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AURICULA MONTHLY

Welcome to the Auricula Monthly Newsletter


This page is intended primarily for those new members who wish to learn more about the care and propagation of these beautiful plants and indeed about the Society, however everyone is most welcome.


Further information may also be found at Growing Guide.




January 2022

All Things Auricula - January 2022.


Happy New Year! I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas with your family and friends and are looking forward to a plant packed 2022.


November and December were quite eventful with storms Arwen and Barra and so many gardens took a battering. A lot of vegetation in my garden is now black and dead looking, however, I am hopeful that the plants will recover come Spring.


On the Northeast coast where I live, we were in the brunt of ‘the Beast from the East’ in 2016. Four lampposts snapped on the seafront, and I live a quarter of a mile inland. One of my small upright, plastic covered greenhouses overturned during the night and when I went to investigate all the plants had come out of their pots and were scattered around the ground. I was horrified since if the plants get separated from their labels it is very hard to identify them. I did not have to worry as the labels were stuck to the frozen compost. I popped them all back into their pots and a few weeks later found them happily growing none the worse for their ordeal. I did not lose one plant and from then on decided they were hardier than me!


Have you seen the NAPS-Northern Facebook page? It went live in the middle of December and is looking lovely. If you need a ‘fix’ of good plants, have a look and you will be rewarded by some wonderful photographs.


I go into my greenhouse in early January and check that my plants are still ‘sleeping’ and arrange the more mature plants together and varieties alongside each other. The young plants that will not be flowering this year are checked to see they are looking healthy and showing no signs of rot or fungal disease on their leaves. The compost should be very slightly moist but not wet and it will be another month at least before they show signs of growth. Be patient and one day you will see a fresher look to them, and they will rapidly start to develop.


As you all know it is subs time again! I think you will agree that for £10 a year you get quite a lot for your money. With the Spring Newsletter, Yearbook, 2 Monthly Newsletters (Auricula Monthly and Archives Miscellany), Twitter and Facebook it seems good value for money. You then get three shows and four mega plant sales and an AGM/social meeting. Last but not least you also have the seed scheme that is only open to members. For the price of two drinks! Not bad! The original cost of a year’s membership was 10/-. Though 10/- is equivalent to 50p in decimal currency, it was a large sum in 1873 so the Society was only open to those who were well off. The price stayed the same until 1967 when it was raised to 15/-. To keep the membership fee the same for nearly 100 years was quite a feat as prize money was awarded throughout this period.


Lesley Key,
Archivist and Publications
NAPS.


archivist@auriculas.org.uk

December 2021

All Things Auricula - December 2021.


This month I want to quote a sentence written in a Yearbook decades ago: ‘do not mollycoddle your plants in winter’. This wonderful turn of phrase is still as relevant today as it was when first written. Many of you have acquired plants this year so are approaching the first winter as auricula growers and will be wondering what to do. Well do not ‘mollycoddle’ – that is to say, in modern parlance, do not over-fuss and over-water and over-warm!

Your plants should by now be in their winter quarters – if you want to have a go at showing next year they will be inside a cold frame/greenhouse/or on upright covered shelving and not in a heated conservatory or house. They need very little and certainly not copious doses of water. They should not be ‘dust dry’ but again they should not sit in water. Wet compost will rot the roots off them and come next spring they will keel over and die.

Now the plant is resting and will not show any signs of growth until next year – mine in the Northeast usually start to look greener and fresher about the middle of February. Until then they are kept on the dry side and cool. My greenhouse has the glass door panel removed, the vents open and I encourage as much of an air flow through as I can.

My husband built a cold frame in the summer, so his plants are now going through winter in this new home. It was becoming a bit crowded in the greenhouse, so I ‘evicted’ him. It is best to give each plant space so one of us had to move.

Plants that are on an auricula theatre should be left to their own devices, though if they have saucers under the pots they should be removed as standing in water will rot them. Garden plants will be fine to be left to get on with the winter and do not need cloches or any protection. They will be a little later coming into growth but will produce a lovely display nonetheless.

It is very mild at the moment and this is not good for our plants. They need definite seasons and a mild dull winter does not encourage them to be dormant and they get confused as to when to start growing. The ideal winter is hard to come by and in reading this passage from the 1957 Yearbook this is not a new problem:-

A Curious remark made by one of the printing staff engaged in turning out the Yearbook came as a somewhat comic shock. He said he would like to ask a question about a matter which has puzzled him a long time. Fair enough! What was it? He said he had been setting this up for some time on the linotype machine, and was interested, as I know in the contents as well as the job. Was there ever, he asked, a good year for auriculas? The only answer that came at once to mind was a rather dubious ‘Yes, I suppose so'. Then he replied, it has not been in my time. Each year it is too early a season, too late, too cold, or too warm. The winter has been too severe or too mild. The plants have been checked by a cold snap or else they have continued in growth and not had their needful rest. The previous summer had been too hot, or else had not been warm enough to ripen the growth. There had been greenfly, too much root aphis and red spider mite. Well, that was enough to be going on with, and it led to some hard thinking and a bit of stocktaking. It is true there had been a good deal of moaning about the effect of our climate on our plants. Maybe it has been over done.


