Ashdon Gardening Club

2008 to 2009 Season Meetings of the Ashdon Gardening Club

Visit by Mike Lindsell of Sandyford Vineyard on November 20th

Sandyford Vineyard is located in Great Sampford in North Essex. The vineyard was planted in 1999 and is situated on 2 acres which forms part of the 400 hundred acre family farm on which wheat, barley, sugar beet, oidseed rape and beans are grown. Prior to Christmas the family also raise free range turkeys. The vineyard of 2,000 vines was planted on a sheltered southwest facing slope and has 2,000 Germanic vines which enable the production of red, white, rose and sparkling wines, several of which have won top awards.

The meeting was well attended by members of the Gardening Club who entered with enthusiasm into the wine testing session which started during Mike's slide show and talk about the Vineyard. He explained how he and some friends had started to grow a few vines as a hobby. A lot of work had gone into the expansion of the vineyard, much of which had been done by hand by members of the family and friends. More recently the process of upkeep had become mechanised as much as possible. To find out more about the vineyard, visit the Sandyford Web site . It was agreed that the meeting had been one of the most enjoyable and successful with plenty of questions for Mike afterwards.

Social Meeting held on 15th January 2009

The meeting started at 7.45 pm with a lively Questions and Answers session and you can see the queries and responses on our Q & A page by clicking on "meetings" for the link.

During the evening wine and food, including some excellent cheese, was served whilst members completed a light-hearted gardening related quiz. The competition was "Winter in a vase" containing items from members' gardens and a number of colourful and imaginative entries were brought along.


Visit by Christine Walkden with a talk on "How to grow 2000 plants in a 20 x 30 foot garden" on February 19th


Christine is well-known as a plantswoman and horticulturist. Her work includes lecturing to societies, industry and others, training in horticultural retail areas and advising garden centres. She leads and guides botanical tours in Europe, North America and Africa and is a photographer with an extensive 35mm slide library of plants from around the world. Christine Walkden has written a BBC published book "A Year in Christine's Garden" to accompany the 2nd tv series of "Christine's Garden", and contributes to a number of journals and published material. She is currently the resident Gardening Expert on The One Show on BBC 1. To find out more visit Christine's site.

Entrance to the meeting was by ticket only and the Gardening Club was delighted to see about 120 people filling the Village Hall in anticipation of Christine's talk. There was little or no chance of napping during the presentation which was extremely lively, delivered in Christine's inimitable northern style and illustrated with a series of slides. She started by reminding us that most people forget the normal principles of colour, harmony, etc when buying plants from a nursery and come home with plants that they don't know where to place in their gardens. For the most part they aren't helped at nurseries because the vital information about the rate of growth is not included within the description of the plant. Nowadays there are many dwarf plants which can be ideal for placing in small areas.

We need to look at our gardens in a different way - rather than thinking they are too small, we should look at novel ways in which to expand them. A lot of plants can be put into containers, particularly Alpines which are easier to grow than they are given credit for. There are sinks and troughs into which more than 40 plants can creatively and comfortably be placed by creating pockets or by building up with artificial material or rocks. Hanging baskets need at least 32 plants to make a good display. We should not be afraid to use nooks and crannies such as walls or steps for plants but make sure that we only use seeds or very small plants. Areas where there are spaces such as the backs of sheds can be landscaped and filled with plants. Rose gardens and similar areas can be underplanted with bulbs to create carpets of colour and ensure that as one type of plant dies another one shoots up to take its place. This also applies to containers. Any structure that has the potential for hanging plants can be used - as long as the children don't object to their swings being monopolised by hanging containers. Bolsters and chicken wire can be utilised to create upright columns of flowering plants.

Christine also stressed the futility of buying lovely and expensive looking containers only to have them masked by trailing plants such as ivy. Grouped pots should complement each other. Sinks and troughs can also be useful for creating water gardens and she suggested anchoring plants in place through the use of crates which would also ensure that no-one could drown.

After that energising and thought provoking talk we shall all go back to our gardens and look at them anew. Christine reminded us that as a Gardening Club we could be growing plants and seedlings to share.

Visit by George Thorpe on 19th March to talk about Climate Change and associated Planting

George Thorpe is the Head Gardener of Trinity College, Cambridge. He commenced by telling us how he became interested in the subject of climate change and its effect on gardening. There are some positive and negative aspects to take into account:

George illustrated his talk with slides of examples of gardens which had created experimental areas to take the changing climate into account. Sometimes this was about finding new ways of planting or using plants which are better at coping with the changes that will come about. Discussions followed about the difficulties that the local clay soil gives gardeners and may affect their ability to grow plants that can cope with climate change.

Visit on 16th April by John Webster from Herbal Haven with a talk on the culinary uses and history and folklore of herbs

John gave a very interesting talk about herbs and their history and folklore. Because the subject is so vast he concentrated on thyme, parsley, coriander and marjoram.

His assistant provided samples for members to smell and guess which herb they were. She then explained their use in cooking and food preparation.

Herbal Haven is a nursery situated in Rickling in North West Essex, growing over 150 varieties of culinary, medicinal and aromatic herbs. The current flourishing business was started fourteen years ago starting with just a few herbs. In addition Herbal Haven offer Design Consultation services - the construction of herb planting plans large and small, for private gardeners and local schools.

The nursery is open by appointment but can often be found at a number of shows around the country. To find out more about the vineyard, visit the Herbal Haven Web site


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Last updated 17/01/2009.