Ashdon Gardening Club

2013 to 2012 Season Meetings of the Ashdon Gardening Club

Our September meeting

The meeting started at 7.45 p.m with Questions and Answers as usual, and this was to have been followed by a talk from Richard Ford but he was unfortunately unable to attend due to personal circumstances. The meeting was instead hosted by our panel of experts from within the Gardening Club and a very enjoyable evening was held. One question, however, stumped them. Why have Chinese lanterns produced beige flowers when taken from a root of a healthy plant that normally has bright orange blooms? If any readers have answers please can they contact us.

The Gardening Club hosted a talk by Caroline Holmes on "Permission to Poison"

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

Q. Should I prune or do anything with my fruit trees to ensure a good crop next year?

A. Nothing apart perhaps from putting grease bands around the trunk to prevent coddling moth damage. On no account should plum trees be pruned.

Q. What should I do with the trailers created by strawberry plants in pots and can I plant bulbs underneath?

A. Tuck the trailers into the pot and by all means plant bulbs underneath.

The session was followed by a talk from Caroline Holmes about Alnwick Castle and the gardens. She provided a lively commentary and interesting slides. There was a brief introduction to the recent gardening history of the grounds, first started by Capability Brown. We were then shown a diagram of the most recent innovations including the water cascade, the hornbeam hedging with windows, and the walled garden. Caroline then went on to talk about the plans and planting of the poisonous plant garden. We were surprised to find that some of the plants in our own gardens were not as friendly as we thought. She supplemented the talk with quotes from Shakespeare and the Bible to illustrate the long history of the plants and their place in folklore.

Caroline is a garden historian, lecturer, broadcaster and designer.  She is a member of the Garden Media Guild, Garden Writers, Liveryman in the Worshipful Company of Gardeners, and past Chairman of the Herb Society.  She has lectured in several countries and for several British organisations including the RHS.  Caroline is a Course Director for the Institute of Continuing Education at the University of Cambridge and she has spoken on radio and television programmes.  In addition she has written several books and received ‘The Gertrude B. Foster Award for Excellence in Herbal Literature 2011’ from the Herb Society of America.

For more information access Caroline Holmes' web site.

November 2012 Meeting of the Ashdon Gardening Club

The meeting started at 7.45 p.m with Questions and Answers, and was be followed by Barry Kaufmann-Wright with his talk "In Celebration of Trees".

Q. One of our prize winning members asked about the difference between white and red onions.

A. Any differences were in taste. Red onions are milder and sweeter.

Q. Only one apple tree remains in my garden although there used to be several. The problem was honey fungus which has also attacked the remaining tree. Can I replant?

A. Nothing can be done to save the tree and it is best to dig it out straight away and ensure that the roots are dug up as well. Planting should only take place if the soil can be completely sterilised.

Following this last sad question which he helped to answer, Barry Kaufmann-Wright began his talk. He gave a brief outline of his life then presented a wonderful series of photographs that showed England's native trees in all their glory. He also asked us pertinent questions about different aspects of trees, some of which we were able to answer. He finished his talk by telling us the recent news about the disease attacking ash trees, "Chalara fraxinea".

Barry Kaufmann-Wright was born and brought up on a small mixed farm and later worked for Gerald Durrell at the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust.  Whilst at the zoo he developed an interest in photography and  he has built up an extensive collection of slides.  Barry was also a Police Officer with Essex Police for 32 years, 22 of which he spent as a Wildlife Crime Officer.  In 2003 he won an international award when he was named as the “WWF Wildlife Law Enforcer of the Year”.  In 2007 he was made a Fellow of the British Naturalists Association (BNA).  He has written 5 books based on his various experiences.  He lectures on wildlife related topics and conducts guided walks around the nature reserves near Wimbish. He also carries out ecological surveys for local authorities and developers.

For more information access Barry's web site.