Yes, he had a point as we all say, ‘it has been a bad year’ and then put the most spectacular plants on the bench! Obviously not too bad a year for some!

I wrote in my last newsletter that I was putting slug traps in the green house made of old beer. The result – slugs none, mould lots of! I have quickly disposed of the mouldy mixture and am going back to night-time hunting with a torch!

I am now spending the dark winter months reading through the Yearbooks as a start to writing the book on our Society that will be given to all members to celebrate our 150th anniversary. Some wonderful facts are emerging and are leading to further research. In the late 1940’s to 1950’s we had a large American membership. In 1952 out of a membership of 226, 62 were from across the pond! They were welcomed to our shows and a number did make the crossing to see for themselves our wonderful plants. I would presume they would have to sail across the Atlantic as commercial flights were not that common. In the 1959’s our American cousins put on a photographic competition, open to all. Our own Dr Newton won five firsts and in two classes won first, second and third! Not bad!


Wishing all the best for the season and you will hear from me again in the New Year.


Lesley Key,
Archivist and Publications
NAPS.

archivist@auriculas.org.uk


November 2021

Monthly Newsletter - November 2021.


Where has the year gone? We are now approaching winter and a time of dormant plants and no shows this year but next year, hopefully back to normal! The saving grace this year is that we could hold our AGM, and it was lovely to see and hear our friends after such a long absence. We also welcomed a new Secretary and a new President. For the first time in our history, all 148 years, we have a female Secretary, and she has kindly sent me an introduction to her vision of the Society for the future to be included in this newsletter. Our new President has also sent a contribution, though she was pipped to the post as first of her kind by Mrs A E Smith who served us so well in the 1980’s.


I spent an afternoon putting my plants into the greenhouse after cleaning the pots and removing fallen leaves so not too many slugs joined them. I went out the next night around 10.30pm – my neighbours are used to seeing me plodding down the garden, torch in hand, muttering ‘death to the little blighters’ - to find a virtual gardens worth of the critters munching away quite happily! I will not use any chemicals to control them as I have a pond and a colony of frogs and do not want to kill them by ingesting poisoned slugs. I am going to try beer traps – a shallow dish with left over beer next to the pots to see if that controls them. I will just have to watch out for drunk frogs drowning in the pond!


The offer of mentors has been well received and our members are taking the opportunity of having a named person at hand to help them get their plants through the winter. You can request a mentor anytime just e-mail me at archivist@auriculas.org.uk and I will pass on your request.


All the officers of the Society have new e-mail addresses in place so if there is a change in the committee in the future the addresses can be handed on and we are not using our own personal e-mails for Society matters. They are all on the website and are easy to follow – secretary, treasurer, editor, archivist, website all lower case followed by @auriculas.org.uk

Just a note of caution, some email programs do not recognise some email addresses, so please check your SPAM box regularly.


A Message From The President


At the NAPS Northern AGM on 16 October 2021 I had the honour to be elected as Society President. I consider this position to be one of leadership, responsibility and direction for the Society, its members and all we stand for. Ours is a long history and during my tenure we will reach a landmark that few other Societies can claim, that of 150 years as an active horticultural body. Plans are under way to mark that anniversary in 2023. I see our future as a positive one especially as we further embrace new technology. Many of the membership now use the internet; we communicate as much as possible by email; our membership has increased as a direct result of the NAPS website; we can now encourage interest in auriculas and primulas worldwide and across generations. I thank you all for your support and I shall do my very best to ensure that NAPS Northern continues to thrive and grow, along with our beautiful plants.
Kate Gwillym
President & Editor.


A Message from the Society Secretary


I am honoured and excited to be elected as Secretary of the National Auricula and Primula Society (Northern Section) and I’m looking forward to all I have to learn as I help guide the Society forward into its 150th year and beyond. My role is not to decide and dictate but instead to lead. To ensure any actions and decisions taken are aligned to our Society values and in what we want to achieve and how we want to grow. The best kinds of organisations are made up of diverse groups of people, our Society is no different. Experienced members that share their knowledge of the plants, the depth of experience that only comes from years of growing and new members who bring fresh eyes and energy to the team. Exhibitors, non exhibitors, horticulturists, novices, creatives, techno wizards, the chatterboxes and the quiet reflectors. There is a place for everyone and everyone has something they can contribute and a voice to be heard. We are united in our love for our plants.
I live in Selby, North Yorkshire with my partner Toby, my son Sam and our 2 whippets.When I’m not working I am mostly to be found pottering around my unruly garden or walking the hounds. If the weather is too inclement for either of those things then I find solace in baking or crochet. I rarely sit and do nothing, much to my families exasperation at times!
I look forward to seeing many of you at shows and events over the coming years and I hope you will seek me out and say hello.
Lisa Peacock
Secretary


Lesley Key

Archivist and Publications.

archivist@auriculas.org.uk


October 2021

All Things Auricula - October 2021.


