Ashdon Gardening Club

2010 to 2011 Season Meetings of the Ashdon Gardening Club

The Gardening Club hosted a talk by Hilary Thomas on 16th September entitled DESIGNING WITH PLANTS

The meeting started at 7.45 p.m with Questions and Answers, and was followed by a talk by Hilary Thomas at 8.00 p.m.

Please check the Question and Answer pages for queries raised at the meeting by returning to the main "Meetings" page and clicking on the link.

Elements of her talk are as follows:

Several aspects to consider are:

You can learn from visual qualities:-

“Plants have definite forms and shapes” and “Structure IS the backbone of planting”


Role of plants in design


Front of border


“A border is like making a sandwich, the structural and front of border are the pieces of bread, and the ornamental is the filling.”

Usage of trees, shrubs, herbaceous, bulbs and annual bedding, flowers, foliage with autumn colour, berries, stems, bark etc

Focal Points

Strong Form – all year interest, coarse texture

Design principles

"Do you look at out of the window say Nov to March, what does your garden look like?"

"Compose a picture"


Hilary Thomas is the former head of Capel Manor School of Garden Design. She has written and taught on a range of garden and planting design courses and now runs a successful garden design practice. Hilary has recently published the Complete Planting Design Course and she will be talking to AGC members about designing with plants. You can find out more by visiting Hilary's Web site

(We are indebted to Lisa Swan for the notes made of Hilary's talk)

The Gardening Club hosted a talk by Peter Jackson on 21st October entitled PESTS AND DISEASES

The meeting started at 7.45 p.m with Questions and Answers, and was followed by a talk by Peter Jackson at 8.00 p.m.

Questions asked were:

Q: What should I do with an indoor orchid that has just lost its flowers?

A: Cut the stem down to one inch or just above the first good bud if it is higher. ease up on watering and give winter growth feed.

Q: Should the small fruits on a potted fig tree be removed?

A: There were two replies to this query. They an be removed in hard winters but alternatively it is possible to leave them on since the fig may produce two crops during the year.

Q: A member had received conflicting advice regarding potting, having been advised to use slightly alkaline and also slightly acid soil.

A: It depends on what is being potted as to the type of soil needed. However there is a problem when using bags of compost since no two bags ever had the same Ph level.

Peter Jackson used a series of slides to illustrate his talk. He started by saying that it is not always possible to provide a remedy for pests and diseases because research was often unaffordable. In addition some pests are now widespread or have moved on to different areas. Others come and go.

The first pests dealt with were slugs which are one of the top two pests for gardeners. They tend to be active day and night and 95% of the slug population lives underground. The use of Nematodes is the most effective method for destroying them. Organic pellets work effectively on those above ground only. Nematodes are not harmful to any other living organism apart from pests. They can also be used on vine weevils which live on pot plants and others, leather jackets and chafers which create brown patches in grass. Different Nematodes work on different pests.

Fruit trees have a number of problems. The coddling moth lays its eggs when the apple starts to flower and that is when trees should be sprayed. Pheromone traps can be hung from the tree. Not only does it catch some moths but it also serves as an indicator for the presence of the moth. The plum maggot moth can also be dealt with in the same way. Cut out infected wood where there is canker on apple trees and disinfect tools afterwards. Use a copper based spray on peach leaf curl and ensure that new peach trees are resistant types. Rotten plums should be removed from the tree. Do not let rotten fruit hit the ground. Use a nitrogen feed as early as possible on American gooseberry mildew.

Spray if there is any possibility of potato blight and pick of infected leaves. The SARCO varieties are best and most resistant. Use a systemic insecticide on woolly aphids.

Ultimate Bug Killer is the only thing that may work on the rosemary beetle and the lily beetle. Scale insects attach themselves to the underside of the leaf along the spine on both indoor and outdoor plants. They should be attached with Ultimate Bug Killer.

A combination of an insecticide and a fungicide should be used for the rose leaf roller but if only the odd leaf is affected it can be removed and burnt. Aphids can be eradicated by organic contact killers but chemical killers are more efficient. Frog hoppers should be removed via a pressure washer.

Black spot prevention should be carried out through early spraying. If it already exists do not let the leaves fall. Pick them off and burn. Plants susceptible to mildew also benefit from early spraying with a fungicide. Where there is rust on roses, pick off the leaves and destroy. Do not put in the compost.

