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

A happy new year from Birmingham Branch

Our new events calendar is now up on the events page – click here to view it.

We start the year with a plant clinic – so if you have anything that looks as though it’s ailing, or simply a plant that needs to be identified, bring it along and between us we will try and figure it out, although if it’s as rotten as this poor uebelmannia, there’s probably no hope…

The Birmingham Branch Autumn Show and Haworthia Society Annual Show – A Guest’s Perspective

We’re very grateful to Tony Roberts from Dartford Branch for his response to our show:

It was my first visit to this show and I certainly wasn’t disappointed! Birmingham Botanical Gardens is a splendid venue for this event, and the conference hall provides ample space for the exhibits and “trade stands”. There was a tremendous variety of plants to be seen in the 46 Cactus and Succulent classes and then a dazzling array of specialist plants in the 35 Haworthia classes. What a feast for the eyes! There were some show-winning plants I recognised from other events “down south” (must have been Stirling Baker’s fine entries!) but what was really nice was to see different plants grown by enthusiasts from parts of the country I don’t normally reach.

I also enjoyed browsing the sales tables of Plantlife, Toobees and the Edgingtons, not forgetting the Branch Sales stand too and those of Haworthia Society members. I almost resisted (keeping my hands firmly in my pockets!) but succumbed to a couple of super Adromischus and a Gasteria from the members’ sales tables. The highlight of the day though, apart from the plants, was meeting so many friends, old and new, and making contact with people I’d previously only conversed with by phone, e-mail or on the BCSS Forum.

Any regrets? Well, I spent too much time talking and at the Haworthia Society B.G.M. and not enough time looking at the plants, whilst exploration of the “Gardens and Glasshouses” will have to be reserved for another, perhaps sunnier, visit! Many thanks to all the Birmingham Branch and Haworthia Society officials and members and particularly the Exhibitors who made this such an enjoyable day. I look forward to next time!

Dr Tony Roberts, Chairman, BCSS Dartford Branch

Autumn Show with the Haworthia Society

Our autumn show with the Haworthia Society will be held at Birmingham Botanical Gardens on October the 3rd from 11am to 4pm. As ever we’ll have a massive display of plants, and welcome entries from all society members. And, as a further incentive, if you enter just one plant into the show, you get free admission to the Botanical Gardens.

Traders attending to sell their wares will be:

  • Plantlife
  • Richard and Wendy Edginton
  • Bob and Beryl Potter
  • Keith Larkin (Keith’s Cactus Books)

The schedule is available for download here: BCSS Birmingham Autumn Show 2010 – entry form

You can post entries to the address shown on the schedule, or if you prefer to do it electronically, please email Gill Mills at with your entries.

Display and sales at Birmingham Gardeners’ Weekend

Our sales plants proved popular as always

Our annual appearance at the King’s Heath Park went as well as ever, although it was slightly sad to see that for the second year running there were far fewer traders at the event.

The sales table is always a good way of making room in the greenhouse and finding new homes for rooted cuttings and seedlings, and our customers were very obliging in helping our cause. It’s an excellent way of raising some funds for the branch too, so our thanks to everyone who crossed our palms with silver.

The volunteers from the branch who staff the display and sales tables always have a great time – it’s a rewarding way of spending a few hours talking to people about the plants you love, especially if you’re able to give advice regarding something that may be puzzling them about their own plants. It’s always nice to be able to catch up with friends we’ve got to know over the years, too – some of our customers return time after time, and know exactly where to find us!

Roll on next year – we’ll be sowing seeds and rooting cuttings well in advance…