Contents Volume 24. No 2

Summer 2013


Editorial and more Trevor Wray
Two Kenyan Sansevierias from Peter Bally  Colin Walker
Copiapoa krainziana Trevor Wray
A Curcubit Conundrum Roland Tebbenham
An Ariocarpus Reward Roland Tebbenham
Rock Garden Delospermas Trevor Wray

Ariocarpus agavoides

Cover picture: 

The cover picture this issue shows an Ariocarpus agavoides flowering in October in Roland’s collection. Ariocarpus always give pleasure and especially as they bloom at a time when few other cacti flower. (Some are overwhelmed by mesemb flowers in Autumn - but not if you are a cactus only person!) Roland has written more of his Ariocarpus on page eight, (I mean click here!).



EDITORIAL and more.....

Welcome to the Summer edition of Northants News. Your branch magazine.

The Titanopsis Group

I was having a look around my collection in the spring, and deciding what might be dead or not worth keeping. Among the doubtfuls was a plant with an unreadable label. Yes, I know… But I knew it was an Aloinopsis, so halfway there. And it ended in …sii. With my Mesembs of the World in hand it was easy really, Aloinopsis schooneesii, a plethora of double letters. Is this a record breaker? This plant is a bit, or even a lot, of a winter grower. It had been overlooked and had shrunk down below the top-dressing level. Nothing that a good slosh of water would not solve. Must do it soon.

However while I was popping the Mesembs of the World back in the bookcase I remembered I had a pristine, cling-film wrapped copy of Steven Hammer’s new mesemb book ‘The Titanopsis Group’ still to open. (You knew of course that Aloinopsis was a part of this group both botanically and show-wise?) I was saving it for one of those profound, (or momentous), moments; a fine evening after some slight labours in the garden with glorious weather, a glass of delicate wine, gentle music on the hi-fi, the waft of great cooking coming from our chef (the FL). As I slit the plastic it released the heady aroma of refined super-sumptuous printer’s ink. Ummmm! Inhale that! Even better than CactusWorld, but only just. The high tones were great but the ke(y)tones were I thought just a shade blurred.

Delirious I read the introduction; Ernst van Jaarsveld who else? This book has been much hyped over the last few years since its inception. Its detail, its photography, there would be, no doubt, a lexoconic joke on every page in Steven’s style.

As I turned the pages I realised that here was book that need not be read to get full value. You just needed to look at the pictures. So I did. In the first few pictures were so many to enthuse over and subvert our ardent cactophiles to the mesemb way. Just turn the pages. Opposite page xii is an image of Titanopsis calcarea I would be pleased to hang on my wall. Swoon.

And among those few early pictures was Aloinopsis schooneesii the plant that had prompted me to open Steven’s book. It confirmed my identification and I resolved to take that picture. After, of course, I had given it that life sustaining slosh of water.


Good heavens: the Word dictionary knows this word! I was introduced to this wonderful word by Nigel Taylor when he gave a masterclass on Rhipsalis. This forgotten genus at once became attractive. Just maybe thanks to Nigel’s macro-photography. Rhipsalis flowers are often very small. But prolific.

Nigel explained that the buds on Rhipsalis were erumpent. This is the posh botanical word for bursting through the epidermis, (errr... skin), of the plant.

Perhaps better known are the flower buds of Echinocereus which also burst out. (I am mindful of the alien in ‘Alien’.) Spent flowers often leave scars which Judges who have been listening at the Judges’ Course know to ignore.

My picture shows an open flower and an erumpent bud on Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. mojavensis. This seems to be having trouble erumpenting. (There; Word doesn’t know this one!) and I wonder if I should be performing a caesarean. A small incision with the scalpel maybe. In the end the plant managed the deed by itself. The crater left in the plant wasn’t so good but that’s nature tooth and claw.

Talking of tooth and claw some Copiapoas have erumpent offsets. Now with those spines that must be really painful!

Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. mojavensis.

Echinocereus with erumpant flower bud erupting from the plant. Ouch!

Pleione 'Strawberry Fields'

P. 'Golden Eagle'

Southfields waves the flag

In late May this year I was lucky enough to visit the Malvern Show. It might be May but the weather was pure April; blustery, (verging on gale force), winds and drenching rain showers. However at these shows there is a lot to do under cover in the wetter interludes.

And I mean the floral tent. It was vast. Nurseries with a display of their wares and sales plants to match. Row after row of them. Even when the plants were not exactly to my taste the displays carefully contrived to show plants at their best.

