Yearly Archives: 2014

February 2014 – Gertrude Jekyll/Twigs Way

How wrong can you be? The evening was advertised as a talk about Gertrude Jekyll. Why would anyone want to hear about a Victorian lady always pictured unsmiling and dressed in black sombre clothes, I hear you say? Wasn’t she just someone interested in gardening? Well, as I say ‘How wrong could we be?’

Our speaker Twigs Way proved to be excellent, you could hear a pin drop as the large audience sat enthralled for nearly an hour enjoying her excellent illustrated lecture. Did you know that Gertrude’s grandfather was a Royal Academician and Gertrude herself was a fine artist having studied for years at Kensington Art School. Only failing eyesight prevented her from becoming an eminent artist. Her training introduced her to the history of colour – the influence of one colour on another. Every garden she designed shows evidence of the color wheel with colours running in drifts from cool to hot and back again. Gertrude rubbed shoulders with the great and the good – Ruskin, who was her tutor, William Morris, Burne Jones…… She worked with Edwin Lutyens for years and became famous for her planting designs which are faithfully followed today in Jekyll gardens like Hestercaombe in Somerset and Upton Grey in Hampshire.

Gertrude developed her own successful specialist nursery supplying plants to match her designs. – planting by number, you could say. In addition she was interested in all arts and crafts – her travels to the Levant, Algeria and Europe brought new stimuli. Wherever she went, she observed and tried new techniques: singing, painting, carving, embroidery, gilding, metal work and photography. In addition, she became a keen plant collector, noting all the new plants and gardens that she saw – truly an inspiring woman brought to life for us by Twigs Way.

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March 2014 – Practical demonstration oif Pruning/Graeme Proctor

Now is the time to prune apple trees but not plum trees! This was just one piece of advice given at our March meeting. Plum trees (and other trees bearing fruits with stones e.g. plums and apricots) should be pruned immediately after the fruit has been picked. Our speaker, Graeme Proctor, works at Crown Nursery in Ufford, Suffolk which specialises in growing all sorts of trees – those native to this country, ornamental trees and fruit trees. The title of his talk was ‘A practical demonstration of pruning’ and Graeme brought some examples of somewhat straggly trees and shrubs that he deftly ‘cut out’ and ‘snipped back’ resulting in well-shaped specimens, pruned to produce good, healthy crops of fruit or flowers. It all looked very straight forward and he certainly inspired us to tackle the necessary pruning jobs in our gardens. It was lucky the following weekend was fair and warm so we could put into practice what we had learned. The most important thing he told us was to use a good, sharp pair of secateurs. Also important, especially this year, is to feed and mulch, as all the rain has leached a lot of nutrients from the soil.

The speaker at our next meeting – to be held on 3 April at 7.45pm at Thriplow Village Hall – is Peter Jackson from Scotsdales who will talk about annual plants. Visitors are welcome.

A date for your diary! The date for this year’s gardening club show is 20 September at Fowlmere Village Hall. We were not able to hold a show last year, so are hoping this year’s will be a big success with more entries than ever. The show schedules will be available soon. We are introducing a new class called Men’s Challenge! This will be for 3 decorated cup cakes and the winner will receive a ‘surprise prize’ so – get practicing chaps!

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APRIL 2014 – Annuals/Peter Jackson

Now is the time to think about choosing annuals for summer displays but is it safe to plant half-hardy annuals just yet? As I write these words I remember hailstones in June a few years ago so let’s be wise and assume that by mid-June we can go ahead. So you still have time to visit your favourite garden centre or nursery and select some plug plants but keep them in a frost-free greenhouse or cold frame for a few weeks. That was one of the pearls of wisdom received at the Club’s last meeting from our very experienced speaker, Peter Jackson from Scotsdales.

Although we can purchase plug plants galore from garden centres Peter encouraged us to think about sowing seeds of half-hardy plants. You will be pleasantly surprised at the wide range of seeds available in seed catalogues and it is not too late to order them. It is much cheaper to buy packets of seed and they will last for a few years. Only sow as many seeds as you want flowers with just a few more for luck, then store the remainder in a paper packet/envelope, sellotape the top, place in an airtight container such as a tupperware box and keep until next year. Do involve children so that they can begin to enjoy the pleasure of watching seeds grow into plants.

Read the packet carefully to ensure that you sow your seeds at the right time – either in pots or directly in the ground and don’t forget to water them. Plants in compost in pots will benefit from regular feeding after 5 or 6 weeks.

The choice of annuals is boundless – here are some of Peter’s favourites. Larkspur, asters and antirrhinum for your vases, night scented stock and sweet peas for perfume, coleus for foliage. Don’t forget the old faithfuls of the past – candytuft, calendula, poppies, dahlia, viola, godetia. Fill the gaps between your climbing shrubs with morning glory or canary creeper. For maximum affect, grow your annuals in swathes in borders or try three or four plants in a large 15” pot – nigella looks lovely when grown in this way. Try using small plastic pots inserted in your larger pot so that you can replace them with new plants as the season progresses.

Peter’s talk was accompanied by beautiful photographs which inspired us all.

