Alpine Gardener (AGS Journal): The Alpine Gardener, AGS Bulletin.
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Having just received the March Bulletin in the post this morning, may I say that it has been worth the wait. Comments elsewhere on the web site have explained that this and a number of other publications were delayed by disruption at the printers. Personally I think the delay could have been passed off as taking extra time to improve the quality as there is certainly a new look and feel about this volume.
Congratulations to all concerned with the production.
Can I just say, as a fairly new AGS member that the Bulletin is a pleasure to read. There is a lovely spread of articles to suit all aspects of alpine gardening and I find Vic Aspland's articles aimed at the 'beginner' particularly helpful and useful.
Our postman finally made it up our lane yesterday with my copy of the Bulletin. A great issue, thank you. I love Celia Sawyer's pulsatilla picture on the cover and the Utrecht 'eye-catcher' is inspiring; I'm now casting speculative glances at a pile of pantiles we have in the garden...
One request though; is there any chance that we could go back to having the annual index printed in the December issues? I can't be the only disorganised member who loses loose sheets.
I quite agree, Gail - I much preferred the index incorporated in the December issue and I know, having spoken to other AGS members, that they also found it more convenient than a separate booklet.
Having discussed the matter this morning, you just beat me to starting a new 'thread'!
The Alpine Gardener-December 2009.
Three cracking articles that set me thinking and indeed preparing for possible future action (the stress comes on the 'possible' )
"Horizontal thinking in the Alpine Garden" by Vic Aspland
"A New Crevice Garden" by Richard Horswood
"Innovations in the Rock Garden" by Wiert Nieuman
I always find Vic's articles very readable and inspiring (and glad to see pages in the Alpine Gardener aimed at the beginner and slow starter) and I was mightily inspired by the choice of Vic's title in that I could do all my thinking from a horizontal position. I excel in this art and spend many hours thinking about how I might improve my skills at it. Of course I do it much better when my hand is fully occupied by a glass containing some amber liquid of Scottish origin that creates both a warming feeling and, provided that a fair quantity is used, the feeling that I am God's answer to any self respecting Botanical Garden's rock work future! These feelings tend to subside the nearer I get to having to actually do something and usually disappear when the first hammer blow bounces from the top of the chisel and causes much damage to the amber liquid glass holding hand!
Being a Yorkshireman (very devout) by birth I was greatly intrigued by Richard's article because it began to make me think about the cost if any of my future rock making actions ever became current. Richard hit on using broken paving stones but you still have to pay for them. All of my (very small) rock creations so far have been for nowt (nothing for the ill-informed!) on the basis that neighbours had watched far too many TV gardening programmes and decking was to be laid. This meant skips and lots of enthusiastic digging. It also enabled me ask if they were going to throw all that scrap stone away and could I help myself from their skip. Not wanting to upset me this was readily agreed. Now tomorrow I shall start sounding out the Estate in case some neighbour is ready to chuck out a great quantity of mock Yorkshire Millstone Grit paving slabs. I might just have a use for them!
Wiert's article worried me greatly. More than once he uses the word 'simple' and I will quote one of them '.. then a simple mould, cut from wood, is employed to construct a near perfect globe' Yeah! right Wiert!! Speaking as one who is to DIY what Nureyev was to Rugby League the words "simple" and "wood" are never used in the same sentence.
All very good stuff though and when I've finished emulsioning the spare bedroom (started, believe it or not, last March) I might well have a go.
I've created this new discussion topic area 'Alpine Gardener (AGS Bulletin)'. It seemed appropriate and I've moved this thread from AGS Events.
Your friendly local webmaster.
Thanks for your comments David. I'd like to try a crevice garden too, but I've got to finish the kitchen first.
Don't know why my post appears to be littered with "?" that should be just ". I typed it Word and cut and pasted it into the thread?
David, it's because of the html coding - I have edited your post to change the ? for "
I've just been reading 'A Rock Garden in the South' by the celebrated American gardener Elizabeth Lawrence. 'All Rock Gardeners are Snobs' she begins, though in friendly vein, and goes on to explain by saying that 'the cultivation of rock plants is the highest form of gardening'. (But I think there is a lot of snobbery in the shrubbery too!). And then she continues 'all gardeners become rock gardeners if they garden long enough'; we should certainly hope so - but how many gardeners do garden long enough these days? And does a rock gardener necessarily grow plants in the garden?
Few writers in Britain have expressed their love of rock gardening in such a literary way and this could be one reason why it has become less fashionable over the years. It is no surprise that great gardeners like Christopher Lloyd and Helen Dillon also have craft with their pens, and the same comes through in others who are strongly immersed in what they do, such as the collectors and explorers John Watson and Janis Ruksans. In some ways this could be said to hark back to the famous debate on the 'two cultures' of the Arts and Sciences. But it is a fallacy that these are separate and in the same way growing plants and studying them are inextricably linked. Gardening may not have the posterity of botanical rigour but in reality allows a freedom of expression which is more sociable and inviting, of the moment. It is also what maintains plants in cultivation, an obvious but compelling point when one considers the wealth of gardening lore in the British Isles.
Today I talked on alpines to a group of students at the English Gardening School. Very varied in backgrounds but enthusiastic and drawn to plants from a garden rather than collecting viewpoint. None were members of the AGS, but one regularly accessed the website when Googling plants. Will I have convinced anyone to join? I don't know. But I hope I may have convinced them that you do become a rock gardener if you garden long enough.
