“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.

Propagation Talk/Workshop with Steve Lloyd from Hergest Croft and Future Events.

May Meeting – Steve Lloyd from Hergest Croft Gardens

A final reminder to all members that this Wednesday, May 15th at 7.30pm we have Steve Lloyd from Hergest Croft gardens coming to Cothi, and he’ll be holding a workshop type meeting on plant propagation of all types. For those who’ve never visited Hergest Croft it’s on the borders of England and Wales and has been in the same family for over 4 generations. Click here for more. The extensive gardens include a fantastic kitchen garden, herbaceous borders, perennials and a massive collection of over 5,000 different trees and shrubs. Steve went to work there from school in 1980, and is the head gardener. Over that time he’s propagated huge numbers of plants of all types, and will be bringing plants he’s grown for sale, as well as material to experiment with, and show us his favoured methods and tips.

He’s also willing for Cothi members to bring along any plants which members have struggled to propagate and discuss best options. So if you have a favourite plant don’t forget to bring along a sample.

Steve not only has great experience, but is also a very enthusiastic speaker, so I’m sure we’ll all learn a lot from this evening.

A reminder too that this Wednesday’s meeting will also be the last chance to book in for the club trip to Abgerglasney gardens the following week (May 22nd) for our tea party.


Advance notice that our June speaker is Helen Picton from Old Court nurseries near Malvern. This is an old established family nursery specialising in Michaelmas Daisies (Asters – though some of these have recently been renamed!), with a fabulous display garden too. To get a flavour of the range and potential late season value of Asters, do have a look at their great website by clicking here. One of those plant groups which really extend the flower season into the misty late autumn months.

Helen will be bringing plants along for sale too.


Karen and David’s garden at Lan Farm

The member’s garden safari planned for early June will include a tour of 5 members’ gardens beginning with Anne in Cellan, then Steven and Jane, Alison and stopping at Elena’s for a shared lunch (please bring a plate of food to share). Then finally on to Karen and David’s near Talley.  Final times and date will hopefully be settled by this week’s meeting.


For our August meeting our Growing Challenge is to grow and use any edible flowers or leaves in any form, eg cordial, flowers, leaves, cake as part of our shared meal. Here are some helpful links from Yvonne…  www.maddocksfarmorganics.co.uk/edible-flowers-list have lists of edible flowers, how to grow them and how to crystallise them. Edible wild plants https://matteroftrust.org/14760/62-edible-wild-plants-that-you-didnt-know-you-can-eat; and www.eatweeds.co.uk;


A reminder that the club’s plant stall that we try to set up at each meeting, depends on the generous donations of spare plants from members to be  a successful addition to raising funds for the club for future events and speakers. So if you have any suitable plants you can spare, or even as we move into vegetable production season, any spare produce, then do bring them along to meetings with a name label and appropriate selling price. They would be most welcome. Remember that all proceeds from the stall go into club funds and help towards club costs such as speaker fees.


Also if anyone has any appropriate topical tips to share with other members, do let Yvonne know in advance of the meetings, or just write them up on the white board at the rear of the hall.


Advance notice from Sue Sturges in Moylegrove of a village garden open day in early June…

 

For those who’ve never been,  Moylegrove is a beautiful coastal village between Cardigan and  Newport, with the added attraction of the fantastic Penrallt coastal garden centre/nursery/cafe on the hillside overlooking the sea just above the village.  (Click here and here for more). You can walk from the village down a beautiful wooded valley to the coast, and join the coastal path, for a great circular walk including Ceibwr Bay.  So well worth a thought for a great day out.


Ferryside Lifeboat Charity Garden Crawl (SA17 5RR)
On Sunday 30th June 2019 come and discover the beautiful and varied gardens of Ferryside. The gardens are open each year to support Ferryside Lifeboat. Wander around the village and enjoy a variety of refreshments available in many of the venues, whilst listening to ‘live music’ in some of the gardens. Discover scarecrows, there will be characters popping up all around the village!
The Lifeboat station will be open and crew will be there to show visitors around the lifeboat.
The gardens will be open between one and six p.m. Programmes, including a map, are £3.00.


