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.

 

Plants for Problem Places; Garden opening; August Member’s Social; Monthly Tips

Jenny Matthews – Plants for Problem Places

 

Jenny Matthews from Moorland Cottage Plants gave us a very useful and interesting talk on plants for problem places at our July meeting, illustrating it with actual plants rather than photos.

Her garden has opened for the NGS from 2000 when it was just ½ acre. It has now expanded to encompass 4 acres and in 2016 was selected for the RHS Partner Garden Scheme. Situated just on the treeline at 700’ on the NE slope of the Preseli Hills with very high rainfall, weather conditions subject to extremes, and a heavy clay soil, she described it as ‘gardening on the edge’!

Jenny explained how when she and her husband first moved there, she learnt from bitter experience that the plants she was accustomed to growing in her previous home in a more climatically benevolent part of the UK didn’t survive more than one winter. She quickly adapted and worked out which plants would ‘do’ and which wouldn’t.

All her plants are propagated by herself and as she has only one small greenhouse, they have to stay outside all year, so are genuinely hardy. She doesn’t use pesticides or fungicides (other than Roseclear if there is a bad infestation), no mollusc control and uses nematodes for controlling vine weevils.

 

 

Problem places can mean the general area in which a garden is located as well as a variety of conditions within a garden itself.

Problem locations:

Coastal and exposed estuaries – salt is the main killer as it dehydrated plants. Plants that are adapted to this are often small leaved and tussocky. Hydrangeas also survive but are smaller than those in other locations. Quickthorn and Blackthorn are suitable trees for coastal locations with Sorbus and Birch doing better slightly inland. Other examples of plants are black elder and potentillas.

Cold, exposed, windy, inland – the weather can be unpredictable so protective hedges are advisable. Use native, dense and twiggy hedging plants such as Hawthorn and Blackthorn, although the latters suckering habit can be a problem. Fatsias can survive down to -15’ if suitably sheltered. Beech, Hornbeam, Dogwood, Gorse, Physocarpus, hardy Fuchsias and Hydrangeas are all good but make sure to choose the right variety for that location. If it is windy go for shorter plants.

Problem conditions within a garden. Some of the plants listed are the genus names rather than the specific variety, so check which varieties are suited to the relevant conditions:

Dry Shade – plants are generally less luxuriant than those that grow in other areas.

Saxifrage stolonifera – copes with dense shade
Cardamine
Epimediums
Ferns eg Polystichum polyblepharum, and Blechnum penna-marina
Mitella breweri
Variegated Ground Elder
Carex

Damp Shade

Hydrangeas
Astilbes eg Willie Buchanan and Bronze Elegance
Persicaria virginiana (variegated)
Persicaria amplexicaulis
Rogersia podophylla
Carex

Dappled Shade

Hydrangeas – ‘Early Summer Bloom Star’ has red stems if in part shade
‘Oregon Pride’ – black stems
‘Sabrina’ – leaves start v dark green/black before opening
Chelanopsis – long flowering
Mukdenia rosii – spring flowering, autumn colour
Ferns – Japanese Painted
Fuchsias – ‘Genii – small
Magellanica ‘Versicolor’ – tall
Ajuga
Vancouveria – similar to Epimediums

Sunny, no extremes of sun/mosture, ordinary soil

Common Berberis
Physocarpus – ‘Diabolo D’Or’
‘Firebrand’
‘Diabolo’
Crocosmis – ‘Krakatoa’ – dark leaved with apricot flowers
‘Moorland Sunset’
Sidalcea – ‘Elsie Hugh’
Variegated Golden Rod – shorter form
Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Rose Glow’
Polemonium
Loosestrife
Mollinias – ‘moorhexe’
‘Transparent’

Dry Conditions – plants need to reduce moisture loss either from sun or wind so are often low growing, silvery leaved and hairy, and have smaller leaves.

