Alpine Garden Society

01386 554790
[ Back ]

Reports of the 2016 Talks

13th January 2016

Chairman's Evening Sue Miles and Ian Sutton

Geology and flora of the Limestone areas of the Britisn Isles

Ian indicated the limestone areas of the British Isles and described the formation these landscapes.
Most limestones consist of 90%+ of Calcium Carbonate derived from the fossilized remains of sea creatures with some sand and clays incorporated. In some limestones known as dolostone some of the calcium is replaced by magnesium. Limestone is readily dissolved by rain water and this creates cracks and fissures useful to plants.
Sue showed plants seen in Assynt and Skye, Teesdale, Derbyshire, Anglesey, Barnack and the Burren in Ireland. Some plants shown prefer acidic conditions and thrive in patches of soil on the limestone. In the more exposed areas many plants took advantage of fissures in the limestone.
A comprehensive catalogue of plants was shown. The stand out ones for me were:-
Gentiana verna and Pulsatilla vulgaris which are illustrated.



11th February 2016

Patsy Rainer

History, development and influence of gardens of Japan

Patsy Rainer is a frequent visitor to Japan over 17 years due to family connections and has developed a great interest and knowledge of the Japanese art of garden design. After reading a short story to put us into a suitably complaintive mood she explained the garden design was influenced by both Zen Buddhist and Shinto philosophy. The gardens represent the landscape outside the garden when viewed from the garden. This is why Japanese style gardens built elsewhere never really work. So large rocks placed at specific angles and groups represent the mountains beyond. Water may be real or represented by raked gravel. Trees are pruned to represent clouds. Bridges are important as are lanterns representing miniature temples. Plants are important not for the own sake but to create harmonious shapes.  The exceptions are flowering cherries and camellias which are planted for their spectacle.  A very informative and enlightening talk.



14th September 2016


Dave Mountford


Cyprus in Spring


Dave described the flowers he had seen over the course of four visits in February, March April and October particularly the south and west sides of the island and the highest mountain Olympus in the Troodos range. Many orchids, particularly Ophrys including and number of endemics are seen on February followed a little later by members of the genus orchis. Particularly good sites are the coastal salt flats near Akrotiri. Striking fields of Anemone coronaria followed a few weeks later by Ranunculius asiaticus  Archaeological sites are also a good location to visit and some magnificent Roman mosaics were shone.  Dave finished with a few autumn flowers. He made the area sound very interesting to visit and bought several reference books for members to peruse.




Epipactis palustris, the Marsh Helleborine, seen i 12th October 2016

Steve Clements

Growing Hardy Orchids

Steve grows a wide range of mainly terrestrial hardy orchids in pots placed in a sand plunge bed in a 8X10 glasshouse. They are kept in full sun and fan assisted ventilation is provided.

Steve explained how the seed is just an embryo with no food store. To grow the embryo needs to be in association with a suitable mycorrhiza fungi. The type of mycorrhiza shown on programmes like Gardener’s World  and is used on roses for example is not suitable. However, squashed fruit can also be used. Once a plant has been grown or bought it requires a moisture retentive but free draining soil. All orchid growers have their preferred mixes and may use different mixes for deferent genera. Steve’s mix includes plenty of perlite and peat and he feeds with quarter strength Miracle Grow early in the year followed by dilute tomato fertilizer.

Some striking clumps of Dactylorhiza foliosa and D. praetermissa were shown and the growing requirements discussed.

Next Cypripediums where illustrated. Some of these are grown in massive numbers in the Netherlands but these although inexpensive it can be difficult for these plants to adjust to normal growing conditions. Mail order plants are often very juvenile and difficult to establish.  Better results may be had by buying from local growers. Half pots are suitable and plants must be protected from excessive winter wet.

Epipactis including British natives were shown and these should be kept very moist in summer.

There are a very large number of Ophrys that are hardy and these can be grown in very small (4”) pots.

Bleitia and South African Disa and some Australian genera were also illustrated along with massive displays at RHS shows.

This well illustrated talk was full of useful advice and entertaining through.


A Labour of Love

9th November 2016 

Robert Potterton of Pottertons Nursery

In response to a question from Rob it appeared that almost all members attending this talk had visited the Nursery, so the talk was a relaxed meeting of old friends.

The history of the Nursery started by Rob’s father and its development up to the present day was described.  Rob was hooked on alpines after visiting New Zealand as a young man and this is almost the entire focus of the nursery. All plants are propagated from cuttings or from seed sown in the Nursery. The show garden consisting of a rockery and pond is regarded as an essential feature to encourage new visitors to have a go at growing alpines. Images of some of Robs special plants and their history were shown.  Many useful tips on propagating alpines were given.

There is a plant fair at Pottertons Nursery  LN76HX on 28th May 2017 in aid of the NGS

[ Back ]