Hedgehogs; Christmas Meal.

Since the last Cothigardeners blogpost, I guess many of us were clobbered with a short sharp night time snowfall …

which, coming in mid November, with leaves still on the trees, caused a lot of branch and other damage around the garden, as well as a few mature trees knocked over by sheer weight of snow. For anyone unfamiliar with it, we’ve found a Draper Tree Pruner With Telescopic Handle invaluable for reaching any branches ripped off a long way from the ground, without having to use a ladder, which I’m always wary about. Click here for more details on this bit of kit.

It has both a lopper and a pruning saw which can be worked independently, and although we don’t use it often, it pays for itself after one such episode. However there’s always still some damage which has to be tackled with a chainsaw really…   

 


Fortunately the snow had all gone by the time Di O’Keefe came to talk to us last month about her wonderful work helping hedgehogs in West Wales. Di began by explaining how she came to set up the West Wales Hedgehog Rescue, and has gradually built up an extensive network of volunteers and helpers, including our very own Jenny, which means that at any one time she can have up to 40 hedgehogs in her temporary care.

Di explained a little about the hedgehog year, mentioning that by November any hedgehog weighing less than 600 g, or easily caught in daytime, is unlikely to be able to hibernate and survive the winter, so would probably benefit from an assessment by Di or one of her team, who can be contacted day or night(!) via her facebook page, click here. 

Di mentioned some of the stresses and diseases, or simply being born later in the year, that can cause hedgehogs to be so light pre hibernation. Di uses rehydration, gentle warming techniques and then supplementary feeding, as well as appropriate medication to revitalise such borderline viable hedgehogs.

Di also explained the normal breeding cycle of the hedgehog which begins after emergence in spring and can typically end up with 6 to 10 hoglets being born, often after several matings with different males. The baby hoglets are born blind and without spines, but these all develop within the first fortnight. Di frequently receives litters of orphan hedgehogs which need feeding every 2.5 hours for the first couple of weeks or so. All being well, they can be moved onto solids shortly afterwards.

Di  stressed that cat food is probably the best food for anyone wanting to feed hedgehogs in the garden, not bread or milk since they are lactose intolerant, and also not meal worms, which are too high in phosphorus.

Their normal diet is mainly invertebrates across quite a wide range – beetles, centipedes, worms, slugs and snails, with occasional bird’s eggs and chicks, and since this diet is similar to badgers, it’s often the case that hedgehogs avoid areas with a significant badger population.

The high turn out for Di’s excellent and comprehensive review of these very special nomadic and solitary small mammals that some of us are fortunate to see in our gardens on an occasional or more regular basis, showed how hedgehogs still hold a very special place in our affections all these years after Mrs. Tiggywinkle was penned.

For more specific information on ways to help hedgehogs in our gardens there’s an excellent summary, “Gardening with Hedgehogs” which you can access here.


Finally a reminder for everyone who’s booked for the Cothi gardener’s Christmas lunch, that it’s on this coming Wednesday, December 11th at the Forest Arms, Brechfa, arriving from 12.00 to 12.30pm. Having decided against having crackers on the table to save waste, anyone who wants to wear festive attire will be most welcome. See you all there, and a very happy Christmas and New Year to all readers.

 


 

Plant Hunters and Explorers; Dahlia merckii seeds; Hedgehogs; Christmas Meal.

There was an excellent turn out at Pumsaint for October’s talk to hear Neil Barry tell us about “Plant Hunters and Explorers”, and it was great to see so many arriving early to help set things up in the hall and enjoy the pre-talk refreshments.

Neil, who’d travelled up from his home in the Gower, gave us a lively talk and slide show beginning with a reminder of how many of the favourite plants we now take for granted in our gardens, (Buddleia, tulips, potatoes) are all introductions from other parts of the world. Along with a few like Japanese Knotweed and Rhododendron ponticum which were introduced and have since turned out to be more of a nuisance!

Neil began with mention of the father and son Tradescants, gardeners to Charles 1 and 2, who travelled to Russia, Africa and later America, introducing amongst other plants the Sumach and Tulip tree to these shores.

