Autumn into Winter with Richard Bramley of Farmyard Nurseries

Richard Bramley, here preparing to give his talk, is from Farmyard Nurseries with 3 acres of land and 50 polytunnels near Llandysul, where 90% of the stock for sale is grown outside which helps to produce hardy plants of many varieties.

He is very keen to encourage people to think more about the colour and interest of plants – trees and shrubs can be grown in autumn and into winter.   Starting with Acers, which are not as difficult to grow as is often thought (though they don’t like wind), he showed many of the different colours, shapes and textures that can be provided by planting them. Liquidambar styraciflua, or Sweetgum, is more tolerant of wind though it doesn’t come into leaf until later in the season. Berberis thunbergii, although it is a bit prickly, is particularly worth having because it is so colourful and produces berries and flowers in addition. Also they can be kept at a smaller size if required by hard pruning, without any detriment to the look of the plant.

Winter stems, such as the many different varieties of Cornus, provide different upright shapes with a wide variety of colours and are very hardy. C. alba ‘Baton Rouge’ is one of the very bright red varieties during the winter and again Cornus produce flowers and berries.

There was a lot of discussion about Hydrangeas! The mopheads were described as ‘blocky’, whereas the Lacecap varieties of Hydrangea macrophylla are to be encouraged. Hydrangeas are (generally) enthusiastic growers and do provide colour in the flowering gap, while the H. paniculata varieties can reach up to 18 – 20 ft. Climbing Hydrangeas need to be treated differently at pruning time as they flower from the previous year’s growth but they will tolerate some shade during the flowering season which makes them very useful.

Fuchsia will grow happily into autumn and, although they will tolerate wet,  they do need plenty of light. Chrysanthemum (if cut down in spring) will last into autumn. Lavender, Nepeta, Astrantia and Campanula plus many of the daisy family, if cut down after previous flowering, can do surprisingly well. There are nearly 200 varieties of Aster now which can continue through autumn and the hybrids don’t get mildew, plus they will tolerate some shade.

Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturmwill also last, as will Leucanthemum, Helenium, Persicaria, Autumn Salvia, Kaffir Lillies, Solidago (Golden Rod), Heliopsis and many more varieties of flowers and shrubs, given some care, will reward the grower in spades (see what I did there).

Grasses will give lots of interest in the winter and there are some quite remarkable ones to try. Imperata cylindrica (Japanese Bloodgrass) when planted in a drift looks as if it’s on fire. Panicum virgatum varieties are very varied and do well when established. Grasses are deciduous and demand very little in the way of care, can be easily split, can be grown from seed and some of them flower.  There are endless varieties of grass to choose from now that will provide an addition to the garden in the cooler months.

We thanked Richard and his support act Mabel (his dog) for his informative and entertaining presentation and took full advantage of the beautiful plants which he had brought for sale from the nursery.

Native Plants as Garden Flowers; Invitation to Local Gardening Clubs; Plant Swap and Sale

Native Plants as Garden Flowers – Talk by Bob Brown of Cotswold Garden Flowers

We were lucky to once again hear an entertaining talk from Bob Brown, founder of the Cotswold Garden Flowers nursery. He started by encouraging us to put the right plant in the right place – something we all know but need constantly reminding of! 

The initial list of headings was to outline the bullet points of his talk i.e. Acclimatised & Easy, Invasive, Garden Worthy etc. Bob went on to describe the different types of plants within the headings and started with the Welsh poppy (hurrah!) and we had conversations about the habits of the plant. He continued to describe many different types of plants which come into the native plant varieties including Achillea, seakale, viper’s bugloss, Mullein, Veronica spicata and many more.

Woodland plants were described next and include Aquilegia vulgaris, Allium sphaerocephalon, wood anemone amongst many others. 

Woodland Edge plants  & bulbs came next, such as the lawn daisies, hen & chicks, single Campanula, Colchicum autumnale, Pulmonaria, celandine varieties etc.

Grasses were the next category, including woodland grasses and Bob is keen on using plants needing structural support being grown within grasses, using the grasses as the support. Dogwoods, which look good with grasses, (Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ in particular) are a favourite – he advises to cut them right down in winter.

Ferns of different types were next and his particular favourite, Polypodium vulgare, because it is evergreen in the winter but has died down by June and so makes way for other plants.

Iris types and the different areas in which they flourish came next and we discussed the very smelly Iris foetedissima (roast beef plant) & had a chat then about what the smell actually is like!

