Category Archives: Blogs

Here you will find all the Blogs on the BPS website

Todea barbara

I inherited this plant from the estate of Graham Ackers. I have had it for about 10 years but I don’t know how old it was before I got it. As far as I remember this is the first time it has produced spores

Ferns at Leith Hall Garden

I am a gardener at Leith Hall garden and estate, owned by the National Trust for Scotland. For those of you who are not familiar with Leith Hall, it was built in 1650 and was the home of the Leith-Hay family for nearly three hundred years until 1945. Situated at Kennethmont, about seven miles off the A96 at Huntly in Aberdeenshire, Leith Hall has a beautiful south facing walled garden which is the Trust’s highest altitude garden at 186m above sea level and the furthest north at a latitude of 57.358147N. It overlooks the surrounding Aberdeenshire countryside and can have quite extremes of weather from high temperatures such as 23C a couple of weeks ago down to a previously recorded temperature of -28C. As well as expanses of lawns, trees, extensive herbaceous borders, an orchard, a kitchen garden, a formal garden and woodland areas, tucked away at the far end of the garden behind the very large rockery and pond is an outdoor fernery.

As with many large estate gardens there is always something that needs to be done (more often than not weeding) so it is inevitable that some areas of the garden get a bit neglected at times which is the case of our fernery. It has been pretty much left to its own devices over the past few years to the point that certain ferns have taken over and are in need of a bit of a cull. When I arrived at Leith hall just over a year ago and discovered the fernery, I was immediately taken with it. The main part of the fernery sits in a rock lined pathway cut in to the hillside with more ferns surrounding it at ground level above. I love ferns but I am by no means a fern expert so I feel like I’ve had a self-inflicted crash course in fern identification over the past few months. After coming across an old list of ferns compiled by members of the BPS back in 2014 when they visited the garden to help the then Head Gardener identify ferns, I decided to get stuck in to the job. My first task was to try to identify all the 21 ferns on the list as previous labels had either disappeared over time or had faded to the point they could no longer be read. Thankfully someone had written notes on the list to give me an idea of the location of each fern which was a huge help. As well as identifying existing ferns it will then be a case of removing unwanted growth and tidying up the area to make way for some new ferns to add to the collection and it is a large area to be cleared of overgrown weeds – a bit of a daunting task. Many of the ferns here are very mature and the male and lady ferns have taken over a bit so quite a few of these will be removed to reduce their numbers – I now refer to them as the fern thugs.

The first fern I went looking for from the list was Osmunda Regalis, a fern you would think you could spot a mile off given its majestic appearance and size. I confess however that I had been oblivious to it hidden under a large rhododendron behind a huge clump of bamboo and surrounded by weeds and other planting. A fern that beautiful needs to be more visible but It’s obviously fairly happy where it is with its feet right next to the water run off channel from the pond so I was reluctant to dig it up and move it to a more visible location. Therefore, I had to do something about its surroundings and after removing a lot of undergrowth and branches we now have a much more visible Osmunda Regalis, and a much tidier looking rhododendron. Next on the list was Cryptogramma crispa, the parsley fern. I searched the location it was suppose to be in and couldn’t find it. I went back several times over a period of a few days and eventually found it smothered under some rosebay willow herb along with a rambling geranium and oxalis growing through it. The Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’ was also there right next to the parsley fern, similarly over run with weeds. Nearby there is a beautiful mature fern too which I love for its very lacy appearance. This particular fern is quite large and seems to enjoy being in sun all morning but I have no idea what it is. I tried crushing the foliage to see if it had a scent but I’m getting nothing. A few people have looked at photos of it but no one yet has been able to identify it so if anyone can figure out what it is from the photos I would love to know so I can add it to our list. At the moment it’s referred to as the mystery fern.  The area these ferns are in has now had a bit of a tidy up but I am left with the dilemma. Do I dig up the Cryptogramma and Athyrium niponicum ferns to try to separate them from the roots of the weeds and hopefully prevent them being overrun again or, do I try to remove a section of each fern and relocate them to an area that has been cleared of weeds to see if they root and survive. Maybe I can then go back and tackle to original ferns and their weed problem once I know the transplanted sections are surviving?  Not being a fern expert I’m not sure how either of these ferns will respond to being dug up to separate them from the weeds. If anyone out there can advise I would be very grateful. In the mean time I keep plucking the weeds out when I see them pushing their way through the ferns. The whole of the area around the parsley fern was also over run with Gymnocarpium dryopteris and Phegopteris connectilis, both ferns I want to keep but both need to be reduced a bit. Over the past couple of weeks’ we have managed to remove the equivalent of a couple of square meters of the Gymnocarpium but it is not an easy task. The roots are so extensive that it has been like trying to lift and roll up a very thick rug to get it all out then go back and pull out any bits of root left behind. I’m hoping it won’t grow back anytime soon and the aim it to try to confine it to a few small areas. Not sure how that will work but I do like a challenge!