One of the features I have always enjoyed in the Bulletin (and elsewhere) is the review of books on gardening and plant collecting. The reason is that when one has a strong respect for the reviewer one can sense the value that they have gained from the book. Also when one has had long experience of growing plants a greater understanding begins to dawn. This must be why Reginald Farrer remains always so high in rock gardener's affections; his patent love and deep knowledge and understanding of the alpine world calls to you just as the landscape does. The same sense comes from reading so many books by travellers and explorers, such as Roy Lancaster's epic 'Travels in China', or possibly my favourite, 'Riddle of the Tsangpo Gorges' by Frank Kingdom Ward, beautifully represented by Kenneth Cox and his co-travellers. Even those of us who have only had limited opportunities to travel in the mountains get precisely the same thrill, and for me at least it is the reason I prefer growing plants in the garden, where the sense of community echoes that of their place in Nature.
This is a long preamble for a book I have only just started to read, but which even in the first few pages evokes a deeply thoughtful and descriptive understanding of the mountains - before even a plant is mentioned! This is the 'Land above the Trees - A Guide to American Alpine Tundra' by Anne Zwinger and Beatrice Willard. It starts by simply describing how snow and ice moulds the landscape. You may think this is simple but here is minute detail and the point being that it is this which makes the infinite niches within which plants find places to grow, at least in part. I am reading it as a companion to John Good and David Millward's 'Alpine Plants - Ecology for Gardeners, which studies the same thing in a different way.
These will probably not improve my ability to garden with plants, in some ways, but add immeasurably to an appreciation of the plants in their natural settings and how they are as much a part of the landscape as the stones and ice, which I think is how Reginald Farrer looked at plants, and I am sure many others too.
To return for a moment to Ann Zwinger's book 'Land above the Trees' ( I should perhaps have started a new thread, but on the other hand I think such writing is closely related to the Bulletin and how we think about alpine plants). As I read deeper into the book I have felt even more the intimacy and clarity of the writing as she describes details of the landscape and the relationship this bears to the vegetation. Such things on the surface seem simple and yet, like experience of anything, the more one looks the more one sees. Her relationship with the mountains reminds me, in a different way, to that of Alfred Wainwright in the Lake District; it is honest, straightforward and deeply respectful. It combines a scientific accuracy with a poetry of description, which is refreshing and enlightening in the very best sense.
So describing the 'Fellfields' - effectively the screes that we might have in our gardens - 'The ground then is embellished as one of Faberge's Easter eggs: exquisetely patterned, magnificently encrusted with jewels and enamel, precise, intricate, superb'.
The longer one?s experience of growing alpines, the less one gives advice, and the greater one?s conviction that the only reliable advice on ?how to grow? can be summed up in the following words of wisdom: ?grow it yourself, and find out for yourself?.
Not entirely helpful! The Bulletin would be a little thin on the ground if this were true! And who wrote this? None other than the future editor of the AGS Bulletin, Roy Elliott! (AGS Bulletin 22, p.186, 1954). And yet of course the statement is more true than false - it is personal experience, and experimentation, that hits on solutions to problems of cultivation, but also the two way traffic that goes on between the people who try things out.
Having said this Roy Elliott, of course, immediately goes on to give some advice about a variety of alpines, and often it seems it is those who try the least that have the best success! There is a moral in here somewhere and it could be ?enjoy what does well for you, while it does well for you!? But you shouldn?t take the advice of someone else should you?
I couldn't resist this little piece taken from the Bulletin, Vol. 31, p.9 (1963) - and my apologies if it offends anyones sensibilities (!):
'How Big is a Thong?'. Now this could be taken the wrong way, but not by anyone in the AGS who will know that the thong in question refers to divisions of the autumn gentian sino-ornata. We have little experience of growing this plant in our dry garden but I have seen it bedded out en masse at Wakehurst Place in a huge arc edging a border near the house. A wonderful sight in flower. And of course it is the ability of this plant to be so readily divided into small rooted pieces that makes this possible. So thongs come in many sizes but only in blue!
It is a recurrent comment in the Bulletin over the years that many of the articles are written for the ?high-brow?. Of course this is likely to be the case since it is the high-brow who write them! However, the reasoned response is to accept this criticism as Will Ingwersen does in Vol. 11, p.212 (1943) and acknowledge, as he does, that some of the loveliest gardens come simply from good plants, grown well, whatever they may be. Here is his opening paragraph:
?One hears very few criticisms of our excellent Bulletin, and our Editor is to be sincerely congratulated on the high standard she has maintained throughout extremely difficult times. Curiously enough, though, this very high standard represents one of the criticisms I have heard made. It has been represented to me that there are very few of the commoner plants described in the Bulletin, and that most of the articles are written for the ?high-brow?. This has not struck me particularly but, upon reading through a lot of back numbers, I discovered that there was more than an element of justice in the complaint. We cannot all be experts right away, and there have to be initial stages of ignorance, from which the tyro advances, if he wishes to, on to higher planes where he can propagate his eritrichiums, and discuss with complete sangfroid his Aretian androsaces, kelseyas, dionysias, etc.?
?There is no need whatever to be ashamed of these stages of lesser knowledge, in fact many gardeners live there very happily all their lives, and possess some of the loveliest gardens I have seen.?
(As well as an undoubted fascination in the new and rare, and what must be huge satisfaction in growing difficult plants well, there is always an element of one-up-man-ship and exclusivity in becoming ?high-brow?. It is a little reminiscent of a ?London Club?, and like these is rather male-dominated! This tension must always exist within a Society of such high standards but can be reduced by acknowledging that scholarship and practicality go hand in hand).
