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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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Green’s Leaves; Fantastic Fungi; Terry Walton; Christmas Lunch

Paul Green of Green’s Leaves Nursery

September’s meeting saw a very welcome return by Paul Green from Green’s Leaves Nursery. Paul once again built his talk around a fantastic and diverse selection of plants that he’d brought along, persuading us of the merits of plants which look great at this early autumn period and on into winter.

Ranging through grasses, trees and small perennials, there was something for everyone to enjoy, and the talk was laced with practical tips (remember to lift any outside pots off the ground over winter to prevent water logging and root death), to snippets of fascinating information (Alder Buckthorn is not only one of the main larval food plants for the caterpillars of the Brimstone Butterfly, but also originally the favoured wood for making high quality charcoal to incorporate into gun powder!)

An enjoyable evening all round, and great to see several new members join us.


Bruce Langridge – ‘Fantastic and Phenomenal Fungi’

Next week’s talk on ‘Fantastic and Phenomenal Fungi’ by Bruce Langridge promises to be really interesting – Bruce is responsible for establishing the Wales Fungi Day at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, taking place this Sunday 14th October and it’s been so successful that a similar event is now held at over 80 venues nationally. Click here for more information.


Terry Walton – “The Life of a Media Allotmenteer”

Advance notice for November’s meeting when our speaker  will be Terry Walton on the subject “The Life of a Media Allotmenteer”. Terry promises to give us a look behind the scenes as he tells us about life on his allotment in the Rhondda and how he has given growing advice on the radio each month for over twelve years.

A gardener of over 40 years’ experience, Terry has worked plots on the same site since he was a boy, learning from his father and other allotment gardeners. Many of you will be familiar with his enthusiastic style, so do come along on November 21st  to meet Terry. Click here for his facebook page.

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


Christmas Lunch

Initial bookings for the lunchtime Christmas meal at The Forest Arms, Brechfa are coming in, so don’t forget to sign up soon – there may be a limit on numbers which we could broach this year, with the increased membership. The cost is £20 per head. Please give your menu choices (including any dietary requirements/allergies) plus a 50% deposit when you book your place. The menu is shown below. The date is Wednesday December 12th, 12.30 for 1 pm.


Monthly Tips

3 Tips from Julian……………..

I find myself collecting seeds from quite a few plants at this time of the year. Obviously It’s a good idea to collect them on a dry day if you can manage that, but also it’s worth labelling them and quickly storing them in the fridge so that they don’t become too dry which can easily happen if they’re left on the side in a warm house. We had a few days in Sussex recently and were fortunate to visit Gravetye Manor which was the home of William Robinson at the beginning of the last century. He was perhaps the driving force in moving gardens towards a more naturalistic, less formal type of garden design. However I didn’t know until this visit that he injured himself very badly after slipping on a stile whilst walking to church, and spent the last 25 years of his life confined to a wheel chair. But apparently right up to the end of his days, he loved scattering seeds of his favourite plants around his garden and meadows and enjoying the excitement of seeing what germinated.

Gravetye Manor flower garden

I’ve also found that the 2 pronged weeding fork I mentioned earlier in the year as a great tool will work as a bulb planting implement for small bulbs like Crocus and fritillaries, which limits the extent to which you have to bend over. But I’ve also found it’s not a good idea to twist it too much, or you end up with a single pronged fork! Which is still ok for bulb planting, and for using as a strut or support but not so good for weeding!

Finally I’m guessing a lot of people will have a surfeit of apples this year. We have, so I’ve been juicing and freezing a lot. This generates quite a lot of pulp and trimmings. I did read that mice and voles love apples (certainly our rats do!) So I’ve been scattering all the apple debris around near where I’ve planted my Crocus in the hope that the rodents are distracted by the smell and taste of this. And therefore leave the corms alone. In previous years I’ve sometimes lost 80% of newly planted Crocus within a few days (in spite of dousing them in Chilli powder and vinegar) with them being systematically dug up and eaten. Fingers crossed, but so far I haven’t seen any signs of dug out, chomped Crocus this year. Also although it sounds a bit messy, actually all the bits turns brown very quickly and they have the added bonus of attracting in the few slugs we currently have left in the garden, which can then very easily be dealt with at night if you go round with a torch. In whatever way you like to do that! Of late since bending not’s so good for me, I’ve been using John’s suggested method of stamping on them, though I suppose if I sharpened the spike on my weeding fork I could try skewering…