I lingered at the display by Pleione expert Ian Butterfield and actually bought a couple. (They grow quite well with cacti; pot in cactus mix, water and fertilise during milder weather, keep dry in winter, they tolerate some frost.) There were displays of chrysanthemum, clematis, lilies and orchids to drool over. How do they produce these plants in flower so far from their natural season? I will never aspire to grow plants like these but they were good to look at. Also alpines, and you know I have a soft spot for these.

Then of course there were the cactus displays. Several of them all very good but, as it happened, I came to Southfields last. What a display! Nearly every plant was in flower, it was a superb spectacle. Attracted by the stand, buyers were standing three deep round the sales area. Bryan Goodey was doing a grand job for our hobby. I do hope he makes a decent living from it.

Left: Two Pleiones at Ian Butterfiled's display at Malvern. Top is P. 'Strawberry Fields' and below is P. 'Golden Eagle'.

You will know that these displays are awarded ‘medals’ assessed by RHS Judges. Southfields have won many gold medals over the years at many RHS shows. However this display won the accolade of ‘Best in Show’. I reckon it was justly deserved. But I may be biased. Bryan is not a purist, he likes any cactus (or succulent) with visual appeal and this includes hybrids. Around the centre of the display were many plants of his self-raised Weingartia ‘Masquerade’ hybrids. We know Weingartia species as having flowers of mostly yellow but these were in every colour possible in cacti. Since the genus is noted as bearing multiple flowers from each areole there is the potential for a flowering bonanza. These well grown plants were literally oozing flowers.

On then to the Chelsea Show ten days later. I did not go, (it does not suit my style or pocket), but I can always get the highlights on TV from those wildly gesticulating presenters in fancy dress. However among the hype, especially on the ‘Show’ gardens, (and I wouldn’t want one of them if you paid me), was someone sensible reviewing the cactus displays and Southfields in particular. The display was identical to that from Malvern. Was it Roland at our last meeting who suggested that Malvern was a dress rehearsal for Chelsea?

And did Bryan get a Gold Medal? Yes, of course he won another well-deserved Chelsea Gold. His 25th. How about best display in the floral marquee? No, that went to Warmenhoven. A display of Alliums, Ornithogalum & Amaryllis. (Boring!) But I would anticipate a peculiar result in the year when garden gnomes are allowed at Chelsea. Never before, (and never again!).

Southfield's display at Malvern

Southfield's display at Malvern

Echinocereus bonatzii

Echinocereus bonatzii

You know how it is when you see a new name for sale and it is cheap - you just have to buy it. And try it. So a few years ago I acquired Echinocereus bonatzii, described in 1995 from Durango, Mexico. It was cheap.

Taxonomically the Echinocereus Special Edition from Cactus & Co. places this with Echinocereus pamanesiorum as a subspecies. The CITES checklist thinks it is subspecies of E. adustus and certainly my plant looks most like this to my un-taxonomic eyes. No matter; as a cultivated plant you can see it is worth a pound or so just for the floral display.

What’s next?

Around this time of the year I know (vaguely) what’s going on for the rest of the year. Since I retired, personally I have to fit my arrangements around my cactus commitments, my holidays, (Namibia in the Autumn, Mexico in the Spring, let’s hope), competitive bridge, (a card game), and especially the grandchildren.  Maybe not in that precise order. It’s tough being retired, but I find it  a full-time occupation.

At N&MK (not forgetting Bedford) in the Autumn we should watch out for Stuart Estell on September 6th for ’Tales of a Cactus Murderer’. I thought I had a monopoly here! Rick Gillman and his ‘Highlights of Brazil’ are in October. A country I am happy to see from this intrepid explorer, (rather than going there myself, - it is hot, hot!).

Then in November we have ‘our Colin’ on ‘Agave through the Ages’. Colin is  local but still a World expert on this sort of plant.

December, it is Roland and me on digital thingies as they apply to cacti and succulent plant photography. Why a £1000 digital SLR is better that a cheap compact ‘point and shoot’. Or is it? Come on the night and make your own opinion, (but it might surprise you that all the pictures in NN could have been taken on a very cheap camera). Know your pixels!

So that’s to look forward to at the end of this year.

Next year on 11th-13th July is the National Convention. Held every four years, it is an event not to be missed. Great speakers and plant sales. Last time we saw Anne Swithinbank which kept the old timers at NN happy. Alan Titchmarsh in 2014? Not quite the same.

Good growing and enjoy the mag.




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

Back issues of the NMK Branch magazine

Northants News Volume 24.1

Northants News Volume 23.3

Northants News Volume 23.2

Northants News Volume 23.1

Northants News Volume 22.3