Persicaria vaccinifolia
Sedums – low growing varieties eg ‘Thundercloud’
Potentillas
Sanguisorbas
White Rosebay Willowherb

Boggy Conditions

Lysmachia – ‘Clethroides’
‘Candela’
‘Golden Alexander’
Astilbes – ‘Visions in Red’
‘Visions in White’
‘Maggie Daley’
arendsii ‘Feuer’
‘Beauty of Ernst’
Chelone glabra
Rodgersia – ‘Buckland Beauty’
Pinnata ‘Superba’
Acorus (rush)
Filipendula (Meadow sweet)
Bog Iris – ‘Gerald Derby’
Lobelia syphalitica x cardinalis
Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Orangefield’

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Ty’r Maes, Ffarmers, Carmarthenshire, SA19 8JP

Club members John and Helen have their garden opening for the NGS this Sunday, August 6 th – do come and support them if you can ………….

A 4 acre garden with splendid views. Herbaceous and shrub beds – formal design, exuberantly informal planting, full of cottage garden favourites and many unusual plants. Burgeoning arboretum (200+ types of tree); wildlife and lily ponds, pergola, gazebos, post and rope arcade covered in climbers. Gloriously colourful; spring (rhododendrons, azaleas, azaleas, primulas, 1000’s bulbs); late summer (tapestry of annuals/perennials).
Craft, produce, books and jewellery stalls!

Opening information:
Sunday 6 August (1 – 6pm). Admission £3.50, children free. Home-made teas.
Visitors also welcome by arrangement April to September please request teas when booking.
John & Helen Brooks
01558 650541    johnhelen140@gmail.com

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August Meeting – Member’s Social

Plans are advancing well for our social evening on August 16th. This is a members only event when we can relax in each other’s company and share dishes made from something we have grown in our gardens this year (our club ‘growing challenge’ for this year). If anyone hasn’t had an email regarding the finer details for the evening then please give Julian a ring on 01558 685119.

It is hoped that we will hold it at Gelli Uchaf unless the weather is unkind and it rains all day, in which case we will contact everyone by lunch time by email, and relocate to the Coronation Hall in Pumsaint. Car shares are being organised and, so far, no-one will need to walk up from the village!

Again please get in touch if you haven’t been contacted about this.

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Monthly Tips

Caterpillars and Brassicas

Anyone growing brassicas will have their own way of dealing with caterpillars. My preferred way is to try to squish the eggs. It’s worth knowing that the eggs will hatch within 3 to 7 days of being laid, and will only get laid on dry days, when the butterflies can fly. So you need to check leaves quite regularly. The Large White’s eggs are laid in big rafts, underneath leaves, the Small and Green-veined White eggs are laid singly, usually on the underside of leaves. If you miss the eggs, look out for tiny holes appearing on the leaves from the caterpillars, and squish the tiny caterpillars. The Large White’s caterpillars are easy to find, but the Small/Green veined whites are harder to spot, because they usually are green and rest along the veins of the leaf, but often bore into the heart of the plant to feed.  There are usually 2 or 3 generations of adults per year, so you can’t really relax your guard until late September.

Small White Caterpillars at various stages of maturity

 

Germinating Late Sown Seeds

Another tip from the excellent Hitchmough book, ‘Sowing Beauty’, is the percentage germination rates of different seeds, with once or twice weekly watering. For many plants this is less than 10%. This is really enlightening if anyone’s trying to get late sown seed to germinate well in dry conditions….like fennel for example….you may need to water it very frequently especially in the evening, so that the seed stays damp for a long period…water in the morning on a hot day, and the surface compost and seed may well dry out in just a few hours, and once the germination process has been initiated by moisture, there’s then a chance that the seed will fail, before it ever gets a decent root formed.

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Pies and Muffins en masse; Gardening Led by the Nose; Plants for Problem Places; Two Gardens Finessed and Sculpted to Perfection and Meadows Day Final Flourish

 

Pie Night and Muffins

          

    

The last day of the heatwave saw a big turnout at our June meeting to hear Kari-Astri Davies talk on scented plants. The meeting was preceded by a very successful Pie Night at the Dolau Cothi – 25 of us including Kari and her husband Philip – it was the maximum the Dolau Cothi could accommodate! Well done to Jane ‘the Pie’ Holmes and Dave and Esther for all their hard work organising, cooking and serving to make it all run so smoothly. It is proving to be an excellent way to enjoy each other’s company in convivial surroundings. Next Pie Night will be in September so mark it in your diaries and book in quickly as, if numbers increase again, sadly some will end up being disappointed.

