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Started by: Tim Ingram

Go to latest contribution by Tim Ingram, 11 December 2013, 18:34. Go to bottom of this page.

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Contribution from Tim Ingram 02 June 2013, 10:16top / bottom of page

The final genus, Thymus, really deserves an article on its own, but Watson mentions T. membranaceous: 'a lovely plant with bushy growth and white tubular flowers, surrounded by pink bracts... T. Doerfleri is a native of the Balkan mountains and makes a prostrate mat of very grey foliage, which becomes covered in summer with soft-pink flowers'. One of the best we have grown was named for the famous botanist Peter Davis, and there must be a host of other interesting thymes for the plantsman who finds Chionocharis too much of a challenge!

(Thymus 'Peter Davis')

Contribution from Tim Ingram 08 June 2013, 08:28top / bottom of page
'The Future of the Alpine Gardener'

The trouble with prophecy is that it is all too likely to come true. So it is even more valuable when it is made with an accurate and clear eye. In Vol. 29, p. 129 of the Bulletin, Sampson Clay writes of 'The Future of the Alpine Gardener'. This follows on from a much earlier article written in Vol. 4, p. 44 (some 25 years earlier) on 'Future Sources of New Alpine Plant Introductions'. Both articles are thoughtful and informative and still make valuable reading today. The fact that we are now much more aware of the world's flora probably doesn‚??t conflict with his comment 'that there are still one or two curious and cabbagy plants to come from lonely islands away to the south...'. For most gardeners the New Zealand megaherbs will still be uncharted territory.

Sampson Clay is often forthright in his comments, thus: 'The Cape has long been a source of floral wealth (as well as more sordid riches)...'; perhaps a little idealistic in his hopes for alpine gardening - but then surely taking after Farrer; and fascinating in some of the facts he mentions, for example, 'a most interesting record of an Edinburgh nurseryman's attempt to cope with a few of these plants [from the Northern Andes] something like fifty years ago...' (i.e: in the 1880's).

In his second article he comes up with the memorable line: 'But oddly enough, the progress of science has been very effectively opposed by regression of political sense...'. This was mostly with reference to the ability of gardeners to travel and introduce plants, due to conflicts around the world. Conservation is probably much more relevant today, at least on paper, and must be very important; but how much does this always relate to a real interest in something, and to what degree do committed gardeners hold this? (compared say to lawyers or politicians?). The individual can seem like a maverick, but where would alpine gardening be without seed collectors like Jim Archibald and John Watson?

Responsible seed collecting will rarely have any influence on wild plant populations where only one in a hundred or thousand seed ever germinates and survives naturally. (There will be very valid exceptions of course where populations of certain species are threatened). Well, gardener's do have to let off steam every now and again - and remember that Clay's article is entitled 'The Future of the Alpine GARDENER', and not 'Alpine Plants'. One would imagine that the two might go together, but clearly there can also be conflict, as was shown in the second essay in these notes.

Sampson Clay carries on: 'As horizons grow wider gardens grow smaller. Enthusiast‚??s tastes and knowledge develop as practical hired help recedes, so that within our own ranks the specialist is going to increase in number. To the cults of Sedum and Saxifraga may be added Saussurea; Androsace experts will accept the challenge of Nototriche, and the ambitious or enquiring will start to explore Pedicularis'. Who could disagree? What he follows this up with though is perhaps harder for specialist societies to accept, that is: 'that our societies should, nay must, become more catholic and be prepared to embrace plantsmen of the most diverse tastes: in fact all who value a living plant as an individual thing of interest and beauty, and not just a block of colour'.

