Category Archives: 2015

September 2015 – Annual Club Dinner – Green Man

Posted in 2015 |

October 2015 – A Bulb for Every Season – Hilary Thomas

After working in scientific research for a few years Hilary decided to pursue her lifelong passion for plants and make a career change. She studied horticulture at Capel Manor College followed by a course in garden design, becoming a full time lecturer there as well as the Head of the School of Garden Design. She has spent many years writing about garden plants and planting design. We were so pleased with her fist lecture for the Club that we asked her back to talk about bulbs.

Firstly – take care where you buy your bulbs. Avoid warm shops where the owners are thinking more of your comfort than the well-being of your bulbs! Order from reputable firms like Parkers, Sarah Ravens or the RHS on-line. Purchase firm and heavy bulbs and store them in a cool place before planting.

If you have sensitive skin, wear washing up gloves when handling bulbs like hyacinths as they release tiny, needle-shape crystals, which can irritate the skin. Dig deeper than you think you should, do not cut back the foliage after flowering – leave it to die back naturally for at least six weeks but dead-head. This way the energy will return to the bulb and give you better results in the following year. Lift and divide spring bulbs ‘in the green’ just after flowering.

Do take photographs of your garden at every season – this will help you plant where to plant your bulbs (which always look better planted in drifts).

Use terracotta pots for your bulbs, not plastic ones which are not porous. Mix John Innes No 3 – 2 parts to 1 part grit for success. You heard it here first!

Try planting bulbs in layers – ‘plant lasagne’ according to Sarah Raven. No comment!

Spring bulbs to look out for include Algerian iris, – plant at the base of a sunny wall – good for flower-arranging. Plant Cyclamen coum in the autumn in semi-shade and it self-seeds. Aconites are reliable with their sunny flowers and we cannot forget snowdrops – try the reliable galanthus atkinsii or elwesii. Don’t forget the bees – they love the lilac to deep purple crocus Tommasinianus. Also rightly popular is the iris reticulata named after the fibrous net that surrounds the bulb.

So many daffodils grace the Spring – where do we start? How about with our native daffodil – often called the “Lent Lily” as it blooms and dies away between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Jet Fire, Jenny, Tête-à-tête are all beautiful small narcissus to start off the Spring. Soak your Anemone blanda tubers before planting and they will reward you with lovely blue and white wind flowers in late March/April. Space does not permit me to list the many good varieties of daffodils but don’t forget the tulips – Queen of the night planted with China Pink in a drift is really stunning, Ballerina is scented like a primrose.

Irises and camassia will brighten up your late spring and alliums galore are perfect for the whole summer whether in pots or in your borders. I love Allium Christophii – take away the leaves for maximum effect, well-bake your Allium Schubertii in pots, grow your Allium nigrum alongside alchemical or astrantia.

Finally a good tip from our speaker. These days plant centres sell bulbs in flower so you could always buy a few pots every year and plant them exactly where there is a suitable space in your border!

So many bulbs and so little room in my brain to remember them all. Do come along to our Gardening Club meetings and hear for yourself the myriad of ideas you will glean from our knowledgeable speakers.

Posted in 2015 |

November 2015 – Plants for Woodland and Shade – Roger Harvey

I am beginning to think that we should re-name our Club as there seem to be so many opportunities to socialise and get to know your neighbours! Sometimes these are enforced by circumstances but we take it all in our stride! In fact it adds to the fun! This time the speaker had up-graded to Windows 10 with dire results but Barry, our hero, was on hand to put things right. So – early refreshments meant more time to socialise …………. we even had a lovely visitor from Devon to talk to. So, although we are a Gardening Club, do come along and meet your fellow garden-lovers! You might be surprised by the impromptu entertainment.

Eventually Roger Harvey ‘took to the stage’. An experienced nurseryman with a clutch of Chelsea Golds he runs a very successful nursery in Great Thurston near Bury St Edmunds – well worth a visit. Check out his website for information on the services offered – from garden design to mail order of some very unusual plants. Today he was talking about ‘Plants for Woodland and shade’ I will mention a few in this article but look at our newly-vamped website (thank you Nick Wittering) for more details of plants mentioned by Roger.

For dry shady areas try ‘Brunnera’ Jack Frost or ‘Brunnera’ Looking Glass – lovely blue flowers with silver leaves. Another garden favourite is the ‘Bergenia’ – try B. Overture with its good round glossy red winter foliage and deep magenta flowers from February to May.

You will be familiar with the ‘Anemone Nemorosa” – the wood anemone or wind flower. Roger showed us beautiful varieties – A. Parlez Vous with its lilac flowers – good under trees and Vestal with double white flowers in April. The near relation ‘Anemonella Thalictroides’ is a n attractive semi-double pink form available on-line as I type.

Another garden favourite is the ‘epimedium’ – a woodland perennial, tolerant of dry shade – cut the foliage down to ground level in early February to let the flowers through.

Finally, the ever-popular Solomon’s Seal – Polygonatum – according to Wikipedia”Polygonatum” comes from the ancient Greek for “many knees”, referring to the multiple jointed rhizome. One explanation for the derivation of the common name “Solomon’s seal” is that the roots bear depressions which resemble royal seals. Another is that the cut roots resemble Hebrew characters. Who am I to argue with Wikipedia? Try ‘Polygonatum Betburg” – a medium growing variety with purple stems as they appear in spring these will gradually fade. White flowers in May – grows to about 30/40 cm.

Other plants recommend by Roger are as follows:-

‘Beesia calthifolia” A rare evergreen from mountainous forests in China forming dense clumps of evergreen leaves. Starry white flowers for several months from April. Likes well drained shade. ‘Disporum longistylum’ – dark foliage with attractive lemon flowers. Hacquetia epipactis – The leaves are edged with a creamy-white margin as are the flower bracts. The flowers are pale golden-yellow – small but numerous in each head. Don’t forget ‘Iris japonica’, – an evergreen variety is Ledgers variety. Dan Pearson loves the orchid-like blooms! Then there is ‘Heuchera’ Obsidian, ‘Lamium Orvala’ – honestly this is a non-invasive nettle with pinkish-purple flowers, ‘Lathyrus’ Spring Melody, and the lovely scented ‘Viola odorata’.

Better still, visit the family run Harveys Garden Plants nursery, Great Green, Thurston, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, IP31 3SJ Say “Hello’ to the labradors – Bertie and Dora!

Posted in 2015 |

December 2015 – Pickwick’s Gardening Scrapbook – Mike Petty

We didn’t know what to expect when we invited Mike Petty to talk to us. After all he is the eminent historian, founder of the Cambridgeshire Collection and we are members of a Gardening Club! We need not have worried – Mike had taken a scholarly approach to his subject and scoured the records for mentions of historical events with a local flavour as well as local personalities of the 1800’s to bring to life for us that period of history when Mr Pickwick walked this land! The result was that we were fascinated and intrigued by the many and varied stories emerging from Mike Petty’s “ Pickwick’s Gardening Scrapbook.”

We were reminded of the after effects of the Napoleonic Wars in this area. When peace returned with no war, and no army, the young men were encouraged to take up agricultural work or ‘spade-husbandry’ as it was termed. Lord Braybrooke attended a general meeting in Saffron Walden in 1829 and along with other wealthy citizens made over some of his land to be used as allotments for the growth of potatoes, pulse etc. Strict rules were drawn up for instance no potatoes were to be planted unless the ground was properly manured. The poorest men were given priority and all were paid for their work. The Walden Horticultural Society even gave prizes for the best cultivated allotments. Similar projects were carried in Waterbeach where John Benson successfully made the case for villagers to be given land to cultivate. Then there was the story of the threshing machines. Did you know that when farmers introduced them in Thriplow and Harston in 1840 several barns full of corn were lost through arson? Labourers were fearing for their jobs. At around the same time farm labourers in Fowlmere went on strike against landowners resulting in the local vicar sending for mounted police from Royston to round them up! Who would have thought it?

On and on went the fascinating stories:-

Did you know

  • that Jeffrey and Mary Archer now live in the building once owned by Page Widnall who bought the Vicarage in the 1850s with money accrued from selling his father’s famous dahlia nursery?
  • that waders in Fowlmere successfully sold leeches to the masses!
  • that history repeats itself
  • stagecoach drivers changed at Trumpington (an earlier Park and Ride)
  • that traffic caused long hold-ups in Cambridge centre – but in the 1800s the traffic was cattle and sheep on their way down the Newmarket Road from the market at St Ives.

Another result of the peace was the opportunity for the young to resume or commence
their higher education. Colleges sprang up in Cambridge with large gardens resulting
in may townsfolk losing their homes because of the pressure on the existing town
centre land. Surely here starts the town and gown great divide – no wonder the
colleges have such almost fortified gate-houses!

As usual this short article cannot do justice to Mike Petty’s talk. I do urge you to go
and listen to Mike when he next gives a talk in this area. He uses his extensive
knowledge to inform and entertain his audience.

Posted in 2015 |
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