Category Archives: 2012 – 2013

October 2012 – AGM and Quiz

What a year! The Golden Jubilee celebrations continue …………………. Even our Social Quiz had a Golden theme thanks to Quiz master, Glen Link. Successful, too, was our Jubilee dinner – Thriplow Village Hall looked a picture with the sparkling white table linen showing off the beautiful yellow flower arrangements put together by Shirley Cooper. Marcia’s splendid catering did us proud – the evening provided us with several entries to our memory-banks! I shall always remember the pleasant atmosphere and the continuous happy buzz of friendly conversations.

At our AGM we voted in Carol Clarke as our Membership Secretary and Sue Pinner as a Committee member. Sue Allsworth is our new Vice Chair (oh yes, I am still the Chair!), Keith Evans moved to the post of Treasurer with Jo Fisher, Barbara Harper, Gwyneth Page, Michael Pollard, Hilary Magnay and Joan Smith remaining on the Committee. One long-standing Committee member has resigned – we will all miss Shirley Cooper whose support and contribution to the Club has been invaluable over so many years. We could not manage without the stalwarts who are always there to lend a hand – Jane & Robin Dring, Liz & Owen Smeeton, Ken Allsworth, Andrew Francis, Jill and Mel Vinton – the list is endless. Indeed a sincere ‘thank you’ must be extended to all our members who make the Club such a happy one. Come and see for yourself – join us for our Christmas buffet on 6 December when we will enjoy our splendid Christmas buffet after listening to Mike Day talking about ‘Vegetable varieties today’

Posted in 2012 - 2013 |

November 2012 – Bob Flowerdew No Work Gardening

We expected that a highlight of our Jubilee year would be the visit of Bob Flowerdew last month. The audience numbered over a hundred with other gardening clubs well represented. We were not disappointed as Bob delivered his talk ‘No work gardening’ with panache – not that the Committee members and supporters were shrinking violets as they wore with pride splendid yellow buttonholes superbly made by Glen Link.

Bob boldly swept away some long-held views of fellow gardeners who seemingly made unnecessary work for themselves in the garden.

For instance – one message from Bob was to accept the garden conditions you have – why waste time on trying to change things just to grow particular plants. Instead grow the plants which thrive and tolerate your particular soil type and general garden conditions. Some things you cannot change for instance there will always be weeds. Yes, weed killers are useful to e.g. keep an asphalt car park weed-free but as for ordinary gardens, just continually chop off their heads!

Bob’s advice was “Beware of expert advice!” In his view garden books are mostly written by acknowledged experts in their field but most gardeners just want to know the basics so treat advice with care. Be careful of descriptions in seed catalogues – avoid those plants which are described as ‘good for the Show Bench’ – probably taste will be sacrificed for appearance.

Bob had some useful tips:

  • why buy expensive plant labels when ordinary clothes pegs and a simple pencil will suffice (pegs are also useful to hold back brambles/branches when you are gardening nearby)
  • admire Chelsea gardens which are always inspirational, like Impressionist paintings but be realistic over your own capabilities!
  • gardening is mostly maintenance not designing – think of how much time you are prepared to give to maintenance before embarking on a complicated make-over
  • save time and effort – why have a fan-trained peach tree when it will grow naturally into a tree
  • sharpen your hoe – don’t buy stainless steel ones. “Hoe when you don’t see a weed and you won’t get a weed’
  • plant your tomatoes in the soil not in grow bags
  • grow more lettuces than you need, shred the leaves and leave for the slugs – this will deter them from approaching your favourite plants

Space does not permit me to continue with this list but I hope that you now have a flavour of this most interesting, inspiring talk given by a very knowledgeable and courteous speaker. Well done Bob!010

Posted in 2012 - 2013 |

December 2012 – Mike Day – Vegetable Varieties Today

Our last speaker in 2012, Mike Day, brought with him forty two years of agricultural experience. Born on a farm Mike is a country man through and through. Working for NIAB (the National Institute of Agricultural Botany), the independent, not-for-profit plant research and information centre based in Cambridgeshire, He has been conducting vegetable trials for many years and what he doesn’t know about vegetable growing just isn’t worth knowing.