Joseph Banks was another significant figure in the late 1700’s/early 1800’s and responsible for establishing Kew gardens as a significant focus for plant collections and as a sponsor of plant collecting trips. Banks himself travelled to Eastern Canada as well as establishing Botany Bay and is remembered with 80 plants named after him including the genus Banksia, which one can find growing in the Great Glasshouse at the National Botanic Garden of Wales.

Archibald Menzies brought back the first Monkey puzzle seeds to the UK, secretly saved from a dinner served in Chile where they featured as a delicacy, whilst David Douglas brought back many seeds of trees native to North America, which subsequently helped to enrich our landscapes and also establish the UK forestry industry, which before his time only had the native Scot’s Pine and Common Juniper as indigenous coniferous species.

For many early plant hunters the development of Wardian cases- essentially mini transportable greenhouses, revolutionised the success of bringing plant samples back to the UK on what were often lengthy sea voyages.

Another significant father and son combination was that of William and Joseph Hooker who for many years were involved in plant hunting as well as being the directors of Kew gardens. Around the mid 1800’s opportunities to explore China and the Far East began to open up following the Opium wars which led to many more novel genera being discovered.

Robert Fortune continued this process introducing Mahonia japonica and Dicentra spectabilis ( as was!) as well as a star performer right now in our garden, Saxifraga fortunei. In addition he was involved in bringing nearly 24,000 young tea plants from China to establish a fledgling tea industry for the British Empire in the Himalayan foothills in India.

Occasionally very specific expeditions were sponsored – “Chinese” Ernest Wilson being sent out to China to find and bring back seeds of the Handkerchief tree Davidia involucrata. Although French explorers beat him to it, and were the first to germinate seedlings in the West, nevertheless the major nursery firm, Veitch’s, who sponsored Wilson’s trip, still reaped the benefits with seed and seedlings of this, the latest novelty in the late 1890’s.

Many of these early plant hunters enjoyed considerable hardships whilst overseas, and some didn’t return – David Douglas  being found at the bottom of a cattle pit in Hawaii. Neil speculated that his death might not have been accidental. Click here for an interesting read about this, and more about Douglas’ collecting life.

Neil concluded with mention that the spirit and adventure of plant hunters lives on in the UK with people like Mary Richards from North Wales who collected thousands of pressed plant specimens in Africa, in the late ’50’s and ’60’s; Tom Hart-Dyke who was held for 9 months in Colombia in 2000 on one of his orchid hunting trips;  and the well known husband and wife team of Bleddyn and Sue Wyn Jones of Crug Farm plants near Caernarfon. They have collected many novel plant species and cultivars from trips to South East Asia. Click here to see how many forms, for example of  Viburnums (above left V. furcatum BSWJ 5939), to choose just one genus they have collected, and how each one is carefully labelled with a BSWJ number to link in with their records of when and where it was located.

So an excellent reminder of how fortunate we are in the UK not just to have the conditions to allow us to grow such a diversity of plants, but also the rich history of those prepared to risk life and limb to bring them back for us.

At the end of the meeting Yvonne was able to hand over a couple of new kettles to the chairman of the hall committee, as a gift from the club from the proceeds from the plant fair. These will replace the very ancient ones which have seen better days and will help making hot drinks easier and quicker not just for future gardening club meetings but also be available for other hall users.


For any disappointed not to be able to grab a packet of Dahlia merckii seed after Neil Barry’s talk, Julian apologises – they all got snapped up very quickly.  But he does have more available which he’ll bring along to next month’s meeting (£1 per packet for club funds). Julian suggests anyone who has the seeds already,  keeps them in the fridge until late February and then sows the longish black seeds, not the remaining chaff, into seed compost kept in a warm place until germination has taken place. Then grow them on and prick out in a frost free place to be planted out in late spring.  Just like tomatoes really, and they should germinate as easily. You do have to watch out for slugs whilst the plants and shoots are young, but then they grow away quickly and you should be rewarded with similar flowers to these next summer, which as Julian mentioned, are a brilliant late season pollen source for honey and bumble bees. Plus the tubers should be hardy enough to survive in the ground over winter, maybe with a little extra mulch.

