Indoor Meeting: Talk by Jim Payne 'Celebrating Winter'

Written by Chris Davies. Posted in Events Past

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9th December 2017

Jim noted that this was a small specialist nursery of 20 years standing and their catalogue was only available on their internet web “shop”, or as plants in the RHS Plantfinder.

They grew 1200 to 1500 plant varieties, including roses, and were specialists in flowering crab-apples and dogwoods.

Unusually but very usefully, Tim showed a diagram of the Earth’s movement around the Sun, showing it’s inclination, and clearly demonstrating the way sunlight falls on Earth through the seasons, because Earth’s axis is tilted towards the North Star, so tilts away and towards the Sun according to the section of it’s orbit. The angle alters the concentration of light falling on any part of the planet, giving long shadows in Winter.

Photosynthesis slows when there is less light, so leaf contents are partially reabsorbed by the plant, allowing other pigments to show through, creating the autumn tints.

Gardeners may take advantage of the leaf fall to assess the shape of trees and shrubs, with regard to pruning and training.

Jim considered four aspects of plants for the garden:- Fruit and wildlife, Bark, Flowers, and Evergreens.

He listed the qualities of a number of Crab apples, noting their attraction for Fieldfare and other birds, moving on to describe the relationship of a number of seeds to the bird species gardeners might expect to see.

Several varieties of trees, including Betula, Prunus and Acer species were recommended for their Winter bark, then Winter- flowering shrubs, finishing with the evergreen ones, a number of which were highly scented, such as Sarcococca and Chimonanthus praecox.

Jim then continued to describe the flowers of late Winter, moving into Spring, depending on the weather, including Helleborus, the small Irises, such as reticulata and its varieties, and Hepaticas.

He recommended a visit to Cambridge Botanic Gardens in Winter.

Finally, a list of Winter gardening jobs was described, with some information and reminders about our changing climate.

( See the full write-up in the next Newsletter.)

Chris Davies. 

Indoor Meeting: Talk by John Massey 'Autumn into Winter'

Written by Chris Davies. Posted in Events Past

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11th November 2017

John gave us a wonderful, beautifully illustrated talk, strewn with his own gentle humour and a great deal of information and ideas.
John used the development and planting in his own garden to illustrate his talk.
He said that when the trees were leafless was a good time to assess their shape and required pruning. This was a time to take hard decisions, like when it was time for a tree or shrub to be removed because it was no longer enhancing the garden.He liked to juxtapose natural shapes with topiary, and trimmed holly.

Coloured bark, of silver Betula and Cornus, were complimented by evergreens, such as black- leaved Ophiopogon, Hellebores and various bulbs from late Autumn, ( Colchicums), through Winter (Galanthus).
He recommended keeping deadheads to show the effect of frost, and cutting them back when they became battered, and keeping view- lines clear, especially when use could be made of ‘borrowed landscape’.

Grasses should not be cut back until new growth comes through, and Hydrangeas should be treated with care to protect next year’s buds from frost.
Berries added to the Winter decoration, although many do not last for long. They attract birds, in his case, a flock of Waxwings, which extends interest in the garden. John recommended crab apple, Malus ‘Indian Magic’, whose fruits last well.

He said he likes to create little pictures within the garden, noting the use of evergreen ferns with snowdrops in his stumpery, and large pots, planted with Winter foliage and bulbs, with the addition of dry honesty seed pods and similar decorative items.
The first shrub to bloom after Christmas is Hammamelis, although young, newly planted specimens can be killed by frost before they are established.

John pointed out that the Japanese climate is more similar to ours than the American climate, and this could be used as a guide when choosing plants. Cloud pruning was another way of keeping shrubs under control, whilst maintaining an interesting shape.
Moving onto Spring, John said he used their idea, where gardens tend to be very small, of using the borrowed landscape as background and repeating related plants in places in order to link the garden and background.

He showed us a drift of white Fritillaria meleagris, which he said had all been brought to this part of the garden by the squirrels.
Early Alpine plants were mentioned, and then John’s recent obsession with Hepaticas. He recommended removing old leaves just before the flowers open.

He closed with a series of pictures of beautiful Hepaticas set to the background music of a Chopin Nocturne.
This was very moving as we had only recently heard of the sudden death of John’s young Head Gardener, at the age of 27, and John had mentioned his loss and shown some pictures of them together, with his family, during the talk.

Chris Davies 

Indoor Meeting: Talk by John Summerfield 'Pride in the Fall'

Written by Janet Stevens. Posted in Events Past

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14th October 2017

This talk, held on a most summery day, concerned as you might guess all things autumn. It was billed as being a talk by John but after his introduction Gail took over the reins to guide us through their ideas on how to get the best in terms of structure and colour in the autumn garden.

John’s introduction gave a few words on their horticultural history. The arrival of a B and Q store close to their bedding plant nursery put an end to that business and in 1984 they turned their talents to establishing Westshores Nursery in N. Lincolnshire specialising in  ornamental grasses and scented pelargoniums. He went on to explain that he was the builder cum maintenance person while Gail was the plant expert and botany teacher.

