Hedgehogs; Christmas Lunch; AGM and Auction; Daffodil Competition at the NBGW in 2020.

As winter seems to have begun with a typically wet start to November and a single hard frost here to take out the last autumnal colour, most of our gardens will be a little quieter for the next few months, but we’ve still got lots of things to look forward to at Cothi gardeners, when all the leaves have fallen.

(Hydrangea aspera villosa, for one day only…)


A reminder that the final talk of this year’s programme is on Wednesday November 20th at 7.30 pm, when Di O’Keefe, who was instrumental in setting up the West Wales Hedgehog Rescue Centre at Cwmann will be telling us everything we should know about hedgehogs, and how we can make our gardens more friendly for them.

A reminder to be careful about compost heaps over the autumn and winter months. In late September 2011, I started digging out one of ours, and found  the sleeping hedgehog above, curled up in it. Fortunately I’d just missed it with my fork, so carefully moved it slightly, only to discover 4 youngsters were snuggled up beneath the mother.


A reminder that this month’s meeting next week will be the deadline for booking your place at the Cothi Gardeners’ Christmas lunch at the Forest Arms in Brechfa on Wednesday December 11 th. Plus you’ll need to bring along your payment for the meal, please. Click on the link at the end of this post for the menu choices.


In January, our first meeting of the year begins with the AGM, on Wednesday January 15th, when amongst other things we’ll outline the excellent programme of speakers which has been arranged for 2020 by Fiona and Jenny. The evening will also incorporate a members’ supper, so do bring along a plate of food to share.

(Galanthus reginae-olgae “Tilebarn Jamie”, bought in 2013, and this is its first flower, this week….)

Following on from last year, there’ll be an auction of a few reliable snowdrops, (and it won’t include this feeble fussy species cultivar) provided by Julian, but we’d also like to broaden this a little this year as a way of raising extra funds to help pay for speaker expenses in the years ahead. So if you have any other plants or other suitable books or items which you’d like to be included in the auction – say art or craft work, then do bring it along early on the night to be included.

Items don’t have to be garden related things, just things that others will likely bid for!

The evening will conclude as usual with one of Derek’s challenging quizzes, to keep our brains working well, even in the depths of winter.


Finally, and a little bit further ahead in 2020, Ben Wilde, Horticultural Trainer for the Growing the Future Project at the National Botanic Garden, (NBGW), invites all Cothi Gardeners members to take part in a fun and casual Daffodil competition/ show at the Garden on the 21st March 2020.

The Competition will be free to enter with an entry ticket to the Garden.

The NBGW want to celebrate all things Daffodil and open this event to as many people, so please tell everyone you know about it! All the information is on the Botanic Gardens website.

The awards in the competition will be:

  • Best single Daffodil (Awards for each class [RHS system], and for best in show)
  • Best display of three Daffodils (Single and Mixed cultivar)
  • Best display of 5 or more Daffodils (single and Mixed cultivar)
  • Best children’s display (under 18/15yrs)
  • Most Imaginative display

Most of these categories are self-explanatory, however you may be asking about the most imaginative display. That is because the NBGW want you to get creative and think outside of the box. Why not make a display out of different materials, a mosaic of different photos, or even a Daffodil shaped cake?

Alongside the show, there will be stalls, walks, and talks by local experts and staff. Please pass this on to anyone you feel would be excited and interested in joining in with this lighthearted show celebrating the most iconic flower in the country, the humble Daffodil!


Click for the menu on XMAS DINNER

Plant Hunters and Explorers; Dahlia merckii seeds; Hedgehogs; Christmas Meal.

There was an excellent turn out at Pumsaint for October’s talk to hear Neil Barry tell us about “Plant Hunters and Explorers”, and it was great to see so many arriving early to help set things up in the hall and enjoy the pre-talk refreshments.

Neil, who’d travelled up from his home in the Gower, gave us a lively talk and slide show beginning with a reminder of how many of the favourite plants we now take for granted in our gardens, (Buddleia, tulips, potatoes) are all introductions from other parts of the world. Along with a few like Japanese Knotweed and Rhododendron ponticum which were introduced and have since turned out to be more of a nuisance!

