Alpine Garden Society
Home Up


Natural History
Alpine Garden Society
South West Water
196 Productions        


South Devon Group - Alpine Garden Society

Details of local groups in the South West

The Alpine Garden Society - The Pershore Garden - Publications  - Seed Distribution Scheme - AGS Shows  - Tours and Expeditions  - Plant Database - Resources


South Devon Group - Alpine Garden Society

Meets:- Indoors on the first Wednesday in the months of September  to May.

Outdoors as indicated in the programme - .

Venue - Dartmmor Lodge, Pear Tree Corner, Ashburton S.Devon

Meeting times 19.30 hrs. or as indicated.

Subscriptions:- Single/Family  AGS £8/12.00 Non AGS £10/17.00 (under 16's free.)  All visitors welcome @ £2.00 a function

Chairman: Terry Underhill, Fairlight, Mill Cross, Rattery, TQ10 9LB; 01364-72314

Secretary: - Andy Whorton,  01626-862455

Treasurer: - Margaret Grimbly, 1 Dostabrook Cottages, Whitchurch Rd, Horrabridge, Devon PL20 7TH

Membership Sec - Margaret Grimbly


Committee -  Stanley Chapman, Dot Underhill, Val Lee

Programme 2018- 2019

5th September

 Jim Almond  - Out & About - Adventures of an alpine enthusiast

12th September

Visit to  High Garden, Kenton TQ13 9SF   20.0 pm 

3rd October

Terry Underhill - Iran - A plantsman adds al little culture to a visit

7th November

Caroline Seymour - Flowers from the land of the Monkey Puzzle tree

5th December 

Richard Horswood - Pyrenees Alpines


9th January

Seasonal Supper (ticket only £13) - Kurt Vickery - Tulip hunters favourite weeds

6th February

Paul Cumbleton - Alluring alpines

6th March

Jon Evans - Blackthorns Nursery

3rd April

Non Competitive Display

     Class 1    Narcissus                        Class 2    Cyclamen                Class 3    Primulaceae

     Class 4    Cushion plant                  Class 5    Primulas                  Class 6    Erythroniums

     Class 7    Any other plant in flower Class 8    Bulbs, corms or tubers  Class 9   Foliage plants

     Class 10 Sedum or Sempervivum    Class 11 Dwarf Shrub               Class 12   Collection growing in a pan or trough   

This is a non competitive display - the classes are a guide to help you choose what to bring. We hope every member will bring a contribution. 

12th May 

Garden Visit  and AGM - Venue to be decided  

 (Bring along light buffet contribution)- 


75% Member; 25% Club


Please bring plants, seeds, books, edibles, etc. (This is an important club fund raiser)


Members are encouraged to bring plants, cut flowers, etc. to interest other members




AGS Local Groups in the South West

BRISTOL:  Hon. Sec: Mrs Marion Monahan, 90 Brentry Lane, Brentry, Bristol, BS10 6RQ. Tel: 0117 9503422. Meetings: The Methodist Hall, Westbury-on-Trym, 3rd Friday 7.30 pm., September to May. Subscription: £5.00; Family £8.00.

CORNWALL: Hon. Sec: Miss Clethra Matthews, Trenance, Ruan High Lanes, Nr Truro, Cornwall, TR2 5LH. Tel: 01872 501208. Meetings: The Church Hall, Sticker Village (opposite the car park), 3rd Wednesday exc. August, December & January, 7.15 pm. Garden Visit in July. AGS Members visiting Cornwall are very welcome to our Meetings.  Subscription: £6.00; Visitors £2.00.

DEVON - EXETER: Hon. Sec: Mrs Lorraine Birchall, Barratts Cottage, Clyst Hydon, Cullompton, Devon, EX15 2NQ. Tel: 01884 277614.   E-mail:         Meetings: 3rd Thursday, except July & August, 7.00 pm., Longdown Village Hall (on the Exeter to Moretonhampstead Road) Longdown Road, Exeter.  Excellent car parking.  Subscription: AGS Members £5.00; Family £8.00; Non AGS Members £8.00; Visitors £2.00 per meeting..

DEVON - SOUTH: Hon. Sec: Andy Whorton  Meetings: Dartmoor Lodge, Pear Tree Corss, Ashburton, 1st Wednesday, Sept. to May, 7.30 pm. Subscription: £8; non AGS £10; £2.00 guests  

DORSET: DORSET: Hon. Joint Secs: John and Christine Chappell, 3 Church Lane, Frampton, Dorchester, Dorset, DT2 9NL. Tel: 01300 320247. E-mail:   Meetings: 1st Thurs, Sept to April; 1st Fri, May, Corfe Mullen Village Hall, Corfe Mullen, Wimborne 7.30 pm. Subscriptions: AGS Members £5.00; Family £9.00; Non-AGS Members £7.00; Family £12.00; Visitors £2.00 per meeting.

