Photo album of the 2000 American Penstemon Society Meeting

Table of Contents for this page:

Sunday, 9 July 2000
Monday, 10 July 2000
Tuesday, 11 July 2000
Wednesday, 12 July 2000
Thursday, 13 July 2000
Photo Index


The American Penstemon Society met 9 July -13 July 2000 in Maidstone, United Kingdom. The arrangements were made by Peter James, who did an absolutely marvelous job of coordinating field trips, housing, and touring arrangements. Thanks, Peter!!!!

I'll try to summarize the program here, but I have to admit that I missed the last day of the meeting and took my son, Michael, with me on a side trip on the next-to-last day. Thus, my account of the meeting is incomplete and you'll have to check the Bulletin of the American Penstemon Society for other attendees accounts of the festivities.

One thing I must note before starting my travelogue is that I really, really hate roundabouts! I don't mind driving on the left side of the road with the steering wheel on the right side of the car, but those roundabouts just about did me in. I think it took most of the week for me to finally reach a level of competence in navigating through them and to not always take the wrong exit. In the states, it wouldn't be a big deal to take the wrong exit, because you can always turn around easily and make your way back to the intersection. Not so in England -- take a wrong exit and you may find yourself 10 miles down the road before you can turn around. At least the drivers are polite enough to just honk and not shoot. . . Oh well -- I guess it was better than having a fanny full of prickly pear spines as I experienced during last year's APS meeting in New Mexico.

On the other hand, I really like the wonderful scenery, villages and pubs in Kent. The ales are out of this world, and it was really neat to see the historic buildings and communities in southern England. The meeting was truly a once in a lifetime experience, and I was very glad to have my son along for the trip.

Go to Table of Contents or Photo Index

Sunday, 9 July 2000

We visited Gould Farm, a wholesale herbaceous nursery in Kent. The proprietors are Russell and Sue Jenner. They were very gracious in hosting us and allowing us to crawl all over their nursery. We tried to wipe up our drool, but I'm sure some of it was left behind at certain beautiful cultivars. I wish we had some of these Penstemon cultivars over here in the states -- I know I would grow as many as I could fit into my garden. The Jenners also treated us to a wonderful afternoon tea with strawberries and cream and assorted treats. For a drizzly afternoon, it really hit the spot.

That evening we walked up from the Travel Inn to the Museum of Kent Rural Life for a light buffet, introductions, registration, and two excellent talks. The first was given by Dr. James Stubbendieck from the University of Nebraska with the assistance of Lori Landholt. James gave us a wonderful overview of his ecological studies of the rare and federally listed Penstemon haydenii, the blowout Penstemon. James and Lori brought botanical prints and and information booklet of this beautiful and interesting species to give to all attendees. What a lovely gift!

Next, Peter James gave us a talk about the origin and classification of the European hybrids. This was a very nice introduction to what we would be seeing over the next several days and we all started to think in terms of parentage as we visited the cultivar collections. It is really pretty intriguing that so many different cultivars were established from just a handful of Mexican species in Penstemonsect. Fasciculiwith P. cobaeamixed in there.

Go to Table of Contents or Photo Index

Monday, 10 July 2000

The morning was spent at the Woodman, a.k.a. Peter James home. Peter has a garden that is 1.3 acres in size and is filled with species and Penstemoncultivars. Peter estimates that he has about 150 species and about the same number of hybrids. Judging by the variety of plants I saw, I think that must be about right. Each part of the garden has a particular emphasis, and the tour began with the bed next to the car park.

One of the highlights for me was to see the variety of Mexican species. Peter does not cut his beds back each year and so there is a lot of secondary growth on the older plants. I was amazed at how woody the stems were. These species are shrubs! The hybrids are also pretty amazing ranging in colors from white to white with blushes of delicate pink at the lips to deep reds and purples and combinations of reds or purples with pure white throats. It was truly an impressive display.

