Category Archives: 2011 – 2012

October 2011 – AGM and Quiz

Members enjoyed an informative AGM with Hilary Magnay giving some fascinating facts and figures about our Annual Show. The biggest change was to vote in a new Vice Chairman – Keith Evans – who agreed to continue as Membership Secretary too! Thank you Keith. Other familiar names remain on the Club books with Mary Duff elected again as Chair, Gwyneth Page as Treasurer, Hilary Magnay, Shirley Cooper. Michael Pollard, Joan Smith and Barbara Harper as Committee members.

We were delighted to welcome three new members to the Committee – Sue Allsworth, Jo Fisher and Pam Coombs. We know that they will contribute many new ideas to enable the Club to continue to prosper.

However the Club could not function without its members who help in so many different ways. Special thanks to Robin Dring who man-handles the plants and the sound equipment at every meeting, Peter Lake for publicity in Fowlmere, Peter Duff. Andrew Francis, Mel and Jill Vinton and Owen Smeeton who always turn up at the hall when we need assistance and Jane Dring for arranging our very popular plant stall at every meeting. Mention must be made too of the many ladies who help with the catering whenever it is needed.

Following the AGM we enjoyed a social evening with wine and nibbles. Glen Link was our superb quizmaster.

The next Club year will be a very special one as it will be our 50th birthday. The new Committee’s first job is to decide how we can celebrate in style – perhaps a special speaker (Bob Flowerdew has been mentioned, perhaps a special event (Gardeners’ Question Time?), a coach trip …………. , another lovely garden party? Watch this space.

Whilst waiting, come along to our next meeting when Dr Tim Upson, the Curator of Cambridge Botanic Gardens will be telling us all about Lavender.

Mary Duff
Chair Fowlmere & Thriplow Gardening Club

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November 2011- Lavender

Dr Tim Upson, Curator of Cambridge Botanic Garden took time off from his day job last month to talk to the Gardening Club about lavendula – lavender to you and me! Tim seems to have a thousand and one jobs ranging from taking responsibility for ithe Garden’s 39 acres and collection of over 8,000 plant species, leading on major developments, including the restoration of the Glasshouse Range and Main Gate, and aspects of the Sainsbury Laboratory build to undertaking research in the field and teaching on the Garden’s education programme. Add to this formidable list a few committees, directorships and more and you can appreciate that we were wondering what kind of talk would be delivered to us!

We need not have worried – a consummate professional, Tim gauged the talk just right from the excellent, informative slides to the commentary given in straightforward language. A complex subject was made totally accessible. Who would have thought that there were so many different types of lavender? Wherever you go in most parts of the world it seems that you can trip over a lavender bush – be it Arabia, Somalia, India, the Canary Islands, Morocco ………….as well as in pots on Sandringham patios and in your own garden.

Such a brief article cannot do justice to this talk – have a look at Tim’s book ‘The genus lavendula’. So I shall restrict myself here to recommendations for our gardens, For the good old-fashioned English lavender – lavendula angustifolia – look no further than Hidcote (dark violet flowers), Beechwood blue, Ashdown Forest and the very old cultivar Nana Atropurpurea – all with violet flowers and the pink flowering Miss Katherine. Remember to prune these so that keep their shape. Look within the heart of the plant and you should see small shoots on the side of stems. You should prune so that these shoots are left below where you cut. You can prune with a pair of secateurs or with some shears. The shoots will push out to form the new greenery of the plant. Lavenders like a really good haircut so be brave about it. Many people tentatively snip off the old flowering stems. This is certainly not a hard enough prune. But take care, with this type of lavender pruning is a job for early summer after flowering or next spring around March time. Put a note in your diary now!

Do try growing some of the less hardy lavender but use containers as they do not like our winters! Just beware of the rosemary beetle, a beautiful lavender-striped beetle which has taken a liking to lavender and is starting to tour the UK. The best way of disposing of it is to squeeze between the fingers as you do with the lily beetle.