February 2012 Meeting of the Ashdon Gardening Club

The Gardening Club hosted a talk by Robin Carsberg "Container and Patio Gardening"

The meeting started at 7.45 p.m. Robin is well known in Ashdon for his Annual Show judging skills and has visited us before as a speaker. The last time he told us "what the judges were looking for" in shows.

This evening he not only told us what the judges would look for in exhibited containers and baskets but gave us a lot of inforation about the best way in which to display containers and baskets whilst they are in our gardens or in fact anywhere. In his first sentence Robin stated that "everyone can have a container - it doesn't matter where you live." All a container needs is to be able to hold soil, provide drainage, and have enough room to accommodate the plants you wish to grow (bearing in mind that plants will grow larger). The type of container can be made of anything including recycled household item or old shoes.

In his "Dos and Don't" list Robin advised against dark or black containers which can become too hot in summer, the need to consider the weight and location in case it has to be moved, the display colour which looks best when co-ordinated with the colour of the pot, and the background where the container will be situated. He highlighted this last point be showing slides of red or dark plants against similar coloured backgrounds and light plants against pale backgrounds.

Most plants are suitable for growing in pots and many can be mixed and matched. The list included cacti and succulents, alpines and water plants. Bulbs can be planted in different levels starting with winter ones near the top and later flowering bulbs further down. Photographs illustrated the use of plants along the edges of steps and the use of differnt levels to disply plants to their best advantage.

On a practical note he said that plants in containers need more maintenance than others growing in the garden. The composition of the soil is preferable if a heavier container type compost is mixed with an all purpose type. Plants should be watered twice a day in hot weather and a diluted liquid feed used every other watering. Self watering systems are ideal but granules can be used. To help with the watering a plastic saucer can be placed in the bottom of the pot when first planted. This will ensure that a reservoir of water remains.

Robin's talk was liberally sprinkled with photographs showing good and bad examples of planted containers and baskets and gave us all a lot to think about.

March 2013 Meeting of the Ashdon Gardening Club

The meeting commenced with a question and answer session.

Q: Will seeds catch up this year with their normal growth pattern even though they have not been sown yet?

A: Yes.

Q: How long can potatoes be kept before planting?

A: Even if potatoes are shooting they can be planted because they are robust. The length of time question was not answered but they should be all right if they are planted fairly soon.

Q: Is Carex Pendula, a grass, invasive?

A: Although it grows vigorously it tends to clump. If it does spread it can be cut in half with a spade.

Richard Ford gave a wide ranging, enjoyable, entertaining and informative talk on "water in the garden" illustrating it throughout with photographs. He started by showing us how large estates enhanced their gardens with water whether by lakes or features. However for most of us, having water in the garden was a matter of scale. Moving water provides interest and furthers the growth of both fish and plants.

Small water features

Although the large areas of water were beautiful, this topic was very appropriate for the majority of members and Richard was able to show us how we could introduce water into our gardens by the use of simple materials and equipment. Throughout his talk he emphasized the word "simple". Show gardens were ideal for obtaining ideas for features, with many similar ones being available off the shelf. If digging holes was not to our taste we could create ponds above ground. He then gave us some practical pointers:

Design and construction of the water garden

Again Richard stressed the need to keep it simple, particularly with regard to the shape. A complicated design is more difficult to construct and more likely to leak. A deep pond produces better results than a shallow one, particularly if fish are kep in it. The ideal measurements are:

Minumum of 50 square feet, sloping sides above a shelf with a 20 degree slope, and a depth of 18 inches to 3 foot.

Concrete is more susceptible to movement and cracking as are straight brick walls on a pond above ground. Prefabricated pond liners are fine but the exact size may be difficult to dig. Installation of any pond must be level. The life of plastic or butile sheeting is around 20 years. All sharp stones should be removed to prevent piercing but carpet or any similar material can be laid at the bottom to prevent this. A planting shelf is useful but sloping slides are best for exit and ingress of frogs. The plastic part that shows above ground should be covered because it is vulnerable to degradation by the sun.