Primula varieties, which have been grown here since Eizabethan times, are a good bombproof plant for many areas. 

Roses, particularly varieties of the small Rosa pimpinellifolia ,were discussed, and then many more of the different native plants including the shrubs Salix purpurea (purple willow) and the different varieties of Sambucus nigra (elder), both of which are fast growing and invasive.

We thanked Bob for his informative and entertaining presentation and took full advantage of the beautiful plants which he had brought for sale from the nursery.

Invitation to Local Gardening Clubs

Drefach Felindre Gardening Club and Llechryd and District Gardening Club have each kindly invited all Cothi Gardeners to attend any of their meetings, which are listed below. We hope that their members will also choose to attend our meetings this year and beyond.

Drefach Felindre Gardening Club

All meetings are held at 7.30 pm in the Red Dragon Hall.  Guests simply pay £2 per meeting which includes refreshments.

Open evening October 5th

The speaker is Stuart Akkermans, ‘Cae Hir’: A Welsh Garden with a Dutch History. Light refreshments to follow. This event is free to Cothi Gardeners Club members.

Wednesday, 2nd November 2022 ‘The Gardens at Winchester Cathedral’, Emma Sharpe

Wednesday, 30th November 2022 ‘Biodynamic Gardening’, Louise Cartwright

Llechryd and District Gardening Club

Meetings are held in Boncath Hall, SA37 0JL

Wednesday 12 October at 7.30pm
‘The Treasures of Tadjikistan and Uzbekistan’ with Bob & Rannveig Wallis
Bob and Rannveig Wallis were plant hunting in Central Asia before the pandemic and this illustrated talk starts on the border with Afghanistan and goes via Samarkand and Tashkent to the Chatkai Range. This is the centre of Tulip and bulbous Iris development and also features Fritillaria and Corydalis. Superb photographs and an excellent speaker. Last club plant table of 2022.

Wednesday 9 November at 7.30pm
‘Costa Rica’ with Julian Cremona
Julian Cremona’s brilliant photography brings this small country’s amazing wildlife and flora to life. Dense broadleaf evergreen forest, palm trees, mangroves, mosses, orchids and tropical plants as well as monkeys, sloths, anteaters, snakes and iguanas. Annual Club Seed Swap. 

Plant Swap and Sale for the NGS 9 October 2022

John and Helen of Cothi Gardeners are holding their annual plant swap and sale to raise funds for the NGS on 9 October at 1pm at Ty’r Maes, Ffarmers SA19 8JP.

There will be loads of plants for sale, a lot more than last year, when just about everything went!
There will also be a table of plants that are available for a small donation. These are generally perfectly garden worthy plants that for presentational reasons are not quite up to selling standard.

People are encouraged to bring in plants to swap. Last year some wonderful plants arrived and were seized on immediately.

Tea, coffee, biscuits and cakes will be provided. If you bring extra cakes, that would be great too.
There is no charge for refreshments, but as funds are being raised for NGS charities – donations are always welcome.

A word about parking. We will be using our bottom field, opposite the turn to Ffarmers, for parking and there will be NGS signs up.
The area in front of the house will be available for loading and unloading plants.

August Social; Telegraph Garden and Indoor Plant Centre

August – time for the Cothi Gardeners’ annual social event! This year it was held at the Telegraph Garden and Indoor Plants Centre and adjacent Blossoms Cafe in Llangadog. 

Much anticipated by members, the event proved immensely popular and was extremely well attended. Following a talk by Carol from the Garden Centre, and a chance to wander through the Garden Centre and buy plants, members were able to choose from a very varied menu of savoury dishes, as well as the all-important cake, at the Blossoms Cafe. It was a coolish evening after the heat of the previous week, so the cafe felt warm and welcoming, and it was soon filled with voices and laughter as we all caught up with each other and what we had been doing. The general consensus seemed to be that the food was delicious (I can vouch for my Greek Salad), and the cakes looked mouthwatering!

The social was also an opportunity to celebrate belatedly the tenth anniversary (which was actually in 2021) of the Cothi Gardeners Club, and say thank you to Yvonne who started the club back in 2011, providing us with the pleasure of regular talks on the subject close to our hearts and the opportunity of socialising with like minds. Long-term member Donna would shortly be moving away from the area, so on the occasion of her last meeting we all wished her well for the future and settling in to her new home.

