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…


 

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


 

Programme changes; Film Entertainment; Glorious Primulas; Mad Hats & Tea at Aberglasney

The Quiet American Gardener and Terry Walton

Following the last minute cancellation of Terry Walton’s talk to us last month due to family circumstances, we brought forward the film which was to be our November entertainment. The good news is that we won’t miss out on Terry’s talk as he has now confirmed that he will be able to come in November instead.

Hidcote Manor Garden

The film we watched, ‘The Quiet American Gardener’, was about the history and development of Hidcote Manor Garden by Major Lawrence Johnston. He was born into a wealthy American family of stockbrokers, which gave him the necessary funds to create this now revered English garden, once his mother had bought the Cotswold estate in the early twentieth century. It was passed to the National Trust in 1948 on his retirement to his estate, Serre de la Madone, on the French Riviera.

The film was a fascinating insight into how the garden evolved and the influences that played a part: Italian garden design, architectural perspectives and their manipulation to create a particular effect are some that come to mind. The love of the place was apparent in the way the more recent gardeners talked about it and how they were trying to restore the garden to how Lawrence Johnston envisaged it. Click here for a trailer and transcript of the film.

 


Richard Bramley talking about Primulas – Wednesday May 16th at 7.30pm.

Primula sieboldii at Farmyard Nurseries

Another speaker cancellation occurred for May. Fortunately Richard Bramley, a popular and entertaining regular for Cothi Gardeners, was able to step into the breach and will give us a talk on Primulas. Richard has developed a fabulous collection of Primula sieboldii for which he is in the process of applying for National Collection status, and will no doubt tell us much about these beautiful Spring plants along with others in the primula family. He will of course be bringing plants for sale. More info on his website for Farmyard Nurseries (click here).

Primula sieboldii at Farmyard Nurseries

Candelabra primula in a garden setting

 

 


Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at Aberglasney

There is a club outing to Aberglasney on Wednesday 6th June. Entry to the garden is at a reduced rate of £7.25 (free to members of Aberglasney) and the special afternoon tea (£12 per person) has been booked for 3.30pm.  Come early and enjoy this fabulous garden before sitting down to a  ‘proper tea’ with sandwiches, cakes and pretty china on the terrace overlooking the pool garden. Mad Hats to be worn (but not obligatory) to add to the entertainment! If you would like to join us but haven’t put your name down yet, there will be a list at the next meeting, or let Julian know directly. We need to give Aberglasney names  so that those attending can get the discounted rate.


Club Plant Stall

Now that we have had a welcome change in the weather (at last!) things have started to recover from the dreadful winter and spring. Do try and bring any surplus plants you may have to the next meeting for the club plant stall. The proceeds from the stall give a significant boost to club finances and all help both with supplying the plants and buying them is much appreciated.


 

Hardy Geraniums with Richard Cain; Media Allotmenteering with Terry Walton; Spring socialising with Cothi Gardeners…….

Richard Cain – Hardy Geraniums

Our March meeting was, sadly, the last one at which we will hear Richard Cain from Penlan Perennials as he is retiring in September. Richard has given us several entertaining and informative talks over the years on a variety of subjects and this one on Hardy Geraniums was no exception.

Erodium manescavii and Geranium sanguineum var. striatum

The Geranium genus includes

  1. Pelargoniums – not hardy annuals
  2. Erodiums – soft velvety foliage which doesn’t like wet conditions
  3. Geraniums – generally fully hardy to -25 Deg. C, although there are a few non-hardy types.

 

  • Appearance: they all have a crown of leaves at the centre but then can vary considerably from straggly stems to compact mounds. Leaves can be dissected, blotched and some are scented.
  • Smaller Geraniums can be vulnerable to winter wet when the crown can rot.
  • Species Geraniums only flower for 3 – 4 weeks as they attract pollinators and once pollinated, the flowers fade.
  • Hybrids have a longer flowering season as they are usually sterile.
  • There is a Geranium species for almost any site or situation! Eg Ground cover – G. macrorrizum; G. riversleaianum ‘Mavis Simpson’ (also flowers for 4 months). Shade – G. monacense, G. nodosum, G. phaeum, G. sylvaticum, G. versicolor & G. wlassovianum.

G. macrorrhizum

  • Most are pest and disease free and rabbit and deer resistant. However they are susceptible to vine weevil.
  • Thug like Geraniums such as G. oxonianum can be effectively controlled by cutting hard back before flowering has finished – this has the added benefit of encouraging a second flush later.
  • Many x hybrids are sterile but flowers are often larger and last longer eg  G. ‘Eureka Blue’, G.wallichianum ‘Crystal Lake’ and G. ‘Alan Mayes’ (like Magnificum but flowers for months).
  • Good plants for pollinators: usually have reflexed petals. G. sylvaticum, G. ‘Cloud Nine’. Hybrids and alpine varieties are not so good.