Peter provided us with a wonderful picnic on the grounds provided by his lovely daughters and family friends. They really went all out to give us a country lunch with several different meats, salads, veggies, casseroles and breads. Then to top it off, puddings (all desserts are called puddings over there - we had some lovely pies) and cream.

The afternoon was an adventure in the City of Rochester, which is the second oldest cathedral city in England. It was also the home of Charles Dickens at one time. It was a pretty rainy afternoon, but I took a lot of photos of the cathedral and castle. Michael and I ventured inside the castle, and we played hide-and-go-seek with the Penningtons who rode with us that day. We kept missing each other between the cathedral and the castle, but we finally made the connection for the drive back to the hotel (and ,of course, I took a wrong turn on the way back!).

Go to Table of Contents or Photo Index

Tuesday, 11 July 2000

We spent the morning in a visit to the garden of David and Anke Way, which is located in the village of Hunton (south of Maidstone). This was a real treat to see -- a classic English garden laid out in outdoor rooms with specific themes. Every turn of the path yielded pleasant views and occasional surprises. David Way and Peter James coauthored the1998 book, The gardeners guide to growing Penstemons,available from Timber Press.

It was really interesting to see the difference in the Penstemons from Peter's garden to David's. Peter doesn't cut his Mexican hybrids back each year, whereas David does and treats them more as bedding plants. They do have very different appearances in these two treatments.

The group split in half for the visit to the garden with David giving us a personal tour of the Penstemon collection and going over his propagation techniques and a review of the pests that infect Penstemons (primarily nematodes in England). The other half was given a wonderful tour of the gardens by Anke.

We ended the morning with a lovely tea, and then headed to the famous garden of writer Christopher Lloyd at Great Dixter. The grounds were spectacular and the house tour was very interesting. We were allowed to see the great hall and the study and a room in the second story. The house is full of beautiful Craftsman antiques as well as contemporary art furniture. An interesting contrast in styles, but very complementary in intent.

We spent the evening back at the Kent Museum of Rural Life with talks by Dee Strickler (a nice slide show of the Northwest Penstemons) and yours truly (on my research on the evolutionary history of the genus). I learned one very important lesson -- I talk way, way too fast for European listeners! If it's any consolation, my students often say the same thing. . .

Go to Table of Contents or Photo Index

Wednesday, 12 July 2000

The schedule called for a visit to Savill Gardens in Windsor Great Park in the morning, which I hear was absolutely beautiful. I regret missing the visit, but I decided to diverge from the schedule to take Michael to see Down House, the home of Charles Darwin. The English Heritage Program has restored Down House and made it into a museum, with the downstairs restored with great accuracy -- particularly Darwin's study. The original artwork has been returned to the home as well as Darwin's study furniture. Much of the other furnishings is original, but a lot of it is reconstructed from photographs and family recollections.

One of the things I found interesting about Down house is that they have timed admissions so it's not too crowded to view. Michael and I had tickets for the opening time of 10:00 a.m., and it wasn't too crowded, but there were a lot of people there by the time we were ready to go outdoors for the the tour of the grounds. We picked up the audio tour guides, which were very informative.

The upstairs of Down house has been turned into an interactive museum directed at children. There was a considerable amount of artwork to view upstairs, also. I thought it was nicely done, and I think the kids that were there really enjoyed the exhibits.

The gardens weren't as sophisticated as what we had been seeing during the Penstemon meeting, but they were enjoyable none-the-less. I really enjoyed taking a turn on Darwin's sand walk where he took his daily constitutionals. A pile of flint stones was there, and it was fun to imagine how he kept track of his turns on the walk. We also found the worm stone where Darwin conducted experiments on the soil turnover performed by earth worms.

As much as I regret missing Savill Gardens, I really did enjoy my visit to Down House and I highly recommend this historic site to others.

Michael and I joined the group at the garden of Warren and Kate Gilchrest. It was quite a drive from Down to Basingstoke, but we made it in time for tea. The Gilchrests have one of the official National Collections of Penstemons as part of the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens (NCCPG). The collection is impressive, and I was also pleased to find note cards with illustrations of some of the hybrids.

