Newsletter
Spring 2008

Contents

Chairman's Report

Secretary's Reminders

The annual subscription of £12.50 for 2008 is now overdue. If you have not paid please send a cheque to the Secretary. Even as a non-member, you could attend the occasional meeting as a visitor, paying £2 at the door.

Data Protection Notice

Editorial

The Editor thanks all the cotributors to this issue. The final date for copy for the next Newsletter is 17 October 2008. She's still looking for advice on Crambe cordifolia.

New members

Since the last Newsletter we have welcomed Pam Fenney, Sue Dryden and Rona Hawkins.

Garden Tours - the Future

The committee will be considering how best to approach the question of possible future trips, in terms of length, destination (within the UK or possibly abroad) and whether we should employ a commercial tour operator. The Secretary is asking us for our views.

Visit to Highgrove

We have been invited to visit on Friday 11 April, arriving at 12.50 pm. The cost is £22.50.

Garden Visits 13 August 2008

Gillian Stone is handling arrangements for the visit to Dewstow, Caerwent and Veddw House near Chepstow.

Coffee Mornings

Summer Garden Party

At the time of publication no venue has yet been identified for a Summer Garden Party. Please let Sue Deakin know if you are interested in hosting the event. If arranged, details will be given at meetings.

Notice of Annual General Meeting

To be held on Saturday 10 May 2008 at Peopleton Village Hall at 2 pm.

Minutes of the 2007 Annual General Meeting

held in Drakes Broughton Village Hall on Saturday 12 May at 2 pm.

Composting........

Alwyn Stanley reports finding more than he bargained for in his compost bins.

and .... Some Alternatives to the Compost Bin

Master Composter Mike Thorpe describes and discusses trenches, wormeries and the Bokashi Bin with its 'Effective Micro-organisms' (EMs).

More Bulbs Please

After Ian Nex's talk, Judith Doughty is set to wondering which others she can possibly fit in.

My Top Ten Irritants

A world full of the 'Top 20' or 'Six Best Buys' has prompted Alan Hale to make his own list, including some inevitable entries ('Cats', 'To spray or not to spray?') to some less obvious ones ('New', The BBC Coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show').

Boraginaceae in the Garden

In her search for plants that like heavy clay conditions Vivienne McGhee discusses boraginaceae, including Brunnera, Cynoglossum, Onosma and Anchusa. Some she brought from her previous garden, some she has bought and now a neighbour has offered Echium seedlings.

To the Show!

Judy Pollitt gives us the benefit of her experience of showing regularly at the Malvern Spring Show as a member of the British Iris Society and of entering a more general class, and encourages the rest of us to have a go.

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Searching for Libertia, Jenny Constant's unlabelled purchase 'reminds' Graham 'of something we already have.'.

From a New Member

Musing in rhyme by Rona Hawkins.

An Undervalued Plant

Beryl Burton puts the case for Buddleja davidii 'Harlequin'.

Horticultural Latin

In response to members' requests the Editor has started a list.

Articles

Chairman's Report

I write this on a cold. February evening, wind blowing hard and rain battering the roof. It's hard to enthuse about gardening, but I know I only have to see a bit of sunshine and glimpse a few early flowers and I'll be raring to go again!

We're busy putting the final bits into our 2008 program and the coffee mornings are now sorted. More details later in this newsletter, but many thanks to Linda Fernyhough, David Pollitt and Diane Cole at Meadow Farm for their offers. We still haven't anywhere to hold our Summer Evening Party - if you can help out please let one of the committee know.

Our weekend trip to Wales in June looks like being a great success and I believe it is now fully booked. My only worry is that David has been too kind in taking late bookings and hasn't left enough space on the coach for all the plants I know we'll be buying!

In May we shall be combining our normal meeting with our Annual General Meeting. I shall be leaving the committee after four years, so we shall be looking to elect a new chairman and at least one new committee member. Do consider coming onto the committee, particularly if you are a new member. It really is a lovely way to get to know more people.

I'd like to finish by thanking the committee for 2007-2008 who have been so hard working throughout the year. David Pollitt, Becky Dale, Vivienne McGhee, Bev Drewitt, Sue Chitty, Angie Downton, Wendy Richards and Colin Doughty have all made an invaluable contribution to the running of our Group and I know we all appreciate their efforts very much indeed.

Best wishes for the coming season.

Sue Deakin

Secretary's Reminders

The annual subscription of £12.50 for 2008 is now overdue. If you wish to renew your membership and have not yet paid could you please send a cheque made out to BPS Worcestershire Group and addressed to me, David Pollitt, at Cowsden Green Farmhouse, Cowsden, Upton Snodsbury, Worcs. WR7 4NX. A short note would be appreciated if you no longer wish to continue subscribing.

