Category Archives: 2015
Our speaker this month was Richard Ford, a very experienced plantsman with many Chelsea golds to his credit! Tonight he gave an excellent, well-illustrated talk which demonstrated, in his own words, “Anything will grow in pots as long as they are looked after – nutrients and water are our responsibility”. He showed that plants are more effective when grouped together, with taller ones at the back. We were shown the huge variety of containers which can be used including hanging baskets, troughs, pots of all kinds – elegant, expensive, colourful,cheap-and-cheerful or ‘home-made’, in reactor, plastic, wood or stone, all according to personal preference. Good compost and nutrients should be used such as seaweed, and long-term fertilisers like ‘Miracle Grow’, ‘Osmocote’ or ‘Phostrogen’ are recommended, with enough water – especially ubn windy weather.
(Many thanks to to Jane Dring for providing this account of March talk.)
Did you know that the bumblebee queen overwinters underground, often in an
abandoned mouse hole? She has been busy preparing for the winter and has built up
her fat reserves feeding on plenty of sweet nectar. During the winter, if her body
temperature dips too low she can produce her own antifreeze, preventing her body
from freezing. After hibernation she emerges in the spring and finds a suitable nest –
usually beneath a hedgerow. Read more of this story on the website of “Dragonfli”
whose owner, Julian Ives came to talk to us at our last meeting.
It is vital to look after our bees – not just honey bees but also bumblebees, solitary
bees, leaf cutter bees, red mason bees ……… . You may already have leaf cutter
bees if you find leaves with symmetrical cuts all around the edges – they particularly
like rose leaves. There are several hundred species of solitary bees and you can
encourage them by erecting a bee hotel on your garden wall or fence – look in the
garden centre now as from April onwards through to July the females will be looking
for a nest.
You will have all seen the bee hotels which are bundles of tubes of different sizes –
these can easily be made at home. Different sizes attract different species. The queen
lays female eggs at the back and male ones at the front so that an inquisitive
woodpecker only eats the less important gender! Pollen/nectar is put next to each egg
for the emerging baby bee to eat and once the tube is full the entrance is blocked up
with whatever suitable material is around. Observant gardeners may be lucky enough
to see the emerging baby bees flying away from their hotel.
Of course you need to grow the right plants to attract the bees – check the labels before
purchase as plant growers are realising that gardeners are getting more
knowledgeable and discerning.
There are twenty four species of bumblebees in the UK, they visit more flowers than
the honey bee and can carry heavier loads of pollen allowing longer periods for
foraging. Tree bumblebees are becoming more widespread – you may find them in
trees, old nest boxes and roof spaces.
A fascinating talk – three cheers for the bees!
For 25 years Andrew Nottage worked for Russell Smith Farms (College Farm) and at their last meeting the Club benefitted from his extensive knowledge of not only the farming but also the flora and the wildlife.
We learned so many things about College Farm – all positives.
Yes, we knew that the farm has been supplying many supermarkets with high-quality root vegetables, both organic and conventional,for several years particularly potatoes and onions but we did not realise the painstaking efforts taken to ensure that wildlife prospers in the fields because of careful management. Wild flowers are grown at the field margins providing habitat for small mammals – wild mignonette, ox-eye daisy, coltsfoot grow undisturbed – so good for the insects. Stubble is left for nesting birds as are squares in the middle of cultivated fields for skylarks in particular. Beetle banks (grass mounds ) in the middle of arable farmland provide essential over-wintering habitat for insects and spiders. Some of these insects move into the crop in spring and eat crop pests such as aphids thus reducing the need for insecticides.proud habitat for small mammals. Then there are the hedgerows – carefully managed to allow corridors for wildlife to travel and find food. I could continue but space does not allow.
We were impressed by the use of sophisticated technology on farm machines which allows fields to be ‘read’. This ‘mapping’ ensures that the correct amount of e.g. fertiliser can be applied according to the differing soil types across a field.
A proud member of LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) College Farm promotes environmentally responsible farming – do go along to the next Open Farm Day to learn more about this widely admired and respected farm.
