Ashdon Gardening Club

2014 to 2015 Season Meetings of the Ashdon Gardening Club

Our October Meeting

Mike Rowley speaking about "Bio-diversity and the garden"

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

Q. I have taken fuchsia cuttings. Should I put them in a plastic bag or not? I have received conflicting advice.

A. Don't put them in a plastic bag because they get mouldy quickly. They can be grown in vermiculite placed inside a container such as a strawberry punnet, water and stick the cuttings in it. Alternatively put cuttings in an oasis, 1 to 1 and a half inches high.

Q: When is the best time to prune hydrangeas.

A: In the spring after frosts have gone.

Mike Rowley is from Essex Wildlife Trust and is the Warden of West Wood. The national body - Wildlife Trusts advise on farmyards, wildlife verges, churchyards, village greens, urban situations and people's gardens. They also run nature reserves and conservation centres.

There is a problem today whereby there is a growing population and people have become very powerful through the machines and chemicals they use on the land. This is having a detrimental effect on our planet and ultimately on ourselves.

Individuals can make a difference in their gardens. Mike used slides to illustrate his mother's and his gardens to show what can be done to assist wildlife. We need to think about the areas and plants that wildlife needs. Margins around the garden can be created, parts of formal lawns can be left to become meadow areas in larger gardens, and ponds are ideal. Wildernesses form ideal habitats. Verges outside houses should not be constantly mown. Mike listed plants that were ideal for butterflies and other insects. Nesting boxes and feeders attract birds, but should be in shady spots near hedges. Piles of twigs, wood or rubble created habitats for insects and hedgehogs. He finished his talk by recommending a bit of untidiness in the garden - a sentiment that some of us were quick to applaud.

Our November Meeting

Lamorna Thomas speaking about "How to Create Winter Pots and Baskets full of Colour"

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

Q. I have a problem with a plant in my greenhouse which covers the floor. It is a little pretty-looking slightly reddish leaved clover which produces a tiny yellow flower – a trifolium?

A. Whilst the plant is growing spray with glyphosate or super glyphosate but use a fine sprayer rather than a watring can with a rose. The glyphosate can be used without water.

Lamorna Thomas runs a garden design service near Cambridge. Unfortunately the subject of the talk caused her a few problems because November is actually quite late for creating the containers. Most plants were available 6 weeks prior to the talk. Nevertheless Lamorna managed to find sufficient plants to demonstrate.

She showed us the different types of baskets available and talked about liners. Rather than using expensive moss, a school jumper or sweatshirt could be used. A decorative cover for plastic lining could use Leylandii fronds to disguise it. Coir felt lining needs to be larger than the basket size. We were reminded that brackets used for hanging baskets should be 2 inches larger than the baskets. Hi-lo adjusters are not very good in wind because they twist. Since watering need to only take place once a week it is unnecessary to use water retaining granules. The next consideration is compost. Lamorna recommended a popular make of container and basket compost to which grit and granular nutrients should be added.

We were then advised about suitable plants. Some colours blended well together whilst others benefits from a contrast, such as orange and purple. Background should also be a consideration. Red flowers would be lost against a red brick house. Small plants are better than large ones. Grasses can be used to vary and give movement. Bulbs can be added but flowers produced should be small. Using 3 of each type of plant is good for arrangements and the display should be balanced. A herbal display could be used if desired. The plants in the basket used can be cut back after winter and used again the following year.

Our February meeting

Barry Gayton speaking about "Garden Pests and Diseases"

Surprisingly there were no Q and As this month so we invited Barry Gayton to commence his talk.

Barry and his wife run Desert World Gardens at Santon Downham near Thetford where they have 1¼ acres plantsman’s garden, specialising in tropical and arid plants. He showed us slides of his greenhouses, one of which contains about 50,000 cacti which brought gasps from the audience. He has 200 varieties of magnolia and specialises in succulents and other plants. Barry is also the gardening expert on Radio Cambridgeshire.

He explained that he prefers to garden without chemicals and prefers to leave control to nature which finds a balance. He then showed slides which illustrated the types of common pests and diseases that many gardensers faced and provided solutions to combat them. Often spraying with water can brush them off or mothballs mixed with compost can be used to get rid of vine weevil. He favoured the use of 3 granules of potassium permanganate in a gallon of water before sowing seedlings and for some other pest and diseases, particularly on antirrhinums. Diluted sour milk with 5 parts water can assist in abating mildew.

