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
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
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
The stunning photographs accompanying this post were provided by James, who has also compiled a list with useful information here.
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.
Gardeners were privileged to take part in a private tour conducted by
Head of Nursery Martin Einchcomb, who donated his time in return for
a donation to the Perennial charity.
he Nursery comprises 15 glasshouses covering one acre, and the team of 7 (helped by volunteers) produces plants for 60 acres of formal gardens at the Hampton Court and Kensington Palaces.
Following a brief introduction, Martin conducted us past an array of
tropical and semi-tropical plants, the famous Exoticks Collection
originally started by Queen Mary II, parts of which survived until the
First World War when lack of manpower and attention led to the last
plants dying out. Since 1987, the Gardens & Estate team and lately
Martin, have devoted much time and effort in researching the specimens
in Mary’s collection and bringing them back once more to Hampton Court.
It is one of the three National Plant Collections at Hampton Court and
has now been recogni
glasshouses contained masses of bedding plants not usually seen at
garden centres but well-known to the Victorians, as most of the
plants produced here are destined to fit in with the historic
settings of the Palaces, flowering in (what now seem) old-fashioned
colours. These include pelargoniums, lantanas, and also coleus with
vivid colour variations in the leaves.
Court holds two other National Plant Collections, Lantana, whose many
cultivars have flowers that change their colour (from yellow to white
and orange to purple) as they mature, and Heliotropoium, or the
Cherry Pie Plant (its purple flowers smell of cherries and vanilla).
another glasshouse we were shown contains the Citrus collection,
showing off their oranges and lemons – these normally tender trees
had been put into period-appropriate pots which the Nursery has
specifically made for display in their formal settings during the
told us that the original Victorian glasshouses had been destroyed to
make way for more modern and efficient ones during the 60’s and
70’s; like the Victorian ones, they have been overtaken by later
designs and technology, but lack of funds mean the latter remain an
item on the team’s wish list for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, the Nursery manages to grow 40% of the bedding plants from
cuttings and seed, and the remaining 60% from tiny plug plants which
are cheaper and more efficient to buy in, a credit to the staff, and
proof of what can be achieved with devotion and skill, even without
the latest technology.
tour ended with a brief survey of the workshops and tractor and
machinery shed containing trolleys to move large trays and tables,
and for picking up (very heavy) tubs; we also saw the machine for
automatically filling pots with compost.
Martin for his interesting explanations and tips, most members of the
group then departed for lunch in the cafeteria or outside on the
terrace, as it was a lovely sunny day.
was an opportunity to enjoy fee access to the Rose Garden (not out
yet but containing plenty of interesting bedding plants and tulips)
as well as the extensive Kitchen Garden, origininally established for
William III and Mary II in 1689 on the site of Henry Viii’s
tiltyard, with its numerous fruit trees and bushes.
explored the Palace itself, and the more Formal Gardens, while some
sneaked down to the river to watch the Royal Swans and enjoy a drink
by the side of the River Thames : )
Nurseries, situated in a lovely quiet setting near Churt, specialise
in Rhododendrons, growing and supplying more than 800 varieties of
Rhododendrons, as well as Camellias and Azaleas. The Millais family
boasts a long-standing interest in Rhododendrons, going back to the
early decades of the last century, but the plant nurseries were
established in 1970. They have grown into what today is a thoroughly
modern and impressive setup, with business conducted largely online.
sizable group of Grayshott Gardeners were lucky to visit their
colourful Plant Centre and extensive Nurseries on Wednesday. Owner
David Millais and Dan, a member of his team, each headed one half of
the group, taking us round the propagating tunnels with their
fully-automated systems for heating, watering and ventilating the
thousands of healthy-looking cuttings. It takes three years for a
cutting to be turned into a rhododendron ready for sale.
Nurseries generate most of their environmentally-friendly compost
with the aid of a gigantic machine, which shreds and mixes a variety
of plant materials into a mixture of currently 45% peat-free compost,
which then gets measured out into pots, still by the same machine.
