Friday, 26 March 2021

Secrets of Capel Manor, Steve Dowbiggin March's Zoom meeting

 Our speaker last month, Steve Dowbiggin (OBE), presented an absolutely stunning, entertaining and amusing talk, as he revealed many of the Manor’s secrets and we all like to know a secret or two. Steve is the longest serving college principle in the country with 33 years service, his accomplishments and commitment were recognised in 2007 when he was awarded an OBE. Steve’s extensive knowledge of the Manor is second to none, he explained the history of the Manor, which goes back to the 13th Century and brought us to the present time. 

It was interesting to hear how Steve used his various contacts from inside and outside the gardening world to help raise money for different restoration projects at Capel Manor. Steve told us wonderful and funny stories about the Queen,  Princess Ann and the late Queen Mother who at 101 opened a garden planted by students to celebrate her Centenary. It was equally interesting to hear about Margaret Thatcher’s visit to the Manor and Steve’s role in that visit, and how Capel Manor retained the title of the National Gardening Centre.    


The gardens are just one aspect of Capel Manor, the other is the College which Steve was most involved with. The college started with around 15 students, today it is London’s leading gardening and environmental college with 6 campuses across London. In addition there is also the Zoo, which offers educational talks on the animals which live there.    

Capel Manor has been a favourite of mine for many years, with over 60 different gardens and landscapes to explore I found something new on every visit.  Capel Manor was the first to have a Faith Garden giving a space where different religions can visit. Following Steve Dowbiggin’s talk I am keen to return and see what is new at Capel and enjoy the gardens even more with the benefit of Steve’s wonderful talk.  Thank you Steve for a really great evening.


Saturday, 27 February 2021

Spectacular, Surreal and Surprising, Nancy Steven, February's 2012 Zoom meeting

 The unusual title of our first talk of the year could not have been more accurate. If you had only ever thought that you could grow flowers and vegetables in your garden then you were mistaken. Nancy Steven’s wonderful talk showed us how horticulture is no longer confined to fields and gardens, plants are being grown in space and underwater.

Plants are being successfully grown in the International Space Station, 250 miles above the Earth, or as Nancy put it “ One Giant Leaf for Mankind”. One of the most popular and successfully grown plants is the Thale Cress also called the Mouse Ear Cress, this is because the cress completes its life cycle in 6 weeks so is ideal to study. 

In contrast to growing in space research is being conducted into underwater farming, although currently very expensive this method has other benefits, there is no need to use pesticides as no pests can enter the underwater growing pod and it conserves water as the water in the pod condenses to provide fresh water.

Nancy also told us about some usual and exotic plants, in particular the Monkey Orchid from Ecuador, which grows between 6 and 10 inches tall whose flowers look just like monkey faces. Photo below. Nancy’s presentation was most professional with remarkable and unusual slides, along with fascinating facts and commentary.  Our thanks go out to Nancy.


Tuesday, 19 January 2021

December’s Musical Party, John Sessions

  Welcome to our first Newsletter of the year, a year that has not started as we would all like, but at least progress is being made with the vaccination programme across the country. As more and more people are vaccinated we move closer to being able to return to meeting up as a club again. Although we don’t know when that will be, and I never thought I would miss Unity Hall so much, we are hopefully moving towards that happening.  On that note I wish you all a Happy New Year.

Our Christmas Zoom singer, John Sessions, was a real humdinger, leaving many members crying out for more songs! John gave his all with a great variety of song
s many of which we knew and he tried his hardest to get us to sing along, but Zoom made us a little shy. John also included several Christmas numbers to get us in the Christmas mood. Our thanks go out to John for a great evening. 

The Christmas meeting was also a great opportunity for members to have a chat, catch up with each other and exchange Christmas greetings.  

Friday, 27 November 2020

Annual General Meeting, November's zoom meeting


A big thank you to all the members who were able to join the AGM, via Zoom, last month. This was much appreciated as we need to hold an AGM to review the year, discuss any issues and more importantly elect a committee.

As we know the past year has been a difficult one, with the Pandemic affecting all our lives and preventing us from doing the things that we have become so accustom too.  For the club this meant that we only met in February, when Nick Dobson and Vincent Daniels dazzled us with beautiful snowdrops, and  in March when Darren Lerigo presented his new talk on the British Garden, what a treat that was. 

As we were not able to meet we opted for the next best thing, a virtual meeting on Zoom. Our Newsletter went out in April as usual, which also offered a way to keep in contact. I understand that it is not possible for all members to join an online meeting but we felt this was better than not having any meeting. Our Newsletter has continued since July with our usual features and stories.

I would like to thank all our members for their support during the past year, and especially to the committee members for continuing to run the club and attending Zoom committee meetings. By supporting the club during this difficult year we have helped to support each other in a small way.   

All the current committee members stood for re-election which was supported by members.

The committee is as follows:

Chairman     John
Vice Chair     Patricia
Editor/Joint Secretary     Jill
Treasurer                  Nina
Membership/Joint Secretary     June
Committee Members     Julie and Gillian

I would like to thank all the committee members for accepting their nominations for the coming year.

The Quiz of All Quizzes 

Following the AGM we had great fun with three rounds of questions, plus star questions, for member’s to test their knowledge, there were a variety of questions and not all were easy!  

