Monday 5 February 2024

Nina Lewis, Gardening in the future, March's meeting

Nina Lewis. The club welcomes back this popular local speaker with a very topical talk on  'Gardening in the Future'. This meeting will take place in Unity Hall.

Monday 22 January 2024

2, February 2024 Primrose Hall Peonies. Zoom

Following the Zoom meeting on Friday 2nd about peonies, there is  a 20% peony discount code from Primrose Hall Peonies if anyone fancied a new variety during the zoom talk on Friday.
The discount code can be found on the private members area of the Tender Shoots website, and is for members of Tender Shoots and affiliated clubs.
If you're not yet a member then you can join up on website.  The various discounts will cover the cost of your membership.
It'd be a good time to buy the expensive hybrid itoh intersectional peonies.  There are 3 main types of peonies.  
1) the common herbaceous peonies, fairly cheap.
2) tree peonies
3) itoh intersectional - A hybrid of the above two, so best of both but a fair bit more expensive

Also, short notice, I know, but (from Indy at Tender Shoots):
The Peony zoom talk recording is available on our website for a limited time.  The 20% peony discount code is valid until the end of Feb, but the first batch of itoh peony stock sold out quickly, as many of our members were eager to make purchases.   Hopefully they will be back in stock soon on the Primrose Hall Peonies website and I will try to keep you informed when I hear more from Alec.

Christmas Social Friday 1, December


Our last meeting was our Christmas Social. Those of us who were able to attend enjoyed a lovely evening of very enjoyable entertainment and a fabulous buffet to get us into the Christmas spirit. Jonathan Stevens entertained us with a mix of Christmas and other songs and several of our members joined in by dancing to the tunes. Unfortunately the weather was very cold (although the hall was warm) and we appreciate that some members were concerned about leaving their homes. It was disappointing that the numbers attending the event were low and the committee will be considering this when planning for next Christmas. 

Whittingham Roots & Shoots Gardening Club AGM Agenda - 3 November 2023

1. Apologies
2. Chair’s Report
3. Minutes of AGM 2022
4. Treasurers’ Report
5. Committee Stands Down
6. Election of Committee
a) Chair
b) Vice Chair
c) Treasurer
d) Membership & Outings Secretary
e) Newsletter Editor
f) Committee Members
7. Proposal to change time of meeting to 7.30pm
8. Discussion on ideas for revitalizing the club
9. Club outings
10. AOB


Sunday 22 October 2023

There’s No Such Thing as a Houseplant by Michael Holland, October's meeting.

 In October we were delighted to welcome back Michael Holland, when he kindly stepped in after our booked speaker had to cancel. Michael’s talk “There’s No Such Thing as a Houseplant” was based on his newly published book  “A Jungle in Your Living Room”:

 Michael has had a long career in horticulture, working for many years at Chelsea Physic Garden, and is an award winning author. His interest in growing things began when he was given “The Pip Book” for his 8th birthday. He began to plant pips and seeds, successfully growing avocado trees and citrus plants amongst other things.

 A “Houseplant” can mean many things, indeed is there such a thing? There are over 450,000 species of plant in the world, evolved and adapted to many differing climates. For a plant to thrive in the home it must have the right conditions. The most common cause of killing houseplants is overwatering them. We were fascinated to discover that plants can sense the world around them, and can learn, remember and be happy! The CIA conducted an experiment, wiring up a plant to a lie detector to see how it reacted to watering. The person then thought about burning the plant, and the plant reacted.

 The use of plants in the home has a long history, with the earliest ones being useful as well as ornamental, such as the use of sweet smelling herbs in the home before daily washing was common! Houseplants could also be used to demonstrate their owner’s wealth, as with the building of orangeries in the 17th and 18th centuries, which required lots of expensive glass and underfloor heating to protect the tender plants.

 Kew has the world’s oldest “pot plant”, originally brought to England in 1775 and now living in their tropical Palm House. In the age of the great plant hunters, there were fake maps and secret codes to protect the locations of plants. Orchids started to become popular houseplants in the 19th century, when plant hunters brought these back to a domestic audience.