A big ‘Thank You’ to all who responded to my last newsletter and the mystery of my husband’s dying plants. Weighing up all of your suggestions I have come to the conclusion it has been an over enthusiastic use of Jeyes fluid. This preparation, used in the correct quantities, is a marvellous way to keep root aphid in check, however too much can act as a weed killer! It is a lesson learned and he is now building up a new collection, thanks to the generosity of a good few of our members. I will go back to using a small soft paint brush and methylated spirits to rid the roots of this persistent pest.


With September veering from cold and windy to beautiful sunny days in this part of the world it has been very difficult to decide if I should water, or start to decrease, as Autumn has arrived. Look out for the “Archives Miscellany” article later this month on “Watering”. By the end of October my plants will be in the greenhouse awaiting winter and will be resting before starting to produce flowers next year. I am always optimistic!


My plants are still outside but I have ‘potted up’ into one size larger the ones I ‘potted down’ a few months ago. I mentioned in an earlier article that the plants that did not flower, or produced few pips, were potted down to encourage root growth. This was recommended by a very experienced grower from the Northeast so I have given it a try and will see if it encourages mine to grow more pips next year.


It is lovely that we have welcomed another two new members this month and the Society is growing, and its future looks very rosy. So many plant Societies have struggles over the past decade, so it is wonderful to see new members each month. If you can, join us at the AGM at the Riverside Farm, York on the 16th of October – you will get a warm welcome! It is an easy venue to get to by road or rail (with York’s wonderful park and ride a short walk away) and has a lovely restaurant, so we should all be well fed!


It has been very interesting watching the Chelsea Flower Show on television – no auriculas this year but it has given us a look at Autumn flowers for a change. By the looks of it you should have colour every month of the year in the garden, or backyard in containers. It was nice to see their new category of ‘balcony’ gardens – yes, you do not need an acre or two to have colour and greenery!


I was intrigued to see a backyard is now referred to as a ‘yarden’ by our local Estate Agents, and how much you can grow even if you do not have any soil. With an auricula theatre and somewhere shady to place your pots in the summer a yarden, or balcony, can accommodate quite a collection of auricula. You would need a covered cold frame or small greenhouse (plastic or glass) if you want to show your plants but most yardens and some balconies are large enough for one or the other. These are not to provide heat but to stop the plants getting splashed by rain! I only grow and show Section 1 plants (grey/green edge and selfs) and the farina on the grey edge leaves can so easily be washed off with rain or sloppy watering.


The offer to find mentors for new (or not so new) members has been very successful, and now we have e-mail and zoom (and other types of computer interactions) there will always be someone that can help, even if they do not live nearby. Just e-mail me on archivist@auriculas.org.uk for further details.


Lesley Key

Archivist and Publications.

archivist@auriculas.org.uk


September 2021

All Things Auricula - September 2021.


I must start this Newsletter by telling you of the informal mentoring scheme we operate in the Society. It gives you a chance to engage with one of our more experienced members to ask questions/opinions/ and have help with suggestions on pests/diseases/compost/growing conditions/and general encouragement. It is informal but it can be very helpful for novices and more experienced members to share tips and experiences. If you are interested I can, with your and their permission, put you in touch. Just e-mail me on archivist@auriculas.org.uk Please note my new e-mail address. I will try to find someone within your area, however, if that is impossible you may have to use e-mail or phone calls to make contact.


The great dying plant mystery

The mystery is what is going on with my husband’s auriculas? I have included a photo below of some of them and as you can see, they are either dead or dying! I have been asking around the experienced members as to what this can be and how it can be resolved. My plants have not been infected and they were in the same greenhouse, before repotting, and going into their summer outside quarters, so it is not a pest or infectious disease. I have interrogated him as to what he has done with them, and this is what he has said – in late autumn he repotted (equal parts John Innes 2/multipurpose/grit) and included for the first time some Epsom salts. He watered them in using a very small amount of Jeyes fluid in the watering can. They soon went into winter hibernation and when they started to come out of the dark months something was not right. The leaves were growing flat across the pot and the flower stalks were very exposed growing like daisies in a lawn. The stalks and flowers were very small and some looked deformed. The leaves then started to go yellow and turn ‘soggy’ and the plants collapsed and turned to mush. Repotting at the end of May (using equal parts John Innes/multipurpose/grit) did not stop the decline and they have slowly died until very few are left. Apart from a feed of weak strength tomato fertiliser in March and keeping them on the dry side they have looked as if they have been ‘overwatered’! If any of you have seen anything similar and have any conclusions, please let me know at archivist@auriculas.org.uk, as it looks as if he will lose all his plants. I can see he will be first in the queue at the plant sale at the AGM!


