Hedgehogs; Christmas Meal.

Since the last Cothigardeners blogpost, I guess many of us were clobbered with a short sharp night time snowfall …

which, coming in mid November, with leaves still on the trees, caused a lot of branch and other damage around the garden, as well as a few mature trees knocked over by sheer weight of snow. For anyone unfamiliar with it, we’ve found a Draper Tree Pruner With Telescopic Handle invaluable for reaching any branches ripped off a long way from the ground, without having to use a ladder, which I’m always wary about. Click here for more details on this bit of kit.

It has both a lopper and a pruning saw which can be worked independently, and although we don’t use it often, it pays for itself after one such episode. However there’s always still some damage which has to be tackled with a chainsaw really…   

 


Fortunately the snow had all gone by the time Di O’Keefe came to talk to us last month about her wonderful work helping hedgehogs in West Wales. Di began by explaining how she came to set up the West Wales Hedgehog Rescue, and has gradually built up an extensive network of volunteers and helpers, including our very own Jenny, which means that at any one time she can have up to 40 hedgehogs in her temporary care.

Di explained a little about the hedgehog year, mentioning that by November any hedgehog weighing less than 600 g, or easily caught in daytime, is unlikely to be able to hibernate and survive the winter, so would probably benefit from an assessment by Di or one of her team, who can be contacted day or night(!) via her facebook page, click here. 

Di mentioned some of the stresses and diseases, or simply being born later in the year, that can cause hedgehogs to be so light pre hibernation. Di uses rehydration, gentle warming techniques and then supplementary feeding, as well as appropriate medication to revitalise such borderline viable hedgehogs.

Di also explained the normal breeding cycle of the hedgehog which begins after emergence in spring and can typically end up with 6 to 10 hoglets being born, often after several matings with different males. The baby hoglets are born blind and without spines, but these all develop within the first fortnight. Di frequently receives litters of orphan hedgehogs which need feeding every 2.5 hours for the first couple of weeks or so. All being well, they can be moved onto solids shortly afterwards.

Di  stressed that cat food is probably the best food for anyone wanting to feed hedgehogs in the garden, not bread or milk since they are lactose intolerant, and also not meal worms, which are too high in phosphorus.

Their normal diet is mainly invertebrates across quite a wide range – beetles, centipedes, worms, slugs and snails, with occasional bird’s eggs and chicks, and since this diet is similar to badgers, it’s often the case that hedgehogs avoid areas with a significant badger population.

The high turn out for Di’s excellent and comprehensive review of these very special nomadic and solitary small mammals that some of us are fortunate to see in our gardens on an occasional or more regular basis, showed how hedgehogs still hold a very special place in our affections all these years after Mrs. Tiggywinkle was penned.

For more specific information on ways to help hedgehogs in our gardens there’s an excellent summary, “Gardening with Hedgehogs” which you can access here.


Finally a reminder for everyone who’s booked for the Cothi gardener’s Christmas lunch, that it’s on this coming Wednesday, December 11th at the Forest Arms, Brechfa, arriving from 12.00 to 12.30pm. Having decided against having crackers on the table to save waste, anyone who wants to wear festive attire will be most welcome. See you all there, and a very happy Christmas and New Year to all readers.

 


 

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    

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Farmyard Nursery Visit; Planting In Containers; Aberglasney Tea party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.


 

Garden Safari in pictures and an Invitation

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

Ty Dwr

Ddol Brenin


An Invitation from Drefach Velindre Gardening Club …………

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

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


 

Socials, safaris and Green’s Leaves

Summer Social

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

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


Growing Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Paul Green of Green’s Leaves Nursery

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

Click here for his website.


 

Cothi Gardeners Plant Fair

Cothi Gardeners Inaugural Plant Fair

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

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

  

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


Next Meeting Wednesday, July 18th

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


 

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

Primula Sieboldii – Richard Bramley from Farmyard Nurseries

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

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

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

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

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

Other primulas:

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

Primula florindae: a yellow, later flowering variety

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

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


Aberglasney Tea Party

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

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

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

  

A very successful and thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.


Plant Fair

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

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

Volunteers still needed to help make the day run smoothly.

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


Growing Challenge

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


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

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


Wild Flower Walk and Orchid Count

Message from Helen Bradley from Plantlife:

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


Monthly Tips

Seed Collection

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

Watering

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

Splitting Daffodils

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