Autumn at Spetchley Park gardens by Clive Haynes… part of the photography exhibition at the gardens by members of Worcester Camera Club.

Issue 48 - Autumn 2018


From the Editor

Welcome to Issue 48, our latest edition of the Worcestershire HPS Newsletter and, as your new editor, ‘hello’ to all members, particularly those I have not met personally.

It was with some misgivings that I volunteered to take on this role following in the footsteps of previous very able editors, namely David Pollitt and our current chair, Mick. With the continuing support of Mick (particularly on the technical/IT side!) and my volunteer proof reader Anne Bard, I hope to be able to fulfil the role to the best of my ability.

This month we have a wide range of contributions from members and non-members with articles covering excursions, tours, show experiences and workshops attended, through to those on pest control, growing particular plants and issues of drought.

There is also feedback about our members’ survey and information on the garden tour for 2019.

I hope to continue to meet as many of you as possible over the coming months and that many of you will feel able to contribute to the newsletter in some way. There is a great pool of knowledge and gardening experience within our membership as well as some very interesting garden visits and holidays which we can share in the form of the magazine. If you feel you can contribute an article or even have a germ of an idea which you would like to discuss, please contact me or on 01905 794414.

Please don’t worry about literary skills, spelling etc. It’s the content we’re interested in – so please give it a go! Hoping to hear from you.

Pam Norrington

16th Century Garden Pest Control

Member Jackie Davies's friend and gardening guru Angela Mountford looks back to a less chemical time…

The Garden riches be diversly annoyed, and harmed by divers creeping worms and beasts,…and speedy remedies shall be exercised, so that these in the end do fall down and perish."

First, catch your hippo…

Garden pests infested mediaeval and Tudor gardens as they do ours today. The 1577 book, The Gardener’s Labyrinth by Thomas Hill included many detailed discussions and useful hints on the design and management of the garden, such as soils, the size of flower beds, and watering techniques (The common watering potte for the Garden beddes with us, hath a narrow necke, bigge belly, and a somewhat large bottome…) and the best sorts of dung to use – (doves’ dung). Hill also included some interesting remedies for pest control , so here are some items you might have included in your garden shed in the 16th century.

Folk wisdom of the time said using garlic to deter moles would make them leap right out of their holes, although Hill also encouraged little boys to play football on his lawn as another method to frighten moles away. But if these didn’t work he had another couple of ideas - killing moles by smoking them out with brimstone or using the 16th century mole trap:

If that you get a live Mole, put the same into a deepe earthen pot, setting the edge to the earth: which Mole, after a while feeling himselfe thus inclosed, will crye out, and after the other Moles in that ground doe thus heare him cry, they will hastily draw neere unto him, and minding to helpe him forth, will so fall into the pot.

To preserve seeds ‘in safety from all evil and garden monsters ‘ Hill thought they should be steeped shortly before sowing

in the juice of houseleek or singreen [sempervivum], and they shall not only be without harm preserved from birds, ants, field mice, and other spoilers of garden herbs, but what plants shoot up of these shall after prove the better and worthier’.

If houseleek is not available

the gardener may use the soot cleaving on the chimney, which gathered a day before the bestowing of the seeds in the earth, and mixed for a night with them, doth the like defend the seeds in safety.

Another idea:

To deter birds, sprinkle seeds with decoction of river crayfish or brine or wine, or mix lentils in with them, or drag a speckled toad by a line in the night time round about the garden….Garden mice may be driven away if you sprinckle the beds with Ashes of Weasel or with that water sprinckled on the beds in which a Catte hath walked.

But who could fail to be impressed by Hill’s suggestion that to stave off the ill effects of lightning you should use “the hide of a hippopotamus hung at the entrance or coming in of the garden”.

I wonder if it works….?

Angela Montford

Garden Visits, May 16, 2018

High Glanau Manor in Monmouthshire

The Manor was built and the garden made in 1923 by Henry Avray Tipping, the Architectural Editor of "Country Life" magazine. Tipping was one of the most respected authorities of his time on the history, architecture and gardens of English houses. He was a contemporary of some of the most influential architects and garden designers in Edwardian Britain; he was a friend of Harold Peto, Edward Lutyens, Gertrude Jekyll and William Robinson.

High Glanau Manor is an excellent example of domestic Arts and Crafts style; it was Tipping’s home for the last ten years of his life. The present owner Helena Gerrish has owned the house since 2002 and is in the process of restoring the garden to its former glory.