G. phaeum

 

Propagation:

  • Seed: collect when ripe – they usually go black. Hold seed head between fingers and put in a bag or the capsule will ‘explode’ scattering the seeds everywhere. Sow when fresh in vermiculite or coir (water before sowing) and cover with a very thin layer of vermiculite. Seeds can be kept in a bag in the fridge until ready to sow.
  • Division: do when dormant in spring. Pull off surplus compost, twist and pull crown apart. Tap off and replant.
  • Root cuttings: use this technique for sterile types and those with tap (carroty type)roots. Only take root cuttings when plant is dormant as if the sap is rising the cuttings won’t take. Use a root with fine roots on it. Note which way is up (cut lower end on an angle and top end flat). Take 1 ½ to 2” cuttings approx. the thickness of a pencil or more. It takes a year to get a small plant, success rate approx. 70 – 80 %.
  • Cuttings from rhizomes – take newish shoots from around the edge of the plant and gently tease apart. Balance top leafy growth and bottom root structure, removing leaves as necessary.
  • Stem cuttings: take these from the straggly stemmed Geraniums. Cuttings should be approx. 3-4” long. Peel basal leaves off. Cut square across under a leaf node, they should then produce roots at the node. Push into soil round the edge of a small pot.

We will miss being able to access Richard’s immense knowledge for future talks and wish him well for the next exciting phase of his life. Click here for his website


April Meeting

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.

If you haven’t already guessed, our speaker in April 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.

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 April 18th to meet Terry. Mobile phones not necessary! Click here for his facebook page.

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


Spring Social

We now have a date for a spring social – which will be very kindly hosted by Elena, for a lunch gathering at her home Glanranell Barns on Wednesday May 9th. 

Please bring a plate of food to share, and to ease parking issues, it would be good to car share if possible.


Plant Fair

Another reminder to put your names down for helping out with the plant fair – sheets for signing are on the meet and greet table at our meetings


NGS Garden Opening

Gelli Uchaf Garden

This year’s final opening weekend for Julian and Fiona’s garden, Gelli Uchaf is 21st and 22nd April. There are still some spaces left for the Saturday afternoon (2.30pm) and Sunday morning (10.30am). Contact them to book in : 01558  685119


TOPICAL TIPS

It’s probably still OK to cut back any Viticella, or later flowering Clematis, if you didn’t manage to do it in February, since there’s been so little growth so far this year.

Also Fiona’s tip is it’s not too late to take willow wands for making green sculptures or plant supports.

 

Finally if you’ve got any nectarines or apricots flowering under cover, don’t forget that there are very few pollinators around, or certainly not many that will make it into a greenhouse or polytunnel, unless you have a very nearby honeybee hive, so it’s worth hand pollinating the flowers – Julian uses a feather rammed into the end of a cane, to reach those high up flowers.


 

AGM; SNOWDROP AUCTION & QUIZ; INAUGURAL PLANT FAIR; BUMBLEBEES & PYO WILLOW

AGM

The club AGM was held on January 17th and was very well attended with an excellent turnout of current members plus some new ones joining on the night. The chairman and treasurer’s reports indicated that the club is thriving but the point was made that we shouldn’t rest on our laurels but should actively encourage others to join. Thanks were given to retiring committee members, Avril and Jenny, for their hard work over the last 3 years.


Snowdrop Auction and Quiz

Once the business part of the meeting was finished Julian took up his meat tenderizer, sorry, ‘Gavel’,  to conduct an auction of snowdrops. This proved to be a highly amusing event and raised over £60 for club funds. Grateful thanks to Julian and Fiona for donating the snowdrops.

 

Food was next on our minds and we all enjoyed the varied offerings brought for our sharing supper.

With appetites satisfied we girded our loins and attempted to get our brains in gear for Derek’s quiz. He assured us it was easy this year with all answers some kind of plant. We were deceived! Plants ? Certainly. Easy ? ?? Nonetheless it was great fun and enjoyed by all.

         

Stumped?


Cothi Gardeners Plant Fair Sunday, July 8th 2018

The planning for our inaugural plant fair is progressing well. The date is confirmed, excellent nurseries, growers and other participants are booked. Detailed organisation for the day itself will need the active participation of all members to make it run smoothly and successfully so PLEASE PUT IT IN YOUR DIARIES NOW and be prepared to be involved! More on what this will entail at our next meeting in February.


