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

Terry Walton – The Life of a Media Allotmenteer

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

Terry

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

First Slide - with Jeremy Vine                  Terry Walton 2

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

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

Parsnips:

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

Leeks:

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

Beans:

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

Courgettes:

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

Peas:

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

Lettuce:

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

Onions:

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

Brassicas:

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

Carrots:

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

Potatoes:

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

Peppers:

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

Spring Onions:

  • Sow in buckets every 2 weeks

Tomatoes:

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

Garlic:

  • Best varieties to grow are UK ones

Strawberries:

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

Other tips:

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

Book signing


Some topical tips from Julian:

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


Cothi Gardeners Christmas Lunch at the Forest Arms, Brechfa

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

      

      

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

 


Committee Members Needed

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


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

Membership renewals:

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

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


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


 

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

Fascinating and Phenomenal Fungi

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

Embroidered Fungi

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

Examples of fungi brought in to the meeting

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

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

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


Committee Members Needed

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


Membership

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

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

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


Terry Walton

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

© Terry Walton

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

© Terry Walton

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

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


Christmas Lunch

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


Topical Tips

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

Autumn planting

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

Winter Squash

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


 

Green’s Leaves; Fantastic Fungi; Terry Walton; Christmas Lunch

Paul Green of Green’s Leaves Nursery

September’s meeting saw a very welcome return by Paul Green from Green’s Leaves Nursery. Paul once again built his talk around a fantastic and diverse selection of plants that he’d brought along, persuading us of the merits of plants which look great at this early autumn period and on into winter.

Ranging through grasses, trees and small perennials, there was something for everyone to enjoy, and the talk was laced with practical tips (remember to lift any outside pots off the ground over winter to prevent water logging and root death), to snippets of fascinating information (Alder Buckthorn is not only one of the main larval food plants for the caterpillars of the Brimstone Butterfly, but also originally the favoured wood for making high quality charcoal to incorporate into gun powder!)

An enjoyable evening all round, and great to see several new members join us.


Bruce Langridge – ‘Fantastic and Phenomenal Fungi’

Next week’s talk on ‘Fantastic and Phenomenal Fungi’ by Bruce Langridge promises to be really interesting – Bruce is responsible for establishing the Wales Fungi Day at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, taking place this Sunday 14th October and it’s been so successful that a similar event is now held at over 80 venues nationally. Click here for more information.


Terry Walton – “The Life of a Media Allotmenteer”

Advance notice for November’s meeting when our speaker  will be Terry Walton on the subject “The Life of a Media Allotmenteer”. Terry promises to give us a look behind the scenes as he tells us about life on his allotment in the Rhondda and how he has given growing advice on the radio each month for over twelve years.

A gardener of over 40 years’ experience, Terry has worked plots on the same site since he was a boy, learning from his father and other allotment gardeners. Many of you will be familiar with his enthusiastic style, so do come along on November 21st  to meet Terry. Click here for his facebook page.

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


Christmas Lunch

Initial bookings for the lunchtime Christmas meal at The Forest Arms, Brechfa are coming in, so don’t forget to sign up soon – there may be a limit on numbers which we could broach this year, with the increased membership. The cost is £20 per head. Please give your menu choices (including any dietary requirements/allergies) plus a 50% deposit when you book your place. The menu is shown below. The date is Wednesday December 12th, 12.30 for 1 pm.


Monthly Tips

3 Tips from Julian……………..

I find myself collecting seeds from quite a few plants at this time of the year. Obviously It’s a good idea to collect them on a dry day if you can manage that, but also it’s worth labelling them and quickly storing them in the fridge so that they don’t become too dry which can easily happen if they’re left on the side in a warm house. We had a few days in Sussex recently and were fortunate to visit Gravetye Manor which was the home of William Robinson at the beginning of the last century. He was perhaps the driving force in moving gardens towards a more naturalistic, less formal type of garden design. However I didn’t know until this visit that he injured himself very badly after slipping on a stile whilst walking to church, and spent the last 25 years of his life confined to a wheel chair. But apparently right up to the end of his days, he loved scattering seeds of his favourite plants around his garden and meadows and enjoying the excitement of seeing what germinated.