Along with a superb, professional visual presentation Mike gave us many tips on the vegetable varieties to choose. I can only give you a flavour of Mike’s talk here so……………starting with Carrots – Mike reminded us that carrots used to be purple, white and yellow – orange is the newest colour! Choose ‘Chantenay‘ which still has the best flavour – they are perfect for everyone. No need to peel, quick and easy to cook and great for just munching. Try growing from seed ‘Paris Market‘ carrots in containers (32 plants to a 10″ pot is ideal). In just 12 weeks they will produce delicious, short, stubby almost round carrots. Sow your seed now – although they are just as good grown later in the year.

Celery – ‘Victoria‘ needs plenty of moisture for a successful crop, and is a slow grower so sow seeds early

Parsnips – try growing ‘Javelin‘ which produces high yields of long slender roots. It has fantastic flavour making it perfect for roasted parsnips. Its shallow crowns make it easy to wash. The long cropping period means that you can have parsnips all the way through winter and right into late spring. The ‘Countess‘ parsnip provides outstanding quality and good disease resistance with excellent taste and texture.

Lettuce – ‘Little Gem‘ or ‘Cos‘ are still the best but why not try growing mixed salad leaves from seed. – great in pots outside your back door.

Now is the time to buy your seeds and sow in your garden beds or containers or in your allotments.

Wishing you ‘Happy Gardening’ in 2013!

Posted in 2012 - 2013 |

March 2013 Plants for all seasons- Ursula Buchan

It was obvious from the start of her lecture that words ran through the veins of our last speaker. Her rich and precise vocabulary enhanced her accompanying presentation of beautiful photographs of plants taken by Cambridge photographer Howard Rice (have a look at his excellent website). Yes, we were privileged to welcome Ursula Buchan to Fowlmere. Descended from John Buchan, the famous author of The Thirty Nine Steps Ursula trained as a gardener at Kew and has written many gardening books and is an award-winning journalist writing regularly for the RHS publication, The Garden and the Daily Telegraph for eighteen years.

In her talk about ‘Plants for all seasons’, Ursula wanted to remind us of the extraordinary capacity of plants to change over the months. This is a welcome feature for us, the owners of smaller gardens, as we need to choose reliable plants which offer structure and interest in more than one season of the year. A flower may be the most fleeting aspect of a plant which has much more to offer such as beautiful leaves or bracts, colour in the autumn and so on.

So take a second look at ferns in your garden as they unfurl their magnificent fronds. Grasses offer interest with foliage throughout most of the year but particularly in the winter with their frosted flowers. For a change try Zebra grass Miscanthus sinensin ‘Zebrinus’ with its leaves striped horizontally. Bring some blue to your borders with the flowers of the small globe thistle, echinops ritro (the seed heads are beloved by butterflies) or the sea holly (Eryngium bourgatii) – the blue bracts and stems will endure our winters so don’t chop them down in the autumn!

Ursula talked about the beauty of certain plants which we may overlook as being commonplace in our gardens. Space does not permit me to elaborate so take a look yourself at these plants every time you walk pass them in your garden:- Mahonia Japonica with its range of colours, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, Rosa Rugosa – especially for the colourful hips in the autumn, Clematis Tangutica with its silky seedheads, the evergreen Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Ingwersen’s variety’ (beware as it can be invasive but worth planting for its lovely soft pink flowers in May) Allium – especially Christophii the romantically named ‘Star of Persia’.

Posted in 2012 - 2013 |

April 2013 Companion Plants-Andrew Sankey

You would be forgiven for thinking that the Gardening Club had changed its image – what were we doing inviting a speaker to tell us about company in the garden? Not that there is anything wrong with sharing your garden with a friend or relative over a cup of tea (or glass of wine!). But no, Derby and Joan were not the subjects of Andrew Sankey’s talk. In an amusing, witty and interesting way Andrew talked about the way in which we could grow plants together in a successful, mutually beneficial way. Quite naturally some plants already choose their neighbours – think of the wild clematis, the Old Man’s Beard, rambling through hedges. Older civilisations discovered the benefits of growing certain plants together – did you know that the Incas grew marigolds between their rows of corn and beans?