SOMERSET: SOMERSET: Hon. Sec: Richard Horswood, Freshfields, Fenny Bridges, Honiton, Devon, EX14 3BG. Tel: 01404 850868. E-mail: Meetings: 4th Wednesday of month at 7.30 pm, Albemarle Centre, Albemarle Road, Taunton. Subscription: £5.00; Family £8.00. Visitors £1.00.




The Alpine Garden Society was founded in 1929 with the aim of promoting an interest in all aspects of alpine plants, their cultivation in rock gardens, and plant conservation in their natural habitats. Today the Society has an international membership of almost 14,000, which makes it one of the largest specialist garden societies in the world. The membership includes amateur gardeners, plant enthusiasts, professional growers, botanists, naturalists, photographers and artists, as well as those who are just beginning to discover the fascination of alpines.

Among the benefits of membership are the quarterly bulletin The Alpine Gardener, which is a major source of reference, with sections for both novices and experts. The annual seed distribution lists more than 6,000 species, many of which are not readily available elsewhere. The Society holds Shows throughout the UK and Ireland, at which a wide variety of plants, grown to the very highest standard, can be seen. Tours to the mountainous regions of the world are organised every year, which have the guidance of expert leaders.

Members can also join Local Groups, of which there are 60 throughout England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. For a small additional fee, Members can join any Group they like, with a number belonging to several Groups. Each Group has an events programme, including demonstrations, lectures, plant sales and exchanges, and garden visits. It is an ideal way to meet fellow enthusiasts, gain knowledge and exchange experiences.

There are also three special interest Groups: Androsace, Fritillaria and History of Alpine and Rock Gardening.

Single membership of AGS costs £18 a year, two people at the same address is £22. To attract the interest of people under 18, annual membership is £10.



The main purpose of the Pershore garden is educational - a source of information and interest for AGS Members. (Although members of the public are welcome to visit the garden, they cannot use the facilities in the Centre.) The design focused on two key areas - the provision of conditions enabling many alpines to be grown successfully and the convenience of visitors. Both aspects were constrained by practicalities such as the budget, the existence of large rocks on the site and also of large numbers of rabbits.

Construction of the garden, which began in May 1998, involved careful planning to ensure that things were done in the right order. The large rocks already on the site had to be moved aside to allow the preparation of the correct soil mix and the laying of irrigation pipes. Heavy machinery was needed for this, so the first task was to prepare a temporary track, later removed. Many tons of materials had to be delivered to the site at the right time. The beds required 115 tonnes of gravel, 30 tonnes of leaf mould, and 4 tonnes of peat. The paths needed another 40 tonnes of gravel. Other items included fencing, piping, valves, additional railway sleepers and troughs. Our part-time gardener and casual paid labour carried out most of the physical work.

More than 1500 different species of alpine have been planted. These have been donated by the RHS Garden at Wisley, the University of Liverpool Botanic Gardens at Ness, RBG Edinburgh and many AGS Members. Others were bought from nurseries, raised from AGS and MESE seed (AGS Greek seed collecting expedition in 1999) or retained from the previous garden or Chelsea exhibits.

Paths have separated different habitat areas. Each area was the responsibility of a volunteer expert and has its own soil mix. An irrigation system with each area separately controlled by computer has been installed. Rabbit-proof fencing protects the garden. No more than two days week maintenance will be necessary.

The layout of the beds and the positioning of the rocks were designed to make the garden aesthetically pleasing. The entrance gate is an important design feature, and although the gate can be closed, its message is not ‘keep out’ but ‘welcome - this is the way in’.

The main paths are suitable for wheelchairs. All paths are firm and comfortably wide without dead ends or steps, and they enable visitors to get close to the plants.

Slate nameplates identify the different beds and most of the plants have numbered tags pushed firmly into the ground for identification purposes. The numbers are easily read and much less likely to be broken or go missing than ordinary labels. Folders available from the Centre will enable visitors to find the names. However, the most interesting and conspicuous plants will have a nametag.

Over the past 30 years, screes have been replacing the conventional rock garden in many alpine gardens, particularly since simulating a natural rock outcrop is difficult to do well. To build, screes have two major advantages. First, unlike the ‘rock outcrop’ feature, the way in which the rock is placed can largely be ignored. In nature screes are an indiscriminate jumble of rock fragments and have none of the joints and stratification that complicate the building of a rock outcrop. Secondly, the basic raw materials for scree building are much easier to acquire than those required for a traditional rock garden. Most people have access to either a quarry or gravel pit selling crushed stone or gravel of varying sizes, or a builder’s merchants or garden centre. Apart from chalk and the softer limestones and sandstones, which disintegrate too readily, any quarried stone can be used in scree construction.

