A trip to Treborth

Last year we had a great talk at one of our monthly meetings from Dr Shaun Russell, the Director of Treborth Botanic Gardens near Bangor. So, for our day out this year, we decided to pay the gardens a visit in return. And, just like his talk, it was wonderful.

The day was helped by the weather (which was stunning) and by the welcome (which was warm), but the gardens stand by themselves. They are possibly the only botanic gardens in the UK bordering the sea – the Menai Strait – where part, the ancient woodland, runs down to the shore. And the gardens were originally a Paxton design; Sir Joseph P. worked here in the nineteenth century, when the link across the Irish Sea from Anglesey meant the area had many visitors and tourists, and a grand hotel and garden was planned for this site. It came to naught but the bones are still there: a drainage tunnel, a waterfall, specimen trees, even the foundations of the hotel.

We were taken round three glasshouses, the temperate, tropical and orchid houses. And they were stunning. The way in:

and once you get inside…

there are fascinating plants everywhere you turn –

from Lithops to carnivorous plants,

taking in all sorts of wonders in between:

The glasshouses are only part of the story. Treborth is a serious academic institution, part of the University of Bangor, and with flourishing links to the biggest botanical garden in China, Xishuanbanna, as well as those in Lesotho (Katse) and Tierra del Fuego (Omara). All around there were specimens

(Enephalatos villosus’ mature female cone and Encephalalartos laevifolius’ young male cone, and yes, that’s what it says on the sign), and signs of the work being undertaken from moth traps (500 varieties recorded so far) to the rhizotron (for studying roots) in the gardens:

Treborth isn’t just noticeable for its plant life (2500 species of flowering plants, 120 mosses, 100 lichens). Over 400 varieties of fungi have been recorded, as have 26 mammals, 125 birds, 10 reptiles and amphibians, 29 butterflies and all those moths: most impressive.

All in all, we had a wonderful day which left a great impression. Hopefully Treborth will be successful with their fundraising efforts, which will make the gardens accessible for a lot more people. It’s a great place, doing some important work. Huge thanks to everyone at Treborth, and to Val for arranging our visit.

Here’s a selection of some more photographs from the day; just click on an image for a slideshow.



Painting flowers

This month our meeting was to feature a talk and demonstration on painting the flowers we all love. Unfortunately our speaker had to cancel at the last minute … but we still had our talk because Glenys Lawson stepped into the breach. Her enthusiasm (and commentary) was infectious.

She had set out an easel, some paints – including some test pots from Wilko, because, as she said, she will paint with anything. Acrylics in this case, as she had a painting to finish in 45 minutes. And talk about the process at the same time.

She had already prepared an outline of some irises:

Which she then proceeded to fill in, gradually working on the background, building up the layers and working hard at getting the colours of the irises right (difficult in the lighting of the hall),

Here’s the process:

and the (almost) finished painting:



Stop press!

The wonderful Spring Show, which should have been happening in a couple of weeks’ time, has had to be cancelled. This is typical of why:

It’s the dreadful weather we had last week. If people were lucky enough to escape without any damage to their properties, and with all their trees intact, their gardens were not equally fortunate. The snow, the dry, cold wind and then Storm Emma have put paid to our dreams of filling the village hall with the glorious scent of daffodils en masse.

Even tough winter plants didn’t survive:

Poor hellebores.

So, following a ring-round of the most prolific exhibitors – the flower arrangers, too, were having problems: no decent foliage was left – and the committee, we made the unhappy decision to cancel the show this year. So very sorry – but we’ll be back next year, and better than ever.

Wine and gardening (honestly)

For February, we had something different – a wine tasting, led by Dylan of Dylanwad in Dolgellau. There is a link, honestly there is: so much about the final wine is dependent on things we gardeners are quite familiar with: soil, weather, climate… all can have an impact on the end results.

Dylan took us on a tour of some of his favourite vineyards, illustrating the point – the soil here, for instance, hardly fits the word, being mostly stony:

Vine roots can go down as far as 12 to 15 metres in very dry circumstances (such as around Jerez in southern Spain), and the grapes grow low to the ground. But there are other things to consider, like pruning, and here again Dylan illustrated different systems.

Now for the tasting. First came three white wines, fresh and citrussy,

including one Welsh wine, from near Monmouth. They would have been perfect on a summer’s day; the winter night was perhaps more suited to the three reds:

which included an interesting one from Moldova.

Dylan asked a question, one he says he often asks when doing events like this, and to which he never gets a positive response: did anyone grow grapes? Several hands went up. And had anybody made wine from their grapes? Yes, one of us had – a first. Wine and gardening: the link is confirmed. And definite!

