Fab Feb

Fab Feb

We’re certainly NOT having a very fab February, are we? It was, therefore, something of a relief to get away from the wind and rain to spend time amongst friends for some plant chat at our meeting last week.

Our speaker Philip Oostenbrink was excellent, explaining the history of the gardens at Canterbury Cathedral as well as describing how they are now and his plans for the future.

Thank you to members who braved the elements to pick something for the display. As you can see it was much appreciated.

We didn’t have as many coloured stems as we hoped but one member brought stems of Tilia platyphyllos ‘Rubra’. These were cut during the regular pruning of some pleached limes so show the bright colour of new growths, in this case a beautiful deep reddish brown. (Apologies for the background curtain but you get the gist!) I haven’t heard of limes being use for winter colour before but this was the second example I’ve seen in as many weeks. The first was on my visit to the Sir Harold Hillier Garden, where I saw Tilia cordata ‘Winter Orange’. It looked to me that these trees were going to be pollarded to encourage coloured new growth and to keep them small.

Tilia cordata ‘Winter Orange’ at the Sir Harold Hillier Garden

At the other end of the scale, a plant with tiny flowers, Xenoscapa fistulosa, from south west Africa  – Namibia and Northern and Western Cape, South Africa – drew a great deal of attention. They must be the smallest flowers of any of the Iridaceae species. but have quite a strong perfume – I thought they smelled like bluebells. It grows from small corms, which go dormant in summer, and needs the protection of a cold greenhouse.

More colour was provided by a stunning double pink camellia and a bowl ofbeautiful hellebores, some in shades of yellow and others, both double and single, in dark purples. How I would love to have a collection like that.

Inevitably, we had snowdrops – it was February after all – and Galanthus ‘Big Boy’ was singled out for most comment. White was repeated in Ipheion ‘Alberto Castillo’.

Another member had brought leaves of Bergenia ‘Balbithan’. They were a beautiful rich red, even more stunning when they catch the sun. A small plant, bought at a plant fair, has bulked up very well but we haven’t been able to find out any more about it. However, the ‘Kent Group Sleuths’ are on the case and we will let you know if and when we find out more. If any members have any more information do please let us know.

Bergenia ‘Balbithan’

I hope you have enjoyed finding out about some of the plants our fellow members are growing and many thanks to all the contributors for bringing their plants to show us.

Join us at Hole Park

Join us at Hole Park

Snowdrop and Winter Plant Fair

Hole Park, Rolvenden TN17 4JA

Sunday 9 February 2020, 11am to 3pm


Plant Fairs Roadshow have organized this event again this year and we are having a stall and will be selling members’ plants – not just snowdrops but other spring plants, shrubs, bulbs as well as plants for the year ahead. If you have any surplus plants that you would like to sell bring them along on the day – any contributions to add to our stall will be very welcome. The proceeds will be split in the usual way, with 25% going to Kent Group funds. It’s a good idea to arrive in time for the opening, as the keen buyers always turn up at the very beginning.
There will also be other specialist nurseries selling a wide range of tempting wares. You can wander round the beautiful gardens and enjoy refreshments in the tearoom. 

It certainly sounds like a good day out for everyone. Come and join us and help to make our plant stall a great success.

You can find full details on the Plant Fairs Roadshow website.
Christmas Wreath Workshop

Christmas Wreath Workshop

Paul Ingleton tells us how a group of members made beautiful Christmas wreaths to decorate their houses.

On this occasion a group of Hardy Planters took to the indoors for a change – a good job too, ‘because the weather outside was dreadful’ (excuse the misquote). We were there to construct our own Christmas wreath under the expert guidance and leadership of Simone Wilson.

The first thing we had to do was to make the basic ring to stick things on. A long table was created and, into the middle of that, was thrown what looked like half a forest floor of sphagnum moss. Don’t worry folks! We were assured that it was sustainably sourced from some Scottish loch-side. This was used to thickly cover a copper wire ring and we were shown how the professionals do this and, thus made our own versions with varying degrees of success.

Once our moss rings were approved as being adequate, another heap of material was put into the middle of the table. Our very professional leader had brought a large bag of assorted plant material, and the ‘students’ had also brought stuff from their own gardens. I have no problems cutting large quantities of a very attractive, very rampant, crinkly-leaved ivy and my bush of Ilex aquifolium ‘Ferox Argentea’ (hedgehog holly to you and me) needed pruning anyway, so in it went with all the rest. Other members contributed their own attractive foliage to give a very varied selection with, ‘Can I have some of…’ being called across the table quite a lot. We were also encouraged to keep replenishing our teas and coffees and cakes and biscuits that were so thoughtfully provided. Thanks to Ali Crayford for coordinating and providing these essential items. 