Should anyone have any seedlings grow with foliage which is more bronze, or dark, than green; or flowers that look different to these then do let Julian know – there’s a chance there might be some interesting hybrid forms with Dahlia “Magenta Star” which he grows nearby.


A reminder that the final talk of this year’s programme is on Wednesday November 20th at 7.30 pm, when Di O’Keefe will be telling us everything we should know about hedgehogs, and how we can make our gardens more friendly for them.


Finally a reminder that next month’s meeting will be the deadline for booking your place at the Cothi Gardeners’ Christmas lunch at the Forest Arms in Brechfa on Wednesday December 11 th    Click on this link for the menu choices :   XMAS DINNER    

“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!

Plant Fair; Helen Picton on Asters; Upcoming Talk on Irises For the Natural garden

I’m guessing all Cothi Gardeners will have received Yvonne’s recent email about the plant fair this coming Sunday July 7th which runs from 10 – 3 pm in the field behind the hall at Pumsaint with refreshments and additional craft stalls inside the hall. This year the fair is being staged by Ceredigion Growers association so there will again be a wide range of plants for sale provided by the list of nurseries who are members of this local group of commercial nurseries. Click here for an idea of what’s likely to be available.

Cothi Gardeners will be once more be providing refreshments in the hall, as well as a plant stall and tombola, and for any club members who haven’t yet got in touch, it’s not too late to help out and become involved – either on the day, or by providing a cake or a few plants for sale. As a certain supermarket says, ” every little helps”, and the funds raised on the day will help with the costs incurred by the club with booking future speakers, and helping towards keeping membership fees down. Plus a donation will be made towards the Welsh Air Ambulance Service. With the current dry weather likely to continue, it promises to be another great day, without the extreme heat that gripped us this time last year.

____________________________________________________________________________________

For those unable to make last month’s meeting,  we all enjoyed an excellent presentation from Helen Picton of Old Court Nurseries at Colwall on the subject of Asters. Helen gave the background to how her family came to be involved with the running and development of the nursery site at Colwall. The land was initially set up as a breeding ground/trial for new forms of Asters by Ernest Ballard in the first decade of the 1900’s. Asters then were limited in colour range, and Ballard created many new single and double forms, particularly of the New York Asters – A. novi-begii, concentrating as well on producing more garden worthy forms with shorter stems and better flowering which became very popular with gardeners of that era.

Ballard’s business continued to be successful for many years, but as he aged and also lost some of this growing space during the second world war, requisitioned for food crops, he engaged Percy Picton as a nursery manager.  Percy, Helen’s grandfather, had many years experience working as head gardener at significant estates including 15 years at Gravetye under William Robinson, and was able to buy the nursery business from Ballard’s widow in the 1950’s. However this coincided with Asters falling out of fashion with the gardening public.

Percy and his son Paul, managed to keep the nursery viable by diversifying into other plant forms, but the numbers of Asters they cultivated gradually dwindled away with the lack of demand. After marrying, Paul’s wife suggested in the 1970’s that it might be nice to grow a few more Asters, and so the nursery began the long process of building up numbers to their current status of holding over 400 different species and cultivars.

Helen ran through the main 5 classification groups of Asters and several of her favourite forms; how to grow them well, and advice on division and propagation methods.

She also showed photos of the extensive display gardens and how the Aster beds had to be completely reworked a few years ago after disease problems began to weaken the plants.

Helen explained that the Aster display really reaches its peak at the end of September/beginning of October, so perhaps Cothi members who travel over to Hergest Croft for the seed collection trip in late September might like to think about heading on the extra hour to Colwall in the afternoon to see the Aster display?

It was great to see so many members, guests and a few new faces present to enjoy this wonderful talk.

