August – time for the Cothi Gardeners’ annual social event! This year it was held at the Telegraph Garden and Indoor Plants Centre and adjacent Blossoms Cafe in Llangadog.
Much anticipated by members, the event proved immensely popular and was extremely well attended. Following a talk by Carol from the Garden Centre, and a chance to wander through the Garden Centre and buy plants, members were able to choose from a very varied menu of savoury dishes, as well as the all-important cake, at the Blossoms Cafe. It was a coolish evening after the heat of the previous week, so the cafe felt warm and welcoming, and it was soon filled with voices and laughter as we all caught up with each other and what we had been doing. The general consensus seemed to be that the food was delicious (I can vouch for my Greek Salad), and the cakes looked mouthwatering!
The social was also an opportunity to celebrate belatedly the tenth anniversary (which was actually in 2021) of the Cothi Gardeners Club, and say thank you to Yvonne who started the club back in 2011, providing us with the pleasure of regular talks on the subject close to our hearts and the opportunity of socialising with like minds. Long-term member Donna would shortly be moving away from the area, so on the occasion of her last meeting we all wished her well for the future and settling in to her new home.
Telegraph Garden and Indoor Plant Centre
Carol has always enjoyed gardening and been passionate about plants. Whilst working for the National Trust in Wales as their Grants Manager, she used to break the journey up and down Wales by stopping at different Garden Centres en route. Sadly the experience tended to be the same at every one, giving a groundhog day feeling. When Carol retired after working for 31 years for the National Trust, she set up a small Garden Centre on space rented from the Works Antiques Centre in Llandeilo. However, illness and parking/space problems forced the closure of this Centre. When Carol and her husband Steve moved to the Telegraph Inn at Llangadog, her daughter Lara saw the opportunity of converting the damp and overgrown area behind the building into a garden centre and The Telegraph Garden and Indoor Plants Centre was born. Although in retirement, Carol enjoys helping out and, in total, the Garden Centre in Llangadog now has 4 members of staff.
Running a garden centre can be more complicated than you might think. One of the skills you need is anticipation – for example, you need to be able to anticipate which plants Monty Don might talk about on Gardeners’ World! Carol gave the example of Lunaria, or Honesty. Carol had plenty in stock, and they had sat happily on their table without a great deal of interest being shown until Monty Don showed some Honesty in his garden one Friday evening, and all the stock went almost instantly. You need to anticipate what plants people will want when, which means being able to second guess the weather, fashions, television gardening programmes, etc. Obviously the ideal would be for people to want to buy plants year round, and the Garden Centre encourages that, but the winter months can be quite difficult in that respect.
When creating the Telegraph Garden Centre, Carol’s daughter Lara designed the area to look like a garden. The wish was for people to enjoy looking round and to relax there, even if they did not buy anything. Certainly the displays of massed perennials for sale in pots look very much like well-composed garden beds.
At the Garden Centre they are very careful about the sourcing of plants and keen to support other local producers where possible. All the trees, decorative and fruit, are raised in Worcestershire. The bedding plants are sourced in Powys, and all the herbs are grown organically in Ceredigion.
If it is not possible to source some perennials, these are grown from cuttings or seed, and in fact many of the plants in the garden centre are raised there. For example, Nepeta ‘Blue Dragon’ was almost impossible to get hold of, but one plant was sourced and there are now young plants of Blue Dragon available to buy. Here Carol holds one of her favourite plants, Calamintha nepeta, which she grew from seed.
The Indoor Plant Centre is also a great success, with a wide variety of indoor plants always available. This has proved enormously popular, particularly with the younger generation who really enjoy this form of gardening.
At the Garden Centre, they try to be as environmentally friendly as possible, with peat-free and reduced- peat compost always available. Pots are recycled at the Centre on behalf of customers and charities for onward use. During the course of the year, as appropriate, plants are divided, repotted, cut back and tidied up and the whole process started again ready for sale the following year. Customers can have their hanging baskets refilled with no charge for labour, only for the plants and compost used.
One of the downsides of running a garden centre is the paperwork, which is substantial. To counter that, there is the pride in supplying quality plants to customers, and there is the joy of propagating, creating and nurturing new plants..
Carol finished by giving us all some of her tips. When she’s taking cuttings, she dips them first into liquid seaweed fertiliser and then into rooting powder. Cuttings should always be placed around the edge of the pot, and you need to keep them damper than you would think. Vitax Q4 is really good for plants that are looking a little tired and need perking up. Finally, when dividing plants it helps to take some root off; it might look a little brutal, but it encourages the plant to make more.
On that final note, Carol encouraged the Club members to explore the garden centre and the range of plants available, and we all made the most of the opportunity!