All posts by Alison Evans

Southport Fernery news

Everything is growing very well in the Fernery, thanks to the constant attention from Gary and Sandra, and the heating system not failing last Winter. Michael and I went in on 7th April for the first time since last December, and were quite overwhelmed by the fantastic lush growth all around!

The weeds are growing well too – Gary tackled the south-west corner at the top of the wall by removing all the weeds, and the spent, dusty soil from the pockets. Then new compost and a Woodwardia in the deep pocket, transformation complete! Before and after photos below.


We are hoping to re-open the Fernery to the public from 17th May. BPS members – if you are thinking of travelling to see the Fernery, please let me know on so that we can make sure it is open and there is someone there to greet you.


Some better weather this Easter week-end, time to enjoy the spring blossom, and fern croziers beginning to expand. Some of them will need protection if the forecasted frost and snow returns later this week – I will be fleecing the Matteuccia orientalis for certain. Last year the first and second flush of croziers on this plant were frosted off, so I’m pleased it has survived.

Some BPS reminders – voting is open on our Photographic Competition page, and results will be announced at the virtual AGM on April 24th. If you would like to attend the AGM and the talks afterwards, please contact David Hill,

Hope that we will be able to resume our face-to-face meetings later this year – look forward to seeing you!

News from Southport Fernery

Progress has continued at the Fernery, despite the difficulties caused by Covid and lock-down. Sandra and Gary have kept up the watering and weeding, and recently a broken-down planting pocket has been re-built, using lime mortar. Michael has added many more plants to the wall pockets, when regulations permitted him to return to the Fernery. The Cyatheas that were colliding with the roof have been removed, and new tree ferns have put on good growth. The park and BGCA were successful in their bid for the ‘Community Green Flag’ award, at the first attempt – very well done! The park remains open, and a new stumpery is being established not far from the Fernery. The Fernery was briefly open to the public in the Summer with a limit of six people inside at any one time. The doors at the north end have been repaired so that a one-way system can operate – the hope being that the Fernery will be able to open to the public again from Easter.

The Fernery is also home to flowering plants, with orchids, epiphyllums, Christmas cactus, clivias, and passion flowers to name a few. The established ferns are thriving too!

BPS success at Southport Flower Show

The BPS stand at Southport Flower Show won a Gold Medal again this year. Thank you very much to Michael Hayward who organised it, and to all the helpers who put up, manned, and took down the stand.
Robert Crawford won the Individual Challenge BPS cup for his collection of eight ferns. Alison Evans won the Happiland Trophy for the most 1st prizes in the other fern classes.

Michael is retiring from organising the stand, after doing it for many years. We are in need of volunteers to take over the various tasks that Michael has previously done all on his own. I’m delighted to say that Michael will still be involved in providing plants for the display – and will be around to support the people who take over. It is great fun, and a good way to be involved and learn about ferns.

Brian Russ 27 July 1932 – 10th August 2019

Brian’s son, Colin, has sent the following message to me:

“We are sad to announce that Brian Russ died on Saturday 10th August having been admitted to Southport and Formby General Hospital earlier that day. He had a massive heart attack at 10:20 in the evening and the medical staff were unable to resuscitate him.

He was a long time member of the society (from 1999) and also a life vice president of the Alpine Garden Society.

His funeral will be held on Tuesday 20th August at 10:30am at St Michael’s Church in Aughton, Ormskirk, Lancashire. Family flowers only but any donations to Guide Dogs for the Blind.”

On a personal note, I would like to add that I knew Brian through the Alpine Garden Society, long before we both joined the BPS in 1999. His Alpine Garden Society stand was always next to the BPS stand at Southport Show, where there was a friendly rivalry, and several members of the BPS received some lovely ferns from Brian. He also won the Fern classes in the amateur growers’ competition on several occasions. He will be very much missed.

Working day at Broadbottom Fernery

Two of us met Sue Roberts, Greenspace Officer for Tameside Council, at Lymefield Garden Centre, Broadbottom, 33/996935, for a working day with the volunteers. An enormous amount of work has gone on at the fernery since our visit last September. The area beyond the first part of the fernery has been cleared and landscaped, creating many new planting areas. A new retaining wall on the river side of the plot already looks like it has been there for years, and has some small wall ferns in it. After a tour of the site and some discussion as to what ferns would do well in each section, Henry and Alison got to work planting – the easy part really! We were delighted to see John and Anne Grue, who came for a tour of the fernery and a chat with the volunteers, before joining us in the garden centre café for lunch. After lunch, we planted the remaining ferns, but there are still plenty of spaces to fill. If you have any spare healthy hardy ferns that you could donate to the fernery, please let Mike Canaway know on

Welcome to new BPS Officers!