Our group walked up the long drive through woodland carpeted by bluebells. As we approached the house the wonderful view across the Vale of Usk to the Brecon Beacons was revealed; the house and garden nestle into the hillside and fit harmoniously into the landscape. The back of the house is clothed in a blue wisteria; it was apparent from the plants we saw on our visit that the owner favours blue.

There were blue camassias in the garden beyond the pergola near the glasshouse. The garden is well known for its wonderful display of delphiniums but they were not in flower when we were there. The 200 foot herbaceous borders on the south terrace were composed of large drifts of blue nepeta, Alchemilla mollis, white astrantia, blue salvia, white lupins, peonies, phlox and poppies. Owing to the late, cold, wet spring we did not see many plants in flower but in June the borders must look glorious.

High Glanau Manor and garden are Grade II* listed and were designed as one by Tipping in collaboration with the Chepstow architect Eric Francis. We were made very welcome by Mrs Gerrish and enjoyed tea and cake in the sitting room; the house is full of lovely furniture and paintings. We also saw Tipping’s study from which there is a view to the south over the restored herbaceous borders. Overall this was a most interesting visit.

Lyn Maile

Return to Abbey Dore Court

This garden situated at the southern end of Golden Valley in Herefordshire had been the destination for the second outing of the newly-formed HPS Worcestershire Group in 1996 and made a strong impression on me as the garden of a knowledgeable plantswoman. This was Charis Ward who bought the house and grounds in 1967 and went on to develop a 6-acre garden with a further four acres of arboretum on the other side of the River Dore.

She was a compulsive plantswoman obsessed with working in the garden and when her daughter's family grew up and left she felt unable to cope with the big house, so one day she simply moved into the gardener's cottage. She died in 2016 and the house has been managed as a holiday home for some years so this was a garden without an owner.

The 'cottage garden' within the walled garden, criss-crossed with brick paths, remained a romantic tumble of flowers, euphorbias, geums and geraniums with bold clumps of maianthemum. A particularly striking combination of acid-yellow and blue had several of us struggling to name the dark blue flower - Moltkia doerfleri. There is also an enviable collection of species peonies and many notable shrubs. One I struggled to identify is, I think, Lonicera korolkowii var zabelli with striking dark cerise flowers.

It seems that the house and garden are currently being sold: I hope the new owners will move slowly into the garden and discover the treasures that lie within.

Jan Vaughan

Five Minutes With…

Wendy Richards is one of Worcestershire’s longest-standing members. She has been a regular since our second meeting, back in 1995. She’s been telling MICK DUNSTAN about her garden, helping on our monthly plant table and this truly awful summer…

Hi, Wendy. Thanks for making time to talk to me. I hear you’ve been a member for a long time.

It is a long time, Mick. I didn’t come to the very first meeting at Pershore College but I met someone who had, they told me about it and I came to the second. I’ve been coming ever since, that’s 23 years now – that’s more than 200 meetings and a lot of plants as well, isn’t it? I joined Western Counties about four years earlier and I still go there as well. With Worcestershire, we began in one of the cabins at Pershore College and moved, over the years, to Norton, Drakes Broughton, Peopleton and now Crowle.

Have you been interested in plants and gardening from a young age?

Not really, no. When our three children were little we had a veg plot but the rest of the garden was a lawn where they played and our son, Matt, played football all the time. I did a bit of gardening back then, but not much at all. It wasn’t until we moved back to Evesham that my interest grew. I grew up in Banbury, as did my husband, Pete. I did my nursing training there – at the Horton General Hospital, after leaving school. We’ve lived in a few places, including Christchurch for seven years, but moved, to this house in Evesham, in 1986.

Do I take it you were a nurse during your career?

I was a stay-at-home mum during the children’s early years and didn’t return to work until the eldest was in her early teens. I was with an orthodontic practice for several years. In Evesham, I worked with a couple of schools with children who needed a little more help. My two daughters and son still live locally, which is nice. In fact, they all moved out within about three or four months. There’s six years separating them all and Matt went off to university in the September, one daughter got married in October and the other bought her own house in the December. We were left rattling around here. The kids say I took on plants because I needed something else to look after when they left. That’s when we got rid of the veg plot.

You’ve had this garden for over 30 years. How much has it changed since you moved in?