Members of Cothi Gardeners listening to Carol’s talk at the August Social

Telegraph Garden and Indoor Plant Centre

Carol has always enjoyed gardening and been passionate about plants.  Whilst working for the National Trust in Wales as their Grants Manager, she used to break the journey up and down Wales by stopping at different Garden Centres en route.  Sadly the experience tended to be the same at every one, giving a groundhog day feeling.  When Carol retired after working for 31 years for the National Trust, she set up a small Garden Centre on space rented from the Works Antiques Centre in Llandeilo.  However, illness and parking/space problems forced the closure of this Centre.  When Carol and her husband Steve moved to the Telegraph Inn at Llangadog, her daughter Lara saw the opportunity of converting the damp and overgrown area behind the building into a garden centre and The Telegraph Garden and Indoor Plants Centre was born. Although in retirement, Carol enjoys helping out and, in total, the Garden Centre in Llangadog now has 4 members of staff.

Running a garden centre can be more complicated than you might think. One of the skills you need is anticipation – for example, you need to be able to anticipate which plants Monty Don might talk about on Gardeners’ World!  Carol gave the example of Lunaria, or Honesty. Carol had plenty in stock, and they had sat happily on their table without a great deal of interest being shown until Monty Don showed some Honesty in his garden one Friday evening, and all the stock went almost instantly. You need to anticipate what plants people will want when, which means being able to second guess the weather, fashions, television gardening programmes, etc. Obviously the ideal would be for people to want to buy plants year round, and the Garden Centre encourages that, but the winter months can be quite difficult in that respect.

When creating the Telegraph Garden Centre, Carol’s daughter Lara designed the area to look like a garden. The wish was for people to enjoy looking round and to relax there, even if they did not buy anything. Certainly the displays of massed perennials for sale in pots look very much like well-composed garden beds.

At the Garden Centre they are very careful about the sourcing of plants and keen to support other local producers where possible. All the trees, decorative and fruit, are raised in Worcestershire. The bedding plants are sourced in Powys, and all the herbs are grown organically in Ceredigion.

If it is not possible to source some perennials, these are grown from cuttings or seed, and in fact many of the plants in the garden centre are raised there. For example, Nepeta ‘Blue Dragon’ was almost impossible to get hold of, but one plant was sourced and there are now young plants of Blue Dragon available to buy. Here Carol holds one of her favourite plants, Calamintha nepeta, which she grew from seed.

The Indoor Plant Centre is also a great success, with a wide variety of indoor plants always available.  This has proved enormously popular, particularly with the younger generation who really enjoy this form of gardening.

At the Garden Centre, they try to be as environmentally friendly as possible, with peat-free and reduced- peat compost always available.  Pots are recycled at the Centre on behalf of customers and charities for onward use. During the course of the year, as appropriate, plants are  divided, repotted, cut back and tidied up and the whole process started again ready for sale the following year. Customers can have their hanging baskets refilled with no charge for labour, only for the plants and compost used.

One of the downsides of running a garden centre is the paperwork, which is substantial. To counter that, there is the pride in supplying quality plants to customers, and there is the joy of propagating,  creating and nurturing new plants..

Carol finished by giving us all some of her tips. When she’s taking cuttings, she dips them first into liquid seaweed fertiliser and then into rooting powder. Cuttings should always be placed around the edge of the pot, and you need to keep them damper than you would think. Vitax Q4 is really good for plants that are looking a little tired and need perking up. Finally, when dividing plants it helps to take some root off; it might look a little brutal, but it encourages the plant to make more.

On that final note, Carol encouraged the Club members to explore the garden centre and the range of plants available, and we all made the most of the opportunity!

Ornamental Grasses; August Social

There was a great turn-out of members and guests for the excellent July talk given by Jennifer Matthews, who had travelled from Rhyd-y-Groes Gardens in the Preseli Mountains, where for 20 years until 2017 she ran Moorland Cottage Plants nursery. Now Jenny offers services such as garden design and photography, and has been opening her own garden for the National Garden Scheme for 22 years.

As background, Jenny began by telling us about her garden, which was just an upland field to begin with, explaining that she has always tried to garden with nature. It now contains, among other elements, a herbaceous perennial border, lime lollipops, a wildflower meadow including bluebells in spring, a shrub border including rhododendrons, and an ornamental meadow with cultivated native grasses and big, bold perennials.

Jenny’s introduction to grasses explained their importance as a plant family – from cereals for food and fodder to ground cover and now more and more to another plant group that gardeners are adding to their repertoire of ornamental plants.  Grasses offer elegant linear forms and year-round interest along with low maintenance.

