Alpine Garden Society

 Ulster Group

A  Short History of the Ulster Group of the Alpine Garden Society           by John McWhirter

    On 20th May 1938 an exhibition of Alpine plants was staged at a Garden Fete at Montalto, Ballynahinch, home of the Countess of Clanwilliam. At the Show a Mrs. Alice Cooke took the names of people who were interested in becoming members of the Alpine Garden Society which had been formed some nine years earlier at the inaugural meeting held in the Royal Horticultural Societyís Halls in London in November 1929 under the title of The Rock Garden Society, an name which was soon changed to The Alpine Garden Society.

  The objects of the Society as outlined at that meeting were:≠

  • To give advice on the making of rock gardens and the growing of alpines    
  • To arrange for discussions on growing of difficult plants.
  • To exchange plants among members.
  • To arrange lectures on alpines.
  • To publish an annual bulletin.

    In the Spring of 1939 those members enrolled the previous year at Montalto organised the first Belfast Show under full A.G.S. rules and regulations.

     During the war years, 1939 - 45, meetings and shows were interrupted and it was not until 1947 that members started meeting regularly again. They met in the late afternoon of the second Wednesday of the winter months in the drawing room of the Alpha Club to exchange gardening gossip and do simple competitions. In the Spring they visited each others gardens. All had a common membership of the A.G.S and in 1951 they formed the Ulster Group of that Society. With around 170 members it was one of the earliest and largest Groups, and the Belfast Spring Show of the Alpine Garden Society became an annual event

     The first annual luncheon was held in 1985. It proved popular and has been held each year since at various venues.

     At lectures in the early 1980s, with the help of an overhead projector, the first plant titles were shown on a small screen beside the main screen. They were not very successful and the black and white or grey and white slides which followed, although an improvement, were still far from ideal but they did give the spelling and they were a great help to those who had difficulty picking up the name from the lecturer. It was only when Heather, our professional photographer, took over the production that we were introduced to the perfect titles. The Ulster Group is probably the only one that has got this unique facility.

     After being in various venues including St. Johnís Church Hall, Malone Road, The Queens main Building and The Ashby Building, where parking became a serious problem, meetings are now held in Stranmillis College where accommodation and parking are both very suitable.