Neil began with mention of the father and son Tradescants, gardeners to Charles 1 and 2, who travelled to Russia, Africa and later America, introducing amongst other plants the Sumach and Tulip tree to these shores.

Joseph Banks was another significant figure in the late 1700’s/early 1800’s and responsible for establishing Kew gardens as a significant focus for plant collections and as a sponsor of plant collecting trips. Banks himself travelled to Eastern Canada as well as establishing Botany Bay and is remembered with 80 plants named after him including the genus Banksia, which one can find growing in the Great Glasshouse at the National Botanic Garden of Wales.

Archibald Menzies brought back the first Monkey puzzle seeds to the UK, secretly saved from a dinner served in Chile where they featured as a delicacy, whilst David Douglas brought back many seeds of trees native to North America, which subsequently helped to enrich our landscapes and also establish the UK forestry industry, which before his time only had the native Scot’s Pine and Common Juniper as indigenous coniferous species.

For many early plant hunters the development of Wardian cases- essentially mini transportable greenhouses, revolutionised the success of bringing plant samples back to the UK on what were often lengthy sea voyages.

Another significant father and son combination was that of William and Joseph Hooker who for many years were involved in plant hunting as well as being the directors of Kew gardens. Around the mid 1800’s opportunities to explore China and the Far East began to open up following the Opium wars which led to many more novel genera being discovered.

Robert Fortune continued this process introducing Mahonia japonica and Dicentra spectabilis ( as was!) as well as a star performer right now in our garden, Saxifraga fortunei. In addition he was involved in bringing nearly 24,000 young tea plants from China to establish a fledgling tea industry for the British Empire in the Himalayan foothills in India.

Occasionally very specific expeditions were sponsored – “Chinese” Ernest Wilson being sent out to China to find and bring back seeds of the Handkerchief tree Davidia involucrata. Although French explorers beat him to it, and were the first to germinate seedlings in the West, nevertheless the major nursery firm, Veitch’s, who sponsored Wilson’s trip, still reaped the benefits with seed and seedlings of this, the latest novelty in the late 1890’s.

Many of these early plant hunters enjoyed considerable hardships whilst overseas, and some didn’t return – David Douglas  being found at the bottom of a cattle pit in Hawaii. Neil speculated that his death might not have been accidental. Click here for an interesting read about this, and more about Douglas’ collecting life.

Neil concluded with mention that the spirit and adventure of plant hunters lives on in the UK with people like Mary Richards from North Wales who collected thousands of pressed plant specimens in Africa, in the late ’50’s and ’60’s; Tom Hart-Dyke who was held for 9 months in Colombia in 2000 on one of his orchid hunting trips;  and the well known husband and wife team of Bleddyn and Sue Wyn Jones of Crug Farm plants near Caernarfon. They have collected many novel plant species and cultivars from trips to South East Asia. Click here to see how many forms, for example of  Viburnums (above left V. furcatum BSWJ 5939), to choose just one genus they have collected, and how each one is carefully labelled with a BSWJ number to link in with their records of when and where it was located.

So an excellent reminder of how fortunate we are in the UK not just to have the conditions to allow us to grow such a diversity of plants, but also the rich history of those prepared to risk life and limb to bring them back for us.

At the end of the meeting Yvonne was able to hand over a couple of new kettles to the chairman of the hall committee, as a gift from the club from the proceeds from the plant fair. These will replace the very ancient ones which have seen better days and will help making hot drinks easier and quicker not just for future gardening club meetings but also be available for other hall users.