Gravetye Manor flower garden

I’ve also found that the 2 pronged weeding fork I mentioned earlier in the year as a great tool will work as a bulb planting implement for small bulbs like Crocus and fritillaries, which limits the extent to which you have to bend over. But I’ve also found it’s not a good idea to twist it too much, or you end up with a single pronged fork! Which is still ok for bulb planting, and for using as a strut or support but not so good for weeding!

Finally I’m guessing a lot of people will have a surfeit of apples this year. We have, so I’ve been juicing and freezing a lot. This generates quite a lot of pulp and trimmings. I did read that mice and voles love apples (certainly our rats do!) So I’ve been scattering all the apple debris around near where I’ve planted my Crocus in the hope that the rodents are distracted by the smell and taste of this. And therefore leave the corms alone. In previous years I’ve sometimes lost 80% of newly planted Crocus within a few days (in spite of dousing them in Chilli powder and vinegar) with them being systematically dug up and eaten. Fingers crossed, but so far I haven’t seen any signs of dug out, chomped Crocus this year. Also although it sounds a bit messy, actually all the bits turns brown very quickly and they have the added bonus of attracting in the few slugs we currently have left in the garden, which can then very easily be dealt with at night if you go round with a torch. In whatever way you like to do that! Of late since bending not’s so good for me, I’ve been using John’s suggested method of stamping on them, though I suppose if I sharpened the spike on my weeding fork I could try skewering…


 

Garden Safari in pictures and an Invitation

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

Ty Dwr

Ddol Brenin


An Invitation from Drefach Velindre Gardening Club …………

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

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


 

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.


 

Pies, Bumblebees, Topical Tips and Events

              

After another excellent pie night at the Dolaucothi – sadly our last with Dave and Esther as they move on to pastures new, we enjoyed our first talk of the year given by Clare Flynn from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust on the Plight of the Bumblebee. It proved to be one of the best talks we have had with much post talk discussion.

The Plight of the Bumblebee

Clare took us through how bees evolved from wasps, the different types of bee species (approx. 275 native species in total of which there are 245 solitary bees, 24 bumbles and 1 honey bee species). We learnt about the differences between the different types, their lifecycles (bumble bee colonies die at the end of the year with the exception of the queens who hibernate and emerge in spring to start a new colony), Cuckoo bumble bees, the commonest types and how to try and identify them – not always easy! Click here for more information.    She then went on to talk about the decline of bumblebees both in numbers (2 species are extinct in the UK and 2 are on the brink) and range, the causes of this decline–

  • Habitat loss
  • Intensification of farming with increased use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, loss of hedgerows, heavy grazing, loss of 98% of the flower-rich grasslands since 1940
  • Agrochemicals – harm non target species, chronic exposure, cumulative effects
  • Pathogens – global movement with commercial colonies imported which escape/are released and spread disease through shared flowers.

Important as pollinators (honey bees can’t do it all!) for

  • commercial crops,
  • domestic food,
  • wildflowers
  • every 3rd mouthful comes from insect pollinated food
  • bumble bees are one of the most efficient pollinators
  • bumble bees are the only insect able to ‘buzz pollinate’ essential for crops such as tomatoes.
  • They are also important for their intrinsic value.

Clare then ended with ways we can help:

  • Habitat – gardens are very important
  • Plant bee friendly flowers
  • Plant flowers to give continuity of forage from March through to October
  • Create nesting sites
  • Create hibernation sites
  • Plant in swathes rather than singly
  • Plant different plants for different bumble bees

and why this should worry us.

