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.

 

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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:

 

 

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.

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!

 

Summer show, 2017

Every year it seems that the summer show can’t get more colourful or more inspiring, and every year it does. There were some beautiful blooms,

like this hydrangea (which won best in show for its section, unsurprisingly), some perfect vegetables, amazing flower arrangements, amd mouthwatering cakes, bakes, pickles, jams, wines, fruit spirits…

It was, yet again, impressive just how so many of the entrants in the vegetable, fruit and flowers classes had achieved such good results given the rather peculiar weather we’ve been having.

But it’s still worth entering, even if you think your geranium or dahlia or marrow or garlic is not up to scratch – you might just be expecting impossible levels of perfection. The only thing we would prefer not to see is wildlife – caterpillars, basically, though slugs are also unwelcome. And, of course, there’s always the produce table to tempt!

Here’s a gallery from the day; just click on an image for a slideshow. Huge thanks to everyone who made the day such as success, and congratulations to all the entrants!

A day out

We have an annual trip, generally to a local garden of note. This year’s also involved a visit (and a delicious lunch) at a garden centre, Glyndwr Plants near Corwen. There was a definite run on the geraniums, and most of us left with at least something!

We then went on to an NGS garden, Aberclwyd Manor,

which opened exclusively for us. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t quite as cooperative, and there was intermittent light drizzle. One of the most interesting things about this garden was the use of texture and here is a gallery of images, many of which reflect that.

How many of us will be looking for interesting containers in which to grow sedums now?

 

The best gardens in Wales…

Our May meeting saw the BBC broadcaster and writer Tony Russell take us on a whirlwind tour of some of his personal favourites among Welsh gardens. He is also a coordinator for the North Wales Festival of Gardens, started last year, and many of the ones he chose were, ressuringly, in the north.

Plas Brondanw, image courtesy of gardenvisit.com

But not all… One of his personal favourites is Dyffryn, now run by the National Trust, near Cardiff, which has superb summer borders.

Dyffryn Gardens, image courtesy The National Trust

and there are other gardens for all seasons, such as the Dingle, great for autumn colour,

The Dingle, again from gardenvisit.com

and Erddig, near Wrexham, which he thinks is at its best in winter ‘when you can really see the structure of the garden’, with its topiary and pleached limes.

And there are also gardens reflecting all periods and types of garden design, from Dyffryn’s grand-tour-inspired recreation of a Pompeiian garden to modern designs such as those at Veddw. Really, we are very lucky – and many members will have left the meeting with a whole new appreciation of the sheer variety of wonderful Welsh gardens. And with lots of prospective visits in mind!