Oh, lots. There was no garden at all, just lawns, great big conifers, a prunus tree and a holly bush. It’s south west facing and about a third of an acre. We had almost all of the conifers taken out – one of them hung 22ft over the lawn – we measured it. There’s never been a real plan for this garden, it’s just sort of evolved. We’ve put in beds and borders and the soil is light and sandy. Any compost I put in disappears quickly. In a hot summer, like this year, it’s death to a lot of plants. My daughter, who’s started coming to our meetings, has a small garden and can water it easily but I can’t water one this size. I buy geums at Malvern Spring Festival but I’ve lost a lot this year. I’ve managed to keep all my pots growing – I have hostas in many of them – but that’s about all. I used to collect a lot of Hemerocallis, which have been wonderful this summer. They’ve not had a drop of water and they have been fabulous.

Speaking of compost, do you make your own here?

I have six compost bins – the black, Dalek type. It takes a while for stuff to rot down, I find, but it’s OK. I’ve got a shredder as well and leave it in bags around the back of the garage for a couple of years to rot down. It’s the same when the leaves drop. I have a greenhouse but I’ve not done much this year. I usually do seedlings, tomatoes, peppers and so on. I like growing things from seed. I grew a cucumber plant once and it went mad. One day, I gave Peter 13 cucumbers to take to the office to give away to colleagues! I

Flashback … to the 90s and Wendy with some of her beloved sweet peas

Any plants you’re particularly fond of?

I adore sweet peas and try a few new varieties most years. I like lilies of the valley and roses. I have "William Cobb" and "Cardinal de Richlieu" in the garden – I love those magenta tones. "Bloomfield Abundance" is another favourite, a very old rose.

Do you belong to other gardening groups?

I am a member of Western Counties and I belong to Plant Heritage. Hardy Plants is important to me – I really couldn’t imagine life without it. You have the friendships, other people’s knowledge and you acquire some very nice things for the garden and very happy memories. In terms of speakers, there have been some good ones – with Fergus Garrett standing out for me. He’s very good to listen to.

You help run the plants table at our monthly meetings, Wendy?

For the last three years or so, yes. I have had so much from Hardy Plants that it’s good to give a little bit back. I do enjoy it – it helps me talk to more people, including new members. A lot of people will just come up to have a look at what’s available this month. I take half a dozen plants a month and, in September, the eight Cyclamen hederifolium I took sold within the first few minutes. I have sold twice as many. We took £52, a handy sum to pass on to the group. It all helps.

And for the last few years, you’ve also lent a hand at the annual plant sale.

Yes, I think we seem to get better results every year as our reputation just grows and grows. So many people say they came the previous year and the plants were great and grew so well. Many people buy six or eight plants and with such good prices they go away happy. It’s good we try to keep prices down - £2 to £4 with a bit more for the very special things. You could easily pay £5.99 at a garden centre for similar plants and people know they are getting a bargain. I’m glad we’re staying at Peopleton next year, despite this year’s mix-up. It’s where people know us best.

Thanks very much for you time, Wendy.

Mick Dunstan

Drought and About…

After one of the fiercest summers in recent memory, some of our members tell us about what went well – and what didn’t…

Hilda’s summer garden

In the sunshine…
Verbena rigida 'Polaris'

Firstly, you may wish to know that Alcester rainfall totalled just 8mm in June – with 29mm in July and a very welcome 49mm in August. September was drier than usual too, with just 38mm.

Last year up to the end of September, total rainfall here – after another dry summer - was 388mm. This year it was also low – 338mm. For the record, the total for 2017, was 639 mm - December was wettish with 120mm - which definitely has to be global warming. And didn’t the weeds do well this summer?

Here are a few plants that we have definitely noted in our garden.

We feel we will have to give more attention to possibly bark mulch. The regular evening watering was so hard.

Hilda Watts

Surprise, surprise…

Maybe it is a bit early to assess the long-term effects of the hot summer on the plants in my garden, but there were some short-term surprises.

One is Euphorbia barrelei, which tends to seed about in my garden. One plant shrivelled and died, another is struggling, and a third seemed dried up, but after I cut it down, started to produce new shoots. Waldsteinia ternata dried up completely and I thought it was dead but a few leaves have pushed up after the rain. Several herbaceous plants needed a canful of water at intervals - Veronica and Phlox - but Geranium ‘Rozanne’ kept going and flowering through it all.