 

A big thank you to Anne for treating us to some delicious muffins to go with our tea before the evening’s talk. These were a thank you to all members from Team Large for everyone’s support for their Snowdon Night Hike

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Scents and Scentsability – Gardening led by the nose

Kari-Astri Davies talk ‘Scents and Scentsability – Gardening led by the nose’, was fascinating, covering scents both pleasant and foul, through different seasons, daytime and nocturnal. Brilliantly researched, it was packed with interesting and amusing information and anecdotes and together with her excellent photographs held us all spellbound for the duration. If she hadn’t told us it was her first talk we would never have known. Anyone interested can follow her blog by clicking here. http://karisgarden.co.uk/

A handful of interesting points were…..

  • Scent comes from many parts of the flowers (petals, sepals, pollen and nectar) as well as different parts of a plant e.g. leaves, stems, bark, etc
  • Scent is used by the plant to attract pollinators to ensure reproduction. It can also be used by a plant to repel insect attack.
  • Volatile alcohols are the chemicals the plant produces that we can smell, and each plant ‘scent’ is usually made up of between 5 and 150 of volatiles. Sweet Peas for example have up to 48. Common volatiles are geraniol, linalool and nerol amongst others.
  • Bees are better at ‘scenting’ than butterflies which are better at recognising shape.
  • Scent keys into our subconscious more than any other sense.
  • The amount of scent a plant produces varies with the time of day, being at its greatest to coincide with the maximum activity of pollinators.
  • Floral development also affects scent emission – greatest when the flower is fully open, reducing once pollination has taken place.

Bulbs and Brassicas (mainly)

    

Narcissus: tazetta, poeticus and jonquilla varieties all have mainly scented forms including: N. Pencrebar, N. Sweetness, N. Martinette, N. Winston Churchill

  • Tulips: General de Wet, Ballerina, Dom Pedro
  • Cyclamen repandum
  • Convallaria majalis prolificans (Lily of the Valley)
  • Myrrhis odorata (Sweet Cicely)

Cabbage Family

  • Matthiola incana alba (Wild/Perennial Stock)
  • Hesperis matronalis alba (Dames Violet, white form)
  • Lunaria rediviva (Perennial Honesty)

Summery Classics

  

  • Sweet Peas
  • Lupins
  • Iris: Florentina (produces orris-root widely used in perfumes), English Cottage, Katie Koo Kelways
  • Roses: Roses emit between 35% and 85% of their volatile alcohols depending on the time of day and age of the flower, the depth of fragrance thus varies accordingly – higher in daytime and when the flower is fully open.
  • R. Khazanlik (Damask) – makes Rose of Attar, R. Felicite Parmentier, R. Variegata di Boulogne, R. rugosa Hansa
  • Dianthus – often used to under-plant roses. D. Ursula le Grove, D. Rose de Mai
  • Heliotrope The Speaker
  • Pelargoniums – these are often better known for their scented leaves rather than flowers. Interestingly the volatile alcohol geraniol comes from roses while the similarly named geraniel comes from Pelargoniums.
  • P. Claret Rock Unique, P. Grey Lady Plymouth, P. Attar of Roses
  • Salvia discolor
  • Aloysia citrodora (Lemon Verbena) – contains 30% of the volatile citrol compared to Lemon Grass which contains up to 85%.

The Night Garden

Plants that release their fragrance at night are usually aiming to attract night flying pollinators such as moths. Kari recommended an excellent book called ‘The Evening Garden’ by Peter Loewer.

    

  • Lonicera japonica Halliana
  • Nicotiana alata, N. sylvestris
  • Brugmansia – hallucinogenic if consumed!
  • Cestrum parqui (Chilean Jessamine)
  • Epiphylum oxypetalum
  • Zaluzianskya carpensis
  • Oenothera pallida
  • Pelargonium lawrenceanum

Shrubs, Trees and Two Climbers

    

  • Daphne bholua ‘Jaqueline Postill’
  • Azora microphylla (Chocolate/vanilla scent)
  • Skimmia x confusa ‘Kew Green’ (male), S. x confusa ‘Kew White (female – white berries)
  • Peonies, tree and herbaceous forms: P. Sarah Bernhardt, P. Duchess de Nemours
  • Acacia dealbata
  • Wisteria ‘Amethyst’
  • Philadelphus ‘Casa Azul’
  • Abelia triflora
  • Tilia cordata
  • Eleagnus augustifolia
  • Colletia armata – flowers in September/October
  • Poplar
  • Box

Two Oddities

                                   

  • Aeonium Velour
  • Arum creticum – has a more pleasant smell than most arums which stink of rotting flesh to attract flies.