We were shown how to construct small bunches of foliage and then to wire them on to build up a very convincing wreath. It’s similar to making a herbaceous border in that, throughout, you use odd numbers of threes, fives, etc, of sprigs of foliage to make the ‘natural’ look. After this came the fun bit. ‘Teacher’ had brought boxes of all the extras needed to tart up the basic foliage. Dried slices of orange, lime, lotus seed heads (plain or gold-sprayed), cinnamon sticks, baubles and various other treasures were in these boxes, and we were invited to take whatever we wanted to decorate the foliage. It was really useful to be shown how to wire and fix these. Each type needed a slightly different way of doing to get the best result. Again, these were applied asymmetrically in odd numbers.

The final choice to be made was did we want a ribbon bow (of course!) and what colour/type of ribbon did we want? Some chose tasteful ribbons, or natural hessian-looking ones – I went for the blowsy Christmas red and gold in a large size. No subtlety for me! Come the end of the morning, we had all produced very professional-looking Christmas wreaths that we were all proud to display and which, I’m sure, have enhanced our front doors over the festive season. As I write now, mine, complete with blowsy bow, is still on the front door and will remain so until the traditional take-down of decorations on Twelfth Night.

Paul Ingleton

Christmas Party

Christmas Party

Members celebrated the start of the festive season at their Christmas Party. Read Jenny Gibb’s report on a plant-filled and very jolly event.


Nearly 30 members gathered at Tunstall Village Hall for our annual festive social event. We started the day with coffee and biscuits and lots of conversation, before settling down to two very informative and enjoyable talks.

Jeanette Lerwill gave us a fascinating insight into beekeeping and the secrets of honeybees, which kept the audience enthralled and prompted lots of questions at the end – always the sign of an interesting talk. Colin Moat then entertained us with the saga of the Kent Group’s exhibit at RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2015. (Our chairman Robert Lines had been due to speak, but was unable to attend due to a family emergency, so many thanks to Colin for stepping into the breach, and to Cindy Moat for her emergency drive down with the laptop!) Those present who had been involved with the stand enjoyed reminiscing, and the rest of us marvelled at their enthusiasm and hard work.

The first mock-up in March 2015

The final breakdown! The end of the show in May

The Kent Group stand in its wonderful glory

A splendid buffet lunch followed, with extra intrigue courtesy of Colin’s table quiz, which prompted lively discussion amongst the diners – not least in struggling to recall the names of all of Santa’s reindeer! Karin Proudfoot had set up a display of entries to the photographic competition, and invited us to look through them during lunch and vote for our favourite.

After lunch, Colin revealed the quiz answers, and Ginny Oakes gave a ‘guided tour’ of the impressive array of plants on the display table, many of which she had provided. Karin concluded events by announcing the winning photograph, which went to our chairman Robert, for his lovely picture of a peacock butterfly on pink echinacea.

Lots of hard work made the day a success, so many thanks are due – to the committee and kitchen helpers for sorting out food and drink, and doing mammoth amounts of washing-up; to Jeanette, Colin and Ginny for their excellent talks and quiz; to Karin for organising the photo competition; and to everyone who came to the party, for their lovely food offerings and their help in clearing up at the end of the afternoon.

I think everyone who came enjoyed themselves, and we particularly hope that those who came to the party for the first time will want to come again next year. Best wishes for 2020 to all our HPS Kent members.

Jenny Gibb

If you’d like to see more about the amazing Chelsea exhibit go to the Chelsea page and then click on the Chelsea Blog for a blow by-blow account. Even if you’ve seen it before it really is worth another look.

Ginny Oakes

Heather Baker

Heather Baker

We have recently heard the sad news that fellow member Heather Baker has died. She and Roy had been members for over twenty years but, he tells me, she didn’t actually like flowers very much. She just wanted the garden to be neat and tidy and pleaded with him to stop digging up bits of lawn to plant his latest acquisition. What she enjoyed most was the social side of our society and she joined Roy at many Kent Group events especially, and most memorably, our wonderful garden tours. We will miss her company.

We send our condolences to Roy and look forward to seeing him back among friends on the garden trail in the near future.


If you would like details of Heather’s funeral please get in touch using the button below and we’ll let you know as soon as we have them.

Photographic Show 2019

Photographic Show 2019

photographic show 2019


As part of our Special Spring Meeting at Lenham on Sunday 24 March 2019 we held a photographic competition.

Here are the winning images in each of the six classes.

Click on an image to view full size and to scroll through each class, and F11 for a full screen experience.


Class 1

A close-up of the detail of part of a plant.

For example, stamens, veins in a flower or leaf, markings on a seedpod or stem etc.

Class 2

A close-up of part of a plant.

For example, one or more whole flowers, buds, leaves, stems, seed heads etc.

