watch this space!

Roy Stickland

Plant Sale Reminder – Sunday 8th July

Sunday 8th July

HPS Somerset Summer Plant Fair at Lower Severalls, Crewkerne, TA18 7NX

10.00 – 4.00pm     Admission: £4.00     HPS & RHS Members: £3.50

In a change of venue (previously listed as Hestercombe), our Summer Plant Fair will now be taking place in the beautiful setting of Lower Severalls Garden.  This is the first time the HPS has held a Plant Fair at Lower Severalls, and what a wonderful occasion it promises to be.  Diverse specialist nurseries will be gathering to offer visitors the best of their plants in high summer.  CB Plants (Lower Severalls’ own nursery) will also be open.

Tea, coffee and home-made cake available.

Nurserys Attending
  • Barracott Nursery
  • Blooming Hill Plants
  • Elworthy Cottage Plants
  • Entwood Farm Plants
  • Gardeners Delight
  • Hardy Way Plants
  • Hill Top Nursery
  • In Clover
  • Kevin Hughes Plants
  • MAJ Allison
  • Mill Cottage Plants
  • Millwood Plants
  • Pickett Lane Nursery
  • Phoenix Plants
  • Roseland Nursery
  • Shady Plants
  • Wild Thyme Nursery
  • Plus CB Plants (resident nursery at Lower Severalls)

Photos from the Roy Lancaster Event

For those that couldn’t make Saturday, here’s some photos via Stuart Senior of the 25th Anniversary event.

Help with Teas Needed Later in the Year

Help, help help. Having enjoyed Roy Lancaster’s talk so much I clean forgot to ask around to see if anyone well actually any 2 or 3 lovely people would take care of teas for our Saturday 15th of September 50/50 plant sale and lecture meeting. I will sadly not be able to go that month.

On the day in question you would need to bring 3 to 4 pints of milk and 4 packs of biscuits with one of those being gluten free. As it is the 50/50 sale that day you won’t be bored tapping your toes wondering what to do but will get to start serving more or less at the usual 10am start, with the talk starting at 11 and cleaning up easy peasy after the talk.

Help is also needed for the future scheduled dates of:

  • 20 October before “Create a Garden as a Work of Art”
  • 17 November before AGM and then Keith Wiley on “Erythroniums and other Woodlanders.”

It can be fun and always a sense of satisfaction of rounding our meetings in a social way. Please use the form below to make contact with me directly or call me: 01963 240 605.

Many thanks from HPS Somerset for all offers and of course for your past help too.

Biz Gibbs, Senior Supervisory Tea Lady


Somerset HPS Ireland Trip 2019

As the Group celebrates its 25th anniversary we have a treat planned for 2019: a trip to southern Ireland from 9 to 14 June by luxury coach. Our tour operator will be SwanTours of Devon ( have offered us multiple pick up points en route so hopefully no-one will have to travel too far to meet the coach.

We will be staying in three star hotels – the Wilton Hotel, Bray for the first four nights, moving to the Maldron Hotel, Wexford for our final night. There will be a full programme of garden visits in between and perhaps an opportunity to spend an afternoon enjoying the sights of Dublin. Gardens to be visited include Jimi Blake’s Garden, Huntingbrook, June Blake’s garden, Carmel Duignan’s Garden, Corke Lodge Garden and Mount Usher Garden.

The cost of the holiday will be £535 per person sharing a twin or double room. Some single rooms are available at a supplement of £135 per person. This is on a half board basis. The cost includes all entrances and admissions*, luxury coach travel and return ferry crossings. Insurance is available at an additional cost of £30 per person.

We need to confirm our reservation with the holiday company as soon as possible so £50 deposit is required per person booking (cheques made payable to “Hardy Plant Society Somerset Group”). Please send to Jane Hunt, Frogs Hole Farm, Brinscombe, Weare, Somerset, BS26 2LH with the following additional information for each person booking:

  1. Full name (as on passport) and title;
  2. Date of Birth and Nationality;
  3. Room type required (single, double or twin);
  4. Pick up point required (see;
  5. Travel Insurance required? Yes/no.
  6. Any special requirements? (dietary, wheelchairs/walking aids, ground floor room required etc).
  7. Your e mail address or a stamped addressed envelope.

Friends and relatives are welcome to join us for this holiday. Please just ensure that I receive their details as above plus address and telephone number with their deposit.

Please let me know if you have any questions and I will try to help you

Jane Hunt

*I am negotiating an additional garden to be added to the itinerary so there may be a very small increase in cost as a result.

Roy Lancaster Talk – Cakes Opportunity

The special event on Saturday 23 June, when Roy Lancaster will be our guest speaker is in celebration of the Group’s 25th Anniversary.

Around 100 members and visitors have booked places, so we should have a good turnout. Booking is still open. After the talk we will be serving a sort of high tea comprising sandwiches, cakes and tea/coffee. There will also be a celebration cake which we shall ask Roy to cut. Arrangements are in hand for the sandwiches, but I would like to invite members attending the event to bring some ‘nice’ cakes to follow the sandwiches.

We will want to cater for people who have a gluten free requirement and one almond and orange cake has already been promised. One other gluten free of a different kind would enable us to offer a bit of choice. Requests of this kind usually get a good response with people joyfully baking their favourite recipe, and I hope this one will be no exception.

It will be helpful if those who are happy to offer a cake would let Biz Gibbs know what they will bring so that she has some idea what to expect. Contact her at Let’s celebrate your culinary skills as well as Roy Lancaster’s talk and our anniversary.

Apologies for sending this message if you will not be coming on the day.