Picton Pleasures; Snowdon Hike; Garden Openings and NGS Photo Competition; Media Coverage; Scents and Scentsabilities

Roddy Milne – Picton Castle

More tips and information were absorbed when Roddy Milne from Picton Castle joined us for our May meeting. He brought with him a colourful selection of blooms from some of the many Rhododendrons, Deciduous Azaleas and other plants currently in flower at Picton.

He then gave us a fascinating talk on the ethos of the garden, the trials and tribulations of managing it with very few full time gardeners and keeping interest going in the garden beyond the Spring; plus the joys and wonders of living and working in such a beautiful environment, the role of gardens such as Picton in conservation and education and his hopes for its future. Apart from the actual flowers his talk was illustrated with many photos showing the glorious splendour of the Rhododendrons for which Picton is rightly renowned, along with vignettes of Magnolias, Myrtles, the distinctive Gunnera Walkway and many understorey plants. Well worth a visit at any time. Click here for opening times etc.


Team Large Snowdon Night Hike

Setting off…….

At the summit! (Philip is behind the camera)

Back home with t shirts, medals and certificates

Anne and Philip together with their daughter, Sarah, completed their Snowdon Night Hike on Saturday 22nd May in aid of Breast Cancer Care. According to them both it was surprisingly enjoyable, not as arduous as expected and all this in spite of horizontal rain and strong winds at the summit. They reached the summit in just 3 hours and a further 3 hours saw them back in the hotel enjoying a much deserved, slap up Welsh Breakfast. They have raised over £2,400  for Breast Cancer Care. Donations can still be made, just click here to go to the JustGiving page.

They would like to pass on their thanks to everyone in Cothi Gardeners for their fantastic support – an edible thank you will be at the next meeting on June 21st

Many congratulations and well done!


NGS Garden Openings

The NGS has launched a photo competition as part of the 90th Anniversary celebrations. Anyone visiting an NGS garden can take a photograph and submit it – details, rules, etc can be found on the NGS website (click here)

Some Cothi members’ gardens are due to open shortly for the N.G.S., so get your cameras out and pay them a visit!

Click here for more information on our website or here for the NGS website


Gelli Uchaf – Gardens Illustrated Magazine

Julian and Fiona were delighted to have their garden, Gelli Uchaf, featured in an article by Noel Kingsbury with photos by Claire Takacs, in the June edition of Gardens Illustrated Magazine (out now) . Click here for a taster of the article (NB only available until the next edition comes out mid June).


June Meeting

We are in for a perfumed treat in June when our speaker will be Kari-Astri Davies telling us all about gardening with scented plants.

Lavender, old fashioned roses and jasmine are some of the best-known scented plants but Kari-Astri will recommend some more unusual specimens to try. You may want ideas for containers to stand near the door so you can enjoy your perfumed plants as you step outside. Kari-Astri regularly writes for ‘Landscape’ magazine, so we are looking forward to welcoming her on June 21st  at 7.30 pm for an evening of “Scents and Scentsability”.


Our 2017 Challenge

Our 2017 Challenge is underway, simply grow something edible and make a dish with it to share at our August meeting. If you haven’t already done so, please indicate on the relevant sheet at the next meeting what type of dish you are hoping to bring so that we can try to balance savoury and sweet offerings.


Big Speaker Early Notification

The renowned plantsman, speaker and garden writer, Bob Brown, of Cotswold Garden Flowers is our big name speaker for this year. We will need to start advertising this early so in order to have an idea of how many places we can offer to other gardening clubs we need a rough idea of how many Cothi members are hoping to come, so please can anyone planning on attending sign the relevant form at the next meeting.


Monthly Tips

Tip 1 Frost Damage

(From Yvonne) If any plants have suffered from the late frosts, don’t panic!  Leave them alone, and then, when the new growth has come through, you can prune the dead ends off.