Most shrubs, Potentilla ‘Abbotswood’ and Salvia ‘Royal Bumble’, have flowered all summer with no extra water since May. But a big surprise is Verbena rigida ‘Polaris’, which has seeded itself in a narrow gravel border at the foot of a house wall that bakes in the sun for most of the day – it has flowered all summer without any watering.

Elspeth Napier

Hardy Plants Gardeners and Climate Change

Dave Stanley, husband of member Jane Stanley, is an independent sustainability advisor who has briefed universities, government and environment organisations. He looks back over this year’s hot summer and outlines eight things we should all be doing…

In Dave and Jane’s garden… a wildflower meadow with traditional fruit trees and a copse of native trees

The Met Office has officially declared that the 2018 summer in England is the hottest since records began in 2010. As usual it has been declared an “exceptional” summer.

For the UK, three of the four hottest summers have occurred since 2000. “Exceptional” appears to be the new norm for our weather. There is no doubt that these changes in our weather are due to climate change.

For those who might be a little doubtful on this, as confirmation, President “Fake News” Trump has declared climate change to be a hoax invented by the Chinese to disadvantage US industry!

So what is climate change and what might we do about it?

Climate change refers to a large-scale, long-term shift in the planet's weather patterns and average temperatures. This is definitely happening. There has been a 1.5°C increase in global temperatures since 1850. This is forecast to increase to a possibly catastrophic 4° C by the end of the century, unless we take action now.

The effects of Arctic ice disappearing, glaciers melting, and warming of the permafrost releasing yet further greenhouse gases is largely unknown.

The destruction of the planet’s ecosystems, including the tropical rainforests of South America for soya production and cattle, and those forests in the Far East for palm oil have resulted in massive releases of further carbon dioxide. There have also been the huge losses of carbon from our own soils arising from modern agricultural practices. Over the last 150 years, the carbon dioxide levels have increased from 270 ppm (parts per million) to 405 ppm today.

So as responsible citizens, as opposed to being merely consumers, what action might those with an interest in gardens take to reduce the impact of climate change? Here are a few ideas.

2018 plant sale

Our plant sale in June has now become an established fixture on the Group’s calendar. Last year’s event saw record sales boosted by the publicity gained from our participation at Chelsea and the cachet attached to the leftover ‘Chelsea’ plants which sold like hot cakes.

Far from being an anti-climax, this year’s sale matched last year’s in takings after allowing for the absence of a ‘Chelsea factor’. This result was all the more gratifying after the mix-up over the hall booking.

In the event, a team of willing helpers launched themselves in to action immediately access was gained to the hall and the doors were opened to the public just 10 minutes after the originally planned time of 2 p.m.

The resulting boost to the Group’s finances, amounting to just over £1,000, enables the committee to go forward with confidence when faced with the rising cost of speakers and the challenges of providing the membership with an informative and enjoyable programme of events. Thanks are due to all those who contributed to this achievement.

David Pollit

Worcestershire Members' Survey Results

Back in March, we started distributing a five-minute survey to all members, asking them what they think of our group and everything we do. Here’s part of the summary of the findings report…

So far, so good…

We received responses from 52 of our 114 members – with all but six being returned from people who regularly attend meetings.

The happy outcome is that we now know we seem to have got it largely right for the majority of members. More than two thirds say they very much enjoy being a group member with more than 90 per cent saying they like our Saturday afternoon slot. There was an overwhelmingly positive response to our speaker programme – with 98 per cent saying they liked our programme quite a lot or very much.

We’ve also found out a bit more about our members too – and, as if you didn’t already know it, we’re a dedicated gardening group. More than three quarters of us spend more than five hours a week gardening in the growing season.

Those are the top-line responses but we said we’d let you know about all the results – so here’s programme secretary Claire Constantine to guide you through the analysis…

Basic information

48 per cent of respondents have been members for more than seven years, whilst a significant proportion of 42 per cent are relatively new members of fewer than three years. A total of 81 per cent of membership is female and we have no members under 50, with most being between 70 and 80.

Our meetings

Meetings are well attended by respondents with over 90 per cent attending half or more meetings. Interestingly, members were evenly split between small and large gardens and we are a dedicated lot; 77 per cent of us spend more than five hours gardening a week in the growing season!