 

Socials, safaris and Green’s Leaves

Summer Social

In spite of many members being away, our August get together still managed to garner a reasonable attendance. This year we had the additional attraction of the presentation of the cheque of £500, our donation from the Plant Fair proceeds, to Clive from Wales Air Ambulance. Again many thanks to everyone who made this possible.

John, Jenny and Julian hand over the cheque to Clive from Wales Air Ambulance


Growing Challenge

The evening was also the culmination of our Growing Challenge. This year we were asked to grow something that would appeal to pollinators. It proved to be a very real challenge for many of us due to the extraordinary weather we have experienced – a long, hard winter, the prolonged ‘Beast from the East’ Spring and then the summer drought which only came to an end a week or so before the meeting.

Nonetheless there were some very interesting results …………..

Jane: Beebombs……. to quote from the bee bomb website: “Hand made in Dorset, Beebombs are a mix of 18 British wildflower seeds, fine, sifted soil and locally sourced clay. Our seeds are native species and designated by the Royal Horticultural Society as “Perfect for Pollinators” . Beebombs just need to be scattered onto cleared ground to create a wildflower meadow that will bringthebeesback”. Jane said her ‘bomb’ proved very successful. Click here for the  Beebombs website.

Gordon: Teazle; Cardoons and Bumble Bees. Both proved excellent at attracting pollinators. Gordon’s photo shows the amazing number of bumble bees on one Cardoon flowerhead.

Jenny: Herbs and Cosmos. Both attracted insects, the Marjoram being the favourite.

John: John’s first choice plant failed to flower in time so not to be outdone, he had as a backup a Rudbeckia.  Rudbeckias are excellent late flowering plants for attracting butterflies in particular.

Brenda: Nepeta. A popular cottage garden plant always attractive to many insects.

Julian: Salvias – Julian realised that the Salvias he had chosen had flowers with long throats which made them inaccessible to bees as their proboscis were not long enough to reach the nectar. However Bumble Bees managed to overcome this by chewing a hole in the base of the flower ‘robbing’ the nectar without pollinating!

Fiona: Herbs and flowers. Planted to ceate a succession of flowers through the year. This worked up to a point with the Alliums and Borage flowering early. Unfortunately the Dill was a casualty of the drought and flowered late and poorly and coincided with marjoram in the garden which all insects seemed to prefer!

Jenny L: Sarracenia – a novel take on the subject, Jenny brought her carnivorous, insect attracting  plant!

Julian had also brought along some Erodium manescavii seeds  to demonstrate how ingenious they are, creating a spiral ‘auger’ to drive them into the ground as they dry. If on a hard surface, they will then straighten out when wet. Small hairs along the stem and seed head speed up the transition.

The challenge discussion was then followed by a buffet of delicious food brought by those attending and a light-hearted competition on garden bird feathers identification kindly organised by Colin.


This year’s Garden Safari takes place on Friday 7th September with visits to Yvonne and Colin and Tina, Derek and Kates’ gardens. Parking is limited at both gardens so we are asked to car share, meeting in Ffarmers village hall car park at 1.15pm and going on to Yvonne’s for 1.30pm. We will then head over to Tina’s rounding off the afternoon with tea and cake. If those that can could bring a small offering (cake, biscuits, sandwiches, etc) to share that would be a great help.


Paul Green of Green’s Leaves Nursery

Our regular meeting in September takes place on Wednesday the 19th when Paul Green makes a welcome return. Green’s Leaves Nursery in Newent was established over twenty years ago and since then Paul and his team have become firm favourites among gardeners looking for something out of the ordinary. Paul is an entertaining speaker with a wealth of knowledge about rather unusual plants which will nevertheless grow well in our climate. He is always on the look-out for something new, but tests all new species for hardiness before putting them on general sale, and, of course, he will be bringing a selection of plants for sale on the evening.