(and from Jan) Cut off damaged areas, feed the plants, in Jan’s case all the vines in the polytunnels, and remember that it will be the end of May before we can safely say no more frost!, so cover over with fleece if cold nights threaten again. All Jan’s survived and new shoots are appearing

Tip 2 (Yvonne) – It’s nearly time for the Chelsea chop for herbaceous perennials to prolong their flowering. Reduce about a third of the stems, and they will flower later.  This can be done with Sedum spectabile, Phlox, Veronicastrum, among the many.
Tip 3 (Yvonne) – When your Geraniums have flowered, cut all the growth off, and they will have a second flush of flowers later in the summer.

Tip 4 (Julian) Growing  Phalaeonopsis, or moth orchids

  • Firstly anyone who has bonfires – save the small charcoal left over at the end, rinse well and think of using it for repotting. It doesn’t degrade like bark or moss. When we had proper holidays…decades ago!! we once saw orchid farms in Thailand growing them in just charcoal in a half coconut!
  • Secondly the roots photosynthesise, so use an old clear yoghurt pot or such like to let light through, drill a few holes into it, and keep it in a larger outer pot.
  • Thirdly I now keep a supermarket basil plant next to the orchids. When it wilts, it’s a reminder to water the orchids. And I’ve now kept this Basil going for over a year.
  • Fourthly I water them with weak feed (in rain water), 3 out of 4 waterings, then one with just rainwater, and do it over a bowl and a cup, soaking the pot half a dozen times, and including running (ie manually pouring) water down the aerial roots, but being careful to keep all the water off the leaves.
  • An additional suggestions from Elena was to add broken crocks to the charcoal to give weight to the pot.

A Rabbit’s Eye View – Workshop with Noel Kingsbury on October 22nd, 2015

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Who were the real stars of last Thursday? The wonderful enthusiasm and communication skills of our speaker? The gorgeous late autumnal light? Our massed Persicaria vaccinifolia and Saxifrage fortunei?

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No, on reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that whilst all of these were critical to such a successful day, the really important feature was the mix of gardeners who’d travelled to this remote part of the UK to learn and share with Dr. Noel Kingsbury and indeed each other. Several had driven over 100 miles, and so had to make more than a day of it. One of our happy band, a garden designer from Pennsylvania had even flown over from the USA to take part – and built a family holiday around this event. There was a warmth, enthusiasm and good humour to the whole day, which I think everyone benefited from.

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Such is the high regard for Noel’s pretty unique blend of knowledge, not just of gardens and their design, but more crucially of plant growth, ecology and their interactions – something one reads or hears about very rarely in the mainstream garden media. And a key subject in assessing how plants will perform in a garden setting over the medium to long term. As well as how much intervention is likely to be necessary to achieve one’s desired aims.

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When we’d thought about volunteering to host such an event we’d (typically) probably not thought as much as we should about how we would have coped in the atrocious weather that can sometimes hit around now. Although the day before was wet and windy, and played havoc with my attempts to keep paths leaf free, Thursday dawned dry and by the time the first folk were arriving, blue sky was beginning to appear.

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Noel kicked off with a discussion considering an imaginary plot of bare soil, and, left un- managed, how it would become colonised over 1, 2, 3, 5,10, 50 and 100 years. An intriguing way of thinking about firstly what natural trends we are seeking to combat or control in our role as garden designers and managers. ( A hint of the default 100 year dominant landscape plant in this part of the world  – a seedling oak at the base of a Japanese Maple, below)…

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Secondly of what strategies plants have to out compete or simply survive amongst their neighbours, and indeed thirdly the likely futility over the very long term (without generational garden management) of combating these natural ecological trends of plant succession.

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And very helpful ideas for any gardeners like us, who are facing the inevitable slowing down that comes with ageing, and want to try the steer the garden into a lower maintenance phase, without losing its inherent appeal. (How many different plant species inhabit the small section of ground above? How much weeding is necessary here? And what does it look like in April or May? See the end of post for more).

