Summer Begins Early – Update.

As all members will know there’s still no real hint of when Wales lock down will be lifted for any sort of social gathering, so for now our monthly meetings sadly aren’t possible.

Thanks to those Cothigardener members who’ve sent me some pics of their plots over the last few weeks. At last we have some rain again, and after kicking off a bit of hay making here already, we can all reflect on the irony of lock down coinciding with what has been an amazing and record breaking sunny spring. The Met Office website has some interesting facts and maps to illustrate just how unusual the weather has been this year. It seems a long time ago now, that a run of quite hard frosts spoiled the benign start to our gardening year and caused a bit of damage to many of our gardens…

Here’s some words from Elena to accompany scenes from her garden in mid May …

All the oaks, beech, ash have also been badly nipped. Not a pretty sight, but so it goes in a Welsh garden!

Frosted Black Lace Elder

Frosted Fern

Frosted Hosta

Frosted Persicaria

Frosted Wisteria.

In our own garden Persicarias seem the worst affected plants too, apart from vegetables growing outside – courgettes and squash were badly damaged losing most of their leaves, potatoes got leaf tips nipped …

but enviromesh, water bottles and woolly mats seemed to mitigate the worst of the minus 3 temperatures, and all but 3 squash plants seem to have recovered and are growing away within a fortnight. Will they still fruit though?

In the hay meadow even some early orchids keeled over, probably because the flowers are about two weeks ahead of normal, following the sunny dry spring weather.

________

Many thanks to Derek for this insight into how he and Tina have protected some of their fruit from marauding birds in what looks like a highly organised and impressive system …

With the arrival of Bullfinches this has become urgent – we can cope with the interest and demands of Sparrows, Wrens, Blackbirds and Thrushes, but Bullfinches are real experts!
Our local wild birds are well catered for with the enormous planting of fruit trees and bushes throughout the garden and grounds, but we are being a bit precious about these within the cage.
The fruit is a mixture of old favourites, and some fun varieties, we’ll see how they all get on.
The cage was until recently used to house chickens for a friend, but they are all now rehomed.
It measures 7 metres by 4 metres, is made of aluminium, and was sourced from Harrod Horticultural some years ago.
I have included a planting plan – the Chives and Strawberries are not only welcome in their own right, but of course they encourage pollinators

_______

Meanwhile thanks to Alison for these photos, showing how nifty Peter has been at recycling an old bed into both trellis work and new greenhouse staging …

 

 

 ________

Meanwhile Sandy sent me these pictures of her amazing Pyracantha clambering over the side of her cottage and covered in flowers  …

____

Finally a plant suggestion for members, and then a discovery I’ve made in our garden both related to honey bees.

Ever since a visit to Sheldon Manor in Wiltshire in June nearly 30 years ago we’ve been great fans of growing vigorous Clematis and Rambling roses into mature trees to add flower interest. Since learning a bit more about honey bees, I realise that hives can often struggle to find good food sources in June – the early spring flowers are over, there aren’t many hay meadows left with wildflowers, and later natives like bramble and willow herbs still haven’t begun to bloom.

Enter what I now call the “White Dragon” rose. I found this as a seedling growing in the garden back in 2010, probably coming from a hip of the well know vigorous rambling rose “Kiftsgate” which we already had in the garden. But this seedling when it first flowered produced bigger, earlier, and more scented flowers than “Kiftsgate”, which honeybees and bumbles adore. After noting it had grown shoots over 15 feet long in a year, I planted the still young plant into a rotten hollow centred tree stump, filled with compost which was quite close to the base of a youngish oak in 2012.

This rose has incredible bendy stems, and is almost disease free (unlike “Kiftsgate” or “Paul Himalayan Musk”, which we also grow), with young foliage with purple tints, so it’s easy to train around a wire base, or into a tree, even if it is quite thorny. Once it gets going though, it makes its own way ever higher with no need for help. It roots very easily from cuttings, so if anyone fancies a cutting of this local origin rose this autumn, let me know.

The video clip above is of another plant taken as a cutting from the mother seedling which has now made it almost to the top of the still growing Oak. (apologies for the noisy background). This daughter rose is already making good progress going up into a Scots Pine, and probably now only 8 years old, but must already be producing thousands of blooms over about a 4 week period at “June gap” time. You can see at the top of the plant you’re getting up to 50  quite big flowers per cluster.

The bees completely ignore the other creamy named rose “Alberic Barbier”, to the right, and although most roses produce no nectar, the pollen is invaluable, particularly in this time of seasonal shortage.

The second clip I’m including is to pass on an interesting bit of bee behaviour which has been obvious for the previous four warm afternoons. Up until about 2 pm, the worker bees (all female) have been busy entering and leaving the hive on foraging trips for pollen and nectar. They’re early risers and work long hours. They don’t hang around and are almost quiet as they whizz in and out of the hive entrance. Then in early afternoon, the air around the hive suddenly becomes really noisy. Look closely and you’ll see that bigger bees, with much larger eyes, the male drones, suddenly begin to leave the hive. And they’re noisy. It almost sounds like a bee swarm.

But look even more closely and you’ll notice that they all spend a very short time before flying off, cleaning their large eyes/face with their front legs. Why?

Well these chaps are off to complete the still poorly understood part of the bee’s life cycle that involves them flying into specific “drone congregation areas”. An average of 11,000 drones from tens of different colonies fly out to these specific well defined areas which are typically between 15 and 40 metres up in the sky and about 100 by 50 metres wide and may be a kilometre or more from their base hive.  And they only fly on suitable warm afternoons up until about 5 pm.