The new sub provides free entry to all eleven monthly meetings in 2008 as well as receipt of the biannual newsletter. Membership also offers you a range of outside activities including summer coffee mornings and a garden party not to mention the chance to book on our annual coach outing to gardens of special interest. Last year also saw a group first - a five-day roach tour of the gardens of East Anglia - and in June this year a party will be embarking on a weekend visiting gardens and nurseries in North Wales. And for many, of course, a major draw of meetings is the opportunity to buy inexpensive and unusual plants.

If you are not a member, please remember that you have the option of attending the occasional meeting as a visitor paying £2 entry at the door. The full range of Group activities is posted on this website and is regularly up-dated.

David Pollitt

Data Protection Notice

The personal data that you provide is stored as paper and/or computer re≠cords by the HPS Worcestershire Group and used for the Group's adminis≠trative purposes only. It will not be disclosed to anyone outside the HPS. If you are concerned about the methods used to store your data or wish to see what data is held, please contact the Group Secretary, David Pollitt.

Editorial

Thank you once again for all your contributions. And to Jenny Constant for yet another cover drawing for the printed version. There is a wide variety of topics so I hope that there is something that will interest everyone. The minutes of the last AGM have been included along with the agenda for the next one. The minutes of the 2006 AGM are also available on this site. There is a lot happening over the forthcoming months and you should find the relevant information in this Newsletter. Further details will be given at meetings and on this website.

In my last Newsletter I mentioned the problem I was having with Crambe cordifolia. No one has offered an explanation. Does this mean that no one else grows it?

Several members have been asking for information on "Horticultural Latin" so I have started a list. Please let me know if you have a more comprehensive list, further terms or the name of a reference book/article that would help others.

The next Newsletter will be published in November and the final date for copy is Friday 17 October 2008. I am looking forward to articles about the various summer outings and visits as well as some reports on your purchases on the East Anglia Trip last year!

Copy should be sent to me at Half Acre, Main Street, Aldington WR11 7XB or by email.

Vivienne McGhee

New Members

Since the last Newsletter we have welcomed 3 new members.

Pam Fenney and Sue Dryden both live in the hamlet of Wadborough, 3 miles west of Pershore. Both feel that they would have been overwhelmed by the tremendous plant knowledge existing members portrayed had it not been for the warm friendly greeting extended to them. Pam's big achievement this year has been completely renewing all lawns, no mean feat and well worth the effort. Sue and family have reaped the benefits of her new vegetable garden which has provided continuous produce all year.

See below for another new member.

Garden Tours - The Future

Flat and dry, hilly and wet, sums up the essential differences between East Anglia, our destination on last year's garden tour, and North Wales where we are heading in late June this year. But exceptions prove rules; East Anglia, I recall, was extremely wet at times, and we are hoping that North Wales will fail to live up to its meteorological reputation for just one short weekend.

Yet in North Wales we are unlikely to see the increasingly popular dry gardens that were such a feature in East Anglia and of which the desert garden at East Ruston and the dry gardens at Beth Chatto and Hyde Hall were memorable examples. These will be replaced by natural water features and woodland gardens with shade- and moisture-loving plants which are also the speciality at Crug Farm Nursery. The acidic soils will favour rhododendrons and azaleas although these spectacular late spring-flowering shrubs will almost certainly be over as will the famous wisteria-clad pergola at Bodnant. (Due to problems with dates the trip had to be scheduled for two weeks later than planned.) The splendid borders at Powis Castle, however, should be a blaze of colour.

When we all return home and face the dilemma of where to place all those tempting plants we bought on a rash impulse the committee will be considering how best to approach the question of possible future trips. The East Anglian tour was to have been a one-off to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the HPS but those who participated enjoyed it immensely and made their wishes for a similar trip in 2008 very plain. This year's weekend excursion has been arranged in response to that demand and many feel that a garden tour should be a regular feature on the programme.

But it should be remembered that, despite initial interest, take-up of the East Anglian trip was fairly slow and it was only after opening it up to non-group HPS members that the acceptable figure of 38 was finally reached. The response to the North Wales trip, on the other hand, has been quite overwhelming with all places booked within a month. Will weekend tours inevitably be more popular? Should we think in terms of a five-day tour, say every second or third year, with weekend tours in between or should we perhaps extend the weekender starting on a Friday morning and finishing on Sunday night? And ought we to stick with the present format of organizing tours ourselves or employ the services of a commercial tour operator, possibly with a professional guide? What regions would the membership like us to target? Are we right to restrict ourselves to this country or should we stretch our wings - many groups travel to France, Italy, Ireland and South Africa, even - and how sensitive is the membership to cost? These are all questions we shall be asking ourselves. Please help us plan to meet your wishes and expectations by letting your views be known.