His writing about conservation certainly presages many of the laws that have been enacted later, and many of these apply to the wholesale collection of popular garden plants from Nature, especially geophytes like narcissi and cyclamen. The same cannot be argued for the more esoteric species that many alpine gardeners grow, where cultivation is much more likely to enhance understanding of them rather than detract from wild populations. It is probably simplest and fairest to embrace his final self-acknowledged idealism of 'Conservation, Cultivation, Companionship'.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 15 June 2013, 08:30top / bottom of page
David Wilkie on Gentians

Ask anyone, gardener or not, what 'alpine plant' brings to mind and high on the list will be a gentian. The symbol of the Alpine Garden Society, even in its modern reincarnation, has instant appeal. For many the word is probably even more descriptive of colour, but the flowers themselves are amongst the most glamorous of all alpines.

David Wilkie, Assistant Curator at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, first wrote about them in 1936 in a book published by Country Life Limited, which remains a classic on the subject. Much later in the Bulletin (Vol. 26, pp. 136, 156 & 248) he writes on the genus in 'Spring and Summer', in 'Mid and Late Summer', and in 'Autumn'. They are not all so easy to grow, but the attempt is more than worthwhile.

He begins his articles with the line: 'Practically all the gentians which flower in Spring and Early Summer are natives of Europe and belong to two sections - the 'Acaulis' Group and the 'Verna' Group. These must be the gentians that sum up the genus for many gardeners, and they can typically be both glorious and frustrating in the garden for different reasons. Joe Elliott was famous for growing the spring gentian in many thousands and must have had considerable patience in pricking out the tiny seedlings, which have a disproportionately long root system. He grew stock plants for seed in dedicated troughs on the nursery, unforgettable in flower. Wilkie says: 'Like all gentians it dislikes root disturbance, and seed should be sown thinly and the seedlings pricked out in groups rather than separately. I have known very good results with sowing thinly in small pots and transplanting the pots of seedlings into their permanent quarters without separating the tiny plants at all'. The more robust form grown in gardens is G. verna subsp. angulosa,

characterised by a strongly winged calyx, and he describes seeing this 'prosper and flourish in various soils that one would hardly recommend for any gentian'. Gentiana verna is very variable and widely distributed, even to the extent of having yellow flowers in the Caucasian variety oschtenica. This was not in cultivation when he was writing (in the late 1950's) but more recently has been grown from wild collected seed, and is a great surprise for its colour. (There has been a variety of colour forms of G. verna selected over the years and maintained vegetatively, or from seed if they breed true, including a pure white, and one Wilkie mentions, 'Amy Baring', of beautiful pale grey-blue).

'It would be very difficult... to say which species is the loveliest; whether it is G. bavarica with its tiny spoon-shaped leaves and large flowers that look too large for the plant, or G. pumila with its small lance-shaped leaves and its peculiar colour of flower, or just plain, everyday G. verna, with flowers of that intense blue which has always attracted me...'. In truth very few of these other species have been grown successfully in gardens, and like G. verna itself all tend to be relatively short-lived. For G. brachyphylla: 'A wet scree without limestone in full exposure where it is never allowed to dry out, proved the most suitable place'. It would be wonderful to hear from any readers who may have had greater success with these plants.

Wilkie describes G. pyrenaica as: 'One of most distinct, and to me at least one of the most beautiful...'. This species belongs to a separate section of the genus and differs greatly from both the Verna and Acaulis Groups. He continues: 'It has been called the "ten-petalled gentian"... because the folds or plaits between the petals are nearly as large as the petals themselves...'. Gentiana pyrenaica is a plant of wet, peaty meadows and is one of those species mentioned by Stuart Boothman growing well at Camla (see the last but one essay).

The 'Trumpet' gentians must be the most well known of all and are notorious for flowering well in one garden and hardly at all in another. You would have thought that the combined intelligence of the AGS would have hit on a solution as to why this should be so, but it remains a conundrum, and those of us who just get a few flowers on vigorous mats have to resign ourselves to our ineptitude. For the gardener these are a confusing group of very similar species from different places: G. Kochiana, the largest flowered and a strong grower, usually in peaty or loamy soils; G. angustifolia, neater and with narrow leaves, from Western limestone regions; G. dinarica, a localised plant from Bosnia and the Carpathians with very large flowers, and again growing in limy areas; and G. clusii, probably one of the most widely cultivated, and once again a calcicole. Over twenty different forms of G. acaulis and its relatives are listed in the Plantfinder, showing their popularity, and in general they are amongst the longest lived and easiest of all gentians in gardens if only they flowered more reliably!