Some of the winning members were Barbara with a box of Milk Tray, Jill winning Galaxy Chocolate, Clare winning Chocolates and a mini bottle of Prosecco and Christine winning liquid soap and hand lotion.  A big thank you to all our members who joined in. 

November’s  Raffle Winners 

1st  Mary Judd -  Winning a Bottle of Wine 

2nd  Jean Mayhew  - Winning a Box of Chocolates 

3rd  Marion Glassberg  - Winning a Bouquet of Flowers 

Best Wishes For Christmas

Our Christmas will be different this year, but despite this I am determine to have a great time and make Christmas as special as possible. I hope you will be able to do the same.

Wishing all our members a Good Christmas and a Happy New Year.


In the New Year we will be continuing with our meetings using Zoom, until we are able to meet at Unity Hall. If you have not joined us using Zoom I encourage you to join in. If you don’t have a computer, is there a family member who could let you use their’s ?   

As the Zoom meetings have been a success and although you can’t beat meeting in person this is the next best thing for now. Our online speakers give us a real treat with their wonderful slides of beautiful plants along with great gardening advice, and of course you get to see and chat to other members.  

Look forward to seeing you all on 5 February 2021         

John and the Committee 

Thursday, 29 October 2020

Those Heavenly Hostas John Barker, October's zoom meeting

My enthusiasm for growing hostas has often drifted over the years due to the common damage caused by slugs and snails. However, after last month’s talk my interest has been revived thanks to John Barker from the Hanging Hosta Garden in Hampshire. John, along with June Colley have the largest collection of hostas in Britain and Europe with around 1700 hosta cultivars.      

I knew there were many varieties of hosta but I did not know about Miniature and Mouse hostas, which look so delicate and have remarkable detail. John recommends several hosta nurseries for buying plants (online), details of these nurseries are available by emailing your request to ;

Even more interesting is that there are slug and snail resistant hostas, which have thick leaves which slugs and snails are unable to eat. Slug resistant varieties are; Blue Wedgwood, Queen Josephine, Halcyon, Elegans, Krossa Regal, Leather Sheen, Blue Moon, Love Pat, Blue Dimples, Hadspen Blue, Dorset Blue, June, Blue Arrow and Tokudama.

John’s advice for preventing slug damage to non slug resistant varieties is to use a homemade garlic spray by crushing two garlic bulbs, boiling the pulp in a litre of water for five minutes, strain the liquid and leave over night. Dilute one table spoon to one litre of water and spray about every two weeks. 

Further tips for growing hostas is to grow most varieties in dapple shade, use a rich but well drained compost, feed regularly and the best time to buy hostas is in the spring.  Our thanks go out to John and June who presented a most professional talk.   


Sunday, 27 September 2020

Get That Exotic Garden Look, Nina Lewis. September's zoom meeting

You never know what you might find near to home, and that was certainly the case with Nina Lewis’ garden in Woodford. Nina took us on a tropical journey through her garden with plants of striking colours and glamorous flowers. I was surprised to learn how many tropical plants not only do well but thrive in our part of the world.

Nina’s passion for her exotics came across as she told us about where her plants originate from, the best planting positions and their general needs to do well. We were told about the Tetrapanax Papyrifer, (Rice Paper Plant), middle photo, which has deeply lobed leaves up to one meter across, this hardy plant grows to four meters tall, so be careful where you plant one of these. I thought one of the most striking was Cobaea Scandens (Cup and Saucer Vine), upper photo, this vigorous climber has fragrant bell shaped flowers which change from green to purple, which would look wonderful against a sunny wall or fence.      

If you wanted to grow something a bit smaller, Nina suggested Hemerocallis, also know as a day lilies, bottom photo, which are easy to grow and although the flowers are short lived as each plant produces so many blooms their displays last for weeks. It’s best to go for varieties which flower at different times to increase the flowering period.    

Exotics are also found in the streets of Walthamstow, Nina told us about a Pomegranate Tree, which originates in the region from Iran to Northern India, which is thriving off of Lea Bridge Road and a Mimosa Acacia, from Australia which has fluffy yellow scented ball shaped flowers, growing beautifully in Prospect Hill. You never know what you might find growing at the end of your road.


Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Meetings for rest of 2020.

Due to Coronavirus and the safety restrictions on people meeting, there will not be any Club meetings at Unity Hall this year. The Committee will review the situation in January 2021. The club will be holding Zoom meetings on the first Friday of the month for the remainder of this year. Details of the Zoom meetings will be advertised on this site. 

When the Whittingham Gardening Club, is able to hold meetings again they will be between 8.00 and 10.00pm on the first Friday of each month, except January, at Unity Hall, Bramley Close, Walthamstow, E17 6EG. Benefits of joining the club include: guest speakers talking on a variety of subjects, demonstrations of horticulture, a monthly newsletter, outings to places of interest and a flower show in July (subject to coronavirus restrictions).

Club Meetings - Update September 2020

As a result of the ongoing situation with Covid 19 and the safety restrictions on people meeting there will not be any Club meetings at Unity Hall this year. 

The club will be holding an online virtual Zoom meeting on 2 October at 8.00pm. October’s talk is by John Baker, his talk is titled, Heavenly Hostas. John’s presentation will include; how hostas were discovered and have been developed. How to grow and propagate hostas and very importantly how to avoid slug and snail damage!  

 If you would like to join the meeting on 2 October please email your interest to:  by 1 October