As for Andrew – well, there is another dimension to his life. Many farmers in Ireland are benefitting from his expertise as he provides potato agronomy, farm management and business support never forgetting the need to care for the environment. We can be certain that he will ensure that the good work continues unabated at College Farm. Well done Andrew.
A return visit from Andrew Sankey provided much food for thought as his talk was entitled ‘Rethinking your garden’. After listening to his tips and hints we began to think about our own gardens in a different way – was it time for change? Here are some of his ideas which might inspire you ………
Firstly do you indulge in impulse buying? “ No, not me “ – I can read your thoughts, but, just a minute, what happened when you last visited a garden centre! I think that we all have to admit that we get carried away when we see that beautiful plant and we leave with it smiling at us from our basket. When we arrive home we often think ‘Where shall I plant this?” ‘Think before you buy’ was Andrew’s advice.
When considering changes in your garden remember that curves and circles widen a narrow space. A meandering path will lengthen your garden especially if you end the vista with a terracotta pot – empty or full of flowers or even with a statue for instance. Keep your plants in scale – no huge trees for a small garden – there are plenty of smaller ones which will fit the bill. Don’t ignore difficult places like shady borders. There are many plants which will prosper in the shade – Google for some ideas or seek advice from the nursery/plant centre. Plant in drifts or threes or fives even in a small garden for maximum affect. This repeat planting along a border provides continuity and calm.
Think carefully about where you place those impact plants of red, yellow or bright orange. Such colour draws the eye and stops you from looking beyond them. So, plant them towards the back or end of the garden with cooler, paler colours near the front. This will give the illusion of a bigger garden. If you make a mistake, just find the courage to lift it, give the offending plant to your neighbour or bring it to the Gardening Club for sale on our garden stall!
Bring some interest to potentially boring areas – try making a ‘window’ in a long hedge or placing a false door in a wall. Looking for a place for hanging baskets? Why not hang them from the branches of a tree? Is there an eyesore like an ugly telegraph pole near your garden? Draw the eyes away from it to a group of impact plants planted nearby.
So many imperatives! Believe me the talk made an impression on Club members who noted that many of these points were put into practice in the lovely Cotswold gardens which we visited on our recent weekend break.
So, have another look at your garden with fresh eyes – be bold and make changes!
Where do I start? Perhaps with the weather? Yet again we were blessed with fine weather throughout – no storms, no hailstones, just pleasant, if occasional slightly windy days – perfect for garden-hopping!
But our first stop was Waddesdon Manor – yes I know that was a Gardening Club holiday but we can still enjoy the treasures amassed by the Rothschilds such as the many items of Sevres porcelain , Gainsborough paintings in so many rooms – have you seen ‘The Pink Boy’ up close? If you are lucky enough to visit Waddesdon, do spend time watching the introductory film – one section not to be missed shows an extraordinary musical automaton on the shape of an elephant who, when wound up, will flap his ears, move his tail and ears, spin the flower petals…… Apparently the Shah of Persia was so enchanted with it that he asked for it to be played over and over agin, showing no interest in seeing the rest of the collection. But the hardy members of the Gardening Club moved on, taking in the wonderful textiles, bookbindings and furniture.
The garden was designed to complement the Manor – a parterre to challenge Wimpole, three dimensional bedding – we met people who gave up their holiday to create these massive birds out of bedding plants to fill Alice’s garden! Then there was the wild flower valley, huge specimen trees and an aviary! Yes, you read correctly – an aviary full of apparently happy, well-cared for exotic birds.
A lightning stop at Tewkesbury where we visited the splendid 12th Century Abbey located near to rows of 15th century timber framed buildings.
Garden-visiting then began in earnest on our second day which started at Mill Dene, a watermill garden created by the Dare family on a site which had housed a water mill from Saxon and possibly Roman times.. You may remember Mr Dare who used to work for Unwins and has many happy memories of lunches in the Chequers, Fowlmere! What a small world…….. We appreciated the many terraces and walks, we loved the ducks and baby moorhens in the mill pond. We welcomed the hot coffee and cakes served in the conservatory temptingly close to plants for sale!