David Pollitt

Visit to Highgrove

We have now received the long-awaited formal invitation to visit Highgrove. The date allocated is Friday 11th. April, arrival time 12.50 p.m. The overall visit, including guided tour and tea, is expected to take 2 1/2 hours. Departure will be from Peopleton Village Hall where cars can be left, time to be advised.

The party is limited to 25 people max. and we are asked to ensure that none of our members has paid a recent visit to Highgrove. The cost, which includes a donation to the Prince's Charitable Foundation, will be £22.50. In the event of the trip being oversubscribed a ballot will be held towards the end of March. If you would like to put your name forward please ring David Pollitt on 01905 381739.

Garden Visits Wednesday 13 August 2008.

Looking ahead to the summer for the annual coach outing we shall be crossing into the Principality to visit two contrasting, delightful gardens.

The morning will be spent at Dewstow, Caerwent, one of the most exciting horticultural finds of recent years. In the 1890s H. Oakley Esq. purchased the ancient Dewstow estate. A wealthy bachelor, Oakley embarked on the creation of a truly ambitious and unique garden, commissioning eminent London landscapers. Pulham and Son. Whilst there are many examples of Pulham's work in the gardens of stately homes in the UK, Dewstow is amazing for its scale and subterranean focus. (The rock garden at Madresfield is also constructed of Pulhamite).

After Oakley's death in 1940 the garden was lost - some of it being converted into working pastureland and some levelled for food production. Few people knew about the gardens, which in their hey-day were a spectacular sight - a subterranean world of grottoes, tunnels and streams; no records of its existence survived.

In 2000 the Harris family purchased the land and after an initial investigation unearthed a flight of steps. Further excavations began to reveal unimagined features. Work has continued since and now the gardens have been returned to their former glory.

We shall stay at Dewstow for lunch, taking a short walk to the golf club for a buffet style meal before travelling to Veddw House.

Many of you will know of Veddw House near Chepstow. Over the past eighteen years Anne Wareham and Charles Hawe have created a most ambitious and successful contemporary garden. Anne is a garden writer and Charles a garden photographer and their creation is both beautiful and stylish. There are colour themed borders, rambler roses, a large collection of clematis and standard hollies. There is a meadow and wildflower garden full of spring bulbs whilst paths head off into the surrounding yew hedged secret rooms; in one a pink wavy bench has been placed beside a striking blackcoloured reflecting pool. Anne and Charles have created a garden which relates to the surrounding landscape. They have used the local tithe map to create a large parterre of grasses inside a pattern of box hedges, based on the field boundaries on the 1841 map.

I hope that the above has whetted your appetite.

Booking arrangements will be announced at meetings.

Gillian Stone

Notice of Annual General Meeting

To be held on Saturday 10th May 2008 at Peopleton Village Hall at 2 p.m.

Agenda
  1. Apologies for absence
  2. To receive and adopt minutes of the AGM held 20th May 2006 and the AGM held 12th May 2007
  3. Matters arising
  4. Chairman's Report
  5. To receive and adopt the accounts of the preceding financial year.
  6. To transact any other business of which at least 21 days notice has been given.
  7. Election of Officers
  8. Election of Committee - please use the slip* in this Newsletter to nominate someone as a committee member. Please obtain their permission first and send or give the slip to the Secretary.
  9. Elect an independent examiner of the account
* Nominations for the committee have now closed.

Composting

Despite having farmyard manure at hand, I have also taken to composting waste vegetable matter, grass cuttings etc. and to my horror have found more than I bargained for in my bins. Several years ago on emptying my bins I found a well-constructed mouse nest in the middle of my compost, containing some very drowsy mice. The pet cat sitting in a nearby tree did not want to know, obviously too well fed.

A few weeks ago, on lifting the bin to empty a bucket of vegetable waste, imagine my horror when I saw numerous walnuts, at least a hundred, some buried in the compost, others on top. On closer inspection I could see where a squirrel had burrowed underneath the bin and up the side of the compost to "hide" his nuts. On further inspection there was another track under another bin and I found another quantity of nuts. Now I am searching for a riddle for my compost - I do not want hundreds of walnut trees in the garden. By the way, I have set a squirrel trap by the bins, with some walnuts as bait, but so far to no avail!

Alwyn Stanley

Some Alternatives to the Compost Bin

As a Master Composter, one of the questions I frequently get asked is, "My garden is far too small for a compost bin. What alternatives are there?"

The simplest and cheapest alternative is just to dig a hole and bury your garden and kitchen waste. My father, along with most vegetable gardeners of his generation, used to do this. He dug a trench where he was going to plant his runner beans. This was filled with garden waste, topped off with soil and planted with runner beans. This seems a waste to me, as runner beans are not hungry plants. It was mainly a way of retaining moisture around the plant's roots. However, I do a similar thing for my courgettes and squashes as they are hungry plants.

