PoTM: Gone Fishing – Dierama

There are some plants that we grow in our gardens that are useful, easy, and hard to dislike: oriental poppies, Siberian irises, hardy geraniums. There are others that are fussy but beautifully rewarding: blue poppies, Trilliums, Hepaticas. And there are those that are quite simply irresistible: Angels’ Fishing Rods (Dierama) certainly fall into that ‘must have’ category.

And so they are bought on sight, taken home, and walked around the garden looking for a place to stay. Gardening books and friends are consulted and they all concur: ‘Angels’ Fishing Rods’ have to be next to the pond. In they go. They flower. Winter comes and it rains. And next year the clump has reduced in size and refuses to flower. It is a frustrating and disappointing tale.

How gracefully the name describes the flowers: Angels’ Fishing Rods, but how misleading that name can be. Dieramas, like so many South African plants, experience in the wild both summer rains, and winter drought. The former doesn’t usually pose a problem in England’s damp and pleasant land, but the latter can prove more difficult to imitate. The solution is to grow dieramas in rich soil that drains well: uphill, above a pond; along a gravel path; or, most successfully of all, between the cracks of a sunny paved terrace. Here their roots will enjoy the condensation beneath the paving flags in summer, and any excess water will run off during the winter. Once established they will set their own seed and the bare flagstones will soon be edged with new dieramas: a waving pink meadow.

Dierama pulcherrimum is the species most commonly grown. It makes an evergreen grassy clump from which emerge tall wiry stems alight with silvery-pink bells that dance in the slightest breeze. Selections have been made whose flowers are all shades from white (D.pulcherrimum ‘Guinevere’), through pink to darkest wine red (D.pulcherrimum ‘Merlin’ and D.pulcherrimum ‘Blackbird’).

But South Africa is home to many other species of dierama. Among them, D.medium is usually the first to flower in May and June on 60cm stems, the bells a distinct 1930s mauve. Followed by D.igneum and D.dracomontanum, both very alike with salmon red flowers about 50-65cm tall, in June. And finally D.pulcherrimum holds sway at about 1-1.5m tall in July and August.

The topmost flowers quickly set seed before the lower ones have opened. The seedpods, like lead shot, weigh down the stems almost to the ground. Harvest the seed, keep it somewhere cool, and sow it in spring. Pot up the seedlings in little clumps as soon as they are big enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame.

Keep them as dry as you dare in winter. Pot them carefully, into deep pots, for the following three springs. Dieramas produce long, brittle tap roots and for this reason it is important to avoid damaging them during the potting process. They should be ready to plant out and flower in their fourth year.

Once they are happily diving south for Australia out in the garden, they don’t like to be disturbed. But to propagate named forms, the clumps do have to be lifted. This is best carried out in spring. Insert a garden fork deeply around the clump, and gently coax it out of the ground. Wash off the surplus soil with a hose so that the roots are visible and then carefully prise off little clumps of corms with their tapering fleshy roots.

Only use the fork if brute strength departs, and then only to loosen and bisect the main clump. Discard any damaged corms or broken tap roots to prevent them rotting underground and infecting their neighbours. Then replant the divided clumps in soil improved with garden compost, and water them in well. They may well sulk for a season while they get over their shock, but they will recover.

And, with luck the following summer you will have angels fishing in your garden.

You will be the envy of all: an expert dierama grower.

Sally Gregson, https://millcottageplants.co.uk

Elworthy Cottage

Elworthy Cottage have an extra opening for the National Garden Scheme this month and will now be open on the morning of Saturday 27th June with just one timeslot from 11am to 1pm. If you are intending to come, tickets must be booked and paid for in advance via the NGS website. The link for the bookings page of the NGS website is https://ngs.org.uk/product-category/garden-tickets/

The nursery is also open by appointment on other days please ring 01984 656427

Mike and Jenny Spiller

Elworthy Cottage NGS Open Days

Elworthy Cottage have added some extra openings for the National Garden Scheme this month and will now be open on Thursdays 11th, 18th & 25th and Saturday 20th & Sunday 21st June.

If you are intending to come, tickets must be booked and paid for in advance via the NGS website and will be for timeslots 11.00 to 12.30, 12.45 to 2.15 & 2.30 to 4.00.

Bookings can only be made from the Monday of the week in which the opening occurs, the link for the bookings page of the NGS website is https://ngs.org.uk/product-category/garden-tickets/

The nursery will be open by appointment on other days from Monday 15th June but only to those who have booked to visit the garden on NGS days.

SFGC Garden Photos Gallery Invitation

Dear Member Clubs,

I do hope that you all are all keeping well and managing under these most unusual circumstances we find ourselves in!

I thought it would be rather nice that we have some photographs of your gardens, perhaps with a little article on what you have been doing, projects maybe or just usual tending and maintenance.  Any little snippet would be most welcome and I am sure would be of much interest to our readers! We would of course, with your permission, print some for our Autumn Newsletter.

Do please send your photos to David Talling our webmaster, who will be pleased to publish them on the Federations website. Addresses of course are not required, however, a persons name or a ‘club’ name could be acknowledged if they so wish.

David can be reached on: webmaster@sfgc.org.uk

Update from Chair Caroline Reeves

I hope everyone is keeping healthy in these troubled times. However it does appear that normal business is resuming at least for some of us. We’ve had our chimney swept and carpets laid this week with some trepidation I must admit and I’m sitting here listening to the builders singing at one neighbouring house and the sound of chainsaws from another!

Unfortunately, normal HPS Somerset Group activities cannot be resumed as yet therefore the decision has been made to cancel the following events planned for 2020.

  • Tuesday 2nd and Wednesday 3rd June – Cancelled self drive visit to Vellacott
  • Tuesday 16th June – Cancelled self-drive Visit to Westbrook House
  • Saturday 4th July – Cancelled Plant Swap and Lunch
  • Sunday 5th July – Cancelled HPS Somerset Group Summer Plant Sale at Lower Severalls
  • Thursday 30th July – Cancelled Coach Trip to Broomhill, nr Dorchester, and Abbotsbury Sub Tropical Gardens

For refunds please contact Penny Berry.

Wednesday 2nd September

The self drive visit to Babbs Farm is still going ahead but subject to cancellation. Please use the booking form to reserve your place.

The lecture meeting in September will happen if the government’s guidance allows us to, and providing the hall is open for business. It may not be possible to hold the 50:50 plant sale but we will let you know ahead of time.

In the meantime you can stay in touch via HPS Somerset Instagram which is hosted by Jane, and also the national HPS Facebook Group.

Keep well,

Caroline Reeves


Due to uncertainty regarding the status of the events above, the newsletter will be published on a slightly delayed timetable and is close to going to print.

Ian and Teresa Moss Salvia List

On behalf of Ian and Teresa Moss:

Click here for our  list of spare overwintered plants that are available for sale currently. We propagate our salvias primarily as an insurance policy to maintain and refresh our own collection, and generally have spare plants for sale that we have overwintered at this time of year, plus some spare cuttings from the next batch later in the season.

We don’t propagate in commercial quantities, so we only have a very few (often only one or two) plants of each variety for sale. However, we have a LOT of varieties, so there are quite a few plants available overall! The plants are all large, well established specimens, and we’ve included the pot size on the list to give an indication of this.

We don’t have a full descriptive list, with photos, but for those who want to get more details and see photos, most are listed on the late Robin Middleton’s website at http://www.robinssalvias.com/index.html

We haven’t sold plants in this way before, but are trying to adapt to the lockdown conditions, so here’s how we plan to work it:

  • Orders are sent in via e-mail (teresa@rareplantfair.co.uk), which should include the delivery address and a contact telephone number (in case we get lost!)
  • We reserve the plants pending payment
  • We send out an invoice, for payment by electronic bank transfer to keep the process contactless
  • Once payment is received, we will deliver the plants out and leave them in a safe place at the delivery address whilst maintaining social distancing
  • We will probably plan to carry out deliveries on one day each week, to minimize the amount of travelling, but we may change that depending on how demand goes

We plan to charge £5 for delivery, but this will be waived for orders totalling £50 or more. We aim to deliver within a 20-30 mile radius of our home address near Bridgwater.

Neil Lovesey of Picket Lane Nursery

Some sad news, Neil Lovesey of Picket Lane Nursery who has spoken to many clubs within the Federation, you will be – we are sure, sorry to hear that Neil has passed away.  Neil had been battling with ill health for a while now but for those of you that knew him, will remember him as a very good entertaining speaker, he will be sorely missed.

A message of condolence from the committee and onbehalf of all members of the Federation will be sent to his family, from our secretary.

Kind regards

Erl (Chair) and Committee Members for the SFGC

Mill Cottage Plants Availability List April/May 2020

We had been anticipating another good sales year in 2020 when everything went pear-shaped!  So we have decided to list those plants that are ready for your garden for collection on an individual basis from Henley Mill, Henley Lane, Wookey, Somerset BA5 1AW.
Please see the attached list – prices, but no descriptions. The RHS site on Google does list most of them with pictures and details.
Payment can either be by cheque or direct bank transfer if you contact me, Sally, direct at millcottageplants@gmail.co.uk
Sally Gregson
01749 676966

Forde Abbey – Click and Collect

From April 8th – May 31st

Our plant nursery was all set up for a normal Spring-Summer season until the whole world suddenly changed.

We’ve had to rethink how to do things to make sure everyone stays safe, but we hope that by offering a click and collect service in the plant nursery we can at least get plants and seeds to as many of our local customers as possible.

We’ll be posting regular videos on Facebook to provide as immersive a shopping experience as we can.

Click here to see a list of plants available to buy. Please contact our Nursery Manager, Paul Bygrave by email with a wish list at: paul@fordeabbey.co.uk , and you’ll have the option to pay either by cheque or with an online Bacs transfer.

Collection will be from the nursery, but will be arranged to make sure that only one customer is here at any one time.

Margery Fish Plant Nursery – Mail Order

East Lambrook Manor / the Margery Fish Plant Nursery want you to know that they have now got a plant list (Availability List) for the Margery Fish Plant Nursery which can be emailed to people who can then place an order by email or phone for collection from the garden entry gate. They can also deliver within a radius of about 10 miles from the garden. Payment can be made over the phone or via BACS. No personal contact needed but they are happy to give advice or suggest hints for particular situations.