Indoor Meeting: Talk by Guy Barker "Snowdrops and Winter Garden Treasures"

Written by Ruth Joyce. Posted in Events Past

Snowdrops and Winter Garden Treasures. Talk with living material by Guy Barker aka The Naked Gardener


The first talk of 2020 by Guy Barker was amazingly perfumed and illustrated with some slides, but mostly living material from scented shrubs. 

However, his talk started with his love (or maybe obsession!) with snowdrops which started when he was a boy when his mother took him to Shropham Vicarage where six acres of the West Harling snowdrops were in flower. He was hooked!!

He had 20 or 30 different snowdrops to show us, some of which had been bought at great expense, and occasionally with money which should have paid his rent! We do funny things for love! Among the many snowdrops he had brought were several of his own. One of these was Galanthus ‘Greenfinch’ which has dark green inner part and green petal tips. He also showed us G. ‘Godfrey Owen’ with a dainty full shape and six petals which I found very pretty. One of his own snowdrops he seemed particularly pleased with was G. ‘Atropos’ which clearly has the shape of scissors on the spathe. Atropos is the name of the Fate who cuts the Thread of Life hence the name. It became obvious that he spends most of his pocket money on snowdrops!!

Following on from the snowdrops came the scented plants most of which he had samples. I could write a list of what we were shown but it became obvious that Group members were familiar with most of them and even with my limited knowledge of plants (compared with the rest of the Group!) they seemed familiar, Mahonia, Chimonanthus, Rubus, Hamamelis, Daphne, Sarcococca, Rosmarinus and Viburnum to mention only a few. 

Two shrubs were unknown to me, but I would certainly like to have Abeliophyllum distichum (white forsythia) and Edgeworthia chrysantha (paper bush). Guy mentioned having the ‘Roseum’ form of the Abeliophyllum which has a pinker tinge to it, and members mentioned the ‘Grandiflora’ form of the Edgeworthia, as well as ‘Rubra’ and ‘Red Dragon’. The perfume in the Hall was to die for! It was an enthusiastic presentation from an enthusiastic gardener! 

Snowdrops bloom at Gable House, Redisham, Suffolk

Written by Peter Lyle. Posted in News

GABLE HOUSE, Halesworth Road, Redisham, Suffolk NR34 8NE.
John & Brenda Foster. 01502 575298. 
Sun 16 Feb (11-4 ) entry £4.50, children free, groups by appointment 
(share to St Peter'Church, Redisham).
please note parking is limited in the village
refreshments available.
1-acre plantsman’s garden of all-year interest. For the winter opening a vast collection of snowdrops, cyclamen, hellebores etc. plus greenhouses containing rare bulbs and tender plants

Indoor Meeting: Talk by Tom Hoblyn "Planting in a Drier Climate"

Written by Ian Fearn. Posted in Events Past

Planting in a Drier Climate – Tom Hoblyn – 9th November 2019

Tom is a garden designer who trained at the RBG Kew whose keen interest in the natural environment has been a major influence on the gardens he creates. Tom explained that parts of the UK, notably south-east England and East Anglia, are heading towards a more Mediterranean climate. By 2050, southeast UK average temperatures are expected to be 1.5oC to 3oC warmer. Frequency of warm days and warm nights will increase whilst frequency of cold days and nights will decrease. The duration and intensity of warm spells and heat waves will increase. Precipitation will increase in frequency and intensity, leaching nitrates from the soil. Even now Cambridge with an average 563mm of rainfall per annum is the driest city north of the Pyrenees. Gardeners will need to adapt to the changing conditions. In East Anglia for example, you may need to have an alternative to grass lawn. Achilleas are great lawn alternatives, with the added advantage that they are allelopathic which means they release biochemicals which inhibit the germination of weed seeds.

Tom said that one of the benefits of a Mediterranean climate is that 10% of the world’s flora grow in Mediterranean zones, so there is a huge range of plants for the gardener to explore, eg large shrubs such as Myrtus, Pistacia and Phillyerea.

Tom’s talk was very thought-provoking and shows how gardeners will increasingly need to think like ecologists, thinking about the conditions and what plants have adapted to exist in those conditions.