My next task will be to work on the area immediately above the fernery to clear it of weeds and unwanted shrubs to make way for new ferns and other plants. It’s a bit of a fine line between wanting to get control over the planting in the area but also trying to keep it looking natural so although some areas will get quite a drastic makeover other parts especially in the main section of the rock lined fernery will be left looking more natural with some of the smaller ferns mingling with each other and a few thugs removed. Hopefully I can tell you more about the new additions in the near future as well as more on our existing ferns, workload and weather permitting. Stay tune

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

Asplenium sagittatum in Hampshire

The first picture shows the retaining wall of my patio with my neighbours garage wall behind it
The second picture shows the gap (about 7 inches) between my retaining wall and the garage
As you can see from the debris that has fallen down this gap, I don’t look down it very often. However, I did look a few months ago and noticed that several Asplenium scolopendriums and one plant that could be Asplenium adiantum-nigrum had spored themselves in this gap
In 2008 I had the whole garden rebuilt and the retaining wall was raised by about 18 inches. The plants seem to be growing at the base of where the addition to the retaining wall was built
Having a further look more recently, I realised that one of the “scolopendriums” looked odd. On closer examination, I began to suspect this plant was actually Asplenium sagittatum
Asplenium sagittatum is a fern that has a Mediterranean distribution, and I have seen it in Mallorca and Menorca. I have had a small plant growing unhappily in my conservatory for several years and I have to suppose that its spores made it outside. The outside plant is doing much better than the sad thing living in my conservatory.
The forth picture shows the sori and how they continue down into the lobe, which is typical of this species but not of A. scolopendrium
There are about 5 A. scolopendriums growing in the gap and possibly 3 A. sagittatums
I have sent these pictures to Fred Rumsey and he agrees with me that these plants look like Asplenium sagittatum
For the record, we get winter temperatures of -8C
I have some pictures of A. sagittatums from Menorca on my website

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!

May Blog 2019

Spring greetings from Harlow Carr! About 3-4 years ago a young gardener by the name of Tom Cutter asked me what my favourite fern was, but I couldn’t answer, there are too many, it was like asking me who was my favourite pet! So after all this time I have an answer Tom, Its Phegopteris connectilis, the Beech Fern! I have waited to write this blog now since I was kindly asked to write a few for the website, as I knew then it’s a wonderful native gem! I don’t know if this is too simple of a choice as it doesn’t shout any great colours or other features but its simplicity makes it great! And in addition finding it growing wild on damp slopes in Yorkshire has been a great treat.

Here are some its aesthetic features I adore, its blade rises above a tall stem that seems too thin and fragile to carry it. It reminds me of when a puppy is growing into its gangly long legs. The blade itself is of a soft green hairy texture and is a triangular shape with the lower part of the frond sticking out upwards away from the rest of the frond which is a unique feature. Overall it’s a delicate fern with a soft appearance and texture. We grow it here in moist shady areas where the soil is loose so that its wiry rhizomatous growth can creep through and get established. After a short time it can create a loose lovely airy groundcover in a way. Most groundcovers can be dense in nature so finding one that is unobtrusive adds a softer texture to woody areas. We have been utilizing it here to grow amongst spring bulbs and other short season plants, so that once they are finished the P. connectilis takes its place, but never really dominates it and strangles out the spring plants. One such plant it has been growing is Trilliums where the two leaf shapes contrast with one another wonderfully. This past autumn we lifted several clumps and divided out the rhizomes, we made sure we had a few growth points and potted them on to gain root. We recently placed them out and planted them with some Trillum simile to become a carpet in the area when they are finished flowering.

So finally there it is, a favourite fern of mine, however I hope I’m allowed to have a few favourites and hope I discover many more along the way!

Asplenium ceterach

Further to my previous post, I have just found some more Asplenium ceterach on the Church wall of St Peter and St Paul, Wymering
There are possibly 10 plants on the Church wall itself and one plant on a grave next to the wall
They are growing in close company with A. scolopendrium and A. ruta-muraria. The latter is very frequent in this area

I have put the new location on Google Maps in green so that it stands out. It is quite a distance from the next nearest location at Langstone

I have asked Martin Rand, the Vice County Recorder and this appears to be a new find

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.