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May 2014 – Lawns – Andrew Howarth/GoG Magog

Thanks are due to Sue Allsworth who provided this report of the last meeting of the Gardening Club which was held at the Gog Magog Golf Club, when a talk was given by Andrew Howarth, the Estate Manager.

“We met at the Club early evening and sat outside in the sun. After a little while we were collected by Andrew who took us over to the putting green. Here he gave us a very informative talk on how he and his staff look after the greens and keep them in tip-top condition. He showed us the feeds and explained when and how they are used, and had on show the very sophisticated mowers and all the fixtures and fittings for them, including the scarifiers, rollers and aerators and explained how they look after all this machinery. I think we were all surprised and impressed by the number of times a week the greens are mowed, and just how short they have to be kept (4mm). They really are in superb condition. He also explained how the greens are managed during both wet and dry conditions.

Andrew also told us a bit about himself and his career before coming to the Gog Magog, including his time at the Royal St. Georges Golf Club in Sandwich.

After about three quarters of an hour, he led us inside the Club house and explained about some of the problems that have to be overcome including some of the common weed problems (mostly no chemicals, hand weeding!) animal incursions and damage caused and how they deal with them. He then took any questions from us, but there were not many, as he had been a very informative host.

We followed this with a very nice meal of lasagne, salad, chips, garlic bread and wine with coffee afterwards. The club staff were very attentive and efficient, so we had a lovely evening, in a most beautiful setting.”

Thank you Sue!

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June 2014 – Soiree/Stoneyfield

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June 2014 – Visit to North Wales

We saw sunshine every day on our annual weekend break to North Wales this year. Our first stop, though, was in England at Biddulph Grange to be precise – described in a recent TV programme as a garden of ‘much interest’ having being lovingly restored over many years by the National Trust. It was made in the middle of the 19th century by Darwin contemporary James Bateman, garden designer, plantsman and writer. The garden had dozens of microclimates, rooms, follies – you name it….

But we felt that our holiday really began when we arrived at Caernarfon and began our trip around North Wales. Portmeirion lived up to our expectations – a magical Italianate fun village complete with coloured buildings which would not have looked out of place at Portofino. Built by Sir Clough Williams- Ellis we were mesmerised by the beauty of the Glaslyn estuary with the mountains behind. On to Clough’s private beautiful gardens at Plas Brondanw where we met the shy Head Gardener aptly named Dylan and enjoyed our first taste of Welsh cakes. This was a classical garden of vistas, viewpoints and perspective – a photographer’s dream with Snowdon providing a dramatic backdrop.

Next day saw us exploring Wales’s answer to the Hidden Gardens of Heligan called Plas Cadnant. The present owner bought the property in 1996 and began the energetic and enthusiastic restoration of the historic garden and grounds. We were treated to a tour of the woodland, the herbaceous borders and a walk through the picturesque river valley. Yet more Welsh cakes ended our very special private visit.

We made time for lunch at the seaside town of Beaumaris before taking in Plas Newydd, the ancestral home of the Marquess of Anglesey. Here was a lovely garden enjoying a beautiful position sitting on the shore of the Menai Straits with George Stephenson’s Britannia Bridge off to the left and in front across the water the wooded shore of the mainland with the mountains of Snowdonia rising behind. And there is a bonus – Plas Newydd is famous for its association with Rex Whistler and contains his exquisite romantic mural and the largest (and excellent) exhibition of his work.

All too soon our stay in North Wales was coming to an end but still we had two more places to visit. Firstly we were privileged to visit Crûg Farm nursery owned by modern plant-hunters Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones, famous for their collecting expeditions which have taken them to places such as Korea, Japan, Laos and the Philippines. They have won gold medals at Chelsea for their displays of unusual plants and at Crûg we were able to see some of the new and wondrous plants from their annual visits to remote corners of the globe.

Our final visit was to Bodnant Gardens – where my husband and I were inspired to join the National Trust over 30 years ago! The charm of the gardens remains and I can smell the fragrance of the roses in the many rose beds as I write this article. From its position above the valley of the River Conwy, Bodnant combines formal terraces with extensive woodland plantings on the grandest of scales.

All too soon we arrived back in the villages, tired but still smiling.0101

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July 2014 – The Wonderful World of Willow/Sandra Barker

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August 2014 – Indoor Flora – Plants for the Home & the Conservatory/Lamorna Thomas

A very well attended Meeting saw Fowlmere Village Hall filled with plants for the home and the conservatory. Lamorna, our local expert, was waxing lyrical about her favourite topic. Make “Right plant, right place” your motto. You must take into consideration the conditions of your space. Do your homework (read books and plant tags), ask for advice at the garden centre, and determine which plants will thrive in the available sun or shade.

Lamorna reminded us to take into consideration the available light, the watering regime and the warmth necessary for each plant to prosper. Of course you can just purchase a plant recognising that it will only last a few weeks but will give you much pleasure while it displays beautiful, exotic flowers, but much more satisfying is a plant which last for ages through your own loving care.

