|Hydrangeas in John Massey’s private garden, Ashwood Nurseries (Kathryn Elrick Smith)|
I began writing this whilst the autumn was still warm and mellow, but it is no less true now that we are experiencing the first chill squalls. It is the quality of the light that alerts you to the change of season; that low sun across a garden covered in dew, backlighting the late flowers, leaves in their rich autumn tones and spider webs. I love autumn as much for the assault on the senses as I do for the deep-seated memories of the start of a new school year. For gardeners,
Wendy Richards' garden (Jan Vaughan) as well as pupils and teachers, this is an important time for planning and resolutions. There is the intention to tidy my garden for the winter, rather than leaving it to end up a sopping mess, hiding the first shoots of spring or worse giving cover to armies of hungry slugs and snails to munch their way through cherished plants before I’ve noticed. This year I want to see the garden cosily snuggled into a layer of mulch. Then we have the bulb displays to plan and plant whilst dismantling our summer tubs and taking last cuttings of any perennials that might succumb to a hard winter. Quite a juggling act to balance all these tasks and still enjoy the sights and scents all around.
Taking over the Chair this spring was exciting and rather daunting, but also tinged with sadness. By the time of my first meeting with the Committee we learnt of the untimely death of our outgoing Chairman, Bev Drewitt, a gentle and caring friend and gardener. She will be fondly remembered by us all.
It has been a busy summer for the Worcestershire hardy planters. In May we represented the HPS at the Malvern Spring Festival under the expert guidance of John and David, featuring plants from the HPS Conservation Scheme. We were delighted to be given a ‘first’ by the Show judges, although equally pleased to have the opportunity to talk to so many keen gardeners from across the country who were really interested in the plants on show and the aim of conservation of garden-worthy plants. Overall the summer has been warm and dry, but I arrived at the summer party to find John Bryant quickly drying the garden chairs after a sudden downpour and both coffee mornings were rather wet, but the weather failed to dampen our enjoyment of the gardens.
And now we have a really exciting year ahead. The Worcestershire group began in 1995 and we celebrate our 20th anniversary in September next year with a special day for members. Before that we have a guest lecture from Anna Pavord, - a wonderful opportunity to hear her talk about her experiences as a gardener and garden writer. Then a Group holiday to Yorkshire and, of course, an excellent programme of lectures and visits to enjoy and provide inspiration. You will find details in the Newsletters and on the Worcestershire Group website along with notice of our AGM in March and a plea to consider a turn on the Committee to ensure that we remain a vibrant and active group.
In her Report for the Spring Newsletter Bev asked if anyone had grown Sarcococca confusa from seed. I cannot claim to have done so but the following might add to the debate.
Whilst working at Spetchley Park Gardens as a volunteer some two years ago, I came across several Sarcococca seedlings growing out of the base of a low box hedge. There was no parent plant anywhere in the vicinity so it was reasonable to assume that the berries had been eaten and later passed by a bird perched on the hedge. I extracted the seedlings and (with permission) took them home for potting up. They have since grown into nice small bushes, one of which was donated to the raffle around Christmas whilst a second sold at the last Plant Sale in June. The owners might be interested to know of their provenance and I am sure that the bird would be pleased to learn that they have gone to good homes!
I did send this snippet to Bev before she sadly passed away.
Under the Data Protection Act you should know that your name, address, email address and telephone number are held as paper records and/or on a computer file for administrative purposes. No personal information will be disclosed to any organisation or person outside the Group without the member's permission, except to compare data with that held by the National Hardy Plant Society Administrator. If you are concerned about the methods used to store your data, please contact the Secretary, Judith Doughty.
Delete: 'Cheques drawn on the account should be signed by two officers of the Group nominated either by the members in a General Meeting or by the duly elected committee.'
Add: 'Cheques drawn on the account up to the amount of £50 should be signed by one officer of the Group nominated either by the members in a General Meeting or by the duly elected committee. Cheques drawn on the account of an amount of or greater than £50 should be signed by two such officers.'
Three committee members will be stepping down at the 2015 AGM. Therefore, we need people to volunteer for the following positions in order to continue with the smooth administration of our society.
The main duties of the Secretary are to:
The main duties of the Membership Secretary are to:
The main duties of the Newsletter Editor are to:
Both coffee morning visits this year were very well attended, proving that the Worcestershire group members are true hardy planters, undeterred by wet weather. Our first visit was to Wendy Richards’ garden in Evesham on Thursday 1st May. The garden of about a third of an acre surrounds her Edwardian house, and, with mature trees providing privacy and shelter for sinuous island beds, is densely planted in a cottage garden style.
Wendy is a gifted plantswoman, as evidenced by her skilful combinations of flowers and foliage plants. In May this was particularly seen with the placing of her collection of small Iris, their jewel colours perfectly matched with a dark leaved Heuchera or Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ for instance. On this particular morning rain was threatening, but the light merely intensified the colours and a brief shower was a chance for coffee and a chat.
The weather hadn’t improved by the time of our second visit, to Margaret Stone’s garden in the Old Hills near Callow End. We arrived in a light drizzle which became heavier at times, but failed to dampen the enthusiasm for a wonderful garden, which, sloping gently down from the house, winds around a hollow forming a natural bog garden.
Margaret holds National Collections of Geranium sanguineum, Geranium macrorrhizum and Geranium x cantabrigiense, Erigeron cultivars and Aster novae-angliae, planted at the side of the garden. Again the planting demonstrated a skilful touch combining flowers and foliage in stunning combinations and often picking up elements across the garden view, providing much comment and discussion.