For any disappointed not to be able to grab a packet of Dahlia merckii seed after Neil Barry’s talk, Julian apologises – they all got snapped up very quickly.  But he does have more available which he’ll bring along to next month’s meeting (£1 per packet for club funds). Julian suggests anyone who has the seeds already,  keeps them in the fridge until late February and then sows the longish black seeds, not the remaining chaff, into seed compost kept in a warm place until germination has taken place. Then grow them on and prick out in a frost free place to be planted out in late spring.  Just like tomatoes really, and they should germinate as easily. You do have to watch out for slugs whilst the plants and shoots are young, but then they grow away quickly and you should be rewarded with similar flowers to these next summer, which as Julian mentioned, are a brilliant late season pollen source for honey and bumble bees. Plus the tubers should be hardy enough to survive in the ground over winter, maybe with a little extra mulch.

Should anyone have any seedlings grow with foliage which is more bronze, or dark, than green; or flowers that look different to these then do let Julian know – there’s a chance there might be some interesting hybrid forms with Dahlia “Magenta Star” which he grows nearby.


A reminder that the final talk of this year’s programme is on Wednesday November 20th at 7.30 pm, when Di O’Keefe will be telling us everything we should know about hedgehogs, and how we can make our gardens more friendly for them.


Finally a reminder that next month’s meeting will be the deadline for booking your place at the Cothi Gardeners’ Christmas lunch at the Forest Arms in Brechfa on Wednesday December 11 th    Click on this link for the menu choices :   XMAS DINNER    

“Autumn Into Winter” Talk; Seed Collecting Trip; October Meeting and Christmas Meal Date.

Many thanks to Yvonne for her notes on Richard Bramley’s timely talk  “Autumn into Winter” to Cothigardeners in September which we were sadly unable to make, but which was well attended and enjoyed by all.

Richard covered great plants for good autumn colour including Acers, Berberis, Euonymus and  Cornus racemosa which has black autumn foliage.

Colourful winter stems from Cornus species and Salix (willow) can add to interest.

Hydrangea flower heads last well into autumn, even as colours fade. Some forms even flower late like the above form of H. aspera, in bloom in early October. Look out for the Forever series, as they keep on flowering. Cut down Hydrangea Annabelle to the ground in spring as it’s a herbaceous variety so flowers on the current year’s wood, as do H. paniculata varieties.

H. macrophylla flowers on last year’s wood, which may get frosted in spring, so killing the flower buds.

Other good plants for autumn are Lespedezia, Aconitum. Fuchsia magellanica, Astrantia, Campanula – if they are given the Chelsea chop (prune the height by a third in Chelsea Flower Show week), these plants will flower later on shorter stems.

Hardy Chrysanthemums sold in the autumn as domes of flowers, should be treated as bedding. Herbaceous Chrysanthemums should be hardy and are a good addition to the garden.

Some Asters (Michaelmas Daisies) can get mildew due to dry or stress (nova belgii types). Closely allied to Asters are Kalimeris, which are good plants, along with other Asters.

Annual Rudbeckia and perennial Rudbeckia are excellent plants for the autumn, but they can get very tall. Cut them down on the longest day and they will flower a little later on shorter stems. Heliopsis, Leucanthemella will grow in shade. Persicaria amplexicaulis is a pretty thug, and needs to planted somewhere where spread is required.

Viola cornuta, the smaller the flower, the hardier the plant. Salvia species, long flowering but not hardy, can extend flowering up to frosts but take cuttings a.s.a.p. to overwinter ready for the following year. Solidago x aster is another good plant and not at all boring.

Grasses can extend a season of interest right through winter, and can be successfully mixed in with herbaceous plants rather than a bed of grasses. Panicum species have a lovely arching habit. Stipa gigantea, above, is another good grass, and doesn’t self seed. Pennisetum varieties, treat as annuals, though they can be overwintered in a cold greenhouse or polytunnel. Cardoons also have wonderful seed heads in winter. Don’t be too quick to tidy in the autumn, as the frost on grasses, cardoons, etc give a new dimension to the garden. They also protect the roots from frost, and give cover to insects, hedgehogs, etc.


 

The trip which Fiona had organised with Stephen and Mel Lloyd for Cothi Gardeners to visit the Hergest Croft garden for a combined guided tour and seed/cutting collection was a huge success. We were really fortunate with a benign weather slot in what has been the wettest spell for months, and were thrilled that Steve was so generous with his time and advice, whilst Mel provided us all with bags, and names to record the many seeds, fruit and cuttings we were able to collect in a two and a half hour walk.

