Contents Volume 20. No 1

Spring 2009 

Editorial and more Trevor Wray
Compost Roland Tebbenham
Will it fit your greenhouse? Trevor Wray

The 40th Scottish Tour

 Ian Priestley
Nonsense Names Trevor Wray
The Cactus Connection Trevor Wray

click for a better image of Kalanchoe blossfeldiana


Cover picture (left):  OK, so who thinks this is a floribunda rose and you have just received your issue of Rose Monthly? You could read four Bradleyas as a penance but the Crassulaceae volume of the ‘Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants’ would be better. The plant is one of those new fangled double flowered Kalanchoe blossfeldiana which are very popular house plants. Like the Christmas cacti they are an instant bunch of flowers from the florists. Like the cactus, the Kalanchoe also flowers in mid winter. I wonder how many of millions of these sold survive and flower for a second year. Our house provided good conditions for the Christmas cactus I won in a branch raffle last year but our Kalanchoe is a bit ‘leggy’ We must give it the chop and more light. A coral double (right) I bought a year ago was over-wintered in the cold greenhouse and didn’t get past January, so be warned!

You can click the picture for a better one.

EDITORIAL and more.....

Welcome to another issue of Northants News. Perhaps the most read BCSS branch cactus magazine in the World (in our internet edition). Though we note there are others around.

DK in SA and AGMs

Ian wrote an interesting article on his continental trip with the Scots which we report on page 8. But where were the pictures Ian? Apparently big DK had taken some and when David offered to put them on a DVD for Northants News I suggested he fill the spaces with images from his 2009 South African trip. (DVDs hold loads of pictures.)

My wish was granted! My, did David have a great time in South Africa! Or at least judged by the succulent plants he saw. As I viewed each image it was like turning the pages of a journal of the trip. Occasionally I looked up the rare and/or localised species in the reference books here to check where he had been.

We are promised a short programme of the trip at the 2010 AGM. I vote we cancel the AGM and just see David’s pictures. Realistically why do branches (including ours) actually hold AGMs? The attendance is pretty low. I remember a classic Northampton Alpine Garden Society AGM that took ten minutes. The officer’s reports were printed, left on the chairs and assumed read before the meeting. ‘Any questions on the reports?’ ‘No? Are these reports accepted? Good.’ The committee were voted in quickly and en bloc. And that was that. Very shortly after a well known AGS speaker gave a spectacular 3D illustrated talk on Pleiones. (A beautiful terrestrial orchid from China, Burma, India etc.) I’ll vote for that!

The cold greenhouse at Ridgeway

I have often written of the hardiness of succulents especially cacti. As one of the colder winters for some years passes, (though perhaps only a long term average one), it is time to have a look at what survived in the cold greenhouse. This is a repository for cuttings, sales plants and the unloved. Funny how the unloved survive for years.

So what survived – 6°C? The shorter list was those that died. Rooted cuttings of Crassula ovata ‘Hummel’s Sunset’ soon passed as the thermometer dipped below freezing. I know these are a bit tender and should have put them in a frost-free greenhouse. C. ovata ‘variegata’ was similar. The other casualty frozen to death was Kalanchoe pumila. Coming from Madagascar we should perhaps not be surprised. Other members of the Crassula family seemed unfazed including Adromischus, Aeonium and Crassula and especially the choice Crassula susannae (and its hybrid ‘Celia’). It shows that the difficulties of cultivating this plant are not primarily hardiness.

Survivors included all the cacti, a mixed selection including many Mammillarias. (I didn’t actually say these were among the unloved.) Several Agaves lived. There were many species of Lithops which I have frozen before and just look grey when frozen solid. The big surprise may be the Conophytums. I have many species. All were wet yet turned not a hair, even the little headed, hairy C. steffanii, a choicity. Conophytums spend the summer under the staging here. It is just too hot and dry for them in the sun. The staging space they had occupied in winter naturally filled up and the cold greenhouse seemed a reasonable experiment. This will become my standard practice for these.

So as a generality, cacti, mesembs, agaves and many members of the Crassula family are pretty hardy. As fuel cost rocket here you might like to consider the cold greenhouse for these. As to Euphorbias, Aloes and Stapeliads it probably depends where they come from, but I consider that Cape species would require very little winter warmth. Save your wallet (and the planet!).

This issue - the highlights

Ian and David had a great time with the Scottish Continental tour. I can’t think how they got a reputation as the ‘bad boys’! Read all about it on page 8. I mean click here

I remember in my early days in the hobby, guest speakers were always asked what compost they used…

But tell me, Herr Backeberg, what compost do you use?’

There is some science behind why a compost works for our plants and Roland has researched and written the definitive answer for us. Thanks! Just click here!

Good growing!



(You can contact the Ed of Northants News by joining trevorwray with the usual 'at' sign and

Superior plastic succulent in Spain. What’s it all about? It’s a Cactus connection - click here



Northampton and Milton Keynes Branch of the B.C.S.S.

Back issues of the NMK Branch magazine

Northants News Volume 19.3

Northants News Volume 19.2

Northants News Volume 19.1

Northants News Volume 18.3

Northants News Volume 18.2

Northants News Volume 18.1

Northants News Volume 17.3

Northants News Volume 17.2

Northants News Volume 17.1

Northants News Volume 16.3