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Kent Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 28 August 2016 by Tim Ingram

East Kent Group of the AGS

I have just been writing the Treasurer's Report for our first meeting and AGM in September and thought it might be of interest to share my introduction here (if not all the detailed figures), along with details of our programme for the season from Sept 2016 to May 2017. Next year will see the 60th Anniversary of the founding of the Group by, amongst others, Admiral Paul Furse, Dr. Jack Eliott and Miss Davenport Jones (who started Washfield Nursery). Soon afterwards Pamela Schwert and Sybille Kreutzberger from Sissinghurst joined the Group, and both Elizabeth Strangman and Graham Gough came for a while when I first joined and took on running the group with Rosemary Powis. It has been a remarkable Group of gardeners to be involved with (the same is true across the AGS in general), and times change...

The East Kent Group of the Alpine Garden Society was inaugurated 59 years ago on the 23rd November 1957 with Admiral Paul Furse as Chairman and Dr. Jack Elliott as Secretary, and around 15 members. Within three years the membership had grown four-fold and has remained approximately around this level ever since. It has always been a small but very committed Group of gardeners, often with professional and distinguished backgrounds, but most of all real enthusiasm and deep interest in plants. I mention this because the 1960’s and 70’s were a time when the Alpine Garden Society in general was growing significantly in ways that it isn’t today. For us to develop what we do and enable the Group to thrive into the future a new outlook is important and new ways of encouraging an interest locally in the plants we all find so fascinating.


Over the past several years the costs of running the Group have increased significantly in advance of Income, most markedly because of lecturers fees and expenses.  Financially we are in the fortunate position to provide for this because of good reserves, but ways of raising funds by Opening our Gardens, holding a regular Plant Auction and other initiatives have become more and more important as a buffer against increasing costs. I stress this before discussing the accounts in detail to encourage thoughts and suggestions - and contributions - for how these events can be promoted, especially in ways that could also attract new members to join us and contribute to the enjoyment of our meetings...


...We still have that same passion that Paul Furse and Jack Elliott and others brought to the Group when it was founded 60 years ago, and it would be good to carry this on to and from a new generation and meet new gardeners too.


invites you to our New season of


... held at Lower Hardres Village Hall, south of Canterbury, CT4 5NP, every second Friday from September to May at 7.00pm - visitors and guests welcome.


9th September 2016 - ‘A Gardening Life, Learning from the Wild’. Gill Regan.

A garden is really a microcosm of the world beyond its boundaries, and none more so than if - like Gill and Peter Regan - you are widely travelled and have seen plants in their natural environments in many parts of the world. Gill has distilled some of this in her recent article in the Journal of the Hardy Plant Society (Vol. 37, 2016) and many members will have been thrilled by their garden and the plants they grow, as well as previous talks on their exploits in wild places. A personal but also deeply informed view of plants and gardening to begin our new season of talks. 


14th October 2016 - ‘Bumblebee Conservation and the Short-Haired Bumblebee’. Nikki Gammans.

Dr Nikki Gammans has been working with farmers on Romney Marsh and in N. Kent to encourage the return of wild flower meadows along field edges and non-cultivated places, with the simple but effective aim of increasing insect numbers and diversity. But in particular she has been attempting to re-introduce the short-haired bumblebee, Bombus subterraneus, to the last place it was recorded in the UK at Dungeness. The project has involved collecting queen bees from Sweden, where unlike most of Europe the short-haired bumblebee is still increasing in numbers, and is described by the entomologist Dave Goulson in his book ‘A Sting in the Tale, My Adventures with Bumblebees’. In the wider context though it is an example of how the detailed understanding of ecological relationships can help reverse the huge losses - some 97% - of wild flower meadows in the UK since the Second World War, and limit the serious declines in biodiversity that are such a feature of our present age.


Saturday October 22nd 2016

KENT AUTUMN AGS SHOW, Sutton Valence School, North Street, Sutton Valence, Kent,  ME17 3HL


11th November 2016 - ‘Tulip species; the National Collection at Cambridge Botanic Garden’. Simon Wallis.

