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.

Snowdrops; Bishop’s Palace Restoration project; Tea Party; Summer Plant Fair; Lan Farm.

The 2019 programme of speakers began last month with Cothi’s previous chairman Julian giving a talk/slide show on his passion for snowdrops. Not just covering the great variety of snowdrops in an attempt to persuade his audience that all snowdrops aren’t the same, it also dipped into when snowdrops might have arrived in the UK; how best to cultivate them; some of the amazing properties of snowdrops and a little bit about Julian’s project to assemble a database of Welsh snowdrops from pre 1850 sites. This has now probably passed the significant mark of over 150 forms from over 70 sites. It was great to see so many members at the meeting as well as several new faces, some of whom have donated snowdrops from their properties to Julian for his Snowdrop hunt.

After the talk, and following the interest in a similar auction last year, Julian auctioned off a number of his snowdrops, most named or linked with historic female galanthophiles, to put across the message that it isn’t just sad old blokes who fall under snowdrop’s spell! It raised a useful £54 for club funds, with top price going to one of the two  snowdrops on offer named after chaps – Cedric’s Prolific, selected by the great Beth Chatto from bulbs given to her by the artist Cedric Morris, whose garden it originally came from.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________Next month’s talk at 7.30 pm on Wednesday March  20th sees Louise Austin from Tywi gateway Trust coming to talk to us about the big project to restore the gardens at The Bishop’s Palace, Abergwili, Carmarthen. Click here for more information on the trust’s aims, but for those who’ve never visited the site, it was the private garden for the Bishops of St. Davids and has a history going back several hundred years. Louise will tell us much more about what’s been done already, and how anyone interested can get involved with volunteer work. By coincidence, Julian and Fiona visited the site 2 years ago after contacting the trust, and although there aren’t huge numbers of snowdrops on the site, were able to collect a small sample of a late flowering form to include in his snowdrop database. There is a lovely old walled garden, as well as wonderful woodland walks surrounding  the main Palace building which has been the site of the Carmarthenshire museum for many years. An aerial view of the site below, from the 1950’s…

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The Cothigardeners tea party at Aberglasney has been booked again for this summer after the success of last year, with a date of Wednesday May 22nd at 3 pm. The brilliant tea is £12 pp and a reduced garden entry of £7.25 pp for any members attending. Julian will need names and payments by the April meeting at the latest please, so we do hope many members will be able to make it, and once more we’ll be aiming to wear some sort of mad hats… ( though you don’t have to !) Whether we can manage weather as special as last year remains to be seen…

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Yvonne announced at last month’s meeting that there will be another plant fair this summer, on Sunday July 7th at Coronation hall Pumsaint. Although Ceredigion Grower’s Association will be hosting this year’s events, the gardening club will still have a plant stall, tombola and provide the refreshments, so make a note in your diaries, and look out for more information on how you can be involved and help out, before the big day, or with actual volunteer help on the Sunday. Again, it will be interesting to see what the weather is like this year!

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Last year, we were delighted that Karen Thomas from Talley joined Cothigardeners, and for those who don’t know, Karen is another member who has designed and made a beautiful garden which opens for charity under the National Garden Scheme, by arrangement. Having visited a couple of years ago, I can vouch for what a special place it is, and Karen joins the 4 other Cothi members who open their gardens some, or most, years in this way – a really impressive thing for such a small club, and all 5 gardens have been created by the current owners, which is even more special. So do think about getting up to see Karen’s really interesting and beautiful garden this year – you’ll get a very warm welcome, and the views are spectacular. Click here for more information on the garden and when it opens to the public in 2019.

Winter Gardening Weekend 2019 – Llandysul February 15,16,17th

A reminder to everyone that the excellent annual winter gardening weekend held in Llandysul takes place in just under a week’s time. It starts on Friday February 15th at 10.00am and is open on Saturday and Sunday as well, each day until 5 pm.

Once more it’s taking place in the Tysul Hall Llandysul, (SA44 4QJ) and for those who haven’t been before the event is once more being staged by Richard Bramley and his team at Farmyard Nurseries. The format, as always, is a fantastic garden show style stage display of plants, with huge numbers of plants to buy in the hall along with a range of other stallholders. Entry is FREE, and in addition to all the plants, there are 3 different speakers each day – again no charge to turn up & listen, though it’s a good idea to get there early, since seating is more limited than at our Cothi meetings.

For a list of speakers, topics and more about the event, click here.

For those who haven’t been before, it’s a great way to start the new gardening year, maybe catch up with friends and maybe come away with some great plants and new ideas to try out.

A few years back we bought some Cyclamen coum plants, to try in the garden, from Farmyard at this spring event. This is what some of them and their offspring looked like this week after a bit of TLC. Who says you can’t have colour in the garden in February?

