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

Richard Cain – Hardy Geraniums

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

Erodium manescavii and Geranium sanguineum var. striatum

The Geranium genus includes

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

 

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

G. macrorrhizum

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

G. phaeum

 

Propagation:

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

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


April Meeting

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

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

A gardener of over 40 years’ experience, Terry has worked plots on the same site since he was a boy, learning from his father and other allotment gardeners. Many of you will be familiar with his enthusiastic style, so do come along on April 18th to meet Terry. Mobile phones not necessary! Click here for his facebook page.

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


Spring Social

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

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


Plant Fair

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


NGS Garden Opening

Gelli Uchaf Garden

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


TOPICAL TIPS

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

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

 

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


 

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.

 

Meetings, Events and More

Firstly a reminder about our visit to Picton Gardens……………..

This is a brilliant opportunity to see these beautiful gardens under the expert guidance of head gardener Roddy Milne. We need to get the numbers in very soon so please if you haven’t already done so, contact Margaret or Daisy asap to confirm whether you are able to go or not. The more we get the cheaper the cost of entry  (20+ = £4.50 – a real bargain!) We meet at 5pm for a picnic (bring your own) in the gardens followed by the garden tour. Plants will be for sale but please take cash with you as the shop will be closed

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Plants for Colourful Shade

We had a well attended meeting last week at which Richard Cain of Penlan Perennials gave a very informative talk on colourful plants for shade, covering the different types of shade and a whole variety of plants both familiar and not that can be used in these conditions to give colourful interest.

Richard had a good selection of plants for sale and offered to take any pre-ordered from his nursery to any of the plant fairs he will be attending for members to collect. See below for details of fairs. Click on the link to go to his website: penlanperennials.co.uk

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Our next meeting ……………………………….

Gardeners can be a funny lot….One minute they’re talking about Galanthus, the next Snowdrops. First it’s phormium, then it’s flax.
If you would like to untangle the Latin, then come along to our illustrated talk “Botanicus Tongtwistii” in May, when the speaker will be Carrie Thomas from Touchwood, Killay, Swansea.

Carrie holds degrees in botany and zoology so we are looking forward to an informative and entertaining evening, after which we’ll know exactly why a Red Hot Poker is called Kniphophia.

Visit Touchwoodplants.co.uk for more information about Carrie and her garden.

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Gerddi Cae Hir Gardens Plant Fair
May 2 @ 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Cae Hir

 

Cae Hir Gardens Plant Fair. Come and enjoy this lovely six acre garden in the heart of Ceredigion. It is an RHS Partner Garden and entry to the Garden and Plant Fair is free. There is a small charge for parking at the local school.

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Ceredigion Garden, Craft & Food Festival, Aberaeron
May 29 @ 10:00 am – May 30 @ 5:00 pm
Free entry

Ceredigion plant fair

Now in its 7th year and expanding all the time. Held on Alban Square Field, Aberaeron and organised by Ceredigion & District Growers Association, this is the premier event of its type in West Wales.

Over 70 stalls selling plants, craft and food, together with music & entertainment. Something for everyone and FREE ENTRY.

No dogs allowed on the field (except service dogs).

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Aberystwyth Summer Plant Fair
June 11 @ 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

A host of great nurseries from three counties on the Farmer’s Market site from 10.00am to 4.00pm. Summer bedding, veg and perennials amongst others. FREE. Organised by Ceredigion & District Growers Association

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Llanllyr NGS Garden Plant Fair
June 26 @ 12:00 am – 5:00 pm

Llanllyr

The Ceredigion & District Growers Association hold a Plant Fair at Llanllyr Garden on their National Garden Scheme Open Day. Entry to the Plant Fair is free, however normal NGS charges are payable to go into the garden. Ample free parking. Please note the Plant Fair finishes at 5.00pm and the Garden is open until 6pm.

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Finally……………………………

Dismantled Greenhouse – details of this came through by email. Please contact Carolyn Somers if interested: ceejaysom@btinternet.com

An Eden greenhouse, 6’x8′ . Most of the glass is there with some pieces broken, all the frame is there but without the door as this was lost to the storms. The only thing is there are no nuts and bolts but these can be bought from B&Q. I am in Nantgaredig just outside Carmarthen.

Cothi Gardeners Growing Challenge and Meetings Updates

2016 Growing Challenge

Do you like a challenge? The 2016 gardening challenge was launched last month by our chairperson Daisy. After a successful Tomato Growing Challenge last year, this time it’s a quite different theme: “What can you grow in one pot?” Daisy suggested a medium-sized (about 20 cm diameter) plant pot, either plastic or terracotta, whichever you prefer. You can grow whatever you like, however, you need to be able to bring your pot along to the August meeting, so try and make sure it won’t be too heavy or awkward to lift. As with all our challenges, it is not a competition, just good fun and a chance to be creative.

Meetings Update

Keith Treadaway talk              Keith Treadaway talk 2

We had an excellent meeting on March 16th when Keith Treadaway gave a very informative talk on Clematis and how we could have Clematis in flower all the year round, by choosing the right varieties. He showed us examples of the different Clematis categories, explaining which were relatively easy to grow, along with those that were rather tender or prone to disease, and concluded with a summary of how to plant, care for and most importantly prune them. For those who were not able to make the meeting, or weren’t able to get a handout on the night, Keith’s list of all the Clematis he mentioned or illustrated in his talk  is shown below – remember that not all those in the list are necessarily suitable for our gardens so it is best to look them up before buying. Keith also gave out another handout with  a few useful addresses and some basic tips which is shown below the list. His garden, ‘Rosewood’ is open for the NGS on 17th July – for more info click here.

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Keith Treadaway summary 1

Our next meeting is on April 20th at 7.30pm when we welcome back Richard Cain from Penlan Perennials. The theme of Richard’s talk this time is ‘Colourful Shade’ and he will also be bringing some of his excellent plants for us to buy. Penlan Perennials in N. Pembrokeshire specialise in hardy plants used to coping with low temperatures and high rainfall. The nursery is completely organic and has recently won an Environmental Excellence Award from Horticulture Wales. Click on the link to go to their website, penlanperennials.co.uk , to learn more. We do hope you will be able to come and join us for what will prove to be a highly informative and enjoyable evening.

The Plant Shop – this has started well so please do come and support it at each meeting. Remember:  good quality, potted up, labelled, and priced plants to be donated. A table will be set up for the ‘Plant Shop’ at the back of the hall, with a tin for the money to be left in. Please price your donation/s according to size of pot, type of plant and so that it reflects the true value while being less than a garden centre would charge. This way those purchasing will have a good quality product at an advantageous price.

Cothi plant shop