In the same Volume on p. 231, Poulton Bond shows how rapidly the tyro can become a skilled grower (?A Tyro - The First Three Years?). He finishes with a few words which must apply at any time: ?...is not discouraged by disappointment, and perhaps most important of all, is always willing to learn?.
(What comes across in the best articles is real personal experience and the enjoyment that comes from growing plants - eritrichium or aubrieta!).
There has probably been little discussion of this over the years as most Groups no doubt cherish their autonomous nature. However, this interesting piece cropped up in the Bulletin just over 50 years ago and still holds the bar high.
(ex: AGS Bulletin Vol. 24, p.105, 1956)
While there is no intention of making this Commentary a repository for reports of the various Groups? activities, we would like to make an exception to record the accomplishments of the East Surrey Group for 1955, as it may be of assistance to others which are less well established. This briefly is the programme they carried out:
(1)Group membership increased from 40 to 102
(2)Monthly meetings were held, some 50 per cent of the members attending each meeting.
(3)Plants were brought up for discussion and inspection, including rare and noteworthy species
(4)There were discussions on all aspects of growing alpines in pans, frames and rock gardens.
(5)The Group purchased its own 750-watt projector and screen from the proceeds of a raffle for plants held at each meeting.
(6)The Group was visited by speakers including Mr. F. Kingdom Ward (North East Burma with slides), Mr. L. H. J. Williams of the Natural History Museum (Film of the 1954 Nepal expedition), Mr. G. A. Preston, Curator of the Rock Garden at Kew (Slides of plants grown at the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew), Mr. Roy Elliott (Coloured film of his Alpine House and Rock Garden), Mr. Gerard Parker (slides of the recent AGS trip to the Pyrenees, Mr. E. Collins from Kew (Coloured slides of North West Italy).
(7)Visits to gardens and nurseries, including the garden of the President, and of Dr. Seligman, where the Group held its own show.
(8)Distribution to each member of monthly notes on the proceedings at each meeting, and hints to new members on suitable plants with cultural notes.
It would be difficult to include in a very full programme a more enterprising collection of interesting material.
Tricky to get a speaker like Frank Kingdom-Ward (!) (though there are possibilities - for example Ron McBeath and Kenneth Cox) but there are some good ideas, viz: having more plants for display and sale; having short specific discussion on plants of interest to different members; films of plants in the wild (?! we have rarely if ever had these and even short films on the web show how evocative these can be); keeping a record of meetings on the website (the late Keith Moorhouse kept such notes religiously for his Group, and others like Robert Amos do so on the AGS website).
There is no mention of how membership was increased from 40 to 102! (Nothing worse than someone presenting you with such a fait accompli with no explanation!).
Enjoying your (or, more correctly, your 'ghost' writers) contributions immensely ... thought provoking, relevant and apposite to the AGS in 2011. Please be assured that your efforts are much appreciated.
Thank you Cliff. They say that History has much to teach us, but really it is certain people in History who do this, and the AGS has not been short of such members! (In the wider world of Science I have loved the writings of Stuart Jay Gould who built great stories out of half remembered little episodes).
My latest 'ghost' writer is R. Ginns, for the reasons I give below:
R. Ginns was well known in the Society for his interest in cacti and succulents, plants that appeal to many members now too. He lived in Desborough, Northamptonshire, and I like to think he frequented the Market Garden run by my grandparents - there can be fascinating connections between different generations of alpine gardeners.
In the Bulletin Vol. 24, p.244 (1956) he writes of cacti for the rock garden, and makes the very interesting, though probably controversial, record of a joint Show of alpines and cacti. Now there?s a thing!
?In the spring of 1955 I attended a Show at Nottingham organised by the Nottingham Alpine Club and the Nottingham Branch of the National Cactus Society. I was interested in both sections of the Show but had to put up with a good deal of chaff from the alpinists while I was busy admiring the Cacti. Their thesis was that a keen alpine gardener should have no time for the vegetable monstrosities on view in the other part of the Show.
?And yet far worthier plantsmen than myself have found time to take an interest in both alpines and Cacti. Perhaps more to the point is the fact that many Cacti are true alpines, being found high up in the Andes where they have both snow and frost to contend with. When our English plant collectors get tired of visiting and revisiting the Himalayas perhaps one of them will find time to go to South America and send us something really new in the way of alpines. Among the seeds sent home will surely be some from the numerous Cacti. In fact when Comber was collecting in Argentina in the 1920?s one of the plants he collected was a Maihuenia, a genus related to the Opuntias or prickly pears...?
(Could it be that a Joint Show, as suggested elsewhere by Darren Sleep, would stir up the AGS a little? It could be a benefit, and opportunity, for both Societies and as we can see does have a precedent).
....... who had a Crocus named for him-Crocus sieberi 'Ronald Ginns'
I would love to read some articles on some of the old gardeners of the past who I only know from plants named for them. Similarly I'm sure there are tales to be told about some of the old Nurserymen too who left us a legacy in plants.
One in particular who springs to mind is Jack Elliott as I use two of his books fairly regularly.