Within these areas they fly around expectantly, waiting and hoping for a virgin queen bee to appear on the scene. The quickest 10 or 20 drones will chase her and if lucky will manage to mate with the queen, who then flies back to her hive after 20 minutes or so with enough sperm on board to enable her to lay hundreds of thousands of eggs over the rest of her lifetime in the hive. If the queen flies past just outside the invisibly bordered congregation area, the drones ignore her and won’t chase her.

The “lucky” drones are mortally injured by the force of the act of mating, and fall to earth dying. Poor things…

The same invisibly bordered congregation areas are used every year – sometimes over centuries. No one really knows how the bees find them.

So maybe the drones are clearing their eyes before take off after a day spent inside in the dark, stoking up on honey for the chase, so that they’ll be better able to spot any queens as soon as possible. I doubt if the queen has any time to select her suitors based on how tidy they look …

Anyway it probably comes as no surprise to readers that with the change to cold damp weather today, the ladies are still foraging, though clearly not as much as before, but there’s no sight or sound of the drones, who are clearly putting their feet up inside the warmth of the hive.

Feeding.

And maybe having the equivalent of a good bee natter. But who knows?

__

Finally, as always, it would be lovely to keep hearing from members about their favourite plants, or things in their gardens as we go through the next few months. Why not write a few words and send an image or two, preferably resized down to less than 1 MB? I can’t promise to put everything up online immediately, but usually within a fortnight, and it’s a great way of keeping in touch and passing on information.

Or use the Cothigardeners Facebook Page.

You can send things to me at:

Cothigardeners@gmail.com

Thanks again to all who have contributed to this post.

“Autumn Into Winter” Talk; Seed Collecting Trip; October Meeting and Christmas Meal Date.

Many thanks to Yvonne for her notes on Richard Bramley’s timely talk  “Autumn into Winter” to Cothigardeners in September which we were sadly unable to make, but which was well attended and enjoyed by all.

Richard covered great plants for good autumn colour including Acers, Berberis, Euonymus and  Cornus racemosa which has black autumn foliage.

Colourful winter stems from Cornus species and Salix (willow) can add to interest.

Hydrangea flower heads last well into autumn, even as colours fade. Some forms even flower late like the above form of H. aspera, in bloom in early October. Look out for the Forever series, as they keep on flowering. Cut down Hydrangea Annabelle to the ground in spring as it’s a herbaceous variety so flowers on the current year’s wood, as do H. paniculata varieties.

H. macrophylla flowers on last year’s wood, which may get frosted in spring, so killing the flower buds.

Other good plants for autumn are Lespedezia, Aconitum. Fuchsia magellanica, Astrantia, Campanula – if they are given the Chelsea chop (prune the height by a third in Chelsea Flower Show week), these plants will flower later on shorter stems.

Hardy Chrysanthemums sold in the autumn as domes of flowers, should be treated as bedding. Herbaceous Chrysanthemums should be hardy and are a good addition to the garden.

Some Asters (Michaelmas Daisies) can get mildew due to dry or stress (nova belgii types). Closely allied to Asters are Kalimeris, which are good plants, along with other Asters.

Annual Rudbeckia and perennial Rudbeckia are excellent plants for the autumn, but they can get very tall. Cut them down on the longest day and they will flower a little later on shorter stems. Heliopsis, Leucanthemella will grow in shade. Persicaria amplexicaulis is a pretty thug, and needs to planted somewhere where spread is required.

Viola cornuta, the smaller the flower, the hardier the plant. Salvia species, long flowering but not hardy, can extend flowering up to frosts but take cuttings a.s.a.p. to overwinter ready for the following year. Solidago x aster is another good plant and not at all boring.

Grasses can extend a season of interest right through winter, and can be successfully mixed in with herbaceous plants rather than a bed of grasses. Panicum species have a lovely arching habit. Stipa gigantea, above, is another good grass, and doesn’t self seed. Pennisetum varieties, treat as annuals, though they can be overwintered in a cold greenhouse or polytunnel. Cardoons also have wonderful seed heads in winter. Don’t be too quick to tidy in the autumn, as the frost on grasses, cardoons, etc give a new dimension to the garden. They also protect the roots from frost, and give cover to insects, hedgehogs, etc.


 

The trip which Fiona had organised with Stephen and Mel Lloyd for Cothi Gardeners to visit the Hergest Croft garden for a combined guided tour and seed/cutting collection was a huge success. We were really fortunate with a benign weather slot in what has been the wettest spell for months, and were thrilled that Steve was so generous with his time and advice, whilst Mel provided us all with bags, and names to record the many seeds, fruit and cuttings we were able to collect in a two and a half hour walk.

Hergest Croft is such a special place with one of the finest collections of trees and shrubs in the British Isles including national collections of hundreds of different Sorbus, Betula and Zelkova, as well as being wonderfully peaceful and beautiful whatever time of year one visits.

Steve demonstrated it’s always worth cutting into a few seeds just to check if they’ve got viable white/green centres. Sometimes a tree will be laden with seeds which look fine, but are in fact empty and will never germinate. Also he pointed out some of the trees where it’s best to save seed from the tree (e.g. Acers and Sorbus) and others (e.g. Magnolias and Davidia) where it’s better to collect from seed or fruit that’s fallen to the floor.

Click here for more about Hergest Croft, and there’s still time to plan a visit for their special autumn plant fair on Sunday October 13 th – Hergest Croft Autumn Fair, Ridgebourne Road, Kington, Herefordshire HR5 3EG with over 40 plant and craft stalls. Open 10-4.30pm. Admission £6.50.