“The Plight of the Bumble Bee” , Wednesday, February 21st.

“The Plight of the Bumble Bee” will be presented by Clare Flynn from the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust. This is a charity doing excellent work and research across Britain. Click here for more info.


 

Cut-your-own willow – January 2018 – available for approx. 6 weeks.

Donna has basket makers’ willow ready for cutting. Varieties include:  Fantail, Continental Purple and Golden. No charge, but I’d happily swap for a small basket! Please phone Donna, 01558 685717

Fantail: A vigorous ornamental willow known for its curiously flattened, recurved stems used in floral arrangements.  Click here for more info.

Continental Purple: Tall, with dark purple to mahogany stems, and a beautiful but very delicate pale purple bloom on the bark. Click here for more info.

Golden: A spreading medium-sized deciduous tree with bright deep yellow shoots bearing narrowly-lanceolate mid-green leaves and insignificant, slender yellowish catkins in early spring. Click here for more info.


 

Frank Cabot – Les Quatre Vents; Christmas Buffet; Sad News

Les Quatre Vents – slideshow illustrated DVD lecture by Frank Cabot

At our November meeting rather than having a speaker we opted to show a film by Frank Cabot of his garden, ‘Les Quatre Vents’, near Quebec in Canada. In spite of quite a number of members being away or ill, we had a very good turnout.

Julian gave a brief introduction explaining Frank Cabot’s relevance to Carmarthenshire and his background ……

He was actually an American, born into a wealthy family, and made enough money in financial services to retire early at 48 and devote himself to gardens and horticulture.

Like Bob Brown, he was awarded the Veitch medal by our Royal Horticultural Society, and he also established the Garden Conservancy charity in America to help save and preserve significant gardens mainly in the USA and a few around the world.  Through contacts made by Carmarthenshire based William Wilkins, he was persuaded to become involved with the Aberglasney Restoration Trust, he and his wife donating over £1 million to the restoration of Aberglasney in its very early days. A man of great charm and enthusiasm, he produced in his latter years not just a wonderful book on the creation of his major family garden at Les Quatre Vents, The Greater Perfection) but also a slideshow illustrated DVD lecture which is what we showed to Cothigardeners. This selects 5 of the 32 design elements of his garden and discusses how they came into being. Many took decades to reach fruition, from the initial idea and planning to the final execution or maturity of plantings.

Although  the film showed gardening on a grand scale we were able to appreciate themes it highlighted which are pertinent to all gardeners……..

  • patience – the long term  nature of designing/planting a garden
  • ruthlessness – if a plant doesn’t perform, move it to a better location or get rid of it altogether – all plants should earn their place.
  • continual appraisal, reassessment and editing. Walk round your garden regularly throughout the year making notes of things that work and those that don’t and be prepared to change them where necessary.

Click here for both a 4 minute video clip from the film, and a detailed biography  of Frank Cabot on the site of The Garden Conservancy.


Christmas Buffet

A reminder to those who have booked their place for the Christmas buffet ………………….

Wednesday December 13th at the Dolaucothi Arms, meeting at  6.30 pm for a 6.45 to 7 pm start.

The Dolaucothi Arms – Cothigardeners Christmas Buffet 2017

£15 per person

Hot

Dinefwr Venison sausages with red onion, apples and sage

Mushroom, chestnut & red wine bourguignon (gf, ve)

Buttery mashed potato (v)

Root vegetables roasted with thyme (gf, ve)

Cold

Home cooked glazed ham with cranberry and orange stuffing (gf)

Raised rainbow vegetable pie

Spiced red cabbage slaw ~ Chicory, celery & walnut salad ~ winter salad

(all gf, v)

Sweet (all v)

Mince pies with brandy butter

Orange, almond & polenta cake (gf)

Mulled pear and gingerbread trifle


Sad News

Many of us in Cothigardeners knew John Smith and had enjoyed his and his wife Liz’s company and beautiful garden at  Llwyn Cyll near Trapp on several occasions, as well as his highly entertaining talk on the development of the garden. Sadly news came this week that he died of cancer in Glangwili hospital on Saturday night.

John’s funeral/memorial service is to be held at Llanelli Crematorium at 12.00 on Monday 27th, with ‘tea’ at Llyshendy (Jane and Ivor Stokes home near Llandeilo) thereafter.  Liz has asked that if folk are coming, bright colours please and black only if you have to!