If conifers go yellow then brown they have been damaged by the Cypress aphid and unfortunately the damage is beyond repair even if the aphid is killed. Try to catch when the conifer is yellow and use a bug killer then. Box blight can be helped by feeding. Coral spot is often a problem in hedgerows. Cut out the part are burn or compost.

There is nothing that can be done in the case of Honey Fungus. However some plants are more resistant than others and if there are any concerns that it is present, the RHS web site can provide a list of plants that are more resilient.

We were all reeling from this extensive run through of possible pests and diseases that our plants could face. It was an excellent meeting at which we learned a lot.

Peter is the Horticultural Director for Scotsdales' Garden Centre and has been with the nursery for over 40 years. He is an experienced speaker about many gardening topics and can help gardeners with many problems ranging from invasions of moles to pruning or spotting tomato blight. He supplies monthly gardening tips on Scotsdales' website and can supply answers to gardening queries by email.

The Gardening Club hosted a talk by Mike Thurlow on 18th November - Heritage Seeds and Plants Sourced

The meeting started at 7.45 p.m with Questions and Answers, and was followed by a talk by Mike Thurlow at 8.00 p.m.

Q: How late in the year can you put bulbs in the ground?

A: Daffodils should be planted in August, and tulips in November. However you can still put early flowering plant bulbs in but they will flower later than normal.

Mike Thurlow is Head Gardener of Audley End’s walled Organic Kitchen Garden.  English Heritage decided that they wanted the previously derelict garden to be made into a modern organic example of a working Victorian kitchen garden.  Mike has been involved from the outset of this project.  The garden now supplies vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers every day of the year and is open to the public on a regular basis.  It is also a showcase for the Heritage Seed Library. More information can be found at Audley End Organic Kitchen Garden

He started his talk by explaining how he came to be involved in using Heritage Seeds. When he started his job at Audley End he was told by English Heritage that the plants grown in the Kitchen Garden must be Victorian varieties. The Heritage Seed Library was recommended to him. They hold about 800 varieties of native plants and have 10,000 members who are asked to keep their plants in constant cultivation. Seeds must be registered but the Seed Heritage Library is a non-profit making company and cannot request payment. Seeds can only be swapped. A few seed companies sometimes sell local varieties of seed.

There is a difficulty in keeping the seeds stable and uniform and therey are guidelines on growing and harvesting seeds from year to year from the initial batch onwards. Eventually the original seeds have to be discarded. Tomatoes however are more stable and can be grown on from year to year. Audley End currently grow about 60 varieties of tomatoes. Runner beans are far less stable because they cross pollinate.

Many of the older varieties of seed have a more resistant constitution because they used to be treated with insecticides such as nicotine and arsenic.

The Gardening Club hosted a talk by Helen Riches on 17th February which took a "Critical Look"

Helen Riches

The meeting started at 7.45 p.m with Questions and Answers:

There was a reminder to take the leaves off your hellebores in Dec/Jan/Feb so that you can see the flowers.

Recommendations were voiced for:

Charlie’s Mowers – in Ashdon can service lawnmowers and sharpen shearers – tel 584021

Burton McColl, 163 Parker Drive, Leics LE4 0JP for £14.99 can sharpen secateurs

Q: When to decide what is dead and what is not? 

A: Leave for the moment as some things will come to fruition, alternatively scratch the very bottom of the plant to see if green (alive) brown (dead).

This was followed with a talk by Helen Riches. She started life as a graphic designer and illustrator then developed an interest in gardening when she became a mother.  Consequently she went to horticultural college and then started to write and draw for Gardeners World Magazine.

"A garden in a very personal thing.  Sometimes you can’t see clearly and it can be quite difficult.  Today is to make you look at your garden and to inspire you to think about your garden in a slightly different way."

Are you happy with the feel of your garden? 

Atmosphere, using surroundings, is the ‘essence’.  Go and look at other people’s garden.  Look at the planting, style, reflect the garden and house or ‘contrast’. If lost or not sure? What idea or mood would you like?  Cottage, woodland, seaside, unconventional, wildlife.

Have you thought out the style of the house when developing your garden?

Use doors and windows to design the garden, use the colour as a good way to link house & garden, e.g. brick etc.

Are there any features in your garden that you have yet to exploit, or views that should be disguised?