Examples of good plants for bumblebees:

Spring: crocus, willow, dandelions, flowering currant, comfrey, pulmonaria, spurge, fruit trees

Early summer: Cranesbill, herbs, clover, bugle, currants, soft fruits, borage, dead nettle, cornflower

Summer: lavatera, weigela, eryngium, sunflowers, stachys, tansy, echinacaea, verbena bonariensis, open, single roses, lavender

Late summer: Knapweed, wild carrot, borage, asters, late raspberries, bramble

More can be found on the Bumblebee Conservation Trusts website (click here). Julian has also observed over several years the plants in Gelli Uchaf’s garden that pollinators, including bumblebees, favour. (Click here)

The following is taken from the bumble bee conservation website and is something that gardeners should be aware of : Recent research into garden centre plants has found that some ornamental plants on sale can contain pesticides, including neonicotinoids and fungicides at levels known to cause sub-lethal harm to bees. Although we do not yet know whether the net effect of exposing pollinators to contaminated food plants is positive or negative, gardeners wishing to lower the risk of exposing bees to these chemicals can buy from organic nurseries, plant swap with others, and or grow their own plants from seed.

Much more information is available on the bumblebee conservation’s excellent website: https://www.bumblebeeconservation.org/

Plant Fair

Arrangements for our plant fair are coming along well, many thanks to John for all his hard work. We are now at the stage when we need members to come forward and offer help. A sheet for you to do this will be on the meet and greet table at all our meetings. We now have a separate page on the website giving more details about the fair so do keep checking for any updates (click here).

Growing Challenge

A reminder that the member’s medley/plant challenge for the August meeting will be to grow something in a pot which you can bring along on the night, and which is attractive to pollinating insects, and then maybe tell us a little about it, and what you’ve seen visiting the flowers. We’ll hopefully confirm a member’s home as a venue to host this event shortly, but as with last year, we’ll have a fall back of the hall, if the forecast looks poor, and/or numbers attending are too great.


Topical tips

Tip 1 (from Julian): A top tip for the whole of February, and indeed any rare dry sunny weather in January as well, involves using my most valuable garden tool. – A fine artist’s paintbrush.

Anyone who came to either our garden NGS open weekend on Saturday/Sunday or indeed the committee meeting knows why.  As Mark jokily summarised it, it’s for my Sex with Cyclamen encounters. I’ve spent years looking at the early flowering spring bulbs in our garden, and what insects actually visit them to pollinate them. And for us, before about the third week in February – there are no bumblebees about. And with perfect timing I yesterday heard and then saw our first emerged bumblebee queen of the year visiting Crocus tommasinianus flowers, complete with hordes of mites, looking almost as desperate for some spring warmth and sunshine as we are! Also if you don’t have a honeybee hive actually in your garden or very close by then you’re unlikely to have any of them around either. Many of these spring flowers have a Mediterranean origin, but as you know we don’t have a similar climate, or insect population in this part of the world. But a lot of these bulbs or corms – if they’re not sterile hybrids – are quite capable of setting seed if they flower this early, just so long as they do get pollinated.

But if there aren’t any insects around then this clearly won’t happen, unless you help them out. So an hour or 2 spent now stooped over the flowers with a paintbrush tickling the flowers might worry your neighbours, but really can result in thousands of viable seeds later in the year. In addition you’re eventually likely to end up with a population of plants – (whether they’re Crocus, Cyclamen coum or even Snowdrops  – you can use it on all 3 plants) – which will flower earlier and are likely to thrive in your garden’s conditions – compared with bought in plants.

And finally you’ll then value the work that pollinating insects do for us much more highly!!If you just rely on later insect population you will probably end up with a population of these flowers with a much narrower period of flowering, based on the nursery bred plants you started off with. Pretty much as soon as I spot a few bumblebees, I put the brush away, so you’re not depriving them of any valuable pollen.

Tip 2: It’s still a good time of the year to lift and divide any clumps of snowdrops. This is really the best, and only, reliable way to gradually end up with a better display each year. But I would pause if we’re heading into a prolonged dry spell with freezing Easterlies. So maybe for now hold fire and wait until wet weather returns….. I’m sure you won’t have to wait too long…. Plant them singly if you’ve got a big area to cover and are patient, or in 2’s or 3’s about 4 inches apart and 2 inches deep if you’re in more of a hurry to get a small area nicely covered.

