Contents Volume 22. No 2

Summer 2011

Editorial and more.. Trevor Wray

The (final?) Coventry Continental Trip  

Diana Capel

The sex life of Dorstenia lavrani 

Tina Wardhaugh

New Aloe hybrids from America  Roland Tebbenham

The Northern Area Weekend 

Diana Capel 

Sedum ‘Cape Blanco’  

Don Campbell

Springtime in Spring Road  Doug Rowland
The 2011 Branch Show

Flowers of Aloe 'Silver Ridge'

Cover picture: 

Stop press! Roland has written us an interesting piece on Griffin Aloes, (page 10...  I mean click here). As this magazine was going to press (as they say), Roland emailed the news that his Aloe ‘Silver Ridge’ was flowering - pictures attached. No room in the mag but the cover picture was only a cactus... so guess what?


EDITORIAL and more.....

Welcome to this edition of Northants News, I hope you enjoy the read...

The Birmingham Show

I judged the Birmingham Branch Show in May, an interesting and entertaining day out. They are a friendly crowd and made me a cup of tea when I arrived. I like that. This show has slipped from its heyday over recent years, but there are still exhibits from out-of-city class growers like John Betteley, John Foster and the Darbons. A challenge to judge and keep these experienced growers (and judges) happy.

I spent 15 minutes looking round and noticed (and reported) a potential NAS problem; better now than later.

On my recce, in the Rebutia class I had the first two ‘sussed’ straight away. Curiously when it came to the actual judging and close scrutiny one of these was pock marked all over with minute scars. A pity because it looked (at a glance) to be a healthy, vigorous, mature exhibit which would be in the first two. A pity. I am not  a plant doctor and I could not guess whether the damage was caused by a physiological cause, (trace elements?) pest damage, or maybe spray damage.

Buried deep in the small print rules of the Birmingham Show is one that states that monstrose and cristate plants were restricted to the particular class for such plants. When I bumped into a potential winner in a Mammillaria class which had a cristate head there was a consultation with the shows committee. I (we?) decided it was a normal plant with a cristate head. So OK. A Trichocaulon in the Stapelia Class was completely monstrose and had to be ignored. A discussion with experienced judges Foster and Betteley thought it an unusual rule. However normal plants and cristates are quite difficult to judge together because cristates grow far quicker and not just because they are often grafted.

If you fancy this show in the future you can gain free admission to the Botanical Garden by entering an exhibit, there are always good sales plants, and the gardens are an enjoyable hour or so. I can recommend this as a day out.

The Birmingham Show 2

At the show Len Evans was selling plants in aid of charity. Now some growers pot up two or three seedlings to a pot and these can be good value. They may show a bit of variability and come flowering time, with hand pollination may produce some seeds. This is the way to get rare plants about. However Len was selling seedlings at the ‘pricking out’ stage. In this pot of Turbinicarpus valdezianus, (a rare dwarf Mexican species), shown right, the FL counted over 80. Now at £2.50 for the lot that’s what I call value! Problem is everyone who might prick them out and have 70 odd surplus to sell will find the local market well and truly saturated.

seedling Peelcyphora (Turbinicarpus) valdeziana 

New Cactus Book

I was pleased to see a new cactus book available on Amazon, the internet bookseller. This paperback featured a Mammillaria bombycina in flower on the cover and was by author Thomas Urban.... Who? Never heard of him. The title was ‘Cacti 0.8, A Beginner's Guide’ I won’t be ordering it. It is the other cactus; the computer programming type of cactus. Oh well, that's £27 I've saved!

On a similar vein I came upon a similar ‘fringe’ cactus book available on Ebay.

‘How to Euthanise a Cactus’ by Stephen Derwent Partington

This had a large Aloe image on the cover. In case you have forgotten Aloes are not cacti. Not only that but Euthanise seems to be a word not recognised on my spell checker which only sees Euthanasia, but never mind.

This is basically a book of poetry and I quote from the synopsis…

How to Euthanise a Cactus is an important second collection from one of East Africa’s most talented poets and performers. Stephen Derwent Partington combines political engagement with highly crafted writing, inviting readers to glimpse the heady mixture of beauty and violence, humanity and danger that characterises a nation and a region on the brink of both catastrophe and hope.

A poet’s poet, but also a people’s poet. He never stops wrestling with this mess we call humanity.’ Mukoma wa Ngugi
Blows you out of the water with its sheer brilliance.’ Tony Mochama

I have not read this tome but the Aloe image on the cover was very nice. Having visited Kenya recently I think I perhaps glimpsed the ‘heady mixture of beauty and violence, humanity and danger that characterises a nation and a region on the brink of both catastrophe and hope’. But on the safari trip I was on we still drove past the prime succulent localities. So there was both catastrophe and dashed hope.

Our programme

There are some cracking good talks coming our way this summer. I am really looking forward to Dorothy Minors on the Karoo and Kirstenbosch. Then rumour has it that David Minnion saw Astrophytum asterias in habitat in Texas. Wow! I won’t spoil his story.

And don’t forget the Show on 13th and 14th August at Billing.

This issue…

This is what I call an ideal issue - lots of interesting stuff and I had to write hardly anything.

Diana has written us some tales from Capel capers, Tina and Roland bring us news of choice and new plants. Don has seen that most versatile ‘alpine’ Sedum ‘Cape Blanco’ in habitat and Doug brings us news from Bedford. Luckily there are some cacti there! Might be looking for a new Editor!

Good growing,



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

Back issues of the NMK Branch magazine

Northants News Volume 22.1
Northants News Volume 21.3
Northants News Volume 21.2
Northants News Volume 21.1

Northants News Volume 20.3

Northants News Volume 20.2