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Newsletter of the Norfolk Group of the Alpine Garden Society Autumn 2016

Alpine Garden Society

Norfolk Group 

Welcome to your September 2016 Newsletter


Chairman’s notes – Autumn 2016 


We have somehow drifted into August and I had hardly noticed July passing me by. We can soon be looking to get back into the routine of monthly meetings as we make a start on our 2016-17 programme in September. 

Once again we will all be scanning the speaker lists and putting dates in our diaries in the anticipation of yet more inspiring talks from leaders in the fields of alpines, rock plants and gardening. In the past few months, a talk on photographing alpines seemed to inspire members to submit to close scrutiny their own personal entries in our photographic competition. It didn’t seem to matter whether they were taken on small compact cameras or large, complex digital SLRs, the standard of prints was amazingly high. There may be a further option for next year’s competition – that of presenting photographs on-screen. This possibility is still to be discussed by your committee so we’ll know before the end of the year. 

Our contribution to the national show circuit remains, to my mind, second to none. The Show at Wymondham was, once again, a tremendous demonstration of just how well our group’s volunteers can ensure that exhibitors from across the UK have the best possible platform to show off their fabulous plants. We are forever grateful to these volunteers but there is always a need to increase their ranks to cope with the growing range of tasks and numbers of visitors, judges and exhibitors which the Show throws at us every year. 

Isn’t it always the case that a successful event leads to requests for a follow-up? And so it was this year when, following our memorable visit to Sweden last year, the Group ran a trip to Scotland. I, unfortunately, was unable to join this group but verbal reports, and a photo trip report at our Members’ Evening in June, clearly demonstrate the success of this two-centre tour from the Tay to the Forth. (A full report is included in this Newsletter). 

As you know, the Group has a library which is held at Hethersett Village Hall and which gets wheeled out at most meetings. Over time, we have noticed that use of the library has declined to almost zero: i.e. books are no longer being taken out on loan and only very occasionally are they even referenced at meetings. The Committee, therefore, has to make some decisions on the future of this facility. The Hall’s committee needs to reclaim some of the space occupied by our books. Our committee has to manage the taking out and putting away of the books – all seemingly of very little value to the membership. The process has begun to review the condition, value and status of our collection of books, after which we will need to finalise the fate of the entire library. We will be raising the issue at forthcoming meetings but if you have any thoughts on the subject, please discuss them with committee members.


A final thought, and one which is prompted partly by central AGS strategy, is the need for further recruitment to both the Norfolk Group and the national Society. As with all groups (certainly those I am involved with) the priority is to try to encourage younger members in order to address the current, somewhat skewed age demographic. You might have thoughts on how this might be achieved – again, please let us know.

As we look to the coming months and beyond 2016 let us hope that the activities and enthusiasm of the Group go from strength to strength. With thanks to all who volunteer at meetings and at the Show and, in particular, to your Committee.

Ian Black 08/2016


Sandringham Flower Show
A report and a thank you from Caroline Hughes & Roderick Woods

We were delighted to win the Sandringham Flower Show tickets in the June raffle.

With alpines in mind, we arrived on a very hot Wednesday. The huge marquees were packed with people and flowers, of various descriptions. We discovered alpine plants in displays, various sedums and thymes under a majestic olive tree. No dedicated alpine nursery, but West Acre Nursery offered common alpine plants at £2 each. Various Erodium, Campanula and Chaenorhinum Blue Dream appeared on several stalls. The show felt very local, with a carousel powered by a Kings Lynn steam engine. Many local charities were represented. The marquee with the flower show in it was interesting; fruit, vegetables and flower arrangement competitions. We particularly liked a child’s entry of a crab made out of red peppers. The rain held off, and the ice-cream queues were long.

We can say we had a very interesting and enjoyable day. Thank you.

