Asters; Plant Fair; Members Garden Opening; Autumn Visit to Hergest Croft

What a change in the weather this month. From being desperate for rain, to only 3 dry days in the last 3 weeks up here. So still a perfect time for planting, and we’re really looking forward to the visit of Helen Picton from Old Court Nurseries in Colwall this Wednesday, to share some of her multi-generational experience and knowledge about growing Asters.

How often do we get to hear from a family nursery business that’s been running for well over 100 years? Well, Old Court Nurseries has been in the Picton family since 1906, has the National Collection of autumn flowering Michaelmas Daisies, and now grows over 400 different species and hybrids of Asters along with many other plants. And even quite a few snowdrops! Helen will be bringing plants along for sale, as well as  being able to show us from her talk and slides just how much impact Asters can create at a time of year when many other plants are past their best. And many are brilliant for late season butterflies, hover flies and bees too.

Our own garden is still benefitting from a trip made to Colwall nearly 10 years ago, when we returned with a selection of Asters, which grow with us in really poor soil/gravel as well as better conditions, and all seem to just keep going with minimal attention. So a great plant to grow around here, for anyone unfamiliar with their charms.

Click here for more on Old Court Nurseries.


Sadly we couldn’t make the garden safari earlier in the month, but have heard that it was a great success, with around 20 members enjoying the gardens visited, and many thanks to Steven and Jane, Alison, Elena and Karen and David for co-hosting the event.


Karen’s garden at Lan Farm, Talley  is still open for visitors by arrangement under the National Garden Scheme. Click here for more on Karen’s garden. The end of June also sees Brenda opening her garden  at Bwlchau Duon for the NGS on Sunday June 30th from 2 – 6 pm. If you can’t make this, Brenda’s garden is also open, like Karen’s, by arrangement from July 1st to August 31st. Click here for more details.


A reminder that offers of help on the day, as well as plants and cakes would be very much appreciated for the club’s involvement with the Ceredigion Growers’ Cothi plant fair, held on the field behind the Pumsaint hall on Sunday July 7 th from 10.00 am to 3 pm. More details from Yvonne, or at this Wednesday’s meeting.


Finally advance notice of a special opportunity to visit Hergest Croft gardens this autumn. Following on from Steve Lloyd’s visit last month, Fiona has been able to arrange a date with Steve and Mel for a group visit including the chance to collect seed, at the gardens at Hergest Croft on Thursday September 26th.

The visit will aim to begin around 10 a.m. and include a privately guided tour of the gardens by Steve, before the gardens open to the public. Mel says that there will even be bags provided for seed collection. We’ll just need to bring along pens to write down names!

Given what a tremendous year it’s been for tree flowering and seed setting, this is a unique chance for Cothi Gardeners to see the gardens at one of their most lovely times of the year, and bring back a special souvenir or two, since Hergest grows many trees and shrubs not widely available elsewhere.

There will be a chance to have lunch at the very good Hergest tea room, after the tour.  The cost will be £7.50 per person for this very special opportunity. More details in due course.

How’s everyone else getting on with any cuttings from material Steve brought along? So far it looks like a couple of our cuttings of Clematis and Honeysuckle are looking hopeful after following some of the tips gleaned from Steve’s talk. New leaves are appearing which I always think is encouraging.


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terry Walton – The Life of a Media Allotmenteer

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

Terry

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

First Slide - with Jeremy Vine                  Terry Walton 2

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

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

Parsnips:

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

Leeks:

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

Beans:

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

Courgettes:

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

Peas:

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

Lettuce:

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

Onions:

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

Brassicas:

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

Carrots:

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

Potatoes:

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

Peppers:

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

Spring Onions:

  • Sow in buckets every 2 weeks

Tomatoes:

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

Garlic:

  • Best varieties to grow are UK ones

Strawberries:

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

Other tips:

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

Book signing


Some topical tips from Julian:

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


Cothi Gardeners Christmas Lunch at the Forest Arms, Brechfa

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

      

      

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

 


Committee Members Needed

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


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

Membership renewals:

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

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


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


 

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

Fascinating and Phenomenal Fungi

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

Embroidered Fungi

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

Examples of fungi brought in to the meeting

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

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

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


Committee Members Needed

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


Membership

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

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

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


Terry Walton

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

© Terry Walton

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

© Terry Walton

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

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


Christmas Lunch

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


Topical Tips

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

Autumn planting

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

Winter Squash

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


 

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…


 

Garden Safari in pictures and an Invitation

This year’s Garden Safari was  a highly enjoyable occasion. Both gardens we visited, Ty Dwr and Ddol Brenin were looking lovely. Many thanks to Yvonne and Colin and Tina and Derek for allowing us to see their gardens and to everyone who came for making the afternoon such a success.

Ty Dwr

Ddol Brenin


An Invitation from Drefach Velindre Gardening Club …………

“We would like to invite members of your Gardening Club to our Open Meeting on Wednesday 3rd October at 7.30pm in the Red Dragon Hall.