 Michael then talked through the history and quirks of many of the other plants we now think of as “houseplants”. These included spider plants (proved by NASA to purify the air), snake plant (great for the bedroom) and the popular, but poisonous, variety of Euphorbia we like to have in our homes at the Christmas, the poinsettia. Who knew the fruits of the Swiss cheese plant are edible and the fibrous roots can be used to make furniture? The family of Air plants include another popular plant, Spanish moss, which  is neither Spanish nor a moss! One of the most popular houseplants in the world is a variety of Ficus, the Fiddle-leaf fig, even though it is notoriously difficult to care for.

 Collecting houseplants can become addictive, with the botanist James Wong describing himself as a plant geek and having a collection of over 500 plants in his one-bedroom flat!

  Finally, a fun fact - did you know, 27th July is take your houseplant for a walk day?!


Sunday 8 October 2023

A Complete Guide To Clematis by Peter Skeggs-Gooch, September's meeting

Our speaker in September was Peter Skeggs-Gooch from Thorncroft Clematis Nursery (   Peter was a returning speaker having presented to us 2 years ago.  The nursery is based  in Ashton Under Hill in the Cotswolds and Peter is a third generation member of the family business who have won 12 gold medals at Chelsea Flower Show. Peter’s talk was very enthusiastic and informative accompanied by some lovely pictures.


With clematis you can have flowers throughout the year in a wide range of colours and some are scented.  Start in January to Mach with ‘Jingle Bells’ the Armandi variety. From April to May you have the Montana varieties.  Warning, most get to 30 foot but ‘Van Gough’ is an option if you want a shorter variety (12-15’).  In summer you get the large flowered varieties.  These are followed by those that will flower into autumn like ‘Golden Harvest’.  ‘Betty Corning’ has a spicey scent and is one of Peter’s favorites.


Clematis also come in various types and sizes.

·         Patio Pots – e.g. Pixie

·         Suitable for Pots – E.g. Countess of Wessex.  Will need something to climb up but only gets to 3 foot. Be imaginative with your plant support.

·         Garden Types that will grow from 6 foot to 30 foot depending on variety. They can grow through other plants e.g. roses.


Planting Tips:

·         Plant deeply. If you plant to a depth where the bottom 2 leaves are buried, the plant will through up new shoots from the ground. About 3 inches lower than the size of the pot.  Also the ground is more moist further down.

·         Improve the soil you are planting into with organic matter like garden compost.  Put it in the bottom of the whole so the roots grow down.

·         Tak of the pot you buy it in, Tease out the roots gently before planting into the whole.

·         Protect the crown from frost.  Put some mulch around the plant for the winter.



·         Group 1 (Flower December to May) – These flower on old wood.  You only prune as necessessary to keep them tidy.

·         Group 2 (Flower from May – June) – In February there will be a lot of dead growth from last year. Cut this off.  Then after 2-3 weeks go back to the plant and look at which branches are shooting.  Cut off any dead wood without any shoots.

·         Group 3 (Flower June to Oct).  In March/Apr – hard prune these.  Kneel down, count the new shoots from the base on each stem and cut off everything above the second bud. (We promise it will regrow that year).

·         Feed when pruning.


Peter told us that although they like to exhibit at Chelsea it is a lot of work and his parents are getting too old (we can relate to this) and they need their staff at the nursery so they last exhibited in 2019. He also told us that there are less young people going into horticulture and unless this changes the specialist knowledge will die out.  He said that Christine Walkden (of gardeners question time) has been very supportive and helpful to them.


If anyone would like to borrow a copy of the catalogue then let us know.



Monday 4 September 2023

A place for your Fuchsias, Nick Dobson. August's meeting

 A Place For Your Fuchsias

The speaker we had booked for our August meeting unfortunately had to cancel with short notice however Nick Dobson who is very supportive of our club, stepped in and gave us a lovely talk and slide show on Fuchsias.  Fuchsias are a favorite of Nick and many of our members.  There are a wide range of varieties.  Two of the club’s former members Mick and John Alsop bred fuchsias in Walthamstow including ‘Loveable Rascal’.