Speaking of the AGM, it is at a new venue this year and a new date – 16th of October 2021 at the Riverside Farm, York. The Committee held their recent meeting at this venue to see if it would be suitable – it is roomy, well ventilated and can accommodate a good number of members. It is on the first floor but has stair lift access if required. As it is also a restaurant, meals can be taken during the break in proceedings. We all look forward to a bumper event this year!

Lens plant

Hubby’s plants;


Lesley Key,
Archivist and Publications
NAPS.


archivist@auriculas.org.uk

August 2021

All Things Auricula - August 2021.


It is now a year since I started writing this Newsletter – it only seems like a few months ago that I was reporting on August repotting and red spider mite. This year I repotted in early June and then put my plants out into their summer quarters. I have not been infected by the dreaded mite and all looks well. As I reported in an earlier Newsletter, I used some peat free compost in my mix, and it seems to be working well. I watched a programme on TV about peat free and the presenter uses topsoil and composted bark to retain some moisture. I have noticed when using only general-purpose peat free compost, for annuals and young plants from the garden, that water goes straight through the pot and out the drainage holes with lightning speed. Adding a bit of topsoil and composted bark seems to be the solution and gives the plant the chance to absorb the water before it disappears. Whether you need to use it in an auricula mix is debatable, as John Innes has peat in the mix, but soon that will be missing. All very confusing but I will persevere and report on my progress. I have managed to source the wool and bracken peat free mix from a garden centre in Yorkshire – it does not seem to have come any further north yet! It is like all the peat free mixes I have tried in that it is courser and has some large ‘bits’ in it than traditional mixes.


The Society is holding its first committee meeting in nearly two years next week, and we are all eager to get back to ‘normal’ and arrange this year’s AGM and next year’s shows. The Northeast branch is also resuming its meetings at Newbottle WMC on the first Tuesday of the month. It starts at 7.00pm and all members are welcome. If you would like more information on this you can contact the Northeast Secretary, Kate Gwillym on editor@auriculas.org.uk


My Auricula Theatre is now empty of plants as they are resting so I have used the space for a display of pansies and sedums. Sempervivums (house leeks) are also an ideal maintenance free plant for this spot. They do not require any attention when I have my summer holidays – I think I can remember what a summer holiday is! If any of my Auriculas put up an autumn truss, I will display them this year. Usually, I remove the stalk so as not to detract from the spring truss forming, however, I would like to enjoy some auricula colour this year. This will impact on plants available to show but this year it is worth the sacrifice to enjoy my plants.


As I had very few plants flowering this year, I have not been able to do any crosses for seed. My attempts at finding a new and exciting plant have been, so far, a complete failure. None of last years seed germinated so I am back to square one. When you see the number of seedlings entered in the photographic competition it is so encouraging that some of our members are working so hard to breed new varieties. It takes patience and time and can be very frustrating but to see some of the results can be very, very rewarding.


Having spent some time looking at the winners of the photographic competition and marvelling at the ‘Peoples choice winner’ I thought I would ask Chris what his summer routine was – here is his answer:
"I do away with the greenhouse straight after the last show.  I remove all flowers, just leaving a short stem.  The plants then go outside, open to the elements, but not in a south facing aspect.  Keep an eye on the compost.  These small pots can dry out very quickly, but only water once they have dried out.  Don't water if not required.  They seem to prefer the rain.  They get a couple of feeds of a tomato fertiliser.  If you find you need to have to spray for pests (I have had a touch of trouble with greenfly) don't spray midday, spray early morning or preferably late evening.  You don't want the spray on the leaves at the hottest part of the day.  I just leave the plants to their own devices.  I don't remove any leaves and then I repot 1st August.  The plants remain outside and do not go back into the greenhouse until November time.  Just keep it simple. For a healthy truss the following year, the plants have to be grown well the previous summer."


Well simply good old fashioned plant husbandry! No expensive equipment or fancy mixes and something we all can aspire to. I can but dream! As my plants were stressed with red spider mite last summer it is now obvious why I got such poor flowers this year. Would anyone like to share their autumn regime with us? E-mail me on archivist@auriculas.org.uk and I will print it next month.


Lesley Key,
Archivist and Publications
NAPS.

July 2021

All Things Auricula - July 2021.


Over half the year has now gone and my garden is in ‘full bloom’ if a little crowded. My mantra of ‘there is always room for another plant’ can be a bit overwhelming at times!


The results of our photograph competition are now on the web site for you all to see. Along with my husband Len we judged the novice section. It was wonderful to see so many entries and it is so encouraging for the future. It was a lovely afternoon discussing the merits of the entries and we have detailed notes on all the plants. If you would like our critique of your plant e-mail us on naps1873@gmail.com. All the judges will give you constructive advice and a lot of encouragement, if you would like - let me know and I will pass on your request.