A major constraint with the Pershore scree was the existence of a large quantity of Forest of Dean sandstone from the previous rock garden. Because the cost of removing this stone was prohibitive, it was decided to incorporate some of the largest rocks into the new scree. A source of hard, crushed sandstone in a variety of sizes was needed for the scree itself. A quarry-owning AGS Member in Yorkshire provided this as the Forest of Dean quarry could not supply the material. Had the scree been built on an empty site, local limestones would probably have been used.

The scree is approximately 50 per cent rock fragments and 50 per cent loam and leafmould. The aim being to produce a growing environment that is free-draining, well aerated and moisture retentive. Although this scree is ideal for many of the more demanding high-altitude plants, it also suits many of the easy, straightforward rock garden plants.

In gardens screes are often surfaced with materials that are both too small and too uniform. In nature the freeze-thaw process results in material of all sizes, and to be convincing in the garden a similar approach needs to be adopted. The size of the largest stones used needs to be in proportion to the overall size of the scree. Apart from making the scree look more authentic, a rough surface creates a multitude of micro-environments within the feature.

As it is being constructed, it is easy to create different aspects or slopes within the scree. The Pershore scree is built on a gentle slope that faces north-east. The paths into it divide it into three large segments and the nature of the materials allow for the easy creation of slopes facing in all directions. The slopes that face south are much warmer and drier than the cooler, more humid north facing lopes. These variations allow such a scree to accommodate a very wide range of plants.



The Alpine Gardener - The Society's Bulletin

The Alpine Garden Society's quarterly colour journal, The Alpine Gardener, is the world's leading specialist magazine devoted to all aspects of alpines, and is sent to Members in March, June, September and December. Edited by Christopher Grey-Wilson, the 140-page, full-colour journal contains articles by authoritative writers on alpines, with the aim of satisfying the interests of a wide readership from those new to alpine gardening to the enthusiast, botanist, scientist or alpinist. Once a year, the Bulletin is devoted to a single subject, plant group or country. One of the most successful of these was devoted to bulbs.

Ephemeral and essential information, including news items are invited from members and local groups, and are published in the News Section of the Bulletin. This is an important means of communication with Members. and this section acts as a notice board for information, events, pre-publication offers – in fact, anything related to the day-to-day activities of the Society

Advertisements, which offset the cost of printing, are in a separate section at the back of the Bulletin.

Books and Specialist Publications

The AGS Publications Ltd. Department publish books on alpines for the benefit of Members and to advance the knowledge of alpines. This is one of the charitable, educational objectives of the Society. It also sells books on alpines and related subjects that are of particular interest to Members.

As a publisher, the Society's own titles are sold through the trade, while all publications held are despatched to Members via mail order or Local Groups. Pre-publication offers are negotiated with other publishers from time to time, and these have included The Genus Galanthus by Aaron P Davis, Lewisias by B LeRoy Davidson, The Genus Pleione by Dr Phillip Cribb & Ian Butterfield, Rock Garden plants: A Colour Encyclopaedia by Baldassare Mineo. AGS titles such as the Woodland Garden - A Guide to Shade Loving Plants by Jack Elliott and Silver Saxifrages by Beryl Bland have also been popular at pre-publication prices. The latest title is the Smaller Daphnes - Summary of Conference Proceedings April 2000.



The Alpine Garden Society Seed List usually includes over 6,200 items sent in from Members all over the world. Although a great deal comes from Europe, seed is sent from countries as diverse and far-flung as Australia, Bhutan, Canada, China, Georgia, Greenland, Iceland, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Nepal, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and the USA.

The seed distribution scheme is operated entirely on a voluntary basis, through AGS Seed Distributions Ltd., a subsidiary company, and is the largest seed distribution scheme of its type in the world. Around 1,000 Members donated some 17,000 packets of seed last year. This was then sent to 150 packers throughout Britain, who divided the seed into over 200,000 individual packets ready for the distribution, which starts during December each year. Over 3,500 Members send in their order for either 23 or 30 packets from the main seed distribution and up to 1,000 plus packets for the surplus seed distribution. The remaining seed is sold at the AGS Shows and some of the larger shows such as BBC Gardeners World Live. Seed is also given to two charities involved with handicapped people who are training in horticulture.

The proceeds from the sale of seeds go into the AGS Expedition Fund to help finance official seed collecting expeditions round the world. In this way Members are helping to pay for the desirable seed collected during these expeditions, most of which is not available from the commercial seed lists.



From February to October, the AGS hold national Shows throughout the country – 27 this year, from as far apart as Kent to Edinburgh and Dublin.

The actual Show consists of several hundred alpine plants, literally the best in cultivation on the day, competing in botanically defined classes. The term ‘alpine’, for showing purposes, includes high alpine cushions and alpine meadow plants, most of the smaller bulb species and their hybrids, dwarf shrubs and many small, hardy herbaceous plants. Some of the Shows also have an artistic competition, which includes photography, painting and drawing.