Simon Wallis is Assistant Supervisor of the Alpine and Woodland plantings at Cambridge Botanic Garden, where the climate is ideal for many bulbs and plants from summer-dry places. At the Alpine Day held at Wisley in October 2015 he described the gradual replenishment and replanting of the 1 acre rock garden and Mediterranean beds. The Garden also holds a National Collection of Tulipa species representing some 80 of the 120 known wild forms and which will be the subject of his talk. Many of these can make more reliable garden plants than many of the hybrid cultivars, flowering from February through to May, and with a range of colour and form paralleled by few other bulbs.


9th December 2016 - ‘Alpines in Landscape Design’. Sarah Morgan.

Many of us collect alpines and grow them for their individual interest in troughs and rock gardens, or for display in the alpine house, but their use in Landscape Design is much less discussed. Sarah Morgan approaches plants from this different perspective drawing on her experiences as a member of the Society of Garden Designers and as a lecturer on Garden History, Management and Design, at the University of Kent and Hadlow College, and latterly the University of Greenwich. Her talk will look at alpines from a more ecological and design ethic that should also stimulate a better general understanding of their requirements in private gardens too, and encourage new approaches to making an ‘Alpine Garden’. The picture is of a roof garden in Sheffield planted by Nigel Dunnett, ten years on, with pulsatilla and cowslips self-sowing and with minimal maintenance.


13th January 2017 - Members Meeting. Olivia Hall & Peter Jacob.

We are fortunate to have a wide range of knowledge and gardening expertise amongst our membership and this meeting will share the different experiences of travelling to see gardens and making a garden. Olivia travels widely, often going to gardens, and has offered to show us her take on a tour of  very varied Italian gardens last summer. On the other side of the coin is making a garden and inviting people to view it, and many members will have visited Margaret Wilson and Peter Jacob’s garden at Walmer, pictured above. Margaret began making this garden, with an evident artistic vision, in 1965. It is one of those places where the more you look the more you see, and Peter will show us some of those plants that you may have missed!


10th February - ‘Hellebores’. Don Palmer.

Don is an elder statesman of the alpine gardening fraternity in Kent who in the past has spoken to us entertainingly and fluently about his interest in snowdrops. We have asked him to join us again to speak on that other invaluable winter flower - the Hellebore. The February meeting is one that is an opportunity to marvel at the plants that do flower and add so much to the garden in mid-winter, and we aim to bring a range of cut flowers and examples along to the meeting to illustrate this.


10th March 2017 - ‘Patagonia’. Caroline Seymour.

Because of its evolutionary history South America has the most distinctive and often unique flora with affinities to the other southern continents. The alpine flowers are especially diverse and unusual, as described in the recent book ‘Flowers of the Patagonian Mountains’, written by Martin Sheader and published by the Alpine Garden Society. Caroline has travelled to South America  with Martin and the AGS and her talk will share with us some of the remarkable landscapes and plants of Patagonia. 


14th April 2017 - ‘Tromsø Botanic Garden and the Lofted Islands’. Cliff Booker.

Cliff has travelled the world searching out wild places and the plants that grow in the mountains and giving talks on them. He leads regular tours to the Dolomites for the travel company Colletts, and helps run the East Lancashire AGS Group and AGS Show. One of his recent trips was to the Botanic Garden at Tromsø where some of the choicest and most difficult to cultivate alpines from around the world thrive in the arctic climate, and where the Northern Lights combine with magnificent scenery to make a place any alpine gardener would be thoroughly thrilled to visit.


12th May 2017 - Practical meeting.

Gardening at its heart is an art and craft on whatever scale it is carried out and this is a facet of what we do that we have explored less in recent years at meetings and would like to return to in future ones. There are many examples we can look at in more detail from seed sowing and propagation in general, to specialised techniques such as leaf cuttings, sowing fern spores, or grafting; growing alpines in troughs (to complement Jeremy’s fascinating demonstration of transforming fishboxes for this purpose); or the experiences of making a raised bed or rock garden, and failures and successes growing different plants. No title has been decided and the subject(s) will emerge from projects carried out through the season. And we would like to invite contributions! The picture at the end of this Newsletter shows the ingenious watering system and tufa bed in Michael and Pamela Heigham's garden at Margate.




Garden Visits and the Summer Garden Picnic in 2017 will be advised during the season


(should be 'Lofoten Islands'... the perils of spelling corrections by the virtual world of computer technology)

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