I wrote an article for the yearbook a few years ago and I have reproduced it below – it is one of the dilemmas for new exhibitors (me included) - and I thought it might be useful to our new members to see ‘you are not alone’!


The Snip

I must make it clear, before I go any further with this article I am not a judge but a judges ‘runner’. That is, I have had the opportunity, over the last few years, to follow judges as they go around the benches, on the day of the show, and record the results. This has given me the opportunity to listen to a variety of judges, and listen to their observations and comments.

After a number of years I have come to one conclusion – judges vary in their interpretation of the perfect auricula, however, they seem to have a universal opinion on REMOVAL OF PIPS. That is to say none like the practise of leaving the maximum numbers of pips on a plant to the detriment of quality. Time and time again I have heard--- ‘that would be a cracking plant if that horrible pip had been removed’ or ‘it would have got a card if those two small pips had been removed’ or ‘why have those fading pips not been removed’.

I have to say these comments have been made about my plants - on a number of occasions I have had to stand, with a poker face, wishing I could turn the clock back an hour for me to find my scissors!

Obviously the plantsmen/women at the top of the game have solved this conundrum, but for the likes of us lesser mortals it is a lesson we do not seem to learn very quickly.

The general opinion seems to be an alpine with five well balanced pips is a far better plant than a one with eight or nine mismatched ones. Likewise a show with three or four fully expanded even pips is better than a mass of odd shaped and half expanded buds.

I have spoken to a few of the judges I have had the privilege to follow and they do not mind me putting these observations in print. They all recognise that folk coming up from the novice classes have a challenging time, trying to compete against seasoned exhibitors.

This reluctance to remove misshapen, or fading pips, is the most common of faults and I know from experience how hard it is to take a pair of scissors to a plant you have nurtured for a whole year. I think the motto ‘be brave’ would be a good one to follow – get the scissors out and SNIP. Take a look at other plants on the bench and all judges are very willing to point out your plants failings after the judging is over. Their comments are always constructive and it is an ideal opportunity to find out how you can improve your chances of a card next year.


Since I wrote the article I have judged for the first time and found it a very enjoyable experience.


My plants are now in their summer quarters of shade and cool outside space. It has been very dry this last month so they have needed water to keep them going. I try to water when it is cooler and slightly overcast. My green house has been cleaned and disinfected and will be used for tomatoes, until October, when the auriculas take up residence for the winter. Until then I check the plants for slugs and snails on a regular basis as they seem to multiply in the blink of an eye! My neighbours are used to hearing me out in the garden, as it is getting dark, muttering as I find another of the little devils munching away!


Lesley Key,
Archivist and Publications
NAPS.

June 2021

All Things Auricula - June 2021.


It is now nearly half way through the year and things are beginning to get back to a more relaxed way of living.

I have spent my days over the last few weeks repotting my plants and getting them into their summer lodgings. I had very few trusses this year so I have repotted down a pot size in a mix of 1/3 John Innes 2- 1/3 grit – 1/6 peat free multipurpose – 1/6 standard multipurpose. Next year I will use a 1/3 peat free if the plants are adapting to less peat. I would have liked to use a peat free compost championed by the RHS, but was not able to obtain it in the North East.

When you should repot has been open to debate for as long as the Society has been in existence – the May Miscellany article on the website makes interesting reading. It is an article taken from the 1946 Society Yearbook and now in 2021 we are still debating when is the right time!

When the plants have settled in their new compost I put them outside, on shelving, in a shady part of the garden for the summer. I did not put them outside last year and they got an infestation of red spider mite. These pests like hot dry conditions so May, being cold and wet, should have kept them at bay! The plants will be brought back into the greenhouse in October. I will watch that they do not get waterlogged over the hot summer months (note the optimism I display as to the type of weather we will have in the North!). You can kill an auricula by too much water in hot weather - it is often called ‘stewing the roots off’ as that is exactly what happens!

As you are reading this Newsletter our Webmaster will be putting the finishing touches to the Photo Competition as entries closed on the 29th of May. This is the first time the Society has attempted to do anything like this and a great big ‘Thank you’ should be directed to our Webmaster as it takes a lot of work and effort. As soon as he has the pages ready the judging will commence, and the winners announced with the photos going into the Yearbook.

Again this month we have had an influx of new members and it is so encouraging to see new people with a love of all things Auricula joining us. As I mentioned last month most seem to be constructing Theatres and I have been sent some wonderful photographs of their efforts to put in the Archive.

One very helpful member has sent me a list of plants he finds adapt to this method of growing and will happily produce a good truss of flowers. Here are some of his recommendations:-

  • Ancient Society (GCA)
  • Blythe Spirit (GCA)
  • Eden Blue Star (Border)
  • Eden Sunrise (Border)
  • Curry Blend (Border)
  • Murray Lakes (LCA)
  • Lincoln Bullion (Double)
  • Firsby (Double)
  • Nymph (Double)
  • Sir John (GCA)

Can I add that I find Sirius (GCA), Golden Wedding (GCA), Golden Boy (GCA) and Averil (or Avril) Hunter (LCA) good plants for growing outside all year round.