Draw the eye away from bad features.  Walk around the garden and look.  Which do you cherish most, a view or your privacy? How do you create views?  Hedge of grasses, angled hedges, shed windows, gap in hedges – explore ways – wind filters, zig zag hedges for examples

Function of the site - does the design of your garden suit its purpose?

Make a list of what you want.  A multi-purpose garden, a conservatory for year round dining, a path for motorbikes, al fresco dining, a lawn for lounging, enough room for plants to develop, scale & proportion – accommodate shrubs, perennials, annuals, bulbs & trees. 

Circulation is important… but if you can’t afford paths, add focal points to draw the eye… desire line for path.  No path – install a bench or pergola, statue to draw the eye.

Now for the nitty gritty………….

Plants & Trees

Do you hang on to plants that are not worth keeping?
Have you chosen plants that are vulnerable to disease?
Has your garden got plants that are difficult to control?
Are you drawn to plants which are not appropriate for your garden soil or climate?
Are your plants worth a place in your garden?

Tired plants – cut back? Hebe, lavender, we keep even tired plants.  When they get to a certain age throw them away!

How attractive is your border?  Try to think of alternatives, look through books and magazines.

Have you thought about climate? 

Question - Which side of the garden has the biggest contrast in temperature?  Answer… EAST
Question – Where might you find a frost pocket? Answer…BOTTOM OF A HILL
Get to know when plants can be cut back hard…they may perform better than ever, sometimes is better!

Alan Bidwell reminded the audience of a saying “Flower before June, prune after flowering”

Look through books, internet.

Vulnerable plants

Don’t select plants if you don’t like dealing with them e.g. roses – black spot, lily – lily beetle.
Ok how to treat black spot?  Fungicide, change treatments regularly, prune out effected leaves in autumn, rose plants – make sure they are not too crowded, purchase disease resistant ones.

Keep control … maintenance is a major issue.  Don’t get ideas beyond your reach - for example climbers etc., make sure you can manage them.  Some plants will spring their own surprises.  It is fun to be challenged, as long as you have the time and space, realise you could lose.  It’s so easy to get carried away with buying plants…and not planting them or planting them and not watering them!  If you cannot find that one plants, try one BIG pot! 

Perhaps you get scared to tackle plants if they grow successfully.  Take a regular stroll around your garden looking at trees and shrubs and consider each one on their merits.  DO take action!  Take a photo to see to help if you decide if anything wrong.  Put a piece of grease proof paper over photo and mark out roughly the plants lines.  You can then see the garden e.g. large, small, middle plants

Many people feel a strong connection to their garden, but try not to let emotion get the upper hand!

Lisa Swan supplied the above commentary.


Helen Riches is a garden designer award winning garden writer, creating a range of horticultural projects for magazines (including regular appearances in BBC Gardeners' World Magazine) which are grown and photographed in her garden.   She studied garden design at both Writtle College and the College of West Anglia. Helen was finalist in the the 2010 Garden Media Guild 'Practical Garden Journalist of the Year Award'. She also runs garden courses and give talks.

The Gardening Club hosted a talk by Angela Whiting on 17th March on "Alpines and alpine troughs"

Trough planted with alpines

The meeting started at 7.45 p.m with Questions and Answers, and was followed with an entertaining talk by Angela Whiting who showed us how to get the best out of alpines and planted troughs.

Angela talked about the development of her business from a bare 2 acre field and her progress through wholesaling alpines to the current plot where she grows and propagates her own plants based on organic principles and displays them, not only on site but in several shows. Her son is now helping her with the shows. In addition she runs courses at the nursery and for the RHS.

She used slides to illustrate her techniques for growing alpines and explained how to treat raised beds and troughs with the use of appropriate bedding material and plants. Even members who had no thought of using alpine plants in their garden came away with ideas to try out.

Angela is an award winning expert with over 25 years experience who runs a specialist nursery where all plants sold are home propagated and grown. She exhibits regularly at shows and runs RHS workshops. For more information access the D'Arcy & Everest web site.


The Gardening Club hosted a talk by Mark Ekin on 21st April on "Lawns and lawn care"

Philip Marchant's garden

The meeting started at 7.45 p.m with Questions and Answers as usual, and was followed with a talk by Mark Ekin who provide us with information and techniques to help us look after our lawns and deal with problems.