Indoor Meeting: Talk by Joe Whitehead "Plants of the Moment"

Written by Sue Allison. Posted in Events Past


Head Gardener at Burghley House

Photo by Linda Hall

Joe trained at RHS Wisley and during his career has worked at Burghley House, Salle Park, Raveningham Hall, Blatherwycke and has now returned to Burghley as Head Gardener. He told us the estate has some 45 acres and has around 120,000 visitors each year. A Garden of Surprises was introduced in 2007; this is hidden from the outside and is a garden for fun with water jets and a mirrored maze. Joe suggests any visits be taken out of school holiday if you want peace and quiet! Statistics show that Burghley is in one of the driest areas of the country but Joe says they do not currently irrigate the plants but this may change in some areas as they are currently developing large new borders as many visitors used to ask where the ‘gardens’ were located. This being a Capability Brown Garden it was mostly large vistas! The estate has an Oak planted by Queen Victoria and did have a lime planted by Prince Albert but this has been lost. Other Royals have planted trees.

Joe brought along his ‘must have’ tools: snips by ARS; a Max tapener (for tying plants to canes) and a strong trowel by Fossils.

He grows a lot of his plants from seed, some of which come from illicit sources such as compost heaps in important gardens. He came laden with live exhibits which he proceeded to strip for seeds and cuttings for members to take home with them. He says they make a mixture of 50% peat based and 50% grit or Perlite for growing cuttings.

Joe started his ‘exhibits’ with a huge pine cone – one of the biggest of all from Pinus corporii. One of these trees has now been planted at Burghley but will take 10 years to produce a cone.

He then went on to talk - and show examples - of honey fungus as an example of a secondary infection on trees; he said it moves around in the soil so if discovered a barrier should be dug to contain it. He also showed us Beefsteak fungus which looked revolting. He said it is found on Oaks but the tree will create bands around its trunk to increase its strength to resist the infection.

After a quick look at squashes he showed us another vegetable, Blitum capitatum or strawberry spinach, which looked far too pretty to eat.

Now we were on to poisonous/dangerous plants with ideas on how they could be prepared for use! We looked at Ricinus communis ‘Cardamine Red’ - the castor oil plant – which provides late season interest with its fabulous colour. Cestrum nocturnum ‘Queen of the Night’ which is highly scented at night. Then Rubus biflorus which will keep most animals or children away with its prickly stems.

From the tropical borders we saw Tetrapanax which may give you lots of plants as it suckers everywhere. Dahlia imperialis which flowers in December and can reach 12 feet in height but isn’t hardy. Tradescantia ‘Maidens Blush” very easy to take cuttings. Dahlia merckii, grown from seed, will flower all summer. Datisca cannabina, a beautiful soft hemp plant. Helianthus salicifolia tall and erect with a yellow daisy like flower. Ipomoea lobata, a very pretty annual climber with red flowers. Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’ which had vanilla scented foliage and quilled petals and was very beautiful. He introduced Teucrium as a good alternative to box hedging.

He brought several Persicarias including P. Indian Summer; P. polymorpha (which he says smells so bad you should keep it away from a path); P. amplexicaulis alba and rosea for late summer interest and lastly P. Red Dragon for its beautiful foliage.

He brought some salvias and recommended that shrubby perennial salvias be cut back by 1/3 in spring. He showed S. uliginosa which provides late summer interest and S. elegans wich has a pleasant smell like pineapple.

Some others: Verbena ‘Bampton’ – wonderful planted with roses; Cirsium heterophyllum; Vernonia for tall late flowers; Veronicastrum latifolium for its trailing habit; Aster Kaliope and Little Carlow and Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’ as the latter is not susceptible to mildew; Solidago caesia - a blue stemmed solidago - will tolerate part shade.

For these tall plants he suggests a ‘Hampton Court chop’ which is like the Chelsea chop only later. He finds this makes the plants less likely to need staking and encourages later flowering.

The grasses he recommends are the ‘see through’ type Oryzopsis – Indian rice grass and Molinia ‘Transparent’.

