Kent Alpine Gardener's Diary
This entry: 07 August 2015 by Tim Ingram
Thoughts on 'Facebook'
It won't have escaped notice that there is limited exchange of experiences here on the AGS website. The Internet has had a profound effect on the ways people communicate and share information and this is as true of plants and gardening as of anything else. Several members have commented on this elsewhere and the opportunities to learn about alpines, especially with plants-people right across the world, is really illuminating - both about the plants themselves and the way landscapes and gardening have such an influence on your view of the world.
Facebook is obviously highly personal and non-structured but just from viewing a number of the AGS Group pages it has a very positive effect on stimulating interest in these plants. The criticism may be - from the highly botanical and conservative viewpoint of a Society like the AGS - that it can be rather superficial, but my reason for this entry is to strongly rebut this view and to suggest that AGS members should embrace this medium more and integrate some of what it teaches onto the website here. As with anything, the value comes from the way it is used.
As an example then here is the last entry I have put onto Facebook - one close to my heart which is to do with alpine nurseries and growers:
A few photos taken back in April at The Forge Nurseries in Essex, one of the few wholesale suppliers of alpines. The pale cream primula is named for Kath Dryden VMH, who was a doyenne of the alpine world and lived nearby, and Don Mann (a previous generation) was renowned for his ability to propagate a wide range of rock plants, which these pictures show the nursery carries on superbly. The range of plants is limited by the Garden Centre trade (and limited interest in alpine plants amongst gardeners in general), but amongst these they also grow many rare and special plants - for example Weldenia candida and Anchusa caespitosa. Fine growers.
Many members will have links with W.H.G. Mann & Son and I am grateful to Mike Brett (who with Hazel ran the Mid Kent AGS Group for many years) for introducing us to the Forge Nursery. This is just a small example of the information that is shared on Facebook of great relevance to alpine growers, and of course it leads you to want to discover more. This nursery has had close connections with many other well known growers such as the Ingwersens and Robinsons, with individuals such as John Watson, and highly respected AGS members such as Kath Dryden and Ray Drew - all of which makes a great story and gives alpine gardening greater prominance in general.
And here is a second example that makes my point even better - on the International Fritillaria Study Group Facebook page (associated obviously with the AGS Fritillaria Group). I was introduced to this Group by Matt Topsfield and, one contributor, Ron Mudd, I remember from much earlier comments made here on the AGS website (and have met with other growers such as Peter Taggart at the Frit. Group meetings). These are a specialist group of plants of great interest to alpine gardeners:
A few pictures of Frits. in the garden - F. kotschyana, F. pallidiflora and F.affinis. We are especially interested in growing more species in the garden setting so hope to learn more from the Study Group. These have all grown well for many years but increased only very slowly. F. thunbergii (verticillata), bought years ago from Beth Chatto, grows really well through a patch of Sorbus reducta in a leafy raised bed and it would be great to try more of these Chinese woodland species.
The value here for myself is in exchanging information about growing fritillarias in the garden as distinct from display at the Alpine Shows - this is a particular benefit of the Internet, and likely to be a way of growing that many gardeners would find of interest. The way plants grow over time in a natural environment, subject to wide variations in climate and conditions, year by year and place by place, provides a great deal of information about their adaptability and tolerances which is often not so clear from plants grown for display.
(Fritillaria affinis, of course, is American not Chinese - my wording was poor - but it is a good plant in the garden and we would like to grow more forms of it as well).