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 https://tiny.cc/ulrhs-film – £6 plus £1.06 booking fee

See our website at https://ulrhs.wordpress.com 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

Meeting Reminder: Sat Nov 23rd AGM and Tom Hart Dyke

Saturday 23rd November – 10am for 10.30 AGM.                          

AGM, followed at 11.15am by

Tom Hart Dyke – ‘Tales of a Modern-Day Plant Hunter’

Tom Hart Dyke first shot to international prominence in the year 2000, when he was kidnapped in the Colombian jungle on a plant hunting expedition that went dangerously wrong.  His plant-hunting jaunts have taken him from the volcanic archipelagos of the Cape Verde Islands to down under in Tasmania, and from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco to the remote Mentawai Islands in Indonesia.  Many of his collected plants are housed in the World Garden of Plants, which he created within a two-acre walled garden in the grounds of his ancestral home of Lullingstone Castle in Kent.  This promises to be a talk woven with adventurous and exotic tales…and some fascinating plants.


My Journey Through Great Gardens


Presents an evening with ALAN POWER for a talk on My Journey Through Great Gardens

Alan Power, head gardener at Stourhead for over 20 years, found his love of gardens in his native Ireland, growing up outside Cork under the influence of his mother, an international champion at flower arranging.

He got hooked watching his mother pack up a garden and take it with them when they moved, and eventually came to study both horticulture and arboriculture in the UK, going on to gather expertise in managing huge historical gardens under the National Trust. He has won an honorary doctorate for his contributions to horticulture, presented on the BBC TV series on great gardens, and presented on Gardeners’ World

14th November 2019 at 7.30 pm in the Millennium Hall, Seavington St Mary TA19 0QH

Visitors welcome, £2 payable at the door

For more information contact Karen Day 01460 249728

Peony, Pinot and Pizza Party

Hurstbrook Plants PRESENT their unique: Peony, Pinot and Pizza Party

Saturday 30th November. 11.00 – 3.00

 West Monkton Village Hall, Monkton Heathfield, Taunton TA2 8NE

Susannah Applegate appeared on Gardener’s World in April and will give two talks: “Peonies” and “English Wine”

  • Susannah of Hurst Brook Plants delivers lectures to Garden Clubs and Horticultural Societies including the Hardy Plant Society County groups, HPS Peony Group and RHS Rosemoor. She also runs a 2 acre vineyard producing award winning Red and White wine, GROWN AND MADE IN SOMERSET
  • Come along to learn about beautiful Peonies and English Wine with the opportunity to purchase Bare Root Peonies and award winning wine:
  • Coffee on arrival and Pizza for lunch (All dietary options available) Tickets £10 in advance or £12.50 on the door include lunch


Nurseries Past and Present

Dear Members

Anne Kaile and Jenny Hawksley, two members of the Hardy Plant Society, are currently researching Nurseries Past and Present for the Somerset Gardens Trust. They would be very grateful for any help you can give with information, catalogues or other publications regarding any Somerset Nursery. I know some of our members are owners of nurseries, or used to be. Any Nursery, however small, will be included.

The kind of information they require would be the date the nursery opened, the date it closed (where applicable), the type of plants grown, the location of the clientele (whether local, national or international), any famous clients etc.

Anne and Jenny can be contacted as below:

Anne and Jenny would like to thank those who have already responded and look forward to hearing from those who have not yet done so.

Thank you very much for your support for this worthwhile source of information for future generations.