I'd have a go myself but I'm sure there are many out there who will have far more knowledge and far better research skills then I possess
David - Jack was the leading light in our Group in Kent and his garden was completely fascinating. Not to long ago we celebrated our 50th anniversary as a Group. Jack was Secretary from the beginning (on 23/11/57) and we have the initial record book of members - it seems like a Who's Who of gardeners: Hilda Davenport Jones who ran Washfield Nursery (later on Elizabeth Strangman and Graham Gough were members), Maj. Gen. Brunshill (who I know nothing about), Mr. J. Erle-Drax (seems to ring a bell?), Admiral Furse, and others of no doubt equal worth in their own fields. It seems like a golden age! And yet I don't believe there is any difference between the passion of gardeners today than there was then. There will never be that many such people around because, as someone has told me, we are a very intense lot, but there is now't wrong in that, it is a pretty benign hobby!
Paul Furse would be high on my list of people I would like to know more about. Most of what I know of him I have read in Brian Mathew's "The Iris"
Joe Elliott is another, I visited the village of Broadwell a few months ago but no trace of the famous nursery now. Plenty of top end of the market executive detacheds though!!
One of the favourite books on my bookshelf is ?A Plantsman?s Perspective? by Alan Bloom. It is a friendly and inspiring book to read and one passage has always stuck in my memory - the competition between Alan Bloom potting alpines (in clays) and Len (Lightning) Smith plunging them in sand. The rapport between people doing a job makes all the difference!
In the Bulletin Vol. 29, p.103 (1961) Alan Bloom talks of ?A Decade of Commercial Growing? and the difficulties of supplying alpines to a relatively undiscerning gardening public. Now one would imagine with the plethora of glossy magazines and books on plants, that gardeners would be much more discerning these days. Yet it seems the same problem remains, particularly for small specialist nurseries, and it must be analogous to the loss of many small enterprises in villages and smaller communities, to the so called ?economies? of scale.
Alan Bloom?s championing of herbaceous perennials went hand in hand with increasing the discernment of gardeners to the variety of plants that can be grown in the garden. It is more difficult to sing the praises of alpines and choice woodland perennials, except amongst those of us who know them already! At the end of his ?Decade of Commercial Growing? Alan Bloom is mildly critical of the Specialist Societies themselves, who by distributing plants to each other inevitably compete with the growers. Much more important, as far as he is concerned, is finding ways of increasing the membership of Societies like the AGS. Easy to say of course but worth noting from such a remarkable and charismatic nurseryman.
(AGS Bulletin Vol. 24, p.16, 1956)
There are many ways of making a scree - the best by far is to get someone else to do it for you, but in these times the gardener-handyman - always a self-opinionated and perverse creature - needs gentle wooing and a diplomatic approach if his all-important goodwill is to be preserved.
(At this point I have to accept that in our garden there is no gardener-handyman other than myself, which leaves me with no escape clause - as you will see I shall be my greatest critic!).
This sad note concerns an enthusiastic scree-maker who asked his ?one day a week man? to excavate the intended site to a depth of two feet, in accordance with good alpine tradition - a request which was met with whole-hearted co-operation: a good constructive job worthy of a man of experience. The second request concerned the preparation of a suitable mixture of loam, leafmould and fine gravel - it was accepted with a shrug of the broad shoulders which echoed ?their?s not to reason why...?
The finale followed the third act - for the mind had not connected the delicate association of the first two; the request to fill the carefully prepared excavation of the first act, with the equally carefully prepared mixture of the second proved more than mortal frame could bear. ?Tha?ll grow now?t in that - tha?d better a? grow?d them in the good dirt tha made ?oi shift.?
He was wrong - but, alas, he didn?t wait to see.
(Could it be that we need to make a better effort at showing gardeners how easy it really is to grow many alpines in the garden? The legacy of Farrer?s ?Dog?s Graves? and ?Devil?s Lapfuls? seems to live on with no change!).
(from the Bulletin Vol. 18, p.103, 1950)
The job of Hon. Treasurer is on the whole a dull one, though not invariably so. Recently the holder of that office was unable to resist a smile on receiving a letter to the following effect:
Dear Sir,- I so enjoyed the Show yesterday that I applied for membership on the spot. I regret to say that on my return home my wife was so angered at my extravagance that I must ask you to return me my subscription forthwith. Yours etc.
(Funny and rather sad at the same time. Fortunately I think the AGS appeals to couples more tolerant of one another's fascinations, if not obsessions at times, and is really very family orientated).
(from the Bulletin Vol. 28, p.187, 1959)
Lincoln Foster wrote this interesting comparison of rock gardening in the British Isles and in America, which may well resonate today too. He is kind to British gardeners, describing them as ?more experimental, more horticultural, more devoted.? Although the traditions of rock gardening remain stronger in Britain than anywhere else in the world, some of the finest alpine ?gardens? now are found in America and in the Czech Republic. Perhaps this is because, as he says, ?British gardeners are much more intensely competitive than Americans. Show listings demonstrate the fact, even if one has never heard a British gardener talk about his own garden.?
He describes ?The general American public [as] to some extent still pioneering and colonial?, with the interesting consequence that ?serious horticulture is a form of sophisticated behaviour rather out of keeping with American enthusiasms?. (What a lovely use of words!).
The vastness of America ?mitagates somewhat against a union of gardeners and a sharing of experience. It tends actually to promote a parochial snobbishness.? I am not sure how true that is now and the Internet allows much more communication between like minded gardeners throughout the world. There are much greater climatic extremes across America, which can either discourage gardeners or enable them to succeed with plants that we in Britain struggle with. For example my interest in dryland alpines has been greatly stimulated by reading about plants in the Botanic Garden at Denver and elsewhere, from growers like Panayoti Kelaidis and Robert Nold. If anything we have as much to learn from gardeners overseas, as they may previously have done from us.