After lunch at Moreton-on-the-Marsh our group split into two. Some found their way to Bourton- on -the-water – still a picture-postcard Cotswolds village. Lots of people enjoying the sunshine, of a Saturday afternoon with happy children paddling in the river which flows through the main street. Others spent the afternoon at a brewery sampling Cotswolds beer.I will say no more about the spirits which entered the sampling room too!
Next day saw us visiting the classic gardens – Hidcote, the first garden to be acquired by the National Trust, and Kiftsgate.
At Hidcote we enjoyed a talk about Lawrence Johnson, the American garden designer who created the garden. Did you know that he lived at Little Shelford for a brief time in 1893/4 and moved back in 1902, creating a rockery at Woodville Road, Newton Road? It is also said that he was the first person in the village to have a car! A formidable garden designer he was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Veitch Memorial Medal ‘for his work in connection with the introduction and cultivation of new plants’. It took Johnson some 30 years to transform fields into one of the country’s great Arts and Crafts garden. As we walked around Hidcote, garden spaces slowly unfolded to reveal another new room, a different vista, another corridor — with shrubs mingling with roses, seedlings appearing everywhere. Do go and visit……
Follow that! Yes, we did, by going just half-a-mile up the road to Kiftsgate, another classic garden of great charm created by three generations of women gardeners. We loved the exuberant flowering borders although we were too early for the July flowering famous Kiftsgate rose. There were mixed feelings about the water garden which was once a tennis court. Now gilded bronze leaves sway gently on long stems above the water – in my view it was truly an oasis of calm created by Simon Allison’s inspired foliage sculpture reflected in the black water of the pool.
We wake to the morning of the final day – but, oh what treats awaited us. If ever you are in the Cotswolds do go to Bourton House – easily our favourite garden by a long way.
The scene was set by the magnificent, imposing Grade 1 listed 16th century Tithe Barn through which we walked to reach the garden. Such calm, such peace, such plantsmanship. awaited us. Here was imaginative topiary, a knot garden, walks and parterres, luxuriant terraces, borders with rare and exotic plants, spring-fed water features including a raised basket pond from the Great Exhibition of 1851. Then there was a unique shade house, a serene white garden and planted pots galore. All this with a splendid backdrop of the Cotswolds landscape.
Totally bewitched we enjoyed tea on the lawn before leaving for Cotswold Garden Flowers. Another world awaited us. Here was Bob Brown’s nursery (a Gardeners World contributor in recent weeks) at the end of a narrow road and track and a parking space so small that even our very experienced driver was nervous. Here in a small room we listened to Mandie give an excellent talk on ‘Colour magic in the garden’ with the resident cat interrupting us at regular intervals by making an entrance through his cat flap. The opportunity to buy special rare plants was too good to miss especially as the stock beds were full of happy quality plants, many in full colour. The sound of kettles boiling and the sight of delicious cakes drew us back to our meeting room and all too soon our visit was over,
Back to the villages full of lovely memories.
This year the Annual Soirée was hosted by Hilary and Martin Arthur in their delightful cottage-style garden at Wren Cottage, Thriplow. There was a good turn out and a happy time was had by all. Fortunately the weather was fine and dry and we were able to appreciate the garden in its full summer bloom. Good fellowship with a glass of wine and some finger eats were enjoyed with other club members and their guests.
The plant identification quiz prepared by Jane Dring had everyone exploring the garden and thinking hard. The winner of the closely fought competition was Shirley Wittering.
There were tempting prizes to be won in the raffle and the proceeds of this went to Perennial (the Gardeners’ Royal Benevolent Society). Our Gardening Club has supported this charity for many years.
All Club Members present were very grateful to Hillary and Martin for providing such a splendid evening in their garden.
Well, that title surprised you didn’t it?
