Ashdon Gardening Club

2016 to 2017 Season Meetings of the Ashdon Gardening Club

October 2016 Meeting

Andrew Mikolajski talked about Plants for Shade

The meeting started at 7.45 p.m with Andrew who had kindly taken over at short notice from Kathy Brown who was going to talk to us about Chinese Gardens.

He was a fascinating, lively and amusing speaker who was enjoyed by all members present. He provided us with a couple of gardening tips first which were very welcome. Firstly we were advised that if we plant 5 sweet pea seeds this week, outside in a 5 inch pot with gritty compost then we don't need to worry about frosts or cold weather because they will have started to germinate before they can be affected. The only problem we may have is with slugs and mice so that planting under glass (but not in a greenhouse) may be advantageous. He then suggested that the best time to tackle slugs is in February. Metaldehyde slug pellets are prefereable because the ferrous type are toxic to earthworms. By using them in February theget rid of the slugs before they multiply and wildlife such as frogs are less likely to be around. By placing a few pellets in a jam jar and placing them adjacent to vulnerable plants, wildlife cannot access them.

Andrew then spoke about the advantages of shady areas in gardens. He suggeted that dank areas in particular are suitable for Japanese plants such as maples, hostas, bamboo and ferns. Deciduous shade was most suited to bulbs and perennials that flower during the first part of the year.

He then named and showed photographs of various shade favouring plants. These included:

We were reminded that most annuals need full sun and that plants like Crocosnia "Lucifer" enjoy wet conditions to ensure that the flowers last longer.

Andrew is a gardening author, lecturer and speaker. He has recently been a horticultural adviser on the new edition of the RHS A–Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. He has taught garden design and RHS certificate at Warwickshire College, and garden history at the English Gardening School. He lectures and give demonstrations to gardening clubs and other groups, speaks at RHS shows and is on the RHS and Cottage Garden lists of speakers. For further details of talks, go to Andrew's web site. For garden design advice, creating planting plans and mentoring for designers who are just entering the profession, please contact him direct. He also has a monthly newsletter, full of gardening news, hints and tips on the Newsletter page of his website.

February 2017 Meeting

Dr Twigs Way was talking about Women in the Garden

The meeting started at 7.45 p.m and opened with a Question and Answer session about members' gardening problems.

Unfortunately members were unable to completely answer some of the questions:

Q: winter aconites had been regularly de-leafed to stop them seeing and spreading, which had worked in the past. this year they were sparse and small. What is wrong?

Q: When should a smoke bush be pruned and can it be cut back hard?

Q: Is it too early to plant broad beans? This received an a positive answer.

A: No, provided the ground isn't waterlogged.

Twigs Way's talk was based on her book, "Virgins, weeders and queens: a history of women in the garden". Most people's knowledge of garden designers is based around Capability Brown and other male designers. To some extent his negates the importance of women in the garden. Books dating back to Medieval times show illustrations of women weeding and planting. Records also exist in England of women being paid to weed, notably at Hampton Court which had 22 women in the garden.

By the 18th century gardening had gained champions in the form of Queen Anne and Jemima, Marchioness Grey of Wrest Park. Queen Anne not only oversaw her garden at Richmond but also the founding of Kew Gardens. Other women of importance during the period were Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Sarah Ponsonby who received many visitors such as Wordsworth to their garden at Plas Newydd whilst Mary Delaney was famous for her paper collages of plants, some of which can be found in the British Museum.

During the Victorian era ladies were encouraged to only "nurture" their gardens whilst others carried out the mundane tasks. Women not considered "ladies" in the class sense, weeded and did other work on their plots. During the late 19th century 22 horticultural colleges were founded for ladies who wished to train to become gardeners. This was aimed at the middle classes who needed to have a career. Gertrude Jekyll was a patron of one located at Glynd, run by the Honorable Frances Wolsey.

Gertrude Jekyll was the first female garden designer but she was followed by Vita Sackville-West and others. The Second World War was responsible for many more women becoming gardeners through the encouragement of the government to grow vegetables.

Twigs Way's career on her website is described as follows:

in historic landscapes consists of lecturing, research, writing, publishing, crafting landscape management plans, visiting historic sites, and indulging her enduring fascination with the history of female gardeners and artists, and also exploring the quirkier aspects of garden history. In 2016 she was featured in Gardens Illustrated.

There is, however, much more information on Twigs' website about her and the subjects she is interested in. For more details access Twigs Way web site.

March 2017 Meeting

Sean Reid talking about changes to Ickworth Park through history and throughout the year

The meeting started at 7.45 p.m and opened with a Question and Answer session about members' gardening problems.

Q. I have created a new vegetable garden where there used to be an old blackcurrant bush. It only gets sun late in the day. What should I avoid.

A. Anything that doesn't need lots of sun such as onions. Brassicas would be best and potatoes are fine.

Sean Reid has been Garden and Operations Manager of the 1800 acre garden and park at Ickworth since 2001.

He showed us some wonderful photos of Ickworth Park whoch illustrated the history of the gardens and the changes seen throughout the year. We were also shown a short video of the site to finish off his talk.

We were informed that a buidling with a church had been founded in medieval times although a little removed from the existing site. The building of the current mansion was started in 1795.

Research into the history of the gardens has been carried out over a number of years and there is evidence that Capability Brown had visited and had some influence over planting and design but the significant findings are that Ickworth Park is the earliest remaining example of an Italienate garden in the country. There is a suggestion that it could be come a world heritage site due to the importance of this. However, this does not make management an easy task since planting, alterations, and development have to fit in with the heritage.

One of the areas that came naturally was the stumpery due to the 1987 storm. However, since stumperies are a Victorian development this would not normally be suitable but the Italian love of grottos with areas of dark and light fitted the area perfectly.

The 18th century design of the formal hedges and topiary still exist and the walled garden dates back to Tudor times. We were shown stunning photographs of wild flower meadows and carpets of narcissi and bluebells.

More information can be found on the National Trust site for Ickworth Park.

April 2017

Adrian Bloom from Bressingham Gardens talking about "Inspirational Gardening" and "The Devil is in the Detail"

Adrian introduced us to the history of the Gardens by talking about his father, Alan, the founder of Blooms Nurseries. and the use of perennials in the development of six acres of garden in front of Bressingham Hall in 1953. They were fully opened to the public in 1962. Adrian had spent some years abroad and after returning in 1962 he started to develop Foggy Bottom in 1967 with a concentration on conifers and heathers, again using the island scheme that his father had devised. Further gardens were created in 2000 resulting in a collection of about 8,000 varieties of plants.

In the next part of the talk Adrian talked about 12 key plants for interest and combination:

This was illustrated by slides to show how these plants could enhance each other through planting together in certain ways. Adrian also talked aobut creating "rivers" of plants which could lead the eye to focus on features in the distance.

In the last section of the talk we were introduced to some other key plants including the Hydrangea arborescens "Annabelle" which everyone loved and showed us slides of the changing look of one particular garden island over months which produced gasps of astonishment at the dramatic changes in colour and focus.

More information on the plants and gardens at Bressingham can be found on their web site.

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Last updated 20/10/2017.