There are three types of grasses – true grasses, sedges and rushes, and bamboos. True grasses have a wide variety of colour and growth habit, with round stems, while ‘sedges have edges’, the stems being almost triangular. Rushes have solid, round stems and need more moisture than sedges. Bamboos in their turn have hard woody stems – they can be specimen plants but also make effective screens and hedges.

Grasses can be variegated – with white, cream or yellow variegation; they can be plain green, yellow (these often do best in shade) or blue (for hot, sunny situations). There are also red, copper and brown grasses.  They do not have vivid, showy flowers, but the flowers do provide attractive structures which last well from summer into autumn.Jenny described all the different situations in which grasses can be used: herbaceous borders, island beds, mixed borders and beds, woodland gardens, architectural garden styles, flowering lawns, meadow and orchard gardens, ornamental meadows, bog gardens and water gardens (largely rushes). There are grasses for dry shade, damp shade, part shade, sunny and open sites, as well as well-drained and very sunny locations.

Jenny gave us tips on caring for grasses (they are fairly low maintenance – she described her own regime of weeding and dividing if necessary in spring, and cutting back in winter as the grasses themselves being to collapse), and for propagating them (always wait until you see the first signs of growth in spring or early summer – some grasses will be later than others). She also ran through a list of perennials which make good companion plants for grasses, a good selection of all of which she had brought with her for sale to members. After questions and warm appreciation for a fascinating talk, our appetites suitably whetted, many members made a beeline for the array of beautiful plants for sale.

Cothi Gardeners’ members enthusiastically inspecting the plants for sale

August Social

It was agreed that the August Social would be held at the Telegraph Garden Centre on 17 August in the early evening. The event will include a talk as well as refreshments – more details to follow, so watch this space…

Mid August Update and the Great British Garden Party

Another month, another update, and hoping all members have enjoyed their gardens over the last few weeks. I know that Tina and Derek have, and have been very busy too, with a major clearing out of their big pond. Thanks very much to Tina for sending me these photos of the work in progress.

I think Tina may even have some spare pieces some of her lovely waterlilies available for interested members. Do get in touch if you’d like more details. Tina says:

I didn’t offer before the dredging of the pond because I couldn’t get any waterlilies out – but now we have floating debris and a boat so if anyone wants some small parts of 3 colours of big flowered lilies and masses of the tiny yellows – see before and after photos – we will be going out on the pond from this Saturday when we get the landing stage repaired.
But the landing stage has been mended today -the rain is filling up the pond and we will get the boat out on Monday for a trial and to take out some of the rushes debris – I am delighted with the regrowth of many of the pond plants and know that the moorhen didn’t leave so who knows what we will see.

Members will already know from Elena’s email, that regrettably the club’s committee has decided to cancel the remaining planned indoor meetings for the rest of 2020 because of ongoing restrictions on indoor gatherings due to the Covid pandemic, and the risk of an autumnal resurgence in case numbers. Membership subscriptions from 2020 will be carried forward to cover the next year, and any ongoing club expenses will be met from club reserves.

As a means of at least allowing some club members to meet up, Julian and Fiona had the idea of using the upcoming NGS initiative of the “Great British Garden Party” as both focal meeting points for club members as well as being a way of raising some much needed funds for the nursing charities which the NGS supports. Click here to read more about it, and you’ll see that it’s open for anyone to host a party – you don’t have to already have a garden opening for the NGS.  Although as Elena outlined, each event should be numbers limited.

I know a lot of members have already got in touch with Elena with offers of either hosting a get together, or expressing an interest in attending one or more of the garden parties. But if you haven’t replied to her yet and would like to come to one of the  parties, or indeed host one, do reply soon, as September will  be here before we know it.  When Elena has all the details she’ll email us again, and I’ll also try to put the details up on the website asap.

Here at Gelli uchaf, we’re hoping to hold our contribution to this event on Saturday September 5th at 2.30 pm, or if the forecast looks really bad for the afternoon,  (on the Friday before, but looks OK for the morning), then we’ll move it to 11.00 am. If all of Saturday looks bad, we’d switch it to Sunday September 6th with the same time options. We’d limit guest numbers to 8 maximum, and hopefully have a few plants for sale as well as providing a range of Fiona’s scrummy cakes and tea/coffee/soft drinks, and a chance to chat and have a look round the garden.  More details closer to the time for our potential visitors!