 Fuchsias originated in various parts of the world, Central and South America, the West Indies, New Zealand.  Most varieties grow naturally on the edges of forests and on the upper mountains.  They like thin, but moist soil.  Therefore, they are happy in semi-shade conditions in soil that doesn’t dry out.  The seed pods (berries) are actually edible, although Nick said they don’t taste too good and need plenty of sugar.  They come in a wide variety of colours.

 *There are a few varieties which are exceptions to these rules:

·         *Triphylla – these like dry and sunny conditions e.g. ‘Thalia’ is one variety

·         *Magellanica – These are the very hardy types and can take very cold conditions and be grown as a hedge.7

·         *Excorticata – The Tree fuchsia, likes to be kept moist.  Grows in New Zealand where the Maori people used it to make their face paint.

 Nick provided some tips on growing fuchsias:-

·         For the very hardy types that can grow to 5 foot with very small flowers – cut them down by one third in Autumn to stop them rocking and damaging the roots.

·         Fuchsias will loose their leaves in winter and look like a lot of dead sticks in the spring – if you underplant with bulbs you will get the colour from the bulbs and by the time the bulbs foliage is dying back, the fuchsias will be growing and disguise the dying bulbs.

·         Plant 3 trailing types in a 6 inch hanging pot and you will have a ball of flower

·         You can mix different varieties in a basket/pot but always mix doubles with doubles or singles with singles.  If you mix doubles and singles then they flower at different times and your pot/basket will look unbalanced.

·         Dark coloured and orange flowered varieties will tolerate more sun.

·         Feed them with Miracle Grow once a week to get the best performance.

·         When planting in the garden make a saucer shaped dip in the soil around the plant with the soil level of your fuchsia at the lower level of your dip.  This allows you to water them in the dip and gradually the dip will fill with soil over time and new shoots will come from the lower level providing the plant with more support.

·         They are good for pots, hanging baskets, wall baskets, window boxes.  You can also grow ‘standards’ (The ones with a tall stem like a trunk and a ball of foliage and flowers at the top) and even bonsai them.

·         Rosebay willowherb (a tall pink flowered weed) carries viruses which are harmful to fuchsias as well as other plants.  Remove it from your gardens.

·         Take cuttings in spring and plant in free draining cheap compost so they don’t get much nutrition because they will make roots quicker if they are not fed.


Monday 31 July 2023

Pest control without chemicals by Mike Abel, July's meeting

 Our speaker at the July Meeting was Mike Abel who gave us a very informative and useful talk on how to control the pests who eat our plants and ruin the appearance of our gardens without using chemicals.

 Mike’s recent career has been in selling bumble bees to commercial growers to pollinate plants in greenhouses.  He explained he is not an organic gardener but doesn’t use chemical controls.  There are limited chemicals that are now available to amateur gardeners.  He told us about some various methods available:

 Predator and Parasite – A predator will eat the pest from the outside while a parasite will eat the pest from the inside.  E.g. there is a nematode that will eat slugs from inside. (One called Nemaslug is available on-line).  It is less effective on snails as snails live above soil while slugs live in the soil.  You just water it on.  There is also a mite that will kill fuchsia gall mite.  This is a recent pest that infects our fushcia’s and deforms the buds.  If it takes hold you have to destroy the plant.  Ladybirds are a good predator.  It is their larvae that eat the aphids (green and blackfly).  The problem is that if you kill the aphids with chemical sprays the ladybird larvae have nothing to eat and will not survive.  Mike commentated that he seems to have a lot of ladybirds this year.

 You will never eradicate the pest but you can get it under control.  With biological controls you cannot overdose so it is less important to keep to the stated dosage although you may just be wasting your money if you use too much.  There is no biological control for lily beetle but you can treat the soil with a nematode to kill the larvae.  The adults chew the leaves and petals, but it is actually the larvae that do the real damage as they eat the roots. 

 If you do use chemicals then pests can build up resistance.  You should use brands that have different chemicals in them to try and prevent this from happening.

 Disadvantages of Biological Control:

·         Likely to be slower acting

·         Not effective when there are high numbers of pests (Prevent better than cure)

·         More expensive

·         You have to have faith that they are working (e.g. when you don’t see lily beetle is that because the neamotode killed the larvea or just because there aren’t many beetles.