Hergest Croft is such a special place with one of the finest collections of trees and shrubs in the British Isles including national collections of hundreds of different Sorbus, Betula and Zelkova, as well as being wonderfully peaceful and beautiful whatever time of year one visits.

Steve demonstrated it’s always worth cutting into a few seeds just to check if they’ve got viable white/green centres. Sometimes a tree will be laden with seeds which look fine, but are in fact empty and will never germinate. Also he pointed out some of the trees where it’s best to save seed from the tree (e.g. Acers and Sorbus) and others (e.g. Magnolias and Davidia) where it’s better to collect from seed or fruit that’s fallen to the floor.

Click here for more about Hergest Croft, and there’s still time to plan a visit for their special autumn plant fair on Sunday October 13 th – Hergest Croft Autumn Fair, Ridgebourne Road, Kington, Herefordshire HR5 3EG with over 40 plant and craft stalls. Open 10-4.30pm. Admission £6.50.

What I didn’t know before Stephen told us, as we walked through the garden’s glades and reached the top of the Sorbus collection, is that the garden rises to over 1,000 feet above sea level, so many of the well labelled trees which are indigenous to China and the Himalayas will be quite comfortable with the conditions here.

Stephen, the Head gardener in a team of 5 who manage the 70 acres, has worked as a gardener at Hergest for 40 years, and has grown many of the now mature and rare trees from seeds sent to Hergest from collectors around the world.So to have him passing on his tips as to how best to choose and propagate material was a rare treat, and all this in a year when many trees were laden with berries and seeds after a bumper year for pollination and fruit production.

Thanks very much to Stephen and Mel for their very warm welcome and generosity and for making it such a very special day. We look forward to letting them know in due course how well we get on with the propagation, once we get all the material prepared for sowing …


A reminder that this month’s meeting on Wednesday October 16th at 7.30 pm is by Neil Barry on “The Plant Hunters and Explorers”.  Do arrive in good time for refreshments and a catch up before we start.

Neil is originally from County Cork in Ireland and is now living near Swansea.

He trained at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew for three years whilst also studying for his horticulture qualifications at Capel Manor College near London and Berkshire College of Agriculture. After completing training at Kew, he moved in to teaching horticulture and completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Education. He has been a lecturer in Horticulture for 8 years, most of which was at Neath Port Talbot College but has also taught at The National Botanic Garden of Wales and elsewhere.


Finally a date for your diaries – our annual Christmas meal will be on Wednesday December 11th lunchtime at the Forest Arms Brechfa, our very successful venue last year. We should have a final menu available soon, and will need names and deposits shortly and hope that many of you will be able to make it for what’s always an enjoyable event.

August Meeting – addendum and apology!

I must apologise to all present at our August meeting, and in particular to Colin for omitting to mention in my previous post, the other significant part of the evening.

Apparently with very little notice, Colin put together an amazing montage of video clips of wildlife which he’s photographed around Colin and Yvonne’s garden and stream over the last few years.  And all captured with camera and software equipment which Colin has put together himself. What a clever chap!

Everyone present was thrilled with all the clips we were shown – a diverse range of herons, buzzards and owls taking frogs from their pond; otters, dippers,  sparrowhawks and gooseanders along their stream, and amazing footage of sparrowhawks and bird feeders with a woodpecker snucking behind the feeder as the sparrowhawk approached, and only then flying off fast to safety, as the sparrowhawk passed the feeder.

This was truly inspirational stuff and a fascinating insight into how lucky we are to have all this wildlife visiting our gardens – even if we rarely witness much of the action in person.

I don’t have any of Colin’s images to include, though perhaps I might be able to persuade him to provide links to some of the clips for anyone unable to make the meeting last week?

My sole and rather feeble excuse for this glaring omission is that we’ve had 5 grandchildren and their parents with us over the bank holiday, which rather tired me out and distracted me.