Planting the water garden

Plants will help to keep the water clean and clear. Use the shelf for putting plants on and put oxygenating plants on the bottom. Clear them if they grow too thickly. Fountains will also create oxygen for fish. Water lilies are very easy to grow but are better in full sun and ensure that the variety purchased is put in at the right depth for it. Start with them 1 inch below the surface then drop them to the correct depth when they look acclimatised. Bog plants such as marsh marigolds, irises and astilbes are ideal for pond areas.

Maintaining the water garden

Don't overpopulate with plants or fish. Blanket weed is difficult to clear with chemicals because the volume of water is always difficult to gauge. Use an appropriate rake to clear. The only way to clear duck weed is with a net. The health of a pond is at risk if the pool is covered with weed. Ponds are better if not planted near trees because of leaf fall. Always check the labels of plants in case they are likely to cause problems for the pond.

* * * * *

Richard Ford set up Park Green Nurseries with his wife Mary and graduated from a general nursery to one specialising in Hostas and ornamental grasses. They have been awarded many gold medals including 7 at Chelsea. Richard and Mary have appeared on television shows and been on the radio. Richard is also a show judge and is a member of the Guild of Horticultural Trade Show Judges. He graduated with a degree in Botany from London University and a Diploma in Agricultural Science from Cambridge University later specialising in Plant Pathology. He has lectured part time at the local College of Agriculture and Horticulture and gives talks to a wide variety of organisations.  

For more information access Park Green Nursery web site.

April 2013 Meeting of the Ashdon Gardening Club

Rob Parker, the Butterfly Conservation Officer/ Suffolk Butterfly Recorder at the Suffolk Branch of Butterfly Conservation, was the speaker at the April meeting which started with our Q and A session.

Q: When is the best time to move hellibores and primroses?

A: After they have finished flowering.

Q: When is a good time to top dress the lawn?

A: Now.

Q: We have deep round holes in our lawn. What makes them?

A: There were several answers - squirrels, mice, rooks, or woodpeckers.

Rob Parker started his talk by sugesting that we look at our gardens from a butterfly's point of view. Butterflies need:

Overwintering needs are because they either hibernate as adults, or as pupae, or as eggs or larvae. Three species that hibernate are the small tortoiseshell, the comma and the peacock. There are 57 species of butterflies in Great Britain of which 35 can be found in Essex.

Rob then told us some of the plants that butterflies like and showed us slides of differnt species enjoying nectar from their favoured plants or laying their eggs on them. The most enjoyable plants for butterflies are buckthorn and bird's foot trefoil. Rob particularly recommended wild flower meadows or uncultivated areas of grass in gardens. The creation of glades is also helpful.

The Gardening Club members and guests enjoyed this very different talk which gave us a new way of viewing our gardens.

Below is a page of plants for wildlife gardening from the RSPB. We regret that the image is not very clear and if you would like a copy please contact the RSPB or a member of the Ashdon Gardening Club Committee whose details are on our "Contact" page which you can access by clicking on the box on the left.

List of top 10 plants for wildlife gardening

Rob Parker conducts training sessions for records and carries out surveys which can be joined by members of the public. He has been on Radio Suffolk talking about butterflies around the River Orwell. the photograph above was taken by Rob in 2010.

For more information access the Suffolk Branch of Butterfly Conservation web site.

May 2013 Meeting of the Ashdon Gardening Club

This year our AGM was held on 23rd May starting at the usual time of 7.45 pm and was followed by a talk by Philip Whaites, Head Gardener of Wimpole Hall, on the "Rebirth of Wimpole Hall Gardens".

The garden dates from the 17th century and has evolved over the years. There is a 20 acre garden surrounding the house and a 350 acre park beyond that. Within the formal garden there is a Victorian parterre with seasonal plantings and there is a working walled kitchen garden which supplies fruit and vegetables to the restaurant. There are also rebuilt glasshouses.

For more information access Wimpole Hall Park and Gardens web site.



Site created by: Gillian Brooker

Copyright © Ashdon Gardening Club

Last updated 18/08/2013.