Advance notice from Teresa O’Ryan of Drefach Felindre Gardening Club of a chance to join their group for a visit to the great Shrewsbury Flower Show in August. See details below…

Drefach Felindre Gardening Club is taking a coach to Shrewsbury Flower Show on 9th August 2019.  We will be leaving the Red Dragon Hall at 8.30 am and returning at approximately 8.00 pm.

The coach will drop us off at the Flower Show gates and return to pick us up from there.

Tickets for entry can be bought on line.  The cost of the coach is £12.50 each.

If any members would like to join them, please make your cheques payable to Drefach Felindre Gardening Club and send to:  Helen Nolan, Coedmor, Adpar, Newcastle Emlyn, Ceredigion, SA38 9EH.  For further information, please contact Helen on 07964674287 or email helencoedmor@gmail.com


As an indication of how different late April and early May 2019 have been to last year, as a new beekeeper, I’ve had to to do 2 sessions of emergency garden pruning in the last 10 days. Has everyone else found it’s been a great start to the year for our pollinating insects?


 

Previous Meeting; Upcoming Plant Fairs; Last Call for Our Tea Party at Aberglasney

At last some welcome rain, after the spell of very warm dry sunshine weather, which was in full swing for our last meeting. First swallows were flying over the hall as we arrived.  Sadly though our speaker didn’t, but well done to Yvonne, our chairman, who hosted a very enjoyable and interesting Q&A session with wide ranging subjects from growing plants in containers, topical tips and current favourite plants, wild orchids in gardens and wildlife recently seen. It was great that so many members contributed to the discussion and I’m sure we all went home having learned something. Spot the spotted orchid leaf below, one of 16 that have appeared in Julian and Fiona’s garden for the first time this year.

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It was also good to see several new faces who we hope will return to our next meeting, in May,  to hear Steve Lloyd, head gardener from Hergest Croft gardens in Herefordshire, talking to us about plant propagation in a sort of interactive workshop.

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Many members made it to the open day event at Ty Cwm nursery on Easter Monday, when as well as a great range of plants, there were free refreshments, with scrummy cakes at the quite recently opened “Holly’s Cafe”, on site. Helen Warrington who has owned Ty Cwm for 15 years has talked to Cothi on  a number of occasions, and the nursery is located in a small cwm, or valley, in lovely countryside just west of the Teifi valley, 600 feet above sea level,  so the plants have to be tough to survive. Well worth a visit sometime for those who’ve never made it before. The cafe is open from 10.00 am to 5 pm, except Mondays. Click here for more on Helen’s website.

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It’s a busy time of the year for plant fairs and events, and this weekend is the annual plant fair at Rhosygilwen, near Carmarthen. Click here for more details.

The Big plant sale takes place in Narberth on Saturday May 4th, at the Span Arts venue, with talks as well as plant sales throughout the day. Click here for more.

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Bank Holiday Monday May 6th sees the annual spring plant fair at Hergest Croft gardens. Click here for more. For anyone wanting to see what Steve Lloyd, our May speaker has to look after, maintain, and propagate from, a trip to Hergest at this time of the year, is always a delight. There will be lots of plants for sale and lovely lunches and teas on site in their own cafe.

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Finally a last reminder for the Cothigardeners Aberglasney Tea party, on Wednesday May 22nd at 3 pm.  We can’t be certain what the weather will be like, or what will be looking at its best, but the gardens ALWAYS look lovely, and those who came last year know that the tea will be special.

Many thanks for those of you who have already booked in and paid up. The absolute final deadline will be the evening of our May meeting,  so if you haven’t yet confirmed your place, do give it some thought. We hope you’ll be able to join us.

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


 

Richard’s Primulas; Afternoon Tea at Aberglasney; Kex, lace and poison from Kari-Astri; Orchid count help needed

Primula Sieboldii – Richard Bramley from Farmyard Nurseries

May saw a welcome return to Cothi Gardeners by Richard Bramley from Farmyard Nurseries to give us a talk on Primulas and Primula sieboldii in particular for which he holds one of the National Collections.

