Contents Volume 25. No 3

Auntumn/Winter 2014

Editorial and more Trevor Wray
The World's biggest cactus flowers Colin  C. Walker & Marjorie Thorburn
Mesembs and more at Banstead Roland Tebbenham

A Day out at Wisley

Dianna Capel
A Weekend at ELK Trevor Wray

Cover picture:  

Colin and Marjorie were lucky enough to see Hylocereus undatus open its flowers while in Tenerife. Read about the largest cactus flowers in the World here


(A better image is here)




EDITORIAL and more.....

Welcome to this issue of our magazine, prepared and printed with great care befitting the cactus (and succulent) community of Northampton, Bedford and Milton Keynes.

A REAL Show even in the evening?

As you know the branch has been staging a display rather than a show for a couple of years. Publicity, profit and less hassle, who’s to argue with that? This year the committee decided to upgrade the evening mini-show to something approaching a real show: qualified judges, prize cards, diplomas and a cup. Just twenty classes but we had to have something realistic for just three hours.

Bill Darbon and John Watmough judge the show

 teapot pot

Far left: Bill Darbon and John Watmough judge the branch show.

Left: Colin’s exhibit in the Anacampseros class. Best flowerpot in the show! 

Sshh.. Our President is promoting more aethetically pleasing pots for our show plants - as are the Shows' Committee. I am not sure this is quite what the Shows' Committee has in mind.

The show was well supported; nine exhibiters staged 140 exhibits with 150 cacti and succulents on the staging. Experienced judges John Watmough and Bill Darbon travelled from Oxford to judge the show efficiently and after the break gave a commentary on their decisions, which we found instructive. There were some interesting plants brought along especially by Tina and Colin. Did you think that Aeoniums came only from the Canary Islands? Colin brought one native to the Yemen, from a disjunct population.

Right: The Ed’s favourite… Haworthia limifolia var. striata. OK, it’s relatively easy to grow, not very big, only a succulent etc., etc. But still a really beautiful piece of natural art. 

Haworthia limifolia striata


Ariocarpus fissuratus

Dorstenia gigas 

Far left: Best cactus was Tina’s Ariocarpus fissuratus

Left: And surprise - Best succulent was Tina's superb Dorstenia gigas 

When it came to the prizes they were well spread. Point-wise Tina pipped Barry for the most and the Rixon Cup. And I came a long way behind; with the ignominy of coming fourth of four in one class!

More nutty names

I was potting-on some Lithops recently. I grow many seedlings in a pot until they are large enough for individual pots. Job complete, I had four pots of… of… Where had the label gone? Eventually hand inspecting all the labels under the potting bench, (had all these plants really died?), I found a label reading Lithops turbiniformis var. lutea C028 S76. So this species was sown in 1976 and was correctly named then. I pulled out my Coles’ Lithops and looked up hookeri, the present name for turbiniformis. I was happy that these were L. hookeri but that var. lutea seemed wrong. ’Lutea’ means yellow and these gave the impression of being red.

Under the description of the variety lutea the Coles had written “Not significantly different in colour from the type, and certainly not yellow as the name would suggest.” De Boer’s choice of name was apparently unfortunate and misleading. But the pictures of C028 were a good match for my four plants so I was happy I had found the original label.

So the non-yellow lutea is one to file away with the paraguayense from Mexico, the big pumila and the large flowered parviflora.

Phyllocactus (Epiphyllum) loebneri

Phyllocactus loebneri

The snapshot you see on the left is of a picture for sale in the auction in aid of the Conservation Fund of the BCSS at the National Convention. The original is described as a chromolithographed plate by Johanna Beckmann. The species is Phyllocactus loebneri, (what we would now call Epiphyllum 'Loebneri'), and the plate was taken from Die Gartenwelt. Illustriertes Wochenblatt für den gesamten Gartenbau published in 1916.

The artist and poet Johanna Beckmann was well-known for her silhouette paintings for the royal porcelain factory and her paper-cuttings. At the turn of the century she started to work for the gardener and publisher Max Hesdörffer. For his Gartenwelt she painted this fine colour-plate published in 1916. This sort of plant was popular with the rich who grew them in ‘stove houses’.

I am not sure what the auction price was at the convention but a copy is for sale on the internet for 70.

The branch open day

The branch enjoyed a wonderful few hours at the open day at Pete and Debbie Tomlinson’s garden and greenhouses in August. The weather was distinctly threatening on the journey over; lightning and flooding was the aftermath of a US hurricane ’(Big) Bertha’. (What an original name for a strong wind.) Fortunately the sun came out to welcome the visitors and tea and chocolate cupcakes set the Ed’s diet back a week.

Pete grows many succulents, (not too many cacti around but I wasn’t complaining), and especially Echeveria and Sempervivum. I like these! I know there are a huge number of Sempervivum cultivars and quite a lot of them are grown here. Hundreds? Pete didn’t know. I noted many named clones of Sempervivum heuffelii, a slower growing species with great variability. These were mostly growing outside along with the Echeverias. You will recall (from the 2013 barbeque) that Steve Purr also grows them outside for the summer and their plants are testimony that this method of cultivation actually works very well. Naturally the plants are brought into a greenhouse for the colder months but they do not require much (or any) heating.

As the storm clouds rolled over again we left for home, the Ed with a few scrounged Sempervivum rosettes. They were chosen carefully as something different from the few dozen I grow. They certainly had names new to me. So, some living souvenirs and a dozen photos to remind me of a most interesting afternoon.

Thank you, Debbie and Pete.

Right: Pete shows us his Echeverias grown outside in the milder months.

Lower Right: A fine selection of Sempervivum heuffelii cultivars in Pete’s collection, slower than the average houseleek.

Pete Tomlinson show us the Echeverias

A collection of Sempervivum  (Jovibarba) hueffelii

This issue

We have some ‘end of year reports’ in this issue. Colin and Marjorie bring us Hylocereus undatus, remarkable for its type location, (China apparently), and the size of its flowers. Diana and Jeff had a nice outing to Wisley, Roland enjoyed mesembs at Banstead and I got to ELK at last.

Read on and enjoy.



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

Back issues of the NMK Branch magazine

Northants News Volume 25.2

Northants News Volume 25.1

Northants News Volume 24.3

Northants News Volume 24.2

Northants News Volume 24.1