Ashdon Gardening Club

2015 to 2016 Season Meetings of the Ashdon Gardening Club

Our October Meeting

Aubrey Barker and "Plants L to Z"

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

Q. I have successfully grown carrots this year for the first time. How should I store them?

A. Keep ripe, fully grown carrots in dry sand, having ensured that they are free of moisture.

Q. Last year I transplanted my clematis to a more sheltered site but it no longer grows as tall as it used to.

A. Clematis roots need to be damp and cool. If that is not the problem then you could try transfering it elsewhere in the garden.

Q. My Japanese cherry tree has died. Clematis has been growing over it. Is that the problem?

A. The clematis is unlikely to be the problem. Such trees are exceptionally vulnerable to fire blight or honey fungus. Disease may be the problem.

Two years ago Aubrey Barker provided us with a fascinating talk on the history of the herbaceous border and the influences on styles of planting. This time he showed us slides illustrating the history and types of herbaceous borders that were popular with gardeners. These included traditional borders a la Gertrude Jekyll at Wisley, the use of perennials and shrubs at Bressingham and grass borders at Trentham.

Aubrey then continued with his alphabetical run-through of plants recommended for herbaceaous borders, illustrating some of their qualities with photographs. Last time he managed to reach letter "L" so this evening we finished "L" and proceeded with his slide illustrated talk to letter "Z". All members present had an ejoyable evening.

Aubrey is the owner of Hopleys Plants Ltd in Much Hadham which was established in 1968.  He became a director in 1980 and took over from his father in 1982.  Originally founded with a large collection of conifer varieties the nursery went on to concentrate on flowering shrubs.  New shrubs introduced included the award winning Potentilla “Red Ace” launched in 1976.  Hopleys offers a Garden Design and Planting service and have a mail order service selling plants to retail and wholesale markets from their ten acre site and at flower shows.  They also exhibit at the major flower shows and have won Gold medals for our displays at Chelsea, Hampton Court, Gardeners World LIVE and numerous RHS shows. The garden centre provides a venue for Open-air Theatre Productions, Sculpture and Art Exhibitions, Christmas Markets, Easter Egg hunts and other events.  They run gardening and art and craft workshops and Aubrey has extensive horticultural knowledge propagating and growing plants. He is keen to share this experience and has for some time been delivering lectures, tours and demonstrations.

For more information access Hopleys Plants Ltd web site.

Our November Meeting

Peter Jackson and "Growing Your Own Vegetables"

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

Q. To what height should I cut down peonies?

A. Wait until the leaves have gone then cut them down to about 12 inches.

Q. My lovely basket of cyclamen that I was given recently have all gone mouldy.

A. Cyclamen should only be watered from the bottom. Baskets where they can only be watered from the top are not ideal containers.

The meeting was well attended and all members agreed that the talk had been very interesting and enjoyable. Peter Jackson started by discussing the changing attitudes to gardens and size of gardens offered with newly built houses. He illustrated the advantages of raised beds which are becoming more popular. They can be filled with top soil and manure and covered with polythene, netting or fleece with hoops. During his talk, Peter stressed the point of not growing more than can be eaten by you and your family. To grow more is wasteful and takes up too much room and a greater variety can be planted.

Modern seeds are usually dressed with a fungicide and can be sown in guttering from builders merchants, grow cells (for peas and beans), egg trays (for seed potatoes), potato sacks, pots or grow bags for tomatoes. 4 inches of a mixture of John Innes compost no 3 and multi-purpose compost should cover seeds and they should be fed. Salad leaves can be planted in containers with well-soaked compost covered in vermiculite. The leaves can be picked and picked again. The use of aqua spikes with cut in half lemonade or water bottles are an excellent way of keeping plants watered.

Other plants are carrots which can be grown from seed tapes in containers, self-blanching celery, dwarf runner beans with 6 to 8 plants in a pot, tomatoes (one truss is usually adequate) in a 7 and a half litre pot. Epsom salts can be used on them and Tomerite (used sparingly). Dwarf varieties of sweetcorn are often good but should be planted in blocks rather than rows for pollinating. Sutton broad beans are a popular dwarf variety. Butternut squash should be kept of the soil. Sweet potatoes need daylight and warm temperatures so are better grown in a greenhouse or under polythene.

Peter Jackson is a member of staff at Scotsdales Nursery based near Cambridge with two other local nurseries. The offer advice on gardening in addition to other services.

For more information access Scotsdales web site.