What I didn’t know before Stephen told us, as we walked through the garden’s glades and reached the top of the Sorbus collection, is that the garden rises to over 1,000 feet above sea level, so many of the well labelled trees which are indigenous to China and the Himalayas will be quite comfortable with the conditions here.

Stephen, the Head gardener in a team of 5 who manage the 70 acres, has worked as a gardener at Hergest for 40 years, and has grown many of the now mature and rare trees from seeds sent to Hergest from collectors around the world.So to have him passing on his tips as to how best to choose and propagate material was a rare treat, and all this in a year when many trees were laden with berries and seeds after a bumper year for pollination and fruit production.

Thanks very much to Stephen and Mel for their very warm welcome and generosity and for making it such a very special day. We look forward to letting them know in due course how well we get on with the propagation, once we get all the material prepared for sowing …


A reminder that this month’s meeting on Wednesday October 16th at 7.30 pm is by Neil Barry on “The Plant Hunters and Explorers”.  Do arrive in good time for refreshments and a catch up before we start.

Neil is originally from County Cork in Ireland and is now living near Swansea.

He trained at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew for three years whilst also studying for his horticulture qualifications at Capel Manor College near London and Berkshire College of Agriculture. After completing training at Kew, he moved in to teaching horticulture and completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Education. He has been a lecturer in Horticulture for 8 years, most of which was at Neath Port Talbot College but has also taught at The National Botanic Garden of Wales and elsewhere.


Finally a date for your diaries – our annual Christmas meal will be on Wednesday December 11th lunchtime at the Forest Arms Brechfa, our very successful venue last year. We should have a final menu available soon, and will need names and deposits shortly and hope that many of you will be able to make it for what’s always an enjoyable event.

August Member’s Medley and Meal; Ty’r Maes NGS Open Garden; September Events.

Last month’s well attended meeting on  Beardless Iris was a really informative gallup through the various species by Alun and Jill Whitehead who put on a great two person presentation, well illustrated with slides from their own garden which holds the National Collection of Iris sibirica.

They showed how they’ve transformed their site from bare grass to a wonderful 3 acre garden, currently open to the NGS and planted in a naturalistic style. Click here for some lovely images to give a flavour of what they’ve achieved with a lot of hard work.

Alun then explained how they became interested in growing Iris,  and set up a nursery, concentrating on beardless Iris, which are easier to grow in our local conditions than the slightly fussier bearded group of Iris.

With examples from each group, Alun and Jill featured many of the different species in order of flowering from winter flowering I. Unguicularis, I. reticularis, I. Juno, Pacific Coast Hybrids, I. sibirica, I. ensata and I. foetidissima.

Mentioning some significant Iris breeders of recent times, they were able to show just what a huge range of colours are available in different combinations, and how easy it is to produce your own varieties from seed.

They finished with some ideas of how to divide, plant and sow from seed.

I’m sure many were inspired to have a go and incorporate more of these lovely plants in their gardens.

For anyone wanting more information on this diverse group of plants, Alun and Jill mentioned The Group for Beardless Irises. Click here for more, where you’ll find out how you can join the group, get more information, or even obtain a range of seeds if you’re not a member.

The images give an idea of what a wide range of flower colours is available.


A reminder that on Sunday August 11th, John and Helen’s garden at Ty’r Maes, Ffarmers, Carmarthenshire, SA19 8JP, opens for charity for the National Garden Scheme , from 13.30 to 17.30, admission £4.00.

More details on the NGS website, by clicking here.


Our next meeting on Wednesday August 21st in the hall at Pumsaint is our annual member’s medley. As in previous years the format is we’ll all bring along a plate of food to share for supper, and there’ll be  a chance this year to feature the results of our annual growing challenge which is to incorporate into the food we bring along some edible flowers.

So if you haven’t already fixed on a dish to cook up, or prepare, now’s the time to get your thinking caps on.


Looking ahead, sadly we’ve just heard from our speaker for the September meeting on Wednesday 18th, that for personal reasons, Brinley Watkins isn’t able to make it. We’ll update with alternative plans for the evening as soon as possible.


The following week on Thursday September 26th is our planned visit, to Hergest Croft gardens in Herefordshire to include some special seed collecting. More details at the August meeting

So lots to look forward to in the next couple of months, and hope everyone is enjoying this year’s lovely summer and that after the last couple of day’s of deluges, everyone on spring water supplies now have them fully restored!

Terrific Terry; Fantastic Festive Food; Final Call for Committee Members; AGM date for your diary

Terry Walton – The Life of a Media Allotmenteer

Terry Walton made his long delayed visit to Cothi Gardeners for our November meeting. He was certainly worth the wait and gave us a highly entertaining and informative talk.

Terry

The first part of the talk was about how, after retiring from his career as MD of a precision engineering company, he came to be a media allotmenteer appearing on various radio and television programmes. Currently he is a regular Friday afternoon feature on Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show and on Radio Wales. Both shows are live broadcasts; for the former he manages to perform his various tasks, often one handed, while communicating via mobile phone with the studio.

First Slide - with Jeremy Vine                  Terry Walton 2

He started gardening on an allotment as a child of 4, building up the number of plots he managed to 11 and growing vegetables which he put into veg boxes and then sold to local householders. It being illegal to sell produce from an allotment, he only charged for the box itself and not the veg it contained. By the time he was 17 he was able to buy his first car. He continued to garden his allotment throughout his career, as a hobby.

