Local gardens, June

It’s definitely the garden visiting season – at least, when it stops raining (and even when it doesn’t, for the truly intrepid). Every year some of out members open their own gardens to the Club so we can see what they’ve been up to / steal ideas / have a cup of tea and a slice of homemade cake. This June we visited Guy and Margaret’s garden, normally open under the NGS (we have two NGS gardens in the village), and it was inspiring.

The trees and shrubs are wonderful,


especially this Cornus, which made people stop in their tracks. It is sensational.

But there were lovely things to see everywhere, from particular plants


to the greenhouse and polytunnel, which made those of us who are vegetable gardeners quite envious (let’s not mention the rest of the vegetable gardens… sigh…)


Those of us who share a rabbit problem were especially interested in the preventative measures on display. Peter Rabbit wouldn’t stand much of a chance.

Here’s a collection of photographs – to remind those who went of what can be achieved, to inspire those who didn’t, and to set us all off with ideas for our own gardens. Very many thanks indeed to Guy and Margaret: ten years opening for the NGS.




Plas Cadnant – 2016

Every year we try and organise a trip to an inspiring garden; generally we manage it but occasionally events conspire against us. This year everything went beautifully – even the weather improved – and we went to Plas Cadnant, the remarkable garden on Anglesey.


What is especially remarkable about Plas Cadnant this year is the amount of work that has needed to be done following horrendous and damaging floods in December. Looking at this gorgeous view, you can hardly believe the state the garden was in six months ago. It’s so sad: Anthony Taverner has been restoring it for 20 years, and so much of his work was undone in one night. But it’s back!

There are some fabulous plants,


and some gorgeous topiary (clipped buxus),

Clipped Buxus

and the insects were busy in the garden.


It was a lovely day; we had the garden to ourselves (it’s closed on Mondays) which was doubly great, and members have called it ‘wonderful’, ‘amazing’, ‘excellent’ and ‘a fantastic day out’. Huge thanks to everyone at Plas Cadnant, and to Guy and Tony for the photographs. Just click on an image in the gallery below for a slideshow.

(Click on this link and you’ll see the extent of the devastation – worth it, just to see what an amazing job the team at Plas Cadnant have done since December.)

Back for 2016 – with plants, wildflower seeds and solitary bees

It’s the start of our gardening – and meetings – year. The AGM is over, the new schedule is up and looks fab, but unfortunately our May speaker developed food poisoning the day before and couldn’t make the meeting. So, at very short notice, our President Guy Lloyd stepped in. And we had a fabulous evening.

It started with one of our members introducing Kew’s ‘Grow Wild / Tyfu’n Wyllt’ boxes, part of their ‘flowers to the people’ campaign, which encourages people to plant wild flower patches (seeds included), and create homes for solitary bees (the kit is in the box too):

solitary bee house

Several people took the boxes, and it will be interesting to see what comes up from the free seeds, and whether any solitary bees take up the offer of accommodation.

Then Guy took us through some of his favourite plants for this time of year, and also gave us some great tips. They included tips about vegetables (still time, just, to plant squashes and runner beans), recommendations of some more ordinary plants (narcissus, but a good late variety in a lovely pale lemon, Pipit), and of some rarer ones like Drimys winterii:

Drimys winterii(image courtesy of the RHS)

Another shrub – or small tree – which was new to many of us was Exochorda macracantha ‘The Bride’, which is certainly spectacular.


(image courtesy of Plant World Seeds)

This shrub has a rather loose habit and takes its time to get going; though it can get floppy, it can also be cut back for better shape over the winter (though, like many shrubs, that might involve sacrificing the flowers for the following year). And then there was a recommendation for something rather smaller – Brunnera macrophylla, but not ‘Jack Frost’ which is commonly available. Instead, Guy went for ‘Looking Glass’:


Clematis montana can be somewhat rampant round here, and Guy was able to recommend Freda as a variety which was controllable, and had good darker flowers; another member suggested Warwickshire Rose.