Caroline & Roderick 


Programme of Meetings 2016

21 Sep  Celia Wright From High Mountain to Long Mountain

19 Oct  Rick Lambert, Slovenia – The Julian Alps

16 Nov  Jon Evans The Garden at Blackthorn Nursery – Part 1

21 Dec  AGM, Christmas Social + entertainment.

We return to Hethersett in September, to welcome Celia & Iain Wright from Shropshire. It is Celia’s turn to give the talk which will be based around their garden on the edge of Long Mountain close to the border with Wales. An unusual feature of this garden is the windmill tower which Celia and Iain have restored as living accommodation Growing wide range of alpines, bulbs, shrubs and herbaceous plants in what might be described as a dell garden, there should be something for everyone on the night!

Celia usually brings plants for sale – so come prepared to buy!

When Rick Lambert last visited his talk was about Dianthus, a favourite genus that had not been covered comprehensively at our meeting before. This year, in October we will let Rick escape from the garden as he takes us on a journey to the Julian Alps in Slovenia where he found many stunning plants across two visits. Another hands-on gardener, we may expect some references to the grow-ability of

the plants he shows us.

Before the Christmas social evening we close the lecture programme in November, with a veritable tour de force garden visit courtesy of ace photographer Jon Evans. Jon, who brought the remarkable photographic display to our 2012 conference, has made a photographic record of the gardens at Blackthorn Nursery. The nursery, famous above all for the Daphne species and hybrids propagated there, produced a wide range of other alpines too. The gardens are so extensive and so treasure filled that Jon tells me the full length talk can last up to three hours! However, he has sensibly split it into two talks. We will be treated to Part One – I will ask Jon to make it snappy but perhaps I will also bring a cushion. 😊

Plans for 2017 are still in gestation. I will be inviting Peter Sheasby, Cliff Booker, Jim Almond, Tim Lever and Diane Clement ... Oh and it’ll be two years since we last saw Kit Strange so maybe I’ll ask her too!

Do come along to as many meetings as you can. The speakers are carefully chosen for their knowledge and their skill at communicating. We have – as they say – a treat in store for you!

Tony Goode 



We have always enjoyed breaks in Scotland and this was no exception. Our thanks go, not only to the garden owners, but to all those from our group whose input added to this trip.

Sixteen of us met on Norwich Station on Friday morning, 20th May, to travel via Peterborough up to Scotland. The train journey seems quick, passing through some wonderful scenery and we were at Waverley Station by late afternoon, then onward to stay at the Holiday Inn Express on the outskirts of Perth. An excellent location for the gardens we were visiting on Saturday and Sunday.

After a good nights rest our coach picked us up and took us to our first destination which was close at hand - the National Trust for Scotland two acre garden at Branklyn. Developed with the help of seed collections from the likes of Forrest, Ludlow, Farrer and Sherriff, the garden was awarded National Collection status for Meconopsis just before we went (to add to Cassiope and Rhododendron taliense). We were not disappointed as many were in flower. This hillside garden has some fine specimens of magnolia, halesia and Viburnum plicatum ‘mariesii’ underplanted with trillium, podophyllum and, of course, meconopsis. The rock garden and scree were impressive with some lovely calanthe, arisaema, cypripedium and celmisia. National Trust at all! We thought it could only go downhill from hereon in. How wrong we were.

Our lunch stop was at Glendoick garden centre, but David and I just had a quick coffee and hot-footed it down to the house and gardens. We will have to return as we did not have time to go into the woodland garden at all, but the house garden and walled gardens were full of acid loving treasures, many of the rhododendron variety. These were either collected by the three generations of the Cox family or bred by them and the walled garden acts as trial beds for as yet unnamed hybrids. One plant that did stand out at the entrance to the garden was a splendid Deutzia calycosa collected by Cox and Farrer in Burma.