I’m sure we’ve all enjoyed some pretty variable weather recently.  On the night of the 11th here, we went outside to see if we could watch the Perseid meteor shower, and were treated to the most amazing silent lightning display in the North eastern sky, which we took to be over Ffarmers way. It turned out the storm was much more distant, over the border in Shropshire. For anyone who hasn’t seen them yet there are some wonderful photos of just how amazing the sometimes orange explosion light effects within the clouds were, on Welsh photographer Karl MaCarthy’s site, which he took 75 miles away from the storm in Tredegar. Click here. 

We’ve never experienced anything like it – standing in total silence in a star filled sky, whilst these sort of pyrotechincs lit up the horizon every second or so for over half an hour plus the added bonus of plenty of meteors. And no midges around on a balmy night to distract us!

Yesterday evening I thought I’d scatter the last few Snakeshead Fritillary seed which I’d saved from our top meadow, onto a section we’d cut for hay about 10 days ago, and in advance of today’s heavy rain. Another fortuitous decision, since as I finished, and turned round to head back down the hill, I saw a fantastic full half circle rainbow caught in the evening light with one of the crock of gold points exactly where all the lightning fireworks had been a week earlier.

Don’t we get some amazing weather round here, all in the space of a fortnight …

Two of the native plants, Knapweed and Devil’s bit Scabious, which we’ve introduced into our terrace garden over the last 2 years have begun to flower well this year. Both being chosen for their time of flowering, from August and then into September, as well as both being brilliant nectar plants for a range of bees and butterflies. Even better, one of the Devil’s-bit Scabious plants, collected from seed in a meadow at the bottom of our track has decided to produce really pale pink/lilac flowers as a nice complement to the blue/purple more commonly seen.

In the 25 years or so of owning Gelli Uchaf, swallows have been constant co–residents with us over the summer months, but perhaps on only half a dozen or so moments have I witnessed them playing feather tag, where usually just a pair, but sometimes more, will chase around the buildings and above the garden with the lead bird carrying a feather in its beak. Then losing it, or letting go deliberately (?), the race is on, given the speed they’re flying at, to see which can grab the lost feather first and take up the challenge. Usually a camera isn’t to hand but this time, in mid July, I was close enough to the back door as they whizzed along behind the house, so grabbed the camera, and they were still playing out over the apple trees and then back around the yard. The beauty of a bridge camera is having the ability to quickly switch to zoom, multiple exposure, tracking focus, low aperture (hence shorter exposure time) and swing the camera up, as they swept above me, before diving in through the barn door.

Game over.

So this is it folks! My only photo to date of swallow feather tag,  and you’ll have to look really closely to spy the feather in the lead, upper bird’s beak, but it is there. Honestly!

However, I’m really grateful to Andrea Gabriel, an American artist who’s captured this special moment perfectly in one of her beautiful paintings, and very generously given permission for me to reproduce “Barn Swallow Feather Game” above. Which communicates so much better than my image and the words before it, of the evident delights and flying skills of swallow tag.

Thanks very much Andrea! Do click here for more of Andrea’s wonderful work, which is also available to purchase on line.

Any other Cothigardeners who’ve seen swallows or indeed other birds playing feather tag, I wonder? Do let me know.

Finally one of my posts wouldn’t be complete without something on insects would it? So here goes…

In a previous post, I’d shown the huge waves of male drone bees returning to the butter churn hive after trips made to the mating aerial drone congregation areas in June. The swarm season now having largely ended, hopefully, and with food supplies available to workers beginning to decline, there comes a time when the colony determines that it’s time to get rid of the vast majority of these otherwise non productive male bees, which require food, yet contribute none to the colony, since they don’t collect nectar or pollen.

I’d read that this process can begin quite suddenly so was really pleased to be able to capture this moment on the morning of August 11th, the same day as the storm, when the much smaller female worker bees begin to grapple, drag and force the drones from the hive entrance. The poor drones, in spite of their larger physical size, can’t seem to resist the onslaught. I’m not sure whether the workers are using their jaws to chivy the drones as well.

Though the workers obviously possess a single use sting, they probably won’t want to use this,  since it might result in their own death, but standing beside the hive allowed me to watch a continuous stream of bees involved in this battle of the sexes in which there was only going to ever be one eventual winner. The set up of my hive with a sloping metal sheet beneath the hive entrance allows the determination of the harrying worker bees to be clearly seen.

The evicted drones will quickly starve to death, or suffer from hypothermia outside the warmth of the hive, and many will be approaching the end of their short life anyway. Yet another facet of the life cycle of the honeybee finely honed to optimise survival of the colony and species, over the individual.