These lovely, dainty primulas are surprisingly hardy. They like wetter climates and can cope with cold, although they are more vulnerable if kept in containers as they can freeze solid. They occur in N E China, Korea and Japan where they are water meadow plants but will grow almost anywhere given the right conditions:  moist, free draining soil in semi shade.

There are many different flower forms and the flowers are either pin eyed or thrum eyed so as to avoid self fertilisation. They flower in Spring from April to early June.

Growing from seed is easy. Pick the seed capsules when they turn yellow and sow straight away. They need a cold spell (gibberellic acid can be used) and light to germinate. Sow in seed trays and cover with vermiculite. This allows light and also retains moisture. Some named varieties can’t be grown from seed and have to be multiplied by division. This should be done in March and is also very easy.

Primulas are a huge family ranging from the very easy such as primroses and polyanthus to the very difficult eg some of the alpine primulas.

Other primulas:

Primula japonica (Candelabra): These are moist soil plants preferring shady sites and flower May to June. They hybridise and seed around freely often resulting in a mass of multi-coloured blooms.

Primula florindae: a yellow, later flowering variety

Primulas auricula: not too easy as they don’t like wet or being outside! Best grown in pots.

As always Richard brought some of his lovely plants for sale………


Aberglasney Tea Party

The weather pulled out all the stops for our tea party at Aberglasney. The gardens were looking beautiful in the sunshine………….

The afternoon tea was amazing, unlimited tea, delicious sandwiches and a wonderful selection of cakes catering to all tastes, and so many not one table was able to eat them all!

Everyone entered into the spirit of the occasion and came suitably attired in some amazing ‘mad’ hats.

  

A very successful and thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.


Plant Fair

A reminder to grow plants not only for the Cothi Gardeners plant stall but also for the Tombola as it will be operated on an ‘every ticket wins’ basis so we need lots of small plants.

Cakes will also be needed for the refreshments so please do sign up to make some if you can.

Volunteers still needed to help make the day run smoothly.

John will give us an update on planning progress at our next meeting in June.


Growing Challenge

Don’t forget to get your pot of flowers for pollinators going for our August social.


Kex, Lace, Poison,  Not quite an  A – Z of Umbellifers for the Garden

For our June meeting we welcome back Kari-Astri Davies who will be talking to us on this intriguing subject.  By this time of year the cow parsley which grows along our roadsides is almost over but you can make a similar, frothy effect in your garden by choosing others from the umbellifer family, angelica or fennel for example. The butterflies and bees love these plants too.


Wild Flower Walk and Orchid Count

Message from Helen Bradley from Plantlife:

This is a bit of a plea for help… we have our annual wildflower survey and orchid count coming up at our reserve near Lampeter,  Cae Blaen Dyffryn, on Saturday 16th June. Unfortunately despite having 12 volunteers last year, we only 2 have booked on this time. We could probably manage the survey part ok with small numbers but the orchid count will be tricky. So if anyone can spare some time to help it would be appreciated – particularly in the afternoon. If you are able to come along just complete this short form (here) and if you intend to come only for the morning or afternoon, just mention this in the ‘Anything we should be aware of’ box.


Monthly Tips

Seed Collection

Now is the perfect time to think of collecting seeds from lots of early flowering spring bulbs and plants – I’m thinking of things like Crocus, Snowdrops, Leucojums, Anemone blanda or Anemone nemorosa (Wood anemone). It’s easy to forget about doing this at a busy time of the year, but it’s the cheapest and simplest way of spreading them around. And if you don’t check now, you’ll miss the seedpods or seed heads. Once you’ve got the seed just scatter it straight away in appropriate places, and then forget about it. It might take a few years, and the survival rate might be modest, but they’ll pop up all over the place and delight you with new plants in new areas with little effort.

