A report by Elizabeth Cairns on our meeting in November 2018 when Ben Potterton spoke at our meeting prior to the AGM.
Ben began his talk with an image of Galanthus ‘Wendy’s Gold’. He said that, on the whole, he was not enthusiastic about yellow snowdrops but made an exception for ‘Wendy’s Gold’ as it is such a good garden plant and I am entirely with him on both counts. Ben collects woodland plants and is impressively knowledgeable about them. He also has strong views on what he likes and dislikes, which he expressed in forthright terms, making his talk both interesting and entertaining.
Early spring plants which light up dark corners of the garden appeal to Ben and here he identified several of my favourites – anemones, violas and primulas – but he was able to mention some delectable plants which were new to me, such as Anenome nemorosa ‘Blue Eyes’ and the blue Viola priceana.
He was a bit rude about Primula ‘Guinevere’ (formerly P. ‘Garryarde Guinevere’) which is one of my favourites, but his own strain of silver-laced primula, P. ‘Blacksmith’s Silver Laced’ looked enchanting and I wanted some badly. Unfortunately Ben has given up his nursery business so I will have to go without.
I don’t seem to be able to grow trilliums but Ben recommended Trillium lutescens so I plan to try my luck with that. Fashions in plants come and go and Ben was good on recent fads and fancies. He was rather scornful of the current interest in species hellebores such as Helleborus torquatus and the green doubles which, he complained, are not good value in the garden. Some primulas were dismissed as being hideous (some double elatior varieties) and P. maximowiczii was condemned for its ‘vile’ colour. I would agree with Ben that not all plants are beautiful and it was good to hear his strong views so well expressed. Perhaps we plant lovers tend to be a bit mealy-mouthed.
I also agreed with Ben that it is good to have a few plants to make you smile. He put the ‘tarty’ (his description) daffodil Narcissus ‘Rip van Winkle’ in this category. I would agree that some recent selections of galanthus are also a bit of a laugh.
Ben’s stimulating talk was an excellent way to spend a dreary November afternoon.