About eighteen months ago I bought myself a wormery to deal with our kitchen waste: mainly because I was intrigued by wormeries and also because they were cheap on the Council's Recycling web-site and I can never resist a bargain. I still find the wormery fascinating. I feed them with (nearly) all our kitchen waste and in return they produce beautiful black compost and liquid fertiliser. They can process up to their own weight of cooked and uncooked kitchen waste every day as well as shredded paper and cardboard. They don't like too much citrus fruit and onions (too acid) and they find hard things like avocado skins a little indigestible. I don't feed them meat, but only because it might attract vermin.

Initially I was concerned about leaving them unfed while we were away on holiday, but they have managed three weeks with no ill effects. They were pleased to see me back though and I wouldn't recommend leaving them for a long time until the wormery is well established.

Wormeries are not as obtrusive as compost bins and can be conveniently sited near the kitchen door. One company even sells a wormery with a planter on top. Raw food scraps go in the top and the finished compost is at the bottom so I suggest that you buy a wormery that is multi-tiered. This means that the finished compost can be removed from the bottom tier without disturbing the feeding worms higher up. Most wormeries also have a tank at the bottom with a tap for drawing off the liquid fertiliser. (Do not ask what this liquid actually is!) It is quite strong and should be diluted 10:1 before use on houseplants or in the garden. My wormery produces at least 2 litres of fertiliser each week and in summer up to 10 litres each week.

Wormeries, including worms and everything else you need, cost £50 -£100. You could make your own, but would still need to buy some worms. An excellent kit can be bought via the council at the bargain price of £66 at recyclenow.

The latest kid-on-the-block in dealing with kitchen waste is the Bokashi Bin. This is relatively new in this country but has been widely used in Japan for some time. I have not used one myself because we do not have enough kitchen waste to feed this as well as the worms. It can be used for all food scraps, including meat, fish and even small bones. Rather than using worms, digestion takes place using a combination of bacteria, yeasts and fungi called `Effective Micro-organisms' (EMs). The Bokashi Bin is essentially a bucket with a tap at the bottom. Waste is placed in the bucket and sprinkled with bran containing EMs and squashed down. The bin has an airtight lid and so can be kept in the kitchen. A full bin is left for at least two weeks. (You will probably have realised that you now need a second bin.) The contents do not appear to change much in shape, but will look pickled and can be added to a compost bin or dug directly into the garden (trenching again!) where they decompose remarkably quickly. Again, liquid fertiliser can be drawn off from the tap at the bottom.

Bokashi Bins cost £10-£40 each. A good two bin kit, including EM bran, can be bought from the above web address for £25. There will obviously be a recurrent cost for EM bran: three months supply costs £10.

Incidentally EMs are being marketed as a universal panacea. They can be applied directly to the garden, fed to pets and livestock and used to clean drains and wipe down kitchen worksurfaces. To the best of my knowledge there has been no scientific evaluation of the benefits of applying EMs to a garden. However, I know a number of people, including some whose opinion I value, who have used it and swear that the application of EMs results in stronger, healthier plants.

Both Wormeries and Bokashi Bins can be used as alternatives to the compost bin for kitchen waste, but those of you with large gardens wilt always need your compost bin for garden waste. Sorry!

Mike Thorpe

More bulbs, please

After listening to some speakers at our monthly meetings I think "Fair enough, interesting, but I don't need to know more about or grow any or any more of those plants." The salvias were a case in point. We have one which very unwillingly produces the occasional vivid blue flower and we would like Salvia sylvestris `Rose Queen' (seen at Hyde Hall) but otherwise, we're not fussed. But others lead to thinking `Why can't we, apart from the obvious Hardy Planter problem of space, grow more of those?' That was very much the case after the January talk, as bulbs take up so little space.

I couldn't begin to remember all Ian Nex spoke about, but tried to think which we do have. Snowdrops, from my mother-in-law's garden in Spalding: there are three different sorts -`ordinary', wider-leaved ones and almost-double. None of us has any idea of their names, but there they are out now (mid-January) in the raspberry patch. Those in the rockery come later.

Crocuses had a mention. In the main, they don't last though we had C. chrysanthus `Cream Beauty' for quite a long time and I do try a striped variety sometimes. We've had 'Zwanenburg Bronze' and this year `Advance'. But the bed under the dogwood is full of a very early pale mauve/almost white and deeper mauve species from a garden in Shrewsbury (and some returned when the garden owner moved). The corms are tiny and if we move anything from that patch, the crocuses happily ride along to the new space.

The hyacinths in the garden are recycled from the bowls in the house. Apart from `Gipsy Queen' they gradually revert and fade away, but in the meantime fill in,

Lovely Iris reticulata will have to become Iris histrioides in the hope that Mr Nex is right about them lasting. Could I have reticulata `George' as well? There must be room.

