Covid 19 Update, November 2020

The Committee has decided to publish the 2021 Programme on the website, but garden visits and meetings in the hall will be subject to government restrictions.  Due to the limit on the number of people allowed in the hall under COVID-19 secure rules, the meetings are restricted to members only and you will need to book a seat prior to the meeting.  Email Caroline on to book.

Please note the following when attending a meeting:

  • Observe social distancing
  • You must wear a face covering in the hall (unless medically exempt)
  • Use the sanitising gel provided on entering and exiting the building
  • Only the disabled toilet is in use
  • Refreshments will not be provided but you may bring your own
  • Remember to take any rubbish home with you.
  • No raffle
  • No book stall
  • No sales of sundries
  • No plant of the month competition

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 £2 for non-members (when space is available).  In non-coronavirus times, 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 .  Please refer to Newsletters for further details of trips.

The HPS booking form for this year’s trips and events is available to download and print off here: Somerset HPS Booking Form 2020

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

Somerset HPS Programme 2021

All other meeting details can be found on the meeting page.
Refreshments are served before the lectures.

Saturday 16th January – 11.00am

Jane Moore – ‘Painting With Plants’

Please note, this meeting will be held via Zoom.  Members will receive an invitation link via email.

In a horticultural career spanning almost 30 years, Jane has been Head Gardener at The Bath Priory since 2003. She is also a guest presenter on BBC Two’s Gardeners’ World.

In this talk, Jane will discuss how making clever use of colour can turn your garden into something really special. She has plenty of ideas on how to introduce colour using both flowering plants and foliage, from romantic, soft toning colours and subtle, fragrant plants, to the drama of a bold, vibrant colour scheme. Jane can recommend plants and combinations that will look great, whatever the size of your garden.

Saturday 20th February – 11.00am

Timothy Walker – ‘Euphorbias: Probably the Best Plants in the World’

Please note, this meeting will be held via Zoom.  Members will receive an invitation link via email.

Timothy Walker is a lively and entertaining speaker; very enjoyable to listen to, yet full of useful information at the same time.  He is the former Director of Oxford Botanic Garden, which houses one of the National Collections of hardy euphorbias.  

I’m sure no HPS member needs to be convinced of the value of spurges as garden plants for every situation.  Timothy’s talk will explain some of the natural history of euphorbias and their botany, along with details of some of the most desirable species and cultivars, and suggest some planting combinations we can try in our own gardens.

Saturday 20th March – 11.00am

Dr John Grimshaw – ‘Paying Rent: Plants that Earn Their Keep’ 

John Grimshaw has enjoyed a varied and interesting career, including nine years restoring the Gardens at Colesbourne Park (famous for its snowdrops) before he became the Director of the Yorkshire Arboretum in 2012.  He is a respected gardener, author and botanist, and is Vice-Chair of the RHS Woody Plant Committee.  Fascinated by all plants, he has grown a huge diversity of them over the years. 

In this talk, John will introduce a range of plants of all kinds, chosen for their long or multiple seasons of interest in the garden.  Just the thing for those of us who want colour all year round in our borders.

Saturday 27th March   10.00am – 3.00pm

CANCELLED due to covid restrictions.

HPS Somerset Group Early Spring Plant Fair

Milverton Recreation Ground, Butts Way, Milverton, Taunton TA4 1JR

Admission:  Cancelled.
HPS Somerset Group members will be offered tickets direct, thus avoiding the booking fee.

The annual Spring Plant Fair is a popular event and always draws a crowd.  Stalls from local nurseries will be offering an array of tempting plants, rich with the fresh foliage and jewel-like flowers of spring.

CANCELLED due to covid restrictions.

Saturday 17th April – 11.00am 

“Salvias” by Vicki Weston of Westons Salvias, Ceredigion in West Wales.

Seven years ago, Vicki moved to Ceredigion in West Wales, along with her beloved collection of 6,000 plants. Her interest in salvias has snowballed and she now has about 75 species and cultivars, which she sells by mail order from her website.

