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A Northumberland Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 29 October 2006 by John Richards

Northumberland Diary. Entry 11.

Decline and fall?

Faced with a less than generous selection of Saturday papers, I elected to err on the side of so-called quality rather than political correctness and very untypically chose the Daily Torygraph. This seems to be the only paper which offers a Garden Supplement. I am not sure what this says about the poltics of gardeners, and perhaps I am alone amongst you in not having read Ursula Buchan's column previously.

This week she raised what is apparently a hot topic amongst horticulturalists, namely the decline in turnover in the Trade, garden centres, nurseries, public gardens and whathaveyou over the last three years. This decline is described as mysterious, and has been variously attributed to personal debt, second homes in warmer climes, purchasing houses for the undeserving next generation, or merely a change in the climate.

I have no problem in the attribution of this decline, although a full explanation may be more illusory. Anyone associated with a Garden Society in recent years has been aware of a falling membership, but this applies to almost ALL Societies, Stamp collecting, cricket clubs, Stage Societies, Choirs, bird watching, you name it, they are all declining. And the reason is not hard to seek; less people are gardening, stamp cllecting or what you will. As a result they are purchasing less, not least Society memberships.

Personally, I think the declines in Societies started when Mrs Thatcher said that she did not believe in Society. This was at least an accurate forecast of the aspirations of the children of the baby-boomers, who have been non-joiners, and non-doers, at least in their spare time. Garden programmes which emphasise labour-saving gardening have mere followed the trend; television has always pandered to the young. It misses the point of course. Anything worthwhile, chess, choral singing, even golf, and certainly gardening, is hard and the rewards are correspondingly great when things are done well. How do we teach this to the next generation?

Here is a crocus to break the monotony and cheer us up. C. ochroleucus is one of the latest, and a good multiplier which also survives in  the open ground here.

Decline and fall?

Valerie Finnis

Also in this copy of the Telegraph was a well-written obituary to Lady Scott, Valerie Finnis. Back in the ?60?s, when she was at Waterperry and a stalwart of the Oxford Group, she was one of several redoubtable people who offered me encouragement and hospitality in my very early days as an alpine gardener. What a group that was! Primrose Warburg, Miss Miller-Christie and many others. Perhaps todays worthies seem as authoritative and magisterial? Somehow I doubt it.

I was delighted to be able to remind Lady Scott of our early acquaintance at Vincent Square less than a year ago, but  was upset to find her very frail. Hopefully  where she has gone there are many splendid saxifrages.

It would be nice to put a saxifrage in here, but she was always in favour of a new plant. These little petrocosmeas are becoming popular, but flower far too late! All they seem to need is shade, humidity and cold glass. They hate sunshine! This may be P. iodioides.

Valerie Finnis

This is your website!

At a recent meeting, the slow take-up of the facilities now offered by the AGS website was mentioned. Yes, I know we were rather slower in providing facilities than some, but we now have a magnificent user-friendly site, and all it needs is regular use! Try us out! by providing gossip, comment, diaries,discussions and chat. I know that several other sites, both private and Society offer some of these facilities already, but as we have far more members than any other Alpine Garden Society, we hope that you will now tune-in here! This is of course preaching to the converted - if you are reading this you are half-way there, but tell your friends, spread the word and make us the fashion! 

Just to show we are broad-minded, here is one of the lovely forms of Acer palmatum we grow, completely reliable every year. What a marvellous back-drop to alpines! 

This is your website!

Another crocus!
Crocus medius is another species with a long flowering period and has been going for nearly a month now. It originates from north-west Italy and just creeps into France around Menton. It would be great to go down there now and see it in the wild.

Another crocus!

How many sorbus?
I have been meaning to post this rowan for some weeks, but it gets better and better. I thought it was S. glabrescens, often thought of as the white-berried S. hupehensis. But this year the centre of the berry has gone pink, as in S. hupehensis! My ?real? hupehensis, purchased more recently, has now berried for the first time. It really is stone-white. So where are we? One problem may be that these so-called apomictic (no sex please, we?re Chinese) sorbus, do scout around occasionally, so perhaps this one should be ?fitz-hupehensis??

How many sorbus?
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