If any of you have any other ideas, please e-mail me on naps1873@gmail.com and I will include them in my next letter.


It was with great sadness to learn of the death of Dr Alison Goldie, Secretary of the Scottish Auricula Society, who made everyone so welcome at the Society’ Shows. I have spent an afternoon looking at the Scottish Yearbooks and remembering happy times – a lovely lady she will be greatly missed.


Lesley Key,
Archivist and Publications
NAPS.

May 2021

All Things Auricula - May 2021.


Today the 1st of May should have been our Auricula show at Cheadle. It is one of the most enjoyable events we hold and is a time to catch up with friends and find out what plants are winning and what new seedlings are looking promising for the future. Alan our webmaster has looked back on the winning Alpines in the Northern shows over the last five years shows and it makes interesting reading. These in order are the top plants:

  1. Stell South
  2. = Vera; Dragons Hoard
  3. Sophie
  4. Blyth Spirit
  5. First Lady
  6. Bilbo Baggins
  7. Jeff Scrutton
  8. Highland Park
  9. Ian Greville

Stella South is a light centred alpine and, along with its sister plant Stella North, is named after a power station. They were on the north/south banks of the River Tyne near Newcastle.


I wrote last year about my efforts to produce new plants from seeds – well it has been a disaster! I have not had one germinate so it is ‘back to the drawing board ’and I am attempting it again, this year, but will delay sowing them until February.


If I have not crossed a plant for seed, as soon as the flower is finished I cut it off near the top of the stalk. If you cut the stalk off at the bottom it can allow rot to get into the body of the plant. When the stalk has dried and withered it can then be removed.


Your plants should be flowering, and coming to their peak, so if you have not shown, but would like to next year, have a practise at dressing and staking, take a photograph and send it to me at naps1873@gmail.com and I will ask our experts to give you any tips and advice. You could also enter the photo competition on our website!


We have had a welcome influx of new members this year as gardening has become more popular in this time of lockdown. A number of our new members are very interested in growing plants in the traditional Auricula Theatre, and it is lovely to see this way of displaying plants being revived. The first mention I can find of displaying Auriculas ‘Theatrically’ is in the works of John Evelyn in the 1650’s. As some growers draped canvas curtains on their shelving, to close if the sun got too strong, they became known as ‘Theatres’. I have been asked what plants are good ‘growers’ in Theatres and I would love some suggestions from those who use Theatres as their main site. E-mail me on naps1873@gmail.com with any plant name you have. Obviously, all the borders would be good starter plants as they can be left outside, all year round, and many have the added bonus of being fragrant. Siting of a Theatre, being free standing or raised, either attached to a wall or fence is important. A north or east facing situation is ideal, south should be avoided, as too much sun will kill the plants. Keep an eye out for slugs and snails, as they are good climbers, and will hide behind pots during the day and come out at night to feast. My Theatre is free standing and I put it in my front garden as soon as I have a plant in flower (usually the end of March) and change the display until I have no plants left (usually the end of May). It has generated a lot of local interest and has even appeared on social media!


It was so sad to see the Scottish Auricula and Primula Society has folded after six years. I know they worked so hard and their show at Auchterarder, Perthshire was a joy to attend. The Society will be sadly missed. Being the last show of the year it was ideal, as a visit to Scotland and a mini holiday rolled into a catch up with Scottish enthusiasts.


Hope you are all sending our webmaster photographs for the show competition! You will get a chance to cast your vote for a ‘people’s choice’ as well as the plants being appraised by a panel of our judges. I find sending a photograph less daunting than putting a plant ‘on the bench’ though when I went to my first show, I was greeted by a lovely lady who showed me what to do, and what class to enter. She was waiting for me, when judging finished, to congratulate me on my Ancient Society getting a card!

Lesley Key,
Archivist.
naps1873@gmail.com

April 2021

All Things Auricula - April 2021.


It does not seem two minutes ago we were enjoying our Christmas lunch and now it is April, the daffodils are blooming, and we are celebrating Easter in the next few days.


This is a busy time in the Auricula calendar – your plants should be in active growth and showing signs of trusses emerging from the depth of the leaves. The early flowering plants will have trusses, and some may need staking. I use barbeque skewers cut to the appropriate length. It is worth remembering, when exhibiting, the stake must not be higher than the branching of the pedicels, and the tie must be neat and tidy.


This year in the North East we have had a good number of sunny days, so the greenhouse has had net shading draped over the roof and sides. The weather has been cold but with bright sunlight shade is essential. I have fed my plants (tomato fertilizer at ¼ strength) and am awaiting some sign that I will have something to enter in the photographic competition.