Watering

This is would have been quite unusual advice in the last 18 months, but it’s worth remembering to water recently sown seeds regularly to ensure good germination, if they’re outside or inside, and also try to water in greenhouses or polytunnels regularly to ensure good growth and avoid fruit splitting. I was really interested to read today that Keith Brown at Llangadog mentioned that he measured 2 inches of rain in his garden in April. Here we had over 6 inches. So it’s surprising just how variable rainfall can be just a few miles apart, in this part of the world.

Splitting Daffodils

(From Fiona) It’s a good time to split daffodil clumps and move them around, just as the foliage is dying down. Again it’s easy to miss doing this in the rush of jobs to do in May. We usually do! But if you can manage it, at least you can find the bulbs more easily, and work out where to put them. Again worth watering them in well, if the ground’s dry.

Hardy Geraniums with Richard Cain; Media Allotmenteering with Terry Walton; Spring socialising with Cothi Gardeners…….

Richard Cain – Hardy Geraniums

Our March meeting was, sadly, the last one at which we will hear Richard Cain from Penlan Perennials as he is retiring in September. Richard has given us several entertaining and informative talks over the years on a variety of subjects and this one on Hardy Geraniums was no exception.

Erodium manescavii and Geranium sanguineum var. striatum

The Geranium genus includes

  1. Pelargoniums – not hardy annuals
  2. Erodiums – soft velvety foliage which doesn’t like wet conditions
  3. Geraniums – generally fully hardy to -25 Deg. C, although there are a few non-hardy types.

 

  • Appearance: they all have a crown of leaves at the centre but then can vary considerably from straggly stems to compact mounds. Leaves can be dissected, blotched and some are scented.
  • Smaller Geraniums can be vulnerable to winter wet when the crown can rot.
  • Species Geraniums only flower for 3 – 4 weeks as they attract pollinators and once pollinated, the flowers fade.
  • Hybrids have a longer flowering season as they are usually sterile.
  • There is a Geranium species for almost any site or situation! Eg Ground cover – G. macrorrizum; G. riversleaianum ‘Mavis Simpson’ (also flowers for 4 months). Shade – G. monacense, G. nodosum, G. phaeum, G. sylvaticum, G. versicolor & G. wlassovianum.

G. macrorrhizum

  • Most are pest and disease free and rabbit and deer resistant. However they are susceptible to vine weevil.
  • Thug like Geraniums such as G. oxonianum can be effectively controlled by cutting hard back before flowering has finished – this has the added benefit of encouraging a second flush later.
  • Many x hybrids are sterile but flowers are often larger and last longer eg  G. ‘Eureka Blue’, G.wallichianum ‘Crystal Lake’ and G. ‘Alan Mayes’ (like Magnificum but flowers for months).
  • Good plants for pollinators: usually have reflexed petals. G. sylvaticum, G. ‘Cloud Nine’. Hybrids and alpine varieties are not so good.

G. phaeum

 

Propagation:

  • Seed: collect when ripe – they usually go black. Hold seed head between fingers and put in a bag or the capsule will ‘explode’ scattering the seeds everywhere. Sow when fresh in vermiculite or coir (water before sowing) and cover with a very thin layer of vermiculite. Seeds can be kept in a bag in the fridge until ready to sow.
  • Division: do when dormant in spring. Pull off surplus compost, twist and pull crown apart. Tap off and replant.
  • Root cuttings: use this technique for sterile types and those with tap (carroty type)roots. Only take root cuttings when plant is dormant as if the sap is rising the cuttings won’t take. Use a root with fine roots on it. Note which way is up (cut lower end on an angle and top end flat). Take 1 ½ to 2” cuttings approx. the thickness of a pencil or more. It takes a year to get a small plant, success rate approx. 70 – 80 %.
  • Cuttings from rhizomes – take newish shoots from around the edge of the plant and gently tease apart. Balance top leafy growth and bottom root structure, removing leaves as necessary.
  • Stem cuttings: take these from the straggly stemmed Geraniums. Cuttings should be approx. 3-4” long. Peel basal leaves off. Cut square across under a leaf node, they should then produce roots at the node. Push into soil round the edge of a small pot.

We will miss being able to access Richard’s immense knowledge for future talks and wish him well for the next exciting phase of his life. Click here for his website


April Meeting

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.