 

Brilliant Bob Brown; Quatre Vents – Gardening on a Grand Scale; Christmas Buffet

Bob Brown –  “Too many plants, too little space”

  

Preceded by another successful Pie Night at the Dolaucothi Arms, our October meeting saw us entertained by our ‘big name’ speaker for this year, Bob Brown from Cotswold Garden Flowers. The hall was packed with 40 visitors swelling our club numbers to over 80. There were some excellent raffle prizes to be won and members did us proud with their cake baking for the refreshments

  

Bob lived up to his reputation and gave us a highly informative and amusing talk on the subject ‘Too many plants, too little space’. Below is a brief summary of the main points he made.

“Too many plants, too little space”

  • Cut down size of garden
  • Make every plant earn it’s keep, opt for plants with multi-seasonal interest.
  • Multi-layer planting to extend growing season – as one plant goes over another is coming up to take it’s place – in the same space.
  • Throw out non optimal performers – be ruthless!
  • Go for AGM varieties as these are proven to be garden worthy.
  • Avoid ‘rare’ and difficult to get hold of plants – they are so described for a reason!

Bob also brought some of his lovely plants to sell, many of which were mentioned in the talk.

  

Many thanks to all those involved with the smooth running of the evening, and especially our programme organisers, Brenda and Yvonne, whose brainchild it was.

 


Quatre Vents – Wednesday November 15th

November’s meeting will be a quieter affair but non-the-less very interesting. We are showing the film made and narrated by Frank Cabot about the development of his family’s garden ‘Quatre Vents’ near Quebec in Canada.  Frank and Anne Cabot were the primary benefactors of the Aberglasney Restoration Trust. He set up the Garden Conservancy in the States to help save and restore special gardens around the world. Click here to read more. Sadly Frank died in 2011 aged 86.

The following is a quote about Frank Cabot from Alexander Reford, director of the renowned family-owned Jardins du Métis, also in Quebec.

“He was a formidable character and an inspiration to gardeners, both amateur and professional who work to emulate his horticultural prowess. His wit and wisdom were a welcome addition to our lives, his erudition encouraged many to take up gardening seriously, and his irony made sure that we did not do so excessively. He inherited the land, but he made the garden; it was his from start to finish. Whenever I saw him he was in jeans, his rubber boots, knee pads, dirt under his fingernails. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of plants.”

Even though the property has been open to the general public for only four days each summer, the gardens are world renowned. Hilary Weston and Nicole Eaton featured them in their book In a Canadian Garden, and Reader’s Digest once referred to them as “Canada’s best kept secret.”

In the year 2000 Frank Cabot was awarded the Veitch medal by the Royal Horticultural Society. He also received the Garden Club of America’s 2006 Achievement Award for “the greatest horticultural accomplishment in America in the last half-century” and numerous other awards.

“His book, The Greater Perfection, received the Council of Botanical and Horticultural Libraries’ 2003 Literature Award, and was described as “one of the best books ever written about the making of a garden by its creator”

Perhaps Gardens Illustrated described him best:  “part eccentric, part scholar; a thinker, a gatherer of ideas, a plantsman, and a patron… above all, as is essential to all great gardeners, he is a visionary.”

The film shows gardening on a grand scale, but is still very stimulating, and you may well not get a chance to see it anywhere else, so it’s well worth coming along.


Christmas Buffet

Our Christmas meal this year is a buffet and will be held on the evening of Wednesday December 13th at the Dolaucothi Arms, meeting at about 6.30 pm for a 6.45 to 7 pm start. Final details will be circulated nearer the time but members should be aware that places are limited, so if you do want to come you need to let Julian or Stephen know as soon as possible to secure your place. Payment needs to be made by the November meeting at the latest. The menu is below.

The DOLAUCOTHI Arms – Cothi Gardeners Christmas Buffet 2017

£15 per person

Hot

Dinefwr Venison sausages with red onion, apples and sage

Mushroom, chestnut & red wine bourguignon (gf, ve)

Buttery mashed potato (v)

Root vegetables roasted with thyme (gf, ve)

Cold

Home cooked glazed ham with cranberry and orange stuffing (gf)

Raised rainbow vegetable pie

Spiced red cabbage slaw ~ Chicory, celery & walnut salad ~ winter salad

(all gf, v)

Sweet (all v)

Mince pies with brandy butter

Orange, almond & polenta cake (gf)

Mulled pear and gingerbread trifle


 

Upcoming Events Not to be Missed!

Two events which are no doubt already in your diaries……….

First off is our big speaker meeting with Bob Brown of Cotswold Garden Flowers  (preceded by Pie Night at the Dolaucothi Arms) ……….

………….. and that is quickly followed John and Helen’s plant sale. This goes from strength to strength this year with Keith Brown selling plants as well as (it is rumoured) his friendsTony and Sylvia Marden, from Shady Plants in Gloucestershire.