These plants certainly grow and flower well in Czech rock gardens (and see the authorative article by Zdenek Zvolanek in 'The Rock Garden', [Journal of the Scottish Rock Garden Club], 130, p. 30), and include some fine forms with white and palest-blue flowers. Not having had great success in our garden I can‚??t really advise, except that experimenting with different plants and growing situations must be key, and a degree of 'hopeful expectation'.

(... to be continued)

Contribution from Tim Ingram 15 June 2013, 09:03top / bottom of page

A few examples from Czech gardens (I will write about these gardens in much more detail later on in the 'Conference' thread under 'Any Other Topics').

In order of our visits: Gentians in Milan Odvarka's garden.

... in Miroslav Stanek's garden - some lovely forms of G. verna.

... in Martin Brejnik's garden (a younger gardener who made use of rock beautifully).

... in Zdenek Zvolanek's garden, including this exquisite pale-blue form.

... and finally in Stanislav Cepicka's garden which had some of the most amazing plants of all on a very sunny steep slope above the house. There were some really tremendous plants in this garden such as 30 plus year-old cushions of Acantholimon's, and it typified the great commitment put in to all these wonderful rock gardens in the Czech Republic.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 22 June 2013, 08:38top / bottom of page
Gentians - Mid and late Summer Flowering Species

If the earliest flowering gentians are the most familiar, but not necessarily the easiest to grow, the Mid and late Summer Flowering species do include many good garden plants, if less extravagant in flower. These are a very variable group from the big meadow gentians of the Alps, to the elegant willow gentian, G. asclepidea, to much less known species from N. America and New Zealand.

How many gardeners have grown Gentiana lutea? It shares the stature and drama of veratrums, and like these needs the same deep, rich and moist soil, but is far less seen in gardens. Wilkie makes the botanical point that: 'It is a plant most distinct from all other gentians, in having no folds, or plicae, between the corolla lobes'. Of the other meadow gentians he draws out G. pannonica, 'brownish-purple heavily spotted within the corolla tube with a deeper shade...' as his favourite, for its more graceful habit.

The willow gentian must be one of the most widely grown and popular of the genus, but I had not come across the dwarf form that Wilkie mentions, and now there are some quite good pink forms, not known in his day. Fritz Kohlein says: 'Whereas the plants occurring in the Alps have flowers of moderately dark blue, the types found in southern Yugoslavia and in Albania are of a lighter and more brilliant blue'. Another plant, well illustrated in Kohlein‚??s book, 'Gentians', is G. Froelichii from the Austrian Alps and Karawankan; the flowers a palest watery-blue - an extraordinary colour. Wilkie recommends a limestone scree and says it is worth any trouble - but then so are many other species in the genus too.

The summer flowering N. American gentians are only rarely cultivated and only the western G. Newberryi is likely to attract many gardeners; Wilkie says: 'It is a lovely species sending up loose rosettes of several pairs of fleshy leaves, greyish in colour, on stems of a few inches in height, with flowers at the tips. These are borne singly and are a very pale blue, or whitish, with broad bands of brownish purple on the outside of the corolla...'.

Gentiana septemfida, of course, 'and what a plant it is!'. In terms of garden value this must be the best of all gentians for its reliability and ease of culture and free-flowering habit. Wilkie states 'that it is the most variable gentian that I know' and it occurs widely through Armenia, the Caucasus, Iran, Iraq and E. Turkey. A form we grow, subsp. grossheimii, is especially small and neat, and grows well on the sand bed.

