All posts by admin

Graham Blunt on Exotics

Graham Blunt made ‘Exotics for the Garden’ an Evening for Laughter as well giving us a very serious message on CITES

The Gardeners who braved a much less-than-exotic August evening were treated to a very entertaining talk which had most if not all of us laughing enthusiastically. However, Graham Blunt (of Plantbase Nurseries, Wadhurst, E. Sussex) had a number of serious messages: firstly, on the further effects of the changes to CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) coming in on 14th December 2019 particularly, for the purposes of the evening, in relation to the trade in all plants, flowers and seeds and how the extended implementation will affect the import of all such flora (plants, trees, seeds, fruit and vegetables) into the UK. For those interested further in the effects of CITES, there is even more on the internet : start with DEFRA’s “Don’t’ Risk It” campaign https://www.gov.uk/government/news/public-urged-not-to-bring-plant-pests-and-disease-into-the-uk (updated April 2019 so the information is current). Also Border Force has a leaflet on the internet but it has not been updated since 2016 so look out for a new one. Graham cited the devastation that has been wreaked in Italy by the presence of the Xylella plant disease in continental Europe. It has not reached the UK (and its thousands of broad-leaf trees), but it could without the provisions of CITES .

Basically, Graham’s message is if it’s a plant, or part of a plant, or will be a plant, don’t import it, and certainly not without certification – the fines for doing so without the essential certificate are hefty so do not bring in even a sprig at the end of your holiday. And don’t buy on the internet unless the foreign seller has provided the necessary certified permission – you will be fined for so doing.

Graham also mentioned the Nogoya Protocol which, simply put, means that the country of origin should be the beneficiary of a plant used for whatever purpose – such as pharma companies. For example, Madagascar made nothing from a plant used by big pharma who made millions.

Exotics exhibit

Somehow Graham, who had brought a number of his exotic plants with him to the talk, managed to make such an important subject as CITES hugely enjoyable, often by including his personal experiences of caring for the exotic plants that he grows himself in the UK and in which his nursery trades. By such means, for instance, as filling up his dry, wood-lined bathroom for overwintering. Whilst he would not necessarily expect us to do the same he went on to weave his magic telling us how to look after any exotic plants we may already have – we had with such phrases as “Crocks (in the bottom of pots) are a waste of time and more than that, they are a haven for slugs so get rid of them – after all the pots have holes in” and “castrate your cannas” after flowering to bring on more flowers. We also heard his enthusiasm for plants such as cacti, succulents and exotics which can be grown outdoors, in fact some of them, such as cannas, should be planted in the ground outdoors rather than in pots as they are much less likely to freeze in the ground where only the top centimeter or so is frozen.

G. Blunt Exotics

Altogether, Graham’s enthusiasm was infectious and everyone greatly enjoyed his humorous approach to being a grower and seller of ‘Exotics’.

H.R.

Visit to the Flower Farm

As Claire Brown, who runs Plantpassion, explained: her business is flower farming, therefore we should not expect pretty garden scenes, her flowers are grown as crops. That morning, well over 2000 had been cut and were conditioning (soaking up fresh water) in buckets inside the barn, awaiting collection by customers in the morning.

Outside we were immediately struck by the magnificent views across the gently sloping fields towards a range of hills and possibly London in the far distance. The hilltop farm is surrounded by woods, and Claire explained how she’d arrived at an accommodation with the wildlife, including deer, squirrels, moles, and even a measure of appreciation: kites, aphids (food for beneficial insects which kill the harmful ones).

We saw the poly tunnel (to extend the growing season) and the field with many different beds of flowers and shrubs, in all stages of growth. She explained her work-saving no-dig, no weeding method, and that the chalk subsoil her plants are grown in promotes healthy and sturdy flowers.

Back in the barn for refreshments and a flower arrangement demonstration, Claire extolled the benefits of locally grown flowers, condemning those for sale in supermarkets. Perhaps a little harsh, as surely there’s room for both kinds?