Class 3

A picture of a whole plant

Class 4

A season in the garden.

A group of two or more plants, or a garden view, that encapsulates a particular season.

Class 5

Garden ornament.

A garden view showing an attractive man-made ornamental feature, such as statuary, urns or pots, seats, garden structures, gates, etc.

Class 6

Garden visitors.

A light-hearted look at the people, animals, birds, insects, even pests, that you have spotted visiting the garden.

Best in Show


Gate at Rousham. Class 5, Virginia Oakes

David Way honoured with a snowdrop

David Way honoured with a snowdrop

David Way, one of our founding and most distinguished members, died last October. We published an obituary in the Winter 2019 Newsletter, which is reproduced on this website here.

He was a very keen galanthophile so it was a pleasure to see the news in the latest edition of The Hardy Plant Society Galanthus Group Newsletter that he has a new snowdrop named for him. Lyn Miles, Editor of the Galanthus Group Newsletter, and Margaret and David MacLennan, holders of the National Collection, are pleased to have their article reproduced here.


A new naming from the National Collection (Scientific) of Margaret and David MacLennan.

Members of the HPS Snowdrop Group will  be familiar with the erudite contributions of the late David Way to this Newsletter and other publications on many aspects of snowdrop cultivation. David and Anke were early contacts as we sought to build up our National Collection and provided much encouragement and useful advice.  They also generously let us have a number of David’s finds including his now well known ‘Hunton’ series – the elwesii, ‘Hunton Giant’, and two nivalis, ‘Early Bird’ and ‘Early Riser’.

In 2011 David also gave us an unnamed G. elwesii which he described in a letter  as “a large flowered green tipped selection with highly glaucous leaves and a very distinctive appearance.”  In cultivation with us it proved to be a good grower with darkish green/glaucous leaves with an almost prostrate to slightly arching habit and an erect inflorescence of some presence, about 15 cms high.  The substantial single marked flower with 6 – 8 light green lines on the outers was favourably commented on by visitors and we felt that it was distinct enough from other green tipped elwesiis to merit naming.  Anke kindly consented to its being named for David and it has now been registered with the KAVB as Galanthus elwesii ‘David Way’.

It would be difficult to think of a better way to honour David’s memory. Galanthus elwesii ‘David Way’ certainly looks to be a wonderful plant and one that many of us will want to add to our collections one day.

Lyn Miles added, “The snowdrop looks super – David would have approved!”

David Way Obituary

David Way Obituary

An obituary by Tim Ingram first published in our Winter 2019 Newsletter.

With the passing of David Way the Kent Group has lost one of its founding and most distinguished members. David contributed so much in so many ways to horticulture in Kent, not only within the gardening community and HPS but in his professional capacity working on fruit growing at East Malling Research Station.

My memories go back to regular Kent Group committee meetings held in his and Anke’s lovely house and garden at Hunton. Here we planned many successful meetings and events for the Kent HPS, notably a Summer Weekend in June 1992 at which Graham Gough, then at Washfield Nursery, gave the afterdinner speech: ‘And now for something completely different’. Sixteen members’ gardens were open to HPS visitors who came from across the whole country. Among the displays at the hotel in Ashford we made one of umbellifers, and it was David who suggested I write about the family for the HPS Booklet series, which has encouraged my interest ever since. His interest in penstemons led to ‘The Gardener’s Guide to Penstemons’ written in collaboration with Peter James, and a talk in July 1995 from the President of the American Penstemon Society, Dale Lindgren, Professor of Horticulture at the University of Nebraska, who was visiting the UK. The excellent cultivar of Penstemon digitalis, ‘Husker Red’, was one of the new American selections mentioned. And who in more recent years will not have visited David and Anke’s garden, Southover, in February to view the ever-growing collection of snowdrops and other winter flowers, which captivate any committed gardener eventually, however resistant they may be to galanthophilia. Several very good selections came to us from David and Anke, including the bold early Galanthus ‘Reverend Hailstone’ and distinctive long-pedicelled G. ’Percy Picton’, and of course G. ‘Hunton Giant’.

David always studied and collected plants with that detailed scientific and perceptive eye that underlined his professional life and training at Cambridge University Botanic Garden and RHS Wisley. He made use of these same qualities as Chairman of the Kent HPS, while his unique connections with gardeners across the Channel led to the organisation of trips abroad for the Group. His knowledge and eye for detail inspired confidence in all of us around him and must have contributed to much of the success and growth of the Group from its founding in 1988.

After David and Anke moved away from Kent we still met regularly at events such as the Harlow Early Spring Alpine Garden Society Show, meetings of the Fritillaria Group, and most particularly at the ‘Ultimate Snowdrop Sale’ at Myddelton House every January. David’s interest in plants remained undimmed and was expressed in articles written in the Journal of the AGS, HPS publications and elsewhere. That lifetime of study and enthusiasm about the world of plants lies at the heart of any garden and any society of gardeners, and we are lucky indeed that David shared this with us within the Kent HPS.