However,  one of the pluses of their visit was more frequent trips down to our stream, and as a result seeing for the first time ever on our stream (as indeed on one of Colin’s memorable video clips) the iridiscent blue flash and blur of a passing kingfisher.

Colin explained that these are likely to be juvenile birds expanding into new territory, and that our type of upland stream probably wouldn’t support birds year round, but still a great thrill to see it, even if my photos of it as I whizzed round give just a brief impressionistic flash of blue. Much later after scanning several times the 6 images I’d taken in 2 bursts on the camera as it flashed away from me, with explosive white droppings left in a trail, I could make out it had actually settled on a perch beneath the willow branches…

Though I’m still perplexed by the other blue in the images amongst the leaves – there are no blue flowers there.  Might these have been other kingfishers??? 

Finally readers may know, but I didn’t until 2 days ago, that the vibrant blue flash and feathers we all associate with kingfisher feathers could be considered to be an optical illusion.  This type of blue is known as a “structural colour”. The feathers contain no actual blue pigment, unlike the orange pigment granules in their breast feathers. The back feathers are actually brown, but are covered in a very thin and intricately arranged transparent layer of tissue which selectively reflects more blue light than any other frequency, so we perceive them as being blue.

Click here to read more if interested, on this quite recently discovered information!

So many thanks indeed again to Colin, for a brilliant bonus to our evening, and any chance of some links to some of the clips, Colin??

 

 

 

 

 

 

September Talk Change; August Meal and Social; Hergest Croft Visit.

In a late change to our programme,  Brinley Watkins is sadly unable to visit us to talk about “Vegetable growing with a twist”. However we’re delighted that Richard Bramley, who’s visited us several times before from local Farmyard Nurseries,  has agreed to come at such short notice and talk to us about  plants to take us through autumn and into winter.  Members will know Richard always gives us a great talk, and he’ll also be bringing along plants for sale. To quote Richard’s words about this talk…

There comes a point in time when, as the gardening year progresses, colour in a lot of gardens begins to wane. Gardens often look lack lustre and many an avid gardener becomes a little despondent and longs for the winter clean up…… Well stop it!! This talk is designed to show us all that the autumn is a season with a plethora of plants that give an absolute riot of colour. As summer flowers fade and the bedding plants pass, the autumn army pushes on with its riots of colour to replace them. There are so many and as sales at the nursery gradually went into the winter recess we massively expanded the autumn contingent to fill this gap. We now stock hundreds of things and this talk will highlight many, but obviously not all, of them.

It is funny how as autumn approaches and the days shorten, with light levels falling, nature steps in and the colour palette of the garden changes, with the fiery yellow, red and orange colours becoming prevalent. Somehow shades that we don’t tolerate in the summer borders become acceptable if not desirable. Subjects covered include Hydrangeas, Asters, Salvias, Schizostylis, Acers and grasses with all sorts of others thrown in! Yet again there may be a mention of our renowned Hellebores.

One of our most popular talks.

Click here for more on Farmyard Nurseries.

September’s talk is on Wednesday September 18th at 7.30 in the Pumsaint hall.


August is often a busy month for many, with holidays and visitors, so the turn out for the August meeting was a little lower than for most meetings. However everyone who came had a great evening and enjoyed a real feast as members rose to the challenge of producing a plate of food to share incorporating leaves and flowers grown in the garden. The pictures give an idea of the imagination and standard of the dishes available, and I’m guessing there will be a fair bit of recipe sharing following on from this.


Finally a reminder that the September meeting will be the last chance to book a space for our trip to Hergest Croft for a visit and guided tour with head gardener Steve Lloyd and his wife Mel, on Thursday September 26 th

This is a special opportunity as well to collect seeds with Steve’s guidance, from some of Hergest’s fantastic range of shrubs and trees.  After what has been a phenomenal year for tree and shrub flowering and seed formation, this really represents a brilliant opportunity for Cothi Gardeners. We can’t guarantee that the weather or colours will be as gorgeous as in these photos, but it will still be a memorable trip.

