Plant of The Month February: Bergenia

Bergenia Overture

‘Elephant Ears’

If you, as do I, have long memories of rubbery, leathery mats of leaves and flowers in that particular shade of dusty pink, you may well have been put off growing Bergenias in your 21stcentury garden. But maybe it’s time for another look.

Gertrude Jekyll turned corners softly with their large evergreen leaves. In the ‘Great Plat’ at Hestercombe she used their evergreen presence to edge the formal beds in place of box: a useful tip from the past in our age of ‘Box Blight’.

Bergenias soften the under-storeys of trees and shrubs, covering the ground with weed-suppressing clumps. And the ever-increasing numbers of new colour-ways light up the early spring.

The late, great, Christopher Lloyd was never a man to spurn an unfashionable plant. He used their bright, blood-red winter leaves to great effect, and loved the increasing numbers of new cultivars with paler flowers, such as the compact form B.‘Pink Dragonfly’ with its paler, but rich pink blooms. The flowers of B.‘Sakura’ are large, intense pink, and lighten as they age, with dramatic dark veining. And white-flowered forms fade to pale rose.

But my favourite selection is B. ‘Overture’. It has large evergreen leaves that turn ox-blood red in winter. The flower-stems are enamel-red and the flowers are the most strident magenta imaginable. They bring joy to a cold February afternoon.

Sally Gregson

February 2019

Ro Fitzgerald: Snowdrop Bulbs and Desirable Plant Sale

Snowdrop Time again! Mine are surviving the real stuff, and the winds, with their usual courage, and some are in quite good quantity. As I hope to move house, I need homes for  surplus bulbs of some of the best stalwarts – not top rarities but classics like ‘Augustus’. I could sell bulbs to members for a good cut less than normal catalogue prices (ie £2.50-£5). If interested, contact me using the form below and I’ll tell you what’s on offer. Bulbs could be lifted in April, or ‘in the green’ if it warms up a bit. 

Moving House! Not definite yet, but I need to plan new homes for plenty of nice plants, lots of good cutting material (shrubs and Salvias especially), and seeds of my interesting self-seeders. Prices will be token only if you can come to dig your own! Contact me using the form below to hear what’s on offer, or arrange a visit to poke round. 

Ro FitzGerald

Make contact with Ro using this form please

2019 Snowdrop Openings

Every Day in February

Ston Easton Park

10.30am – 4pm

A stunning garden of beautiful parkland within a historic Repton landscape kicks off the NGS Snowdrop Festival for 2019.  Cyclamen and hellebore accompany the snowdrops.

Sunday 3rd February – Cancelled

Elworthy Cottage

11am – 4pm

Our very own HPS members, Mike and Jenny Spiller, will be opening to show their remarkable collection of snowdrops, amongst other late winter flowers.   Elworthy Cottage is well worth a visit if you have a passion for galanthus – the range of varieties is superb, and the nursery has a selection for sale, too.  Home-made teas available.

Rock House

11am – 4pm

A 2-acre garden just north of Bristol, which is swathed in broad drifts of snowdrops at this time of year.  Some unusual varieties, too.

Vine House

1pm – 4pm

Behind a listed Georgian house on the West Side of Bristol is a garden full of snowdrops, flowering amongst mature trees, shrubs, herbaceous borders and alongside a stream.  No refreshments.

Saturday 9th February  

Elworthy Cottage

11am – 4pm

Sunday 10th February

Rock House

11am – 4pm

Friday 15th February

Elworthy Cottage

11am – 4pm

Sunday 17th February and Throughout The Month

East Lambrook Manor Gardens

10am – 5pm

HPS members will be familiar with East Lambrook’s quintessential English cottage garden in spring and summer, but have you seen it in its winter glory?  With noted collections of snowdrops and hellebores, and the excellent specialist Margery Fish Plant Nursery, this is a galanthophile’s dream.  Refreshments available.

