Next Meeting on March 18th Cancelled

Most members will already have received news from Jenny that very sadly our planned meeting next Wednesday has had to be cancelled. We hope that we can rearrange the talk from Marion Stainton for some time next year, and are very grateful to Marion for her understanding on this matter.

In a very fast moving situation with the Covid 19 outbreak, and with many members either away, ill or preferring not to attend,  regrettably cancelling the meeting seemed to be the most sensible step to take.

Apologies to all, and do pass on this news to anyone you think might have been planning to attend.

With the weather apparently improving a little next week, at least we can all look forward to more time outside in the fresh air, observing our gardens and the natural world, which are blissfully oblivious to all that’s occurring in the human sphere of influence, explode with typical spring exuberance.

And there’s always something that’s benefited from our mixed weather of late.  Edgworthia chrysantha, a deciduous relative of Daphnes, is flowering better than ever right now (below), with wonderfully scented flower clusters on bare branches which apparently always produce new growth in three directions.

A native of South West China (and Nepal and Japan), it fortunately has a more uplifting presence than their recent inadvertent coronavirus export.

Pollinator Research at the NBGW; Murder, Magic and Plant Potions; Upcoming Events;

We enjoyed a really successful first meeting of the year, even though Lucy, one of our two speakers from the National Botanic Garden of Wales, was unable to make it. Abigail nobly stepped in to cover both their areas of research on pollinators, and in addition had to cope with a laptop failure part way through. Thank goodness for Colin and Mark – Cothi’s own PC techies – for sorting it out swiftly so the talk could continue.

Abigial described Lucy’s work trialling several commercial mixes of annual plants to create pictorial meadows, and assessing just how good the various plants are at attracting the numerous different classes of pollinating insects. Actually it seems only a small percentage of the flowers included in most mixes seem to attract pollinators. ( 2 out of 15 species of plants in June; 6 out of 25 species in July; 6 out of 35 species in August). Lucy is hoping to build on her early work and develop her own mix of seeds to have wider appeal to the hoverflies, bumbles, honeybees and solitary bees which we’ll all have visiting the flowers in our gardens. 

Abigail, who is studying for a PhD at Bangor in association with the NBGW has built on the earlier work of PhD student Laura Jones. She discussed her own work on the analysis of pollen samples both in the honey of bees kept at the NBGW, by using DNA metabarcoding of these samples, and in addition looking at pollen obtained from other solitary bees and hoverflies. She’s trying to establish the plants most commonly visited out of the huge potential range of flowering plants grown at the NBGW site.

In addition the NBGW team have also analysed the DNA in pollen found in honey samples sent in by bee keepers from across the UK.

This has highlighted some fascinating information including:

Only 44 plant taxa were found in more than 5% of the honey samples, and only 4 plants were identified in over 50% of samples. These were Rubus species – mainly brambles; White clover; Brassica – above (e.g. Oil seed rape); and the Maleae tribe – e.g. Hawthorn, Malus (apple – below) and Cotoneaster.

There are peaks of different flowering plants through the seasons, as one might expect  – from Acers, Malus and Prunus in April; Dandelion and Gorse in May and June; Bramble and clover in July; and Heather and Himalayan Balsam in August/September. 

As far as honeybees are concerned the vast majority of their food comes from native woodland and hedgerow plants in spring : Willow, Hawthorn, Cotoneaster, Apple and Cherry, Gorse, Sycamore, Holly, Oak, and Dandelion. Hellebores are the most widely used non native.

Other ornamental garden plants of particular value include : Paeonies, Camassia, Muscari, Viburnum, Wallflowers, Ornamental Alliums, Skimmias, Anemone (below), Roses, Flowering Currants.

For more detailed information on the work in this area at the NBGW, please click here.


Our next meeting is a talk by Marion Stainton, on Wednesday March 18th. As always, the hall is open from 7 pm onwards and help with setting up and refreshments is always welcome, before a 7.30 pm start time.

‘Murder, Magic and Plant Potions’

Marion is active in a broad range of horticultural projects for domestic, commercial and community gardens and spaces.  Her interests are in sustainable, environmentally friendly gardening, including pest management, vegetable growing, plant & garden history and the science behind plants and their uses. She opens her own garden in Herefordshire for the NGS. Marion gives this introduction to the intriguing talk title:

‘An arrow tip poison: a witches flying ointment: a murderous potion & deadly poison; addictive; with psychoactive properties; a wine that may help prevent flu; a cause of severe stomach upset & a cure for cancer; one to induce heart failure; another to reduce the risk of heart disease.  These are all properties of plants that can be found in or near your garden, plus quite a few more.  Add to this some myths and folklore and you have a fascinating alternative view of those lovely plants we walk innocently by every day.  You will never view your garden in the same way’.


Some more local events which might be of interest to members:

This Saturday, March 7 th in Carmarthen :

More details on their Facebook page.


Span Arts BIG Plant Sale are delighted to be hosting BBC 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time on Wednesday 25 March 2020, at The Queen’s Hall in Narberth.

The celebrated panel of gardening experts, including Chris Beardshaw, Pippa Greenwood and Anne Swithinbank with Kathy Clugston in the chair, will be tackling the questions put to them by local gardening enthusiasts.

The panel members have been guests of a diverse range of gardening clubs and other organisations; including recording at the top of Mount Snowdon, broadcasting from Buckingham Palace and answering questions from inside Number 10 Downing Street.

Tickets are £4.50 and include a hot beverage and the bar will be open. If you would like to take part in what is a lovely experience, please book in advance by phoning Span Arts 01834 869323 or book online at Span Art’s website  https://span-arts.ticketsolve.com/shows/873619115

Doors open at 5:00pm and recording at 6.00pm until 8.00pm.