His talk gave us plenty to consider and started with the types of grass areas that people used and how the grass should be treated and looked after:

Types of grass areas

General Amenity - all purpose, usually rye and fescue which would be left longer (in both senses) before cutting;

Fine turf, such as that for bowling greens, of fescue which would be cut often;

Meadow and wildlife areas which would be cut occasionally;

Grazing or for food, consisting of Spanish rye grass and would be cut only when needed.

Categorization of grass areas

Excellent/good/average/poor/worn out

Seed versus turf considerations

Cost - Seed is much cheaper;

Choice/availability - depending on what you want, both are usually available and can be mixed within an area;

Overall success - may depend upon how it settles in. Usually seed is better in this respect. However weeds may be more prevalent in seeded grass. Turf may be a problem in that not only do you get someone else's soil profile, but you need to be sure what quality of turf you are being provided with;

Preparation - seed takes 6-7 weeks to mature whereas turf takes a week to settle in.


Weed control - use glyphosate to remove all weeds prior to seeding or turfing;

Rotovate - top surface only. If you go too deep you will get sinkage when you put down grass;

Firm - walk on the ground at right angles after walking in one direction so that footfalls criss-cross;

Level - by raking to ensure cutting surface is smooth;

Fertilise with phosphorous feed and particularly with seed use NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium) mixture;

Weh laying next to paving slightly raise it above the surface of paving so that if there is any sinkage the lawn will create a level area.

Turf laying

Water area and roll out. Can be done all year round except when frosty or too hot;

Lay brickwork fashion and cut like household tiles where necessary so that it meshes in, and pin on to banks using dowelling;

Always work off a board, kneeling on it;

Firm and tamp;

Top dress.


Seed by hand or use a spreader;

Calibration allows regular amounts of seed to flow from the spreader;

Use 1 and a half ounces per square yard. Mix seed up because there can be light and heavy seed in batch;

Lightly rake in.


This is like a mulch and is good for bankings and is a common method for wild flower areas.


Chitting - mix compost and seed and soil then pour water into it. Put in bags and leave in a warm area. As soon as the seed germinates, rake over the worn area then spread the germinated mixture over it;

Where there are uneven low or high areas cut a cross in the grass. Peel out the pieces between the cuts then add soil or take it away. Fold back.


Rotary mowers are good for most jobs;

Cylinder mowers are best for fine areas but expensive to maintain. The more blades the machine has, the better the cut. Be aware that dips in the lawn will damage the mower;

If the grass isn't deep leave the cuttings on top but remove if the grass is long;

Roll one way then the other for a striped lawn;

Alternate cutting direction each time for a cleaner cut;

Header can be created by circling lawn and then mowing lines back and forth into header.


Possible damage to trees but can be minimised by using half revs.


This will improve drainage in large areas where there is an existing drainage system.


Use fork or spiker if ground compacted;

Use hollow spikes if there is a lot of surface water, then top dress with 2 parts soil, 2 parts horticultural sand;

Otherwise use solid spikes to release compaction.

Over seeding

Use to cover bare areas or to match in old and new areas.


Water new areas regularly with approximately 1.5 inches of water.


Use NPK for green foliage, strong roots, healthy growth;

If the grass is yellow the iron has leached out.

Fertilizer application

Liquid is better but it doesn't go as far;

Walk granular fertilizer on but take care to ensure it doesn't burn.

Weed control

Weeds in seeded grass die down if cut regularly;

Weed dandelions out of turf;

Use 2 4 D (2,4-Dinitrophenol)


Chafer grubs - use nematodes;

Leather jackets - spray;

Frit fly (Aug to Sept) - spray;

Moles - sonic vibrations or use bottle sunk into the ground so that only the neck sticks out. Apparently the noise of the wind blowing over the bottle may scare the moles away;

Birds - scare away;

Dogs - use tomato juice in food to prevent bitch stain.


Fairy rings (Sorry - I missed how to get rid of these. Please contact <A HREF="">me</A> if you can supply the answer);

Dollar spot - spray;

Fusarium patch - spray.


Mark Ekin has worked within the horticultural industry for over twenty-five years, where he ran his own landscaping business. For the last seven years he has been working in the land based education sector and is currently Programme Area Manager for Horticulture, Agriculture and Countryside Studies at The College of West Anglia in Cambridgeshire. He has published a book "Wooden Garden Structures - A Complete Guide. He helped to build the Emmaus garden at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and is currently working to produce a usable garden at the Emmaus Centre north of Cambridge.





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Last updated 09/10/2011.