Contents of the Winter 2014 Northants News
A Weekend at ELK Trevor Wray
September saw me fulfil an ambition to find out what they do at ELK. I
always thought it was Elk and couldn’t think what this had in common
with cacti. Of course you all know it stands for Europäische Länderkonferenz,
(European Countries Conference), which is why they call it ELK.
the conference is free, as is entrance to the plant and sundries sales.
You only pay for the accommodation and food and can make your own
arrangements, some save Euros for plants by camping. I understand that
most people go to buy plants and there is a fantastic array on sale; new
species, rare species, instant show winners, irresistible bargains and the
started at 1am, yes just after midnight, to catch the dawn ferry with Ian
to Dunkirk. Do not think that the ELK experience is easy. On our arrival
at Blankenberge in Belgium we had a few hours to wait for the sales to
open, a chance to have lunch and meet up with fellow British ELKers. Funny
how they are the same people who I meet at all the major BCSS events.
the sales areas were open and the fun began. There were three separate
sales areas with around 120 growers from all over Europe, as well as
nurseries from Japan and Réunion, the little island near Madagascar.
I did not really want to buy plants, my greenhouses are full, but there were so many interesting species at very reasonable prices I naturally had my head in the trough.
what did I buy? Well, why buy one Faucaria
when I could have 31 seedlings, prick them out, and have some spares.
(They made two panfuls so this didn’t help with the crowding.) I did buy
a single big Faucaria
just like the one I killed a few years back. Likewise several Lithops
species; the seedlings did not look very ‘pure’ but I am getting less
fussy these days and just pick out the pretty ones for myself. And the
will always make attractive stoneplants for the public. I declined
approximately 200 flowering size Lophophora
in a large seed tray at just over £1 each. It’s the space you know!
ELK plants (at a price)
newly described novelties on sale I bought Aloe
from Mr Castillon and named after his mother. This is (hopefully) a small
growing species from southern Madagascar. I also looked with interest at Peperomia
the first plants I have seen of this species. Apparently so new to
cultivation I couldn’t find any info on the internet until I realised
the label read P.
was described in 2012. I was doubtful about its hardiness; The label reads
San Marcos, Peru so it might possibly be OK.
his stall John Pilbeam showed me Pachyphytum
a ‘new’ species which looks like P.
but must be different because it has a different name. What’s more it
was described as Echeveria
the Mexican journal where it was compared to Echeveria
so many growers present it was interesting to compare the growing methods.
I saw Ariocarpus growing vigorously in pure coir, a most unlikely medium
for success. (Coir is the hair of coconuts and makes a compost with the
general look of fibrous peat. It is also used to make door mats) I
actually bought plants growing in the opposite, a totally mineral compost
of grit-sand, grit and chippings and they looked equally healthy. I
sometime wonder if we fuss too much.
so many rare and slow growing plants for sale a fair proportion of them
were grafted. Curious were Ariocarpus
on the Kobayashi stall, one of those bizarre knobbly forms, grafted on a
one foot stick of some chunky cereus. I would personally be embarrassed to
have one in my greenhouses. And, I suspect, embarrassed financially if I
bought one from ELK. One grower had many grapefruit-size flowering Echinocactus
with health. Grafted, I asked. Non! Errrrm?
most desirable plant I saw was a clustering Aztekium
It was beautiful and would be an instant show winner. I have to say that
the €700 (£580) price tag was the only drawback to my buying it. I
could definitely find room. But was it also grafted?
a few other sorts of plants crept in; an interesting bare-root caudiciform
turned out to be Allium
which most of us would call ‘elephant garlic’. There were a selection
of bearded irises for the garden and I fulfilled an ambition to have the
new Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears’, much cheaper here than the UK flower
Over the weekend there were interesting presentations in varied languages. Three in English, the universal language, and I understood much of the French presentation. Luckily it was on a part of Argentina I have visited so recognising the plants and places helped as well. Did you think that we all said the specific names the same way? Unfortunately the talk on Peruvian cereus was in Dutch, but the pictures were interesting.
all the buying, talking, listening, eating and drinking it was pretty
exhausting. Then there was the regular Sunday grind along the M25. I got home at
10pm that night, worn out but I thought well worth the effort. And those plants
will remind me of the ELK experience.