Pat O’Reilly MBE will give a talk on “Fascinated by Fungi”. Refreshments will be provided at the end of the meeting.”


 

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).


 

Umbellifers; Plant Fair; The Dreaded Gardener and Summer Social

Kex, Lace and Poison – almost an A – Z of Umbellifers by Kari-Astri Davies

We had another informative talk from Kari last month on the subject of Umbellifers

Kex/keski/kesh: different names for various umbellifers eg Carrots also known as Birds Nest, Kex and Rantipole, Hogweed also called Pigweed or Keski.

Lace: the umbels of small flowers create a lacey effect eg Queen Anne’s Lace (wild carrot)

Poison: several umbellifers are highly poisonous eg Hemlock Water Dropwort.

Umbellifers are part of the apiaceae or umbelliferae (carrot) family, the 16th largest family of flowering plants. They have complex flower heads of predominantly flat umbrella like umbels made up of small, mainly white flowers. They have been around for a long time mostly as herbs, many of which came from the Mediterranean and many of the very early introductions are now classified as native.

Sweet Cicely

The family includes perennials eg Sweet Cicely, annuals eg Ammi majus, or bi-annuals eg carrot and Cow Parsley and some are monocarpic eg Angelica. There are many edible umbellifers which are used for both culinary and medicinal purposes but there are also several highly poisonous ones as well. As with many introductions brought in for their beneficial attributes some have turned into pernicious weeds, a good example being Ground Elder.

Some examples of edible umbellifers, many of which are also good garden plants: vegetables: celery, celeriac, fennel, parsnips, and carrots; herbs: parsley, caraway, cilantro, dill, fennel, anise, celery, and chervil to name but a few.

Garden favourites: Astrantias, Eryngiums, Cow Parsley, Queen Anne’s Lace (Wild Carrot), Baltic Parsley and many more

Poisonous umbellifers: Poison Hemlock, Hemlock Water Dropwort, Giant Hogweed and even Parsnip leaves can cause a skin reaction caused by furocoumarins.

Many umbellifers are good for attracting pollinators although these are predominantly flies rather than bees and some such as Pignut are indicators of ancient pasture.

Propagation is best by seed which should be sown fresh in the Autumn.


Plant Fair

The weather is set fair and preparations are nearly complete for our inaugural plant fair this Sunday, 8th July. Lots to tempt you with many plant stalls, crafts stalls and, refreshments with plenty of wonderful cakes! Make a day of it 10am until 4pm Pumsaint Hall and field.


Topical Tips

Monthly Tips from Julian…..

Euphorbia ?dulcis ‘Chameleon’

We all tend to think of gardening as a very healthy activity, but I’ve had a couple of reminders over the last month that some plants need handling with care – although I’ve always been careful with Euphorbia sap, I do deadhead one purple leaved form to prevent it seeding everywhere, and this year got a couple of nasty blisters pop up really quickly where I wasn’t careful, enough – so maybe wear long Marigold gloves to do this? Also I was squishing daffodil seeds out of damp seedpods for 20 minutes or so, again without wearing gloves, and 2 hours later suffered really bad stomach cramps which lasted all afternoon – daffodils and snowdrops are quite toxic plants, and this seems to extend to the foliage and not just the bulbs. And then there are the really toxic ones like Monkshood (Aconitum).

 

Aconitum

On the subject of daffodils, the foliage is now dying back so it is ok to cut it back/mow the grass without reducing next year’s vigour.

For those growing tomatoes or indeed peppers, aubergines etc, with the sort of flower where the anthers and pollen is held inside the flower in a tube like structure (and who don’t already know about it), now’s the time of the year I’m regularly out in the greenhouse with my trusty pink and slightly grubby vibrator. Tomato flowers really need buzzing to get a better fruit set, and if you don’t get lots of bumblebees inside your greenhouse or polytunnel doing this naturally, it’s well worth doing this every couple of days. I know this is worthwhile because a few years back we went on holiday for a week and Anne kindly agreed to come and water our tomatoes but I didn’t feel I could ask her to do the buzzing – so 2 weeks later it was obvious we had a gap on the fruit trusses of several blank spaces where the flowers hadn’t set, because they hadn’t been buzzed.


Summer Social and Growing Challenge

Due to our increasing numbers this year’s summer social for members is being held in the Coronation Hall, Pumsaint. As always please bring along a plate of food to share.

We will also be sharing our successes (or failures) of this years’ growing challenge – growing a pot for pollinators. If you can’t manage to bring your pot, do try and take some photos and bring them along instead.


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

Copyright Malcolm Berry

Malcolm Berry is a Natural Gardening tutor and speaker, promoting home food production and the encouragement of biodiversity.

Malcolm will be talking to us on how he manages his own garden. Follow him on Facebook (click here)


Brenda’s Open Garden

 

        

Brenda had a lovely day for her garden opening for the NGS last week and the garden itself was looking lovely. Thanks from Brenda to all helpers and cake suppliers and to Brenda for her donation to Cothi Gardeners funds.