____________________________________________________________________________

We’re fortunate to have another excellent talk lined up for our July meeting on Wednesday 17th, when Alun and Jill Whitehead visit us to talk about growing “Irises for the Natural garden”.

Alun and Jill hold a National Collection of Iris sibirica at their garden and nursery, Aulden Farm, deep in the Herefordshire countryside. But they grow many other plants as well, beautifully displayed in their 3 acre garden, which they have created from scratch, over many years. Click here for their website.

They’ll be bringing along plants for sale too.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

We took a break on Monday lunchtime from the hard graft of our annual wildflower hay making to visit Aberglasney gardens. Mainly to see their rambling roses, but as ever there’s so much to see there, and its well worth a trip out if you can manage it soon and catch some of these amazing vistas. It’s always very easy to be inspired here, and pick up some great ideas or specific plant names in this world class garden …

If any Cothigardeners would like some green hay from our meadows, do get in touch with me asap (cothigardeners@gmail.com) – we’ve worked out a simple system for collecting it, and it’s becoming ever more florally diverse.  You simply spread it onto an existing flower poor, grassy area, within about 24 hours of being cut, whilst still fresh. The seeds fall out, and it’s a very effective way of moving an area from simply lawn or flower free grass, to one studded with wildflowers and greater grass species diversity. And it’s much easier than collecting and scattering individual species seeds, which is how I started the process with our meadows several years ago!

Steve Lloyd’s Workshop; Aberglasney Tea Party; June Garden Safari.

There was a fantastic turn out for the recent Cothigardeners workshop on propagation, held with Steve Lloyd from Hergest Croft gardens in Herefordshire, with 28 guest visitors joining club members to pick up tips from Steve’s vast experience and knowledge from 40 years of work at Hergest.

In a wonderful wide ranging review of his favoured methods and timings for seeds and different types of cuttings everyone went away with tips to try. And many of us were able to take away material to try their hand at propagation from some of the samples of unusual shrubs and trees which he brought along. Steve clearly put a lot of thought and effort into cramming all sorts of plants and cuttings into his van for this event.

My personal favourite points were to incorporate more perlite in the seed and compost medium (Steve uses a 2 to 3 ratio); using seaweed based products only as an early mild feed, and reversing a bag placed over cuttings on a daily basis to avoid excessive moisture dripping onto leaves.

Steve and Mel also brought along a huge range of trees and plants for sale, which he’s recently propagated, and these proved very popular with visitors.

Finally Steve kindly offered to host a trip for club members this autumn to Hergest Croft to take us round the gardens there for a  tour and opportunity to collect seeds from some of the huge, and varied plant collections growing there. Fiona is following up on this, and hopes to have a date for a visit in the near future, for members to mark in their diaries.

Many thanks to Steve and Mel for travelling over to us, and giving us all such a fabulous evening.


Yesterday saw many members visiting Aberglasney for our second annual tea party held on the tea room terrace. Once more the weather was stunning, the food amazing, and the gardens looked superb.

We were really fortunate to time it whilst Aberglasney’s own resident award winning photographer, Nigel MacCall was trying out a new super tall tripod to enable him to get different perspective photos of the gardens. Nigel told us he’s been working in the gardens for over  5 years, though usually on his own at first light, and dusk, so it was a rare chance to see him in action.  For those who don’t know, he’s twice won first prize in the prestigious international IGPOTY garden photography competition with photos he’s taken at Aberglasney.  He’s even apparently been given a special dispensation to do selective pruning to create the perfect shot! Click here to see some of his award winning images. He explained he wasn’t a great photographer of people but was taken by some of the mad hats on show, and so Donna was summoned to pose amongst the Iris and Alliums…

That Nigel has so many stunning vistas to photograph is largely down to the hard work and inspired planting schemes devised over the last decade by head gardener Joseph Atkin, aided by his team of helpers. There’s no question that Aberglasney is becoming more popular, with greater visitor numbers over the years, because of the exceptional standard of garden design and plantings,  whatever the time of year. We’re exceptionally lucky to have such a world class garden with wonderful tea room on our doorstep.

