Showtime!

It’s been an ‘interesting’ year weather wise, and the Friday of the Summer Show did not disappoint, giving us a monsoon. Nonetheless, exhibitors and visitors alike made their way through the downpour, and the show was a great success.

Given the weather, the quality of the flowers, the fruit and vegetables was outstanding. Have a look at some of these, and you’d never know how strange the weather had been

But it’s not just flowers. Check out some of the fruit and vegetables:

And it’s not only flowers, fruit and vegetables. The produce and cooking sections are always well supported, and mouthwatering too:

It was a wonderful show, and that’s without any consideration of the popular craft sections. But let’s not forget – like it was possible – the beautiful work of the flower arrangers:

Wow!

Huge thanks, as always, to the exhibitors, the visitors, the organiser and her assistants, the judges and stewards, the committee, those who staffed and supplied the produce and charity stalls and who manned the raffle table. A lot to live up to for next year – also as always!

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Our very first…!

We held our very first open day – well, open afternoon, really – on the first Bank Holiday in May. We’d no idea whether it would work or not, but we hoped it might. There were going to be plants for sale, a produce table, a raffle, as well as teas, coffees and cakes available.

Some members had potted up plants as long ago as last summer, when the possibility was first discussed by the committee.

Some had obtained or made fantastic raffle prizes (there were, for instance, three bottles of whisky and a hand-made patchwork quilt). Other members had baked for the occasion, or had been making jams, marmalades and chutneys.

And we were all relieved when Monday 6 May dawned and it wasn’t raining, drizzling, snowing or doing anything else difficult. It was windy, but we’re gardeners, plus we’re on the coast: we can cope with a healthy breeze. Gale.

There was one indication that all might be well – several people stopped as the gazebo was being put up and plants were being unpacked. They came, they saw, they bought.

Within about half an hour of the official opening time of 1 pm, the car park of the church hall was packed with people buying plants. There were all sorts available – from Italian tomato plants, in two sizes, to more obscure things which had to be looked up on t’internet; from shrubs, including a variety of different rhododendrons, to big bags of nerines for £2; there were herbs, leeks, runner and broad beans; pelargoniums; perennials and bedding plants of a quality you wouldn’t find easily in a garden centre…

By 2.15 so much had gone that one helper thought it must be nearly 4, and closing time!

And let’s not forget the teas, coffees, and … yes, the cakes:

How could you? But you did have to be quick, mind. It was lovely to see the hall so packed – at one stage people were sitting on the windowsills – and so full of people chatting and enjoying themselves. Many came from the village (hi!), many were visitors (hi!), and everyone was so appreciative.

Huge, huge thanks to everyone who helped: to the green-fingered gardeners, both those who helped and those who donated plants; the clever cooks and preserving paragons; people who supported the raffle; the hard-working helpers who served teas or controlled parking and, above all, to absolutely everyone who came along, bought things, and made it such a success. Thank you very much, diolch yn fawr iawn.

(Above? One of the ‘severely-depleted-by-2pm’ plants sales areas.)

Keep everything crossed for another next year!

The Spring Show

Last year, we had to cancel the spring show. This year there was no snow on the ground, but it has been an odd and unusual spring in our gardens. Daffodils, for instance – which normally crowd out the Show, filling the hall with scent – were at their best a couple of weeks before. But there were still some beauties:

though the balance was more towards the white ‘narcissi’, with fewer of the big yellow ones. But the narcissi were lovely.

On the other hand, it was a great year for flowering shrubs, and the stewards kept having to expand the space available for that class. And the spectacular shrubs found their way into some of the flower arrangements, as well:

But the most unusual entrant didn’t win a prize. It couldn’t, despite being amazing – because the class was for three stems of ‘any other flower’, and the possessor of this trillium couldn’t bring herself to cut three, just the one.

Unsurprisigly!

Here’s a gallery of pictures from the day. Just click on one for a slideshow.

Our next event? On Monday 6 May the Garden Club are having an open afternoon (1-4pm)  at the Church Hall (and car park). There’ll be a superb plant stall, a produce stall and a cake stall – perennially popular. Cakes, coffees and teas will be available, and there’ll be a chance to find an answer to any gardening or plant queries people may have.

And the next Show? The summer one, in August. Start the preparations now!

Photographing the wild

Our February meeting saw the welcome return of Alan Price, the award-winning local wildlife photographer whose visit a couple of years ago was such a success. Alan’s work is always inspiring, and he regularly wins prestigious competitions. This, for instance, took first prize in 2018’s International Garden Photographer of the Year, in the ‘celebrating oaks’ category:

Alan’s shots of wildlife – usually taken very locally, frequently in his garden and often from the Cob in Porthmadog – are fabulous. The work involved in setting up situations which can result in photographs like this one of a jay

has to be meticulous. Patience is also required – bucket loads of patience. And then there is luck, being in the right place at just the right time, and ready to shoot. No matter what preparation has been done, there’s always an element of luck, of perfection, of recognising what Cartier-Bresson called the ‘decisive moment’. Here’s one of young swallows being fed which made everyone gasp:

Brilliant. And the red of the runner bean flowers is a perfect note.