Narcissus bulbocodium are picky: we're never sure they'll oblige in the garden. Try a pot? Too many pots already. N. tazetta `Minnow' and cyclamineus `Jack Snipe' hang in - are they too dry in the summer? Those under a newly-planted (and watered) standard rose did quite well. And N. triandrus 'Thalia' at the damp foot of the rockery is happy.

Tulips? Well, I'm not a great fan of the big ones, but if we have a few it might be worth planting them deeper in future. But we have to have the little T. batalinii, and against advice we might have `Lilac Wonder'. The only things you could call invasive round here are a weedy aster and an equally weedy campanula, which are left in the really horrid hot spots under the front hedge and dug out whenever not required. And the `Lilac Wonder' are much prettier than those.

We have a few alliums, planted so long ago that their names are forgotten. An Amaryllis belladonna has lived a long time under the very shady northfacing wall in the back garden. It flowers intermittently, usually in spring. Despite what the books say it likes and does. Nerine bowdenii was again a Spalding transfer, and has been transferred on.

One Mr Nex didn't mention is Sternbergia lutea with bright gold flowers in October/November. It's possibly marginal for us, but is managing in both front and back gardens. I'm hoping for an increase in time.

And then it's nearly snowdrop time again and the Iris unguicularis flowers will start before then. But there must be space for some of the others he talked about.........

Judith Doughty

My Top Ten Irritants

Nowadays we seem to live in a world of "lists". Open any magazine or newspaper supplement and it is almost inevitable there will be a list, concerning some commodity or other. Whether it is the "Top 20", "Ten to look out for", or "Six Best Buys", nothing escapes the attention of the media. Gardening is not exempt and plants and sundries are sometimes featured in their listings.

This guidance can be helpful, but also irritating, particularly when you discover your recent purchase is considered the least desirable, or, not mentioned at all. Thinking about "lists" gave me the idea of compiling a list of my own detailing gardening items which I find irritating and annoying. In no particular order these are:

  1. New. Surely the most mis-applied adjective in the English language. We have all come across examples in the Garden Centres and Nurseries of plants labelled "New" which we know for a fact have been available for two or three years. It could be argued that the plant referred to is "New" to their sales table, but I feel this is misleading as the interpretation most people would have is that it is "New" in the sense of very recent. A plant should only be advertised as "New" during the year it is introduced. The most extreme example of the mis-application of this adjective I have come across is in the catalogue of a certain seed supplier who has an entry: "Lysimachia Ephemerum - a new and rarely seen and very attractive hardy perennial plant etc." I agree with the "very attractive", but as for "new and rarely seen", come off it, I have been growing this plant for over 20 years.
    It's rather like a sign erected on one of the approaches to our village after minor road work was carried out, reading "New road lay-out ahead", and this remained in place for over 5 years until Gloucestershire Highways Department was prevailed upon to take it down.
  2. Rare & Unusual Plant Fairs. This description of a plant sale I find irritating because you go along expecting to find a veritable cornucopia of wonderful plants, only to find they are not particularly rare or unusual. If you go by the dictionary definition, to qualify as "rare" they should be uncommon and seldom found, and for "unusual" they should be remarkable and exceptional. If the opposite of a rare plant is a common one, the opposite of an unusual one must be a usual one, and I must confess I'm hard-pressed to think of a usual plant. Better by far to call all these functions "Plant Fairs".
  3. Well drained moisture retentive soil. A rather irritating, seemingly contradictory, but often used mantra which could be said to represent ideal growing conditions for the vast majority of plants, unless originating in a swamp or a desert. So why use it?
  4. Why did it die? We all lose plants. Even the leading experts will freely confess that such and such a plant has died on them. But why? I find it irritating not being able to establish the reason for such a loss. Are the conditions not right; too wet or too dry; or too much in the shade or too much in the sun? Is the soil pH wrong? Has it succumbed to a viral 'infection, been mortally wounded by snails or attacked by vine weevil larvae lurking beneath the surface? Was it a poor buy in the first place with a weak constitution? You can only look at what evidence there is and make a guess. What can make it particularly galling is that a plant you are desperately trying to establish, but without success, is flourishing in your neighbour's garden on the other side of the fence. As has been said before, the plus side to these disasters is that you have space for another plant.
  5. Cats. Although I do not dislike cats per se, I am intensely irritated by their use of our garden for performing their natural functions, the tilth of the soil encouraging their scratching around. I'm not sure how many there are for every time we spot one out of the window it seems to be of a different colour combination to those seen previously. They know they are not welcome but persist in paying visits, usually when we are not around. Powdered deterrents sprinkled on the beds help, but need renewing after heavy rain. Choice bulbs and seedlings emerging in the spring are most at risk. After that when the plants have grown up the problem largely disappears.
  6. To spray or not to spray? My source of irritation here is with those who say, let nature take its course and let the ladybirds, hover flies, thrushes and hedgehogs deal with the black fly, greenfly and aphid infestations, together with the slugs and snails which can cause such havoc to the plants in the garden. Unfortunately this does not work for me. The few ladybirds present have obviously not been told what is expected of them, as they are quietly snoozing, totally disinterested in the feast on a nearby bush. Thumb and forefinger will take care of a few beasties, but for major outbreaks I reach for the spray can of insecticide. As for slugs and snails, natural controls again fail me. Surely nothing is worse than a Hosta plant with the leaves shredded and riddled with holes after slugs and snails have had them for supper. The sad fact is that they are then ruined for the rest of the year. I water the ground around the plants I want to protect with a liquid slug killer, in early March, and then scatter slug pellets around -just a few, not handfuls - renewed every ten days or so throughout the growing season. This is a battle you can never win but these measures help.
  7. Photographic enlargements. Use of enlargements to enhance the appeal is a marketing tool to encourage sales, principally where mail order is concerned, but one should be wary as the result can be to make the plant look much more attractive and floriferous than it really is, and, in extreme cases, unrecognisable. All this is fair enough but the irritation factor is that you are very often not told that the flower on the plant you are contemplating ordering is really only a fraction of the size illustrated.
  8. Plant labelling. As our January speaker, Ian Nex, said, all plants should be properly labelled with the correct genus, species and, if appropriate, cultivar shown. To see petunias sold as "A million Bells" and chrysanthemums as "Garden Mums", to give but two examples, at Garden Centres, is most irritating. We won a pot of daffodil bulbs in a raffle and the labels read - "Three yellow trumpet daffodils" - but why not specify which variety?
  9. Plant identification. This can be really irritating. For instance, you buy a plant, labelled yes, take it home, look it up in your books of reference but without success, turn to the latest edition of the Plant Finder, only to discover it does not have an entry. Doubts about its provenance then enter your mind. Twice recently I have encountered this problem, both times with salvias. We bought a very attractive salvia labelled "Mystic Spires" at the Malvern Spring Show in 2006 but couldn't find any details about it anywhere until, quite by chance, John Sutton mentioned it in his talk last November, and resolved my conundrum. I experienced a similar difficulty with Salvia "Caradona" which John advised was a variety of S. nermrosa. The reason for this type of problem is, of course, because new varieties and cultivars are being introduced much faster that the reference books, including The Plant Finder, can keep up with.
  10. The B.B.C. coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show. When you look at the T.V. Times and note that there is to be an hour-long programme being screened each night of the Show, as a gardener you think this is a real treat, but then recently, as the week progresses, I have become more and more irritated. Why? Because the majority of the viewing time is taken up with the Show Gardens. Visits to the gardens, details about their construction, speculation about which of them will win Gold Medals, endless chat between presenters about the merits of the various designs and designers, and then, repeat visits. The gardens are interesting and worthy of examination, but they are only a part of the Show. It is called a "Flower Show" and personally I would prefer to see much more time devoted to the plants in the floral marquee, seeing what's new this year and talking to the growers about their exhibits.
Alan Hale

Boraginaceae in the Garden

As well as trying to improve the heavy clay in the garden I am trying to grow more plants that like the winter wet, intermittent streams and the summer cracks, sometimes more like chasms!

Several of the Brunnera I brought here in pots flourished when planted out in varying degrees of shade, just as they had done in Herefordshire clay. This included B, macrophylla " Hadspen Cream" and "Jack Frost". "Hadspen Cream" is already looking good as I write this in mid January its new leaves, beautifully and "warmly" variegated, surrounded by double snowdrops. Since then I have planted B. macro. "Looking Glass" which is now my favourite. Its leaves are silver all over and seem to reflect the light from under the shade of the weeping willow. For me the bright blue flowers are an added bonus. B. macro. "Gordano Gold" has large leaves splashed with yellow and has pale blue flowers. B. macro. "Dawson's White" has leaves that are prettily edged with white and which remain attractive all summer long.

Then I had a space on a small bank, facing a fence and "out of the way". I decided to try Symphytum. I had always been impressed with the extent of it at Bryan's Ground in Herefordshire and reticent to plant it following warnings about its invasive tendencies. So, with a deep breath, I planted S. ibericum "Wisley Blue". That was 3 years ago. It has done well, comfortably filled the bare space, giving all the year round greenery in the less accessible spot and a contrast to the foliage of Mahonia x media "Winter Sun" behind which it grows. It has already covered in red buds that will be blue flowers in April and May. And so far so good, although I may regret it as the years progress.