There are high levels of enjoyment in being a member of our group - 67 per cent very much enjoy being a member and the overwhelming majority - 92 per cent - like the Saturday afternoon slot for our meetings. Most did not want any change to the time or the length of the meetings although for some, an evening early in the week would suit. Perhaps we could consider this end of the week for our coffee mornings in future.

A significant proportion of responders were interested in starting say an hour earlier for some social time (35per cent). Perhaps we could trial this.

Our talks and speakers

There was an overwhelmingly positive rating for the speaker programme (98 per cent) with Particular plants and Gardens/design being the most popular, followed by plant care, practical and historical all of similar popularity. No one topic stood out as being unpopular, so it seems on balance that the mix of topics in the programme is about right.

There were lots of suggestions for future speakers too.

Other activities

Day coach outings to gardens are popular with members (81 per cent), the same proportion have been to a Celebrity Lecture and all have enjoyed them.

Around half of members have been on our summer garden tours and all bar one enjoyed them very much, a ringing endorsement.

About two thirds of members have recently attended a coffee morning or summer evening event which most enjoyed very much. Although six members expressed an interest in hosting a social event only one made themselves known to the committee! If you’re one of the others, please contact Claire.

The discount priced compost scheme is rapidly gaining in popularity with 21 members signing up for it very quickly this year. Almost all find it quite or very useful and good value for money.


96 per cent found it very or quite easy to communicate with officers of the group. However, we don’t know how the roughly half of the membership who don’t attend meetings feel about this.

Speaker ideas… Sue and Bleddyn Jones from Crûg Farm were among your suggestions for future speakers

National and group websites are currently by far the most popular sites used by members. In response to “How useful do you find our social media and web sites?” there was a surprising spread of responses. It would be interesting to re-examine what purpose we are trying to achieve with our different sites. A total of 67 per cent visit our sites at least a few times a year. In all, 93 per cent found our tri-fold programme either quite or very useful, confirming that this is the most popular method of communication, although an overwhelming majority (91 per cent) find the local newsletter quite or very interesting; equal to the rating of the national journal and newsletter.

Most members are happy to be contacted by email although there is a significant minority who rely on post (and two nominated phone).

Twenty responders had bought seed from the national society’s scheme.

Chairman Mick Dunstan said “I think there’s genuine comfort for the committee to have such high ratings across so much of the work we do. I’m very pleased about that. Our next step is for the committee to take a look at areas where lower scores have been generated and to consider whether there is anything we need do to improve.

“I’d like to thank Claire and speaker secretary Stephanie Reader for the hours of work they have put in to analyse all the returned questionnaires. It’s genuinely appreciated.”

It Loves Me, It Loves Me Not

There are quite a few highly desirable plants that just will not grow for me, even when provided with the conditions they are said to enjoy. One such is Dictamnus alba where specimens with established and substantial root systems have failed. Another is Galena trifoliata. So, I shan’t be wasting any more time or money on those. Yet there is one ‘difficult-to grow’ plant that I am prepared to persist with.

Some time ago, as programme secretary for the Spetchley Gardeners’ Society, I arranged a tour of the gardens at Spetchley, led by the late Mr John Berkeley and Miss Juliet Berkeley. There, I was fascinated to see spreads of a bright red tulip, about 12 inches tall, with green/bronze outer petals. On enquiring I was told that this was Tulipa sprengeri, the latest-flowering tulip of all, and that they would only grow for you if they liked you. Well, they obviously liked the Berkeley family and I wanted them to like me too.

T. sprengeri were originally discovered growing on the ‘Pontic coast’ in NW Turkey but are now all but extinct in the wild. Named after Carl Sprenger and introduced in to Europe in 1892 by Muehlendorff of Germany they are now widely grown in cultivation. They are frost hardy down to minus 10 C but like most bulbs demand good drainage especially through the winter months.

An added bonus is that they will happily grow in the grass. They can be grown from seed at any time of the year but the seed needs to be frosted in order to germinate. Armed with this information and having been presented with some seed I set about growing them myself. The germination was good and they are still growing slowly in pots but have yet to produce a flower. It seems they can take up to four to five years to flower. I live in hope.

Last year I was given some bulbs, potted singly. I stood the pots in position around the garden only to find when I went to plant them out the next day that the squirrels had paid a visit and devoured them all. T. sprengeri have contractile roots, i.e. they pull themselves down in to the soil and can be quite difficult to dig up. I did not feel I could ask the kind donor for more.