Click here for his website.


 

The Dreaded Gardener; Members Social; Garden Safari; Drought Busters; Gardener’s World; Other Events

Malcolm Berry – The Dreaded Gardener:  ‘Weaving the Web:Towards a Natural Garden’

Malcolm’s talk about how he tries to garden in a way to create ‘dynamic stability’ where flora and fauna exist in harmony struck a chord with many of us. The State of Nature reports indicate that in Wales 1 in 14 species are heading for extinction, in a large part due to loss of habitat. To try and offset this even those with small gardens can help. Biodiversity was at the root of his message: diversity creates diversity, the greater the diversity in flora the greater the diversity in fauna.

 

Ideas he has implemented in his own garden:

  • Varied habitats such as a pond, mini meadow, deciduous and evergreen hedges, mature trees and shrubs, dry stone walls, log piles, stone piles.

Mini Meadow © Malcolm Berry

  • Flower counts throughout the year to assess where/when there is a lack. Self seeding annuals to increase flower numbers
  • Polyculture rather than monoculture: mixing veg in with shrubs and perennials. More naturalistic and gives better protection against pests and disease.
  • Clear areas for veg planting in Spring, weed through growing season, stopping in August. By winter the mix of weeds and crops cover and protect the soil which is better for both soil and habitats. Weeds are also a good winter flower source.
  • No power machinery, he uses only hand tools

© Malcolm Berry

  • Compost: use comfrey in layers when turning compost as it is a good activator
  • Seed saving: from most veg. Some such as parsnips, runner beans and leeks require a minimum of 16 plants to save seed from in order to retain diversity. Only save seed from the best plants/fruit. Store seeds in an air-tight tub in fridge with silicon gel packets as this significantly reduces conditions required for germination.

Parsnip seed saving © Malcolm Berry

  • The Moon: He uses the Maria Thun Biodynamic Calendar which shows the optimum days for sowing, pruning and harvesting various plants and crops.
  • Non-interventionist approach, no pesticides or herbicides, nature will balance things out. He grows sacrificial plants to avoid significant predation on veg.
  • Minimum tillage, he does not turn the soil, practices good crop rotation and uses green manures to maintain condition and fertility.

It was a very interesting talk and generated many questions from the audience.


Members Social and Growing Challenge 7.30pm Coronation Hall, Pumsaint

Our August meeting is our members’ social evening when we meet for a relaxed get together bringing a plate of food to share. This year due to our increasing numbers, it is being held in the hall rather than a member’s home.

Pots planted for pollinators – with varying degrees of success!

The evening is also when we share the results of this year’s growing challenge. We were asked to plant up a pot with plants for pollinators. Do bring along your pots even if they haven’t turned out quite as expected – it has been a very challenging year weather-wise, but we can all learn from our successes and failures! If you can’t manage to bring the pot itself do try and get some photos of it and bring them along instead.

 

The evening will also be when we will be handing over our donation from the proceeds from the plant fair, a cheque for £500,  to Wales Air Ambulance.


Garden Safari

The garden safari is a club event in which we get to visit the gardens of those club members who wish to participate. The number of gardens taking part varies year to year, this year there will be just 2, Yvonne’s and Tina’s. The date on which it will take place is Friday September 7th. More details will be given at the summer social.


Drought Busters

A tip from Elena for watering…

  1. Place a large tub in a wheelbarrow.
  2. Fill with old washing up water – You can also add feed to the tub
  3. Dunk hanging baskets in the tub holding underwater till all the bubbles stop
  4. Lift out and rest on the rim of the tub to drain, some will also drop into barrow and can be re-used!
  5. Rehang you well-watered basket. Works well with small pots too

And from Julian: we’re now having to use my huge number of water filled polycarbonate drinks bottles as a valuable water resource with our spring running low, but I also found that if you drill a tiny hole in the top of the bottle cap, upend it, and ram it into the soil beside squash, courgettes or tomatoes, it’ll deliver variable, but fairly slow water release over a few days – good if you have to go away for a weekend in hot weather.