So on to another borage. This time I chose Cynoglossum nervosum. It is a native of the Himalayas, "growing on grassy banks, and by rice fields" (Roger Phillips and Martin Rix, Perennial Plants Volume 1). It is reported to be short lived in heavy soils. We will see. So far it has done well and the intensely blue flowers show up well against the greyish foliage

Onosma alborosea was a plant I had not previously encountered. I bought it last year from a nursery at the HPS AGM. Its homeland is in Eastern Mediterranean countries so I planted it in a more free-draining area in full sun. It is low growing, evergreen with bristly leaves and distinctly borage type creamy pink flowers from April until July. I also brought Moltkia doerfleri here in a pot. It is a native of rock crevices in Northern Albania. It grew well in a freer draining part of our Herefordshire garden but "sulked" here when planted in imported topsoil - one of the "choicer" parts of this garden. It flowers in May and June, deep purple on 6-inch stems. I lifted it last year and replanted it where I could keep an eye on it. It has settled well and perversely a root that was left behind in the original planting place also flourished, so maybe the key was the weather and not the position.

When we came to this garden there were few plants of interest but there was an Anchusa and I had not tried to grow this previously. There was no label but I suspect that it was A. azurea "Loddon Royalist". In the landscaping process I had to move it and was astounded at the length of the taproot. It did not survive the move. I have since planted A. azurea "Dropmore" and await the vibrant blue flowers in the herbaceous border. I cannot recall why I chose that instead of "Loddon Royalist".

I have tried previously and unsuccessfully to grow Mertensia. In a loam soil in Birmingham I had M. simplicissima. It is a coastal plant and was prostrate in habit with lovely glaucous leaves but died after 2 seasons - maybe even the loam did not give sufficient drainage for a plant that grows on sandy shores. Last year I bought M. virginica at Crug and am looking forward to enjoying it this year.

Now a neighbour has offered me some Echium seedlings. He grew it successfully last year in front of a south facing wall. I don't know which one it is but suspect it to be E. wildpretii. It is also in the Boraginaceae family but will be a challenge for me to grow successfully to reach its potential 8 feet in height.

Further perusal reveals that Omphalodes is also "in the family", but I will need to continue this on another day. I just wish that I understood more about the plant attributes that lead to the classification given.

Vivienne McGhee

To the show!

To show or not to show, that is the question........ I attend the Malvern Spring Show every year as a member of the British Iris Society and help in manning the stand for the West and Midlands Group. As there is a section in the Open Gardening Section for irises I make an effort to enter some of the classes. This can be rewarding or embarrassing or just a plain disaster depending on a number of factors. Out of interest I also enter in some of the cut flower classes. Now I am not a fanatic about these things in any way, it's nice to get a place and wonderful to get a first, but I don't go to any great lengths. I check the progress of earmarked plants daily. I hope the early flowers are not finished by the show day because of unseasonably hot weather, ruined by excessive rain or blown over by the wind. Also sometimes no irises can be entered in a specific class because the weather has been too cold. All those things considered I go out into the garden the evening before the staging day and select what I am going to pick next day. As the staging is the day before the judging I know I can bring flowers that are not fully open: the hall will be open all night with the lights on so as long as the bud has started to unfurl I know it will be open next day. If rain is forecast the irises are picked that evening and placed in water overnight.

The next morning is rather fraught with cutting the flowers and deciding which to take for the show bench and which to donate to decorating the stand. After deciding on those to show they are placed in suitable bottles, buckets and oasis for the most risky part of the operation and that is the transportation to the Three Counties Showground. I also make a display of spring flowers for another entry; this takes hours, as all the flowers must be fresh and you are judged on variety as well,. Nothing artificial is allowed and it all must come from your garden. I remake the arrangement and alter it many times until I am finally satisfied. Then I photo it and with great pride take it to the car and fingers crossed it doesn't fall over, spill water everywhere or generally disintegrate en route. The car is packed and hopefully there are no accidents; no flower heads knocked off on the car roof. Watering can, spare oasis, newspaper, wire, scissors, spare vases and cloths to mop up spillages are also packed.

On arrival at Malvern I try to park the car as near as possible to where the flowers are being staged and take everything inside to put into the allotted places when the various entry cards have been collected from the stewards. This is when dissatisfaction often sets in. My wonderful flower arrangement is not so marvellous anymore; I have now seen some of the competition. It is best, I think, to be there early and you don't see the other exhibits until after the judging. The irises are staged into the special show vases of the society and they hopefully look good. Final checks are made that there are no insect holes, no greenfly, no brown leaf tips, a pair of scissors to cut those off is a must and they must be cut at an angle. Everything is topped up with water and secure in its vase. Everything is according to schedule. The shame of getting NAS (not as schedule) on your show card and not being judged is great. You are an idiot and haven't read the schedule properly, remember the instructions to read your exam papers and answer the question in years gone by? Well that should have been applied. Check the flowers are in the correct classes and your name is hidden from the judges. Mop up all the water you've spilt and sweep up all the mess you've made. Stand back and admire. Then I go to the iris stand and give them all my spare flowers. Then go home.