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December 2011 – How to grow vegetables

What a great way to end 2011 with Geoff Hodge, free-lance writer famous in gardening circles for his many articles in Gardening News and the RHS journal ‘The Garden’, a regular on Radio Cambridgeshire and BBC Essex came to Fowlmere. Like a whirlwind he overwhelmed us with his knowledge, sense of humour and tremendous personality. He made his talk on ‘Growing vegetables’ so interesting that members who only came for the splendid Christmas buffet left the meeting inspired to try their hand at growing vegetables next spring.

Geoff took us through the simple steps to vegetable growing – be it in a patio pot, a raised bed, a window sill or the open ground. He described the best tools for the job and gave sound advice – don’t stand on the soil in the raised beds as you may compress the soil, remember to add organic material to your beds ( there are no nutrients in manure – but you knew that didn’t you!). Use a soil thermometer as seeds will not germinate below 7ºC, keep last year’s seed in its sachet in a cold, dark and dry place – even better place packets in a tupperware box along with sachets of silica gel (from your new handbags, ladies!) would be an appropriate container, do follow the instructions on the seed packet! etc, etc.His talk could fill a book.

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February 2012 – Cambridgeshire Trees

At their last meeting members of the Gardening Club also needed help when it came to identifying trees when faced with many bare twigs. Luckily Richard Todd, Head Gardener of Anglesey Abbey was at hand to assist us with the answers to his opening quiz! His Powerpoint presentation included beautiful pictures of the same trees in their full splendour. We left the meeting resolved to learn more about Cambridgeshire’s trees.

Do try and visit Anglesey Abbey in March when you will see a spectacular sight as the springtime bulbs, blue scilla and chionodoxa cover the ground beneath the trees in the lime tree avenue. Also at the beginning of April a carpet of shocking pink tulips can be admired beneath those infamous silver birches!

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April 2012 – Plants for shade

‘When faced with a tough environment, bring in the tough lads’

Well, such fighting talk is not what we expect at the Gardening Club, but Peter Jackson, Scotsdale’s ‘guru’ went on to explain at our last meeting. Exotic, brightly coloured tender, sunshine-loving plants have no place in the shady border. Gardeners must face up the simple fact that ‘tough places need tough plants’.

Fear not though, Peter mentioned many plants which look good and will survive in shady places. But first, make sure that you plant properly – use moisture retentive gels and Rootgrow which contains mycrorhizal fungi enabling the plants to extract nutrients and hold onto water in difficult soil conditions. Then, choose wisely. Remember the smaller the plant, the quicker it will get established.

Peter recommended the following:- the architectural plant Fatsia Japonica which forms a reliable backdrop, the Choisya White Dazzler which grows well in semi-shade to about a metre high. Smaller leaved plants are good too – try varieties of the Euonymous. Cotoneaster dammerii provides reliable ground cover as does Pachysandra terminalis (Japanese Spurge) with its rosettes of glossy, dark green leaves with serrated edges. In early summer upright clusters of tiny, white flowers contrast beautifully with the dark green foliage. Vinca minor (the lesser periwinkle) would be a good companion
Reliable perennials for the shady border include the lovely alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantle) and the Polygonatum (Solomon’s Seal) susceptible to saw fly so spray early in the season Don’t forget the digitalis (foxglove) – particularly the traditional pink and white ones or the Hellebores – promiscuous plants so do not let them go to seed! Heucheras are better in partial shade – split them every three years. Look out for the beautiful cranesbill, the geranium Rozanne – cut back after flowering and you may be lucky and achieve three bursts of colour in a season!

The list is endless – I haven’t even mentioned the Christmas box, the spotted laurel, ferns, ivies ………………………………………….. all tough lads!

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May 2012 – Penstemons

Roger Skipper is not only a penstemon but also the name of our last speaker who bred his very own flower – recognised firstly in America and then in the UK by the Royal Horticultural Society.