·         They need the right conditions to be effective.

·         More effective in greenhouses and limited use outside.

 Cultural Controls:

·         Avoid Stress on the plant

·         Regular and well balanced feed and watering

·         No extreme temperatures

·         Partner with complimentary plants (Companion planting)

·         Plant Mesh – Buy the right grade mesh for the bug you are trying to prevent and not to harm other wildlife.

·         Various substances you can spray – Washing up liquid (leaves a sticky substance on leaves, potato starch (but this will also kill bees)

·         Stimulants (To promote stronger healthy plants – seaweed, mycorrhizal, fungal controls, bacterial and Garlic spray.



Thursday 29 June 2023

Iain Pentney for the Perennial Society, June's meeting

 Our presentation in June was by Iain Pentney for the Perennial Society.  The society is a charity Dedicated To Helping Everyone Who Works In Horticulture.  Iain told us that he left school at 16 and worked in a number of jobs but now works at ‘Classiflora’ who specialise in trees, shrubs and topiary.  The nursery sells to the nurseries and garden centres where we buy our plants.  Iain showed as some amazing pictures of the topiary which they have created.  Classiflora import their plants from across Europe for which they have to have a license because of diseases like Oak Processionary Moth.

Iain talked about the harsh winter we have just experienced and that the main shrubs which have suffered are Hebe’s, pittosporums, and myrtle.  He explained that it was not the cold itself that killed the plants, but the fact that we had a mild and wet autumn so the plants were full of moisture when the cold arrived overnight and the roots and branches froze.  (Of course tender plants will have also suffered).

A few other interesting facts Iain gave us: The Mediterranean often have the same weather as the UK, but a much longer summer season.  Wisteria takes years to flower because it takes that long for the wood to mature. Pot grown means the plant was grown in the pot, pot pressed means it was grown in the ground dug up and repotted into a pot for sale.  Grape vines have a 15 year lifespan when they are productive.  In the Med, Viburnums have smaller leaves as they adapted to the climate.  Olives can be pollarded which shocks them to regenerate and regrow.  There are modern varieties of Red Robbin which are smaller and more suited to smaller gardens.



Monday 5 June 2023

From the rainforest to your living room, Nick Dobson May's meeting

 In May we had one of our popular speakers, Nick Dobson, return to give us not one but two presentations on garden topics.

 The first was titled From the rainforest to your living room. This was a talk all about plants that grow in the rainforests around the world, mainly the Amazon (in South America) and the Daintree (in Australia), but have now become popular as house plants in the UK where our climate generally does not provide suitable conditions for the plants to grow outside.

The Amazon rainforest got its name from the Amazonian tribe people. Some plants, which we would recognize from the Amazon, are the Rubber tree, which is used in hundreds of everyday products and Bromeliads, which produce bright flowers and are part of the pineapple family. Some bromeliads are also carnivorous (which means they eat meat (usually flies). Also the Passion Flower, which we can grow outside but requires moist soil, the Bougainvillea, which has mases of bright flowers and can go outside in the summer but must be brought into a heated greenhouse or conservatory for the winter, and Begonias, which are both house plants and used for summer bedding.

From the Daintree Tropical rainforest, we have such plants as the Phalaenopsis Orchid, which we grow as a popular houseplant and will flower for months if looked after well. It lives on trees, which is why when you get one it is not in soil but in bark chips. They need good light levels and an east or west-facing windowsill. There is the Idiot Fruit Tree (aka Dinosaur tree), which was thought to have died out but rediscovered in the Queensland Forest. These still contain original properties from the Dinosaur age, and tree ferns, which also date back to the dinosaur times.

 Our second talk was Through The Seasons and gave us some useful tips on growing plants in our gardens starting with early shrubs, followed by spring bulbs and then into summer bedding. The Petunia is related to the tobacco plant. When Alstroemerias have flowered, pull out the flowering stem rather than cutting it off as this promotes them to make more flower stems. Plant Gladioli 8 inches deep, as this will provide more support and require less staking. Don’t deadhead Canna Lilies as new flowers come from the dead flower.

 Bromeiads, 2nd/4th Pic. 4 x Orchids and Bougainvillea.