And how, typically, it’s the gals who call the shots and exercise real power in this world!

Finally, as always, it would be lovely to keep hearing from members about their favourite plants, or things in their gardens as we go through the next few months. Why not write a few words and send an image or two, preferably resized down to less than 1 MB? I can’t promise to put everything up online immediately, but usually within a fortnight, and it’s a great way of keeping in touch and passing on information.

Or use the Cothigardeners Facebook Page.

You can send things to me at:

Thanks again to Tina and Derek for contributing to this post.

Helping Our Local Plant Nurseries

Many thanks to Elena for this collated information about some of our familiar local plant nurseries. They’re still open, and at this normally busy time of the year are inevitably suffering very badly from lack of visitors.

So do think about whether there’s anything that you need, which you can source from them and help them through these challenging times. You’ll see many have come up with ways to make it easier and safer for us to still use them :

Ty Cwm Nursery : Sad news that Hollys Café at Ty Cwm Nursery is closed. Here at the nursery we understand that some of you may not want to visit us. However you may still want to make your gardens look beautiful. We can take payment over the phone and deliver locally. Give us a call and we’ll do our best to accommodate you. 01570 480655.

Farmyard Nurseries:  we are operating a delivery service for those of us who feel they can’t go out. Ring us on 01559 363389 for a chat, I’m sure we can get things to you. Payment can be made over the phone and plants/compost left where you want them. Alternatively we have set up an outdoor till at the nursery so that you don’t have to go indoors at all if you don’t want to. The shop and market stall are open and free tea and coffee is still available here. The garden is looking lovely too. Mail order is another alternative, see our website for details. I would like to thank everyone who shops with us for such loyal custom and hope everyone stays safe. All the best, Rich.  Please share if at all possible.

Rhoslwyn Plants at Silian 01570 422672

Robert’s Garden Centre 01570 422756
Just another thought- if you’re worried about coming in to contact with people park outside the garden centre and call us on your mobile and we’ll put stuff into your boot…
You can pay by card over the phone.

Penlan Perennials: Hello all! Just a quick update from Graham and Julie here at the nursery. We are still open and sending our deliveries as normal – living in the middle of nowhere has it’s perks! We’re always isolated!! Please keep yourselves safe and your gardens beautiful! (Office) +44 (0)1570 480097 (Mobile) +44 (0)7984 880241

The Works Garden Center Llandeilo 01558 824238


Spring is always a great time of the year for planting out new plants, and this year we’ve 2 new plants we’re planning to get hold of if we can, having become very keen to add more great early season nectar flowers for our honeybees, to help them out in the mild, wet winters/early springs which we now seem to be having.

Firstly a medium sized evergreen bush covered in small yellow flowers which Fiona spotted last week on a visit with her Mum to Attingham Park in Shropshire, which caught her eye because of the noise of humming honeybees visiting it.

No label but  Fiona had the presence of mind to take a photo of it, and then being the clever person she is, used an online plant search to track it down. (Picture this – click  for link).

It turns out to be the Wintergreen or Chinese Barberry, Berberis julianae (which makes it another good plant for us 🙂 ). I wonder if any Cothigardeners currently grow it, and have other photos of it ?

Secondly after an email exchange with a friend about which garden plants her honeybees were visiting at the beginning of March, (with us it was mainly our Daphne bholua bushes) she commented that honeybees were flocking to her plant of Ribes odoratum. Originating in North America, the Buffalo currant bears fragrant yellow flowers in spring. Again does any Cothi gardener grow this?

Of course bees quickly move onto the next best thing, as one plant finishes flowering. Right now with us Skimmias (like the one below) are favourites – if the sun is shining!                                                                           _____________

It would be lovely to hear from any members about their favourite plants as we go through the next few months. Why not write a few words and send an image or two, preferably resized down to less than 1 MB? I can’t promise to put everything up online immediately, but usually within a few days and it’ll be a great way of keeping in touch, and passing on information.  Or use the Cothigardeners Facebook Page. Click here.

You can send things to me at:


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

They’ll be bringing along plants for sale too.


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

If any Cothigardeners would like some green hay from our meadows, do get in touch with me asap ( – 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.


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


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


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

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


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


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

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

Farmyard Nursery Visit; Planting In Containers; Aberglasney Tea party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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


Spring News and Upcoming Events

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

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

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

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

Other dates for your diaries:

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