This is new to the Society but without shows we want to enjoy and share our plants with members. The Yearbook should be awash with colour as all the winners will be featured in it. All members will have received by e-mail the rules and tips on how to enter so ‘have a go!’


I am watching out for red spider mite returning by looking at the underside of leaves and, if spotted, removing them with a cotton bud soaked in Methylated spirits.


I have been talking to one of our members who has had an unusual occurrence in his greenhouse. He used a mixture of black plastic square and brown plastic round pots for his collection. He has had an attack of the dreaded vine weevil – however they have only targeted the plants in the black square pots! Has anyone had the same happen to them? If you have let me know at naps1873@gmail.com. I did not know vine weevil were so fussy!


We have had a welcome number of new members so if this is your first Newsletter ‘hello’ and let me know if you want any topic covered – it is your newsletter and is written in the hope it helps you enjoy these fascinating plants. One member has asked for suggestions on a good ‘starter’ selection of plants to help them find out how to grow them and see them at their best. Any suggestions? E-mail me on naps1873@gmail.com and I will include them next month. If we get a list of a good variety it will also be included in the website and amended periodically when new and dependable plants emerge.


I have also had members asking where to buy auricula plants as they are reporting some of the commercial nurseries have sold out the most sought after varieties. It seems lockdown has ignited our love of gardens and people up and down the country are building theatres and cold frames but cannot get plants. Hopefully, the AGM plant sale will be full of the surplus plants we have produced over the last year. How we will have a socially distanced plant sale will be interesting – each member getting five minutes to fill a basket could be good fun! Who will man the stopwatch? Will we have a referee? Joking apart I hope we will have a mega sale and look forward to shows in 2022.


I hope you are all reading the Monthly Miscellany page on our website. Alan, our webmaster, is using the old Yearbooks to find out facts about our founding members and the changing nature of Auricula growing. I have often spent an afternoon browsing old Yearbooks, in the lockdown, and have found some fascinating things. One suggestion, to make money, was to have sticks of rock produced with NAPS printed through them and sell them on the plant sale stand. I do not think the idea got beyond the planning stage, thank goodness! In the 1946 Yearbook I found the following; "During the afternoon of show day, there will be a sale of plants and offsets given by members, the proceeds of such sale going to augment the Society’s funds. But that is not the immediate object of the sale, the motive underlying the project is to give members, particularly new ones, an opportunity to acquire varieties they have hitherto never possessed and to get more plants in circulation. The two wars have undoubtedly taken a heavy toll of Auriculas, particularly of show varieties, and there is yet barely sufficient to go round; hence the effort now being made to remedy this to some extent." Most had turned to providing food crops during the wars and auriculas had been rather neglected, however the plant sales seem to have been successful and the next few decades saw a surge in popularity. Again this lockdown seems to have awakened gardening interest – long may it continue and the humble auricula can be at the forefront!

Lesley Key,
Archivist.
naps1873@gmail.com

March 2021

All Things Auricula - March 2021.

February was definitely a month in two halves! One minute my plants were half frozen with a blanket of deep snow and the next it was practically tropical with a 12 degree rise in the mercury! On my first trip down the garden to visit my plants in the greenhouse, when the snow had departed, I spotted a single flower on a gold laced polyanthus growing happily outside in the flower border – who says our plants are not hardy creatures!


With March we will see growth and the prospect of trusses beginning to show and push up from the depths of the foliage. I give a couple of weak feeds this month (1/4 strength), of either tomato fertiliser or liquid seaweed, to give the plants the strength to grow a sturdy framework. If too much feeding takes place the plants will concentrate on foliage growth and you will end up with a ‘cabbage’ and few flowers! The watering is increased if the weather does not turn back to being icy and dull. Light levels are variable at this time of year and days of dark overcast skies are often the norm, then by the end of the month shading is needed on the greenhouse as it becomes too bright!


I asked in a previous newsletter if anyone has used a peat free mix of compost and how did the plants fare. I have had no response, so I am undecided if no one has tried it, or it has not been a success. One member has mentioned he is going to try the mix of wool and bracken that is peat free and I will report on his progress. I will try it as well, if I can source a bag before I repot. I know some members have had difficulty getting supplies of their usual compost this year and I would love to hear if any unusual alternatives have been used. E-mail on naps1873@gmail.com with your results -success or otherwise. You never know, someone might find, by accident, the solution to how we deal with the withdrawing of peat based compost in the next few years!


It is a good time to start deciding which plants you would like to cross and see how last year’s crosses are faring. The first year any of your crosses flower be brutal with your decisions! If it is poor this year it will be poor next year so do not fill up your greenhouse/cold frame with ‘maybe’s’ -you will soon run out of space.