Not half as much as we were surprised at our last meeting when the speaker, Robin Carlsberg, arrived early, leisurely set up most of his equipment whilst chatting with the members, finally deciding to unpack his computer…… but where was it? Nowhere to be seen! In more than 20 years of giving talks this was the first time that he had left it beside his front door ready to be packed into his boot. What to do? Cancel the meeting – No. Talk through the presentation – No. Instead he hot-footed it (can you hot foot in a car, I ask myself) back to Great Dunmow, a 60 mile round trip!
Of course members of this friendly club took it all in their stride. (I am obsessed with feet at the moment having endured recent surgery on a wayward toe) Unfortunately there were no bottles of wine so we passed a pleasant interlude sipping our coffee instead and reminiscing.
Eventually the talk commenced and we were not disappointed. Beautiful slides of orchids in Singapore Botanic gardens were the prelude to stunning views of New Zealand, or Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud. It is a country of two large islands and many smaller ones in the south-western Pacific Ocean. Because of its long isolation from the rest of the world, and its island geography, New Zealand has extraordinary flora and fauna, about 80% of which only occurs there. It was difficult to believe that a similar climate to ours produced such exotic flowers and trees.
Words cannot do justice to the beautiful countless images which flashed across the screen. We will remember the blues and pinks of the wild lupins in the meadows of the South Island, the Kowhai – the native tree with yellow cascading flowers which are regarded as the national flower. New Zealand has an unusually high number of fern species for a temperate country and about 40 per cent of these species occur nowhere else in the world. The trees deserve a special mention. The Lancewood, or horoeka, is a unique, small tree with lance-like foliage that changes dramatically as the tree matures and stops animals climbing up to eat the young leaves. Then there is the Matagouri, or ’Wild Irishman’ with its thorns which were used by early Maori as tattooing needles and whose flowers make very good honey.
We need another talk to learn about the wildlife so I will end with just one example – Tūī are common throughout New Zealand, they are attractive birds with a distinctive white tuft under their throat contrasting dramatically with the metallic blue-green sheen of their underlying black feathers. It seems to me that it would be worth the air fare just to see a tūī. In fact a shoo-in for a successful holiday (Get it?)
After several days of heavy rain, gardeners in Fowlmere and Thriplow were anxious that there would be a dearth of flowers, fruits and vegetables to display at their Garden Club’s Annual Show held on Saturday 19 September. However, they managed to produce a wide variety of high quality exhibits that impressed and ‘wowed’ judges and visitors alike. 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 judged. The men had cleverly made and decorated cupcakes. Talented hands had knitted, sewed, embroidered and painted. Clever photographers had taken eye-catching shots and were keen to compete for the new Photograph Trophy to be awarded for the first time. There were several classes especially for children’s exhibits. The animals they made from fruits and vegetables demonstrated great inventiveness, imagination ands sense of fun. They also made miniature gardens, book marks and biscuits, as well as flower arrangements. What talent!
The judges had a hard job carefully considering each entry in the different sections of the Show. Prizes were awarded and points amassed.
During the afternoon Christopher South, the well-known writer and broadcaster from BBC Radio Cambridgeshire joined club members and visitors to admire the superb displays of flowers, fruits and vegetables and marvel at a perfect, pure white dahlia judged the best exhibit in the Show. They saw 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.
Then came the presentation of the awards! Mary Duff, Club Chairman, thanked all those involved in putting on such a successful Show – especially Sue Pinner – Show Group Co-ordinator. She then introduced Christopher South who said how impressed he was with all the exhibits he had seen. His favourite was a most beautifully scented rose exhibited by Peter Lake. The Royal Horticultural Society Banksian medal – the highest award in the Show – was won by David Warboys. Other winners included Joan Smith, Chris Harley, Sue Pinner, Mary Duff, Ken Allsworth, Katherine Martin and James Roskilly. The prize for best exhibit in the whole Show was won by Joy Warboys.
The day ended with a lively auction of jams and cakes, flowers and other garden produce, followed by the raffle results. It was a happy and enjoyable day for all concerned.