Gentians - Mid and late Summer Flowering Species

Two of the most interesting species from Kashmir and the Himalayas, probably not in cultivation now, are G. Kurroo and G. Waltonii (as before I am keeping the capitalised specific names that Wilkie used in his article). The former is almost a legendary plant and is related to the less striking species G. dahurica and G. gracilipes which always masquerade for it if you ever get seed. All these species prefer well drained, dryish places, and the first two (if ever available), protection from winter wet. The true G. kurroo has always been a species I have looked out for to try in our dry Kent garden but with no success to date. Another Kashmiri, the aptly named G. cachemirica, gets high praise from both Wilkie and Fritz Kohlein and is recommended for a wall or 'cliff face' - the flowers are pale-blue and the foliage glaucous, an appealing combination.

The only New Zealand gentian that I, and probably many others, have grown is G. saxosa. This is a super little plant in peaty, moist soil, freely seeding and making small mats of almost succulent leaves and white, purple-veined, flowers. Wilkie also mentions two more upright species, G. bellidifolia and G. corymbifera. Of the New Zealand gentians Philipson and Hearn ('Rock Garden Plants of the Southern Alps') say that they 'are so variable that they defy precise naming. Such groups of plants are a nightmare to horticulturalists but are a botanist's dream'. (I think there may be many other groups of plants like this too!). They list 17 species in their book and say 'Gentiana bellidifolia is a handsome plant at any time but I have no hesitation in ranking its variety australis among the best alpines in the world'. High praise indeed!

I have concentrated on these three articles by David Wilkie because gentians are such well loved and archetypal alpines, and I for one would like to grow and learn more about them. The final part, the Autumn species, includes all those plants which gardeners in drier parts of the south find next to impossible, but grow like weeds further north and west. From these have come so many beautiful hybrids that even those of us in the south can hardly resist them.

(... to be continued)

Contribution from Tim Ingram 29 June 2013, 07:49top / bottom of page
Autumn Flowering Gentians

The final part of David Wilkie‚??s articles on gentians looks at those remarkable species that bring such colour to the autumn garden. These are a wonderful feature of the Autumn Shows too, especially the displays that Keith and Rachel Lever used to put on, along with autumn berrying shrubs, Saxifraga fortunei and other select plants that bring quite unexpected colour late in the year. The autumn gentians are not plants we have grown in our dry southern garden and so it is impossible to write on them with any experience, but given a cool situation with moist lime-free soil many are very adaptable (cf: the Camla garden mentioned earlier). In the north, at Edrom Nursery for example, they make wonderful carpets such that they could almost be regarded as groundcover, hardly how you would perceive the genus generally.

Autumn Flowering Gentians

Gentiana sino-ornata must be the best known species and some 15 or more forms are listed in the Plantfinder. This was '... collected by George Forrest in N.W. Yunnan, [and] flowered for the first time in Great Britain in 1912'. Amazingly it can be flowering at Christmas which seems a ridiculous time for any alpine (apart from snowdrops and a few crocuses!). In 1914 Farrer sent home seed of another species which flowered in Edinburgh in 1917. This was a luminous Cambridge blue and was named for its collector, G. Farreri, but has proved much less easy to grow and propagate than G. sino-ornata.

Even a black and white photograph can bring out the charm of gentians and G. Veitchiorum is well pictured in Wilkie's article. This, with G. sino-ornata, is the pollen parent of G. x stevenagensis, one of the best garden hybrids (a useful chart showing the origins of many well known gentian hybrids - up to the mid 1970‚??s - is shown in 'Gentians' by Mary Bartlett).

Nowadays excitement can come directly from seeing photographs of rare and unusual species in the wild, but the prospect of growing these plants is even more exciting. Wilkie says: 'During the latter years of Kingdon Ward's collecting, a great stir was caused when he sent home seed of what was supposed to be G. Georgei... When they flowered it turned out to be not G. Georgei but a closely allied species named G. Szechenyi' (this plant was one of the those that stood out in Vojtech Holubec's talk on Chinese alpines at the Czech Conference, and has soft pale-blue to white flowers).