All too soon we were heading off to yet another jewel of a garden, that of Henry and Margaret Taylor at Invergowrie. This was absolutely stunning, at every turn there was another treasure and the garden was jam-packed with alpines of every kind. Things that took our eye in the front garden included Iris ‘Mary McIlroy’, clumps of Meconopsis punicea (oh to live in Scotland) and a lovely Celmisia incana. Going round the corner the garden opened out and here was a woodland area, raised beds and the all important propagation area. Here we were treated to things like Anemone trullifolia, Epacris paludosa, Podophyllum delavayiRhododendron keiskeiRamonda nathaliae and, in the centre of a raised bed everyone was interested in the Leucogenes leontopodium. What they didn’t grow was not worth having! The visit ended with tea and cakes and the opportunity to have some of their leftover seed.


The next day we made our way to The Explorers Garden at Pitlochry on a hillside overlooking the Festival Theatre. This garden is based around the

intrepid Scottish plant hunters and is separated into glades with plants representing their finds from different areas of the world and well furnished with information boards. The garden was conceived and built in conjunction with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and not only holds an extensive range of trees, shrubs and flowers but also some interesting garden art. One of the most exciting areas was the himalayan region with a tumbling stream and exotic pavilion, tibetan prayer flags and wonderful views. Again we were treated to a great selection of blue poppies!

The last garden in the Perth area was some 15 miles away at Cluny House, Aberfeldy. Here we were encouraged to walk on the lawn to avoid treading on seedlings in the gravel near the house! May is said to be the best month to visit and we can understand why! There was a magnificent range of primula near the house itself including varieties that many of us had never heard of before. Heading off into the main woodland garden we were met by a champion Sequoiadendron giganteum with a girth of 11 metres, and height of some 45 metres thought to be grown from seed sent back by John Matthew in 1853 - it was love at first site for Sheila Postle. Nearby was a glade containing incredible clumps of arisaema and trillium (there are 18 varieties here including the double form), which, for me, were the signature plants of this garden.

Elsewhere were many exciting woodland trees and plants including one we just cannot grow in our dry garden Chrysosplenium davidianum and in one or two places the erythroniums were still hanging on. John and Wendy Mattingley explained how they garden organically and selectively, they assess an area and remove all traces of one problem plant (weed), as they are removed they place a plug of leafmould over the spot to prevent further germination. The resulting naturalistic garden is to their credit and Wendy’s parents who created the garden over 60 years ago would be pleased with their stewardship. Our visit was enhanced by seeing a red squirrel leaping through the trees as we were about to leave. 


From here we took the road to Edinburgh and saw our first, and only, rain of the visit. The Premier Inn by Waverley Station was an ideal place to stay and the next morning we took public transport to the Edinburgh Botanic Garden, getting into conversation with one of our RBGE guides on the way. We were given a quick taster tour of the rock and scree garden before heading to the alpine area. Here Elspeth Mackintosh showed us the old alpine house with its superb display of potted plants and the outside growing area with many troughs.

Then we saw the new glasshouse with its tufa wall, outside growing area and crevice garden. She explained how the tufa had been sourced with the help of Harry Jans, how it had been developed and planted and, more importantly, how the watering system worked. Then, much to everyone’s delight (including our two RBGE rock garden guides), we went through the arch into the working area of the alpine department including the trial areas for crevice and tufa wall plants.

Here Elspeth gave generously of her time to explain how the department propagated and brought on plants for the display area and assessed plants grown from wild collected seed - in fact I am not sure who enjoyed it more! We were given free rein to wander round and ask questions and learnt a lot from her replies. The rest of our time here was free to revisit the rock garden and explore the rest of the gardens as we wished. There were, of course masses to keep us happy, huge swathes of cypripedium, paris, podophyllum, rheum alexandrae, dodecatheon and a superb wall of Schizocodon saldanelloides stand out in my memory and I was quite taken with an Eryngium proteaeflorum too!

This was a super trip, with a wonderful variety of gardens and, most of all, good company. Once again thanks to all who had a part in it.

If you missed the photographs of the holiday at the last meeting or would to see them again then follow the link below where you can see a larger collection of pictures from each garden plus a gallery of pictures of the members on the holiday. Click on the words ‘My Albums’ at the top of the page and you will see the seven albums at the bottom of the list on the following page.

Words by Brian Ellis, photographs by David King. 

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