If you haven’t already guessed, our speaker in April 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.

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 April 18th to meet Terry. Mobile phones not necessary! Click here for his facebook page.

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


Spring Social

We now have a date for a spring social – which will be very kindly hosted by Elena, for a lunch gathering at her home Glanranell Barns on Wednesday May 9th. 

Please bring a plate of food to share, and to ease parking issues, it would be good to car share if possible.


Plant Fair

Another reminder to put your names down for helping out with the plant fair – sheets for signing are on the meet and greet table at our meetings


NGS Garden Opening

Gelli Uchaf Garden

This year’s final opening weekend for Julian and Fiona’s garden, Gelli Uchaf is 21st and 22nd April. There are still some spaces left for the Saturday afternoon (2.30pm) and Sunday morning (10.30am). Contact them to book in : 01558  685119


TOPICAL TIPS

It’s probably still OK to cut back any Viticella, or later flowering Clematis, if you didn’t manage to do it in February, since there’s been so little growth so far this year.

Also Fiona’s tip is it’s not too late to take willow wands for making green sculptures or plant supports.

 

Finally if you’ve got any nectarines or apricots flowering under cover, don’t forget that there are very few pollinators around, or certainly not many that will make it into a greenhouse or polytunnel, unless you have a very nearby honeybee hive, so it’s worth hand pollinating the flowers – Julian uses a feather rammed into the end of a cane, to reach those high up flowers.


 

Pies, Bumblebees, Topical Tips and Events

              

After another excellent pie night at the Dolaucothi – sadly our last with Dave and Esther as they move on to pastures new, we enjoyed our first talk of the year given by Clare Flynn from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust on the Plight of the Bumblebee. It proved to be one of the best talks we have had with much post talk discussion.

The Plight of the Bumblebee

Clare took us through how bees evolved from wasps, the different types of bee species (approx. 275 native species in total of which there are 245 solitary bees, 24 bumbles and 1 honey bee species). We learnt about the differences between the different types, their lifecycles (bumble bee colonies die at the end of the year with the exception of the queens who hibernate and emerge in spring to start a new colony), Cuckoo bumble bees, the commonest types and how to try and identify them – not always easy! Click here for more information.    She then went on to talk about the decline of bumblebees both in numbers (2 species are extinct in the UK and 2 are on the brink) and range, the causes of this decline–

  • Habitat loss
  • Intensification of farming with increased use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, loss of hedgerows, heavy grazing, loss of 98% of the flower-rich grasslands since 1940
  • Agrochemicals – harm non target species, chronic exposure, cumulative effects
  • Pathogens – global movement with commercial colonies imported which escape/are released and spread disease through shared flowers.

Important as pollinators (honey bees can’t do it all!) for

  • commercial crops,
  • domestic food,
  • wildflowers
  • every 3rd mouthful comes from insect pollinated food
  • bumble bees are one of the most efficient pollinators
  • bumble bees are the only insect able to ‘buzz pollinate’ essential for crops such as tomatoes.
  • They are also important for their intrinsic value.

Clare then ended with ways we can help:

  • Habitat – gardens are very important
  • Plant bee friendly flowers
  • Plant flowers to give continuity of forage from March through to October
  • Create nesting sites
  • Create hibernation sites
  • Plant in swathes rather than singly
  • Plant different plants for different bumble bees

and why this should worry us.

Examples of good plants for bumblebees:

Spring: crocus, willow, dandelions, flowering currant, comfrey, pulmonaria, spurge, fruit trees

Early summer: Cranesbill, herbs, clover, bugle, currants, soft fruits, borage, dead nettle, cornflower

Summer: lavatera, weigela, eryngium, sunflowers, stachys, tansy, echinacaea, verbena bonariensis, open, single roses, lavender

Late summer: Knapweed, wild carrot, borage, asters, late raspberries, bramble

More can be found on the Bumblebee Conservation Trusts website (click here). Julian has also observed over several years the plants in Gelli Uchaf’s garden that pollinators, including bumblebees, favour. (Click here)

The following is taken from the bumble bee conservation website and is something that gardeners should be aware of : Recent research into garden centre plants has found that some ornamental plants on sale can contain pesticides, including neonicotinoids and fungicides at levels known to cause sub-lethal harm to bees. Although we do not yet know whether the net effect of exposing pollinators to contaminated food plants is positive or negative, gardeners wishing to lower the risk of exposing bees to these chemicals can buy from organic nurseries, plant swap with others, and or grow their own plants from seed.