So here are some tips from Andrew – let me know if they work for you!

  • Underplant roses with chives (or any member of the onion family) to ward off blackspot and greenfly as would dwarf lavender (try ‘Hidcote’).
  • Grow sage near cabbages – if the sage grows too big then pick off the stems and drop them near the cabbages.
  • Grow tomatoes near your gooseberries
  • Yarrow – a tonic plant will aid all plants in their vicinity. It increases the scent of nearby plants and, fights off pests and attracts ladybirds.


Andrew also described many successful plant combinations for us to consider.

  • Underplant hellebores with snowdrops
  • Try lilies and roses together to increase their scent
  • Plant hardy geraniums near daffodils – their leaves grow and cover the untidy daffodil leaves after they have finished flowering.
  • Similarly the untidy straggly leaves of the Allium Christophii can be hidden if overplanted with Heuchera or Alchemilla mollis

Many more useful ideas can be gleaned from Andrew’s little booklet called ‘Companion Planting’ – well worth a read. Have a look at his website.

Posted in 2012 - 2013 |

May 2013 Planning borders – Helen Riches

We didn’t realise how complicated a task it is to design a border in your garden. Most of us purchase plants which we like and just pop them in a space in the border. Our speaker, Helen Riches sought to change all that and gave us some tried and tested ground rules for designing that perfect border.

Start with big ideas – do you want a favourite tree to be the focal point, do you wish to concentrate on summer-flowering perennials or fragrant plants. Check out the soil type, the direction which the border faces, what about the shade. Don’t forget architectural plants to give your border a backbone. Aim for 30% evergreen and 70% deciduous plants to ensure that the border looks good at all times of the year.

Draw your plan, starting with the shrubs and bearing in mind the eventual size of the mature plants. Add your perennials in groups of three or five and bulbs last of all. Man-made structures add another dimension to your border so look for interesting pots or bricks. Seek inspiration for your plants from magazines, visit other peoples’ gardens and think carefully before buying that impulse plant at the garden centre.

Helen showed us examples of gardens she had designed and described the ‘before and after’ stages. But now it’s up to us – we have to decide how we can transform our borders ……………………….. Good luck!

Posted in 2012 - 2013 |

June 2013 Wrest Park, Kathy’s Garden AND Salvias!

Yes, what a busy month and by the time you read this article the Gardening Club will have also enjoyed a visit to Devon – more of that in the next issue!

Firstly we should tell you about our day trip to Wrest Park, Silsoe and Kathy’s Garden in Stevington – two very different gardens, each with its own character. Wrest Park is an exceptional rarity. Its grounds contain one of the few remaining formal gardens of the early 18th century and the house is a near unique example of English architecture following the style of an 18th century chateau. English Heritage have done well to restore some of its original charm in just two or three years and are trying to restore the house and the amalgam of three centuries of English garden design.

Extremely knowledgeable buggy drivers took us on tours of the gardens describing the history of each area, the statuary and the names of the many trees.

Next we visited Kathy’s garden and the smiles broadened –what a haven! Round every corner was another flower bed brimming with happy plants. So many ideas for us to take back to our own gardens. We were inspired by the edible garden, delighted by the silver leaved eleagnus, herbaceous white honesty, hesperis, geraniums, geums, poppies and aquilegias. The ferns were commencing their fresh wonderful statuesque growth while hostas in hanging baskets were already making a good display. May is such a marvellous time of year. The early growth and fresh leaves of trees, hedging and grasses were magical. We ended the afternoon with delicious home-made cakes on the lawn while some of our number carried on playing with five tiny puppies who were brought out for a breath of fresh air. Then the heavens opened and we endured a magnificent hail storm with huge hailstones falling from an angry sky. Oh how I love English weather…………….

Almost an anti-climax was our June meeting – but no, this wasn’t true. Our speaker Janet Buist is one of those English treasures who carries on developing so many varieties of salvias from her home in Colne with no regard for commercial success. She brought with her many plants which showed her passion for developing salvias. There is a salvia for every type of garden so go on, visit the garden centre and buy a few. Better still –contact Janet at Pennycross Plants, Colne.