Cost is £7.50 for the garden entry and tour, and we’ll be having lunch afterwards in the cafe, and they need an idea of numbers,  so do contact Yvonne, asap, if you haven’t already given us your name. We’ll be car sharing and aim to arrive at Hergest at 10.30 a.m, so will also have the gardens pretty much to ourselves, since they only open to the general public at noon.  Friends of members are also welcome to join us, if pre-arranged.

August Member’s Medley and Meal; Ty’r Maes NGS Open Garden; September Events.

Last month’s well attended meeting on  Beardless Iris was a really informative gallup through the various species by Alun and Jill Whitehead who put on a great two person presentation, well illustrated with slides from their own garden which holds the National Collection of Iris sibirica.

They showed how they’ve transformed their site from bare grass to a wonderful 3 acre garden, currently open to the NGS and planted in a naturalistic style. Click here for some lovely images to give a flavour of what they’ve achieved with a lot of hard work.

Alun then explained how they became interested in growing Iris,  and set up a nursery, concentrating on beardless Iris, which are easier to grow in our local conditions than the slightly fussier bearded group of Iris.

With examples from each group, Alun and Jill featured many of the different species in order of flowering from winter flowering I. Unguicularis, I. reticularis, I. Juno, Pacific Coast Hybrids, I. sibirica, I. ensata and I. foetidissima.

Mentioning some significant Iris breeders of recent times, they were able to show just what a huge range of colours are available in different combinations, and how easy it is to produce your own varieties from seed.

They finished with some ideas of how to divide, plant and sow from seed.

I’m sure many were inspired to have a go and incorporate more of these lovely plants in their gardens.

For anyone wanting more information on this diverse group of plants, Alun and Jill mentioned The Group for Beardless Irises. Click here for more, where you’ll find out how you can join the group, get more information, or even obtain a range of seeds if you’re not a member.

The images give an idea of what a wide range of flower colours is available.


A reminder that on Sunday August 11th, John and Helen’s garden at Ty’r Maes, Ffarmers, Carmarthenshire, SA19 8JP, opens for charity for the National Garden Scheme , from 13.30 to 17.30, admission £4.00.

More details on the NGS website, by clicking here.


Our next meeting on Wednesday August 21st in the hall at Pumsaint is our annual member’s medley. As in previous years the format is we’ll all bring along a plate of food to share for supper, and there’ll be  a chance this year to feature the results of our annual growing challenge which is to incorporate into the food we bring along some edible flowers.

So if you haven’t already fixed on a dish to cook up, or prepare, now’s the time to get your thinking caps on.


Looking ahead, sadly we’ve just heard from our speaker for the September meeting on Wednesday 18th, that for personal reasons, Brinley Watkins isn’t able to make it. We’ll update with alternative plans for the evening as soon as possible.


The following week on Thursday September 26th is our planned visit, to Hergest Croft gardens in Herefordshire to include some special seed collecting. More details at the August meeting

So lots to look forward to in the next couple of months, and hope everyone is enjoying this year’s lovely summer and that after the last couple of day’s of deluges, everyone on spring water supplies now have them fully restored!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They’ll be bringing along plants for sale too.

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

If any Cothigardeners would like some green hay from our meadows, do get in touch with me asap (cothigardeners@gmail.com) – we’ve worked out a simple system for collecting it, and it’s becoming ever more florally diverse.  You simply spread it onto an existing flower poor, grassy area, within about 24 hours of being cut, whilst still fresh. The seeds fall out, and it’s a very effective way of moving an area from simply lawn or flower free grass, to one studded with wildflowers and greater grass species diversity. And it’s much easier than collecting and scattering individual species seeds, which is how I started the process with our meadows several years ago!

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.


 

Steve Lloyd’s Workshop; Aberglasney Tea Party; June Garden Safari.

There was a fantastic turn out for the recent Cothigardeners workshop on propagation, held with Steve Lloyd from Hergest Croft gardens in Herefordshire, with 28 guest visitors joining club members to pick up tips from Steve’s vast experience and knowledge from 40 years of work at Hergest.