Judging is first thing in the morning before the show opens. You get a complimentary ticket for each day from the organizers if you have entered 5 or more classes and as a helper and exhibitor can go in early. I go in as soon as I can to see how I have done. I go alone. All red, blue and yellow cards are an absolute delight, the more reds, that is firsts, the better and a white `Best in Section' is fantastic. Usually I do well and I have had a few white cards over the years, which is a jolly nice reward. There are of course disappointments but the judges' comments usually tell you why or you just plain weren't good enough. As the show goes on for 4 days hopefully your flowers stay looking good. Another bonus is the prize money, not much and it now comes in the post but I calculate it and then I can spend it on plants at the show.

Breakdown at 5 o'clock on the last day is hectic. First I collect all my show cards as I am very proud of these and keep them. Then it's a mad rush to get it all to the car or in the bin or given away, return the vases, and go before the inevitable traffic jam. Is this fun or what? Actually yes it is. Have a go there are plenty of different classes to enter.

Judy Pollitt.

A Case of Mistaken Identity

I am one of those people who are incapable of passing a Plant Stall, however unpromising, in my search for plants on my `Wanted' list. Not even the pouring rain puts me off! So it was that after trudging round a Scottish garden I spotted a scruffy little sign bearing the magic words Plant Sales. The overgrown path lead past a potting shed to a table of mostly unlabelled pots (one of my pet hates), containing dead or dying plants. However one contained a neat fan of leaves with the fading legend - Libertia - Bingo, a plant on my `Wanted' list! So, I put my money in the box and we bolted back to the car to dry out.

Once planted out my prize thrived and last Spring Graham made an announcement. `That plant you bought from The Hill House Garden is having a flower, and it reminds me of something we already have'. If you were at our coffee morning you will remember that he claims not to know one plant from another, but he was quite right - one look and I knew exactly what it was. It did look just like Iris pseudacorus, much too chunky for Libertia, with the benefit of hindsight. I intended to dig it out once it had flowered, but the flower was a most attractive buttery yellow, much more subtle than the original, so it got a reprieve. This is almost certainly a mistake as the original I. pseudacorus developed rhizomes as thick as my arm, which had to be lifted out with an engine hoist while balancing on a plank over the water. Wrestling with an anaconda must be easy by comparison!

However, all ended well, as I got my Libertia shortly afterwards from the Plant Stall at a Group meeting. I spotted it as soon as I got in the hall, easy this time, as it was in flower - good old HPS.

Returning to my shunning of unlabelled offerings. When the Group visited Rodmarton House back in the summer we passed a line of plants, £2 a go. I was surprised to find that they were unlabelled, but we ALL thought they were Agapanthus, which seems reasonable as the garden is full of them. Of course I bought one and as everyone said on the journey home, `You can't go wrong for a couple of quid'. I wonder what this will turn out to be?

Jenny Constant

From a new Member

I am a gardener through and through
When the sun doth shine and the sky bright blue
My New Years Resolution is this
No more buying of gardening bits!

Vegetables I tend organically
Plus plants dotted around strategically
After the December inspirational talk
I vow to plan more as I walk.

I now have paper fresh and squared
With pencil poised and measure paired
My garden would be much admired
If only I weren't so very tired.

Perhaps I'll sit here by the fire
Thinking of friends in Worcestershire
Leafing through a catalogue
Choosing bits and dozing off.
Rona Hawkins

An Undervalued Plant - Buddleja davidii "Harlequin"

Whenever I read articles in magazines and newspapers about buddlejas, "Harlequin" gets a cursory mention as "the variegated one" and others receive all the attention. I would like to sing its praises a little.

The foliage is a soft shade of green with a narrow cream edging, and the scented flowers are a good purple. I reduce its height in November to minimise wind-rock and I follow the usual practice of cutting buddlejas down hard in March which I do to 18 inches. When the danger of frost is over, I reduce it again to 6-12 inches which has several advantages. It means that any new growth since March which has been damaged by late frost is removed. It makes the shrub flower later than other buddlejas which prolongs the season for butterflies. It keeps the growth to a neat shape of 5 feet x 5 feet which is invaluable in a small garden.

Where other buddlejas are dull out of flower, "Harlequin's" foliage is very long-lasting and attractive, especially in a mild winter. All this in an eastfacing bed in heavy clay soil. What more can be asked of a plant?

Beryl Burton

Horticultural Latin

As a general rule an adjective in Latin takes on the gender of the noun it describes. - that is "a" for female; "us" for male: and "um" for neuter.

Albalalbuswhite
Coccinea/coccineusscarlet
Caerulea/caeruleusblue
Nigra/nigrumblack
Lutea/luteusyellow
Foetida/foetidussmelly
Fragrans/fragrantissimascented
Aquatica/aquaticuswater
Arvensisfield
Reptanscreeping
Gracilisslender
And more to follow in the next edition ...............