Posted in 2012 - 2013 |

Our Long Weekend Break to Devon

Believe it or not some villagers read about our weekend breaks and then follow the routes themselves! We are always flattered to hear this so here is another splendid itinerary to follow!

A few weeks ago thirty six Gardening Club members and friends left the villages full of expectation. They were not disappointed. First stop was a gem of a garden – The Courts Garden. One of Wiltshire’s best-kept secrets, nestling in the village of Holt, near Bradford on Avon, this Courts Garden demonstrated the English garden style at its best, full of charm and variety – a true hidden treasure.

We reached our hotel in Exeter to find it buzzing with different sorts of flowers! Over 300 Exeter College students were celebrating the excellence of fellow students who were being awarded with a stream of Sports Awards. Oh those amazing dresses and huge heels! The young men were suave and well-dressed – a suitable foil for their colourful partners – Oh to be young again!

Next day we ventured out, calm had settled on the hotel again and so we set off for the edge of Dartmoor where the enthusiastic plant collector Lionel Fortescue first developed The Garden House in the 1940s. The pioneering planting style is known as ‘new naturalism’, inspired by natural plant communities in the UK and further afield. It features choice trees and shrubs underplanted with thousands of perennials and bulbs. The new Head Gardener showed us around – so much work for him to do but we could still see ‘the inspirational garden blending seamlessly into a timeless Devon landscape, offering stunning views in all directions’.

Dodging the showers we arrived at Buckland Abbey. Not only the gardens were explored but we also admired the recently-discovered Rembrandt – worth over 20 million and ‘guarded’ with nonchalance by one National Trust volunteer…………………………………..

Sunday saw us visiting two more National Trust properties – time and space does not permit me to describe Killerton or Knights Hayes in detail – just go and have a look for yourselves! (I’m not even going to describe the Burlesque dancersd at Killerton!) Our final visit en route home was indescribable – the RHS Garden Rosemoor –I’m not often (ever?) lost for words but here is a garden which surpasses all others. At the heart of the site is a flowing succession of ‘garden rooms’ each with an identity and a purpose but together forming the Formal garden. Other highlights are two rose gardens, a Winter Garden, a Cottage Garden, wild flower meadows, the Forest Garden etc etc. It’s enough to make you move to Devon …………………….. Really pleasing to see was the arrival of a group primary aged children eager to learn about the environment at the purpose-built Learning Centre. So, go on – join the RHS today! Better still, join the Gardening Club – we are affiliated to the RHS so we visited this wonderful garden for free!

Next year – North Wales, staying at Caernarfon – watch this space.001

Posted in 2012 - 2013 |

August 2013 Summer Soiree

Another summer, another soirée. It has become customary for the Gardening Club to hold an annual evening get-together in a member’s garden. So on a balmy evening in August nearly 50 gardeners partied in the beautiful garden of Robin and Jane Dring. Over a glass of wine we wandered around the flower beds admiring the superb collection of plants but also trying to identify unusual specimens in an attempt to win the horticultural quiz. Would you know your Polygonatum (Solomon’s Seal) from your Smilacina – often confused with Solomon’s Seal? Could you identify Dictamnus albus – the burning bush or Glaucium flavum – the horned poppy? It was quite a relief to recognise tarragon and oleander! Congratulations to Jill and Mel Vinton who won this tricky quiz.

Jane had also devised an antiques quiz so our imagination was stretched as we tried to identify items collected over the years. A Roman roof tile from a privately-owned Roman villa near Salisbury dating from the 3rd century created the most discussion. A close second was the knitting stick – apparently you could drive your horse and cart whilst knitting with just one stick (needle) under your arm! Equally intriguing was the copper beer warmer – its pointed end was placed into hot coals to achieve a more pleasant drink. Jenny Brew and Freda Spencer, F&TGC members from Foxton won this quiz – well done ladies!

The first meeting of the Club year is on 3 October when we gather around tables in Fowlmere Village Hall to enjoy a quiz devised by Glen Link. Do come along to sample the friendliness of our popular club. Some of the questions will be about plants and gardens but there is always a good sprinkling of general knowledge questions. Accompanied by drinks and nibbles this is always a most enjoyable evening.

Posted in 2012 - 2013 |