Amazing things, so go along next weekend and be surprised.

There’s also a great on site refreshment area serving hot drinks, cakes and such like. A great day out, whatever the weather.

There’s also an easy to access car park about 100 yards before you get to the hall, on the left, just off the lower one way system in Llandysul.

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A little further away, after our first meeting at Pumsaint on Wednesday February 20th, there’s also another FREE event in Carmarthen called Seedy Saturday, which is an opportunity to swap seeds and ideas, as well as buy a range of recycled gardening tools, supplied by Self Reliance Cymru. This takes place from 10.00 am to 3 pm, in St. Peter’s Hall, Nott Square Carmarthen (SA31 1PG). Click here for more details.

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AGM and February Meeting

The new year for Cothigardeners began in customary style with the AGM held in the hall, followed by a shared meal, and another fiendishly challenging quiz set, and hosted by Derek, ably assisted by Tina.  A total of 39 members, out of the current membership of 57,  was a great turn out,  possibly aided by everyone wanting to escape yet more Brexit related wall to wall media coverage, on the night of the vote of confidence in the government.

Apologies were received from Jenny, Gordon, Karen, Anthony, Ann, and Nina.

The chairman and treasurer’s annual reports were read and passed, thanks given to all on the committee for their stirling work in 2018, and then the election of new committee members took place.

The new chair for 2019, Yvonne, was elected, with other changes to the committee : Alison joining to help with meet and greet; Rosalind taking over refreshments; Jenny and Fiona as programme secretaries; and Julian  taking over as website administrator.

After discussion over the new reduced (for 2019) single and new couple membership fees for the year ahead, the AGM was closed. 

Many thanks for all the members who joined us for the AGM and supper, and particularly for the excellent and varied food offerings which everyone brought along and which ensured no one went away hungry.

Some pictures taken by Fiona capture some of the action, particularly as we were randomly split into teams for the quiz.

It seems a long way away, but the first meeting of the year is on Wednesday February 20th at 7.30 pm in Pumsaint hall. Our ex chairman Julian returns to the front of the hall for one last time to give an illustrated talk titled “Confessions of a galanthophile”.

Want to know a bit more about snowdrops?

Julian and Fiona own the only garden open in South and mid Wales in 2019 for the National Garden Scheme’s snowdrop festival.  

Julian will explain why he loves snowdrops, tell you a little about snowdrop species and their distribution as well as some interesting facts about snowdrops. He’ll talk a little about snowdrop myth and history, snowdrop cultivation, and some of his favourite cultivars. You’ll also hear a bit about his  ongoing Historic Welsh Snowdrop Hunt, which is slowly establishing a unique collection of Welsh native snowdrops from pre 1850 sites.

Finally there will be a quick fire auction of some snowdrops to raise funds for the club, and a range of named snowdrops will also be available for sale.

More information and photographs of snowdrops at their garden can be found on their website …Click here for more.

Free to all members, as always, and just £3 for visitors. Arrive any time after 7 pm to join us, and have a chat and hot drink before the meeting starts at 7.30 pm.

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The complete programme of speakers for 2019  is now available on a separate drop down web page.  More events will be added as and when they are confirmed, as separate posts or on the separate Events Page.

If you’re not already following us, do click on the tab to follow, or follow us on Facebook, and make sure you don’t miss out on any Cothigardeners news.

If you have any news or ideas you’d like discussing on the blog pages, or at the committee meetings, do email Julian, the new website administrator, on this email: cothigardeners@gmail.com

 

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

Terry Walton – The Life of a Media Allotmenteer

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

Terry

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

First Slide - with Jeremy Vine                  Terry Walton 2

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

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

Parsnips:

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

Leeks:

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

Beans:

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

Courgettes:

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

Peas:

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

Lettuce:

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

Onions:

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

Brassicas:

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

Carrots:

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

Potatoes:

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

Peppers:

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

Spring Onions:

  • Sow in buckets every 2 weeks

Tomatoes:

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

Garlic:

  • Best varieties to grow are UK ones

Strawberries:

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

Other tips:

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

Book signing


Some topical tips from Julian:

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


Cothi Gardeners Christmas Lunch at the Forest Arms, Brechfa

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

      

      

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

 


Committee Members Needed

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


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

Membership renewals:

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

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


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


 

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

Fascinating and Phenomenal Fungi

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

Embroidered Fungi

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

Examples of fungi brought in to the meeting

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

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

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


Committee Members Needed

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


Membership

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

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

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


Terry Walton

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

© Terry Walton

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

© Terry Walton

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

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


Christmas Lunch

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


Topical Tips

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

Autumn planting

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

Winter Squash

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