In a wonderful wide ranging review of his favoured methods and timings for seeds and different types of cuttings everyone went away with tips to try. And many of us were able to take away material to try their hand at propagation from some of the samples of unusual shrubs and trees which he brought along. Steve clearly put a lot of thought and effort into cramming all sorts of plants and cuttings into his van for this event.

My personal favourite points were to incorporate more perlite in the seed and compost medium (Steve uses a 2 to 3 ratio); using seaweed based products only as an early mild feed, and reversing a bag placed over cuttings on a daily basis to avoid excessive moisture dripping onto leaves.

Steve and Mel also brought along a huge range of trees and plants for sale, which he’s recently propagated, and these proved very popular with visitors.

Finally Steve kindly offered to host a trip for club members this autumn to Hergest Croft to take us round the gardens there for a  tour and opportunity to collect seeds from some of the huge, and varied plant collections growing there. Fiona is following up on this, and hopes to have a date for a visit in the near future, for members to mark in their diaries.

Many thanks to Steve and Mel for travelling over to us, and giving us all such a fabulous evening.


Yesterday saw many members visiting Aberglasney for our second annual tea party held on the tea room terrace. Once more the weather was stunning, the food amazing, and the gardens looked superb.

We were really fortunate to time it whilst Aberglasney’s own resident award winning photographer, Nigel MacCall was trying out a new super tall tripod to enable him to get different perspective photos of the gardens. Nigel told us he’s been working in the gardens for over  5 years, though usually on his own at first light, and dusk, so it was a rare chance to see him in action.  For those who don’t know, he’s twice won first prize in the prestigious international IGPOTY garden photography competition with photos he’s taken at Aberglasney.  He’s even apparently been given a special dispensation to do selective pruning to create the perfect shot! Click here to see some of his award winning images. He explained he wasn’t a great photographer of people but was taken by some of the mad hats on show, and so Donna was summoned to pose amongst the Iris and Alliums…

That Nigel has so many stunning vistas to photograph is largely down to the hard work and inspired planting schemes devised over the last decade by head gardener Joseph Atkin, aided by his team of helpers. There’s no question that Aberglasney is becoming more popular, with greater visitor numbers over the years, because of the exceptional standard of garden design and plantings,  whatever the time of year. We’re exceptionally lucky to have such a world class garden with wonderful tea room on our doorstep.

Whilst trying to get a photo of some of the assorted mad hats which several members wore for the occasion……my clear backdrop of the garden scene was interrupted as someone walked past… and then we all noticed who it was…

Thanks very much to Joseph for this good humoured pose, and indeed for everyone at Aberglasney for making it such a lovely day out for us all.


The garden safari date has been fixed for Sunday June 9th, with planned visits to  several member’s gardens. Yvonne will send out an email with more details in due course for any members able to join this enjoyable day out.


A reminder that June’s meeting promises to be another great one with Helen Picton from the UK’s most famous Aster (Michaelmas Daisy) nursery, Old Court Nursery Malvern  coming to talk to us about her favourite plants, and how to grow them. Helen will also be bringing along plants for sale. Click here for Helen’ Website for a flavour of what she grows.


Finally, as a quick reminder, now’s the perfect time to collect seeds from Crocus and snowdrop seed pods. A little earlier than usual, in our garden this has been a bumper year, and even if the seed is just scattered straight away in other areas of the garden, it’s a really easy way to get plants established without the fag of having to plant yet more bulbs. Though sowing just beneath the soil surface will probably give higher germination success.

Propagation Talk/Workshop with Steve Lloyd from Hergest Croft and Future Events.

May Meeting – Steve Lloyd from Hergest Croft Gardens

A final reminder to all members that this Wednesday, May 15th at 7.30pm we have Steve Lloyd from Hergest Croft gardens coming to Cothi, and he’ll 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 numbers 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. So if you have a favourite plant don’t forget to bring along a sample.

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.

