I feel like the Mad Hatter racing round saying 'I’m late, I’m late for most important dates'. The enforced lull in the gardening calender from before Christmas to now has led me to be very switched off. I think the weather will allow me to have a complete clean sweep in a lot of borders. The greenhouses appear to have suffered from the extreme temperature - the HPS seed distribution packets may yet save the day.
But I know that we are going to have an early spring. The chickens are laying loads of eggs, the geese are behaving badly and the cockerels are wearing themselves out trying for supremacy. In another part of the garden, peacefully, the snowdrops are smiling at us and the daffodils are shooting up. As they start to stir so I feel the call and desire to get outside and create new schemes and welcome old friends back.
We have a very exciting programme ahead of us. There are lectures to whet our appetite and an exciting visit to see Roy Strong’s garden in May. At long last I am going to be able to visit Great Dixter instead of turning the pages: David Pollitt is taking the group to Sussex in June. It sounds a wonderful few days. Yet again we have bullied three brave souls into offering us coffee and an opportunity to look at their gardens. We are lucky this year to have three very contrasting gardens to visit. Pippa’s is a pretty village garden with patrolling call ducks, Kathryn’s garden at Trotshill is a modern water garden (possibly more ducks) and Jackie professes to run a wild flower garden – but I know there are some chickens. So much to look forward to.
Well, I must now go and pack for my holidays. This is very difficult today as you are allowed so little weight that I have to decide between the tea bags or another pair of shoes. All the potions required to keep you healthy reduce the products that polish you up. Really, the early plant finders were lucky: they carried their home on their donkey or Sherpa - we are now reduced to acting like snakes and having to shed a skin before boarding.
Looking forward to gardens in all their guises in 2011.
As you will see, this is a mainly business-minded newsletter; the dispiriting winter has perhaps left most of us without inspiration. So thank you to those who haven't flagged alongside the plants and whose writing is included and to Jackie Davies for remembering she had the short quiz. Jenny Constant's cover drawing above reminds us of Pippa's article in last autumn's edition - perhaps the iris will be in flower at the coffee morning. I hope that spring and summer will bring with them a wish to share with one another in print our enthusiasm for plants and gardening.
I am very happy to receive contributions via email (text within the email or Word or OpenOffice documents), typed (which I can scan into the computer) or hand-written. The copy date for the autumn edition is 8 October, the date of that month's meeting.
Many, if not all, of the gardening magazines, together with the gardening supplements of the weekend broadsheet newspapers, have columns devoted to work for the week or month ahead, topical tips, recommendations, advice etc, on various garden related subjects. I don't keep back numbers, otherwise the house would be full of unwanted paper gathering dust, and, in spite of every intention, never referred to again. However, it is reasonable to assume that these topical tips are repetitive, and that this year's are the same as last year's and will be repeated again next year, perhaps re-phrased and the content varied slightly. After all, if November is considered by these experts to be the best month to plant tulip bulbs to avoid tulip fire, and February the month for hard pruning group 3 clematis, then this advice will apply year on year.
Nevertheless, as if to prove what a variable and inexact science gardening is, taking the examples above, tulips are often planted earlier and later than November without any adverse effects, and group 3 clematis pruned in December, two months earlier than recommended. It makes sense, and avoids extra work, to prune the clematis at the same time as cutting down the unsightly tangle of top growth which has carried the flowers earlier in the year. As the late Geoffrey Smith said in one of his television programmes, why let your clematis develop a series of beautiful, healthy buds, only to cut most of them off a few weeks later?
Occasionally, the advice proffered is, for one reason or another, just too much work and beyond what I am prepared to do. For example, every year, both in the spring and autumn, under the heading 'Lawn Care', we are exhorted to go over the lawn with a wire rake, to remove thatch, then spike it with a hollow-tine fork, or an ordinary garden fork, to a depth of 4 - 5 inches repeated every 6 inches. If a hollow-tine fork is used, the plugs removed from the ground should be swept up and put on the compost heap. Finally(!), we are told to brush in sharp sand, taking care not to bury the grass. I don't follow any of this advice.
Our grassed area is not large but going over it every 6 inches would take forever, bringing to mind the old joke about painting the Forth Bridge with a toothbrush, and is a job too far. As for brushing in sand, how much do you need and where would you stow it? A bag from the Garden Centre would go nowhere, and then if there is any dampness around, the sand will take on the consistency of sago pudding and be difficult to work into the surface. And by this time your boots will have flattened all the holes you so painstakingly made!
I would be interested to know if any member of our group, has followed this advice to the letter, and whether the results justified the effort. Perhaps a note to our editor?