Much more information is available on the bumblebee conservation’s excellent website: https://www.bumblebeeconservation.org/

Plant Fair

Arrangements for our plant fair are coming along well, many thanks to John for all his hard work. We are now at the stage when we need members to come forward and offer help. A sheet for you to do this will be on the meet and greet table at all our meetings. We now have a separate page on the website giving more details about the fair so do keep checking for any updates (click here).

Growing Challenge

A reminder that the member’s medley/plant challenge for the August meeting will be to grow something in a pot which you can bring along on the night, and which is attractive to pollinating insects, and then maybe tell us a little about it, and what you’ve seen visiting the flowers. We’ll hopefully confirm a member’s home as a venue to host this event shortly, but as with last year, we’ll have a fall back of the hall, if the forecast looks poor, and/or numbers attending are too great.


Topical tips

Tip 1 (from Julian): A top tip for the whole of February, and indeed any rare dry sunny weather in January as well, involves using my most valuable garden tool. – A fine artist’s paintbrush.

Anyone who came to either our garden NGS open weekend on Saturday/Sunday or indeed the committee meeting knows why.  As Mark jokily summarised it, it’s for my Sex with Cyclamen encounters. I’ve spent years looking at the early flowering spring bulbs in our garden, and what insects actually visit them to pollinate them. And for us, before about the third week in February – there are no bumblebees about. And with perfect timing I yesterday heard and then saw our first emerged bumblebee queen of the year visiting Crocus tommasinianus flowers, complete with hordes of mites, looking almost as desperate for some spring warmth and sunshine as we are! Also if you don’t have a honeybee hive actually in your garden or very close by then you’re unlikely to have any of them around either. Many of these spring flowers have a Mediterranean origin, but as you know we don’t have a similar climate, or insect population in this part of the world. But a lot of these bulbs or corms – if they’re not sterile hybrids – are quite capable of setting seed if they flower this early, just so long as they do get pollinated.

But if there aren’t any insects around then this clearly won’t happen, unless you help them out. So an hour or 2 spent now stooped over the flowers with a paintbrush tickling the flowers might worry your neighbours, but really can result in thousands of viable seeds later in the year. In addition you’re eventually likely to end up with a population of plants – (whether they’re Crocus, Cyclamen coum or even Snowdrops  – you can use it on all 3 plants) – which will flower earlier and are likely to thrive in your garden’s conditions – compared with bought in plants.

And finally you’ll then value the work that pollinating insects do for us much more highly!!If you just rely on later insect population you will probably end up with a population of these flowers with a much narrower period of flowering, based on the nursery bred plants you started off with. Pretty much as soon as I spot a few bumblebees, I put the brush away, so you’re not depriving them of any valuable pollen.

Tip 2: It’s still a good time of the year to lift and divide any clumps of snowdrops. This is really the best, and only, reliable way to gradually end up with a better display each year. But I would pause if we’re heading into a prolonged dry spell with freezing Easterlies. So maybe for now hold fire and wait until wet weather returns….. I’m sure you won’t have to wait too long…. Plant them singly if you’ve got a big area to cover and are patient, or in 2’s or 3’s about 4 inches apart and 2 inches deep if you’re in more of a hurry to get a small area nicely covered.

Tip 3: Donna recommended Charles Dowding on No Dig veggie gardening videos on YouTube – click here for his website http://www.charlesdowding.co.uk


Finally a reminder that Lechryd Gardening Club are holding their own version of ‘Gardener’s Question Time’ on 14th March starting at 7.30pm at Boncath Community Hall. Everyone is welcome, £2 for visitors.