Meetings and lectures are held at West Monkton Village Hall unless otherwise specified.  All meetings at West Monkton Village Hall are free to members (except for the Group Plant Sale in April), and there is a modest charge of £5 for non-members (when space is available).  The Group has a plant stall and a book stall at most of the lectures listed, and holds a Flower & Pot Plant of the Month competition.

Visits & Trips

All coach trips and garden visits must be pre-booked with Penny Berry via email: or phone: 01278 662720.  Penny deals strictly with bookings only, so if you have any queries about a trip or event, please contact Kate Harris at

Click here to download a printable pdf of the Visits and Trips Bookings Form for 2023. 

Location maps or directions will be supplied following booking a place on an event.

Somerset HPS Programme 2023

All other meeting details can be found on the meeting page.
Lectures begin at 11.00am. Refreshments are served before the lectures.

Saturday 14th January

Charles Chesshire – ‘The Art of Dishevelment’

After a lifetime of travelling the world designing gardens, studying plants, writing and teaching, Charles has settled near Bridport in Dorset where his garden design business is based alongside his rare plant nursery. Charles has been curator of Burford House Gardens and consultant to Sudeley Castle and Sezincote Gardens in Gloucestershire.

This talk is a personal, and occasionally tongue-in-cheek, exploration of the levels of control we assert over our gardens, taking a tour through the garden from perfect order to anarchy, a journey that is part psychological, part historical and part political.

Saturday 18th February

Tom Clarke – ‘Exbury Gardens – The First 100 Years’

Created just over 100 years ago, Exbury spans over 200 acres of the New Forest. Tom is Head Gardener at Exbury. He says: “The 1920s were the golden age of woodland gardening, and Exbury was at the cutting edge of this movement. The location, climate, existing oak woodland and acid soil all allowed for the creation of one of the finest gardens of its kind in the UK. Combine this with the legacy of the great plant hunters, and the extensive plant breeding programme at Exbury, and we are fortunate enough to have inherited a truly wonderful garden packed full of horticultural treasures.” A lecture not to be missed!

Friday 24th February

Coach Trip to Higher Cherubeer, Winkleigh and Stone Lane Gardens, Chagford

£32 per person (RHS members £28)

Galanthophile Jo Hynes has over 400 snowdrop varieties in her one and three quarter acre garden at Higher Cherubeer, in Devon.  The woodland paths are lined with named snowdrops, hellebores and winter-flowering shrubs. As well as many other spring-flowering plants, Jo has a National Collection of species cyclamen. In poor weather, the alpine house provides refuge and is used to display plants which prefer not to get their feet wet. Jo will give us an introductory talk and tea and cake will be served.

Stone Lane Gardens, on the edge of Dartmoor, was the creation of Kenneth and June Ashburner.  Kenneth was an avid traveller and plant finder, and in the early 1970s he began planting the trees he had grown from seeds gathered on his travels and from other botanic gardens.  The result is an enchanting 5-acre woodland garden which holds a National Collection of wild-origin birch and of alders. Groves of sleek-stemmed birches amid shrubs such as mauve Rhododendron mucronulatum from Korea are carpeted with hellebores and drifts of snowdrops in early spring. The head gardener Paul Bartlett will give us an introductory talk, and tea and biscuits will be served.

Saturday 18th March

Helen Picton – ‘Daisy Days – The Rise, Fall and Renaissance

Helen Picton is the third generation of Pictons to be running Old Court Nurseries in Colwall, Herefordshire. The nursery has specialised in Michaelmas daisies since 1906; growing, breeding and now preserving these invaluable autumn-flowering plants. Helen trained as a botanist at the University of Reading before returning to the nursery to work full time in 2009. She now co-runs the nursery and garden.

This talk tells the story of Michaelmas daisies from Virgil right up to the modern day, and includes the birth and development of Old Court Nurseries, which houses the National Collection with more than 430 varieties.  Helen will give a taster of the diversity of plants covered by the term ‘Michaelmas daisy’, as well as some essential propagation and growing tips.

Saturday 25th March

HPS Somerset Group Early Spring Plant Fair

Yeo Valley Organic Garden, Holt Farm, Blagdon, BS40 7YE

10.00am – 3.00pm
Entry: £5
HPS or RHS members: £4

PRE-BOOKING OF TICKETS ESSENTIAL. Please visit for details, from early February.

The SHPS Early Spring Plant Fair was a big success at Yeo Valley Farm last year.  The stall holders occupied a sheltered market area at the bottom of the expansive gardens, with an irresistible array of early spring flowers on offer.  This is an opportunity to invest in some exquisitely beautiful, insect-friendly plants which will provide nectar and pollen for foraging bumblebees as they emerge from their nests at this time of the year.

Tickets must be purchased in advance, by hour of arrival, and will be available to buy online from early February, via a link which will appear on this website. In 2023, HPS and RHS members will be entitled to a small discount from the standard entry price of £5 and so should look for the £4 ticket category. You will also need to book a free parking ticket for your car at the same time. 