Tip 3: Donna recommended Charles Dowding on No Dig veggie gardening videos on YouTube – click here for his website http://www.charlesdowding.co.uk


Finally a reminder that Lechryd Gardening Club are holding their own version of ‘Gardener’s Question Time’ on 14th March starting at 7.30pm at Boncath Community Hall. Everyone is welcome, £2 for visitors.

 

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!


 

Pine Martens, Willow, Volunteering and Christmas Lunch

pmtreestump

Image courtesy of the Vincent Wildlife Trust

We had another very successful meeting in November when Dave Bavin from the Vincent Wildlife Trust came to give us a talk on the Pine Marten Recovery Project. It was a fascinating talk explaining how wild Pine Martens from Scotland were being reintroduced Wales. An area near Devils Bridge and the Ystwyth valley was selected as being the most suitable habitat to help re-establish the Pine Martens. Soft release pens were used to acclimatise them and radio collars were fitted to track them for the first 10 months after release. The first group spread out quickly, some travelling nearly 100km to the North Wales coast, while others moved south to the Llyn Brianne area. It needs at least 40 Pine Martens for the population to sustain itself due to their low levels of reproduction (between 2 and 4 kits per year depending on conditions, of which half don’t survive). Following the success of the first group, a second group have now been released. Pine Martens are a useful addition to the wildlife of Wales as they predate grey squirrels thus helping the red squirrel population to recover (red squirrels have evolved a strategy to enable them to co-exist with the Pine Martens). Pine Martens are omnivorous carnivores which causes concern among landowners, particularly those with pheasant shoots. The Trust is engaging with landowners and local communities to educate and inform them so that all can co-exist happily.

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John and Helen reported on their successful plant sale which raised £250 for the NGS and £15 for Cothi Gardeners, and thanked everyone for their support.

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COMMITTEE NOMINATIONS

Daisy asked for any nominations for posts on the committee that need filling next year. These include Chairman (for which there is already one nomination) Treasurer and two people to ‘Meet and Greet’.

We all need to play a part in the running of our club for it to continue into the future and we all get a great deal of pleasure from it. So if you feel you would like to put something back into it and would be able to fill one of these roles, then please do get in touch with Daisy.

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FRESH WILLOW READY TO CUT

Various lengths, some stems up to 3 years old, some ready for a first cut. Altogether, about a hundred stems.

Varieties include:

Continental Purple (Salix Daphnoides)
Beautiful purple colour which develops a white bloom once the willow has dried. Suitable for living willow structures but smaller rods can be used in baskets. Rods can grow up to 8 foot in one year.

Salix purpurea Dicky Meadows

A very slender willow – lovely to use in basketry and is yellow/green in colour. Can grow up to 1.8m. Sought after by basketmakers.

Salix purpurea “Jagiellonka

Jagiellonka is quite a vigorous purpurea which shoots out very pretty purple/red new stems with bright leaves in the spring. This willow provides interesting texture and contrast in the garden, and looks great in a summer arrangement. Use for (coarse) basketry

No charge, but please make me a small basket!

For more details, please phone Donna on 01558 685717

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christmas-pudding

MEMBERS CHRISTMAS LUNCH – at the Dolaucothi Arms , 12 for 12.30 on Wednesday, December 14th

Time is running out if you haven’t let Anne have your menu choices and full payment for the Christmas Meal – the deadline is December 1st. For the menu please see the previous post (click here).

Speaker Change for September Meeting

A brief follow up to the last post…………………..

Due to health reasons Mike Thurlow has had to cancel the talk he was due to give on September 21st but we do have a replacement:

Jess Jones from Llangadog Garden Club has offered to step in and give us a talk on Historical Plants and comes highly recommended by those that have already heard her talk.
Jess has studied Photography, History of Art and Horticulture, and has worked professionally as a Photographer and Gardener for over 25 years. She moved back to Wales from London 10 years ago with her family.
Her more specific interest in Plant & Garden history has brought her three other interests together in her illustrated talks, and she is currently working on setting up a small perennial nursery in Bethlehem.

It should be another fascinating talk and Jess will also be bringing plants for sale