Starting out? Try this one…

Mammillaria zeilmanniana / Foto: Cay Kruse

Mammillaria zeilmanniana / Foto: Cay Kruse

Every year the German cactus society names a ‘cactus of the year‘ – and for 2015 they chose a perfect one for growing on a windowsill at home: Mammillaria zeilmanniana. In fact, you may have been given one – it is known as Mothers’ Day Cactus for it flowers profusely around the German Mother’s Day in early May and used to be a popular present

You don’t need a greenhouse to grow and flower this one well, a sunny windowsill is perfect. Keep it mostly dry over winter, water about once or twice each week between April and September, but make sure that the compost dries out fully between waterings. Never let it stand in water. Give it diluted tomato fertiliser once or twice every year. If you can add sharp sand and grit to the compost to aid drainage. And be careful with the net curtains – these plants have hooked spines who easily get caught up in curtains, clothes etc.

Winterbourne Arid House

It may be winter, but there is a lot to see in the Arid House at Winterbourne at the moment. In recent weeks quite a few plants were added to the display and some of the old Ferocactus straightened up. Aloe arborescens is in full flower now, and another large Aloe is due to come into flower soon. If you’ve not been for a while – it is worth having a look at the collection now!

Ferocactus

Ferocactus

Echinocactus grusonii and Parodia magnifica – the latter from Derek’s collection.

Aloe arborescens in full flower

 

Coming up: January meeting

We’ll take it leisurely this month and start off the new year with a look at slides taken by Frank Horwood on a visit to Heidelberg Botanic Gardens, in 1965. This was five years into Werner Rauh’s directorship of the gardens and following several expeditions to Madagascar (amongst other countries). Rauh collected widely, and one of his particular interests were succulents and bromeliads.

We will see a good number of the treasures he brought back from Madagascar: Euphorbias, Aloes and caudiciforms for instance. To get an idea of the importance of Rauh’s scientific work have a look at the Werner Rauh Heritage Project, and in particular the fieldbooks.

EDIT: These were Frank Horwood’s slides and comments, not John Horobin’s… there even is a Birmingham connection as Frank was one of the former curators of Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

Just a pretty picture…

Flowering cacti, Rattenburg / by Chris Hawes on Flickr

Flowering cacti, Rattenburg / by Chris Hawes on Flickr (CC)

Programme for 2015

The programme for 2015 is now online – or if you prefer a printable version you can find this here.

Outlook for 2015

Saguaro Santa / by Megan McCormick on Flickr (CC)

Saguaro Santa / by Megan McCormick on Flickr (CC)

A repeat of the warm summer of 2014 would be nice… meanwhile, all we can promise is a new set of talks to suit your interests (hopefully!). We will start off the new year with a visit to Heidelberg, Germany: a talk from the BCSS slide library which features Werner Rauh’s collection of botanical treasures from Madagascar.

Details on all the new talks will follow shortly – you can look forward to Trevor Wray, Terry Smale, Alan Phipps, Dorothy Minors, Tony Roberts and Geoff Bowman visiting, to name but a few. Current planning is that we will also attend Gardeners’ World at the NEC, a new plant fair at Cannon Hill Park, events at Winterbourne, and and we will put on two competitive shows at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

We hope to see you around in 2015. Merry Christmas!

November meeting: Larger flowering Mammillarias / Chris Davies

Thank you to Chris for his very informative talk on the larger flowering Mammillarias. He gave us details on a large number of species, their habitats, pictures of plants at different locations, in cultivation – and of course some expert advice on growing them in a Birmingham greenhouse. All of the Mamms he mentioned have wonderful flowers, not least M. senilis; quite a few require some care when it comes to watering (once a fortnight for Chris, and he grows them in a fairly gritty compost mix).

Mammillaria guelzowiana in flower / by Mike Keeling on Flickr (CC)

Mammillaria guelzowiana in flower / by Mike Keeling on Flickr (CC) This species is one of Chris’s favourites.

Mammillaria guelzowiana in habitat (Rio Nazas, Durango) / by Amante Darmanin on Flickr (CC)

Mammillaria guelzowiana in habitat (Rio Nazas, Durango) / by Amante Darmanin on Flickr (CC)

Mammillaria sanchez-mejoradae / by Triangulated Truth on Flickr (CC). Barely a centimeter across, and so are the flowers of this tiny Mammillaria.

Mammillaria sanchez-mejoradae / by Triangulated Truth on Flickr (CC). Barely a centimeter across, and so are the flowers of this desirable and tiny Mammillaria.

Mammillaria theresae in flower / by Laurent Dehay on Flickr (CC)

Mammillaria theresae in flower / by Laurent Dehay on Flickr (CC)

Mammillaria theresae in habitat / by Amante Darmanin on Flickr (CC)

Mammillaria theresae in habitat (Coneto Pass, Durango) / by Amante Darmanin on Flickr (CC)

Mammillaria senilis

Mammillaria senilis: likes it cold and dry winter and shows flower buds from around now.

Coming up: November meeting

Thank you to everyone attending the autumn show either as exhibitor or as a guest – we had well over 400 entries and many excellent plants on display.

Later on in October we had David Porter with us with a talk on Euphorbias from South Africa, and we are now looking forward to Chris Davies talking on the larger flowering Mammilarias, on 18 November.

Mammillaria senilis

Mammillaria senilis in Rene Geissler’s collection – one of the more difficult Mammillaria species, and with showy large flowers.

Coming up: Autumn Show

This coming Sunday at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Westbourne Road, from 11am till 4pm. This show is held jointly with the Haworthia Society.

August and September talks

We are grateful to John Watmough and Peter Hallett who gave talks in August and September, both well attended and well received. I received a few notes on John’s talk about Stapeliads from our Secretary, Mark O’Connor: John brought along a variety of Stapeliads, plants “noted for lots of stems and occasionally a pungent smell. Many of the plants of this type in South Africa are better at attracting flies than rotting meat close by, so pungent are the smells.” They are not all bad, though, and many species can be grown successfully on a windowsill without fear of an invasion of bluebottles or too much pong. There is a thread on the BCSS Forum which shows a variety of Stapeliads in flower.

Also in August, Arthur Tomkins and Gill Mills received BCSS Diplomas of Merit in recognition of their exceptional service to the society. They’ve long been very active members of the Branch – congratulations!

Unfortunately I don’t have any notes on the September talk, but I have heard that it was inspiring. Peter Hallett spoke on how to grow plants hydroponically, in a soilless medium such as pumice or pure grit. Peter does not grow his cacti with their roots permanently submerged in water, which is what the term ‘hydroculture’ in the title of the talk perhaps suggested, but instead gave hints on growing them in a soilless medium, which is something some commercial nurseries on the continent do.