The tea room will be open and the ticket price includes entry to the gardens.  Booking essential.

The Group relies on volunteers to help make these events run smoothly, so if you feel that you could help on the day please get in touch with Jane Hunt or via the Contact page on our website: We will certainly need people to man the plant stall and the gate. Volunteers will, of course, receive free admission to the Fair. We will also need donations of good, labelled plants for our plant stall, so if you can bring any along to the Fair, please do.

Saturday 15th April

Derek Dexter – ‘Fuchsias My Way’

Derek has 22 years’ experience of growing award-winning fuchsias, and has won a number of medals at Hampton Court Flower Show.  He has been a member of the British Fuchsia Society for 17 years and is an expert in his field, growing many different types of fuchsia which can’t be bought from local nurseries.

In this talk, Derek will tell us how to grow, propagate and overwinter our fuchsias.  He will also be looking back over his own career in horticulture – the triumphs and disasters!  There will be advice on how to deal with fuchsia pests and diseases, and how to keep your plants looking their best all summer. 

Saturday 22nd April

HPS Somerset Group Plant Sale

West Monkton Village Hall, 10.00am – 12.30pm

Admission £1

Are you an SHPS member with a lot of good quality surplus plants you’d like to sell? Are you a nursery looking for knowledgeable customers? This plant sale draws the crowds, so come along and enjoy a morning of selling, or buying, amid like-minded gardeners.

Sale tables may be booked with Jane Hunt at £5 per table (members only). If you have a lot of plants and want to book two tables, the charge is £10.

Tuesday 16th May

Self-drive trip to Sperry Barton, Upton, TA4 2BZ and Hollam House, Dulverton, TA22 9JH

£15.00 per person

Sperry Barton is on the top of the Brendon Hills to the West of Taunton, nestling into the hillside which give it some protection from the elements. The garden was a blank canvas when the owners took on the property nearly 20 years ago, but having moved less than a mile up the road, they were used to both the climate and the terrain. Knowledgable planting combined with a painterly eye have resulted in a gem of a garden which sits comfortably in its surroundings.

Hollam House is a stunning four acre spring garden on the edge of Exmoor.  This is the private garden of Annie Prebensen, half of the design team behind the award winning Donkey Sanctuary Garden at Chelsea in 2019. With rhododendrons, magnolias and thousands of tulips in the borders and grounds, there is a riot of colour in May.  Meadow areas are full of bulbs and wildflowers, and there are ponds, a water garden and a rill. Please note: Hollam House garden is not suitable for people with limited mobility.

Thursday 8th June

Coach Trip to Dewstow Gardens, Caldicott, South Wales and Pan Global Plants, Frampton on Severn

£22 per person

Dewstow gardens were created around 1900 by James Pulham & Sons Landscapers, Rock Builders and Garden Designers. The gardens became buried around the 1940s and ‘50s, and remained undiscovered for 50 years.  The process of excavation and restoration began in 2000, and although some areas were seriously dilapidated, others remained as good as the day the gardens were built.  The gardens contain many ponds and rills but are most famous for their labyrinth of underground grottoes, tunnels and sunken ferneries.  The rock gardens are made up of a mixture of real stone and faced stone, using various types of Pulhamite. 

Pan Global Plants is one of the most celebrated specialist nurseries in the UK, the brainchild of well-known plantsman and plant explorer, Nick Macer.  ‘PGP’ has a reputation for offering rarities and desirables although, while many of the plants look exotic, few are of the tender exotic type and almost all of them stand a very good chance of overwintering successfully outside.  A visit to PGP is always fun and rewarding: the quality of the plants is first-class and Nick’s knowledge of them is no less. There is also a garden which, by lucky coincidence, reaches a peak at this time of year.

Sunday 11th June

The HPS Somerset Group Summer Plant Fair

Lower Severalls Farmhouse, near Crewkerne, TA18 7NX

10.00am – 3.00pm

Lower Severalls has proved to be a very successful venue for the Somerset Group’s summer plant fair, with visitors coming from far and wide.  It’s a vividly colourful affair, with summer-flowering perennials in full bloom on every stall, making it easy to imagine how they might look in your own garden.  With competitive prices and a huge range to choose from, it’s a date for your diary!

Refreshments for sale. CB Plants (the nursery at Lower Severalls) will also be open for business.

If you are willing to help man the HPS plant stall, the gate, or act as a steward, please get in touch via the Contact page on our website: 

Thursday 13th July

Coach trip to Spring Pond Gardens, Laverstoke and Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, Whitchurch, Shropshire

£37.50 per person

Spring Pond Gardens is a romantic and classic English country garden created by its owners, Carolyn and Julian Sheffield.  Developed from a blank canvas 25 years ago, the main structure comprises hornbeam and yew hedging, filled with abundant herbaceous borders, edged lawns and a formal pond with an eye-catching gazebo. An arboretum of ornamental trees, a conservatory with Mediterranean and tropical plants, and a courtyard within the flint walls of the house, which are covered by roses and clematis, offer plenty for the visitor to admire. The owner will give us an introduction to the garden, and tea and cake will be served.