Some specimens were passed round the room, and one which caused quite a stir was Euphorbia mellifera, the honey spurge.

honey spurge

Guy said it that this was a very good year for this markedly honey-scented shrub, and indeed it is. This photograph and the one below come from Plas Cadnant, the location for our club’s outing next month. Hopefully the honey spurges will still be in flower, because they are fantastic.

honey spurge again

We were all making notes, and several of us will be trying to track down unusual plants (and sneaking the last squashes into a seed box). What a lovely evening, even if it wasn’t quite as predicted. We look forward to welcome the speaker who should have been with us, Paul O’Byrne from Plas Newydd, next year. And we wish him a speedy recovery!

(Incidentally, those members coming to Plas Cadnant should note that bringing walking boots / sensible non-slippy footwear is a good idea if you want to explore the wooded areas of the garden. It’s possible without, but better with…)

Spring show and swapping seeds

It’s been a very odd winter and early spring but, despite conditions which saw daffs flowering before Christmas and many gardens much boggier than usual, the annual Spring Show was still a very impressive display. Many of us have had problems with hellebores this year (look up ‘hellebore black death’ and keep your fingers crossed) – but not all of us:

Mary's hellebores

These, from Mary, won best in show for the non-flower-arranging side.

Margaret’s best in show flower arrangement was lovely too:

Margaret's flowers

Two of the most instantly stunning exhibits were a magnificent Clivia (even the leaves were perfection) and a gorgeous amaryllis. Needless to say, they both won firsts in their classes.

In the evening, quite a few of us gathered to have a glass of wine (or elderflower cordial) and nibbles. We were there to swap seeds

veg seeds

or take away some plants (the broad beans and begonias were particularly popular), and there was much chatting and general winding down – very enjoyable. And very tasty on the food front, not to mention those begonias.

baby plants

We hope everybody enjoyed themselves. The exhibitors should all be very proud – particularly James, who won the under-5 moss garden with an entry which everyone adored – and huge thank you to everyone!

Here’s a gallery of highlights, including that moss garden. Just click on an image for a slideshow.


How to – choose compost, sow seeds, pot on, take cuttings…

Our February meeting was amazingly well attended, given that Storm Imogen was raging outside to such an extent that the local railway line, battered by the sea, had featured on national news earlier in the day. We were all keen to learn what we could from Guy Lloyd, who was ‘demonstrating garden practices’, as the programme said. It was a great meeting, full of laughter and comments and plants – and lots of great information. But first, look at some of the beauties in flower in Guy’s garden:

in flower


We started with compost, and a discussion of what could be found in some multipurpose brands (stones, glass, a sock) now that they contain much more recycled material. Later on, Guy mentioned riddling compost when planting out – really important now that there is so much miscellaneous stuff in some of the composts we buy. There were also some great tips to bear in mind when buying and using it, including:

  • compost goes off, so don’t keep it too long or buy bags that have obviously been hanging around all winter. Soon it will bear a ‘best before’ date, and that is why.
  • don’t buy bags from the top of the pile, because they will have been exposed to sun and rain and won’t be so good either.
  • always close the bag properly when you’ve been using compost.

Then we moved on to seed sowing,

sowing seeds

where we also learned many useful things – such as the importance of riddling that compost (it breaks it down, as well as filtering out the rubbish) and that it’s best to order seeds from seedsmen rather than buying them in a shop as there’s no guarantee that they will be at their freshest, or will have been kept properly. We also learned to use small trays for germination of the smaller seeds (and to mix the very fine ones with silver sand first – as one member said, ‘you can see it then’); to flick seeds which were too close together apart with a pencil or label; and to cover the seeds (where specified) with compost put through a finer riddle. And then to water them by soaking them from below.

But the one thing which we all learned was how neat and tidy and perfect the sown seed boxes looked – whatever the size – when the tray was finished off with a ‘striker’: a straight piece of wood gently passed over the pots or tray to remove excess compost. Judging by the looks that were exchanged, we’re all going to be doing that.