Shows Handbook, published annually, gives full details on venues, rules, regulations and schedule for the National Shows normally held on a Saturday from early March to mid June/July, with three autumn Shows. In addition, two non-competitive events are organised before the Show season.

A number of specialist nurseries attend these Shows, selling a wide range of alpines, which are not usually available at garden centres. These include easy plants for beginners, demanding plants for experts, and usually some sought-after rarities. The type of plants for sale is likely to be the same as those exhibited on the show bench. The Shows give Members the opportunity to meet other people growing the same plants as themselves and ‘pick the brains’ of the experts



The Alpine Garden Society organises a number of tours each year to mountainous regions of the world. Experienced leaders with a detailed knowledge of the flora and local conditions lead these for each Tour. 

Tours are limited to AGS Members and are run by Greentours and AGS Expeditions Ltd. and at a small profit so that income is used to fund other charitable activities listed below.


These are organised approximately every five years. These are scientific expeditions, often to botanically little known regions. They serve the functions of botanical exploration, so that expertly collected, annotated and identified collections are deposited with leading institutions such as The Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew and Edinburgh and institutions in the country of origin. Usually one or more botanists from the host country participate and young professional botanists or gardeners are also invited to become involved.

Typically, two expeditions are organised, the first during the main flowering period, and the second in the autumn for seed collection. When it is possible to obtain exit permits for seed collections from the host country, seed is distributed amongst AGS Members through the seed exchange. Expeditions have been organised to Sikkim (1983), Japan (1989), western China (1994), northern Greece (1999) and northern China (2000). The next expedition planned is to Iran in 2003.

Two to three major AGS Travel Awards and a number of minor awards are given annually. These are particularly designed to encourage young botanists and gardeners to travel in the mountains and are open to anyone under the age of 30, and to AGS members aged over 30. Applications, which concentrate on particular projects with respect to the conservation, ecology or biology of one or more mountain plants, are particularly encouraged.

AGS also gives support to scientific or botanical expeditions, particularly when these are planned to study alpine flora.



An educational garden requires comprehensive information about all the plants, which are identified by a numbering system. A database has been created using Microsoft ‘Access’, with the usual attributes of Genus, Species, Provenance etc, providing useful information both to the visitor and the AGS staff. Database information is kept in the library where access is also available to a comprehensive book library; slide library, nursery catalogues and the RHS Plant Finder.

The casual visitor is provided with an attractive leaflet and key plants in flower are labelled with their full names. These labels are easily produced from the database labelling system and are changed monthly. More knowledgeable or special interest visitors can collect a folder where the plants are listed by bed in both numerical and alphabetical order. Plant lists are easily produced from the database and are updated quarterly.

Visitors requiring further information than provided by the leaflet or the folder can visit the library where they will be able to obtain detailed reports on individual plants, including information on growing conditions, methods of propagation, flowering time, flower colour and a reference to the Society's Encyclopaedia of Alpines where further details can be found. For convenience the reports are stored as paper copies by plant bed and then in alphabetical order. This enables the staff to quickly obtain a photocopy when required.



The AGS Book Library

The AGS library of books at Pershore is probably the most comprehensive collection in existence based around the subject of alpine plants. It has grown over the years as members have donated books, and with nearly 1,700 books in the collection, it now forms a useful resource for the use of the Society’s Members and researchers.

The sections are colour coded to make it easy to use. Categories include reference, plant nomenclature, plant species, plant collecting and botanical exploration, regional floras, alpine and rock gardening, general horticulture, trees and shrubs, biographies and historical records, travel guides. The two largest sections of books on plants and countries have been further sub-divided.

The books have been entered into a computer database, so a variety of reports can be produced in response to any request for information. If someone wanted a list of book on Primulas or the flora of New Zealand, it could be printed out very quickly.

The AGS Slide Library

Over many years the Society has built up a collection of high quality slides taken by many of our best photographers. With 15,000 slides in the collection, this provides a unique coverage of mountain flowers. These include everything from wild plants in their natural mountain environment, to alpine plants in a garden setting and pot-grown show plants in the prime, many of which have won Society awards.

Plants from all over the world are represented, with particularly strong collections from Europe and North America, and good selections from more distant areas such as South America, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, China and the Himalayas.

The slide library is an important resource for photographs, which are used in the Society’s publication, and a source of slides for Members to borrow for lectures and conferences. External publishers are also increasingly using it as a source of photographs.


South Devon Group - AGS

South West AGS Groups

The Alpine Garden Society

The Pershore Garden – Design and Planning


Seed Distribution Scheme

Alpine Garden Society Shows

Tours and Expeditions

Plant Database