From the white board: water Camellias and other Spring flowering shrubs now to encourage flowers next Spring.

Some plants which seem to be coping well with the lack of rain, and don’t need watering:

Jenny says….

  • Rudbeckia, Antirrhinum, Sweet William and Californian poppy.
  • Yellow Loosestrife, hostas and several unknown varieties of alliums have all flowered really well with minimal watering.

Sandy says…..

  • her 3 foot high unknown Phlox are doing well, and her Gunnera! She does live by a river which might help explain it.

Plants John and Helen have found are drought resistant are:

  • Erodium manescavii, Platycodon grandiflora and Scutellaria albida

Erodium manescavii with Geranium sanguinium

Julian and Fiona have found

  • Sea campion, Knapweed and Bird’sfoot Trefoil are all tough native plants to try, plus roses and clematis all seem to be thriving.

Ty’r Maes NGS Open Day

John and Helen had their NGS open day on Sunday. All John’s hard work watering to try and keep the garden looking good along with a little bit of help from the storms of the previous week certainly paid off. The garden was looking beautiful. The sun shone and the visitors flocked in – John said it was their best day for several years.  As always, thanks from them to all their helpers and cake bakers and to John and Helen for their donation to Cothi Gardeners funds.


Upcoming Events

Gardener’s World: Keith Brown whom many of us know for his lovely garden and talks he has given to Cothi Gardeners in the past, has been filmed for Gardener’s World. The piece is due to be aired THIS FRIDAY 10th August at 9pm

Llandeilo Permaculture Group: Llandeilo Permaculture Group have scored a coup, booking Permaculture designer Geoff Lawton for a talk in the Civic Hall on August 24th, 7pm. He’s done TED talks and lots more. This is his only date in Wales. Tickets are £10, includes a light buffet.

September Meeting

Paul Green from Green’s Leaves Nursery will be paying us another visit after his very enjoyable talk last year….. and he will be bringing plants again! Put the date in your diaries: Wednesday September 19th at 7.30pm


 

Cothi Gardeners Plant Fair

Cothi Gardeners Inaugural Plant Fair

Sunday 8th July dawned clear and sunny and turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year, perhaps not ideal weather for anyone organising a plant fair! Fears that the heat would deter visitors and stallholders alike proved unfounded and the day was a resounding success with over 300 visitors.

The site was enjoyed by all with easy access for nurseries and stall holders, good parking for visitors and wonderful refreshments in the hall. Huge congratulations and thanks to John Brooks and his team for masterminding the day and putting so much time and effort into all the planning. Also thanks are due to all members of Cothi Gardeners who pulled out the stops to help in one way or another, cake baking, supplying plants, manning stalls, setting up, taking down, car parking supervision and much more. It was a real team effort and one of which we can be justifiably proud.

  

The nurseries and other stallholders seemed unanimous in giving it a ‘thumbs up’ and hope to join us again next year. A big thank you to all the nurseries and stall holders who supported us.


Next Meeting Wednesday, July 18th

Malcolm Berry – The Dreaded Gardener on Facebook will be giving a talk entitled “Weaving The Web: Towards A Natural Garden”
His website is dedicated to helping educate people about how to produce their own healthy food, and encourage biodiversity, using a mix of approaches combined under the banner of ‘Natural Gardening’. This includes aspects of permaculture, organic and biodynamic practice, and what comes naturally to him.
All welcome, starts at 7.30pm, £3 for non-members (includes refreshments).


 

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

Primula Sieboldii – Richard Bramley from Farmyard Nurseries

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

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

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

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

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

Other primulas:

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

Primula florindae: a yellow, later flowering variety

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

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


Aberglasney Tea Party

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

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

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

  

A very successful and thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.


Plant Fair

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

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

Volunteers still needed to help make the day run smoothly.

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


Growing Challenge

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


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

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


Wild Flower Walk and Orchid Count

Message from Helen Bradley from Plantlife:

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


Monthly Tips

Seed Collection

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

Watering

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

Splitting Daffodils

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