Roger described this lovely bell-like flower with many photographs of countless varieties grown in his own garden which he often opens to the public. Try growing the red Penstemon Southgate gem, P. Garnet or P. Firebird – all are hardy, bushy plants which will produce many flowers towards the end of summer until the first frosts. Also good ‘doers’ but not quite so hardy are Penstemon Blackbird (deep purple), P. Raven (purplish), P. Osprey – white and pink and
P. Flamingo (bright orange-pink). Use penstemons to fill the gaps in the summer border as they come into their own in early autumn. They like sunny positions and will tolerate dry conditions once established so only plant them in the spring not when they are looking their best in the garden centre in late August and September! The darker forms look good when weaving through softly flowing grasses such as Stipa tenuissima.

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June 2012 – Garden visit

The intrepid members of the Gardening Club braved the elements to visit a Cambridge town house garden at 17 Mariners Way, Chesterton CB4 1BN. The rain eased just for us, and the sun shone just long enough for us to look around this plantsman’s garden. Although a small garden Margaret had designed it so that every inch was used – tall pittosporum shrubs formed an evergreen hedge, a fountain played in the centre of a patio with borders containing low-growing flowers and vegetables. A pergola hosted roses and clematis with a raised bed groaning with ferns had found a home on the shady side of the house. Green Men peered out from amongst the beautiful roses, heucheras and hardy geraniums. There were too many unusual plants for us to remember the names. The more hardy members had their note-books at the ready to record their favourites!! We rounded off the visit with Margaret’s fruit punch and cream scones – totally wicked as we then enjoyed a pub supper!

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July 2012 – Colour in the garden

Our last speaker was a consummate professional – of course Hilary Thomas had the edge on us having been the Head of Garden Design at Capel Manor College for many years. Graduates of her courses have won numerous medals at RHS shows and are respected for their excellent plant knowledge and imaginative use of plants. So …….. Hilary arrived early, set up her equipment, tested it (!) and proceeded to talk with enthusiasm and verve whilst sharing with us a splendid digital presentation of colourful plants for every season For inspiration visit Hyde Hall, Essex which has begun to adopt Piet Oudolf’s naturalistic planting in one area of the garden or Holme Hall, Norfolk with its contemporary walled kitchen garden and front garden designed and planted by Chelsea winner Arne Maynard. The garden incorporates large herbaceous borders, trained fruit, vegetables and a traditional greenhouse.

Hilary’s tips for an interesting colourful garden included:-
• Be bold – take out half of what you have in a border and double what you have left! In other words repetition of a plant across different beds gives a flowing continuity.
• No matter how small your garden use a few tall plants – spikes and spires – try Macleaya, the plum poppy with Verbena Bonariensis and poppies.
• Don’t forget grasses (e.g. Stipa tenuissima) but buy a packet of seeds – much cheaper than a plant from the nursery! Plant grasses in well-drained soil and don’t feed them too much.
• Grow loyal, easy plants – Bergenia makes excellent ground cover and is a hit with flower arrangers, Hesperis matronalis (Sweet Rocket) will give you scent in the evening and Geranium macrorhizum will quickly fill a difficult site with its pink or white flowers and virtually evergreen leaves.

As usual this is a mere snapshot of another interesting and enjoyable Gardening Club meeting.

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August 2012 – Making a Garland in Sue’s garden

After a gloomy rainy day the evening brightened up and the number of patches of blue sky increased. Against the background of playful cats and low-flying birds David Holmes entertained us in the garden of Brambledown – home of our genial hosts – Ken and Sue Allsworth.

Did you know that the best garlands are made from hazel, oak, wild cherry and even privet? David brought with him examples of these flexible branches which could be willingly coaxed into perfect hoops ready to be festooned with garden flowers and foliage. A hot glue gun comes in handy if you want to attach cones for a Christmas garland, florist’s wire can be wound around stalks of all kinds of plants before threading them between the slender branches of the garland. You don’t need to go to a lot of trouble – just find some holly, yew or box to form an evergreen background and gradually build up a collection of herbs and flowers. Suddenly you have your own piece of living art which will last for a long time – especially if you regularly replace tired plant material. Sue was our willing volunteer who successfully made her own garland and several members walked away with bunches of branches ready to be woven into perfect examples of David’s art!

The evening ended with wine and nibbles – a lovely way to spend some summer hours with friends.

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