Our more equable climate in Britain, coupled with long tradition, may enable British gardeners to grow many more familiar alpines more successfully than anywhere else (especially in the cooler and moister north and west). So Lincoln Foster?s last sentence may still ring true, ?It is the good years that keep us hoping to be able to grow rock garden plants almost as well as you do in the British Isles?.
The days before the Internet perhaps allowed a more sedate sharing of experiences with gardening, but a much less widespread one. However, one still has to find the seed, grow the unusual plants, and describe them as ever before. This one is especially unusual and it follows on from Robert Rolfe's comment in the last Bulletin of Roy Elliott's interest in crucifers.
( the note is from W. Schact at Munich Botanic Garten in the Bulletin Vol. 28, p.240, 1959):
'I read with interest in the December Bulletin, 1958, Mr. Roy Elliott's article "In Praise of Crucifers". Some years ago I got seed of Tchihatchewia isatidea from my friend Ahmed Attila, which he had collected in Sivas in Asia Minor. Some seed germinated and flowered here, as can be seen from the enclosed photograph. It is a very interesting and beautifully flowered plant. Alas, with us it has set no seed. Up to now I have only known this rare Crucifer from the picture in The English Flower Garden, and as the individual flower looks like that of Daphne Cneorum it will surely interest the members of the A.G.S. to have the photograph published.'
On the next page is a black and white photograph of the plant, which is quite exciting even today, partly because of its extraordinary name (to Western ears). I wonder how much it has been grown since?
I don't suppose t has been grown very often, Tim - but it must feature regularly on a Scrabble board!
Having enjoyed dipping into past copies of the Bulletin for what I hope have been thoughtful pieces of relevance to the present day, I am encouraged to continue at a more leisurely pace with items that catch my eye.
(Bulletin Vol. 39, No. 1, 1971)
In 1971 on the eve of the AGS Conference, the Bulletin carried a whole range of articles by eminent members around the world. Even more interesting were a series of essays on 10 years progress in different gardens and aspects of gardening. The one great absence is any contribution from nurserymen and growers, though many very notable nurseries are listed amongst the adverts. Right at the end of the Bulletin is a summary by Michael Upward on 'The Alpine Garden Society's recent Questionnaire'. At the time membership was around 6000, not too different to today, and over 30% of the membership replied, a pretty creditable response!
Most questions were relatively simple and gave insights into the articles most welcomed by members, and other aspects of the Society. In an understatement that could only come from one so dedicated to the Society, Michael Upward said that 'Possibly the greatest blunder on the Questionnaire was to allow space for further comments. Of the 1621 returned - 804 said something further, exactly 300 making generally nice noises. It was the remaining 500 or so comments that caused the Secretery to retire to a quiet corner of England in order to analyse them!'.
Lots of suggestions, as there always are, but received gracefully. However, the last word came from the editor, Roy Elliott, who exhorted members to convert these into contributions.
(from the Bulletin Vol. 54, p.13, 1986)
I wonder what proportion of our readers really read, and re-read the Bulletin? It is certainly worthwhile, for not only is it, end to end the most compendious treasury of information on alpine plants, as an examination of any of the major indices will show, but it also includes many classic examples of horticultural prose. Over the years (and my personal complete run only goes back 20 years to Volume 34) we have been greatly fortunate in receiving many contributions from people who not only know a lot about plants and gardening, but also know how to write. I get repeated joy from the distinctive and entertaining prose of certain contributors, not all of whom, sadly, are alive today. One of the potential penalties incurred by those who impress their personalities with the pen, is that they can be subject to irreverent pastiche. I wonder if our readers can put a name to the targets of the following imitations.
(there follows several hilarious paragraphs which, like caricature, ring strong bells!)
?...Suddenly we came out on to broad sweeping moorland under which nestled the crystal pool of the Lac de Fois-gras. I forwent a search for Androsace vandellii on the black marble cliffs which tower above the western margin, for I had visited it there on each of the previous nine summers, as conscientous followers of the footnotes of my nine previous articles will testify.?
?...Little enough is to be seen in my garden in November, but this is the season when the sternbergias come into their own. I believe I only grow 26 species but they give me great satisfaction...?
?...Of course, almost any compost will do for seed-sowing as long as certain elementary rules are obeyed. It is not absolutely necessary to visit Co. Offaly to dig the peat oneself, nor should a 5mm. sieve be rigidly adhered to when sifting the peat if only a 6mm. sieve is available. But as in all other disciplines attention to detail certainly pays dividends, and I find that the handling of Ramonda seed is certainly helped by the purchase of an Olympus zoom dissecting microscope, a microbiologist?s standard microdissection kit and a slide haemocytometer. The seed should be surface-sterilised before sowing and for this I have found...?
(A Society that can poke fun of itself like this is surely onto a good thing!).
One of the most frustrating sights on the alpine garden is the perfect cushion plant suddenly pulled apart by blackbirds. All one can do is collect the pieces and use them for propagation and resort to netting to cover vulnerable plants. And yet when weeding and working in the garden there can be no nicer thing than to have the resident blackbirds and robins sharing one's company. So maybe the following piece in the Bulletin Vol. 66, p.5 (1998), entitled 'A Joyous Song of Dirty Deeds' caught the writer at the wrong moment!
'The blackbird is undoubtedly the personification of all things devilish within the avian world: he is, unquestionably, a feathered hooligan and his lady friend, coyly hiding her true character behind a garb of camouflage brown, is just as bad.