Terry gardens organically. His allotment is about the size of centre court at Wimbledon, water is collected from a nearby mountain stream and he has an unheated greenhouse on site. He uses a 4 crop rotation which reduces pest problems and maintains fertility, has no paths (they waste growing space!) and is self-sufficient for all his vegetables, freezing summer crops for winter consumption. Seeds that require extra warmth for germination are placed in the airing cupboard at home for 48hrs, moved to a windowsill and from there out to the greenhouse.

Parsnips:

  • Don’t sow in the ground
  • Germinate the seeds on damp kitchen towel, wait until the root shows then
  • Plant into fibre pots with the bases removed, 2 to a pot. This way they can be planted out without disturbance and the root will not be obstructed and so is less likely to fork.
  • In due course plant out in a drum for long roots, or into the ground under a fleece cloche, thinning to 1 per pot and at a distance of 9” apart.

Leeks:

  • He grows early, mid and late season varieties.
  • They are sown into seed trays, 35/tray, so a total of 105 every year.
  • When approx. 6” high he uses a crowbar to make a hole in the ground into which the leeks are dropped.
  • A piece of 6” long, 3” diameter plastic pipe is then placed over each leek which will allow them to grow long and straight, and increase the length of blanched stem.

Beans:

  • To germinate, place in a freezer bag half filled with semi moist compost.
  • Plant into recycled polystyrene cups (which keeps compost warm and so gives them a head start)
  • Once planted out in the ground, water twice a week with a watering can of water with a handful of lime dissolved in it. This helps prevent flower drop.

Courgettes:

  • To help reduce mildew early in the season, mix 1 part milk to 1 part water and water or spray over the leaves – mildew likes acid conditions to germinate.

Peas:

  • Germinate as for beans
  • Plant out in a shallow trench.

Lettuce:

  • To keep continuity and avoid a glut, sow into pots 6 each of Iceberg and Lollo Rosso every 2 weeks, then plant out.
  • Grow under cloches in March, then in open. Keep going until October
  • Sow cut and come again in greenhouse for the winter

Onions:

  • Don’t wait until the end of the season to start using them, use from when they are big enough.
  • When drying off make sure ventilation is good. If weather is bad dry in the greenhouse on mesh to give greater circulation

Brassicas:

  • To combat Cabbage White decimation spray with water in which rhubarb leaves have been soaking for 3 weeks. Repeat after rain. This deters the butterflies.
  • Or grow under netting/enviromesh.
  • To prevent Cabbage Root Fly place 2 pieces of damp proof membrane, with V shaped cuts, around base of each plant.

Carrots:

  • Grow in drums for longer, straighter roots
  • Harvest through the winter.
  • Sow in February in greenhouse under bubble wrap for an early crop.
  • Sowing into the ground: dribble in compost, then seeds and then cover with more compost for good germination.
  • Cover with enviromesh to avoid Carrot Root Fly

Potatoes:

  • Earlies – Grow in a drum in a cold greenhouse. Place a layer of manure mixed with compost in the bottom
  • Add the potatoes and then add layers of the manure/compost mix as they grow until the drum is full
  • In the ground use green manures and well rotted manure in the potato bed for a good crop

Peppers:

  • Alternate with Coleus carina or French Marigolds to help with White fly.

Spring Onions:

  • Sow in buckets every 2 weeks

Tomatoes:

  • Drape bananas over the tomato trusses to help ripening later in the season – the ethylene relased by the banana skins helps ripen the fruit.

Garlic:

  • Best varieties to grow are UK ones

Strawberries:

  • Plant up runners and scrap original plants after 3 years
  • Cover with netting to avoid bird predation

Other tips:

  • Keep a wormery for excellent, rich compost
  • Collect sheep droppings, place in a hessian sack in water for 3 weeks, use the water as a plant feed
  • Use green manures e.g. vetches and ryes
  • Use nematodes to help reduce slug populations – repeat every year once the soil warms up.
  • Use a pressure spray to blast aphids off plants then water well to drown them.
  • To grow giant pumpkins feed them 6 pints of beer a day!!
Book signing

Book signing


Some topical tips from Julian:

I thought we were doing well this year with being ahead of the game in the garden and struggled to think of any topical tips for late November, but Fiona then reminded me we’ve still got to plant our tulip bulbs, still need to cut back the roses, and still need to raise pots off the ground to stop problems with freezing – so there you go, no time to put your feet up just yet. And a few suggestions for a dry day.


Cothi Gardeners Christmas Lunch at the Forest Arms, Brechfa

A highly successful end to the Cothi Gardener’s season.  A high turnout of members contributed to a thoroughly enjoyable lunch – excellent food, festive atmosphere and great company. A big thank you to George and Louise and their staff and to all who came to make it such a success.

      

      

Apologies for the poor quality of the photos but light levels were challenging!

 


Committee Members Needed

As those who have attended the last few meetings will already know, we have three committee members retiring from their current committee roles in January. A huge thank you to Brenda and Yvonne, our programme secretaries and Julian our Chairman. All members should consider serving on the committee at some point to help the club to continue forward into the future. It isn’t onerous and is often great fun. Obviously it’s very important to find someone prepared to take on the role of chairman. It would be for 1 year with the option of continuing for a maximum of 3. Please give it some serious thought and if you are prepared to join us then please give your name to Julian by 9th January 2019


Finally remember to put the date for the AGM in your diary: Wednesday, January 16th at 7.30pm. Bring a plate of food to share and be prepared for Derek’s Quiz!

Membership renewals:

For existing members who renew their membership before or at the AGM in January the fee will be £10 (normally £14).

