All posts by Alison Evans

Water features in Churchtown Fernery, Southport

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.

More holly fern monitoring

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!

Earby Asplenium adiantum-nigrum colony

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.

Holly Fern monitoring

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.

BPS visit to Broadbottom Fernery

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.

News from Churchtown Fernery, Southport

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.

Cystopteris alpina spores

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.

Gold Medal for Churchtown Botanic Gardens and Fernery

The team at the Churchtown Botanic Gardens are delighted that the RHS Judges of North West Britain in Bloom have awarded the park a Gold Medal. The Botanic Gardens Community Assocation have also been given the highest level, ‘Outstanding’ in the ‘It’s your Neighbourhood Award’ from the Britain in Bloom RHS judges – for the 5th year in succession. So last Friday the volunteers got together for a little celebration in the Settle Inn, which is next to the Fernery in the park.

The Fernery will be open on Sunday 18th November, so that people from all over the country attending the BPS indoor meeting at the World Museum Liverpool on Saturday 17th will have the opportunity to stay on and visit Southport to see what we have been up to. The re-stocking of the Fernery with a wonderful selection of sub-tropical ferns was made possible by the generosity of the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. We know that this made a great impression on the judges, so thank you again, RBGE!

Wonderful Weeding Wednesday at Southport Fernery

Weeding is an ongoing chore at the Fernery – but much more fun when there’s a group of you to chat to – and to admire your work! It’s also more interesting than weeding in your garden – unless you have a range of rock faces and a collection of rare sub-tropical ferns outside your door. Wonderful Weeding Wednesday (Sandra’s idea) fits in with the other jobs the volunteers have to do in the Botanic Gardens. We still have a long way to go – more volunteers welcome!

Flourishing Asplenium

There was an anxious time this Summer – first drought, and then major works on the A56 to attempt to reduce the risk of flooding, with the Asplenium section barricaded off. Fortunately there was no disturbance to the wall above ground, and the colony is going from strength to strength.