A request in the Group newsletter, however, produced bulbs from two members. All have bloomed and thanks to their generosity I was able to enjoy the sight of their shiny green leaves and lovely star-shaped flowers for almost three weeks. As the flowers died away, copiously filled seeds pods formed. I managed to save most of the seed for autumn sowing but some has been allowed to fall to the ground which will hopefully germinate naturally. Love, love me do!

Judy Pollitt

Situations vacant…

Two Committee members will be stepping down at the 2019 AGM next March. We therefore need people to volunteer for the following positions in order to continue with the administration of the group.

Both are posts that are vital to our smooth running – so please consider if you could give back something to the group and offer to help. It hardly needs saying but we cannot carry on without help from volunteers. Perfection is not what we are looking for. First and foremost, we want people who are willing to help – and you may be surprised by the satisfaction you will get in return.

If you have any thoughts or queries, please speak to Mick or any of the committee and we’ll do all we can to explain the details.

Here are the main requirements for the vacancies.


The main duties of the secretary are to:

If you are would like to know more about this role, please speak to Lyn Maile


This requires Internet access and computer literacy.

The main duty of the publicity secretary is to publicise and promote the HPS Worcestershire Group in the local area.

Regular tasks are:

Occasional tasks are:

A full list of contacts and support (if required) will be provided by Jayne Savage, the outgoing publicity secretary.

It lives!

Name me a hardy planter who has yet to fall victim to the allure of some seductive beauty encountered on his travels. And lived to regret it.

That gorgeous blue Himalayan poppy seen growing like a weed in Scotland. Or that dazzling crimson azalea in a Cornish valley garden.

My moment came last year when I was completely bowled over by a strange kniphofia. It didn’t even have a proper name. Bob Brown names it as Kniphofia thomsonii var. thomsonii but maintains that it is borderline hardy on his heavy clay. Why should I be any more successful with it? Why should a native of South Africa prosper with me? But then why was it growing profusely in a rain-soaked garden in Devon where I bought it from Keith Wiley whilst on our garden tour?

It was planted out in the garden last year and duly threw up a flower stem. So entranced was I that I sent a photo with a few lines for inclusion in the Autumn Newsletter. It received a light mulch in autumn before being subjected to some of the harshest conditions our climate can throw at us; a severe prolonged cold winter, a late spring marked by persistent heavy rain, to be followed by extreme heat and drought.

According to the pundits, kniphofias are tolerant of heat and drought but need good winter drainage. In our most low-lying island bed, the standing water earlier in the year engulfed an Astilbe superbum, a moisture-loving plant, which appears to have died away completely. Nevertheless, our kniphofia has not only survived but has bulked up and promises multiple flower stems next year. So, no regrets so far. Let’s see what the next twelve months bring.

P.S. Apologies for the colour clash in the photo. It is not deliberate.

David Pollitt

Summer Get-Togethers

This summer, members were invited to two beautiful gardens owned by our members Beverley Powlesland and Becky Dale. Our two hosts talk us through what happened…

Too much weather…

I was a commuter when there were “leaves on the line” and remember the days when “the wrong kind of snow” fell causing traffic chaos. Well this year, I think we had one of the longest and hottest summers for a while. For me, this was certainly the wrong kind of weather for my gardening year.

In September 2007, I developed heat stroke while doing my practical exams at Pershore College. This had seemed most unlikely as I spent many years in Cape Town while temperatures soared to 28°C. But I’ve noticed that I have “down regulated” quite a bit over the past 35 years while in the UK.

About a year ago, I agreed to host a coffee morning in July. Plans were set in motion to tidy the garden, plant up all those gaps where the rabbits had enjoyed their meals and reduce the chance of holding the national collection of weeds. But then the weather arrived. Easter weekend was very wet and the clay became too sticky to work with.

So plans were slightly delayed till May. I made some headway with weeding but plants were slow to germinate and many that germinated had a cold check around Easter and never recovered. Then June arrived with high temperatures and little rain. The cracks in the soil appeared and by the end of June were about six inches wide and widening. Worse still, the weeds were firmly anchored into the “rocks” of clay with little chance of removal. And, of course, temperatures were still at about 25°C at 9pm! My previous episode of heat stroke has made me hide inside when temperatures reach 20°C. I much prefer 8-18°C now.