Some of these species do grow in much drier places compared with the familiar autumn gentians, and one that we have grown, G. depressa (which came from Potterton's Nursery) is extremely beautiful but always seems to have been shy flowering in cultivation - though a few gardeners like Lesley Cox in New Zealand have been remarkably successful with it. The only flower we have had on a plant on the sand bed shows how distinct it is, with stemless pale-blue goblet-like blooms. This is still growing and increasing well vegetatively, and perhaps given a warmer summer it might produce more flowers? The prospect of growing more of the species from drier areas in southern gardens is an enticing one.

A story that Wilkie relates of examining and sowing seed of a Kingdon Ward collection, illustrates his close observation of the genus, and the fascination of discovery. The seed was originally thought to be from G. setulifolia (which resembles G. hexaphylla) but on germination turned out to be something different, G. gilvostriata, again attractively pictured in black and white in his article He says: '... I have always looked on G. gilvostriata as one of the most attractive, and it has been one of my favourites since those days'. There is nothing like the experience and uncertainties of growing plants!

Since Wilkie's article in 1958 there have been very many fine hybrids of autumn gentians raised, but many of the species have remained a great challenge and have never been widely grown. Some though have probably never been tried significantly in different gardens, and there are certainly many beautiful plants amongst them, including more generally annual species like G. syringea, which is the loveliest of plants. Books have been published on the genus roughly every 20 years or so since the 1930's, and so the time is becoming ripe for another!

Contribution from Tim Ingram 06 July 2013, 15:33top / bottom of page
Change in location of these notes...

Please refer to www.coptonash.plus.com for further Contributions. My thanks to all readers.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 14 September 2013, 10:51top / bottom of page
'Alpine gardening - Past and Present'

Reading through the Bulletin since its inception does tend to focus the mind on the way alpines have been grown and viewed over time. This has engendered the following summary, which I have written on our nursery website (where probably few will see it), so add here for anyone who might have similar views.

Working through articles in the AGS Bulletin since its founding is historically fascinating and has strong resonances with alpine gardening today (in the same way that a scientific education is based on a cumulative understanding of the world). As you come closer to the present day, the perspective on plants and gardening inevitably becomes more personal and there is the sense that individually one can influence this, rather than just holding an historical view.

At the 2011 Nottingham Alpine Conference, ‚??Alpines without Frontiers‚??, there were attendees involved in running Alpine and Arctic Botanical Gardens, and one booklet that I picked up was the ‚??Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference of Alpine and Arctic Botanical Gardens‚??. Like many ‚??amateur‚?? gardeners (in the truest sense of that word) I found many of these articles extremely interesting, and many are of strong relevance to alpine gardeners (for instance on the Schachan Garden and Schynige Platte, both described on the AGS website, and on the Betty Ford Alpine Garden in North America). For many members of the alpine garden societies there must be the underlying feeling that our gardening has similar aims in understanding plants as are expressed in these Proceedings, even if coming from a different perspective and generally with more limited resources and rigour.

Several of the articles that I found especially interesting include Arve Elvebakk on ‚??Rock garden landscapes in Tromso Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden (notably after listening to Martin Hajman talking on this at the Czech Conference); ‚??Experiences in the introduction of southern hemisphere alpines: Southern Andes and Patagonia‚?? by gardeners from Lauterat and Grenoble, which resonates with the forthcoming book by Martin Sheader; Katie Price from Kew on the Davies Alpine House, which always generates a lot of controversy amongst gardeners, but possibly in part because of a degree of envy (and the alpines at Kew have been my first port of call there ever since the 1970‚??s). There are more technical articles on climate change and plant conservation which many gardeners may well tend to shy away from because they reflect concerns about our management of the world which can be difficult to come to terms with, and also are on occasion presented in rather dogmatic or lawyerly ways - and are complex politically, but relatively simple at heart.