At the end of March our first show of the season should have been taking place, however we will have to wait another year to meet our friends and view the plants on the bench. It is always a wonderful sight to see – benches full of colour and all the different forms these enchanting plants throw out – a great miss. Next year we will have a lot to catch up with, but it will be worth it knowing that we did all we could to keep members safe. The committee had already decided not to put on a display at Harrogate Spring flower show this year, as our stand would have been outside, and this has proved fortuitous, as the show has been moved to the end of May. Not many members still have flowering plants nearing June – most have repotted! The same has happened to Chelsea Flower show - it has been moved to autumn so there will not be an auricula in sight!


Keep looking at the website, a new Photographic Competition has just been launched by the committee to share with you the seasons display of plants. All members are invited to enter, a good chance for you to show your own plants and hopefully get some feedback.


Lesley Key

Archivist

All Things Auricula - March 2021.

February was definitely a month in two halves! One minute my plants were half frozen with a blanket of deep snow and the next it was practically tropical with a 12 degree rise in the mercury! On my first trip down the garden to visit my plants in the greenhouse, when the snow had departed, I spotted a single flower on a gold laced polyanthus growing happily outside in the flower border – who says our plants are not hardy creatures!


With March we will see growth and the prospect of trusses beginning to show and push up from the depths of the foliage. I give a couple of weak feeds this month (1/4 strength), of either tomato fertiliser or liquid seaweed, to give the plants the strength to grow a sturdy framework. If too much feeding takes place the plants will concentrate on foliage growth and you will end up with a ‘cabbage’ and few flowers! The watering is increased if the weather does not turn back to being icy and dull. Light levels are variable at this time of year and days of dark overcast skies are often the norm, then by the end of the month shading is needed on the greenhouse as it becomes too bright!


I asked in a previous newsletter if anyone has used a peat free mix of compost and how did the plants fare. I have had no response, so I am undecided if no one has tried it, or it has not been a success. One member has mentioned he is going to try the mix of wool and bracken that is peat free and I will report on his progress. I will try it as well, if I can source a bag before I repot. I know some members have had difficulty getting supplies of their usual compost this year and I would love to hear if any unusual alternatives have been used. E-mail on naps1873@gmail.com with your results -success or otherwise. You never know, someone might find, by accident, the solution to how we deal with the withdrawing of peat based compost in the next few years!


It is a good time to start deciding which plants you would like to cross and see how last year’s crosses are faring. The first year any of your crosses flower be brutal with your decisions! If it is poor this year it will be poor next year so do not fill up your greenhouse/cold frame with ‘maybe’s’ -you will soon run out of space.


At the end of March our first show of the season should have been taking place, however we will have to wait another year to meet our friends and view the plants on the bench. It is always a wonderful sight to see – benches full of colour and all the different forms these enchanting plants throw out – a great miss. Next year we will have a lot to catch up with, but it will be worth it knowing that we did all we could to keep members safe. The committee had already decided not to put on a display at Harrogate Spring flower show this year, as our stand would have been outside, and this has proved fortuitous, as the show has been moved to the end of May. Not many members still have flowering plants nearing June – most have repotted! The same has happened to Chelsea Flower show - it has been moved to autumn so there will not be an auricula in sight!


Keep looking at the website, a new Photographic Competition has just been launched by the committee to share with you the seasons display of plants. All members are invited to enter, a good chance for you to show your own plants and hopefully get some feedback.


Lesley Key

Archivist

February 2021

All Things Auricula - February 2021.


Unfortunately Lesley is unwell at the moment and is unable to do this months newsletter. Hopefully she is recovering, best wishes for a speedy recovery.


As a consequence you are stuck with me, a poor imitation of what you are used to, but I’m trying my best.


February sees the awakening of our plants from their winter rest, well that is the theory, mine have been throwing up pips since last autumn. As growth starts, this will depend upon the weather and of course your location, watering will need to be increased slightly, but do not overwater.


Whilst checking my plants just after our second snow fall, I was treated to water dripping down my neck from a gap in the glazing at the ridge. Another job to do when it warms up a bit, make sure you do not have any plants under such leaks, it could cause rot.


Traditionally many growers top dressing this month. This involves the removal and disposal of the top 1/2’’ (1cm) of compost from each pot. Once removed, inspect the carrot neck and visible roots for rot disease and pests, top off with fresh compost. Viable off-sets can be removed at this time and potted on.


This is also the time I check and replenish stocks of compost materials; insecticides; tomato feed (this will be required next month to give a weak feed); Jeyes fluid etc. In addition I check that I have sufficient greenhouse glass whitewash paint for the coming year and also check the greenhouse shading netting removed and stored away last autumn.


There is still a little time left to sow seed, some seed is still available from the Seed Exchange, but stocks are quickly running out.


Don’t forget to look at the new Archive Miscellany Page updated around the middle of each month. The next page will be a tribute to Ben Simmonite, a founder of our society and a noted Florist of his time.


Alan Clelland
Web Master
auricula1872@gmail.com

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