Lamorna had many tips for successful indoor plant care – here are some of them:-

  • Remember to turn your plant once a week – a quarter turn would be ideal
  • Check on the available light especially in the winter – clean windows help!
  • Open your curtains early in the morning to access available light
  • Dust your plants!
  • Beware of marauding children or animals!
  • Don’t overwater especially in the winter
  • Check when your plant needs watering – stick your finger in the pot (honestly) – if it comes out dusty then water it!
  • Brown tips on the leaves of your plant indicates a lack of moisture.

I blanch at the thought of recommending particular plants for you to purchase. If you were at the meeting you will already know Lamorna’s hot choices. if not I suggest that you visit our excellent garden centre – S………, I think it is called. if you are lucky you will see Lamorna herself offering customers advice.

This would normally be the last meeting of the Club year but the Committee has decided on a more efficient format, changing to a one year programme: January to December from 2015 with further monthly Meetings included to the end of this year.

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September 2014 – Fowlmere and Thriplow Gardening Club Annual Show

Saturday 20th September dawned grey and damp but the spirits of members of the Fowlmere and Thriplow Gardening Club were riding high. The long tables in Fowlmere Village Hall were bright with colourful displays of lovely flowers and foliage. There were amazing and abundant fruits and vegetables. The jars of jams, jellies and chutneys looked mouth-watering. Delectable cakes and scones sat waiting to be tasted. The men had cleverly made and decorated cupcakes. Talented hands had knitted, sewed, embroidered, painted and worked in wood. Clever photographers had taken eye-catching shots of gardens, trees and villages. Lots of children, some as young as three, had used the garden theme creatively to produce imaginative animals, bookmarks and more.

During the morning well-qualified judges circulated the displays, carefully considering each of the many entries. Prizes were awarded; points amassed.

Visitors arrived for the afternoon to admire the superb displays of flowers, fruits and vegetables and marvel at the tallest delphinium, the longest bean, the funniest fruit animal, the largest pot plant, the prettiest painting and the tastiest shortbread! After viewing they were rewarded with tea and a slice – or two – of cake.

Tension was high as Mary Duff, Club Chairman, thanked all those involved in putting on such a successful show. She then invited Philip Whaites, Head Gardener of Wimpole Estate, to present the awards. Show Co-ordinator, Sue Pinner, was rewarded for all her hard work by winning a number of awards, culminating as overall winner in the whole of the Horticultural Society Banksian Medal. Other winners included Jane Dring, Jo Fisher and Derek Pinner. Finally, and dispite his Yorkshire origins, Philip Whaites awarded the prize for best exhibit in the whole show for a perfect red rose grown by Sue Allsworth.

The day ended with a lively auction of jams awnd cakes, flowers and other garden produce, followed by the raffle results. It was a happy and enjoyable day for all concerned!

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Oct 2014 Plants to Enjoy in the Autumn and Winter – Richard Arnott

Our speaker, Richard Arnott is a relatively ‘new’ speaker on the circuit but came highly recommended by a couple of local clubs. Also we were well aware of his excellent contributions to ‘The Listing’ which pops through your door at regular intervals. We were not disappointed – Richard came armed with beautiful plants, excellent reference books and a splendid visual presentation which included informative, colourful and relevant ‘pictureboards’ with multiple images.

After training at the Cambridge Botanic Gardens Richard set up his business as a ‘hands on’ Garden Designer some 15+ years ago and seems to be going from strength to strength. He approached his subject for the evening in a very professional but audience-friendly way. As usual I can only briefly record his recommendations but I hope that I can whet your appetite for taking a critical look at your garden at this very moment to see if improvements can be made to your autumn/winter garden.

FOLIAGE – try the multi-stemmed tree – the amelanchier – with brightly coloured leaves or the vitis coignetiae – the Crimson Glory Vine.

STEMS – grow euonymus as ground cover with cornus (dog wood) growing through – the cornus, Midnight Fire, is excellent as long as you don’t hard-prune it. Do remember the corylus (hazel) with its twisted branches. How can we forget the winter garden at Anglesey Abbey with all those silver birches, betula pendula, as well as prunus serrula and paper bark maple – the acer griseum.

FLOWERS – The old favourites must be included – galanthus (snowdrop) in drifts, of course, viburnum bodnantense Dawn with its fragrant white flowers tinted with pale pink, the equally fragrant semi-evergreen lonicera purpusii and the Christmas box – sarcocca humulis. Best of all? the helleborus – the Christmas rose!

BERRIES – the purple berries of callicarpa Profusion will impress the neighbours! Take a Wandlebury walk and enjoy the groups of euonymus europaeus Red Cascade with its lovely red fruits opening to show orange seeds. Ilex crenata – aptly-named the box holly is a useful boundary plant (use instead of box if you suffer from the dreaded blight!)

Richard’s final messages were to experiment with your garden, be ruthless with plants that are clearly out-of-place, remember form and structure, mix grasses with perennials – miscanthus with phlomis russeliana, echinacea purpurea and sedum matrona. As his hero Piet Oudolf said ‘colour is a secondary consideration’ (in autumn/winter – he should have added!)

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