Sadly, July arrived with many of the tasks incomplete. About 20 keen HPS members visited — it’s quite a way to drive to our garden in Hartpury in Gloucestershire — and I am grateful for their support. Apologies for the state of the plot but this was definitely due to too much weather. I hope the teas and cakes made up for the gardening shortfall.

Beverley Powlesland

It’s summer – and not raining!

It was with great trepidation that I looked forward to welcoming members to Thorneloe on the 4th July. After much hedge cutting and dead heading , the day arrived.

It did not rain – in fact it was very pleasant. Contrary to my thought that few would turn up, the field quickly filled up. Dishes arrived, alcohol was distributed and it was a lovely relaxing evening. It has been quite a time since the society visited central Worcester so I hoped that those who had come before could see a how the garden and the fields have matured.

When I’m in the garden, I get rather carried away. Over the years, when Douglas had returned home and there was no tea/dinner ready, my excuse was always that I did not know the time. So, he bought the clock that sits above the garden shed and has four faces on it so that there could be no not knowing the time!

The irrigation arrived when he got fed up with having to help water night after night. We had a bore hole dug just beyond the garden shed. It went down over 120 feet before we found water - rather deep for a flood plain. At first, we had direct irrigation from the hole to the beds and of course the beloved lawns. However, we chose to dig on sand so, over time, there have been blockages as the sand got into the sprinklers. We now collect the water in a large container that allows the sand to settle and the sprinklers to work happily away.

His more recent acquisition was the Gin and Tonic - or the robotic lawn mower. This plods randomly over the lawn, grazing. It really has not saved any time, since DBD has to cut the lawn regularly (due to the watering) as the mower cannot cope with long grass. It is also not inanimate because if anything is placed on its lawns, it makes a bee line to attack.

Douglas’s last impulse was to get a large JCB in to get the Mount shaped up and finished. This work of art started after one of David Pollitt’s coach tours to the Lady Arabella garden in the North many years ago - and has taken about 10 years to reach its zenith.

I hope you will all come back in a year or two to see what else we have managed to produce.

Becky Dale

Malvern Memories…

It was last October when the two people who’d organised our Worcestershire HPS stand at Malvern Spring Festival in recent years both announced, within days of each other, that they would not be available for the task in 2018.

So, in the tradition of so many HPS chairmen who regularly pick up the jobs that no-one else has time for, I took on the role of Malvern organiser.

My first call was to Nicola Content, a garden lover who had helped us over the years – including at Chelsea last year. Her daughter, Emma, is a landscape designer. Nicola said she’d love to take on the challenge with Emma’s help.

By New Year, the stand was designed – focusing on the idea of plant hardiness, including, believe it not, plants that were not actually fully hardy. Sacrilege, eh!

In January, the RHS unexpectedly announced they wanted our stand to reflect the show’s theme of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Emma rose to that challenge too – and then the resulting, increased budget was turned down by the society’s trustees at national level because, we were told, it did not represent good value for money. It was the biggest stand Worcestershire had ever created for the show – 10 metres by 3 metres.

So, we redesigned again, reducing the budget by around 50 per cent, and then we persuaded the Worcestershire Group committee to fund the missing £400 needed to create the stand. We were also able to persuade Cotswold Garden Flowers – via Bob’s son Ed Brown – and Whichford Pottery to loan us wonderful plants and gorgeous plant pots for the show.

So, the planning process had not been without stress; the week of the show – from May 10 to May 13 – would continue to be testing in a number of ways.

Last day of the build… all hands to the deck as the final touches to the stand are completed by, from left, clockwise, Janelle Conn, Stella Sullivan, Nicola Content and granddaughter Fern, Gordon Clark, Jan Vaughan, Graham Farquhar, Heather Farquhar and Emma Content, the stand designer.

UPDATE: A small team of six volunteers from three local Hardy Plant Society groups has been formed to produce next year’s HPS stand at Malvern Spring Festival. We’ll keep Worcestershire members up to date with developments.

Mick Dunstan

Croome Visit

We were blessed with the most marvellous blue sky and sunshine for our tour of the Coadstone monuments in Croome Park. Chris Dodds, who showed us around, started with background information about Mrs Eleanor Coade, who took over a factory in Lambeth, London, making monuments and statues out of Coadstone, the formula for which remains a secret to this day.