A gardener has only to water, say, his beloved gentians in an effort to prevent their premature demise from desiccation, to attract the attention of these airborne fiends, who will tear apart his precious plants of Gentiana verna and fling the pitiful pieces to all parts of the compass, and in so doing tear the heart out of the owner too.
Even when he sings, his song bears a note of malice and the mortified gardener, hearing those flute-like notes, seethes more deeply at his offended sensibilities (to which the bird has done violence) and lapses into a study as black as that of the dusky perpetrator's heart.
All of a sudden, the sparrowhawk appears to possess sterling qualities of hitherto uncomprehended value!'
(Phew, I feel rather sorry for the blackbird! Maybe this is why Thomas Hardy chose the Thrush for one of his most loved poems. For me I would live with the damaged plants rather than lose the blackbird).
Having been looking back through the Bulletins lately, I would just like to say how much I enjoyed this September issue. It was lovely to read about Cecilia Coller (I think the Society should consider providing her with her forth van!! - but I have never seen her arrive in the Bentley!). I found the mix of articles very interesting and attractively presented, especially from my personal viewpoint as predominently a gardener, but with a botanical bent.
At various times in the Bulletin there have been discussions about membership numbers and ways and means by which new members might be attracted. In 1962 (Bulletin Vol. 30, p.328) F. H. Fisher wrote in significant detail about the different ways new members resulted. At this time membership stood at 3800, and as has always been true there was quite a high turnover each year (probably approaching 10% of the membership at times). Even mention on television brought in relatively few new members; the Chelsea exhibit, as you would hope, brought in about 1% of the total membership at that time. By far the majority (280) came from application forms inserted with literature about the Society in various places. Relatively few resulted from recommendation from members (24), despite a specific request that they try to enlist new members. The total number of new members for the year amounted to 520 (which compared with the previous Conference year of 550, when considerable effort was made to promote the Society).
By 1971 (Bulletin Vol. 39, p.82) when Michael Upward 'retired to a quiet corner of England' memberhip had risen to 6000, which must have been very encouraging, and by 1986 (Bulletin Vol. 54, p.195) it had risen further to 10,000, a very creditable total.
Times have changed and the internet has now become the strongest way of informing gardeners about the Society. But the message from these earlier articles is the importance of a wide variety of approaches, including the more personal incentives from opening member's gardens, promoting local and national Shows, and perhaps the oft discussed but not yet properly realised, presentation of alpine plants on television.
At various times questionnaires were used to elicit responses and ideas from members, particularly in relation to the Bulletin. Now this is probably more usefully carried out via the website (though what proportion of members access this is uncertain). But as F. H. Fisher started his article, quoting the Red Queen, 'It takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place.'
The names of plants exercise keen gardeners almost as much as the weather! This is neatly discussed in the introduction to the Bulletin Vol. 49, p.275 (1981), opening with the Latin phrase 'Nomina si nescis perite et cognito verum...'. I can claim no scholarship in Latin, apart from a reasonable memory for the names of plants, so fortunately this is translated: 'Unless the names are known to you, the concepts will be hazy too'. This saying originated with Linneaus but must have always applied to those wishing to make sense of the Natural World. In his wonderful book 'The Living Garden', E. J. Salisbury opens his chapter on Plant Names with a similar aphorism: 'Word's are wise men's counters: they do but reckon by them, but they are the money of fools'. This may resonate a little with gardeners who try to keep up with name changes in the plants they grow, not all of which seem so valuable from their point of view. Names have different values depending on who is conversing with them, and there may well be different imperatives between gardeners and those in the scientific community, or even between those with broader or more detailed views of the Plant World. Naming is really something of an inexact science!
AGS Bulletin Vol. 38, No. 159, p. 4.
Here is one for Cliff that perhaps beats even his superb photographs of the Dolomites! In the Alpine Anthology is a wonderful black and white picture of the mountain peaks looming over the slopes below, taken through the doorway of a mountain hut. And what makes it is the rucksac and mountain hat hanging from the open door! Not a 'perfect' scene but evocative and makes you wish you were there.
At the end of this Bulletin is an article on Icelandic alpines which takes me back to when I travelled there as a student, and so does the same thing as the photograph above. They both show how extraordinarily magical is the lure of mountain plants, even maybe if you don't always have the chance to travel and see them face to face.
That image burnt itself onto my cranial memory card during a chance encounter in my distant past and has now ghosted back into view as you described the scene. I must away upstairs and search out that Bulletin for a lingering reunion.
Many thanks for your very kind comments.
Apropos my last contribution to this discussion ... that image is just as wonderful as i remember it. Many thanks Tim.
I was also moved sufficiently to search out 'Mountains in Flower' by Volkmar Vareschi and Ernst Krause (First published 1939), which contains some beautiful and similarly evocative B & W photographs by Krause.
The latest bulletin has arrived in Aberdeen: a super issue. Thanks to Editor and Contributors.
I couldn't agree more ! Another excellent issue !
A great idea to show us some of the exquisite pictures from the slide library !! I'm sure there are many more fabulous treasures in there !
May I echo these plaudits to editor; John Fitzpatrick and the many contributors for another wonderful bulletin. Design, content and diversity are equally impressive. Many thanks and hearty congratulations.
I hope Lori Skulski and Stephanie Ferguson will forgive me (probably not!) for referring to them as 'American' in my article in the December Bulletin, when in fact they are Canadian! I had meant to use the term 'North American' and with reference to the North American Rock garden Society Quarterly. Stephanie Ferguson describes her remarkable garden in the NARGS Rock Garden Quarterly vol. 69, Summer 2011, p. 210. Anne and Joe Spiegel's garden is the subject of a fine photographic essay by Cliff Booker on the SRGC website - see:
I like to think such gardens are not the subject of political boundaries.
