Category Archives: 2013 – 2014

October 2013 – AGM/Quiz

This is what I would call a ‘bread and butter’ article – no mention of soirées, visits to lovely gardens or excellent speakers. I make no apologies for this as without our splendid local volunteers no organisation would survive!

So at the AGM the following officers were elected – I retained the position of Chair (and very flattered too at the confidence in me shown by members – of course it has nothing to do with no-one else volunteering for the job! Is that an good example of irony, I ask myself?)

Sue Allsworth did an excellent job as Acting Vice Chair last year but other considerable commitments have forced her to resign this post BUT she is now our Meetings Secretary and we are so relieved to be able to fill this post with such a competent person. So, that left the post of Vice Chair unfilled. Thank goodness for Sue Pinner who was elected Vice Chair. Sue has already been doing the job of 2014 Show Co-ordinator so it made sense that she took over the post of Vice Chair – thank you Sue. Keith Evans has agreed to continue as our Treasurer – special thanks to him for turning around the Annual Accounts so quickly in time for the AGM. Also for the first time we engaged an Independent Examiner and thanks galore go to Martin Arthur who worked extremely speedily to check our accounts …………… you see what I mean by my earlier reference to ‘our splendid local volunteers’? Carole Clarke continues as our super-efficient Membership Secretary, Barbara Harper remains as our Committee Clerk with a hand on history (and the website!) to ensure that we do not err from the straight and narrow. Other Committee members elected were Michael Pollard, Joan Smith and Jo Fisher. There are also so many Club members who help in so many ways – I could fill the News with their efforts but you will be pleased to read that is not my intention today.

I will end with a basket of thanks to Glen Link, a long-standing Club member who has developed a skill in devising Quizzes. (You heard it here first!) Our Annual Quiz baffled many members – it always covers not only gardening knowledge but also general knowledge. Table teams entered with gusto but the winning group was Robin and Jane, Shirley and Mary (not me unfortunately), Kit and Margaret – well done everyone!

Back to normal next month with a talk about the modern herbaceous border form Aubrey Barker, owner of Hopley’s nursery Much Hadham.

Posted in 2013 - 2014 |

November 2013 – The Modern Herbaceous Border – Audrey Barker

Well, what do we know about the ‘modern herbaceous border?’ You could say that the origins can be traced back to the borders of ‘old fashioned’ hardy herbaceous plants that made the country cottage gardens so attractive. Admittedly Gertrude Jekyll was an important proponent in the late nineteenth century with her plant groupings of particular colours but more about her after our lecture in February! If you ‘Google’ modern herbaceous border, you will find a bewildering 20+ pages of hundreds of pictures of beautiful borders with even more available at the click of a mouse’. Have a look ……………….

To find out more, we asked Aubrey Barker from Hopley’s nursery in Much Hadham to come and tell us about the phenomenon.

Aubrey started by describing Arley Hall in Cheshire which boasts the first ever (twin) herbaceous borders – planted in the 1840s. With a nod to Gertrude’s contribution in the 1880’s Aubrey reminded us of Alan Bloom’s significant contribution to garden design in the twentieth century – his island beds at Bressingham were a revolution in their day because unlike in a traditional herbaceous border, the plants can be seen from all directions. More recently Piet Oudolf has introduced grasses to the herbaceous border – Trentham has acres of them and Pensthorpe is renowned for its prairie planting of grasses and perennials. Many members will have seen several of these important gardens on day visits or during weekend breaks with the Club.

Where next for the herbaceous border?

Aubrey then started showing us countless lovely pictures of plants for herbaceous borders, ranging alphabetically, starting with the achillea ptarmica (pearl white), alcea rosea the pinkish hollyhock grown at Powys castle, Aruncus dioicus – the goats beard beloved by flower arrangers – growing 2m high but with tiny creamy white flowers, Campanula ‘octopus’ with its long, nodding, rose-pink flowers in the shape of Japanese lanterns on upright stems in summer through to Gaura ‘Rosy Jane’ – beautiful with grasses – its tiny flowers looking like stars etc. etc……………….

We stopped at the letter ‘i’ as it was tea time !

Hope to see you at our Splendid Christmas Buffet on 7 December!

Posted in 2013 - 2014 |

December – Growing Vegetables in Containers/Geoff Hodge

Now is the time to think about vegetables for the summer! Hopefully the following article will inspire you…….

A return visit by Geoff Hodge ended the Gardening Club’s year. Geoff is extremly knowledgeable and what he doesn’t know about growing vegetables really isn’t worth knowing! He has managed a Garden Centre, wrote for the RHS for years, contributes regularly to Garden News, has several books under his belt, and has an excellent website –

“Grow your vegetables for flavour” Geoff said – “they will taste far better than those you purchase in a supermarket. You will also be ‘doing your bit’ by involving fewer airmiles! Add vegetables to your flower garden, raised beds, window boxes (excellent for cut ‘n come again salad crops) – you will not be disappointed.”

An 8″ pot will be fine for 5/6 French bean plants or peppers (6/7 plants in a 15″ pot), use a 12″ pot for cucumbers, an 18 – 24″ pot for 5 runner bean plants. Beware of using grow bags unless you top them up with more compost or lie then on the open ground. NOW is the time to buy your seed potatoes, chit them for better results and they will be ready for planting out in April.

Use good quality compost to fill your pots – you will need to start feeding in about 5 to 6 weeks – every 7 to 10 days in the growing period. High potash fertilisers like Tomorite are good for flowers and fruiting. But – don’t feed your tomatoes until the first truss has set! In fact – keep the tomato plant in a small pot until the first truss of flowers begins to open (didn’t know that, did you?).

Do keep this information for your future use and then let us all know about the wonderful crop of vegetables you have grown in your containers!

Thinking of food – we enjoyed probably the best-ever Splendid Christmas Buffet in December – thanks to our generous members who brought all kinds of goodies. Can’t wait for next year…

Happy Gardening in 2014

Posted in 2013 - 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.

Posted in 2013 - 2014 |

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!

Posted in 2013 - 2014 |

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.

Posted in 2013 - 2014 |

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!

Posted in 2013 - 2014 |

June 2014 – Soiree/Stoneyfield

Posted in 2013 - 2014 |

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

Posted in 2013 - 2014 |

July 2014 – The Wonderful World of Willow/Sandra Barker

Posted in 2013 - 2014 |
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