The evening saw our annual banquet. This year it was held in a 14th century Kentish Hall House, the Wealden Hall Restaurant. We were upstairs in the restaurant, and we had a wonderful dinner of lamb and all the traditional side dishes served in the European style by very efficient waiters. Michael had a lesson in the non-American use of cutlery, which he swears is very efficient. The whole evening was a wonderful event that capped a pleasant day.

Michael and I said goodbye to the group at dinner. We opted for a tour of the country instead of staying with the meeting itinerary, so someone else will have to report on the gardens at Pershore College and Pensham Plant Nurseries. I'll continue my travelogue below with a report of our visit to Stonehenge, Salisbury Cathedral, London, and Leeds Castle.

Go to Table of Contents or Photo Index

Thursday, 13 July 2000

The itinerary for the 2000 American Penstemon Society meeting called for a trip to Worcestershire to visit Pershore College and then to Pensham Plant Nurseries. I am sorry to have missed the festivities and another look at the National Collection of Penstemons held by the college, but I felt that Michael deserved a chance to see the sites of southern England so we detoured to Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral for the day.

We left Maidstone by 6 a.m. for the drive to Stonehenge to try to beat the big crowds of tourist buses. It was a very rainy drive, but pretty easy to navigate to our destinations. The rain broke for a bit just as we arrived just before 10 a.m. I took pictures of Stonehenge from viewpoints around the circle. The really neat thing about the series of pictures is how fast the weather changed throughout our walk. We spent about one and a half hours there and the weather went from streaks of sunlight through the clouds to absolute downpours.

You can't really get a sense of the place from these small pictures, but I can assure you it was awesome and inspiring. It did have the aura of age about it (having been built from around 3000 BC). There is a free audio tour to listen to and learn from which is narrated by David Attenborough. My big recommendation is that you arrive early - before the tour buses start spilling their contents. I'm sure glad we arrived while the car park was still relatively empty, or I would have had hundreds of tourists in every snapshot. The last snapshot of this series illustrates this point quite well. Enjoy the pictures!

We had intended to drive up to Avebury to see another stone circle, but there was a traffic accident on the road with a back-up that was about three miles long on a narrow lane, so we found a short cut back to Salisbury. Salisbury was founded in 1220. I have snapshots of the High Street and the High Street Gate, St. Ann's Gate, and a lot of pictures of the cathedral. It was truly beautiful. The sense of history is overwhelmingly strong, and the tour guides are very informed and willing to share their stories. I highly recommend a visit.

Go to Table of Contents or Photo Index

Index to photos

I've picked through all of my digital photos and am posting the highlights here.

9 July 2000:Tea time at the Gould Farm
Peter James and Russell Jenner
Penstemon Cultivars at the Gould Farm
10 July 2000:Scenes from Maidstone
The Woodman
Garden Adjoining the Car Park
Shrubby Fasciculi Penstemons
Close-ups of Species & Hybrids
Scenes from Lunch
Scenes from Rochester
Rochester Cathedral
Rochester Cathedral Cloister Garden
Rochester Castle
11 July 2000:The Gardens of David and Anke Way
The Penstemon Collection
David Way
Great Dixter - Gardens
Great Dixter - House & Surroundings
Great Dixter - Andi & Michael
12 July 2000:Down House - Entrance
Down House - Views
Down House - The Glass House
Down House - The Gardens and the Worm Stone
The Village of Downe
St Mary's Church - Darwin's Family Plots
The Garden of Warren and Kate Gilchrest
Group Pictures before the Banquet
13 July 2000:Stonehenge
Salisbury (under construction)
14 July 2000:London - Under construction
15 July 2000:Leeds Castle - Under construction
Folkestone - Under construction

Go to Table of Contents

Go to:

Wolfe Homepage

Please send your suggestions, comments, and corrections to
Last update on 13 Sep 2000.