Our February meeting

The Curator of Marks Hall Gardens and Arboretum

The meeting started at 7.45 p.m with Questions and Answers and was followed by a talk by the Curator, Jonathan Jukes, about the Gardens and Arboretum at Marks Hall.

Jonathan commenced his talk by explaining the site's history which started in Saxon times with a garden. In the early 1900s Kew Gardens were interested in the site as an outstation when the owner of the estate wanted to make a bequest in his will to them. Circumstances changed and it was not available until 1966 when Kew no longer wanted it. The house was used during World War II for American troops but fell into disrepair after that and was demolished in 1951. Many of the oak trees were cut down during that period. A charitable trust was set up from the sale of the fabric and the money used to clear the land and restore some of the outbuildings. The Forestry Commission had been given land in a long term lease and this was bought out.

We were then treated to photographs illustrating the development of the land. Features were restored, not as replicas of the originals, but in ways that benefited and enhanced them. The walled vegetable garden has been planted in contemporary mode. Planting has been contrived to achieve colour and scent in many cases and this was illustrated perfectly by the autumn golds and reds mirrored in the reflection in the lake. Conservation has also been an element with a number of plants and bird and butterfly species being attracted to the area or reintroduced to it. Animal grazing takes place to facilitate work on the land. It was obvious from Jonathan's talk that the restoration of Marks Hall was an act of devotion but nevertheless a practical one.

The site is located at Coggeshall, Essex. The collection is planted on a geographical theme, with plants from the temperate regions of the world grouped together.  There are areas representing Europe,  Asia, North America and the Southern Hemisphere, set in more than 200 acres. The Arboretum has three circular walks ranging from half a mile to a mile and a half. There is also a walled garden.

The Visitor Centre is housed in a restored Essex barn and provides information, together with a shop and a tea room. The latter serves morning coffee, light lunches and afternoon teas.

For more information access Marks Hall web site or call 01376 563796.

Our March Meeting

Peter Walker from The Wildlife Trust on

"The Fascination of Fungi"

The meeting started at 7.45 p.m with Questions and Answers and was followed by the talk.

Peter Walker's interest in mycology commenced in 1973. He told us that 11 million species of fungi are found in all habitats around the world, 12,000 of which are found in Britain.

He explained their benefits, the effects of ingesting toxic fungi, and the damage that some can do including those in gardens. Honey fungus is particularly damaging. We were fascinated by the information that they are more closely related to animals than plants because they ingest by absorption and contain no chorophyl. Their life cycle is simple and seems almost human. Work to study them has been carried out since the seventeenth century and new species are still being found. Fungi forays take place in a variety of habitats with specialized equipment and techniques.

Peter Walker is a member of the Huntingdonshire Fungus Group which is a member of the Association of British Fungus groups. He also cited the British Mycological Society.

Our April Meeting

Simon White from Peter Beales Roses

on an aspect of rose growing

The meeting started at 7.45 p.m. with Questions and Answers and was followed by the talk.

Q: A member had a prolific plum tree but had found a worm in every single plum last year. Was there something that could be hung on the tree to prevent this happening in future?

A: None of the members were aware of any such device, however there is advice about plum moth pheromone traps on the RHS website and others. They are available from Amazon and other sites and allegedly from garden centre shops.

Q: Another member had planted a rose in a pot which had subsequently died and tried to grow another one but this was not looking very healthy.

A: Simon White included an answer to this by outlining the best way of growing roses in pots during his talk. Keep the root ball intact and use a pot 14-16 in for shrubs growing up to 3ft or a larger pot for ramblers. Plant the base of the stems below the surface of soil based compost, adding a root feed around the hole. Replace the top 3 inches of compost every year during the dormant growing period and replace all compost every 3 years. water and feed little and often.

Simon White commenced his talk with a brief history of his background and that of Peter Beales Roses. Although the nursery has over 1,100 different species of roses, they have many other plants as well with particular interest in companion planting.

The A-Z of roses included many types, species and tips in addition to other interesting facts about rose growing and the garden centre. The slides shown were stunning and explained the medals won at shows.

Peter Beales Roses is situated in a garden centre at Attleborough just off the A11 in Norfolk. They are RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medallists with 22 gold medals to their credit during 1989 to 2015. They run planting and pruning courses, conduct private visits, publish a catalogue and have a rose care blog on their website. There is also a popular bistro at the garden centre.

For more information access Peter Beales Roses.


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