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Reports of the 2014 Talks

10th September 2014

Tim Lever from Aberconwy nursery

Exploring the Himachal Pradesh Himalayas, Alpine & Obstacles in India

Tim has made several botanical trips to the Himalayas and this was his account of the AGS tour in 2012 led by Margaret and David Thorne.
July is the monsoon season so whilst being good for plants, there will be rain, low cloud, washed out bridges and roads. The trip involved trekking and camping in two areas linked by an eventful road journey. Tim made light of all this and showed plants which reflected the very wet and short growing season. The hiking was at an altitude of 3000m to 4500m. This is above the tree line which is artificially lowered in this area but Tim found the energy to climb along with two others to higher areas in his spare time. This revealed additional plants, many in nice natural crevices which appealed to Tim. He also showed some neat natural alpine gardens.
Numerous Pediculata sp. were shown, these thrive in the wet conditions but are difficult to grow in cultivation even in north Wales. Numerous wet loving Primula sp. featured, these mainly are in cultivation but a challenge never the less. Meconopsis aculeate, Delphinium cashmiriana, Aquilegia fragrans, Clemitus barbata, Iris kemanenis, Lilium oxypetalium, stood out in the abundant flora shown. Amongst the smaller plants Tim was pleased to see Lloydia serotina, numerous saxifrage, draba and androsace, many growing in great abundance.
This was a great opportunity to see many fascinating, and challenging  to grow plants in their natural habitat.


14th May 2014

Prof. John Good

Alpines for all seasons in a North Wales garden.

John Good is also well known to Nottingham Group members and particularly for the scientific approach of his talks. His garden in North Wales is on Ordovician age shale having an impermeable nature. This with the high rainfall and a steepish slope presents a particular set of challenges to be overcome when designing an alpine garden. Even so, a “Mediterranean” garden is possible by using the slope, arranging the drainage and using a cherry tree with a light canopy as a “water pump”. The Mediterranean garden drains onto the wet (moraine) garden. Raised beds have also been created running up slope. John is very keen on crevice beds using vertically orientated pieces of rock which are in plentiful supply locally. By choosing the right part of the garden to place a plant a very wide range of nice plants can be grown to a very high standard. The garden near to the coast is very mild by East Midlands standards.
John showed photographs of highlight plants season by season. The ones that partially struck me  follow.
Autumn: Saxifragia fortunei, various cyclamen and colchicum. Gentiana paradoxa”Silken night” and a range of crocus from the Peloponnese.
Winter/early Spring: Galanthus, Cyclamen coum, hellebores, hepaticas ( which do very well) and particularly Narcissus “Surfside”
Mid/late spring: Corydalis,  pulsatillas, and the local native, Saxifragia oppositifolia. As might be expected trillium, erythronium, meconopsis, nomocharis, mimulus and ramondas and many primulas do very well.
Summer: aquilegias, alliums, campanulas and lilies were particularly noteworthy.
All these and many other plants were described with great enthusiasm and numerous growing tips.
Like all good speakers, Prof.. Good engaged with the audience thoughout and drew out interesting additional contributions from Robert Rolfe and Ray Cobb.

14th March 2014

David Charlton

New Zealand and Svalbard

These two disparate locations were joined by David’s enthusiasm for “cushion plants”. New Zealand being well known for cushion and mat forming plants and the Svalbard climate being such that almost anything that grows there adopts a mat like character.
David’s visit to New Zealand was in autumn when little is in flower. The wildlife was also illustrated and the threat to native plants from introduced agricultural grass species was outlined.
Most flowers are white. Cushion plants particularly were illustrated, both in wet and in dry situations. Raoulia is what first comes to mind in New Zealand but also Lobelia, Celmisia, Ranunculus, Gentianellas, amongst others, were shown.
David’s trip to Svalbard was on a cruise with other naturalists, most people of course were mainly interested in the wildlife and the scenery. This meant that David’s flower hunting forays were limited and that he had to be accompanied by a guard with a rifle because of the risk of polar bears. Judging by the wealth of photos of plants the trip management were quite indulgent to David.
In Svalbard the majority of common plant names in English commence with Polar or Arctic.
Silene acaulis Saxifraga oppositifolia and Dryas octopetala were the plants many members were familiar with. Most of the others were Arctic species of fairly familiar native plants. Several more species of Saxifraga, the Svalvard poppy ( Papaver dihlianum ), Alpine bistort, Arctic mouse ear, Polar willow, Cassiope tetragona, Arctic chickweed and many more.
A most interesting and well illustrated talk.


12th February 2014

Vic Aspland


The group welcomed the return visit by Vic Aspland, the AGS Practical gardening correspondent.
He usually speaks on practical matters but this time he recounted his plant hunting adventures in Valle d’ Andorra with his wife and two friends led by a locally based lady with an ancient 4X4.
Andorra is a very small state just 10 by 15 miles in the high Pyrenees astride the main road joining France to Spain. Its almost sole industry is Duty Free Shops. Attempts to build a skiing centre failed because of lack of snow. This leaves much of the very rugged mountain sides available for plant hunting. Other than the main highway the roads are mainly rutted tracks used by smugglers and farmers, hence the need for a rugged 4X4. Vic divided Andorra in to six localities and described each and its plant population.  His practical approach to gardening came to the fore when he described dismantling part of a rock slope to investigate the rooting characteristics of a plant.
He usefully described the differences between the three trumpet gentians G. aculis, alpina, and occidentala. An interesting discussion arose at this point with Robert Rolfe as to the impossibility of growing the latter. Amongst many plants, memorable stands of N. poeticus and A. narcissifolia. were shown. Also a striking  large specimen D. cneorum pygmea. We could almost smell it from Vic’s account. All this to the accompaniment of the Zumba class next door made a very interesting and informative evening.



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