July meeting: From Cape Town to the Orange River / Alice Vanden Bon

Alice Vanden Bon took us on a whistle-stop tour of South Africa and its wonderfully diverse flora. Starting off in Cape Town and taking in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens she introduced us to 16 habitats that she visited over a number of years, with reference in particular to species of Conophytum, Crassula and a number of bulbs.

Arid House at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Some of the Conos she showed us are relatively recent introductions such as Conophytum smaleorum – a chance discovery from a few years ago, when she and her travelling companions found their dirt road blocked and they climbed up the hill by which they had left their vehicles… One of their most spectacular recent introductions is Conophytum youngii, described in the BCSS journal Cactus World.

This was a magnificent introduction to a wide range of plants not often seen in cultivation, where colouration and compact growth cannot match that of plants in their natural habitat. If you missed the talk and you would like to catch up on this: Andy Young, one of Alice’s travelling companions, wrote several articles on their joint trips for the Mesemb Study Group Bulletin, which we have in the branch library.

Success at the NEC once again…

Bronze for the Birmingham BCSS for our display at Gardeners’ World Live this year – in the category for specialist societies! Our show manager is ever so pleased…

Coming up: July meeting

Orange River by Andre van Rooyen on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Orange River / by Andre van Rooyen on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

We are very pleased to have a very accomplished speaker with us this month: Alice Vanden Bon, with an account of her travels from Cape Town to the Orange River. Conophytum will feature particularly in her talk, but other genera of South African succulents will also be covered. This should be an exciting talk – on Tuesday 15 July, usual time and place. See here for directions.

Conophytum truncatum in habitat by Martin Heigan on Flickr  (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Conophytum truncatum in habitat / by Martin Heigan on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Stapelia gariepensis flowering in habitat by Martin Heigan on Flickr  (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Stapelia gariepensis flowering in habitat / by Martin Heigan on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


Coming up: Plant sale

Tomorrow will be the last day at the NEC – if you are planning to go to Gardeners World Live do come and find us!

Meanwhile this coming Tuesday (17 June) we hold another plant sale and auction from 7.30pm at Winterbourne. Nothing else is planned for this June meeting, but it is a good opportunity to purchase some additions to your collection – and for a chat amongst fellow C&S growers if nothing else.

All welcome!

Invite: Open Greenhouse, 22 June

Arthur T in his greenhouse / by Stephen Boisvert on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Arthur T and his collecction / by Stephen Boisvert on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Two of our members decided to hold an open day for anyone who is interested to see their collections: on Sunday, 22 June.

You can visit Arthur Tomkins and Gill Mills from 10 o’clock onwards on that day, no appointment necessary. Their addresses are:

Arthur Tomkins: 5 Trippleton Avenue, Bartley Green, B’ham, B32 4DG

Gill Mills: 166 West Heath Road, B’ham, B31 3HB.

You can see pictures of plants from Arthur’s collection here. And Gill is the one who usually wins the table show competition… Stephen, one of our former branch members, has posted photos from her ollection in his photostream on Flickr. As you can see, these are two wonderful collections to visit if you want to come along!

BCSS Birmingham Annual Show 2014

Here are a few pics that Mark O’Connor took at our show.

Thank you to everyone who helped on the day, brought along plants to exhibit – and to anyone who had a look at the many great plants on display!

Auction of Derek’s collection

Derek and his plants

Despite the weather Derek Castle’s auction of his collection went well at Winterbourne House & Garden on 11 May. There was a good turnout with 21 individual bidders for the auction plants plus a busy trade on the ready-priced tables.

Stuart Estell was an excellent auctioneer ably assisted by the strong arms of our current Chairman, Arthur Wilkes.

Birmingham Branch are very grateful to Winterbourne for providing free entry on the day for potential bidders and we hope everyone had the opportunity to look round the superb grounds in between heavy showers.

We would also like to thank everyone who attended and helped to make it such a successful day for Derek. It has helped him with the disposal of his collection knowing that plants he has loved over the years are going to good homes.

Gill Mills

Coming up: May meeting

Aylostera heliosa / by Kakteenklaus on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Aylostera heliosa / by Kakteenklaus on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

For our May meeting we will have Ralph Martin with us to shed some light on the old-fashioned Rebutia, from a more taxonomic point of view. Time and location as per usual – see our meetings page for directions if required. All wellcome.

March meeting: Andean Antics / Trevor Wray

El Tatio geyser field / by Ian Carvell on Flickr (CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0)

El Tatio geyser field / by Ian Carvell on Flickr (CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0)

It’s always nice to welcome Trevor Wray – and this time round he gave us a flavour of Argentina and Chile and its flora. In crossing the Andes twice last year he visited a range of different habitats – and recorded 138 cactus species.

He found Gymnocalycium (erinaceum, mostii, capillaense) growing with garden favourites such as Dahlia pinnata (originally from Mexico) and good old ‘English’ bramble. Often the cacti would grow in grass, sometimes they would be completely overgrown by shrubs.

Although Gymnocalycium ragonesii is said to be rare or even extinct in the few locations where this species grows (the salt lake Salinas Grandes), Trev reported that he could find quite a few, only that the plants appear to be almost hidden and drawn into the soil. It is a desirable species for cultivation and often seen in collections. Further up, he found varieties of Gymnocalycium spegazzinii, an equally attractive species to grow.

Copiapoa featured heavily in his talk. Trev found often large groups of these, hundreds of years old, and growing within some stunning scenery. (There is a fascinating travelogue available to see on Flickr: see here.) And where the landscape got really barren he would still find some Opuntia – near the El Tatio geysers for example.

We are very pleased to say that Trev will be back in February next year with his talk “Life and death in the desert”, revisiting habitat sites over several years and recording the changes which occurred over that time. If you’ve missed this talk, be sure to come along then!

Auction of Derek’s collection

Epithelantha micromeris - one of the plants for auction on 11 May.

Epithelantha micromeris – one of the plants for auction on 11 May.

Just a reminder of the auction on 11 May at Winterbourne – with viewings and sales from 10am and the auction itself at 11am.

Please use the usual garden entrance – you will not be expected to pay the entrance fee if you are coming specifically for the auction, but you will have the opportunity to look around the house and garden afterwards! For refreshments, there is a cafe at Winterbourne. Please see their website for details and directions: www.winterbourne.org.uk

The Branch would like to thank Winterbourne for their hospitality.

There are a few more photos on the BCSS Forum, and I may add a few more here if I get a chance.