See previous news item

Thursday 21st February

Southfield Farm

10am – 1pm

This 2-acre, owner-designed garden near Nailsea has much winter colour and scent.  Aconites, heathers, snowdrops, hellebores and more.  Indoor tearoom in the stable yard.

PoTM: Pseudowintera colorata ‘Red Leopard’

Very many years ago when I lived in Kent I joined the Steering Committee of the Hardy Plant Society for the new Kent Group. Our chairman held a festive lunch for the committee at Christmas and on the table she had placed a small jug of flowers and foliage. Committee members to a man and woman immediately pressed around to identify the twigs, of which there was a surprising number for December.

Of course we had no difficulty with the obvious winter lovelies, but there was one sprig that had all of us completely foxed. We each had suggestions, far off the mark. But among those ten plantsmen and women, not one could identify Pseudowintera colorata.

It is a stunning little shrub that gets even more colourful in winter. Related to Pittosporumit has typical black, twiggy stems and evergreen leaves with white reverses. But the surface colour is a unique shade of green-yellow, verging on light khaki. In winter the leaves develop coral-red margins and in the selection P. colorata ‘Red Leopard’, vermilion spots appear on the most exposed leaves.

It is small, borderline hardy, and perfect for a pot in a sheltered place in the winter sun.

Sally Gregson

Visits Booking Form for 2019

The January 2019 Newsletter has been arriving through members’ letterboxes. It includes a paper copy of the visits booking form for Summer 2019. In addition, the form is available on the Programme page of the website, and also by clicking here.

We hope to see you all at the January 19th meeting to hear Jo Hynes talk about winter gardening.

East Lambrook Manor Gardens Festival of Snowdrops

Throughout February East Lambrook Manor Gardens in Somerset will be hosting a Festival of Snowdrops, an opportunity to see the spectacular array of snowdrops growing in the garden together with additional displays showcasing some of the more unusual varieties.

Cottage garden doyenne Margery Fish enthusiastically collected snowdrops, or Galanthus, to plant in her now famous garden at East Lambrook Manor, her home from 1938 to 1969.

She was one of the first snowdrop devotees or ‘galanthophiles’ and amassed a significant collection, a legacy which is maintained today by the garden’s current owners, Mike and Gail Werkmeister.

Mike Werkmeister said: “Mrs Fish grew her snowdrops in an area of the garden known as the Ditch and this looks magnificent in February, when the sides are carpeted with snowdrops. We now have over 120 different varieties, both species and hybrid cultivars, but getting down close to see them can be difficult so we also have a special raised display bed to show off the collection to advantage. For the Festival of Snowdrops additional displays of snowdrops, principally in pots, will be created round the garden, so more can be enjoyed at close quarters.”

Margery Fish began her collection with a gift of the green-centred, double Galanthus‘Ophelia’, bred in Norfolk by the reclusive Heyrick Greatorex. A WW1 cavalry officer, he caused a sensation in the 1940s by producing the first double hybrids. Galanthus‘Ophelia’ is still to be found growing in the garden along with many others including Galanthus‘Margery Fish’, a chance cross found in the garden in 1987 and named in her honour.

February’s festival will feature informal talks and tours of the snowdrops in the garden given by the Head Gardener or owner. Over 40 varieties will be on sale in the nursery with a ‘Snowdrop Sale’ from 24th February when any unsold bulbs will be offered at reduced prices. Visit the website for more details and a list of snowdrops for sale.

Throughout February the garden, nursery and cafe are open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10am to 5pm. Garden entry £6.00, £5.50 for over 65s, under 16s free. RHS members free on Wednesdays.

East Lambrook Manor Gardens,
Silver Street, East Lambrook,
South Petherton, Somerset TA13 5HH


Throughout February East Lambrook Manor Gardens in Somerset will be hosting a Festival of Snowdrops, an opportunity to see the spectactular array of snowdrops growing in the garden together with additional displays showcasing some of the more unusual varieties.The festival will feature informal talks and tours of the snowdrops in the garden with many snowdrops on sale in the nursery.

Garden, nursery and cafe are open Tuesday to Sunday in February,10am to 5pm.
Garden entry £6.00, £5.50 for over 65s, under 16s free. RHS members free entry every Wednesday.

East Lambrook Manor Gardens
Silver Street, East Lambrook, South Petherton, Somerset TA13 5HH.

For more information contact:

Mike Werkmeister
T: 01460 240328 or
M: 07710 484745

East Lambrook Manor Gardens

The internationally famous English Heritage Grade 1 listed cottage-style garden at East Lambrook Manor was created between 1938 and 1969 by the celebrated plantswoman and gardening writer Margery Fish. Here she developed her talent for combining contemporary and old-fashioned plants in a relaxed and informal manner to create a unique and enchanting plantsman’s paradise of great beauty and charm.

Originally working in journalism as a secretary to Daily Mail founder Lord Northcliffe in the 1920s she later became personal assistant to Walter Fish, editor of the paper, whom she married in 1933. She and Walter moved to Somerset just before the outbreak of the Second World War at which point she embarked on her second career as a gardener and gardening writer. She wrote for magazines such as Amateur Gardening and was the author of eight books on gardening including her most famous ‘We Made a Garden’, which is rarely out of print. Although having never gardened before, she soon found she had a natural gift for and a keen eye for a good plant that resulted in the creation of the quintessentially English cottage garden at East Lambrook that still exists today.


Updates and Meeting Reminder

  • The next meeting of the Group is on Saturday 19th January. Full details of the meeting are below and on the Programme page of the website.
  • The January 2019 Newsletters will be delivered before the meeting on the 19th, and will have trip booking forms and membership renewal forms enclosed. If you’re coming to the meeting, you can bring your completed renewal forms (and relevant payment) to give to Caroline.
  • Membership cards will be distributed on Saturday19th at the meeting.  Anyone not attending the meeting will receive theirs by post.

See you on the 19th,


Saturday 19th January – 11.00am

Jo Hynes – ‘The Winter Garden: Why Stay Indoors?’

Jo holds the National Collection of cyclamen in her garden in Dolton, near RHS Rosemoor, and with borders full of hellebores and more than 300 named snowdrop varieties, plus a great many winter flowering shrubs, she is an inspiration to other gardeners who want to brighten up those bare-boned winter months.

Plants for Sale

Jo’s NGS Open Garden

Membership Renewals at HQ

Dear Colleagues

I would be most grateful if you could pass a message on to your members regarding the current position at the HPS Office.

As you all know Sally left us at the end of October, since when Clare has been struggling to keep up with the workload. This has been exacerbated by difficulties with the IT systems, including a couple of days when access was impossible. Those problems have now been resolved (I hope!) and we have engaged someone else to help Clare (Vicci) but there remains a significant backlog of membership renewals to be dealt with. If you have renewed your membership by post please be assured that all post has been opened and all cheques etc are being kept safe but it will take a while longer for these to be processed and thus appear on your bank statements. For the next couple of weeks we do have to prioritise the seed orders as it is essential that all these are completed by mid-January, ready for the Shropshire team to pick out the seeds and get them posted to you.

It would be extremely helpful if members could avoid phoning the office for the next few weeks unless the need really is urgent. Enquiries can be emailed to and will normally receive a reply the same day if within office hours. If you still need to renew your membership please use the online facility or the postal form from the last newsletter. If you haven’t ordered your seed yet, please do so as soon as possible, again using the online or printed form. The final date for receipt of seed orders is 10th January.

Please be assured that we are doing all we can to get the office running smoothly again as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Gardening Year

With thanks.

Judi Deakin
Honorary Secretary

2019 Programme

Hello all,

Marion has been busy producing the next newsletter including a comprehensive update to the 2019 programme, full details of which can be seen on the programme page here. There is a one page PDF summary of the 2019 programme on that page for download. The booking form for trips in 2019 will be added to that page soon.

We hope you enjoy the final days of the year and see you on the 19th of January.

Bill & Marion