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North West Group AGM on 22nd February 2014

Our Chairman, Catherine Penny, was pleased to welcome twenty-seven members to the AGM on Saturday February 22nd.  The committee laid on lunch for everyone and the plant chat got going straight away.  There was also an interesting bring and buy plant stall to whet our appetites for the new season - thanks to the generosity of all, the sale made £150 for local funds.
After lunch we had the official part of the AGM.  As all the reports had been circulated in advance this did not take long.  Then we were entertained by two fascinating and enthusiastic talks from two of our longest standing National Collection holders.
Beryl Bland beguiled us with tales of Silver Saxifrage.  She showed us a range of photographs from them growing in the wild to how she arranges her own collection. There were also interesting pictures of how her husband Peter has constructed beds in the garden to replicate as much as possible the conditions they really like.  

Richard Hodson then got us all wanting to go on a Clematis hunt with his tales of chasing plants from all over the world and all around Britain.   His pictures of some of his new hybrids and acquisitions, many with delicate nodding blooms, left us realising how much more there is to a Clematis than we might have thought.  It had us all wanting to have a few more in our gardens.
Both talks were full of knowledge, humour and enthusiasm from two growers who obviously derive a great deal of pleasure from their collections.  We were grateful to Beryl and Richard for being so willing to share their knowledge with us and entertain us whilst doing so.
By the enthusiastic comments from all those who stayed to have a cup of tea and buy a few more plants they found plenty to interest and inspire them over the course of the afternoon.
As a group we have never had a big following for the events we have put on other than plant sales but we would like to think that the members who attended this year’s AGM enjoyed the afternoon. We hope to build on the success of this format with our “Postcards from the Potting Shed” and think of the day not as a boring AGM but as a member’s afternoon, providing an opportunity to meet other members and have a bit of plant chat.  

Southport Flower Show August 2013

For a second year the North West Group put on and manned a stand at the Southport Flower Show. The notice at the gate proudly states that Southport Flower Show is the largest independent flower show in the UK. It was founded in 1924, a time when plants were ordered at shows and delivered to you for planting in the correct season, probably the autumn. This is pertinent to Plant Heritage as it is the decline of this traditional method of buying plants that has in a large way led to the demise of the old fashioned nursery. This in turn has led to the reduced range of plants available for purchase. Southport Flower Show is one of the few places where you will find some traditional selling going on, particularly with plants like roses and after nearly ninety years the show is still a major gardening event in the North West of England.

It was Peter Foley who encouraged and organised the group to take a stand at the show for the first time in 2012 and Peter took charge again last year. He not only planned the stand, but he also provided the majority of the plants on display. We were also very grateful for two magnificent Clematis supplied by Richard Hodson and an eye catching Hydrangea grandiflora from Annette and Chris Benson.

It was a team effort to put the stand together, but Robert Scott got the invaluable assistant prize as he not only helped with planning how to put the display together for best effect, but he also managed to arrange the transport of Richard’s magnificent Clematis, which were too large to fit into any of our cars, he manned the stand on every day of the show, cleared up as well and on top of all that fielded some of the most difficult questions: – A plant identification with no more to go on than a size description of a semi-circle drawn on the palm of a hand; clutching at straws he suggested the plant might be a succulent and that the Cactus Society would be the place to enquire, two stands away, only to be told that they had sent the enquirer to us! Another tricky opener was “are you the society that grows weeds”? “Not really”, he replied, although we did have a pink form of Taraxacum (dandelion) on the stand, the disappointed enquirer went away as it was weeds they were after.

It takes a lot of thought and planning, followed by some hard work and finally perhaps most importantly, time, to put on and man a display at Southport Show. For this reason we keep asking ourselves “do we need to exhibit at Southport flower show?” We think the answer is yes, because we want to tell the gardening public about Plant Heritage, explain why the charity exists and more than that, we hope to attract new members.

Did we succeed in this mission this year? – We think that we did as we attracted three new members who have joined the North West Group. We had quite a number of interested enquiries from people who live outside our group, so we may have attracted members for other groups. It is also good to meet and stand alongside people from other groups and organisations that are working in horticulture in the North West. We think that we do need to continue to have a presence at the show, but help with manning the stand will be sought for future years.


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Ray Lakeland (Secretary)
0775 968 1109

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