He brought Hydrangea paniculata ‘Vanille Fraise’ and recommends removing ½ the growth on this each year; Buddleia x wariana ‘Moonbeam’; Parottia persica with bright red flowers in February but needs lots of space and of the conifers he brought Cryptomeria elegans which can be clipped and grows fast – when it goes brown don’t panic this is its nature; Quercus palustris -The Pin Oak Tree - which is only suitable if you have a large estate!

NB I think I drew the short straw volunteering for this write up with all the names spoken by Joe and not on any overhead crib! Apologies for any inaccuracies.

Garden Visit: By The Crossways, Saxmundham, 13th September

Written by John Wilson. Posted in Events Past


A holistic philosophical garden

Todays visit took us deep into Suffolk, to Kelsale near Saxmundham. Those of us who live in Norfolk had a real treat today as we seldom get the chance to be invited to visit gardens in Suffolk, and its just great for those members who have been making the long trek up to the northern regions of Norfolk to see a garden on their own territory.

Visiting gardeners and Hardy Planters need to re-evaluate their outlook on gardens and gardening, this is just such a thought provoking garden, it poses so many basic questions. Why garden: how to garden: is what the “Gardener” calls a weed really not wanted? Should we attempt to bend nature to our will or just go with the naturalistic flow and encourage this re-wilding movement? This garden embraces lots that is good and many things which are forward thinking with the future of the planet in mind.

It is wholly organically based, so no chemicals are used  and even water is restricted to helping with the establishment of newly planted specimens. Should a tree die, it is considered as a wholly natural part of the garden's cycle and is not replaced, but begins a new life as a support for ivy which in turn creates a new habitat for the wild life in the garden.

The visitor may be aghast at first viewing the garden, seeing the mown paths thorough the long grass surrounding the naturalistic beds containing not only cultivated flowers, but wild ones too (weeds) with the thought that they too are of interest both to add colour to the beds, but also to provide pollen and nectar to the bees  and butterflies, and shade and cover for the many of the other denizens of the garden, the grass snakes and slow worms, voles, frogs, newts, worms, beetles, and a myriad of insects and creepy crawlies. In short it is a garden of many delights that your run of the mill gardener would usually run a mile from!

Prunings are stacked neatly to rot down over time whilst providing shelter and comfort to the hosts of insects, long grass paths are alternated with short grass on alternate years or maybe longer which encourages more “wilding” to take place with the result that colonies of bee orchids are becoming established!

A huge amount of thought has gone into this project, even to the production of their own electricity from photovoltaic cells, hot water from solar collectors, and even compostable cups and plates at tea time!

Definitely a garden to visit to learn about gardening from another viewpoint, and to enjoy the fruits of years of planning and deep thought that has gone into its creation.

Words by John Wilson, Photos by Irene Tibbenham









Garden Visit: Tudor Lodgings, Castle Acre, 10th August

Written by Jan Oakley. Posted in Events Past

Tudor Lodgings is set within the huge and ancient earthworks that form the dry moat and walls of Castle Acre. As you might imagine the views were spectacular and far reaching from what must have been the highest point for many miles. Our visit was on the windiest August day that I can remember, but as the garden is mainly set down below the earthworks, walking around was calm and peaceful. Amongst the characterful buildings set within these walls was an old dovecote holding hundreds possibly thousands of nest spaces.

We enjoyed the herbaceous borders and lovely wild flower meadow, where war is waged on a daily basis against rabbits and deer. A large area behind the wild flowers had been planted with Panicum grass to form another meadow, which was mesmerising in the wind.

In front of the house we were treated to a large and wonderful abstract box topiary and a symmetrical Mondrian knot garden planted with flowers in each of the primary colours.

Julia the owner has an extensive collection of watering cans. The sculptural examples ranged from just a few inches tall on the gate posts to an enormous 3-4 feet example standing proudly in front of the house.

We enjoyed tea, cakes and sandwiches on the terrace while watching the wind wreak havoc on the lawn, felling what remained of an old and sickly Judas tree. Another planting opportunity I imagine.

Words and Photos by Jan Oakley