Chris took us at a steady pace around the Park, stopping to inform us which sculptures were made of Coadstone, the most famous and remarkable, I feel, being the statue of the Druid in contemplative pose; but there were several others, including grottos and sphinxes.

I have been a regular visitor to Croome over the 30 years of living in the area and slowly the improvements that the National Trust have undertaken are bearing fruit.

The evergreen walk that takes the visitor down to the lake is now well established. Chris informed us of plantings that had and had not worked in this park, which can be almost swamp like. We were able to appreciate Capability Brown’s practice of hiding a ‘view’ until suddenly upon it, opening up vistas such as the lake, which are a delight, and keeping the House as the central focus. The spring flowers were in abundance and I had first sightings of bluebells.

Chris conveyed a picture of Eleanor Coade as a remarkable woman, who held her own, and more, in 18th century England. The fact that so little is read about her and her achievements is maybe more to do with most of history being written by men!

Thank you Chris for your very interesting walk and talk.

Anne Bard

Cutting to the Chase

On a sunny Friday in mid May, nineteen HPS members met Duncan Coombs at Pershore College for an afternoon on the taking of softwood cuttings.

The first session was held in the classroom and Duncan gave us an overview of the process. Softwood cuttings are taken from the current season’s growth before any ripening or lignification has started. We looked at timing, size of material and importance of a healthy source. Interestingly we heard that older plants are more difficult to root as their genetic material is ageing, so new cultivars are easier to propagate than older ones.

Duncan talked about the care of the cuttings once taken and the need to wean them gradually to the outdoors and not to hurry into re-potting. Feeding later in the season was recommended as the initial compost needed to be low in nutrients. We also learnt about ‘winter resting buds’, more of which later.

Duncan’s entertaining style of presentation led to a relaxed environment, so when we moved on to the potting area we were all ready to have a go. We were asked to select a pot of established penstemon and take twelve cuttings. It was only when the task was completed that we realised that these would be grown on by the nursery, and we would not be taking them home. Some of us had also ‘shared’ with our neighbours, so there may be some confusion next year when these are potted on and don’t match their labels!

We then moved to the misting area, where new cuttings are automatically kept in optimum conditions to encourage rooting. Finally, we walked back to the main building, looking at suitable plants for taking cuttings. Duncan explained that if the tip of the cutting material has stopped growing it forms a ‘winter resting bud’ which means that whilst it may grow initially it will not grow into the next season. It is therefore essential to find material which still has active growth at the tip. We were able to identify both as we walked back.

We all enjoyed the afternoon and went away enthused to take more cuttings of less usual plants.

Pippa Hawkins

Plants in Focus

© Clive Haynes, 2018

© Paul Mann

© Paul Mann

© Paul Mann

© Paul Mann

© Paul Mann

© Clive Haynes, 2018

© Jenny Rees Mann

Worcester Camera Club has recently been holding an exhibition of flower and landscape photographs at Spetchley Park, on the edge of Worcester. They have kindly allowed us to reprint these photographs taken by their membersincluding Paul Mann and Clive Haynes.

The main aim of the club, which was founded in 1890, is to encourage the enjoyment and practice of photography. They have run several photographic workshops in conjunction with the Spetchley Estate, based mainly on close-up and landscape subjects, for which the gardens are ideal.

Chairman Paul Mann explains “Spetchley Gardens provide a rich source of plant interest throughout the year as well as a background to photographing species. Our photography is not just as a record but also as an attempt to capture the essence of the plant from an artistic viewpoint. A photograph taken very close to or from a different angle can reveal details that are otherwise often unseen.”

Member Clive Haynes says “For many years my wife, Gill, and I have enjoyed strolling in Spetchley Gardens, delighting in the variety and tumbling juxtapositions of the species within this informal setting. It is a very intimate garden where surprises abound bringing something fresh at each visit. “As a photographer, rather than a plantsman, my pictures are a direct response to how I interpret and represent the subject. Many of my images are ‘as seen’, whilst for others my approach is more artistic, involving techniques such as in-camera multipleexposure or the creation of kaleidoscopic patterns.

At all times my purpose is to extend the enjoyment of the scene and to express a feeling or visual poetry about the subject rather than to produce an illustrative record.”

The club, formed in 1890, has 115 members and meets every Tuesday at Bishop Allenby Hall in Worcester from early September until the end of April.

● For full details, visit