Recognised as one of the UK’s leading plantsmen nurseries, Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants was founded by Rosy Hardy in 1988.  The nursery stocks over 1,200 plant varieties, including many rare and exciting species you’ll simply never see in your average garden centre.  Their herbaceous perennials are grown in containers outdoors, all year round, in peat free compost. The result is good strong healthy plants ready to go into your garden. We will be given a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the nursery (hopefully with Rosie herself), where they don’t just grow plants, but also breed and propagate their own varieties.

Sunday 13th August 

Plant Swap and Bring and Share Lunch

Hosted by Helen and Stuart Senior, Creech St Michael, near Taunton.  No charge but booking is essential.

Thursday 14th September

Self-drive trip to Honeyhurst Farm, Rodney Stoke, BS27 3UJ and The Bishop’s Palace Garden, Wells, BA5 2PB

£21 per person

Honeyhurst Farm is a part-walled, rural garden with a babbling brook and 4-acre traditional cider orchard, with views over the Mendip Hills.  Trees include specimen hollies, copper beech, paulownia, yew and poplar.  There are plenty of places to sit to admire the mixed informal shrub and perennial beds, which contain many unusual plants.  Containers planted with shrubs, hardy and half-hardy perennials provide added inspiration. There should be home-propagated plants for sale.

The Bishop’s Palace Garden will be familiar to many Somerset Group members, and with good reason.  The RHS has declared it a garden of “outstanding and exceptionally high standards of planting and design”.  September in the East Garden is vibrant, with Achillea ‘Cloth of Gold’, blue salvias and Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ leading the display, along with the wonderful ‘Bishop’s Children’ dahlias.  Walk over the boardwalk from the East Garden and peer down into St Andrew’s Well, around which shade and damp-loving plants such as astilbes and hostas thrive.  We will have a special tour, accompanied by the acclaimed head gardener, James Cross. You will be free to remain in the gardens at your leisure after the tour and visit the Palace, should you wish. Refreshments available.

Saturday 16th September 

50/50 Plant Sale followed by 
Katherine Crouch, Garden Designer – ‘New Tricks for Old Gardeners’

50/50 Plant Sale starts at 10.00am. Lecture at 11.00am

Katherine Crouch is a garden designer and former BBC Gardener of the Year. She says that after 40 years of gardening, she is now becoming arthritic and lazy (ring any bells?).  In this talk she will introduce shortcuts which ensure gardeners don’t have to stop gardening just because they can’t reach the ground any more, including gardens and plants suitable for low maintenance, plus a demonstration of tools and techniques.

One audience member at another local garden club said to Katherine “I have rarely seen the club so amused, engaged and lively. Your particular brand of humour (Victoria Wood combined with Sandi Toksvig) was most entertaining, but does not obscure your superb knowledge of plants and gardening.”

The 50/50 Plant Sale is a popular event every September. The Group keeps half the money taken and returns the other half to the seller. The hall will be open from 9.30am – 10.00am to receive your plants.

Please ensure that each plant has two identical labels, both of them bearing the name of the plant, your name and the price. One will be removed so that the amount you are owed can be totted up and given to you at the end of the meeting, when you can also reclaim any unsold plants and your labels (tip: write in pencil on the labels so that they may be reused).

Selling will take place between 10.00am and 11.00am, at which point the lecture begins. Offers of help with selling on the day would be most welcome.

Saturday 14th October

Razvan Chisu, The Transylvanian Gardener – ‘Confessions of a Plantaholic’

Razvan’s addiction to plants began as a child in his native Transylvania, where he was inspired by fields covered in wildflowers. His passion remains plant-hunting, particularly in Greece and Spain. His wonderful photographs of these trips show vast areas of wildflowers – swathes of silene, crocus, species tulips, etc. – growing naturally and undisturbed. 

As well as helping to stage exhibits at the Tatton, Chatsworth and Chelsea Flower Shows, Razvan works as a garden designer.  He has an eclectic taste in plants and can’t get enough of them, as this talk will reveal.  Succulents are a particular passion, and he loves all plants that bloom in the spring, including snowdrops and cyclamen. 

Saturday 18th November

AGM followed by 
Timothy Walker – ‘Bordering on Insanity’

AGM starts at 10.30am. Lecture starts at 11.15am 

Timothy Walker’s talks are always entertaining, combining deep horticultural knowledge with a droll style of delivery.  He was the Horti Praefectus (Director) of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum, and has won four gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show.

This lecture focuses on all-year-round interest in the garden, covering the principles and practicalities required to create a border that earns its keep every month of the year.  It concludes with a look at a collection of must-have plants for such a border, and the combinations in which they may be grown.