Gail started by talking about first flowering dates and the effects of climate change on these. She went on to give us illustrated examples of what she considered to be the “Skeleton” of an autumn garden, i.e. trees and shrubs. Amongst others she recommended  species we all know such as the Japanese acers and prunus for leaf colour; spindleberry, pyracanthus, sorbus, berberis and cotoneaster for their berries. Less common (to me anyway) were eleutherococcus sieboldianus with its large black fruits resembling giant blackberries and decaisnea fargesii bearing fat blue finger-like fruits also known as Dead Man’s fingers. Her top recommendation was Abelia x grandiflora with its small glossy oval leaves and clusters of pale pink, slightly fragrant flowers lasting well into autumn.

The next selection of plants Gail called “Long term stayers” and these included grasses, verbena and asters. John interrupted the talk here to tell us about a remedy for mildew on asters meant to be a trade secret. It involved mixing up a spray solution of 1 part milk to 10 parts water. Casein, found in milk is the active ingredient for inhibiting the formation of mildew apparently. Gail added that some of the newer varieties of aster were more resistant to mildew. Other plants recommended were rudbeckias, heleniums, kniphofias, euphorbias and some of the ferns.

The third selection consisted of the plants Gail called “visitors”.  These included half- hardy perennials such as fuschias and dahlias and especially salvia “Amistad” with its display of unusually deep purple flowers with almost-black calyces and stems lasting from summer through to autumn. This salvia is also extremely popular with bees and makes an excellent cut flower.  Late flowering hanging baskets were easy way to add some interest and colour in the autumn.

Finally we were given advice on extending the season : making sure plants were healthy, dead heading except where seed and flower heads were to be kept for interest, and mulching were all top tips. The “Chelsea chop” was mentioned as a way of extending the season, late flowering plants also being beneficial to insects. Use of evergreens/conifers and autumn bulbs were seen as useful additions to the autumn garden.

By Janet Stevens.

Garden Visit: Peter Beales Nursery, Attleborough

Written by Chris Davies. Posted in Events Past

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9th September 2017

16 members, including 3 new ones, met for Simon White’s talk, on a sunny September afternoon.

Simon showed us numerous roses, some with hips, eg.  R.pimpinellafolia, with black, marble-sized hips, near the beginning, and R.moyesii,  with orange, bottle-shaped hips, nearer the end.

In addition, many roses were in flower. Simon described the monthly feeding regime, took us up the spiral stairs to see the garden from above, then down ago, to see R. ‘Pippin’, named for Peter Beales, after his death. This was his nickname at school.

We were also shown the ‘ladder arch’ and walked through the ‘wild garden’ to the children’s play area, tantalisingly close to the back of the adjacent pub.

Simon took us back, a slightly longer-than-usual way, around Peter Beales’ bungalow, toward the garden centre, where he completed his talk, and we disbanded into small groups to examine nearbyitens of interest, either in the garden or garden centre.

At this point, no doubt carefully planned by Simon, the heavens opened, and everyone dashed fir cover, either to the main building or to the Clematis tunnel. By the time Simon had kindly sent a’lad’ with umbrellas, the whole area was awash, resulting in wet feet for the unsuspecting.

A dramatic end to an interesting and informative talk.

Chris Davies 

Garden Visit: 'The Beeches', Waltham-le-Willows

Written by Chris Davies. Posted in Events Past

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12th August 2017

Following an alarming start, - when Barbra’s reminder to the prospective host, Dr. Russell, was answered by his daughter, Penelope, saying that he had died before Christmas, that she had only recently moved in, but would be happy to have us, and generous enough to provide refreshments as well, - preparations went smoothly.

Members were asked to make donations for the refreshments.

This was a very established garden, one of it’s features being the range of huge specimen trees, Pawlonia, Davidia, Catalpa etc. There was an array of box topiary ranging from animals to abstracts and a number of old stone contrasts to the foliage and mixed flower borders. There were also a couple of Peter Rabbits in the border. ( not live ones).

The front boundary was contained within a flowing ditch, also used to make points of interest, and Penelope opened a gate so that we could go through to the village hall, where the local flowers and produce show was in full swing. Another gate took members around the house past an old mulberry tree and to the very pretty church.

When Penelope has had time to impose her own personality on the garden, it would be good to visit again.

*See poster advertising talk on ‘ Buckingham Palace Garden’ by Head Gardener, Mark Lane, on 16th September at 2.30pm. etc. £6.

Chris Davies 

Garden Visit: Redisham Hall

Written by Chris Davies. Posted in Events Past

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15th July 2017

Colin arrived early and put out HPS signs - always a comforting sight when travelling in a strange area.

Immediate excitement was raised by the plant sales area, with a good range of plants at ‘cup of coffee’ prices. This took many members’ attention for some time, before proceeding.

 The huge walled vegetable garden was most impressive with quantities of immaculately grown vegetables, including rows of contrasting coloured cabbages, cold frames, glasshouse and netted fruit areas.

Beyond the wall a little doorway led past a Judas tree ( Cercis siliquastrum ) quantities of purple seed pods, crowded onto branches and the main stem. Past the shrubbery, with the house to our left, where there were areas of formal garden, including a formal pond with large Koi carp, whilst to our right was a large lawn and further across, another pond, much larger, ( and a little boat), crossed by a bridge and fairly newly planted on the surrounding sloping banks.

Drifting further across the expanse of lawn there were tables and chairs set out and a little summer-house with more seats and a table supporting an excellent range of cakes and tea and coffee to complete our visit.

(One member expressed the opinion that at £7, this was not best value for money.)

There will be a longer review in the next Newsletter.

Chris Davies