Next meeting 16th August: Ariocarpus with Costas Papathanasiou

As a preview here are some of the Ariocarpus in the collection at Winterbourne


Ariocarpus furfuraceus



Ariocarpus Trigonus



Ariocarpus Retusus

Winterbourne in Bloom

Some of the Collection in action:


Winterbourne - Parodia

Winterbourne - Mammilaria






July Meeting – Plant of the Month

Birmingham Branch BCSS - Favourite Plant

I’m a bit short on details for this one. If someone else could flesh things out a bit in the comments?

From Stuart:  “It’s Ann with her fantastically large Kedrostis africana. It used to be kept in a hanging basket until Claire persuaded her that it could cause serious damage to the head of whoever it fell on…”


July Meeting – Show Bench

Birmingham and District BCSS July Competition

Birmingham and District BCSS July Competition

Winterbourne House on the Birmingham Conservation Trust website

The Birmingham Conservation Trust has a write up about Winterbourne House , the other half of our branch’s home base, on their site with a 100 year old article from Country life.

Birmingham Branch July Meeting: Dr. Tony Roberts – Gasterias In The Flesh

Dr. Tony Roberts's Gasterias In The Flesh

At this month’s meeting we had Dr. Tony Roberts give his excellent Gasterias in the Flesh talk/show. I took some notes so I’ll summarize his talk for those who couldn’t attend (any errors or inaccuracies most likely originate from me).

Gasteria is from the Greek for stomach and refers to the resemblance of the flower to the stomach organ. They were the first, or one of the first, succulents imported into Europe, arriving in the 1600s before they were even known as Gasteria (they were considered Aloes originally).

Dr. Tony Roberts's Gasterias In The Flesh

Gasterias have had a bit of roller coaster ride in species/variety classifications with an early gradual rise to about 103 combined and then a sharp fall to 22 with some regrouping and then another rise due to new discoveries to 34 as the present day count. This was presented with copies of original documents (some in Latin and if that wasn’t überwältigend enough some were in German & Latin).

Hybrids and Cultivars - Dr. Tony Roberts's Gasterias In The Flesh

The 34 species/varieties are split into 2 sections of 2 series each.

Section Gasteria made up of Series Gasteria and Series Namaquana

The section Gasteria is distinguished by obtuse leaf ends and fat flowers

Section Longiflorae made up of Series Longifloliae and Series Multifariae

The section Longiflorae is distinguished by pointed leaf ends and long flowers (hence the name)

Sale Plants - Dr. Tony Roberts's Gasterias In The Flesh

Descriptive Terms

Distichous – alternating 180 degree leaf growth arranged vertically in two rows on opposite sides.
Spirals – some types that start out as distichious will start to spiral when older.

There are also solitary and clumping Gasteria (some even glom!).

G. Armstrongii & others - Dr. Tony Roberts's Gasterias In The Flesh



Gasterias can be thoroughly watered during their growing season and hosepipe watering does them no harm as long as care is taken to avoid drops of water remaining on the plants which can then magnify the sunlight and lead to scorch spots.

Potting mix

2/3 John Innes (II?) + 1/3 grit and then a layer of grit on top.


Gasteria are shade growing plants. In habit they grow on cliff sides, in tall grass, beneath other plants and, in one case, in forests, so too much direct sun can lead to scorching. With bright sun the leaves can turn red and sometimes not be able to revert back to green.

Caution is also advised on the first watering of the growing season as the plants can be overly eager to soak up the water and this can lead to splitting of the top leaves as they over expand. This splitting results in a permanent brown scar on the leaves.




Leaf Cuttings

Most Gasteria can be propagated by leaf cuttings. Just cut sections of leaves and leave them to dry on top of some potting mix and then when they start to show roots you can half bury them upright and they should produce offsets all around the cutting. Once the offsets are large enough you can split them off and leave the leaf cutting to produce more offsets.

Unlike other succulents most Gasterias have no stems so you don’t need to be sure and get some stem on your leaf cutting in order to ensure you have the growth point. This also means that one leaf can potentially be turned into several cuttings.

Dr. Tony Roberts's Gasterias In The Flesh

Dr. Tony Roberts's Gasterias In The Flesh

Dr. Tony Roberts's Gasterias In The Flesh

Dr. Tony Roberts's Gasterias In The Flesh

Dr. Tony Roberts's Gasterias In The Flesh

Dr. Tony Roberts's Gasterias In The Flesh

Dr. Tony Roberts's Gasterias In The Flesh

Open Day Pictures

These are pictures I took of the Birmingham and District Branch Open Day on Saturday July 16th 2011 Sunday July 17th 2011.

The open day – a personal view

I learnt last year that “having an open day” really means “weeks of tidying up” which makes it worthwhile in itself, aside from the obvious pleasure to be had from inviting people round to see your plants. This year my partner Michelle and I – with some additional parental help – got the bit properly between our teeth and decided to knock the garden into shape. And so the operation began…

The raised bed containing my outdoor cacti and succulents was repaired and repainted after the havoc wrought upon it by last winter’s frosts, the hedge was clipped, and the beds and paths were thoroughly weeded and dug – and in some cases replanted. Somewhat recklessly, I set about transforming a small corner of the garden into a bog for carnivorous plants, having only found out a few weeks ago that it’s possible to grow them outdoors. It was a job that didn’t really need doing, but it proved to be a good talking point on the day!

Bog garden in progress

Bog garden in progress

Some of the best-laid plans of mice and men are, of course, almost ruined by idiocy. And the catering was no exception to this rule. Michelle is a dab hand at making cakes, and so was preparing the mixture for her rather marvellous banana cake. I, however, when in search of snacks, resemble a marauding Viking, and yanked open the ‘fridge door far faster than she could shout “BE CAREFUL THERE’S CAKE MIXTURE IN THERE.” Out it came, hurtling floorwards, and it’s a miracle that only about a third of it was spilt. It looked just like a baby – or several babies – had been violently sick on the carpet. Thankfully Michelle’s improvisational skills saved the cake and the day.

Staging an open day not only helps motivation with general gardening, but also with tidying the greenhouse, and this year’s event really has taught me just how much rubbish I am capable of accumulating in both greenhouses in a period of 12 months – stray labels all over the place, compost here there and everywhere… and don’t mention the weeds that find their way in…

By the time Sunday morning came round, the greenhouses were tidy (-ish) and swept, the tray of lamentably scorched lithops seedlings was well out of sight, and right on cue – the weather turned and it was absolutely bucketing down. Until ten o’clock, when we opened – and as if by magic, the sun came out.

I’d like to thank (again) everyone who turned out to see our plants. I certainly had a fantastic time.

Open Day, July 17th

We will be having an open day on July 17th (a Sunday); four collections will be open to the public, with refreshments and sales plants available.

For full details see the BCSS Forum post here.

Birmingham Branch Show – May 22nd

British Cactus & Succulent Society Birmingham & District Branch
present their Annual Cactus & Succulent Show 2011

May 22nd at Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Programme of Events

9.00am – 11.00am Staging of exhibits
11.00am Opening of Show to public
11.00am – 1.00pm Judging of exhibits by Trevor Wray
11.00 am onwards Tombola
3.45pm Presentation of Awards
4.00pm Close of Show


Can be obtained from the Botanical Gardens’ own Restaurant.

The show committee wishes to thank Mr. James Wheeler, Director of the Botanical Gardens, and Redcliffe Catering for the use of the premises.

To download a schedule click this link: May 2011 show schedule – do please come and enter some plants. Entry to the gardens is free if you enter just one plant in the show.

You may submit your entries online to Gill Mills via