Yearly Archives: 2014

December 2014 – Floral Displays – Julie Woods; Christmas Buffet

Christmas seems a long time ago but still fresh in our memories are the hints and tips dispensed by Julie Woods at our December meeting when she expertly demonstrated floral displays in front of our very eyes. A former Fowlmere girl, Julie kept up an interesting commentary on life in the village ‘back in the day’ while weaving her magic with Oasis, holly, ivy and special exotic flowers. A not-to-be-forgotten performance. A well-attended meeting with over fifty people present, we all enjoyed the superb buffet with a table groaning with nibbles. The glass of wine enhanced the festive atmosphere!

But on to the new club year and on 6 February, after a really speedy AGM, we will commence with another popular event – the annual fun quiz when tables of members pit their wits to answer not only gardening questions and plant identification but also topics as varied as current affairs, personalities and anagrams! As I write I am sure that our expert Quizmaster, Glen Link, will be finalising the questions. Come along and join in the fun.

Also booking will be open for our coach trip to Beth Chattos’ garden on 18 July and just a few places are available to join our weekend trip to the Cotswolds from 5 to 8 June. Visitors are very welcome.

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Nov 2014 Restoration of the Gardens of Wimpole Estate – Philip Whaites

At the Club’s last meeting Philip Whaites, Head Gardener, delivered a splendid presentation full of beautiful pictures of the many aspects of the estate. The most recent development is the restoration of the ‘Folly’ the iconic landmark which has been restored to its former ruinous state (!) thanks mainly to the charity Natural England (!) Over the summer months tours of the Grade 2 listed tower have been arranged for intrepid visitors to climb the steps and to enjoy from the scaffolding platform the panoramic view across the parkland towards the mansion.

For over 30 years Philip has tended the twenty-acre garden with the 350-acre park beyond. The garden has undergone several phases of landscape and garden design since the 17th century. The park has been landscaped by Bridgeman, `Capability´ Brown and Repton. Philip has scoured the country for suitable trees to add to the already extensive range – Wimpole already proudly holds the national collection of walnut trees.There is a formal garden surrounding the house, dating from the 17th century – enclosed by iron railings it includes an informal rose garden, a Dutch garden planted with anemone blanda and hardy fuchsia as well as a restored parterre. Philip has brought up-to-date methods to his work including battery-charged back packs (charged with solar panels) to cope with the seven miles of box hedging. Alan Shipp, the famous Waterbeach horticulturist plants up the hyacinth bed every year – don’t miss it next March! Even earlier in the year you will see the Rectory garden full of snowdrops followed by a wonderful display of violets, orchids, primroses and later on the naturalised camassia in the pleasure grounds. Tasting session of tomatoes are often held in the Walled Garden and currently you will see a display of fascinating gourds.

Plans for the future include the development of more new paths, a stumpery, the restoration of John Soane’s glasshouse, further excavation in the old yard where there may have been a pineapple house.

This short article just does not do justice to the estate. At any time of the year there is plenty to see at Wimpole – I urge you to take a look yourself.

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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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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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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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July 2014 – The Wonderful World of Willow/Sandra Barker

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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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June 2014 – Soiree/Stoneyfield

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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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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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