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.


Paula Dyason from Strictly Daylilies April's meeting

In April, we had a wonderful talk and presentation by Paula Dyason from Strictly Daylilies. Daylilies proper name is Hemerocallis. In fact Hemerocallis are not lilies at all and were misnamed but it stuck. The talk was accompanied by some wonderful pictures and a selection of daylilies to purchase. (

Paula told us her history, how she came from America when she married her English husband and started growing daylilies in their garden. She was then contacted by a nursery that was closing and bought all their stock. Paula now holds the national collection of British daylilies.

Paula told us that you could eat the petals and the buds just like courgette flowers, if that takes your fancy.

Paula told us how she hybridizes (propagates) new varieties. This is a 3-year process. Selecting the best ones in year 1, discarding the rest, and then selecting the best ones in year 2 and discarding the rest. Again in year 3 until the best have been selected for beauty, hardiness and longevity of flowering.

They are easy perennials to care for.

 Sun or part shade. They flower better in full sun but do require a moist soil, so water them.

 PH – not fussy.

 Low feeders so don’t generally need feeding unless you have very poor soil.

 Dead head to save wasted energy for the plant.

 Pests – They can get ‘Gall Midge’. This causes the buds to deform and fail to open. If you see this, pick them off and put in your black bin or burn. Don’t put in the green waste. The earlier varieties are more prone to the midge.

 The leaves tend to go messy once the plant has flowered, but you can cut them off without harming the plant. In fact, it will regrow and may reflower.

 To propagate, dig up the clump; rinse off the soil so you can see the crown; cut the foliage down to 2-3 inches, split the clump and then replant. 



Monday, 10 April 2023

National Garden Scheme, Ed Fairey March's meeting

 Our speaker at the March meeting was Ed Fairey from the National Garden Scheme. Some of us may know this as the ‘Yellow Book’ and may have visited some of the gardens. It is a scheme where gardens are opened for charity. Many of these are private gardens that only open on selected dates or by appointment, but sometimes larger, commercial gardens take part in the scheme too. Most gardens offer tea and cake on their open dates, all of which are made by the homeowner or volunteers.

Ed Fairey showed us some fabulous photos of his garden at Mayfield Farm, Ardleigh (near Colchester in Essex) which he explained he now opens by appointment. He first opened his garden three years ago and to his surprise, and to some degree shock, 350 people turned up. He invited the club to visit.

Ed gave us an interesting potted history of the NGS. The NGS first opened gardens 95 years ago. William Rathbone, a wealthy entrepreneur, had employed a nurse to look after his wife. After she died, Mr Rathbone asked the nurse to go out in the community and find out what healthcare was needed. This led to the creation of the nursing profession and the district nursing service called the ‘Queens Nurses Division’. In 1926 Elsie Wagg suggested opening gardens to raise funds for the nurses. In 1980, the NGS became independent of the Queens Nurses Division and now supports a wide range of charities.

There are open gardens are across the country including London and Essex. You can purchase the NGS book, which is printed yearly, or you can pick up their booklets at various gardens and garden centres. They also have a website on which to search for gardens at



Thursday, 2 March 2023

Dr Andrew Ward of Norwell Nurseries, February's zoom meeting. 2023

 As is usual for the February meeting, this took place on Zoom, which gives us the opportunity to  have a speaker from further away.  We invited Dr Andrew Ward of Norwell Nurseries in Newark, Nottinghamshire to give his talk on ‘Fabulous Foliage’.

 For anyone expecting lots of pictures of green foliage plants this was far from the case!  There was a riot of colour showing what can be done with foliage plants.  Andrew told us that his original passion was flowers but he was asked to do a talk on foliage. However, his initial effort did not go down too well until he renamed it.  He did admit that plants with interesting foliage but also flowers had found their way back into his talk!

 Some interesting plants of note were.

·         Comfrey is in the same family as Brunnera and all are in the same family as forget me knots and are good for shade.

·         Most busy lizzies (proper name impatiens) prefer moist soil and shade.  Impatiens omeiana is a hardy form.

·         Euphorbia FIreGlow starts the year with orange bracts, turns green and then finishes the year with orange foliage.

·         Phlomis russeliana will grow on very dry poor soil.  It has yellow flowers and if you leave them on it has very interesting seed heads which look good in the autumn.  Andrew grows this on a pile of rubble in his garden.

·         Persicaria Red Dragon can get to 4 feet.  It will have purple and green leaves with small white flowers following on later in the year.

·         Actaea Misty Blue – Dolls Eyes has eyes that follow you round the garden.

·         Rosa Generous Gardener has red foliage to start the year and then repeat flowers with months of pink flowers.

·         Paeonia Karl Rosenfeld – like all peony it doesn’t flower for long but has striking magenta flowers and then its foliage remains and turns red in the autumn.

Andrew shared some interesting facts including:

with Heuchera, the paler the leaves the more shade they need or they will burn in the sun. And in answering a question Andrew advised that more ‘nitrogen’ in the feed might produce more leaf rather than flowers, but don’t feed like this after June as the new growth in the late part of the year will be more susceptible to the cold.




Sunday, 29 January 2023

December Social 🎅

December was of course our Christmas Social. As usual we had an entertainer, this year the wonderful singer Lloyd Ellery. He dazzled us both with his wide repertoire of songs and his sparkling, sequinned gold jacket! There were many well-known favourites for us to sing along to throughout the evening and Lloyd also amused us with anecdotes from his travels. Midway through the evening there was time for members to enjoy a chat with each other and discuss their Christmas plans as we enjoyed the festive buffet. A big thank you to June for the pretty, seasonal table displays and also to all those who helped on the night to make it such a success.