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.
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.
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!
Three of us braved the icy weather yesterday to continue the holly fern monitoring on one area of the Fell End Clouds site. Bruce had found around 30 plants on a recce, but we clocked up 47 yesterday. The terrain is a bit challenging, with deep grikes, loose stones, and sharp rocky ridges between. There were a few tense moments but we all survived without major injury! We counted number of fronds (top score 32) and measured the length of the longest frond on each plant (top score 55 cm). We found a sheltered hollow for lunch, and mercifully it wasn’t wet or windy. We were in cloud for most of the morning, but this blew away in the afternoon, and we almost saw some sunshine! We thought that we had marked out all the plants in the morning, but found a further eight in the afternoon, including a juvenile, so a very productive and worthwhile day. There are more areas still to do in this location, so the final total will be well over 50 plants.
Water was an important part of the Victorian fernery, with rather more pools than there are today. Recently there have been problems with the pipework, so that the central fountain did not work very well, and the cascade above the wishing well didn’t work at all. The pool by the central cascade was leaking, so it only retained a small volume of water. Maurice Ashton, with help from Gary Mawdsley, (both volunteers at the fernery), have replaced the old leaking pipes, installed new pumps, and today mended the holes in the bottom of the pool. Looking forward to seeing the pool refilled and the central cascade working again. Gary has cleared the weeds from the cascade, so now we need suitable ferns to put in there.
The central fountain has been mostly cleared of moss and ‘baby tears’. Peter Blake donated Spanish moss, and Michael Hayward has started planting up with Adiantum raddianum that he has been growing.
The weather forecast for Friday was cold but dry, so six of us met in the car park south of Malham Tarn to re-visit the holly fern colony on limestone pavement nearby. Bruce was able to compare the records with a previous survey – of the 10 known plants, one had disappeared, but we discovered a new one, so there are still 10 plants at this site. Chris and Fred scoured the surrounding pavements but didn’t find any more plants. The monitoring team is now so efficient we had all the recording done by lunch time, so then we did a bit of sight-seeing, taking in the Polystichum x bicknellii growing on the pavement at the top of the cove, then walking back to the car park along the dramatic dry valley. Lots of Polypodiums here, but out of reach, and we didn’t have the famous Yorkshire extra-long snipping device!
Another small plant has appeared near to the mother plant, at the top left in this picture – so what started off as one small plant in 2010 is now a thriving colony of 7 plants at least. When I started monitoring the plant eight years ago I was concerned that a council ‘clean up’ might bring about an early demise, so I’m delighted that this colony seems to be so successful.
Bruce Brown has been organising monitoring of holly fern populations in the north of England, with help from a few of the Yorkshire Fern Group members. A survey of Moughton Common over several days found 205 plants of Polystichum lonchitis this Autumn, quite an increase on the 126 plants previously recorded. Photographs from 2004 show that many of the plants look much the same now as they did then. On Saturday, five of us braved the wind and rain to survey the Attermire and Benscar areas. We were unable to find 2 of the plants previously recorded on Attermire. Some that we did find through previous grid refs were partly hidden under rocks in scree. We found a sheltered place for lunch, then after checking all the Attermire sites we headed for Benscar. The rain stopped and the sun tried to come out – the terrain was quite challenging, but we were rewarded by finding 7 plants in this area – an increase on the previous 4 recorded plants. The extra time spent monitoring meant that dusk was approaching as we headed back to the cars, very happy with our productive day out.
The Manchester and North Midlands Group visited the Fernery in Broadbottom on 15th September. There will be a full report of the day in the Bulletin, but meanwhile here are a few pictures. Sue Roberts, Greenspace Officer for Tameside Council, together with several of the volunteers responsible for the work, met us at the Lymefield Garden Centre and café, and took us through the site to the Fernery. There was a definite ‘wow factor’ as we turned the corner and saw the transformation that has taken place. In place of compacted earth, brambles, and weeds there is now an attractive fern garden, beautifully designed with interesting logs, stumps, paths, and stone work. There is still more work to be done. Donations of hardy ferns welcome. The Manchester group is planning a mid-week ‘working day’ next year, when we can join volunteers to help with gardening and planting.
It has been an eventful couple of weeks at the Fernery – we have cleared more planting pockets, put in some new plants, coped with heating pump failure, become ‘Dementia Friends’, and hosted a party of BPS members seeing the Fernery for the first time.
We were lucky that the weather has so far been quite mild for November, as the pumps on both of the heating boilers were found not to be working. Electric greenhouse heaters provided by the Botanic Gardens Community Association (BGCA) helped to keep the minimum temperature at 8 degrees C or above, and the pumps were replaced last Friday.
Clive has been hard at work clearing out the Cyperus from the pocket at the North East end of the Fernery, and Joan has finished clearing the pockets around the wishing well. Michael has donated several Davallias and Selaginellas that seem to be settling in well.
A gift of two Paphiopedilum insigne plants from Henry Folkard has expanded our small orchid collection. On Sunday we were pleased to add two plants of the giant horsetail Equisetum myriochaetum to the collection.
Last Wednesday there was an extremely useful ‘Dementia awareness’session in the cafe, and several of us became ‘Dementia Friends’. The Community Association is well placed to help improve the lives of people living with dementia by helping them to access and enjoy the park. The Fernery is a wonderful tranquil space, and many Southport residents have fond memories of it from their childhood. Sandra is putting together a ‘Memory Box’ of objects that will also help people remember their younger days and provide talking points.
On Sunday morning, BPS members from Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and London visited the Fernery. Alison and Michael were taken by surprise when David Cobham, Chair of BGCA, made a speech and presented gifts as a thank-you for help in the Fernery. Very much appreciated! After that we gathered in the cafe for hot drinks and biscuits, and a good natter.
Last week I was looking for images of Cystopteris alpina spores on the internet, and couldn’t find any on a couple of Google searches. Fortunately a plant of Cystopteris alpina in the greenhouse had some mature spores, so I was able to create my own images. These are taken at x 1,000 magnification – when the depth of field is very small. This means that either the projections around the spores are in focus, or the surface of the spore is in focus. What surprised me a bit was the very pronounced linear projection on the ‘inner’ curve of the bean-shaped spores. This is only visible if the spore is in the right orientation, and it seems to be quite variable.