Many thanks to Dylan for an entertaining, informative and enjoyable evening.

Getting quizzical

Our first meeting of 2018 was the return of the highly enjoyable quiz. It wasn’t a particularly nice night, but a good number of members turned up, ready and waiting to show (or explain away) the extent of their gardening knowledge.

How about a few test questions? Answers are at the end of the post.

1. Charles Darwin described this carnivorous plant as the most wonderful plant in the world. What is it?
2. Harry Wheatcroft was a renowned breeder of what?
3. Aspen is from what family of trees?
4. What is pomology the study of?
5. Britain’s oldest botanic garden is found in which town?

6. Which two plants, when crossed, form the hybrid Tayberry?
7. What name was given to the UK campaign during World War II encouraging people to grow their own vegetables?
8. Which fairly widespread plant can, if touched, cause a serious chemical reaction when the skin is exposed to UV light?

And how about some common names for these?
9. Buxus sempervirens
10. Helleborus niger
11. Aesculus hippocastanum
12. Leucanthemum ‘Superbum’
13. Spartium junceum

14. Salix babylonica
15. Hyacinthoides non-scripta

And then some anagrams for ‘gardening-related things’, which had us scratching our heads – unless we had experienced crossword addicts on the team…
16. Bra Where Owl
17. Tailor Curl Hut
18. Teapot Dose
19. Frank Gored
20. Tattoos Weep
21. New Corset

Hearty congratulations to Team Tomato, who won. Highly appropriately, as one of the first questions was ‘the “love apple” is the original name for what?’. Yes – the tomato.

1.Venus Fly Trap. 2. Roses. 3. Poplars. 4. Fruit. 5. Oxford. 6. Raspberry x Loganberry. 7. Dig for Victory. 8. Giant Hogweed. 9. Box. 10. Christmas Rose. 11. Horse Chestnut. 12. Shasta Daisy. 13. Spanish broom. 14. Weeping willow 15. Bluebell. 16. Wheelbarrow. 17. Horticultural. 18. Seed potato. 19. Garden fork. 20. Sweet potato. 21. Sweetcorn.

Show warning

First, apologies – both for the terrible pun at a time when there are indeed snow warnings (but not in this immediate area, at least not yet), and for the gap in posting, which was down to pressure of work. Hopefully the volume of work is now more sensible. Second, the news:


It seems incredible, but the club’s Spring Show is round the corner. There are some changes this year, notably the venue and the day. We’ve outgrown the Church Hall, so we’re moving the show to the bigger Village Hall (where the Summer Show is held). And its not on a Monday or a Wednesday, its…


This gives us a bit more room to play with, so we’ve taken the opportunity to add another flower arranging class. Schedules will be available very shortly, but head over to the Spring Show tab and you’ll find all the details (plus some help on daffodil classes). There are two flower arranging classes with themes – ‘New Beginning’ and ‘Trip the Light Fantastic’ – and two without, specially for all those whose minds go completely blank when confronted with a theme.

Winter was not only coming, winter has not only come (sorry about the Game of Thrones sound to these), but winter will be on its way soon. At least the cold snaps will – hopefully – be killing off some of the pests. Let’s have some more daffs for cheerfulness.

And if anybody needed more cheering up, the next meeting is a wine tasting…


Late summer colour

In gardening, ‘late summer’ traditionally meant August. Nowadays, though, that could be anything up to early October, and there’s little doubt that we are  experiencing a longer growing season. As Karen Hall said in her September talk, ‘it’s important that our gardens don’t run out of steam by July’.

She gave us some wonderful examples of plants which can really help.

(This is Rudbeckia Herbstone.) Rudbeckias and Heleniums are brilliant for this, and Rudbeckias in particular can continue to look good even after their petals have dropped. And both, like this yellow Helenium, are popular with wildlife…

Another favourite is Echinacea, and particularly the old species E. purpurea. They need good drainage, and don’t like being crowded by other plants.

This can be grown from seed; they’ll flower in their first year if sown early enough in the spring.

Karen’s special loves are the Salvias, and when you look at examples like this one,

which is Royal Bumble, it’s easy to understand why. Salvias can flower for months, and one of the secrets, Karen said, is not to cut the shrubby ones down in autumn. Wait until the spring, when they have started into growth, and cut them back to a low green shoot. This is at the top of Karen’s list:

It’s Salvia Hadspen. And as long as Salvias aren’t standing in wet soil over winter, they should cope (unless the winter is unusually cold, that is).

Ornamental grasses look wonderful with many of the late-season plants we were shown. But they also look pretty stunning by themselves:

Now we have no excuses!

Thank you, Karen, for your inspiring talk – and your even more inspiring images, showing us just what can be achieved!