Sunday, 29 August 2021

Gardeners And Their Buildings, Julie Charlesworth July's zoom meeting


Julie’s talk last month gave us a wonderful insight into the lives of gardeners  on the grand estates of the past, the hierarchy of the garden workforce reflected that of the house servants. The head gardener was the equivalent to the head butler, this gave the head gardener the best accommodation. Julie is a freelance author and lecturer with a great interest and knowledge in historic garden estates, she provided some amazing old photos of gardeners and their homes, along with some interesting adverts from newspapers in the 1800s.

Gardening positions on the estates often required the wives and children to also do work. Gardening positions were dominated by men during this time, we were shown one advert which gave details of the weeding which the women were expected to do along with household chores. A campaigner for women to be involved in gardening was Frances Garnet Wolseley, the daughter of Sir Wolseley, she rejected her upper class background in favour of gardening. One of her famous books is Gardening for Women which contains brilliant illustrations for the period.     


The head gardener’s home was of a high standard with all the mod cons of time, however the junior gardeners were not so fortunate. Junior staff often lived in the Bothy which was very basic and could be cold and damp. Junior staff would keep warm by sleeping in the hot houses during the winter, although their sleep would be interrupted as the boilers needed to be maintained throughout the night. Julie’s talk was a fascinating looking to gardeners of the past.



Monday, 21 June 2021

Jane Perrone - Growing Successful House Plants, June's zoom meeting


 June’s talk was a real treat! Jane, is a freelance writer specialising in house plants and gardens, she also presents On the Ledge, a podcast about indoor gardening.  Jane’s approach and advice on keeping house plants was fresh, imaginative and original. Jane’s five golden rules are:

  1. Become a plant detective, Jane emphasised the importance of knowing what conditions a plant needs to thrive 

  1. If in doubt check the roots, over compact roots are telling you repot me! If the compost is too solid then make some holes to improve drainage a pencil is ideal for this

  1. Jane said an ideal way to check the level of moisture in the compost is to use the tip of your finger. Place your finger a little way into the pot, if on removing your finger there is no compost then it is dry (and time to water) if covered with compost then it is moist   

  1. Keep plants where you can see them, if you can see your plants every day then you will soon notice a problem which you can address 

  1. One yellow leaf does not mean a dead plant, Jane said don’t worry if a couple of leaves turn yellow this is a part of the natural process of a growing plant. If all the leaves turn yellow, panic!      
Jane reminded us that wherever possible plants should be watered with rainwater, and a compost which includes some loam (John Innes is ideal) should be used. Self-watering pots are ideal for plants which are in awkward places or for plants that need a lot of water. As promised Jane has provided us with a list of recommend plants and useful links.
Jane’s key message was to do a little bit of plant research so you know what the plants needs are. You will then know where to place your plant so that it with thrive and live long past its first year. As Jane was so popular we will invite her again to present one of her other talks.


Friday, 21 May 2021

Simon White of Peter Beales Roses on the A to Z of all things Roses. May's zoom meeting

 Last month we had a very interesting and informative talk from Simon White of Peter Beales Roses on the A to Z of all things Roses.  I am sure you will all agree that Simon?s enthusiasm for the subject shone through.  Simon?s presentation took us through the various groups into which roses fall and the various flower types.  Simon interspersed his presentation with feeding, watering, pruning tips and how to deal with pests and diseases.  Simon told us that an organic method of dealing with blackspot is to use milk and water in 50/50 solution.  A less environmentally method is to spray them with a very diluted amount of Jayes fluid in November/December.  Roses need to be kept well watered to prevent blackspot especially important if they are in pots.  Simon also told us about ?Uncle Toms? plant tonic which he also recommended for preventing blight on tomatoes and potatoes.  It is quite pricey, but the dilution rate is high so it goes a long way.  A good companion plant is a clematis,  flowering group three should be used, especially if you have an old fashioned rose which only flowers once.  

And finally Simon told us that they do tours round the nursery and welcome coach parties, so the committee will consider this as a possible visit once we can recommence our coach outings.


Thursday, 13 May 2021

Growing perennials. Tom Cole, April's Zoom meeting

 How interesting it was to discover that Tom Cole is now working at Capel Manor, which gave us great link to last month’s talk from Steve Dowbiggin who was the principle there for many years. Once again Tom’s knowledge of plants was in abundance as he talked us through growing perennials. Tom’s talk was full of stunning photographs of amazing plants in wonderful flower beds, many from Capel Manor.

Tom told us how to get he best out of our perennials, by applying fertiliser in early spring (organic being recommended) followed by plenty of garden compost or manure before summer arrives to help retain the moisture in the soil. Tom said that perennials should be divided every 3 or 4 years to regenerate the plant and obtain new plants for free. The majority of perennials should be cut back at the end of February or early March while they are still dormant. 

Tom talked about plants that do well in dry weather, which was most useful taking account of our hot summers over the last few years. Tom recommended Yarrow (Achillea) which thrives in poor soil (not that our member’s have poor soil). Yarrow prefers full sun but does well in shade, and can cope with little water. Yarrow varieties range from 6 to 12 inches up to 3 feet and are found in a large number of colours. Our thanks go to Tom for a most enjoyable evening. 


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.