Alpine Garden Society

01386 554790
Special interest group on garden history.
AGS Garden History Group
^ The Alpine Garden Society ^^

Garden History Group

History of Rock and Alpine Gardening Study Group (HORAG)

Convenor - Dr John Page, 18 Shutt Lane, Earlswood, Solihull, B94 6BZ
Tel: 01564 702765 or email

The Study Group has a core membership of around 25 enthusiasts who wish to know more about aspects of the history of rock and alpine gardening. At HORAG's inaugural meeting at Clapham, Yorkshire (the home of Reginald Farrer) in 1997, the decision was taken to stage events in various parts of the country, normally at a venue of specific interest to members such as Exbury, Madresfield Court, Gravetye Manor and Holehird Garden. This policy has enabled a further two hundred or so members of the Alpine Garden Society and its Local Groups to attend the Study Group's meetings. The group is always keen to welcome new members to any of its events.

There is no fixed annual subscription. Instead, a collection is normally taken at each event with the aim of covering costs for room hire etc. From time to time the Alpine Garden Society makes a small grant when funds are low. Donations are always welcome and should be made via the AGS Centre at Pershore.

There are normally two meetings a year, which consist of site visits, lectures, interviews and discussions. It was recognized from the outset that primary research would be beyond the scope of most members and that the most rewarding course of action would be for the Group to study materials already in existence around a particular theme. Nevertheless, much new knowledge has been brought to light, such as the true nature of the early rock garden at the Chelsea Physic Garden, the relationship between the wild garden and the alpine garden and the origin of the important Primula cultivar "Linda Pope".

The Study Group has the secondary objective of relating knowledge gained from a study of the past to present practice. To this end, all meetings now include an interview with a prominent member of the AGS at which the contemporary state of alpine gardening and the recent history of the Society are discussed in detail and recordings made.

Themes studied have included:

  • The H C Bidder rock garden at St John's College, Oxford and its replacement.
  • The contribution of Reginald Farrer to alpine gardening (a study weekend) and a visit to two of Farrer's gardens.
  • Dr Brenda McLean's research for her book on A K Bulley, "A Pioneering Plantsman".
  • Joseph Banks and the 1774 rock garden at Chelsea Physic Garden.
  • Reginald Kay and his Silverdale Nursery.
  • Clarence Elliott's contribution to the world of alpine gardening.
  • William Purdom's life and plant introductions.
  • The great Backhouse Nursery at York.
  • The rock garden at Scampston Hall.
  • The Clarence Elliott/E K Balls rock garden at Exbury.
  • The new rock garden at Oxford Botanic garden and its predecessors.
  • Colonel D G Lowndes and Reginald Farrer as plant collectors.
  • The Ingwerson Nursery at Birch Farm.
  • William Robinson, the Wild Garden and the Alpine Garden.
  • The Pulham dynasty and the Victorian Rock garden.
  • A visit to the Pulhamite rock garden at Madresfield Court.
  • The study of Primula "Linda Pope".
  • Sidney Lilley's visit to Randle B Cooke's garden.
  • The restoration of the 1930s rock garden at Bournemouth Town Hall.


If so, please contact Dr John Page, Convenor of HORAG Specialist Study Group, 118 Shutt Lane, Earlswood, Solihull, West Midlands B94 6BZ
Tel: 01564 702 765 or email: