Category Archives: 2018

1st February 2018 – AGM & Group Fun Quiz – Glen Link

 The evening of the Club’s AGM was one of those nights when you just didn’t want to leave your own home – the cold and the rain were just too much to face and unfortunately many did just that and we had a much smaller meeting than usual.  This did not worry us – the interesting reports of the past year started what proved to be a most entertaining evening.  As Chair I am pleased to say that I can keep that title for another year and am joined on the 2018 Committee by Ken Allsworth, Jenny Brew, Margaret Jackson,  Bernard Meggitt, Judy Murch, Sue Pinner, Michael Pollard, Joan Smith and Jill Vinton – splendid colleagues, one and all.  Of course there are so many others who have helped and con-tinue to offer their support – I am thinking in particular of Marion Hughes and Veronica Wolfe as well as Robin Cox and Barry Jones who sadly stepped down from the Commit-tee this year.
One person that I cannot omit from this hall of fame is Glen Link who is not only the brains behind the Annual Show Day but also devises our annual quiz.  This year we tackled questions on general knowledge, wildlife anagrams as well as a testing round of plant identification – could you have recognised a sarcococca?  Well we did and I was lucky enough to be on the winning team along with Gill Perry, Chris Stanton, Doug Radford and Peter Duff (who?)  We were very pleased with our prizes of beautifully wrapped bags of Ferrero Roche chocolates.
So now we start another Club year – have a look at the Club’s website: to see our programme planned for 2018.  Our first meeting will be very special – it took more than a year to persuade the Curator of Hyde Hall to find a date to come and talk to the Club – don’t miss Robert Brett – here at Fowlmere Village Hall on Thursday 1 March We also hope to arrange another weekend break  – check ‘Active Items’ on website for more details.
Mary Duff Chair, F &T Gardening Club.
Posted in 2018 |

1 March 2018 – The Delights & Possibilities of RHS Hyde Hall – Robert Brett – Weather Aborted

Sadly these ‘Delights & Possibilities’ were denied us by  the continuing fast blast of the ‘Beast from the East’ of a very cold freezing evening with snow & ice preventing our Speaker attempting the journey from East Essex. With thanks to our Vice-Chair, Sue Pinner, most Members were informed by email & were happy to stay by their warm fires; a few brave souls turned out but were forced (!!) to retire to the Pub fire with hot toddies. (The Chair very sensibly was on holiday in much warmer climes!)

After waiting two years for Robert Brett’s visit only to be aborted by the weather, he has kindly agreed to re-schedule his talk in 2019, so the ‘Delights & Possibilities’ will be improved for us by another year of work at RHS Hyde Hall.

Bernard Meggitt (FTGC Website & Media Coordinator)

Posted in 2018 |

5 April 2018 – The perfect growing media  –   David Coop

I do hope that you weren’t one of those people who did not come to the Gardening Club meeting because of the title of this talk!  After all, you might have thought, ‘how can such a subject be interesting?’  In the event over 40 people did take a chance and did not regret their decision.  The speaker, David Coop held our interest for more than an hour

David comes from a scientific background, working now at Elsoms Seeds but spent many years with Westland Horticulture. Here he had participated in and led projects into perfecting the ‘perfect compost’.  This involved growing the same kind of plants in different composts and comparing the results. Pictures of his own beautiful Rutland garden assured us that we could trust his judgement. (He still praises Westland compost as one of the best compost products)

Why do we use compost?  Well, choose wisely and and it will achieve better results than garden soil. Some products may have too much water, not enough nutrients, some may have weeds growing in the compost (yes, it does happen).  Do examine the small print on the bags!  Of course you cannot expect old compost to be as good as fresh compost so go to a garden centre with a good turnover, where the compost is under cover to stop rain damage.  Do remember David’s advice – if you are not happy after opening the bag, complain!  The seller will record your comments and show them to the appropriate salesman when (s)he next visits.  Good firms will take note and take action!

Compost could contain peat, wood fibres, composted bark, grit, sand, fertiliser, anaerobic digestate(?), green waste – clothing, tin foil etc – David assures us that these do not affect the quality of the compost.  Most people prefer compost with  sphagnum peat moss – a very popular soil amendment because of its ability to help sandy soil hold moisture, and helps clay soil loosen up and drain better. The moss grows in wetlands which are now protected.

Research continues apace to find effective peat-free compost which is improving every year.  Westlands are beginning to replace peat with coir, bark or wood fibre. (Did you know that Chinese mattresses are made from coir?) Take care with your own composting attempts – no perennial weeds, lawn clippings please.  Caution is also needed when purchasing compost from non-specialist centres (e.g. recycling centres perhaps) who may, unwittingly, have used compost which contained bindweed and other horrors.

Just as we were getting brain-ache we were given a short informative and amusing quiz with prizes!  A really good meeting – we will invite him again!

Mary Duff (Chair F&TG Club)

Posted in 2018 |

3rd May 2018 – Gods in the Garden – Michael Brown

Well, I think that our brains are still whirling from our last talk!  Michael Brown, our speaker gave us a whistle-stop tour of gardens and their statues!  We should have been prepared, after all the talk was entitled Gods in the Garden but we did not expect to hear about so many!

Michael started life as a gardener, quickly became a head gardener but his interest in plant history led to a Masters degree and a post as a college lecturer in horticulture.  Since those formative years, Michael has developed  his own take on history and travels the country attending events where he can transform himself into a historic gardener, dressing the part as he goes. A regular at events at Wimpole hall, he has been seen as Capability Brown himself as well as a Georgian gardener.


At our talk we heard all about the statues at Wrest Park, Anglesey Abbey, Grimsthorpe Castle, Waddesdon, Stourhead, to name but a few properties! Michael’s knowledge of Roman, Greek and pagan gods was phenomenal – at times I was reminded of my school girl Mythology lessons. Alas, my pen could not keep up with the detail!

So back to our talk – perhaps I can do no better than to ask you to look carefully at the statues next time you visit a garden, For instance there is an 18th century Grade 11 lead statue outside our local National Trust property – Wimpole Hall.  Try and find Samson slaying a Philistine when you next visit. The original was sculpted by Giambologna, sculptor to the Medici Dukes of Tuscany and is now in the Victoria and Albert museum.  The dramatic pose is based on a composition by Michelangelo, who was in his late seventies when Giambologna met him in Rome.  It is the only substantial work by the artist to have left Italy. Commissioned in about 1562, by Francesco de’ Medici for a fountain in Florence, it was later sent as a gift to Spain, then presented to the Prince of Wales, later King Charles I, in 1623 while he was in Spain.  It soon became the most famous Italian sculpture in England. On its arrival, it was given to the king’s favourite, the Duke of Buckingham, and eventually ended up in the V and A in 1954.  (Thanks Wikipaedia!)  Just remember a few points of the above and you will impress your visitors when you next go to Wimpole!

As for Michael Brown – we heard all about the statues of gods and goddesses and other famous personages at Wrest Park, Grimsthorpe Castle, Stourhead, Croome Park, Chirk Castle, to name but a few properties!  Michael’s knowledge of statues especially but not exclusively, Roman, Greek and pagan gods, was phenomenal but alas, my pen could not keep up with the detail!

Next meeting it will be back to plants – house plants to be specific!

Mary Duff

Posted in 2018 |

7 June 2018 – Care of House Plants – Andrew Harper Scott

Our June speaker was Andrew Harper Scott, a very experienced horticulturist who had worked with plants since the 1970s and was now based at Scotsdale, Horningsea.

Andrew brought with him a lovely display of house plants.  He proceeded to give us so many useful tips  – too many to mention here, but here are a few……  Many house plants do not survive because of over watering.  One good piece of advice is to lift up your pot and if it very light then give it some water.  If it is heavy – well, you know what I am going to say – leave well alone!  Look out for plant pots with  “feet”, a sure sign that these plants will not like standing in water.

However, some plants prefer to stand in a saucer of moist gravel – like the ficus benjamina, the popular weeping fig – a troublesome plant according to Andrew but it will tell you when not happy by shedding its leaves.  Try not to move it and avoid placing it in draughts.  Another good tip concerned the lovely moth orchid.  After it has flowered, just cut back the flowering stem  to the ‘scar’ which is recognisable.  There is every chance that it will flower again – and again if you repeat this after the next flower.  Feeding is important – most will benefit from regular doses of high potash liquid though plants like the African violet and orchids will benefit from fertiliser specific to their needs.

Early on in the talk I quickly realised that plants, like people are idiosyncratic, each one has its own demands, so no more generalisations!

A reliable house plant is the dragon tree plant, one of the dracaena family.  Grow it in good but not direct light, allow the surface of the compost time to dry out between watering, especially during winter.  But, take care – this plant is poisonous to pets.

The castor oil plant (fatsia japonica) is a lovely architectural plant, easy-going and happy indoors or outdoors as long as it is not in direct sunlight.

Grow the Christmas cactus (schlumbergera) in good light, turning frequently and feed from March until the flower buds have formed

Here’s a challenge for you –  try growing the Venus fly trap on your window sill or better still in the porch or cool greenhouse. Stand in a tray of shallow water, keep it topped up in the summer but allow to dry up before refilling in the winter.  Feeding is not necessary as long as flies can get to the plant!  Don’t be tempted to play with the ‘trap’ as it takes 24 hours to re-open and don’t let anyone feed it with mince, cat food, dog food…….

So many more good plants to mention – gloxinia, gardenia, the peace lily, poinsettia, etc – each one has its own individual needs.  Why not purchase a specialist book on house plants so that you can ensure that you are caring for your plant in the right way.  Andrew showed us that with just a little more care our house plants will respond positively and provide us with year-long pleasure.

Mary Duff, Chair Fowlmere & Thriplow Gardening Club

Posted in 2018 |

13 June 2018 – RHS Hyde Hall Garden – Day Visit by Coach

Such a busy time for us gardeners and quite a testing one too, as we battle with day after day of scorching sunshine!  But, never mind the Gardening Club arranged a special social occasion to take our mind off our problems! We spent a lovely day at the  RHS garden Hyde Hall.  Many of us had not visited for several years and we were bowled over by the changes. So many new areas to explore – a brand new visitors’ centre, new restaurants, new ‘Global Growth” vegetable gardens, a new (though temporary) “floral fantasia’ of bedding plants.  However, we were relieved to also see old favorites – the traditional hilltop garden with its lush green lawns, rose beds, mixed beds of perennials and the well-established pond complete with well-behaved ducklings.  We were delighted to see the iconic dry garden looking superb in the sunshine.  We feverishly wrote down the names of plants which were loving their sunny setting!  Truly a lovely day.

The Head Gardener of Hyde Hall, Robert Brett, was due to speak to the Gardening Club earlier this year and it seems strange to give the reason for his non-appearance………………. the SNOW!  Remember that? So, Robert will be one of our 2019 speakers and has been booked for March – do come along.

Mary Duff

Posted in 2018 |

5 July 2018 – Soiree at Red Brick – Hosts Sue & Derek Pinner

This year 46 Club Members & friends were entertained with a splendid summer evening Soiree in the lovely gardens of Sue and Derek Pinner. It was certainly a Soiree to remember, one of the hottest on record with  the evening temperatures 30-25*C. Fortunately, it was a more tolerable dry heat & members soon enjoyed the shade as it moved quickly across the lawn with the sinking sun. Derek & Sue were complimented on their thriving flower borders & healthy vegetables in both the back & front gardens, in spite if the previous 5 weeks of hot drought. A lot of hard work watering & fortunately, no hose pipe ban – yet!   Members had the pleasure to chat to old friends and  get to know new ones while enjoying  a buffet and a glass or two of wine, with cold white more popular but almost as much iced cordial was also consumed. There was an international flavour this year with Derek & Sue’s visiting Australian relatives happy to talk about  gardening ‘down-under’ & thought it great barbecue weather. All in all, a most enjoyable evening.

Mary Duff


Posted in 2018 |

13 – 16 July 2018 – Historic Houses & Gardens of Kent & Sussex – Tour with ‘Tailored Travel’

A personal snapshot of the tour!

 Twenty two Gardening Club members and friends enjoyed sunshine every day on their tour, visiting some seven historic houses and gardens in Kent and Sussex.

Our first stop was Standen House, near East Grinstead – a beautiful home nestling in the Sussex countryside with views over the High Weald.  Standen is one of the most complete examples of Arts and Crafts workmanship full of William Morris textiles.  The delightful 12 acre hillside garden has ‘rooms’ each with a distinct character as well as a vegetable garden and paths leading into the woodlands.

This oasis set us up for our tour but never take peace and calm for granted – our coach broke down before we had even left Standen!  Thankfully our spirits were restored with yet another cup of tea and piece of cake and soon a replacement coach arrived. The driver was really pleased to transport us as he had spent the whole day collecting under fives  from every school in the county(!) to a special event!  Eventually we reached our hotel, right on the sea front in Eastbourne – it wasn’t long before some of our number sped into the sea and enjoyed a swim. I was told that it was exhilarating!

The next day we visited Herstmonceux – who knew that the Castle operates as an international study centre for Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada? Many students visit every year to study in this tranquil setting. Our guide Bryan, enthusiastically showed us around the spectacular Castle – a relentless stream of words uttered forth giving a potted history of Herstmonceux and the surrounding area interspersed with jokes delivered so fast that I hadn’t understood the first one before Bryan was into the next one!   Nothing new there then my husband would say! Much more interesting were the seven themed gardens!

One of my favourites was the  Magic garden where you were advised to be careful not to climb on the logs as you may frighten the fairies! Did you know that the favourite form of transport for fairies is the dragonfly because they keep  the fairy bodies very steady when flying!  And yes, we did see many dragonflies ………………

In the rose garden, our more sharp-eyed members spotted the magnificent display of the scarlet trumpet vine, campsis radicans, happily twining itself through a multitude of yellow roses.  I spent most time in the Shakespearean garden – full of plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays or sonnets.  Each plant boasted a plaque bearing a quotation. I chose just one example for you, dear reader, the myrtle.

Mirtus communis”  spoken by Euphronius, Ambassador to Antony

I was of late as petty to his ends

As did the morn-dew on the myrtle leaf to his grand sea.

Antony and Cleopatra Act 3 Scene 12

Ironically the garden plaque showed the wrong reference so after scouring the play I found the right one!  Letter to Herstmonceux?

Another unexpected interesting feature not to be missed was the display of several Zimbabwean statues looking quite at home amongst the trees and ferns of the English countryside.

On to Bateman’s – a compulsory visit for us as this was the home of Rudyard Kipling whose daughter, Elsie, bought Wimpole Hall and bequeathed it to the National Trust. To Kipling, Bateman’s was a ‘solid squire’s residence – alive with ghosts and shadows and with rooms dark, comfortable and creaky’ – we agreed.  Sorry – another poem…..

‘Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees

That half a proper gardener’s work is done upon his knees,

So when your work is finished, you can wash your hands and pray

For the Glory of the Garden, that it may not pass away!’ said Rudyard Kipling in his iconic poem, ‘Glory of the Garden’, inspired in part by his own efforts to create a garden for his children to play in and his family and friends to enjoy.  We did enjoy the gardens, though the borders were probably at their best a month or so earlier.  Of particular interest was the rose garden with the lily pond – we were amused at the story that the initials F.I.P. written beside names in the family’s visitors’ book, records those unfortunate guests who “Fell In the Pond”.

Our third day began with a visit to Brighton PavillIon built in three stages as a seaside retreat for George, Prince of Wales, who became the Prince Regent in 1811.  Although there was evidence of much restoration taking place, we appreciated the audio tour which ensured that we did not miss any of the important points of interest.  We also, appreciated the ornate building redesigned in Indian style by John Nash, the sumptuous rooms within especially the  banqueting room with its spectacular chandelier and the music room with walls decorated in the chinoiserie style supported by painted dragons.

There was just time to saunter along the prom’ and the pier and gaze at the hundreds of people enjoying a sunny day on the beach.

We then spent a lovely afternoon at Parham House – an Elizabethan house full of treasures from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.  Even if you are not an embroidery fanatic, you could not help being impressed by the Great Bed in the Great Chamber with its wonderful embroidery, dating from the 16th century and probably sewn by Italian or French men(!). It is alleged that it was commissioned by Marie de Medici, the sister-in-law to Mary, Queen of Scots.  We were fascinated too by the Green Room with its portrait of Sir Joseph Banks – the great botanist who gave his name to the prestigious  RHS Banksian Medal which is awarded at our Annual Show.  Then, there was the 160ft Long Gallery where the Parham Troop of Yeomanry was drilled during the Napoleonic Wars!  Do visit this amazing house.

The more eagle-eyed might have spied splendid examples of the terrestrial orchid in a large bowl standing on the first landing and two more on the nearby window sill!   It was not flowering at the time but full of dramatic velvety red and dark green striped leaves. Check out this unusual plant – Ludisia the jewel orchid.

As if the house was not enough of a feast for the eyes, we then visited the amazing gardens consisting of beautiful Pleasure Grounds and a four-acre Walled Garden. It is certain that the Garden pre-dates the House – it is thought the land was first cultivated as far back as the 14th century by its owners, monks from the monastery of Westminster.   We were inspired by the long Blue and Gold border as well as the glasshouse full of colourful flowering plants  and the Exotic garden.  It comes as no surprise to learn that Parham’s Head Gardener, Tom Brown,  has been invited onto the RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee this year (reported in Parham’s Blog – July 2018)

Our last day…………….

Firstly we went to Sheffield Park, where we were lucky enough to see the ponds full of blooming waterlillies first planted by owner, Arthur Soames, early in the twentieth century.  (Have a look at the excellent RHS website for  a description of the annual Water Lily festival)  His chosen varieties still survive – for the enthusiasts these are hardy varieties in pink and yellow including Nymphaea ‘Gladstonia, N. ‘Mrs Richmond’ and N. ‘Escarboucle”. Specially installed in the Middle Lake for the recent festival, was a floating pontoon enabling visitors to get closer to the water lilies.

Meanwhile on Ten Foot Pond, we met up with a local couple,  obviously delighted with life.  We learned that they regularly visited the lake to feed the ducks and feared the worst when a regular pair disappeared for quite some time.  But today, the pair returned with a very, very young group of ducklings! So charming – many photos followed!  We left our new friends still ooing and aahing over the new brood.

Then just one more place to visit – Wakehurst, as our tour is coming to an end. After our long walks around Sheffield Park, we needed to gird our loins. (Do people still say that?  Look up the book entitled “The Illustrated Art of Manliness” where you will see illustrations for the way in which Hebrew men girded their loins by tucking up their tunic to get ready for battle with the Philistines!  Fascinating, but I digress).  Here we were at Wakehust,previously known as Wakehurst Place  There is a house and botanic gardens, owned by the National Trust and used and managed by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.  The garden includes walled and water gardens, a dell, wild flower meadows, a rock walk, woodland and wetland conservation areas.

However, with so llttle time available and with over 500 acres to explore, I decided to concentrate on visiting the amazing Millennium Seed Bank(MSB), in the Millennium Building opened in 2000.  With its labs and storage rooms on display through glass panels in this specially designed building, the MSB conserves seeds of thousands of plant species as an insurance policy against the dangers of extinction in the wild.  We are aware that already in the UK there are habitats vulnerable to changes in climate and human activity. But Wakehust scientists work with colleagues across the world.   An interesting film showed the action of scientists working in other countries to collect seeds from their native flora and sending them to the MSB.  On the day of our visit, there were un-opened parcels from Madagascar and Western Australia. Kew scientists at Wakehurst sort the seeds, clean and classify them and then conserve them.  As their brochure says “ Plants and fungi are crucial to our survival, not only for food, fuel, shelter and medicines but also for regulating our climate  and the environment we live in”. By working with scientists internationally, Wakehurst is contributing on a global scale to make the future a better place.

A wonderful end to a highly successful tour of Sussex and Kent for the Gardening Club.

MED July 2018

Posted in 2018 |

15 September 2018 – Annual Flower, Craft & Produce Show – F&T Gardening Club – Fowlmere Village Hall

Well, you missed a treat if you did not come to the Gardening Club’s Annual Show held at Fowlmere Village Hall.  This in one of not very many events which brings together the residents of both of our lovely villages.   Despite the idiosyncratic weather of this summer, gardeners produced a splendid collection of flowers, fruit and vegetables.  You would have been inspired by the many examples of different crafts and home produce.  The usual auction at the end of the proceedings would have given you the opportunity to buy some of the items on show.  The home-made cakes accompanying welcome cups of tea were enjoyed by all.  The only sad point to make was the lack of children’s entries despite publicity in the newsletters of both schools – an opportunity missed to show the next generation the delights of horticultural endeavour!  But the entries which did make it to the village hall were of a very high standard so Maddie Gilliam must be very proud of winning the Fry Cup for the best exhibit in the Children’s Section with her Miniature Garden.

We welcomed Andrew Newby, Managing Director of KWS to present the Awards this year.  Two names stood out in the list of worthy winners – Sue Pinner and David Warboys,  Sue was awarded the Farley Cup for the most outstanding exhibit in the horticultural classes with her exquisite tomatoes.  She also shared the Chambers Cup for flowers and the Fowlmere Cup for winning most points in the Show.  David Warboys, another loyal member, won the most prestigious RHS Banksian Medal  for winning the most money, the Club Vase for being runner-up for most points in the Show and lastly, the Fison Tankard for his vegetables! However Robin Dring’s arrangement of vegetables won him the Chambers Shield.

Judy Murch excelled with her fruit winning the Van der Straeten Bowl.  Michael Pollard was awarded the Webster Cup for the umpteenth time!  (This for the special section for members only).  Glen Link’s collection of Floral Art exhibits won her the Thriplow Cup whilst Jenny Brew walked off with the Earnshaw Cup for pot plants.  Chris Harley provided some inspirational pieces of needlecraft and it was not surprising that she won the Talbot Trophy for most points in the  Handicrafts Section and also the Shuster Cup for the most outstanding exhibit.  Not only can Rosemary Jones cook a high standard – taking  home the Cranwell Cup for Home Produce but she can also grow specimen roses winning the Green Cup!

Sadly your worthy author could only win half a trophy for Photography sharing this honour with Shirley Wittering! (However, looking on the bright side, I can’t think of a nicer partner!) but I’ll try harder next time – if there is a next time…………..  we would love to welcome new younger members to ensure that the Annual Show and indeed the Club itself will be here for many years to come……………………

Mary Duff – Chair Fowlmere & Thriplow Gardening Club

Posted in 2018 |

4 October 2018 – Unusual Plants – Colin Ward

Our last speaker, Colin Ward, started out as a farmer working in the Lincolnshire Fens back in 2000 but then decided to concentrate on plants.  He transformed the typical windy, flat land into a sheltered garden, a microclimate on the edge of the windswept fens and is now rated highly in the horticultural world.  Even Roy Lancaster has visited Swine’s Meadow nursery and wrote a glowing article for the RHS magazine ‘The Garden” – see the May 2018 edition.

Colin and his wife Karen filled four long tables with an array of interesting plants – each one had its own story.  Just one example – Colin showed us Phytolacca americana – the American Pokeweed, a herbaceous perennial with white-pink flowers.  “Poke’ comes from ‘pakon’ an Indian word referring to a plant used for dye or staining.  It is reputed that the ink made from the berries was used to write the American Declaration of Independence!  Each plant that Colin showed us had an interesting back story so you can understand why I cannot fill the News with my usual kind of article this month.

So instead of my words have a read of Colin’s website account of his nursery near Market Deeping – well worth a visit.

“Swine’s’ Meadow Farm Nursery is a small family run nursery which has now been on the go for 16 years. When we first started our main interests were in Hardy Exotics, encompassing bamboo, palms, gingers and cannas. However, as our garden evolved so did our interests and desire to grow the less common and unusual. This interest and passion has never faded in fact it has probably intensified and we are always on the look-out for different plants. Our team consists of mainly three of us, myself (Colin), Karan and Marcus. Horticulture is not a career to be going into if you are planning on making a fortune but it is an amazing vocation if you are interested in nature. Nearly every day I discover new things and plants never cease to amaze me with their different forms and ways of growing.

 Our specialisms? Just amazing and interesting plants. We consider ourselves as a plantsman’s’ nursery constantly evolving and looking to increasing our repertoire of plants.  Not much free time!  What do we do when we have free time? Go looking at gardens and other nurseries! That’s our obsession!”

Mary Duff    —    Chair Fowlmere & Thriplow Gardening Club

Posted in 2018 |
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