Whilst trying to get a photo of some of the assorted mad hats which several members wore for the occasion……my clear backdrop of the garden scene was interrupted as someone walked past… and then we all noticed who it was…

Thanks very much to Joseph for this good humoured pose, and indeed for everyone at Aberglasney for making it such a lovely day out for us all.


The garden safari date has been fixed for Sunday June 9th, with planned visits to  several member’s gardens. Yvonne will send out an email with more details in due course for any members able to join this enjoyable day out.


A reminder that June’s meeting promises to be another great one with Helen Picton from the UK’s most famous Aster (Michaelmas Daisy) nursery, Old Court Nursery Malvern  coming to talk to us about her favourite plants, and how to grow them. Helen will also be bringing along plants for sale. Click here for Helen’ Website for a flavour of what she grows.


Finally, as a quick reminder, now’s the perfect time to collect seeds from Crocus and snowdrop seed pods. A little earlier than usual, in our garden this has been a bumper year, and even if the seed is just scattered straight away in other areas of the garden, it’s a really easy way to get plants established without the fag of having to plant yet more bulbs. Though sowing just beneath the soil surface will probably give higher germination success.

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.

___

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.

___

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.

___

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.

 ____

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.

___

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.

Farmyard Nursery Visit; Planting In Containers; Aberglasney Tea party

Those members who managed to take time out for the visit to Farmyard Nurseries this week enjoyed a real treat. Lovely weather and a special guided tour behind the scenes at what must be one of the best working nurseries in Wales, if not the UK.

Richard Bramley and his wife Hazel, pictured above run this impressive enterprise over 3 acres, which they’ve created from scratch over the last 30 years or so. Gordon spotted a feature of the site I’d never thought about before – that it’s a rare example of a large flat site, yet quite high up on  Welsh hillside. Apparently the farmhouse complex was established over 200 years ago by a Scottish farmer who travelled down to Wales to try to show the Welsh how farming should be done!

Aerial photos in Richard’s tea room show what the farm looked like when he and his parents acquired it in the early’80’s, with no sign of any horticultural activity, and how it’s progressed over the years since. 

Richard began with an overview of what’s in the 50 plus polytunnels, and then took us through a few  with herbs and bedding plants growing on, and past several members of his team of staff busy at work watering, weeding and potting on.

Next came advice about potting plants and him introducing us to his potting supremo, Jack. There was even a mini potting-on contest, which Jack won hands down, with an almost machine like efficiency, a blur of dibber and hands, plug plants and labels.

On to the bottom of the nursery and tunnels of Richard’s extensive Hellebore collection… his National Collection of Primula sieboldii (guess who liked these…) which were at their peak……  past the huge open plant sale area…… and then into the more recent tunnels holding a recently acquired National Collection of carnivorous Sarracenia, or pitcher plants. Richard and staff have recently been working on cutting back last year’s pitchers to allow room for the new growths and flowers. Along with making divisions which end up in a separate sales tunnel.

Then on through the cuttings and seed sowing sheds, and more valuable tips on how they do this…… before back to the cafe for tea and cakes.

Finally we all spread out across the nursery hunting out a few (?) special plants to take home to add to our gardens.

Thanks  very much to Richard and all his staff for giving us such a great afternoon out and the chance to see how the nursery ticks. For any who couldn’t make it, click here for Richard’s website where you can scroll through the vast range of plants he has for sale.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Next Wednesday sees our April speaker meeting at Pumsaint hall, when Gareth Davies will be coming to talk to us about growing plants in containers. All welcome at 7.15 for 7.30 pm.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Finally a reminder about the planned tea party trip to Abeglasney gardens on Wednesday May 22nd at 3 pm. Fiona and I visited recently and for anyone who hasn’t been within the last 3 months, you’ll be amazed at how much work has happened with big changes to the gardens and plantings. It should be looking glorious in May when we visit, but we’ll need your booking and payment in advance, preferably this month, or at May’s meeting at the latest, so do remember to sort this out at the next meeting if possible. (Afternoon tea £12 – a complete meal in itself- and reduced entry of £7.25 pp) . Click here for the Aberglasney website.