It is fascinating to see the photographs of alpines by Muriel Hodgman in the December issue of the Bulletin. She was obviously a very perceptive lady and on looking back through the Bulletins there is a fine article she wrote on 'Nurseries and nurserymen', which although at a very different time could also apply now as the number of specialist nurseries who grow alpines has declined. She writes of all the famous names of the past, Clarence Elliott, Walter Ingwersen, Stuart Boothman and later Reginald Kaye, Jack Drake and Alan Bloom, and what most comes out of it is the strength of mind that such nurserymen had, and no doubt still have. Something to be fostered by the AGS through the Shows and educating more gardeners about alpines. I am borrowing Muriel Hodgman's sentiment, which she herself borrowed from Roberto Rossellini - 'I have an immense treasure: my ignorance. For me it is a great joy to overcome it. If I can get others to profit from what I acquire, I have twice as much joy'. Well she must have been quite a lady!
The bulletin as usual is top standard. The surprising thing is the note in the supplement that in future it will be sent only to members who have requested the annual shows hand book unless specifically requested separately. Who could possibly not require this publication containing information which to me has formerly been the highlight of the four bulletins each year?
As a new member I was wondering when the magazine came out and how often?
The Alpine Gardener comes out four times a year, in March, June, September and December, usually towards the end of the month. I don't think there is a specific date in the month - it is subject to the printing and dispatch process.
If you haven't received the June issue, and think you should have done, you will need to contact the office at Pershore (see Contact Us on the Home menu).
I hope this helps
Thanks I have March but not June which is why I was wondering. I will drop the office an email.
Hello everybody, i'm new too.
I'm also missing the June issue, I will also drop the office an e-mail.
Dear Helen and June - Sorry that you apparently did not receive your June copies of the Journal. I have posted out replacements to you today and will investigate as to whether there was any problem with the mailing data for June.
many thanks - June journaal received today, just a pity that June weather didnt come with it!!
My copy has also arrived, many thanks for your help.
I am a new member from Dalkeith, outside Edinburgh. As a new member can you send me the last copy, or this years previous copies of the AGS Journal, or is that done automatically?
I see that most events are in England, Wales and Ireland. Are there any events for Scotland, or is there a Scottish AGS or equivelent society?
You want the Scottish Rock Garden Club - they have lots of events in Scotland and a very active on-line community. I am a member of both and I live in the Midlands!!
As a new member you are automatically sent a copy of the latest journal, which is included in your welcome pack. I can confirm that your membership was processed on 10th June and your welcome pack (which included a copy of the March bulletin) was despatched on the same day. If you do not receive this in the next few days, please give the office a call. The June bulletin is due to be sent out next week and a copy will be sent to you directly.
With regard to question re events in Scotland - there is the Scottish Rock Garden Club who are a similar society and stage some of their own shows and events, details of which can be found on their website.
If I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to give me a call at the office.
It might be helpful for John and others in his position, to give the website of this sister society to the AGS , the Scottish Rock Garden Club - an international club, based in Scotland - www.srgc.net
As Helen mentions, as great many people are members of both organisations.
There is a lovely mix of articles in the June Journal - I particularly enjoyed Barry Starling's appreciation of Fred Stoker and his 'ongoing' troughs. I can't help repeating the little rhyme that Fred Stoker penned; viz:-
An Alpine is a little plant
That nestles in the snow
It would't if it hadn't to
But t'as nowhere else to go.
(We used this to describe alpines on the display we made at the Kent Garden Show - I wonder if anyone took it in?).
Readers who enjoyed Robert Rolfe's article about Blackthorn may be interested to know that the majority of the photographs used to illustrate it were taken by me, but due to editorial ineffability were not credited as such.
In the last two years I have visited the long-suffering Robin and Sue White on at least ten occasions to record their garden in all seasons, and I hope you will all see the benefit as this series progresses.
received mine yesterday, again nice bulletin.
Just received the Sept issue, and some great articles. We grow no Cypripediums and will have to rectify that! Our first talk to the Mid Kent Group was from Martin Sheader and the prospect of his book is even more exciting now - if only some of those plants were a little easier to grow! I would also echo John Fitzpatrick's editorial re. alpine gardening on television (though we missed Alan Titchmarsh's programme). I'm not sure the mention of alpines on 'Gardeners World' would really lead to the interest that many of us would like to see though. (And see the SRGC Forum, under 'Alpines' for notes about more detailed programmes on planting styles, potentially also including alpines). Oh for some real Natural History programmes about plants and travelling to see them in natural habitats, and applying this to the garden. It must be time to broaden the programming from animals to the plant world, which is even more important to us.
Anyone else got a misprinted inside front cover in the latest Bulletin, i.e. a double dose of page 237? Three of us Down Under have this feature!
My sincere apologies to everyone who has received a misprinted copy of the September journal containing the duplicated contents page. This was caused by a mix-up at the print stage and unfortunately was not noticed until after the journal had been mailed. The missing contents page can be viewed on this website by following the links for Books & Publications and then The Alpine Gardener. If you wish, it can be printed out to attach to your copy of the journal. I make every effort to ensure that the journal is produced to a high standard and hope that the error will not affect your enjoyment of the articles, into which many people have put so much effort. I will be taking steps to ensure that this does not happen again.