Next came pricking out and potting on…

pricking out

Here Guy stressed several things:

  • to tease the little seedlings apart gently and only handle them by the leaves, never the stems,
  • to be ruthless and only prick out the best, choosing the healthiest ones and discarding any which are weak or damaged,
  • and not to force the stems down into the compost.

Propagating followed, and there were cries of pain from the audience as Guy took cuttings form some lovely plants (there was even a suggestion that one should be hidden so he couldn’t get at it). Root cuttings were covered too, which was something most of us had either not attempted or had only dabbled in. Guy had brought along an ideal candidate, this Acanthus mollis:

root cuttings 1

Why take root cuttings, asked Guy, when you can split plants like these? The answer for some plants was really clear: take phlox, for instance. Eelworm just love phlox, and if you divide a plant, you move the eelworms too; with a root cutting, you don’t (the same would apply to any plant which had become infested with something like oxalis). He demonstrated two types of root cutting – the thicker ones, like the acanthus, and ones with finer, more thread-like roots. For the first, he took a piece of root – pencil thickness – and cut it into sections with a flat cut at the top and a sloping one at the bottom. These were then inserted into cutting medium (2 x peat, 1 x grit, 1 x pearlite) so that the tops were just exposed above the surface of the compost. The second, finer roots, were simpler: you just lie sections of root flat over the medium, then cover them with a little compost and they’ll throw up baby plants.

It was a great evening – so much taught, so much gained in terms of information, encouragement, and inspiration. Thank you, Guy!


Now where are those secateurs? Root cuttings call!

Football clubs and other gardening questions

Our January meeting was something we’d not tried before: a gardeners’  quiz night.


We were split into groups by colour card, given out in a random order as we came in, so we couldn’t all try and be on the same table as the most knowledgeable among us. And – after considerable chatting – we soon got going.

Try a few. The answers are at the end of the post – NO, don’t scroll down! (For those who were there, some of these questions didn’t get asked because we ran out of time.)

1a. Solanum tuberosum is the Latin name for what vegetable?
b. What are the main attributes of Cornus alba and Cornus sanguinea?
c. Which fruit has the highest oil content?
d. Maximus, Montgomery and Bedford are varieties of what?

quiz 22. a: From which shrub do we get tea?
b: In WW2, two cartoon characters were created to encourage children to eat vegetables – gardeninghat were they called?
c: What is the fruit of humbles lupulus?
d: Which Premier League football club are known as ‘The Cherries’?

3. a: Red core is a disease of which fruit?
b: Common, Blue, Brandling and Cockspur are all varieties of what organism?
c: What sort of tree is a Gean or Mazzard?
d: Which weed is called ‘poor man’s weatherglass’ because its flowers close when rain is imminent?

quiz 3

We also had a seed identification test, which was worrying – especially to those of us who confused tomatoes and parsnsips. That could explain a lot!

Finally, the winners were the Purple People Eaters – congratulations and bottles of wine to them – who won, essentially, because one of them knew the answer to 2d. Nobody else had a clue!

1a: Potato b: coloured stems in winter,  c: the olive,  d: Brussels sprout
2a: Camellia sinensis,  b: Potato Pete and Dr. Carrot, c: the hop, d: Bournemouth AFC
3a: Strawberry; b: worms, c: cherry, d: scarlet pimpernel

Happy Christmas / Nadolig Llawen!

Our December meeting is not really a meeting. It’s the annual Christmas party, a very sociable event with a general quiz, a photo competition, lots of chat and friendship, and lots, lots of delicious food from members. And it was great.

Dorothy created some beautiful flower arrangements for the tables, which became the raffle prizes,

and the amazing spread was provided by the members. Everyone brought a contribution, and the buffet table looked sensational:


And, because we are a gardening club, we did have some garden-related content, in the form of a photo identification quiz (oh, and flowers decorated many of the tablecloths). Very difficult!

Here are some more photographs from the evening. Thanks to everyone who made it such a lovely time, and Happy Christmas to everyone  / Nadolig LLawen i bawb!