Mendip Gardening Club’s first meeting of the year featured snowdrops and the ‘Snowdrop King’, James Allen.

Amanda Hirst from the Shepton Snowdrop Festival told us that James Allen was passionate about this flower. He was a self taught horticulturalist and the first person to breed new varieties from wild snowdrops at his home in Shepton Mallet.

In the late 19th century, breeding snowdrops became highly fashionable and James Allen was one of Britain’s most well recognised hybridisers. He grew all species and varieties known at the time and was probably the first person to deliberately cross and raise hybrids from seeds.

Of the 500 odd cultivars around at this time, Allen is credited with breeding of at least 100 of them. Sadly a fungus attacked and destroyed much of his collection, but, two of his varities, Merlin and Magnet, still survive to this day.

The Royal Horticultural Society have awarded both these varieties The Award of Merit, a huge accolade.

The Shepton Snowdrop Festival runs from the 12th to 18th February.

Our speaker this month is Chris Smith from Pennard Plants. He will be telling us about Heritage and Heirloom Vegetables. If you want to know more about about these tasty vegetables with a link to the past then come along to Ston Easton Village Hall, Green Street, Ston Easton, BA3 4DA on Wednesday, 21st February.

The meeting will start at 7:30pm but the hall will be open from 7pm to give time for perusal of stalls, refreshments, raffle and chat.

A warm welcome awaits members and visitors alike.

Gillian Hipwood