Also : The BIG Plant Sale is back again on May 2nd at Town’s Moore Car park, Narberth!

 


Finally I’m including the programme for our neighbouring gardening club at Drefach Velindre FYI, below :

CLWB GARDDIO DREFACH FELINDRE
GARDENING CLUB – Programme for 2020:
Wednesday, 1st April 2020

Garden Machinery & Tools – Teifi Valley Garden Machinery

Dave and Bob from our local company, Teifi Valley Garden Machinery who have been longstanding supporters of the Club, will be joining us to talk about how to get the best from your garden tools and machinery, their uses and how to maintain them and prolong their life.

 

Wednesday, 6th May 2020

Herbs – Andrew Cook, Rhoshill Garden Plants

Andrew will give a talk on herbs and how to grow and use them for culinary and medicinal purposes.  A selection of herbs will be made available to smell and taste during the talk. There will also be a selection of peat-free grown and naturally maintained herbs on sale.

 

Wednesday, 3rd June 2020

Flowers – tips on presenting your Flowers and Plants for the Show – Lisa Cockroft

Lisa has been the Flower Judge at our Annual Show for the past few years and we are delighted that she has agreed to join us to share her tips on how to grow and present your flowers and plants to their very best.

 

Wednesday, 1st July 2020

Evening with Cheese and Wine and – Vines and Wines – Wayne Campbell

Wayne and Sally planted their vineyard at Pant y Ffynnon, Cwmpengraig in 2015. Wayne will take us through all the processes from growing to harvesting and making the wine. He will include some advice to members who make and show wines.

 

Wednesday, 5th August 2020

Seeds: Saving, Storing and Using –  Andrea Sanders, Lampeter Seed Library

Andrea will talk to us about how to save, store and use vegetable, fruit, herb, grains and edible flower seeds.   One of the main principles of the seed library is to encourage more people to save seeds and grow their own food.

 

Wednesday, 2nd September 2020

Getting the Best from House Plants – Mair Howe

Mair (Mia) is a long-standing member of the Club and she will be sharing her extensive knowledge of how to look after your house plants: what to do … and what not to do!

 

Wednesday, 7th October 2020

Open evening – The Gardens at Winchester Cathedral – Emma Sharpe

Emma, a Gardening Club member and former Head Gardener at Winchester Cathedral, will be joining us to share an illustrated talk on what goes into maintaining the gardens and grounds surrounding the historic Cathedral.

 

Wednesday, 4th November 2020

Pruning –  Joseph Atkin, Head Gardener Aberglasney

Joseph is a regular speaker at the Club and we are delighted that he will join us again this year to share his wisdom in the art of pruning.   There will be plenty of opportunity to test his knowledge with your most challenging questions.

 

Wednesday, 25th November 2020

Christmas Buffet and Willow Weaving Demonstration – Justine Burgess, West Wales Willows

Justine will talk to us about growing, cutting and preparing willow ready for weaving and will give a practical demonstration.
2020 Programme of Talks & Events
Wednesday, 8th January 2020

The History and Medicinal Properties of Monarda – Carole Whittaker, Glyn Bach Gardens

Glyn Bach Gardens holds the National Collection of Monarda, a beautiful late summer perennial with a fascinating history and great medicinal properties.  Carole will be telling us more about this remarkable plant

 

Wednesday, 5th February 2020

Annual General Meeting and Cake Tasting Competition

A chance to showcase your favourite cake recipe.  The winning cake will feature as the Set Recipe in the Show Schedule for the Annual Horticultural and Craft Show..

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!

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.

 

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    

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

Plants and Tips; Wildflower meadows; Which Compost to Use?

A quick post to remind readers that anyone with any plants for sale to raise funds for the club can bring them along to the monthly meetings where we have a plant stall table at the rear of the hall.  Just pop a label in with what the plant is and a fair price. Each year this raises a significant amount towards the cost of our speakers, so we’re very grateful to everyone who brings and buys any plants in this way.

Yvonne is also always pleased to receive any members’ topical tips, either before the meeting, or written up on the white board on the night. Everyone will have their own little tips and routines about the how’s, what’s and when’s of their gardening years, so why not pass these gems on to others in the group?

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I know a number of Cothigardeners have an interest in wildflowers and wildflower meadows, so am including a brief mention of the spring meeting of the Carmarthenshire Meadows Group, (CMG) which is taking place on the morning of Saturday March 23rd at the Red Dragon Hall in Drefach Felindre. SA44 5UG

There will be 3 different brief presentations on how CMG members make hay from their small or large meadows ( often a key part of managing a wildflower meadow) as well as a talk by Dr. Lizzie Wilberforce of the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales on managing grassland nature reserves. So plenty for anyone interested in creating a wildflower meadow area, large or small, to learn from. £3 per person for the morning’s meeting, beginning at 10.00 am. Refreshments included.

I’m convinced that all gardeners can learn a huge amount about how plants behave in natural communities from thinking about the spectacular effects that a traditional wildflower hay meadow can create.

Click here for more details on the CMG meeting.

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Choosing  which compost to use for growing any plants in containers is always a tricky decision. Members may be interested in a meeting at Llechryd gardening club in Boncath on Wednesday April 10th at 7.30 pm, when Richard Cave of Melcourt Industries, who make compost from wood material, will talk about the process and bring along some samples. Held in Boncath village hall. Click here for more on Melcourt. I know some Cothi members use Melcourt and are very happy with it.

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Next Cothi meeting Wednesday March 20th at 7.30 pm for the talk about the restoration of Abergwili Bishop’s Palace garden.