(Click HERE to see photos of the event)


With the dew heavy on the grass and the mist of an October Saturday morning yet to clear, the Committee members of High Wycombe Branch duly arrived at Great Kingshill Village Hall to prepare for another of our eagerly anticipated international conventions.  We welcomed our guest speakers Nico Uitenbroek and Wim Alsemgeest from the Netherlands once again, together with their substantial array of projectors, amplifiers, large screen and endless cables which gave the impression the event was being covered by a BBC outside broadcast unit.  The Committee proceeded with the setting out of tables and chairs in accordance with the tried-and-trusted layout from previous conventions and numerous containers of food and drink were brought together in the kitchen area. In due course we were joined by our invited nurserymen: Tony Irons, Stuart Riley and Rene Geissler, book seller Keith Larkin, sundries seller Philip Barker and our own nursery Doug Donaldson.  Innumerable trays containing a wide variety of plants for sale were brought in and set out.  Everything was in place just in time for the opening of the doors at 9.30am with ticket holders wasting no time bursting through the doors picking out plants for purchase – many had even brought their own trays and receptacles with this purpose in mind.  Nico’s sound system provided a backing track of country & western music to keep all of us entertained before and between lectures.  A more familiar sound was that of our own Ted Smith going around enquiring of our 70-or-so guests ‘can I interest you in a raffle ticket?’


For his first talk ‘A Gringo’s Hobby’, Nico introduced us to his long experience of growing cacti and his work for the Edelman nursery in Holland which included putting together impressive exhibition stands at major trade fairs.  The slides also illustrated the immense scale of the nursery operation and how it had changed over the years.  After an agreeable buffet lunch Wim gave us a detailed illustrated lecture on Agaves which similarly conveyed his passion for this genera of plants, with slides depicting impressive mature specimens both in cultivation and in habitat.  He had brought with him from Holland a selection of smaller specimens for sale and not surprisingly took considerably fewer back with him. After a break for tea and cakes Nico proceeded with his second talk ‘A Gringo’s Dream’ covering his successive trips to the USA to see his beloved cacti in habitat with excellent location photography  throughout. 


With a vote of thanks from their fellow countryman Paul Klaasen, the audience gave Nico and Wim a well deserved round of applause for their most entertaining, informative and professionally-delivered presentations.  Gratitude was similarly expressed to the ladies in the kitchen, Doreen, Lesley and Dot who had done us proud with the catering on the day.   Once the raffle had been drawn and prizes distributed (or, in the case of a most impressive basket of vegetables, auctioned) our visitors began to depart leaving the Committee members to assist the nurserymen with taking out their (considerably emptier) trays of plants and returning the hall to how we had found it on arrival that morning.  A most enjoyable day all round and we’re looking forward to our next international event already.


Ian Small