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I remember reading a letter in the RHS Garden magazine recently from a gardener nearing the point of having to let go of a garden lovingly created over 20 years, and then enjoyed for another 10, but now beginning to become too much to manage. When to let go? Perhaps we need to move into more of an enjoyment stage after 20 years of creating, and stop fiddling! Not that we haven’t enjoyed the journey so far…

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Group discussions followed together with a good power point talk to flesh out more about examples of different types of ‘perennials’. Just howperennial they might be, and how by examining growth and flowering habits gardeners can work this out for themselves, by considering taking the rabbit’s eye view of what the plant looks like at ground level. (Clonal Asters growing through Saxifrage below)…

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By lunchtime the weather was sufficiently sunny for many to take food outside to eat – pretty rare for us in late October, and later, the afternoon session took the form of a garden based walk looking at how we’ve used plants within the garden in a sometimes unique way based on the conditions which we have to deal with up here. Again we all learned much from Noel’s thoughts and ideas and group involvement. The day finished with more cakes and tea, before everyone headed home.

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Keen to try to find out what visitors thought about the day, we were very grateful to everyone for filling out a simple end of event questionnaire. Only 1 other participant had ever been on a garden based workshop before, and everyone ranked the day as both excellent, and also excellent value for money (from excellent, good, average, disappointing). And it was great that as well as making it non profit making, we were still able to donate part of everyone’s fee as a garden entrance charge to the National Gardens Scheme charities.

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Would we ever do it again? Well Noel has clearly led such workshops all over the world, and he would be a very difficult act to follow, such were his knowledge, teaching and communications skills. But it was such a success that maybe some similar event might happen again, perhaps at a different time of the year.

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Cothi Gardeners Meetings Update

At the March meeting of the Cothi Gardeners, Paul O’Neill gave an inspirational and fascinating illustrated talk,

‘The Last Cow – the Making of an NGS garden at Llwyngarreg’.

Primulas    Grasses etc

Paul and his wife Liz, both of whom are biologists moved to the 28 acres of Llwyngarreg in 1992 to follow their dream of self sufficiency. They worked hard at the dream but by 2000 small scale farming had left them exhausted and they realised that it was no longer sustainable. The last calf left the pastures that year and slowly a garden began to emerge from the farm. Paul was a Biology teacher and a group of his A level students gave him a Rhododendron as a leaving gift and so the love affair with particular plant groups was started.

Pond                      Hostas

Fifteen years later the 3 ½ acre garden is open to the public and is home to many specific habitats enabling rich collections of Meconopsis, Primula, Bamboo, Magnolia and surprisingly for wet West Wales, Agapanthus and Dierama (Angel’s Fishing rods). And it all started with a Rhododendron!

The next meeting of Cothi gardeners is on Wednesday 15th April at 7.30pm when Jade from Wild Pickings will give us a talk on Foraging Products. In May Alison Sparshalt will talk about The Walled Garden at Treberfydd-A new Beginning. She will bring plants for sale too.

Future events to look forward to are on 21st October we will be welcoming Dr Noel Kingsbury the internationally known garden designer and writer on gardens and the environment. His naturalistic approach to planting seems to sit well here in Wales so we are very lucky to have this opportunity to have him talk at a Cothi Gardeners meeting.

Last year Jane, a member of Cothi Gardeners was diagnosed with lung cancer. She is a very positive person so true to form she started a fundraising campaign for the Roy Castle Lung Foundation. To help her raise as much money as possible for such an excellent cause Jane’s Garden Party will be held on Saturday evening 4th July and from 1-6pm on Sunday 5th July. More details will be available in May.

We are an open group who welcomes new faces, so do join us at 7.30 pm on the third Wednesday of the month, in the Coronation Hall, Pumsaint. Members are £12/year and visitors £2/ meeting.

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More details about the group can also be obtained from Elena 01558 685321 or Daisy 01558 650829