Claire Brown’s flower farm is in East Clandon, website: Plantpassion.co.uk

Ann-Marie Powell designs and builds Countryfile’s 30th anniversary garden

(with the help of a few friends). February 2018, and Ann-Marie receives an offer she cannot refuse from the RHS: to design and build a small garden at Hampton Court, possibly a backyard-type, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the BBC 1’s flagship programme Countryfile. The brief is just her cup of tea: nature, wildlife, preservation and diversity of plants. Although the time restraint (5 months instead of the customary 18), the extremely limited budget and the Counryfile wish list may warrant something stronger than tea!

Visual

To involve the whole nation, the idea of mirroring the diverse landscapes of the British Isles was born, followed by a period of intensive research into native plants relating to Scotland, the Dales, Lakes, Wales, the South and the Coast. It had to include massive boulders, a stream, ponds complete with a mini Giant Causeway, a hill representing the Scottish Highlands, and farming (a field planted with barley, featuring a classic Ferguson T20 tractor). By this time the suggested backyard had grown to 600 square metres.

But there was no damping Ann-Marie’s enthousiasm, and backed by staff and a bunch of extremely knowledgeable, capable and willing friends (including our own member Jill Meech, who spent a day watering the 14000 plants) all components were duly sourced and transported to their corner at Hampton Court in time for the build. 3 weeks of heavy digging and grafting in hot sunshine by an army of intrepid helpers, egged on by Ann-Marie’s example (and generous smiles) ensured that the garden was ready in time for the opening of the Hampton Court Show 2018.

By the end of Ann-Marie’s lively and illuminating Keynote Lecture, we all felt as if we’d had a hand in the creation of the garden ourselves. The garden is long gone, but the photographs (provided by Ann-Marie) show the magnificent result enjoyed by thousands of visitors!

Award-winning garden designer Ann-Marie Powell is involved in the Wildlife Garden and World Food Garden at Wisley scheduled to open in Spring 2020. www.ann-mariepowell.com

Leonardslee Gardens visit

The 200 acre Grade I listed valley garden in West Sussex was the destination for our annual coach trip on Sunday, a sunny day but not too hot. Event organiser Terry effected a last-minute switch of coach company, which ensured that the trip could go ahead.

Leonardslee is famous for its spring plantings of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and magnolia trees, which cover the steep-sided slopes; although by June most had finished flowering, they provided a magnificent backdrop of different shapes and shades of green to the 7 mostly man-made lakes. Armed with a map showing the numerous trails, many members enjoyed the walks through the rhododendron woods and along the ponds, stopping to admire the dragonflies and damselflies flitting over the water, or the huge carp just below the surface. Although we had missed the colour display in the spring, coming later gave us a much more peaceful time there. It also allowed us to admire the Kousa dogwood trees covered in white flowers, including a magnificent pink-flowering one.

As well as the valley gardens, there were other attractions: a rock garden, a glass house (with pond!), a wallaby colony introduced in 1889, a vineyard with wine-tastings and a wall-to-wall collection of dolls’ houses, shops and Victorian village scenes.

There were various cafes where we could spend the pre-loaded cards given to us on coffee or lunch, and a gift shop and plant sales area, and before we knew it, it was time to get back on the coach, ending another successful Grayshott Gardeners visit.

Julian Hight: Britain’s Forest History

The subject of Wednesday’s talk was something of a first for Grayshott Gardeners: Ancient Trees in Britain and around the World, along with their history and myths, all located, researched and beautifully photographed by Julian, and presented in a lively and captivating lecture. We were told about ancient oaks, native to Britain (moved there from Europe when it was still connected to the Continent), the grove of ancient Yew trees in Kingsley Vale near Chichester, as well as about Mediterranean Olive trees, some of which are estimated to be 2-3000 years old, and a surviving Cherry tree in the Japanese Alps, propped up by struts but still flowering.