In recent years horticulture/gardening and a deeper scientific understanding of plants have become more divorced from one another, implying that the one is a pastime that many people enjoy (and with a commercial and economic basis), but doesn‚??t have the more educated and professional outlook of the other - true in many cases, but the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and equally gardening is about enjoying plants as much as learning more about them. Reading through the AGS Bulletins and now these Proceedings from the Arctic and Alpine Botanical Gardens, reinforces the view of how close these two aspects of plants can and should be. The Czech Alpine Conference (which I have reviewed elsewhere) captured the spirit of both a close study of plants in Nature and Botanical Gardens, and in the smaller and more intimate surroundings of our own gardens, and for me emphasises how much relevance the latter have in a proper understanding of plants, an arguement that runs through much of what I have written on the website. The two together should get a great deal more thoughtful coverage in the media. Specialist Garden Societies and member‚??s gardens are as close as any to Botanical Gardens and those with professional and long held insights into the world of plants, and must be of equal, if more personal, importance. The AGS and SRGC certainly have many members that encompass both and gain greatly from this, but perhaps in ways that are not expressed strongly enough and sometimes not more inclusively.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 30 November 2013, 13:27top / bottom of page

Some members may have viewed further debate on this topic on the Scottish Rock Garden Forum, which may have some relevance to the AGS too.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 04 December 2013, 13:08top / bottom of page

The Genus Cassiope (4th December 2013)

(An article and subsequent display of the genus Cassiope by S. E. Lilley, recorded in the AGS Bulletin, are so remarkable that I have added them to these notes for any aspiring cultivators of ericaceous plants, especially in drier parts of the country, and for members encouraged to stage similar educational displays).

 

Over the years there have  been many special displays staged by members of the Alpine Garden Society. Few though can have been as fine as an exhibit of the genus Cassiope by S. E. Lilley at the Main London Show in late April 1965. This is pictured across pp. 190 & 191 in Vol. 33 of the Quarterly Bulletin of the AGS and included almost every species in cultivation at that time. Several mature specimens in full flower look quite remarkable. Interspersed with the cassiopes are a number of rhododendrons and woodland perennials such as trilliums and primulas. Four years earlier Lilley had written authoritatively and informatively on 'The genus Cassiope' as part of the Proceedings of the Third International Rock Garden Conference, organised jointly by the Alpine Garden Society and the Scottish Rock Garden Club in 1961 (see Quarterly Bulletin of the AGS, Vol. 29, p. 72). Unfortunately in my copy of this Bulletin the last section of his article is missing, but he begins by defining the attraction of cassiope to gardeners: 'The flowers themselves cannot be classed as exciting, flamboyant, or even outstanding; it is difficult to understand the appeal this genus has for many cultivators of alpine plants, and if one were asked to define it in a word, that word would have to be delicacy'. He carries on '... that this delicate beauty is coupled with a certain reluctance to grow as well in cultivation as they do in the wild, presents a challenge, and these notes are penned by one who long ago took up this challenge'. A photograph of C. lycopodioides on p. 74 shows how stunningly beautiful these plants can be. On the previous page he presents a composite picture of leaf variations in nine different species and cultivars, and his fascination with the genus is easy to understand.

 

Growing them in the garden requirea a clear knowledge of their ecological requirements. He describes Mr R. B. Cooke's garden, '...at the foot of a sloping hillside in Northumberland, where the water from the fell above drains down below the surface and moisture is in the air...'. This is exactly similar to Alan Furness' garden near to Hexham where another genus of plants of like habitat - the celmisias - grow so perfectly. However, growers in drier regions have also had good success in cool raised beds filled with open moisture retentive soil (Lilley recommends good heavy lime-free loam, peat, lime-free leaf-mould and coarse sand, all in equal parts). Conditions that never dry out are essential. This recalls the peat plunge bed that Gwendolyn Anley described for species of dwarf rhododendrons (recorded earlier in these notes on the Alpine Garden Society website), and which with suitable shade and care can enable many choice ericaceous plants to be grown even in relatively dry gardens in the south.

