Saving Pollinators

Any other members measure their rainfall totals?

To quote Melvin Udall addressing a group of depressed psychiatric patients in the film of the same title : “What if this is as good as it gets?” By which I mean the seemingly unending rain – it looks like we’ll have clocked up 6 consecutive months with 200 mm plus by the end of February, which we’ve never managed before, whilst I’ve been measuring rainfall here.

So thank goodness we’re all gardeners and can see the positive side of things – brilliant weather for lifting and splitting snowdrops, or even early daffodils. And thank goodness that many spring bulbs seem to shrug off all this inclement weather and look almost as good after storms Ciara and Dennis have whizzed through.

Plus our frogs  clearly aren’t bothered…

But early pollinators really do struggle with this sort of weather, so a reminder that tomorrow’s talk, Wednesday February 19th,  will be an up to date insight into how our own National Botanic Garden of Wales is at the cutting edge of research into what we can do to help pollinators of all kinds. Both Lucy Witter and Abigail Lowe will be talking about their own studies, so do come along and enjoy the first talk of the year.

7 pm for a 7.30 pm start at the hall in Pumsaint.


Has anyone checked their seeds and cuttings from the trip to Hergest Croft gardens last year?

I’m hoping to do a montage of what we’ve managed to propagate, and also forward it onto Steve and Mel for their interest, so if everyone who went on the trip could have a look at any pots they have over the next few weeks, and ideally send me a photo or two, that would be great.

A couple of pictures of some of my cuttings  – Buddleja, Salvia, Hydrangea, Acer all looking good so far…

And one of them even has a label on it!

Sad News

WordPress who host our website have just informed me that it’s apparently five years ago today that Fiona started the Cothigardeners website, but today this brief post is to let fellow members know the very sad news that Dave Bevan passed away peacefully this morning at home just as this wonderful sunrise broke across the valley that Dave and Avril, (and us) look down every morning, towards the distant Black Mountain.

Dave has been a wonderful friend over many years and both Dave and Avril have been loyal and involved members of Cothigardeners since we suggested they might like to come along shortly after we’d joined the club. I’m sure everyone would like to remember Avril and the rest of the family in their thoughts and prayers at this sad time.

Some, but not all, will know that amongst many other talents, Dave was an amazing photographer of wildlife and the natural world, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of all related subjects and many of you will probably have seen some of his photos gracing numerous publications over the years.  But such is the lot of skillful photographers, that you usually have to look very hard to find the credit to the man behind the camera. More of a veg gardener than interested in cultivating flowers, I particularly remember a glorious photo of his, of insect covered fennel flowers which graced the front cover of the RHS The Garden magazine, a few years back. I praised Dave for its quality after I’d spotted his name credited in the small print inside,  yet often he only heard about the use of his images in such prestigious locations months down the line.

More recently Dave threw himself with typical enthusiasm and commitment into capturing video footage, shooting everything in the highest quality and with painstaking care to capture many stunning wildlife scenes worthy of inclusion in a top notch TV wildlife show. Even after his diagnosis just before Christmas, he was meticulously staking out an old stone barn on our neighbour’s farm, hoping to catch some images of a Barn Owl which had taken up residence there. I’ve never looked before, but click here for an idea of the quality and diversity of just a little of Dave’s work over the years.

Fiona had already booked him for November 2020 for Cothigardeners, to show a recently edited film he’d created of some of his locally filmed wildlife footage, before his cruel illness struck.  Having discussed this recently with both Dave and Avril, and with their blessing, we hope to still be able to show this film at the November meeting as a tribute to  Dave, and in his memory.

Very warmest wishes, much love and sympathy to Avril and the family at this very sad time.

Happy New Year; AGM Supper, Quiz and Auction.

A very Happy New Year to all Cothi gardeners and readers of this blog.

For any who couldn’t make our Christmas meal at The Forest Arms in December, the photos illustrate how we filled the dining area to capacity, and once again had a brilliant meal and chance to catch up,  thanks to the hard work and attention of George, Louise and their staff. Very many thanks to them all.

So we now dash into 2020, and the gardening challenges of a new decade, beginning with our AGM in about 10 days time on Wednesday January 15th at 7.30 pm, though as always it would be great if everyone can arrive early from 7 pm to help set up tables, etc so that the actual AGM can begin promptly.

Yvonne reminds members that The AGM is a necessary and useful event for a group like ours, it being a chance to socialise more than at our regular speaker meetings. For those who haven’t been before, and dread AGM’s  – firstly it doesn’t take very long, and, secondly there won’t be any arm twisting on the night, though should anyone wish to be considered for a position at this late stage, do let Yvonne know asap, and at least one week before the meeting please. The AGM agenda is as below:

1. Apologies
2. Minutes of 2019 AGM
3. Matters Arising
4. Chairman’s Report
5. Treasurer’s Report
• Membership fee to be increased to £15 per person per year
• Membership year to be changed to 1 February to 31 January. Accounts year to remain unchanged
6. Election of Officers
Chairman
Treasurer
7. AOB

 

The AGM will be followed by supper (please bring a plate of food to share) and then Derek’s quiz, which in a lighthearted way always checks our brains are still working after the Christmas festivities.

There will also be a short auction of items which are not necessarily garden related, which will help to raise funds to supplement the club’s income. If you have anything you would like to donate, please let Yvonne know as soon as possible.

Donations which have already been pledged are:

Some special snowdrops from Julian
Books from Anne & Philip Large

In previous years we’ve had a really good turnout for this evening, and it’s a great start to the new year so look forward to seeing many of you there.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?