For more information on Barry's gardens see Desert World Gardens on the ngs web site.

Our March Meeting

Dr Twigs Way speaking about "Gertrude Jekyll - Her Life and Work as a Gardener/Plantsperson"

We started with the following questions and answers:

Q: I have put my hippeastrum in the greenhouse. After a wonderful show last year I now only have 2 leaves on it.

A: It is probably too early to see more. It will probably come up in the summer but feeding may help.

Q: I have had a conifer dug up and the roots cut out. I have planted a cotoneaster there. Will it and other plants be all right?

A: Any remaining roots should die away. Because there may be a lot of chippings the cotoneaster should be fed because the chippings will leech away the nitrogen in the soil. It is best to leave the rest of the site plant free for a further year.

Q: Are there any plants that muntjac deer do not eat?

A: Prickly plants like holly and berberis are usually inedible. They do not seem too keen on chrysanthemums and dahlias. Alternatively a low electric fence will help. See website: Gardening with the enemy.

Dr Twigs Way who gave this talk is well known as a garden historian, lecturer and speaker, a broadcaster on Radio 4's "Woman's Hour", an author of several books, and is engaged in consultancy and research.

Gertrude Jekyll (1943-1932) was an artist, gardener and craftswoman. She is known as one of the most influential garden designers, particularly in flower borders. She combined her early training in art and craft and transformed those skills into horticulture. In 1861 she attended the Kensington School of Arts at which very few women were allowed to study. She knew several people in the arts and crafts movement like William Morris. Not only did she paint but she designed wallpaper and tiles, did embroidery and designed it, designed Munstead vases, created book bindings and designed jewellery. She was also one of the first people to embark on photography. It is likely that she turned to horticulture because she was becoming very short-sighted.

She moved to Surrey near her childhood home and started to create a garden for her house, which had yet to be built. In 1889 she met Lutyens with whom she became a friend and collaborator. Lutyens designed houses with a close connection between the home and garden and Gertrude Jekyll used walls, pergolas, steps and water features to plant and create interesting landscapes. Her colour wheel training as an artist in her planting so that plant hues graduated through a spectrum within borders and was able to enhance certain flowers with contrasting shades. She was also able to supply the plants from her own nursery. In 1897 she was awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour by the Royal Horticultural Scoiety, one of the only two women to have received it.

Unfortunately the First World War had a devastating effect on the businesses of both Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll because people no longer had money to spend on architecture and garden design. By the time she died Jekyll had written a number of books on gardening and had a long reaching influence on planting of flower borders.

Twigs Way has written at least a dozen books, one of which is Gertrude Jekyll, a history of Cottage Gardens.

Special Additional March Meeting

Mark Lane speaking about his role as Gardens Manager of the Buckingham Palace Gardens

Mark Lane has been the Gardens Manager for the past 20 years and it appears to be a job that he still relishes. He is responsible for all the design and implentation that takes place. Mark has developed a notable plant collection and runs the gardens with a developing accent on biodiversity and wildlife. In addition he is an RHS judge and a founder member of the London Garden Network.

The grounds of Buckingham Palace total 39 acres in size with two and a half miles of paths, 5 miles of edging and includes the 5 acre part camomile, part grass lawn where garden parties are held. The current palace has been through several renaissances and the gardens have expanded over time. Mark Lane has used old photographs for building on previous designs or enhancing existing features. The island in the three acre lake has been left as a wildlife haven upon which no-one, apart from specialists, is allowed. It has nearly 700 types of fungi, over 600 moths and butterflies, 250 types of wild flowers including a pyramid orchid and plants that provide food and nectar, and 74 new nesting boxes were installed during this year.

The gardens attract 83 different birds and there are 4 beehives which ensure that the Palace is provided with honey. There is an enormous composting area, tucked away from sight, which takes the rubbish from other royal gardens and provides them all with constant compost on an 18 week turnaround.

There is a 156 x 5 metre herbaceous border which is planted with higher plants and the rear sloping to lower ones at the front. It flowers from June to mid October with colours that are favoured that year by the Royal florist. There are 25 rose beds, one of which is dug out each year and replanted. There is also some seasonal bedding. The only vegetable gardens are situated in Clarence House, which also comes under Mark Lane's domain.

The talk was illustrated throughout with slides of the garden and plants and members and guests all had a very enjoyable evening.



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