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A Northumberland Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 14 January 2007 by John Richards

Northumberland Diary. Entry 19.

Leeding lights

We went down to the West Yorkshire Group meeting at St Chads, Headingley, Leeds yesterday afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. With a membership of over 100 and meetings which boast 70 or more participants on a regular basis, it is worth asking why this group remains so successful. Of course the large surrounding metropolitan area helps, as does the excellent light roomy well-equipped hall, and the superb fish restaurant over the road! (where many members meet for lunch beforehand). It is interesting that this group has always met on a Saturday afternoon. When I worked, this weekend slot provided such precious gardening time that I would never have wanted to attend, but weekday evenings are also not popular with working people, or indeed speakers. Now that I and so many of our members are retired, perhaps a daytime slot at the weekend is the most popular time for a meeting. However, I am told that attendance tends to drop when meetings coincide with one of the northern Shows! Perhaps there are other lessons to be learnt from W Yorks. Their committee met that morning, and as I stuck my head round the door I was amazed to observe 14 participants! This is as big as some local Groups in their entirety! Apparently, nearly all Committee members have a specific job. There are no less than three secretaries, one for membership, one for the programme, and a general secretary who they say is the busiest of all!  So responsibility is shared to the extent that people feel more willing to assume some. A lot seems to take place at their meetings. There was an attractive local members plant sale, a very large book sale (AGS stock) and a very good non-competitive display of more than 30 plants, any one of which would have graced the bench at a National Show. There were some amazing pans of crocus, C. fleischeri and C. baytopiorum of certfiicate of merit standard. I wish I had taken my camera! However, most importantly of all, this is the friendliest of groups, whose members seem to go out of their ways to enjoy themselves, creating a lovely warm atmosphere. And this in Yorkshire!

In contrast, my own garden is still very slow to develop, despite a fortnight of very tiring and ridiculously warm gales that the whole country has suffered. Being on a north slope, the sun scarely gets over our horizon at this time of year, so we have a late start; no snowdrops in full flower yet!, perhaps next week. However, a few plants are starting to appear in the garden, especially the earliest form of Primula vulgaris subsp. sibthorpii here which is only just starting, although it flowers before Christmas in some winters.

Leeding lights

Lady Scott again
Over the last few days, several of the Porophyllum saxifrages in the garden have developed considerably and the first few flowers have opened. I have grown the excellent dwarf yellow 'Valerie Finnis' almost as long as I have grown rock plants. Old cushions tend to fall apart, and small pieces with a bit of stem jammed under a stone in a trough usually root in spring. This scrap is only a year old.

Lady Scott again

Fir deal
As pointed out a few entries ago, dwarf conifers come into their own in winter, and foliage colour is often strongest at this time of year. I find Abies nordmanniana 'Golden Spreader' very slow growing. Planted in a very stony scree, I have owned this plant for eight years.

Fir deal

Hopefully, never popsoff
A couple of early flowering plants from the alpine house to finish with. I grew Corydalis popovii from seed about 15 years ago. It starts flowering in mid January most years, elongating rapidly from a rather cyclamen-like tuber which just grows and grows. It never sets seed (I have only have a single plant) and it is not easy to see how else it could be propagated, but it seems very long-lived and reliable.

Hopefully, never popsoff

And a crocus
Here is the Turkish Crocus adanensis. This was grown from Gothenburg Botanic Garden Seed in 1999 under the number KPP (Karen Persson, the colchicum authority) 93-299. C. leichtlinii and C. imperati are also flowering now and I may figure one or more next week. Even 'tommies', C. tommasinianus are starting to flower in the grass. Now that is early!

And a crocus
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