A reminder too that this Wednesday’s meeting will also be the last chance to book in for the club trip to Abgerglasney gardens the following week (May 22nd) for our tea party.


Advance notice that our June speaker is Helen Picton from Old Court nurseries near Malvern. This is an old established family nursery specialising in Michaelmas Daisies (Asters – though some of these have recently been renamed!), with a fabulous display garden too. To get a flavour of the range and potential late season value of Asters, do have a look at their great website by clicking here. One of those plant groups which really extend the flower season into the misty late autumn months.

Helen will be bringing plants along for sale too.


Karen and David’s garden at Lan Farm

The member’s garden safari planned for early June will include a tour of 5 members’ gardens beginning with Anne in Cellan, then Steven and Jane, Alison and stopping at Elena’s for a shared lunch (please bring a plate of food to share). Then finally on to Karen and David’s near Talley.  Final times and date will hopefully be settled by this week’s meeting.


For our August meeting our Growing Challenge is to grow and use any edible flowers or leaves in any form, eg cordial, flowers, leaves, cake as part of our shared meal. Here are some helpful links from Yvonne…  www.maddocksfarmorganics.co.uk/edible-flowers-list have lists of edible flowers, how to grow them and how to crystallise them. Edible wild plants https://matteroftrust.org/14760/62-edible-wild-plants-that-you-didnt-know-you-can-eat; and www.eatweeds.co.uk;


A reminder that the club’s plant stall that we try to set up at each meeting, depends on the generous donations of spare plants from members to be  a successful addition to raising funds for the club for future events and speakers. So if you have any suitable plants you can spare, or even as we move into vegetable production season, any spare produce, then do bring them along to meetings with a name label and appropriate selling price. They would be most welcome. Remember that all proceeds from the stall go into club funds and help towards club costs such as speaker fees.


Also if anyone has any appropriate topical tips to share with other members, do let Yvonne know in advance of the meetings, or just write them up on the white board at the rear of the hall.


Advance notice from Sue Sturges in Moylegrove of a village garden open day in early June…

 

For those who’ve never been,  Moylegrove is a beautiful coastal village between Cardigan and  Newport, with the added attraction of the fantastic Penrallt coastal garden centre/nursery/cafe on the hillside overlooking the sea just above the village.  (Click here and here for more). You can walk from the village down a beautiful wooded valley to the coast, and join the coastal path, for a great circular walk including Ceibwr Bay.  So well worth a thought for a great day out.


Ferryside Lifeboat Charity Garden Crawl (SA17 5RR)
On Sunday 30th June 2019 come and discover the beautiful and varied gardens of Ferryside. The gardens are open each year to support Ferryside Lifeboat. Wander around the village and enjoy a variety of refreshments available in many of the venues, whilst listening to ‘live music’ in some of the gardens. Discover scarecrows, there will be characters popping up all around the village!
The Lifeboat station will be open and crew will be there to show visitors around the lifeboat.
The gardens will be open between one and six p.m. Programmes, including a map, are £3.00.


Advance notice from Teresa O’Ryan of Drefach Felindre Gardening Club of a chance to join their group for a visit to the great Shrewsbury Flower Show in August. See details below…

Drefach Felindre Gardening Club is taking a coach to Shrewsbury Flower Show on 9th August 2019.  We will be leaving the Red Dragon Hall at 8.30 am and returning at approximately 8.00 pm.

The coach will drop us off at the Flower Show gates and return to pick us up from there.

Tickets for entry can be bought on line.  The cost of the coach is £12.50 each.

If any members would like to join them, please make your cheques payable to Drefach Felindre Gardening Club and send to:  Helen Nolan, Coedmor, Adpar, Newcastle Emlyn, Ceredigion, SA38 9EH.  For further information, please contact Helen on 07964674287 or email helencoedmor@gmail.com


As an indication of how different late April and early May 2019 have been to last year, as a new beekeeper, I’ve had to to do 2 sessions of emergency garden pruning in the last 10 days. Has everyone else found it’s been a great start to the year for our pollinating insects?