Galanthus ‘Hunton Giant’ in the garden at Southover

We send our deepest condolences and kindest wishes to Anke and David’s family, and retain fond and abiding memories of a good friend and teacher, both personally and of our family of Kentish gardeners.

Tim Ingram

Some memories of David from Kent Group members.

I was privileged to know David and, almost from the time I first met him, I believe he recognised my appetite for learning about plants, and was keen to teach me – not in a scholarly way, although I’m sure he was more than capable of doing so, but in a much more subtle way. He would show and discuss plants as we wandered around his and Anke’s magical garden at Hunton and, of course, when I had admired a certain plant, a specimen seemed to appear the next time we met. This is where my interest in sanguisorba was born and encouraged, as he ensured that I had large chunks of their various varieties. He would have been pleased that over 20 years later this has led to me being an assessor for the RHS sanguisorba trials.
We shared a common sense of humour too, although this was tested one January. He, as many know, was a committed galanthophile and I a dedicated galanthophobe, so he sent me a snowdrop card every Christmas! I responded one year, following a remark he’d made that the snowdrops were very early, by agreeing, saying that I’d had loads come through, but it had taken all my time to strim them off! His look of horror was a picture, until I reassured him that I hadn’t, and his composure returned … until I said I’d just sprayed them with Roundup!

He was great fun, and a wonderful mentor; I will miss him enormously, but his passing reminds me of the value of the HPS, which is the members, and their shared knowledge.

Colin Moat

For many years when they lived at Southover, David and Anke Way were relative neighbours to us at Timbers. At the beginning I was slightly in awe of David, given his long-standing membership of the HPS and his wealth of plant knowledge. That didn’t last long though, thanks to his joy in sharing information with me and the warm welcome I always received on visiting Southover – Anke seemed to have an endless supply of lemon drizzle cake in the freezer. He started me on my journey of galanthus appreciation and collecting, and I am endlessly grateful to him for that.

David and Anke Way with other Kent Group members on the Norfolk Garden Tour in 2014

Visiting a garden with David was always a privilege. Every plant was discussed in minute detail and I can recall one time when he and Anke spent an afternoon here at Timbers. Three hours later and we hadn’t even started looking at the wildflower meadows. He then insisted on descending into our valley to see the orchids and the grasses, notwithstanding the fact that by then he could not walk long distances and used an electric wheelchair. 

The wheelchair with David in it sped on down into the valley at great speed with myself, Anke and Karin Proudfoot running to keep up with him. He was determined to see all the wildflowers and we then spent another delightful couple of hours discussing the merits of Timothy grass, fescues and pyramidal orchids. The only slight problem we had was when we had to negotiate the steep slope back into the garden. The battery on the wheelchair decided it had had enough so Karin and I, with some difficulty, had to push him back up the slope.
I loved him for his determination, his endless enthusiasm, his passion for plants and his generous nature. I will miss him.

Sue Robinson

Like so many Kent Group members, I owe a lot to both David and Anke. It was Anke who first invited me to join the committee, back in 2000 – I’m still here, and still enjoying it!

I will always be grateful to David for introducing me to the esoteric delights of galanthophilia. Our house is surrounded by drifts of naturalised snowdrops, which I just regarded as an attractive landscape feature – an amorphous mass rather than thousands of individuals. As interest in snowdrops started to take off, and after seeing the snowdrops at Southover, I tentatively asked David and Anke if they might like to cast an eye over ours in case they could spot anything of interest. We spent an instructive morning going round the garden, David’s eagle eye picking out the many varying flower forms, heights and flowering times, and I started to look at the snowdrops afresh, realising for the first time that there was more to them than just a white swathe. Although they took away a few bulbs for trialling, sadly none of them proved sufficiently distinct to be named, but in the meantime my enthusiasm had been kindled, and I started to collect named varieties, beginning with a generous clump of Galanthus ‘Hunton Giant’, given to me by David on that visit; he had found it in the garden of The Old Rectory in Hunton, and thought it an appropriate present for our Old Rectory.
My snowdrop collection includes so many happy memories of David, and I now enjoy being able to share them with a wider public by opening for the NGS – something I could never have imagined myself doing before joining the HPS and Kent Group, and meeting the irreplaceable and greatly missed David Way.

Karin Proudfoot

Pam Hadrill

Pam Hadrill

We heard recently of the death of a past member of Kent Group, Pam Hadrill. She will be remembered by some of our longer standing members for her beautiful garden surrounding a converted oast house in Otford. (more…)