Ah yes, back to patience and preparation. Even when working with subjects like these brown-lipped snails:

Finally, Alan often works with extreme detail. This amazing shot of a starling’s head won a silver in the ‘detail’ category last year in the International Bird Photographer of the Year competition. Look at all these colours!

More of Alan’s photographs can be found on his website.

What, Which, Who…

Our January meeting was the ever-popular quiz session. Divided into teams by drawing cards, we soon settled down to ponder such mysteries as which garden Siouxie and Banshees sang about, what word linked an artichoke and the WI, and the French name for the dandelion.*

Time to try a few. Answers below.

• Which garden in literature was restored by a little girl who came to England from India?

• Ground elder (ugh)

is a huge problem for the gardener but, having dug it up, what could you do with the leaves?

• What word links an antirrhinum and the Welsh emblem?

• Which tree yields the small fruit which can be used to flavour gin?

• Which part of the vanilla orchid is dried for use as a culinary flavouring?

• Hydrangeas are usually described as one of two types. Mophead

and.. what?

• Which terrifying plants were created by John Wyndham in 1951?

• Which grain is used to make semolina?

• A tall tale, joke or excuse too-often repeated is referred to as a what?

• What do lacewings feed upon?

• What three coniferous trees are native to Britain?

• What do laburnum seeds

and mistletoe berries have in common?

We had a great time, what with questions covering everything from Bill and Ben and Madison Square Garden to whether an elephant apple was a real thing (nope) and the percentage of water in a watermelon (92%, incidentally). This was not the, er, quietest of meetings, with our chair forced to emulate John Bercow and attempt to shut us us with much use of the gavel. It didn’t work.

_____________

*Hong Kong Garden, Jerusalem and pissenlit – in case you were wondering…
Answers:
1. The Secret Garden
2. Eat them, apparently – raw, cooked or made into soup. Dim diolch…
3. Dragon
4. Blackthorn or quickthorn
5. The seed pod
6. Lacecap
7. Triffids
8. Wheat
9. An old chestnut
10. Aphids
11. Yew, Scots Pine, Juniper
12. They’re both poisonous…

Bulb time

Our September meeting was timely – a talk on bulbs from Stan Mahom, whose Carno nursery specialses in them. Sepetember is now their busiest time of the year, so it was good to have him come and talk to us. And what is more, he bought some for us to buy.

This year, there’s a shortage, largely down to the weather. And snowdrops are particularly scarce, not just the extraordinarily expensive rare bulbs. In the wild they are now rare, and are classed as endangered (by CITES) in places like Turkey. That’s because of a combination of plunder for cultivation and habitat destruction. But it’s not all doom and gloom, and Stan took us through various bulbs, with lots of interesting snippets about each one.

Did you know, for instance, that crocuses are a member of the iris family, and that the earliest representation of a crocus dates back to the Bronze Age (Minoan frescos on Santorini and Crete)?

Continuing the archaological theme, irises have an association with death, and were planted on graves in Ancient Greece. But these could be planted in our gardens:

Here’s another astonishing bulb fact: over 3 million tulip bulbs are sold each year in the UK. (Some to us, after the talk.)

Queen of Night, the almost-black tulip which is so popular, is an enduring favourite: it was introduced almost 125 years ago, in 1895. Like QoN, most are cultivated varieties, although species tulips are growing in popularity (there are only 75 wild species, apparently).

What about hyacinths? Well, Stan’s nursery no longer sell hyacinths forced for Christmas flowering. The bulbs are temperature-treated so that they think they ‘have’ to flower and get very top heavy (we’ve almost all had ‘floppy-hyacinth’ disorder). He recommends ordinary garden hyacinths – they are stockier and more compact and don’t fall over. For a display, he recommends growing the bulbs separately and then merging those showing the same level of growth (and for the Spring Show, they need to be planted around Christmas and kept cool).

Then Stan gave us a timely tip: Get the biggest bulbs you can afford, as they will give you the best results. Prepack bulbs are usually second quality – smaller bulbs – so be aware of that.

And there were some beauties for us to choose from, too.

Many thanks to Stan Mahom for an interesting evening.

Showing off the summer

Our Summer Show this year was remarkable. Not just because of the quality of the flowers and vegetables or the elegance of the flower arranging, but because all of these were still in play despite it being one of the most peculiar gardening seasons for weather. From the Beast from the East to the July heatwave and drought, it’s not been the easiest time for gardeners.

You’d never know it, looking at the beauties produced by our entrants.

Not a hint of a caterpillar!

The day starts with people bringing in their produce, veg, flowers and arrangements. There’s a bit of tidying:

a few last minute tweaks, and then exhibitors are thrown out of the Hall (gently) and the judging begins. Before the show opens to the public – which includes the exhibitors, all keen to see how they have done – there’s a moment of peace for the judges and stewards, a chance to catch up and have a look around the other sections.

It’s also the time when the various sales stalls are organised – the charity (Arc Nôa), produce and plant stalls.

The plant stall – the first year we have devoted a table specifically to plants – was popular, and we are planning a plant and produce sale next May. Watch this space!

Here are some more photographs from the day. Looking forward to next year already!