 

Lilley's exhibit at the London Show included the '...tiny moss-like C. hypnoides, no more than one inch high' to the fabulous C. wardii. Even in our dry south-east garden in Kent cassiope succeeds at the shady base of a raised bed, showing that conditions for these plants can be found in many gardens with care.

Contribution from John Richards 08 December 2013, 12:43top / bottom of page
Cassiopes in Northumberland

It is certainly true that R B Cooke's garden, 'Kilbryde', on the hill south of Corbridge, Northumberland, grew magnificent Cassiopes (and Phyllodoces etc). For a few years in the 1970's, after Cooke's death, and with Job Creation help, I cared for this wonderful garden. Here, not only the hybrids thrived (including 'Randle Cooke'), but also C. wardii, C. fastigiata, C. saximontana and Harriminella stellerana. In those far-off days I gardened nearby in Hexham (still do) and in a small suburban garden I also grew excellent cassiopes and phyllodoces (one of which earned a Farrer Medal) with little trouble.

However, for the last 25 years I have found this genus maddeningly difficult, and most plants turn brown and die quite quickly. It is true that I am no longer in the same garden, but I still live in Hexham, and my cultural techniques have not changed that much. I cannot speak for Alan Furness who lives in a much cooler more open garden three miles from here, but he also seems to grow few cassiopes these days, although he may be frustrated by their susceptibility to late frosts.

It is extraordinary that cassiopes also grew so well in Birmingham 50 years ago, but I doubt if this is true any longer, going by plants seen (or rather not seen) on the show bench. This suggests to me that cassiopes in cultivation are suffering from a common factor of quite recent origin which is equally important in warm Midland cityscapes and cold northern hills. Knowing the role played by nitrites and nitrates of atmospheric origin catalysed by car exhausts in heather die-back (which to my inexpert eye looks very like die-back in related cassiopes, I suspect I can guess at the cause.

 

Contribution from Tim Ingram 08 December 2013, 17:04top / bottom of page

John - I wonder how many people really try growing these plants nowadays? It's obvious from what S. E. Lilley wrote that he (and others) had considerable difficulties growing cassiopes initially, and like many plants (dionysias for example) a steady assimilation of experience by different growers and accumulated wisdom must help in finding the best conditions for any plant, even in a single garden. I remember on visiting Cecilia Coller that she has a peat plunge in which moisture loving plants were kept, very similar presumably to the method used by Gwendolyn Anley. The other thing that gets mentioned in earlier Bulletins is the effect of city smog on plants (cf. Roy Elliott's garden in Birmingham), and this must have included a nice mix of noxious, as well as perhaps fungicidal (sulphurous) chemicals. Near to us, just south of Maidstone, Adrian Cooper is developing a planting of choice Ericaceae and species of similar ecology and it will be very interesting to see how this succeeds over time - I am beginning to find some of these plants easier than I initially did, with more careful and considered placement. Growing them to the same quality as Lilley's exhibit though is another matter!

Contribution from Tim Ingram 11 December 2013, 18:34top / bottom of page
'Alpines & Rock Garden Plants'

This book by Anna N. Griffith, first published by Collins in 1964, will be on the shelves of very many alpine gardeners and complements Will Ingwersen's 'Manual of Alpine Plants'. Although both are superseded by the AGS 'Encyclopaedia of Alpines' in terms of comprehensiveness, they both give an individual and often personal view of alpine plants which is valuable. Anna Griffith's book is illustrated with photographs taken by another remarkable plantslady, Valerie Finnis. Until reading the March 1966 Volume of the AGS Bulletin (No. 34, p. 90), I knew nothing of Anna Griffith's background: here she is described by Roy Elliott as the recipient of the Lyttel Trophy in 1966, and it was a chance view of an advertisement in the Times for the first Society Show that captured her attention and led to a long involvement with the AGS. She was an unusual lady in studying Maths and Physics at Cambridge. Not everyone in the AGS will have such a background but it is an indication that the Society is as interesting for its various members as it is for the plants that find their way to our gardens and the Shows.


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