 

Spring News and Upcoming Events

Cothi gardeners enjoyed another great evening and talk last week from Louise Austin, the project manager for the Twyi Gateway Trust, overseeing the restoration of the gardens and some of the buildings at the Bishop’s Palace at Abergwili, Carmarthen.

Using slides of old maps, photographs and the current detailed plans of the programme of works up to August 2021, Louise explained the several hundred years of history and multiple changes to the grounds and buildings, along with mention of several of the notable Bishops of St. Davids who lived at the Palace up until the 1970’s when the site was handed over to Carmathenshire County Council.

Click here for more about what’s going on over the year ahead, or if you’re interested in a trip to the site by Cothigardeners, do let Yvonne know.

Next month’s meeting, on Wednesday April 17th at 7.30 pm sees Gareth Davies from Talybont on Usk coming to talk to us about growing plants in containers – surely something we all do in some way, and Gareth will inspire us with lots of ideas for containers in 2019.

Other dates for your diaries:

  • Thursday 11 April, 2pm. Farmyard Nurseries, Llandysul for nursery tour with Richard Bramley followed by tea/coffee and cake. Richard has asked whether we would like a demonstration or talk when we visit. If you have any preference, then please let Yvonne know and also confirm if you would like to attend. Richard has a massive range of plants including the National Plant Collections of both Primula sieboldii, ( above, which will probably be at their peak in his polytunnels) and Sarracenia (Pitcher) carnivorous plants, so there will be lots to see.
  • Wednesday 22 May, 3pm. Mad Hatters Tea Party, Aberglasney. Afternoon tea £12 per person, plus reduced entry fee £7.25 per person (total £19.25) to be paid by April meeting, please. Form on the entrance table at meetings, or let Yvonne know if you would like to attend.
  •  Our annual Garden Safari, planned for early June. We’re looking for members to open their gardens, large or small, for members to visit.It is always interesting visiting other people’s gardens as there’s invariably something new to learn, even for the more experienced gardeners among us. Is there someone willing to host a shared picnic lunch please? (members to bring food). Exact date to be confirmed in due course.
  • Sunday 7 July, Ceredigion Growers Plant Fair, 10-3pm – forms for volunteers and cake/plant donations available at next month’s meeting.
  • Our August meeting’s  growing challenge – edible flowers/leaves in any form, eg cordial, flowers, leaves, cake – edible leaves. For some more ideas on what we can grow, try looking at www.maddocksfarmorganics.co.uk/edible-flowers-list have lists of edible flowers, how to grow them and how to crystallise them. And also  for some edible wild plants https://matteroftrust.org/14760/62-edible-wild-plants-that-you-didnt-know-you-can-eat; .
  • Finally advance notice of our May 15 th meeting when Steve Lloyd from Hergest Croft gardens is coming to Cothi, and is going to 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 amounts 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. 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. Book it in your diaries now!

Other events further afield which might interest CG members:

  • 6 April, Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens near Horsham, West Sussex reopens after being closed for 9 years. 240 acres with Loder Rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias.
  • Wednesday 10 April, 7.30pm, Boncath. Richard Cave of Melcourt Industries, who produce peat free compost, are coming to Llechryd Gardening Club, Boncath. He will be describing the manufacturing process of their products and will bring samples for us to handle and learn their various uses. Some CG members use their compost, and also some local growers including The National Botanic Garden of Wales and Penlan Perennials. Entry is free for visitors. They usually have a raffle.
  • RHS Cardiff Flower Show. Friday April 12th to Sunday 14th. Click here for more details.                                                                                                                                                        __________________________________________________________________________________

Finally after a lovely spell of weather, keep your eyes peeled around the garden, you never know what you might see. Common lizards seem to enjoy basking on our outside watering standpipe, as the late afternoon sunshine warms this spot. They’re as regular as clockwork, around tea time, and don’t seem to mind me pausing to admire… 

See the separate page for the topical tips from last meeting, or click here.