Another piece of regular advice on lawns is 'only to walk on wet grass when absolutely necessary'. Since access to 90% of our beds necessitates walking on the grass, and since the grass is usually wet from late October until March, I have no alternative but to ignore this recommendation. The layout of the garden does not lend itself to a hard surfaced path, or even stepping stones, around all the beds. This would just look ridiculous.
Yet another piece of advice concerning the grass is to mow it twice a week in the growing season. Ours is mown as considered necessary; sometimes after a week, sometimes ten days, and, in very dry conditions, an even longer period. To complete the picture, I don't feed it, or use weed and mosskill chemicals, and don't cut it short. Very occasionally I do a bit of hand weeding which I find strangely therapeutic.
I must admit there is a downside to this neglect. Our lawn, better described as grass, is rather coarse, with a good sprinkling of moss, clover, dandelions, and many other unwanteds, including the pesky celandines which pop up from nowhere in the spring. At least these latter have the good grace to disappear underground in the summer. It occurs to me that if there was such a thing as a National Collection of Lawn Weeds, we would have a good chance of becoming holders! On the plus side, if not scrutinised too closely, our grass is a good green sward and we are happy with it.
So where does this leave the gardening gurus? To be honest with you, I always read these reminders of what we should be doing at a particular time of the year and find them helpful, and, in most cases, worth following.
Our reason for moving was to rear hens and grow more fruit and vegetables. So Dudley House with its 4 acres was perfect. Apple, damson and pear trees were in abundance, many dating back to the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Our neighbour, now 85 years old, remembers playing in the apple trees in the garden when he was a small boy.
Once we had ordered and installed the hens, we bought more fruit trees including local plums and apples. A vegetable garden was dug over and the first potatoes planted by our first Easter.
I really didn’t pay a lot attention to the space around the house until a friend commented on the number of old roses in the now overgrown borders. Once it had my attention it was difficult to stop. We have over the years changed a lot in the garden; our first major job was to hire a digger and build a large wildlife pond. Some years later Mike decided to dig and then build a formal pond in the front garden. As we have had more time we have built walls, a terrace at the back of the house and a small rose garden. We have tried to mix gardening for wildlife and a more formal look in other parts of the garden.
Our garden is always developing and I don’t think at any time it will be finished, but it is truly ours and we love it.
I'd like to keep you all updated with how the conservation scheme is progressing within our group.
We now have eighteen members growing plants for the scheme.
Once we as a group hold four of any one plant we hope to offer surplus ones initially to our own group members via the plant sales table and then to other groups at the annual meeting for Group representatives in October at Ryton. The meeting is always interesting and a great way to meet Hardy Planters from all over England and Wales. Before the meeting I receive a list of plants offered by other groups and so it is possible for members of our group to request plants from that list, which some of you do.
Last October (2010) we were able to offer six plants from our group – hopefully more next year. We were lucky and received some we had asked for. At our November meeting I was able to bring the requested plants we were allocated to distribute, so, more satisfied members who have agreed to fill in forms for these plants. (No forms until November 2011 for these newly acquired plants.)
Plants which members have grown under the scheme have green labels, so look out for them if they should turn up on the plant sales table - please check with me if you possibly can before you take the plant home in case it needs to be monitored. I have to keep track of four of each of the species of conserved plants for four years, after which the plant is yours and no more annual forms to fill in! Hopefully in the meantime you will have been able to propagate any plants you hold and bring some to pass on to other members. Please ask me for a small supply of green labels if you do manage to propagate a plant to bring to the sales table.
This probably sounds complicated – but it shouldn’t be for members who just look after the plant and fill up the forms; the problems come when I get the forms back and start on the spreadsheet ....!
Still a newcomer to Worcestershire HPS and as someone less versed in garden visiting than the majority of the group’s knowledgeable membership, I ask myself 'Am I too ready to enjoy and appreciate the skills and expertise of the group’s outings team?' I think not. In the company of the group I have greatly enjoyed visits to Dial Park and Thenford Gardens and am keen to revisit both in different seasons.
Along with two garden friends from Ebrington I met up with the group at the Warmington National Herb Centre for lunch. On reflection one of us should have bought Sue Chitty a triple GandT as the lunch arrangements scarcely went to plan. But it was a beautiful autumn day and with the anticipation of the afternoon ahead the lunch time hiccups were soon forgotten.
Unlike, say Ragley Hall, Thenford House is more hidden, which perhaps adds to the surprises that abound in its 70plus acres. Parking was easy, the ground dry so those who had taken the owner’s advice to bring hiking boots and crampons were overshod. We were immediately given large scale maps (owning a publishing company probably makes it easy to provide these for everyone in the visiting price of £10) and as soon as we had passed the ‘border controls’ we were free to roam.
