After our successful and hugely enjoyable summer social in August many club members enjoyed another convivial get together for Pie Night at the Dolaucothi Arms before our September meeting. These get-togethers are an excellent way to get to know fellow members in a relaxed setting so make the most of them while you can as after Dave and Esther move on in April they may not exist!
The meeting was again well attended and we had an entertaining and informative talk by Vicki Weston from Big Sky Plants on Penstemons and Salvias.
Vicki told us how she came to be growing these lovely plants at her nursery near Aberystwyth via the Isle of Wight, Yorkshire and Tregaron – a history that was full of many trials and tribulations and made her stamina and determination to succeed all the more impressive.
Pentemons: Why grow them?
- very long flowering
- mostly ignored by molluscs
- don’t need staking
- very wide colour range
- huge range – alpine to back of border, over 250 in family
- easy to propogate
- good cut flower
Hardiness: this depends on where and how they are planted, although some are more hardy than others and it is advisable to buy from specialists to avoid mistakes. Usually the narrower the leaf the hardier the plant (See list later in post)
- well drained – wet winter feet will kill!
- sunny but will tolerate some shade
- out of strong, drying winds
- plant 2′ apart for large ones, the rest 15 – 18″
- do not cut back in Autumn, wait until Spring
- dead head through season to keep display going
Propogation: Vicki does hers from cuttings from non flowering stems which she puts in terracotta bowls covered with plastic lids and placed on soil warming cables. She uses a mix of ½ compost and ½ vermiculite. The cuttings need to be kept moist (sprayed twice a day) and can root in 4-5 weeks.
Pests: Eelworm – evidence of eelworm: blotchy leaves, slow growth, yellowing tips. Unfortunately there are no solutions other than burning including the pot!
Sadly due to Eelworm which devastated her collection, Vicki hadn’t been able to bring any Penstemons to show us. She is hoping to restock soon.
Salvias: from the latin salvare = to heal, these are a huge family – over 900+ species and occur all over the world with both hardy and tender varieties. Vicki’s advice for growing salvias:
- plant in well drained soil
- sunny position
- shelter for borderline types
- pots for tender varieties and then frost free
- don’t cut down until Spring
- can be grown from seed eg Scabra and Blue Queen
- cuttings taken from non flowering shoots
- good companion plants are Asters, Japanese Anemones, Hesperantha, Chrysanthemums, Zinnias amongst others
Vicki’s final message was to
BUY LOCAL, BUY BRITISH and SUPPORT SMALL NURSERIES
Check out her website and ebay shop for a selection of plants for sale and her cut flowers
The following is a list of varieties Vicki supplied on the night which she descibed as ‘not an exhaustive list but from my own experience’
PENSTEMONS – not an exhaustive list but from my own experience
HARDY: Garnet (large), Just Jayne Evelyn (large), Hidcote, Laura, Catherine de la Mare (sprawler), Arctic Fox, Sour Grapes, Cherry, Penstemon Hirsutus, Appleblossom
LESS HARDY: All very large flowered varieties eg Osprey, Amelia Jane
HARDY: Hot Lips, Royal Bumble, Nachtvlinder (deep purple), Pink Blush, Cerro Potosi (very tough), Peter Vidgeon (AGM), Joy, Lycoides (hardy to -12), Uliginosa, Nemerosa, Sylvestris, Scabra, Somalensis (1st year so not been through a winter yet), Atrocyanea (also 1st year so not been through a winter yet)
BORDERLINE (can cope down to -4 for short periods): Corrugata, Leucantha, Fulgens
TENDER: Involucrata, Mulberry Jam, Patens, Wendys Wish.
OCTOBER MEETING – BOB BROWN ‘To many plants, too little space’
This is our ‘big speaker’ event so do try and make it if you can. Do let us know, if you haven’t already, so that we have an idea of numbers. We are inviting as many local gardening clubs as possible and we already know that some visitors are coming a considerable distance, so hopefully we will have a good number there.
- It’s free to members, £5 for visitors.
- The doors are going to open at 6.45 pm, preceded by an early pie night details of which will be circulated nearer the time.
- there will be tea/coffee and CAKES/BISCUITS for everyone so please members, put your baking hats on and bring them on the night
- We’re going to be holding a raffle on the night – there should be some good prizes, so do support this as another way of raising club funds.
- There won’t be a club plant stall, or topical tips for this meeting.
- Access will be via the rear door to ease congestion.
Our December social meeting will be an evening buffet at the Dolaucothi Arms. Menu and cost to follow, but the date will be Wednesday December 13th, probably meeting at about 6.30 pm for a 6.45 to 7 pm start. If you can’t make the Bob Brown meeting, but would like to come to this Christmas meal, do let Julian know so he can add you to the list of numbers to pass onto Dave and Esther.