Last Monday four of us met in Peterborough – Peter Blake (Treasurer), Peter Grimbly (Finance Officer), Ann Robbins (Membership Secretary), Alison Evans (President and retiring Membership Secretary) – to discuss our roles and to see how we can best support each other. Our finance team now have robust and efficient methods of managing our accounts and producing reports. Thank you to Peter Grimbly, who has stepped into the new post of Finance Officer, bringing his Excel skills amongst many others. He and Peter Blake have written their job descriptions, making clear the responsibilities of each, which will make life much easier for their successors in post.

Peter Grimbly, BPS Finance Officer

A big thank-you also to Ann, who has brought her organisational and database skills to the role of Membership Secretary. You will probably remember that it was Ann who organised our very successful stand at Chelsea in 2016 – no mean feat! Ann has already been busy preparing mailing files and sending out reminders. I’m sure that you will give her the same great support as you gave to me as Membership Secretary.

Ann Robbins, Membership Secretary

I’m also delighted to welcome Sophie Walwin, our new Publicity and Communications Officer, who has already made good use of our social media platforms, and is helping us with our promotional material, as well as reviewing our communications with members. Sophie has lots of good ideas about how we can raise the profile of the BPS, and appeal to people of all ages!

Spring Indoor Meeting and AGM 13th April 2019

Our meeting at Harlow Carr was very well attended. The tree ferns in the corner of the room made us feel at home! Thank you to all the speakers who made the day a success – some of them having travelled a long way to be there. Thanks also to Frank Katzer and Sean Barton for the booksales, to Brian and Sue Dockerill for looking after plant sales, and to all those who brought plants, and a big thank you to Michael Hayward who stepped in at the last minute to provide merchandise when Gill and Bryan were unable to attend.
We have some changes of officers – I feel honoured to have been elected President, and will do my best to live up to the challenge. Ann Robbins is taking over as Membership Secretary. Sophie Walwin is taking up the post of Publicity and Communications Officer. Sadly, Ann Haskins is stepping down as Committee Secretary – thank you Ann for all your hard work. We are looking to recruit a new secretary to take minutes – please contact our General Secretary, David Hill, on if you think you could help.

A seriously long watering lance for Churchtown Fernery!

BPS member Brian Kelly saw our article on the Fernery in the Pteridologist, and realised that his un-used extending watering lance would be perfect for reaching those high planting pockets. Brian brought the lance into the Fernery on Monday, and it connects perfectly with our hose. The lance extends to 4.5 metres, so no problem in reaching the top of the arches! Thank you very much, Brian, for this very useful gift. We are currently working to have the Fernery ready for opening to the public on Good Friday – April 19th. The aim is to open from 10 am to 4 pm every day through the Summer.

Update on Southport Fernery

We don’t just have ferns in the Fernery – we have been given a range of flowering plants that are suited to life in the wall pockets – and we have already been enjoying the flowers. The Christmas cactus made a great splash of colour – and looked even better when the weeds had been removed! The Paphiopedilum given to us by Henry Folkard has been in flower for over a month now. Yesterday we were delighted to see the first hybrid Epiphyllum in flower – it is spectacular!

On 6th February we opened the Fernery for some important visitors – Margaret Carney, the CEO of Sefton Council, and Angela White of Sefton Council for Voluntary Service, so that they could see what progress has been made in the Fernery, and how we are helping members of the community. We were also delighted to welcome Lord and Lady Fearn of Southport.

Yesterday we introduced volunteers from the BGCA to the mysteries of propagation from spores. BGCA had their own selection of 20 packets of spores from the BPS Spore Exchange, which were sown by the volunteers. Then a few enthusiasts used some previously collected spores to sow ferns for outside the Fernery.

Rosie and Gary sowing ferns for outdoor use

Finally, we were very grateful that heating had been restored after the failure of the electrical system in the Fernery the previous week. Judging by the new croziers emerging, the ferns were grateful too!