Welcome to the IGPS ebulletin Mid February 2021

Dear IGPS Members

While it is obviously disappointing not to be able to go to lectures and chat to friends, the very positive aspect is that all of us, regardless of where we live, will be able to enjoy a bit of escapism and find out about the fabulous Tresco Abbey Gardens from Mike Nelhams, their long time Curator, on the afternoon of Saturday 20th February. Mike has a well-deserved reputation as a first class speaker so one not to be missed. Nichola Monk will be sending out the link a day or so beforehand to everyone who has registered at igps.membership@gmail.com. That’s almost 300 of us!

While Tresco in the Isles of Scilly has a reputation for being almost sub-tropical, our recent weather has been much more wintery but, despite the cold, snowdrops bring joy to our hearts. And our minds are turning to buying plants so it is excellent news that, with new restrictions on obtaining material from Britain, there is now a list of nurseries and plant centres on our website.
Jennifer Strevens who lives near Athlone shares her memories of growing Irish apples, meeting the late Keith Lamb, and the perils of gardening with a puppy.

“Rather belatedly opening the January Newsletter, it was lovely to read about Keith Lamb whom I knew in his later years. Inspired by his work on heritage apples, my late husband Brian and I went to Seed Savers some 25 years ago and adopted about 30 heritage trees which were then in pots because there wasn’t the  space to plant them all. We planted them in our orchard here and they were subsequently identified and catalogued.

I met Keith and his wife Helen through a mutual friend and I used to invite them to lunch occasionally which I think they enjoyed during their old age when social activity was not so easy. Brian made a seat for them on the tractor trailer and he would drive them round our deciduous forestry plantation and down to Lough Ree. This was much appreciated as they were not able to walk any distance. Of course Keith was interested in our orchard and our adoption of the Seed Savers orphans. I remember him talking about his travels in search of heritage apple trees in the North of Ireland, much of which was done by bike. Keith had serious hearing problems and recalled being stopped by the police who were very suspicious about the contraption in the basket of his bicycle, actually batteries for his hearing aid. A more mild-mannered, scholarly and courteous gentleman it would be hard to find so it was amusing to imagine him in any way suspected of terrorist activity.

Of course I heard the Castlegar snowdrop story [see below] and he gave me some but I am not sure where exactly they are now as the rockery has undergone various transformations and my collection of snowdrops in pots (I have only about 20 different species which in galanthophile terms is nothing!) suffered a killer blow recently when my black Labrador pup embarked on a plant label collection; she felt they would be better buried all round the place once she had chewed them thoroughly. I now have a collection of anonymous snowdrops and, due to Covid restrictions, I can’t invite my galanthophile friend, Alison, whose own collection runs to over a hundred different species, to visit and help with identification.”
The close up is of the snowdrops under the  old beech tree – here before I arrived in 1976 and may have also predated my mother in law who came here in 1945. Don’t know what species – just an ordinary double probably !
Paddy Tobin is well known at home and abroad for his interest in snowdrops. Back in January 2020, he wrote about Galanthus ‘Castlegar’ for the Newsletter.
Galanthus ‘Castlegar’
Galanthus ‘Castlegar’ is an attractive snowdrop of simple elegance with the added value of flowering early in the snowdrop season, reliably in the first week of December. It will also be forever associated with the late Dr J G D (Keith) Lamb, one of our great Irish gardeners, generally credited with saving many varieties of Irish heritage apples, having completed his doctorate at University College, Dublin, in 1949 on The Apple in Ireland, Its History and Varieties.

Regarding the snowdrop, he wrote: “In 1985, Sir George and Lady Mahon took us to see their old home in Castlegar (on the outskirts of Galway City). It was not a horticultural trip but when I looked out the window, I saw snowdrops in flower under a tree and I was given a few bulbs. A year or two later Ruby and David Baker were here and were intrigued by such an early snowdrop. They took specimens to a meeting of snowdrop enthusiasts in England. They wrote back to say that no one knew what it was and that it should be named, hence the name, ‘Castlegar’.”

G. ‘Castlegar’ is usually available online “in the green” from some of the specialist bulb suppliers.

David Ledsham who has created a wonderful woodland garden on the edge of the Antrim Plateau has kindly shared a couple of photos of his extensive snowdrop collection.

Vacancy for a gardener

Glenarm Castle in Co Antrim is looking to recruit a full time gardener, see the link below for details

Where to find plants

Don’t despair if your usual supplier is no longer dispatching across the Irish Sea. Visit our website www.irishgardenplantsociety.com to find a new section Post-Brexit Onlone Plant Shopping, a great new resource created for us by Nichola Monk and Paddy Tobin. Thank you to them both.


Please keep sending us news and photographs, we enjoy getting them and it is a great way to stay in touch while we cannot meet.

Till next time, enjoy your garden.

Branka & Maeve