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‘All gardening is landscape painting’ (William Kent, 1685-1748)
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Hundreds of plants of all shapes and sizes were given by members, all in good condition and their pots noted with useful information. Sales were particularly brisk in the first hour and nearly all plants were sold. All plants had been grown by members and were sold at very reasonable prices.
Hardy plant members worked hard in organising the sale, pricing, labelling the plants, collecting payments and advising prospective buyers about the plants they might wish to buy.
These efforts resulted in achieving a very satisfactory surplus of over £600 which will be put to good use in paying for interesting speakers to talk to us at future monthly meetings and towards the cost of celebrating our twentieth birthday in 2015.
Our fourth plant sale will be held in June 2015 and all members are asked to help and contribute in whatever way they can!
It all started as just a brief discussion at a Worcestershire Hardy Plant Society committee meeting – but it quickly turned into a pretty big project. The idea was to find ways of involving members more in the activities of the society – and we thought it would be great to see a bit more of each other’s gardens and find out more about how much their gardens mean to them.
Speaker secretary Mick Dunstan, who’s travelled nearly 1,500 miles across Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire taking pictures for the project, said “Every year, we have visits to some of our members’ gardens, which are great. But this was something a bit different. Some people simply don’t want to open their gardens for a morning to a host of people. So, we produced a short piece for our newsletter earlier this year and, within a couple of weeks, 10 people had volunteered to have their gardens photographed over the course of the year.”
As autumn settles in, the 2014 photo project has produced a library of nearly 7,000 photographs and 10 video interviews along with other digital material. And the plan is to turn them into two separate hour-long presentations to share with members next year – in March, after the AGM, and again in July.
“It’s a simple thing to say but we really do have some lovely members with lovely gardens. I’ve been made very welcome during the five or six visits I’ve made to each gardens. There are big gardens and small gardens, people who have had the same garden for more than 50 years and another who’ve only recently moved to their new garden.
“Experience varies widely too – from a member with a degree and a career in horticulture to others who have joined the society in the hope of finding out more about the thing they call gardening.
“For me personally, it’s been a genuine pleasure to talk to everyone, to share their opinions and experience and to see how the gardens changed across the year. They have some great gardening stories to tell.
“We have some gifted gardeners amongst our numbers – it’s been a revelation - and I’m looking forward to sharing all of this with everyone next year. All I have to do now is take a final set of pictures from the drop zone - as the autumn and early winter takes a hold of our outside spaces – and learn how to turn all this into a digital presentation in words, pictures and interviews in time for March. Wish me luck.”
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‘Garden as though you will live forever’ (William Kent, 1685-1748)
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If members would please consider taking their turn to help in the kitchen, or to bring a cake to our meetings, it would be very much appreciated by everyone. A rota is available for you to put your name down, and if you do find that you are unable to attend the meeting you have signed up for, either swap with someone else or let me know so that I can arrange a replacement. Thank you.
A party wall sounds fun doesn’t it? A venue for cordial greeting, discussing the weather and setting the world to rights, or something solid with a chink through which Pyramus and Thisbe might whisper sweet nothings. Not so, and my party wall (and garden) has found itself on the wrong side of the law. The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is most definitely not garden-friendly. The aim of this piece of legislation is to allow a householder to develop their land, a euphemism for allowing building over their garden with as little interference as possible.
Our new neighbour has been round to inform us of his intention to build a large extension on the boundary of our properties. He helpfully added that he was complying with the law by talking to us informally and would send round the forms for us to sign our agreement. His builders will need to demolish and rebuild a section of the party wall, requiring access from our terrace to dig new foundations. So I am required to prune back wall shrubs and climbers and clear a further length of border which will be dug up. He is hoping to start work in the Spring so, with no definite date for this, I have started to move plants whilst the autumn weather has been kind as the garden may be frozen or waterlogged when the builders arrive. There is also no indication of how long this will take and when I may be able to replant. I have had to find new permanent homes for a Cotinus, climbing rose and honeysuckle along with many perennials and bulbs. This part of the garden, adjoining our outdoor seating area, is likely to look a mess for some time to come and I hardly need add that there is no provision for compensation for the disruption or loss of plants. And I’m sure the builders will leave me a border filled with rubbish and mortar.
As most of you are no doubt aware by now, Julia Dale has got agreement from Birlingham Nurseries to join our discount scheme. The details are:
Birlingham Nurseries and Garden Centre, Upper End, Birlingham, Worcs WR10 3AA
Tel. 01386 750668
If any member has a root of a Dianthus called ‘Memories’ that I could have/buy for my pets’ cemetery I would be very grateful to hear from you.
I am sure many of you will have tried the delicious date cake with a caramel topping that Pippa Hilton has made for us on more than one occasion. Pippa told me that it was the Queen Mother’s favourite cake apparently, and I asked Pippa for the recipe. It is listed on the internet as the Queen Mother’s Favourite Balmoral Date Cake. (Editor)
Pour half a pint of boiling water and one teaspoon bicarbonate of soda over 8oz chopped dates. Leave to stand whilst the following items are mixed together.
Rub 3oz butter into 10oz plain flour, half teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking powder.
Add 8oz caster sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence and 1 beaten egg.
Add this to the date mixture, and bake in an 8 inch round tin for approx. 60 minutes at 375°F or 190°C.
Topping – Take 5 tablespoons dark brown sugar, 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons double cream and boil together for 3 minutes. Spread on the cooled cake, and sprinkle with chopped walnuts (optional).