Bulletin well received on the other side of channel, i'm devouring the cypripedium's culture and have skimed the rest. Thanks to contributors that spent so much time on writing this wonderfull content.
Just received The Alpine Gardener: Awards of the Joint Rock Garden Plant Committee 2010-2011 in the mail! It looks like another fine publication by the AGS; will it be a regular feature?
Fermi, the supplement you have recently received is our second annual plant awards supplement, the first being published last year. Yes, it is an annual publication, though it is unlikely that the AGS will be able to issue it free of charge in future, since printing and postage costs are forever rising and the membership subscription does not cover the cost of producing the supplement. At the moment the supplement is sent to all members who have requested the Shows Handbook and to those who have requested the supplement separately.
Thanks, John, for this explanation. Whatbdo I tell others when they look covetously at my copy at our next meeting? Can others order one now?
Yes, Fermi. Any member who would like a copy of the plant awards supplement can request it by email or phone from Pershore. When the first supplement was published last year and sent to every member, it was stated clearly in it that if a member wanted to receive it in future they would have to request it unless they already received the Shows Handbook. I also made this clear in the journal.
I happily received my copy of the plant awards supplement with my bulletin recently. A lovely worthwhile supplement - though I think it is well over a year since the last one came out.
It is however spoilt in my mind by a couple of things, which I did mention to John after the first supplement was published.
1) There is nothing printed on the spine, so when we have a set of them it will be difficult to pick out the right issue.
2) There is no volume number, supplement number, or other way to distinguish where to find articles easily in a cumulative index.
At the moment my practice when I have a plant I do not know, is to look it up in the cumulative bulletin index - if there is an award report, I usually start by referring to that. It will be listed as volume X, page y. At the moment there is no obvious supplement numbers in the new supplements to go into the cumulative index.
I don't like to be too critical though of this attractive and useful resource - Thanks again to Robert and John for its production.
Peter M. Hood
Peter, thanks for your comments. The supplement will vary in size from year to year, depending on the number of awards given. The first supplement, at 68 pages, was too slim to accommodate text on the spine. Future supplements may be even smaller, so it wouldn't make sense to have text on the spines of those thick enough to accommodate it and not on the others. I am considering ways to make it easier to locate supplements in a future collection, such as perhaps changing the colour of the spine for a new decade.
I plan to introduce in the next supplement an index of award plants for all the supplements. This index will be updated and included in each subsequent supplement.
The plant on page 466 of the recent issue is not Sax. facchinii (note spelling !). Real facchinii is a very small and rare plant, mostly with reddish flowers on very short, sometimes nearly absent stems!
I am not sure about pure muscoides - perhaps aphylla or a hybrid from it.
Herbert from Linz, Austria
I quite agree with you Herbert and had already contacted the editors about this. Very few people know the real S. facchinii which used to grow with another rare saxifrage, S. depressa on the northern side of the Padon ridge above the Pordoi Pass. When I was there in 2011 I could not find it. The flowers are solitary and buried in the flushy foliage, but are dark yellow usually, not red.
You are correcty and it was my error. I found Saxifraga facchinnii on the top of the Pordoi where there is a flat area of limestone rubble some plants were pink othere cream/yellow. The main feature is the campanulate flowers but possible also leaves with fine hairs. Dieter Zschummel has already been in contact with me, and I have emaild Herbert. Dieter sent me a picture of a dark pink form he found on the Marmolada.
I found what is perhaps intermediate forms on the lower slopes of the Pordoi on isolated and large limestone boulders.
The picture is from the top of the Pordoi.
As we've clearly got the Pordoi Saxifrage experts in the thread can you identify this one encountered high on the screes leading to the Forc del Pordoi from the pass..
Your excellent photo is typical of S. muscoidea which is a fairly common high alpine in the Dolomites and elsewhere. The flowers and habit are very like the much more ubiquitous S. exarata, but in the latter the leaves are broader and 3-fid.
I am slightly concerned about Rick's photo of S. facchinii as the flower colour is at best very unusual for that species. When I saw it it was orange yellow (sadly, no photo survives that I can find), but I am attaching a scan from Paula Kohlhaupt's excellent book on the Dolomites. Also, check out Paul Kennet's photo in Malcom McGreggor's 'Saxifrages', which has dark red flowers (I think Paul may have seen it in my company many years ago). I think Rick's photo may only be a very dwarf muscoidea?
Thanks John, S. exarata was the closest I'd got to in trying to identify it, I don't find Saxifrages the easiest things to key out sitting on the scree or in the photos afterwards for that matter. Must go and do some more searching this year.
My plant photo from the top of the Pordoi caused problems to the Saxifrage team. The conclusion was that there is still a lot of work to do on these high alpine species in the Dolomites.
For a very good picture find a copy of the Italian publication 'Sassifraghe Delle Alpi e degli Appennini'. The naphoto on the front cover is S. facchinii from Sass Pordoi.
What can you say? March Journal - superb! Even more inspiring and stimulating than ever and good to see Aubrieta getting equal billing with Anarthrophyllum!
How pleasing to see Jim Archibald remembered in Robert Rolfe's article in the latest AGS bulletin. The 'Archibald Archive' on the Scottish Rock Garden Club website is a standing reminder of the Archibalds' contribution to the world of plants and the esteem in which he and Jenny are held. Additions are still being made of Jim's field notes to the archive but there is already a wealth of information there. The Archibald Archive can be found here : http://www.srgc.net/site/index.php/features-mainmenu-47/articles/259-the-archibald-archive
We can only hope that Robert's article can be added to the Archive in due course.