In addition, the committee decided that we should introduce a new fee for couples. This would normally be £25 but will be £18 if renewed before or at the AGM in January 2019.


All that remains is to wish you a very Happy Christmas and peaceful, healthy and productive 2019


 

Fungal Fascination; Committee Commitment; Membership Renewals; TERRY WALTON; Christmas Lunch

Fascinating and Phenomenal Fungi

Bruce Langridge enthralled us with his enthusiastic and informative talk on ‘Fascinating and Phenomenal Fungi’ at our October meeting. Knowing very little about fungi when he arrived at the National Botanic Garden of Wales 15 years ago where his role as Head of Interpretation was “to create interpretation that informs, entertains and fascinates all Garden visitors, whatever their age, gender or background”. Finding that the NBGW included a meadow of international importance for fungi fired his enthusiasm to find out more and raise awareness of this amazing and important form of life. His annual Wales Fungus Day, started in 2013, has been taken up by the Mycological Society in 2015 and expanded into a National Fungus Day.

Embroidered Fungi

Bruce gave us a potted history from fungi’s evolution over a billion years ago to the present day when it is thought that there could be over 100 million different types. The importance of fungi to the planet’s ecosystem is huge. 85 – 90% of plants have a symbiotic relationship with one sort of fungus or another (fungi don’t photosynthesise and plants are not always very efficient in taking up necessary nutrients from the soil). Certain fungi are indicators of old meadows which have not had modern farming practices applied to them. The pink Waxcap is on such example (coincidentally Julian had counted nearly 70 of these in one of his meadows that afternoon). Some fungi are edible but Bruce advised caution as there are often ‘lookalikes’ which are poisonous; or in one case an edible one can be infected by a poisonous one! In addition, picking wild fungi causes damage to the fungus through trampling and soil impaction. Other fungi such as Dutch Elm Disease, Ash Dieback and Honey Fungus kill plants, while others have hallucinogenic properties eg. Magic Mushrooms and Fly Agaric and many have been used in Chinese and Japanese medicine for 1000’s of years. One of the top 5 most poisonous fungi in the world, the Destroying Angel, was found by Bruce locally.

Examples of fungi brought in to the meeting

Bruce’s slides and examples demonstrated the diversity of shape and colour from the bright red Elf Cups to yellow Witches’ Butter and the Bird’s Nest Fungus, often accompanied by interesting and amusing anecdotes.

Finally, Bruce told us a little about lichens (a combination of fungi and algae and sometimes bacteria as well) and rusts and smuts. Lichens are a sign of pure air, however they do not like acid rain so many are dying out. The NBGW is the first Botanic Garden in Europe to try a conservation technique, transplanting rare lichens onto a willow tree in the gardens to try and save them. So far the results have been very encouraging. (https://botanicgarden.wales/about-the-garden/wildlife/lichens-in-the-garden/)

For anyone who is interested, Bruce runs fungi walks at the Botanic Gardens and also suggests joining the Carmarthenshire Fungi Group (http://www.carmarthenshirefungi.co.uk/)


Committee Members Needed

As those who have attended the last few meetings will already know, we have three committee members retiring from their current committee roles in January. A huge thank you to Brenda and Yvonne, our programme secretaries and Julian our Chairman. All members should consider serving on the committee at some point to help the club to continue forward into the future. It isn’t onerous and is often great fun. Obviously it’s very important to find someone prepared to take on the role of chairman. It would be for 1 year with the option of continuing for a maximum of 3. Please give it some serious thought and if you are prepared to join us then please give your name to Julian by 9th January 2019


Membership

Due to the healthy state of the club’s finances this year, the committee has decided that there will be a one off discount for membership renewals as follows:

For existing members who renew their membership before or at the AGM in January the fee will be £10 (normally £14).

In addition, the committee decided that we should introduce a new fee for couples. This would normally be £25 but will be £18 if renewed before or at the AGM in January 2019.


Terry Walton

It’s hard enough getting those fiddly seeds into compost or trimming just the right side-shoots without holding your mobile phone to your ear and providing a running commentary to thousands of Radio 2 listeners at the same time.

© Terry Walton

If you haven’t already guessed, our speaker in November will be Terry Walton. “The Life of a Media Allotmenteer” promises to give us a look behind the scenes as Terry tells us about life on his allotment in the Rhondda and how he has given growing advice on the radio each month for over twelve years.

© Terry Walton

A gardener of over 40 years’ experience, Terry has worked plots on the same site since he was a boy, learning from his father and other allotment gardeners. Many of you will be familiar with his enthusiastic style, so do come along on November 21st to meet Terry. Mobile phones not necessary!

Guests and visitors welcome, £3, to include refreshments. The talk begins at 7.30pm.


Christmas Lunch

November’s meeting is your last chance to book in for our Christmas lunch. It is to be held at the Forest Arms, Brechfa on Wednesday December 12th from 12.30pm. The form together with the menu (which is also listed in a previous post) will be out on the ‘Meet & Greet’ table. You will need to give your food choices, noting any allergies/dietary requirements, plus a £10 deposit per person. The full cost of the lunch is £20 per person.


Topical Tips

Lilium regale – A fabulous scented species lily with large funnel shaped white flowers in the summer. The seed pods have just ripened and lilies are fairly easy to grow with fresh seed. Keep it in the fridge until maybe mid March and then sow it in a pot outside. You do need to keep slugs and mice away from them, but you can get good germination rates and it’ll take about 4 years for the lilies to flower.

Autumn planting

It’s a great time of the year for new planting now, before the frosts arrive, while the soil is still warm and with all that recent ‘wonderful’ rain having soaked the ground….