The reason some of these trees have survived hundreds, or even thousands of years is that they served a useful purpose: industrial (e.g. pollarding), community (fruit bearing) or religious (Yew trees in churchyards). Julian quoted many anecdotes (some of which may even be true) such as Newton’s apple tree at Woolsthorpe Manor, the oak taken by an architect as a model for building a lighthouse, and the Queen Elizabeth oak at Cowdray Park, entirely hollow now, and squat, purported to have been visited by Q E in 1591.

Julian is the author of two lavishly illustrated books, Britain’s Tree Story (2011) for the National Trust, and World Tree Story, celebrating the world’s oldest, largest and most famous (and sometimes not so famous) trees, while also telling the human tale. He is actively engaged in tree preservation, campaigning locally in Somerset as well as nationally to save threatened trees and ancient woodland. Further info on his website: www.worldtreestory.co.uk

Visit to Dipley Mill

On a rather cold and wet evening we were fortunate to visit a wonderful garden in Dipley,
Hartley Wintney. We were met by Rose McMonigall who is an award-winning Garden Designer. She is in the final phase of designing a garden for the Spanish Tourist Office for Hampton Court flower Show.

Rose gave us a potted history of the Mill, which is mentioned in the Domesday Book, and the over-grown, almost non-existent gardens that she took over in 2000. We were shown around the various garden ‘rooms’ which include many specialist and unusual plants and trees. Now there are eighteen various gardens each one totally different in design and colour scheme.

There is a large Dove Cote that was unfortunately cleared out by minks that are a problem on the Whitewater River. The Dove Cote is now occupied by bees and they have been left alone by the mink! Rose’s father demonstrated how their sluice gates work to maintain the water level and prevent flooding to the house.

The gardens can be visited on special open days shown on their website www.dipley-mill.co.uk and in the Yellow Book. Well worth a visit, especially on a warm, sunny day!

T.B.

Grayshott Fair in the Square

Anne Waddell and helpers added a colourful note to the fair in Grayshott on Saturday, with fragrance provided by Gill and Jan in the form of Lilies of The Valley. There were plenty of takers, both young and old, who stopped by to hear and read about Grayshott Gardeners. A great effort, which may well result in some interested youngsters becoming future members!

James Smallwood: Auriculas

A mini Florists’ Feast awaited Grayshott Gardeners members when James Smallwood, accompanied by his wife Nicola, brought along part of his collection of Auriculas to show and sell at the May lecture evening. James is an excellent speaker and his enthusiasm for these attractive and interesting colourful plants was obvious.

At Chelsea with Alan Titmarsh

Originally found in the Alps and Dolomites, Auriculas featured in this country as early as the 1700s when growers of these plants gathered at so-called Florists’ Feasts, contests held in public houses and halls all over England, to show off their skills in breeding new varieties. The traditional prize was a copper kettle.

The wide-ranging palette of colours and markings is partly due to the combination of acid and lime-loving ancestry, and partly to a peculiarity unique to Auriculas: the icing-sugar like covering on leaves and/or petals called farine. When this forms a tight circle in the centre, it is called a paste. It remains a great mystery as to what purpose the farine serves.

James had the privilege of working together with grower Bill Lockyer, a multiple gold medal winner at Chelsea, a tradition his son Simon continued last year by winning another Gold Medal.

James told us where to buy Auriculas, the best way to grow, look after, propagate and display them, and also explained the classification of the more than 5000 different varieties illustrated by a clear and simple slide. He answered questions from the audience and invited members to come and have a close-up look at the plants he had on display.

The stunning photographs accompanying this post were provided by James, who has also compiled a list with useful information here.

Grayshott Gardeners Annual Plant Sale

This was another enjoyable and successful event, from the buyers’ as well as the sellers’ point of view. Bacon butties and hot drinks were very welcome too. Well done everyone – especially Karen who is now off on a well-earned rest. Photos by John Price. Click on picture for full screen icon (crossed double arrows), click.

2019 Plant Sale
« 1 of 14 »