Contents Volume 23. No 3

Winter 2012

Editorial and more.. Trevor Wray

The National Show 

Trevor Wray

More from the National Show


A Strange One at the Show  

A Roaring Trade at the National   

Bigger is Best!  

Final report from the Show  


My First Major Show                   

Doug Rowland

Show Plants at Chelsea 

Roland Tebbenham


Cover picture: I usually like to feature flowers on the cover but needs must. It had to be a National Show image and there were no flowers worth showing. Wrong time of year - for flowers. Instead we have one of Stirling Baker’s Haworthias, a little jewel. Haworthia picta is from Oudtshoorn, RSA and is these days considered to be part of the variable and widespread H. emelyae. Well grown Stirling.


EDITORIAL and more.....

Welcome to this edition of our magazine. The dust has settled after the National Show. Several of our members were kept very busy on the day with official duties, (I hear Barry didn’t get time to even look round). Several entered the Show and won some prizes for their efforts. Great!

All in all it was a great day and I have featured it in this edition.

Cactus Explorers

The ‘Explorers 2012’ was populated by the usual cactus specific deep-thinkers. Also many experts in specific cactus fields. Many of these had visited many cactus habitats. Many of us have not, so we especially enjoyed the opportunity to see plants we are unlikely to see in habitat. There were many entertaining talks that informed and stimulated my interest.

If I had to select one talk that especially had me sitting on the edge of my seat it was Ralf Hillman’s talk on Patagonia. Here we had vistas of Tierra del Fuego, a stark glacial landscape with mountains, islands, penguins and the odd pangolin surrounded by nearly nothing. Until you look on the right hillside where the cactus genera Austrocactus, Pterocactus and Maihuenia grow. Along with pretty alpine flowers.

Austrocactus is an intriguing genus we rarely see in habitat pictures. (Though there was an article in the BCSS journal a while ago.) Britton and Rose classified them with Echinocereus and they certainly superficially resemble this genus in body and flower shape. The Explorers’ experts tell me they belong with Corryocactus and Erdisia. For show purposes, Austrocactus is in the Neoporteria Group (and Corryocactus and Erdisia the Cleistocactus Subgroup). Make of that what you like but you do not  see many of any of these on the show bench.

Outdoor Cultivation

I visited branch member Steve’s wonderful collection of Echeverias this September. Steve grows his plants outside on racking during the milder months with no overhead shelter from rain. Despite one of the, (or even the), rainiest summers ever, they looked really good. Growing well, bursting with health and developing really intense colouration. They are taken into a heated greenhouse for winter, a mammoth task I would think.

When I first started in the hobby my entire (but small) collection was housed in a cold frame. Again they were watered by rain as and when and by me as necessary. My plants also suffered the occasional frost but they were sheltered from the worst of the winter weather because I took them into the house. Much to the disgust of my wife.

I still grow succulents outside from Spring until Autumn. They are the larger growing Sedums, a few Echeverias and the more ornamental Aeoniums. Like Steve, I believe they grow better there and they are a lot less trouble. I just have to remember to bring them to shelter before the first hard frosts.

Steve's collection of Echeverias  grown outside, but given winter greenhouse protection.

Turbinicarpus valdeziana

You might remember I reported buying 80 –odd match-head size seedling Turbinicarpus at the Birmingham Show last year. I used many of them as a minor experiment, pricking them out in nines into different composts. Soil/grit and soil/ peat/grit. Some of these were watered immediately, some after a few days, as the books recommend. All prospered and not much difference between the pots which goes to prove something. (But I am not sure what!) Leftover seedlings were also potted nine to a pot and handsomely recouped the initial investment. I didn’t bother labelling the pots on the basis that only people who recognised the species would be interested in nine of them. The problem is what to do with the 36 I kept when they start to crowd the pots. Oh, by the way, they were all kept in a cold greenhouse this last winter. It was COLD!

80 odd Turbinicarpus seedlings ready for my little experiments.

WFT Postscript

I also reported an outbreak of western flower thrips on my mesembs. I had a square foot or two of especially affected plants but seemed to have controlled the problem. Until this year…

Several plants lost vigour and turned a dull grey before being pronounced dead. Some were quite nice plants, show plants of some age. However the symptoms did not resemble WFT.

I thought long and hard on this one. My conclusions have not been supported by any real evidence. I decided that I had picked up a spray can of Tumbleweed or systemic herbicide instead of Provado, (systemic insecticide). (The packs I have here are both bright yellow.) A rather fine Japanese tuberculate form of Faucaria which had been adversely affected by WFT was at the centre of the demise. Did I give this a burst of insecticide (or actually herbicide) just for luck?

I am not sure. I do know that as I threw out the dead plants, new seedlings and purchases quickly filled the spaces. And as for the tuberculate Faucaria? Well it is still there; maybe dying slowly, certainly an offset does not look healthy and is not rooting, but I will remember to look carefully at the packet in the future.

The future

I always find the onset of winter a bit depressing. You know, the plants are (mostly) going dormant and require little attention. I can continue some gentle succulent research and watch all those recorded TV programmes. It is also a good time to head south for a holiday. Even Spain can be a lot sunnier and warmer than the UK in midwinter.

Roland has lined up some great speakers Julian Cooke on greenhouse Automation (and his plants he assures me!) and Alice Vanden Bon on South Africa. Should be a good’un.

I have had a sneak preview of next year’s programme with some of the Ed’s favourite speakers. Something to look forward to!

Enjoy the mag. Oh, and Happy Christmas!




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

Back issues of the NMK Branch magazine

Northants News Volume 22.3
Northants News Volume 23.1
Northants News Volume 22.3
Northants News Volume 22.2
Northants News Volume 22.1
Northants News Volume 21.3