Some of the cultivars she recommends, such as the deep purple ‘Amistad’, are new to cultivation but already well known. ‘Someone found ‘Amistad’ at a plant fair in Argentina and it’s now one of the most widely seen salvias in the world,’ she says. ‘Hot Lips’ is also popular, with small, aromatic leaves and delicate, bi-coloured crimson-and-white blooms from June until the first frosts.

The tender species flower the latest and some can even be in bloom at Christmas if grown in pots. Vicki recommends varieties such as S. fulgens, the Mexican scarlet sage or the striking rust-red S. confertiflora for Christmas colour. S. involucrata ‘Mulberry Jam’, with its showy deep pink flowers (or indeed any of the New World salvias), can also be container-grown to maximise autumn flowering time.

Sue Applegate – ‘English Wine and Vineyards’ (Rescheduled to 2022)

Sue, of Hurstbrook Plants, has spoken to the Somerset group before, but she usually talks on the subjects of peonies and irises.  However, she also runs a two acre vineyard, Stocklands Vineyard, producing award-winning white, rose and red wines grown and made in the Polden Hills, right here in Somerset!   

In this talk, Sue will talk about the development and progress of English wine-making, the techniques involved and and its increasing popularity.

Thursday 27th May

Self-drive Visit to Pulham Rectory, Nr Sherborne and (same day) Ashington Manor, Mudford, Nr Yeovil

Combined Admission Price: £10 per person

The garden at Pulham Rectory is a feast for the eyes: four acres of formal and informal gardens, incorporating yew pyramid allées and hedges, box parterres and beautifully planted herbaceous borders amid a backdrop of mature trees.  A myriad of garden features include terraces, a fernery, a woodland walk and a ha-ha.  The large, spectacular bog garden is awash with primulas and irises in May.  Splendid views.

Ashington Manor is the nascent garden of Chelsea gold medal winners Julian and Isabel Bannerman.  They have designed for such A-list gardens as Highgrove for the ‪Prince of Wales, Arundel Castle in Sussex for the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk and Wormsley Park in Buckinghamshire for John Paul Getty II.  During the first lockdown, the Bannermans threw themselves into developing their own garden at Ashington Manor, which they bought in 2019. This promises to be an eye-opening visit, with lots of ideas to take home.

Thursday 10th June

Self-drive Visit to Westbrook House, Nr Glastonbury and (same day) Batcombe House, Nr Bruton

Garden designer Keith Anderson and painter David Mendel began laying out the garden at Westbrook House in 2004.  Set within four acres, the garden has three distinct formal areas around the house.  Clipped box and yew offset lively borders of herbaceous perennials and cottage-style plantings.  Beyond are mown paths leading through a meadow, peppered with species and wild roses.  Finally, there are two orchards where the fruit trees are interplanted with shrub roses and philadelphus.

Libby Russell has created a superb garden in the nineteen years she has been at Batcombe House.  Sitting snugly in its valley setting, it is a garden of two halves: one undeniably romantic, with frothing borders of roses, nepeta and herbaceous geraniums punctuated by conical yews; the other rather more contemporary, with lawns punctuated by hummocks of box rising in an amphitheatre of curves, fringed with planting in cool greens and whites.  Featured in Gardens Illustrated in 2020.

Sunday 4th July

HPS Somerset Group Summer Plant Fair at Lower Severalls 

Admission:  Non-members £4     HPS and RHS members £3.50 

Summer plant fairs are the most colourful of the year, and have the advantage that you can really see what a plant will look like in the border when you buy it in full bloom.  The fair at Lower Severalls has become increasingly popular, with nurseries from across the area bringing their best plants to sell.  It will be a smorgasbord of colour, not to be missed.

Further details to follow.

Tuesday 6th July

Self-drive Visit to Holcombe Court, and Silver Street Farm.  Combined admission: £11.00 per person

11.00am:  Holcombe Court, Holcombe Rogus, nr. Wellington  TA21 0PA

Holcombe Court is recognised as the finest Tudor house in Devon, and the current owner has worked steadily over the last 19 years, along with a small and highly skilled team of specialists, to restore the house and gardens.  There are four trout ponds and a Victorian rockery.  The Walled Garden has box-edged vegetable beds, two shrub borders, espaliered fruit and clipped yews.  Herbaceous borders flank a summerhouse which is famed for its fan vault ceiling and viewing platform.  Cold drinks and biscuits are included in the cast of the visit.