A mid-October visit to an arboretum is considered the ideal time to enjoy autumn colours at their firework display best, and maybe on that day they didn’t quite live up to my expectations....a week later or even earlier, but in a season when common consent agreed that our native trees and shrubs (please don’t ask me to define native!) had never looked better the splendour of ‘exotica’ was upstaged. That said, the landscaping and overall impression was staggering, and I couldn’t help wondering how much of the national debt could be paid off if the estate were to be sold. It was indeed a privilege to be allowed to wander in this Utopia.
It is suggested that two-and-a-half hours be allowed for the visit. We certainly didn’t manage to cover the ground in that time: the temptations to sit and enjoy the garden and its ‘borrowed views’ were too addictive.
Not expecting to have to write an account of the visit I hadn’t made any notes, so am afraid those of you expecting a list of genus Mustapaha heseltinii will be disappointed. The inspiration of Hidcote had initially challenged the Heseltines when they commenced the restoration and development of the estate in the '70s. Those of us familiar with Villandry certainly recognised its design input into the walled garden and its superb glasshouses. Almost any piece from the sculpture garden would have made a dramatic impact on most of our gardens (with the possible exception of the Lenin Bust which no doubt would have made a perfect support for a Russian vine anywhere else). The impact of the metal gunnera under the bridge to the walled garden was breathtaking, amd I'm sure, floodlit on a summer evening, even more so. The only statues which really jarred for me were the warriors under an enormous tree: perhaps they had some historic significance which escaped me, resembling as they did from a distance black sacks of rubbish.
I apologise if this account does not feed the voracious appetite of our group’s plant collectors. I am planning to revisit the garden on May 7th, another open day, and this time I shall take a notebook. One could write at length about the splendour and expertise of the waterworks, the views and atmosphere they evoked - I just marvel at landscaping on this scale.
Two hours of walking demanded refreshment and this was supplied in the comfortable country atmosphere of the Church Barn. An afternoon well spent and many thanks to Sue and her helpers for the opportunity to visit. The gardens are open again four times this year should anyone wish to revisit.
The Group will be involved at three flower shows this year.
We shall have a stand for publicity and recruitment (no plant display) at the Specialist Plant Fair at Spetchley Park on Sunday 17 April. Pippa Hilton and John McGhee will put up the stand. The show opens at 11 am, so four other members are needed on the stand for the day from then on.
The Staffordshire Group will again represent the HPS at the Malvern Spring Show and would welcome our help. The dates the show is open are Thursday 12 May to Sunday 15 May. Help is needed on the stand in two-hourly slots on show days (free entry is the reward for doing one of these) and also to break down the stand and display after 5pm on the Sunday. Our friends from Staffordshire were very grateful for our help last year: volunteers for any of this time are welcome, but especially on the Sunday to break down the display.
Our Worcestershire Group is the HPS representation at the Malvern Autumn Show this year. The show dates are Saturday and Sunday 24 and 25 September. Pippa Hilton will lead on the display, for which Paul Picton of Old Court Nurseries and The Picton Garden and Bob Brown of Cotswold Garden Flowers have already agreed to lend plants. Pippa and John McGhee will need volunteers for two-hourly slots during the show days (again, with free entry) and, vitally, on Sunday after 5pm to break down the display. This is obviously a good publicity and recruitment opportunity, not only for the HPS but for our Group, so please support it.
If you can help at any of the shows, please contact John McGhee
Can you match the places to the plants? Click a yellow box to reveal the answer.
Glastonbury, Weymouth, Guernsey, Kenilworth, Cheddar, Scarborough, Deptford, Canterbury, Yarrow, London
|Saxifraga umbrosa :||London||Pride|
|Campanula medium :||Canterbury||Bell|
|Dianthus gratianopolis :||Cheddar||Pink|
|Dianthus armeria :||Deptford||Pink|
|Crataegus monogyna biflora :||Glastonbury||Thorn|
|Nerine sarniensis :||Guernsey||Lily|
|Cymbalaria muralis :||Kenilworth||Ivy|
|Pinus strobus :||Weymouth||Pine|
|Achillea millefolium :||Yarrow|
|Vallota speciosa :||Scarborough||Lily|
GENERAL VIEW of the AGRICULTURE of the COUNTY OF WORCESTER with Observations on the Means of its Improvement drawn up for the Consideration of THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE by W. Pitt.
CHAPTER XVIII, Sect. III – Vermin
“Considerable injury is done to agriculture, and the productions and fruits of the earth, by various noxious insects and animals; these, as enemies to the subsistence of man, he is bound, on principles of self-defence, to oppose and destroy.
The common red earth or wire worm is very injurious to pastures, by fouling them with its castings: and, I suppose, to corn, clover, and other plants, by devouring the roots, and thus injuring or destroying the plant.”