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Plants for Problem Places – July Meeting

Our next meeting will be on July 19th, starting at 7.30pm when our speaker will be Jenny Matthews.

      

Jenny and Kevin Matthews run Moorland Cottage Plants, a nursery and garden near Crymych in Pembrokeshire. Their site is on the northern slopes of the Preseli mountains and often exposed to wind and very low temperatures in the winter. So, Jenny is certainly qualified to present to us an evening of ‘Plants for Problem Places’. Whether you have a large or small garden, there are sure to be one or two spots where you’re not sure just which plant will thrive. Come along on 19th July for some tips and advice. Jenny will bring some plants for sale, grown at her own nursery. She does not use a polytunnel so all her plants are hardy and ready to go straight into your garden. More information can be found at www.moorlandcottageplants.co.uk

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Website Help

Our website has a page on members plant favourites and it would be lovely if more folk could contribute towards it. All we need is your favourite plant for a particular month – and if you can do more than one, that would be great! Please email your favourites to Fiona at cothigardeners@gmail.com

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Two Gardens Finessed and Sculpted to Perfection

The gardens of Brenda and Angela and Martin had a successful open day for the NGS on Sunday 25th June. Both gardens were looking beautiful – even in the rain when some of the photos were taken. Fortunately the weather perked up and was mainly dry for the most part. The following are summaries of the day by Brenda and Angela:

Bwlchau Duon

   

Despite the fact the weather was a little kinder than last year we still had a busy and enjoyable day although numbers were slightly down on the previous year.

             

 

I would like to say a huge THANK YOU to all who donated cakes and helped on the day especially, Yvonne, Penny and Elena for (wom)manning the refreshments which has earned £100 for Cothi Gardeners funds,

  

and also to John & Helen for doing a magnificent job on the plant stall which raised £300 for the NGS.  Really couldn’t do it without all your help. Brenda

   

             

Sculptors Garden

                    

Sculptors Open Garden Sunday 25th was a successful day. Although the afternoon was rather grey the rain managed to hold off with only a few minor drizzles. A steady flow of visitors made for a very pleasant afternoon meeting some very nice people and having some really interesting conversations.

            

It is always good to meet people who have lived in or know the property and of course it is very rewarding to see that those people are enjoying the changes that Martin and I have made to the garden. Those that had visited the garden before also seemed to enjoy the changes that had been made to the meadow and mini woodland area which was newly acquired last year and is in contrast to the neat walled court yard garden.

             

The plant that stole the show was once again Cornus kousa var. chinensis with its wonderful white bracts. The unique  feature about this garden is the way it envelopes and forms backdrops to the sculptures that have been created by the ourselves, husband and wife,  Martin Duffy & Angela Farquharson. In all it was a most enjoyable afternoon raising funds for the NGS of £285 and jointly with Bwlchau Duon raised over £1000. A further £233.50 was raised from tea and plant sales at the Sculptors Garden for St Richards Hospice, Worcester who took such good care of Angela’s father before he passed away in 2016.

    

“ Thank you so much all visitors, helpers and cake makers for supporting this event, it could not be done without you all.”

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Gelli Uchaf – National Meadows Day

             

Julian and Fiona finished their year of opening their garden for the NGS on Saturday with a special opening with guided meadow walks and discussions for National Meadows Day. It was a highly successful day, if exhausting(!) with both morning and afternoon slots full – no more parking spaces! The weather smiled and showed off the flowers in the meadows and the garden itself to perfection. Our visitors on the day came from far afield (Manchester, Gloucestershire, Glamorgan and included an NGS trustee, one of Highgrove’s gardeners and a retired garden designer with 5 Chelseas under his belt!) as well as more locally and it was lovely to see several familiar faces amongst them.

This has been our most successful year of opening the garden with 144 visitors, more than ever before.

             

Thank you to those who came and helped Fiona with teas for the larger groups, it was very much appreciated.