From 2.00pm:  Silver Street Farm, Uffculme, nr. Cullompton, Devon

This plantsman’s garden, situated on the Devon/Somerset border, has an idyllic rural setting and is alive with scent, colour and dynamic planting.  Roses, herbs and perennials, along with enormous herbaceous borders amid meandering paths, rub shoulders with an eclectic collection of shrubs.  Designed with the family at heart, it is a haven for people who enjoy a playful approach to planting.

Tuesday 7th September

Self-drive visit to Stoneleigh Down, and Special Plants (Derry Watkins’ garden).  Combined admission:  £18.50

From 10.30am:  Stoneleigh Down, Tockington, nr Bristol, BS32 0LQ

Almost ⅔ acre of south-facing garden.  Curved gravel pathways snake around an S-shaped lawn which connects themed areas.  These include sub-tropical planting; a summer walk; acers; an oriental pond; a winter garden, and a spring garden.  The level site has been densely planted with trees, shrubs, perennials and bulbs for year-round interest.  There are plenty of places to sit.  Tea and cake are included in the cost of the visit.

From 2.00pm:  Special Plants, Cold Ashton, nr Bath  SN14 8LA

An architect-designed ¾ acre hillside garden with stunning views, which was started in the autumn of 1996.  Exotic plants and gravel gardens for borderline-hardy plants.  There is a black-and-white garden, a vegetable garden and a orchard, as well as many annual, biennial and tender plants for late summer colour.  Spring-fed ponds and a bog garden.  A free list of plants in the garden is supplied.  Derry Watkins will be speaking at the HPS Somerset AGM in November.

Saturday 18th September

50/50 Plant Sale, followed by

Jimi Blake – ‘A Beautiful Obsession’

Hall opens 9.30am.  Plant Sale 10.00am.  Lecture 11.00am.

Jimi Blake probably doesn’t need any introduction to Somerset HPS members, as the group visited his garden on their visit to Ireland in 2019.  He is simply one of the most inspirational gardeners of the moment, and speaks with an infectious enthusiasm and humour.  

This talk is based on Jimi’s book, published in September 2019, and takes a breathtaking journey through the newest and most exciting plants in his collection in Hunting Brook, and from his travels to other gardens and nurseries.  He will describe how he incorporates these choice plants into his planting schemes in his garden. Be prepared for your plant wish list to explode!

The 50/50 Plant Sale prior to the lecture at our September meeting each autumn is a popular event. The Group keeps half the money taken and returns the other half to the seller. The hall will be open from 9.30 – 10.00am to receive your plants to sell.

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, when the lecture begins. Offers of help with selling on the day would be most welcome.

Saturday 16th October – 11.00am  

Mary Payne, MBE – ‘Autumn: So They Think It’s All Over!’

Mary is a Bristol-based garden designer and a consultant for ten gardens around the UK, including Compton Acres near Bournemouth, who admits there is ‘never a dull moment’ in her career.  She has won 5 gold medals at Chelsea, and been awarded the MBE for her services to horticulture.

Autumn is a time of year when the garden takes on an evolving colour scheme, and the combination of late-flowering perennials and autumn tints can be simply stunning.  Mary will be talking about extending the season well into autumn and towards Christmas, explaining how to keep your garden colourful and interesting for as long as possible.

Saturday 20th November – Doors open at 10.00am

AGM at 10.30am, followed at 11.15am by

Derry Watkins – ‘Pushing the Boundaries: Borderline Hardy Plants You Can’t Live Without’

Derry is the proprietor of Special Plants, near Bath, an enticing nursery full of covetable and unusual plants.  As Derry has introduced many of them from her plant collecting trips to South Africa and elsewhere, a lot of them are borderline hardy (tender perennials).  Before you say ‘that’s not for me’, bear in mind that the majority of these plants flower consistently all summer, more than earning their keep in the border, and many are easy to propagate from cuttings.  

Derry is a lively and enthusiastic speaker, with a wealth of experience in cultivating tender perennials in the UK.  In this talk, she will be demonstrating the value of these plants, explaining how to grow them successfully and inspiring us to give them a go ourselves.