Winter Squash

For everyone with winter squash, it’s probably a good time to ripen them off for about 10 days in a warm, dry place to toughen and dry up the skins, before moving to a cool, frost free place to allow them to store well for longer.


 

Green’s Leaves; Fantastic Fungi; Terry Walton; Christmas Lunch

Paul Green of Green’s Leaves Nursery

September’s meeting saw a very welcome return by Paul Green from Green’s Leaves Nursery. Paul once again built his talk around a fantastic and diverse selection of plants that he’d brought along, persuading us of the merits of plants which look great at this early autumn period and on into winter.

Ranging through grasses, trees and small perennials, there was something for everyone to enjoy, and the talk was laced with practical tips (remember to lift any outside pots off the ground over winter to prevent water logging and root death), to snippets of fascinating information (Alder Buckthorn is not only one of the main larval food plants for the caterpillars of the Brimstone Butterfly, but also originally the favoured wood for making high quality charcoal to incorporate into gun powder!)

An enjoyable evening all round, and great to see several new members join us.


Bruce Langridge – ‘Fantastic and Phenomenal Fungi’

Next week’s talk on ‘Fantastic and Phenomenal Fungi’ by Bruce Langridge promises to be really interesting – Bruce is responsible for establishing the Wales Fungi Day at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, taking place this Sunday 14th October and it’s been so successful that a similar event is now held at over 80 venues nationally. Click here for more information.


Terry Walton – “The Life of a Media Allotmenteer”

Advance notice for November’s meeting when our speaker  will be Terry Walton on the subject “The Life of a Media Allotmenteer”. Terry promises to give us a look behind the scenes as he tells us about life on his allotment in the Rhondda and how he has given growing advice on the radio each month for over twelve years.

A gardener of over 40 years’ experience, Terry has worked plots on the same site since he was a boy, learning from his father and other allotment gardeners. Many of you will be familiar with his enthusiastic style, so do come along on November 21st  to meet Terry. Click here for his facebook page.

Guests and visitors welcome, £3, to include refreshments. The talk begins at 7.30pm.


Christmas Lunch

Initial bookings for the lunchtime Christmas meal at The Forest Arms, Brechfa are coming in, so don’t forget to sign up soon – there may be a limit on numbers which we could broach this year, with the increased membership. The cost is £20 per head. Please give your menu choices (including any dietary requirements/allergies) plus a 50% deposit when you book your place. The menu is shown below. The date is Wednesday December 12th, 12.30 for 1 pm.


Monthly Tips

3 Tips from Julian……………..

I find myself collecting seeds from quite a few plants at this time of the year. Obviously It’s a good idea to collect them on a dry day if you can manage that, but also it’s worth labelling them and quickly storing them in the fridge so that they don’t become too dry which can easily happen if they’re left on the side in a warm house. We had a few days in Sussex recently and were fortunate to visit Gravetye Manor which was the home of William Robinson at the beginning of the last century. He was perhaps the driving force in moving gardens towards a more naturalistic, less formal type of garden design. However I didn’t know until this visit that he injured himself very badly after slipping on a stile whilst walking to church, and spent the last 25 years of his life confined to a wheel chair. But apparently right up to the end of his days, he loved scattering seeds of his favourite plants around his garden and meadows and enjoying the excitement of seeing what germinated.

Gravetye Manor flower garden

I’ve also found that the 2 pronged weeding fork I mentioned earlier in the year as a great tool will work as a bulb planting implement for small bulbs like Crocus and fritillaries, which limits the extent to which you have to bend over. But I’ve also found it’s not a good idea to twist it too much, or you end up with a single pronged fork! Which is still ok for bulb planting, and for using as a strut or support but not so good for weeding!

Finally I’m guessing a lot of people will have a surfeit of apples this year. We have, so I’ve been juicing and freezing a lot. This generates quite a lot of pulp and trimmings. I did read that mice and voles love apples (certainly our rats do!) So I’ve been scattering all the apple debris around near where I’ve planted my Crocus in the hope that the rodents are distracted by the smell and taste of this. And therefore leave the corms alone. In previous years I’ve sometimes lost 80% of newly planted Crocus within a few days (in spite of dousing them in Chilli powder and vinegar) with them being systematically dug up and eaten. Fingers crossed, but so far I haven’t seen any signs of dug out, chomped Crocus this year. Also although it sounds a bit messy, actually all the bits turns brown very quickly and they have the added bonus of attracting in the few slugs we currently have left in the garden, which can then very easily be dealt with at night if you go round with a torch. In whatever way you like to do that! Of late since bending not’s so good for me, I’ve been using John’s suggested method of stamping on them, though I suppose if I sharpened the spike on my weeding fork I could try skewering…


 

Garden Safari in pictures and an Invitation

This year’s Garden Safari was  a highly enjoyable occasion. Both gardens we visited, Ty Dwr and Ddol Brenin were looking lovely. Many thanks to Yvonne and Colin and Tina and Derek for allowing us to see their gardens and to everyone who came for making the afternoon such a success.

Ty Dwr

Ddol Brenin


An Invitation from Drefach Velindre Gardening Club …………

“We would like to invite members of your Gardening Club to our Open Meeting on Wednesday 3rd October at 7.30pm in the Red Dragon Hall.

Pat O’Reilly MBE will give a talk on “Fascinated by Fungi”. Refreshments will be provided at the end of the meeting.”


 

Socials, safaris and Green’s Leaves

Summer Social

In spite of many members being away, our August get together still managed to garner a reasonable attendance. This year we had the additional attraction of the presentation of the cheque of £500, our donation from the Plant Fair proceeds, to Clive from Wales Air Ambulance. Again many thanks to everyone who made this possible.

John, Jenny and Julian hand over the cheque to Clive from Wales Air Ambulance


Growing Challenge

The evening was also the culmination of our Growing Challenge. This year we were asked to grow something that would appeal to pollinators. It proved to be a very real challenge for many of us due to the extraordinary weather we have experienced – a long, hard winter, the prolonged ‘Beast from the East’ Spring and then the summer drought which only came to an end a week or so before the meeting.

Nonetheless there were some very interesting results …………..

Jane: Beebombs……. to quote from the bee bomb website: “Hand made in Dorset, Beebombs are a mix of 18 British wildflower seeds, fine, sifted soil and locally sourced clay. Our seeds are native species and designated by the Royal Horticultural Society as “Perfect for Pollinators” . Beebombs just need to be scattered onto cleared ground to create a wildflower meadow that will bringthebeesback”. Jane said her ‘bomb’ proved very successful. Click here for the  Beebombs website.

Gordon: Teazle; Cardoons and Bumble Bees. Both proved excellent at attracting pollinators. Gordon’s photo shows the amazing number of bumble bees on one Cardoon flowerhead.

Jenny: Herbs and Cosmos. Both attracted insects, the Marjoram being the favourite.

John: John’s first choice plant failed to flower in time so not to be outdone, he had as a backup a Rudbeckia.  Rudbeckias are excellent late flowering plants for attracting butterflies in particular.

Brenda: Nepeta. A popular cottage garden plant always attractive to many insects.

Julian: Salvias – Julian realised that the Salvias he had chosen had flowers with long throats which made them inaccessible to bees as their proboscis were not long enough to reach the nectar. However Bumble Bees managed to overcome this by chewing a hole in the base of the flower ‘robbing’ the nectar without pollinating!

Fiona: Herbs and flowers. Planted to ceate a succession of flowers through the year. This worked up to a point with the Alliums and Borage flowering early. Unfortunately the Dill was a casualty of the drought and flowered late and poorly and coincided with marjoram in the garden which all insects seemed to prefer!

Jenny L: Sarracenia – a novel take on the subject, Jenny brought her carnivorous, insect attracting  plant!

Julian had also brought along some Erodium manescavii seeds  to demonstrate how ingenious they are, creating a spiral ‘auger’ to drive them into the ground as they dry. If on a hard surface, they will then straighten out when wet. Small hairs along the stem and seed head speed up the transition.

The challenge discussion was then followed by a buffet of delicious food brought by those attending and a light-hearted competition on garden bird feathers identification kindly organised by Colin.


This year’s Garden Safari takes place on Friday 7th September with visits to Yvonne and Colin and Tina, Derek and Kates’ gardens. Parking is limited at both gardens so we are asked to car share, meeting in Ffarmers village hall car park at 1.15pm and going on to Yvonne’s for 1.30pm. We will then head over to Tina’s rounding off the afternoon with tea and cake. If those that can could bring a small offering (cake, biscuits, sandwiches, etc) to share that would be a great help.


Paul Green of Green’s Leaves Nursery

Our regular meeting in September takes place on Wednesday the 19th when Paul Green makes a welcome return. Green’s Leaves Nursery in Newent was established over twenty years ago and since then Paul and his team have become firm favourites among gardeners looking for something out of the ordinary. Paul is an entertaining speaker with a wealth of knowledge about rather unusual plants which will nevertheless grow well in our climate. He is always on the look-out for something new, but tests all new species for hardiness before putting them on general sale, and, of course, he will be bringing a selection of plants for sale on the evening.

Click here for his website.


 

The Dreaded Gardener; Members Social; Garden Safari; Drought Busters; Gardener’s World; Other Events

Malcolm Berry – The Dreaded Gardener:  ‘Weaving the Web:Towards a Natural Garden’

Malcolm’s talk about how he tries to garden in a way to create ‘dynamic stability’ where flora and fauna exist in harmony struck a chord with many of us. The State of Nature reports indicate that in Wales 1 in 14 species are heading for extinction, in a large part due to loss of habitat. To try and offset this even those with small gardens can help. Biodiversity was at the root of his message: diversity creates diversity, the greater the diversity in flora the greater the diversity in fauna.

 

Ideas he has implemented in his own garden:

  • Varied habitats such as a pond, mini meadow, deciduous and evergreen hedges, mature trees and shrubs, dry stone walls, log piles, stone piles.

Mini Meadow © Malcolm Berry

  • Flower counts throughout the year to assess where/when there is a lack. Self seeding annuals to increase flower numbers
  • Polyculture rather than monoculture: mixing veg in with shrubs and perennials. More naturalistic and gives better protection against pests and disease.
  • Clear areas for veg planting in Spring, weed through growing season, stopping in August. By winter the mix of weeds and crops cover and protect the soil which is better for both soil and habitats. Weeds are also a good winter flower source.
  • No power machinery, he uses only hand tools

© Malcolm Berry

  • Compost: use comfrey in layers when turning compost as it is a good activator
  • Seed saving: from most veg. Some such as parsnips, runner beans and leeks require a minimum of 16 plants to save seed from in order to retain diversity. Only save seed from the best plants/fruit. Store seeds in an air-tight tub in fridge with silicon gel packets as this significantly reduces conditions required for germination.

Parsnip seed saving © Malcolm Berry

  • The Moon: He uses the Maria Thun Biodynamic Calendar which shows the optimum days for sowing, pruning and harvesting various plants and crops.
  • Non-interventionist approach, no pesticides or herbicides, nature will balance things out. He grows sacrificial plants to avoid significant predation on veg.
  • Minimum tillage, he does not turn the soil, practices good crop rotation and uses green manures to maintain condition and fertility.

It was a very interesting talk and generated many questions from the audience.


Members Social and Growing Challenge 7.30pm Coronation Hall, Pumsaint

Our August meeting is our members’ social evening when we meet for a relaxed get together bringing a plate of food to share. This year due to our increasing numbers, it is being held in the hall rather than a member’s home.

Pots planted for pollinators – with varying degrees of success!

The evening is also when we share the results of this year’s growing challenge. We were asked to plant up a pot with plants for pollinators. Do bring along your pots even if they haven’t turned out quite as expected – it has been a very challenging year weather-wise, but we can all learn from our successes and failures! If you can’t manage to bring the pot itself do try and get some photos of it and bring them along instead.

 

The evening will also be when we will be handing over our donation from the proceeds from the plant fair, a cheque for £500,  to Wales Air Ambulance.


Garden Safari

The garden safari is a club event in which we get to visit the gardens of those club members who wish to participate. The number of gardens taking part varies year to year, this year there will be just 2, Yvonne’s and Tina’s. The date on which it will take place is Friday September 7th. More details will be given at the summer social.


Drought Busters

A tip from Elena for watering…

  1. Place a large tub in a wheelbarrow.
  2. Fill with old washing up water – You can also add feed to the tub
  3. Dunk hanging baskets in the tub holding underwater till all the bubbles stop
  4. Lift out and rest on the rim of the tub to drain, some will also drop into barrow and can be re-used!
  5. Rehang you well-watered basket. Works well with small pots too

And from Julian: we’re now having to use my huge number of water filled polycarbonate drinks bottles as a valuable water resource with our spring running low, but I also found that if you drill a tiny hole in the top of the bottle cap, upend it, and ram it into the soil beside squash, courgettes or tomatoes, it’ll deliver variable, but fairly slow water release over a few days – good if you have to go away for a weekend in hot weather.

From the white board: water Camellias and other Spring flowering shrubs now to encourage flowers next Spring.

Some plants which seem to be coping well with the lack of rain, and don’t need watering:

Jenny says….

  • Rudbeckia, Antirrhinum, Sweet William and Californian poppy.
  • Yellow Loosestrife, hostas and several unknown varieties of alliums have all flowered really well with minimal watering.

Sandy says…..

  • her 3 foot high unknown Phlox are doing well, and her Gunnera! She does live by a river which might help explain it.

Plants John and Helen have found are drought resistant are:

  • Erodium manescavii, Platycodon grandiflora and Scutellaria albida

Erodium manescavii with Geranium sanguinium

Julian and Fiona have found

  • Sea campion, Knapweed and Bird’sfoot Trefoil are all tough native plants to try, plus roses and clematis all seem to be thriving.

Ty’r Maes NGS Open Day

John and Helen had their NGS open day on Sunday. All John’s hard work watering to try and keep the garden looking good along with a little bit of help from the storms of the previous week certainly paid off. The garden was looking beautiful. The sun shone and the visitors flocked in – John said it was their best day for several years.  As always, thanks from them to all their helpers and cake bakers and to John and Helen for their donation to Cothi Gardeners funds.


Upcoming Events

Gardener’s World: Keith Brown whom many of us know for his lovely garden and talks he has given to Cothi Gardeners in the past, has been filmed for Gardener’s World. The piece is due to be aired THIS FRIDAY 10th August at 9pm

Llandeilo Permaculture Group: Llandeilo Permaculture Group have scored a coup, booking Permaculture designer Geoff Lawton for a talk in the Civic Hall on August 24th, 7pm. He’s done TED talks and lots more. This is his only date in Wales. Tickets are £10, includes a light buffet.

September Meeting

Paul Green from Green’s Leaves Nursery will be paying us another visit after his very enjoyable talk last year….. and he will be bringing plants again! Put the date in your diaries: Wednesday September 19th at 7.30pm


 

Cothi Gardeners Plant Fair

Cothi Gardeners Inaugural Plant Fair

Sunday 8th July dawned clear and sunny and turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year, perhaps not ideal weather for anyone organising a plant fair! Fears that the heat would deter visitors and stallholders alike proved unfounded and the day was a resounding success with over 300 visitors.

The site was enjoyed by all with easy access for nurseries and stall holders, good parking for visitors and wonderful refreshments in the hall. Huge congratulations and thanks to John Brooks and his team for masterminding the day and putting so much time and effort into all the planning. Also thanks are due to all members of Cothi Gardeners who pulled out the stops to help in one way or another, cake baking, supplying plants, manning stalls, setting up, taking down, car parking supervision and much more. It was a real team effort and one of which we can be justifiably proud.

  

The nurseries and other stallholders seemed unanimous in giving it a ‘thumbs up’ and hope to join us again next year. A big thank you to all the nurseries and stall holders who supported us.


Next Meeting Wednesday, July 18th

Malcolm Berry – The Dreaded Gardener on Facebook will be giving a talk entitled “Weaving The Web: Towards A Natural Garden”
His website is dedicated to helping educate people about how to produce their own healthy food, and encourage biodiversity, using a mix of approaches combined under the banner of ‘Natural Gardening’. This includes aspects of permaculture, organic and biodynamic practice, and what comes naturally to him.
All welcome, starts at 7.30pm, £3 for non-members (includes refreshments).