There is even a machine for cleaning plant pots, based on the design
of a mechanical car-wash!
special treat was the walk around the woodland garden, full of mature
rhododendrons and azaleas, flowering in many different colours and
shapes. A particular striking example was a large yellow-flowering
Camellia called Lois. The woodland garden is closed to the public
this year for redevelopment, but is well-worth bearing in mind for a
visit in May 2020.
the tour David commented and explained the different processes for
propagating and growing rhododendrons, which come in a great variety
of colours and sizes, and offered many useful tips for pruning and
looking after these plants in our gardens.
our way back to the Plant Centre we passed an area sheltered from the
sun behind some sheeting in order to postpone their flowering. This
contained plants being grown for the Chelsea Show towards the end of
May. Millais Nurseries hope for a repeat of their 2016 success in
gaining a Gold Medal.
more information, including opening times and directions, please
refer to the Millais Nurseries website
and remember to take your membership card for a discount to
Grayshott Gardeners when visiting!
The 2019 Spring Show organised by Grayshott Gardeners again proved a great success, with many entries, despite the period of freaky weather preceding the show. A total of 139 persons enjoyed the the exhibits and other attractions presented by the teams. Results and a brief report on the Shows page here, photo gallery to follow soon.
Grayshott Gardeners had been looking forward to John Anderson’s
talk on Royal Gardens and we were not disappointed: with nearly 5000
acres comprising the Savill Garden and the Valley Gardens as well as
the private garden at Frogmore House, there was plenty to talk about,
including the Park’s history and royal connections going back
several centuries, John’s travels in India, Chile, Australia and
South Africa to search out plants, and the highlight of having to
provide the greenery decorations for the wedding of Prince Harry and
We heard about the difficulty of balancing stress placed on the park by the 6 million visitors annually, climate change forcing the team to seek out suitable plants for future planting, and threats such as the Xylella fastidiosa bacterial pest currently devastating olive orchards in Southern Europe.
However, a series of beautiful photographs of the Woodland Gardens,
seasonal garden pictures, Valley views and individual plants provided
evidence of how well the gardening team is coping with the
aforementioned difficulties. The opening slide of the Long Walk and
Deer Park was particularly striking, and on its own sufficient
temptation to visit Windsor Great Park.
John wound up his entertaining and informative talk by answering
questions from the audience. More information, including opening
times, is available at www.windsorgreatpark.co.uk
On 13th march 2019 a packed hall of Grayshott Gardeners were treated to a fascinating talk on flower farming by Claire Brown of Plantpassion.
With her experience of
working and designing flower borders for other people Claire realised there was
a need for beautiful British cut flowers rather than the standard blooms
created just for the mass market.
Hill Top Farm was set
up in 2013 and with the help of social media her business has grown more
successful with each passing year.
Claire went on to
explain that historically the farming of flowers in England was a thriving
business. A place in Clandon grew cornflowers as its cash crop to be used as
buttonholes by discerning Victorian gentlemen.
Flower farming declined
in the 1970’s due to high fuel costs and Dutch growers who, because they were
subsidised, could produce cheaper blooms.
Now, however, because of a more discerning market the business in the UK is making a comeback. Florists want different
and more interesting blooms and don’t want to buy in huge quantities.
Claire also has local
customers for whom she provides “Buckets” – that is a selection of flowers that
because of their colour and shape all go together well making it easy, even for
the amateur flower arranger, to make fantastic compositions.
Weddings and events are
also catered for on an individual basis.
Claire gave us lots of tips and information –
nice smelling herbs such as Apple Mint with your arrangements.
flowers early in the morning for longer lasting blooms
forget about Winter foliage and seed heads
Interesting facts about
supermarket flowers –
don’t usually have any scent because the ones that smell nice don’t last as
rose buds that never open but just eventually die have been dipped in Silver Nitrate
to extend their shelf last
markets only want flowers that last at least 7 days
daffodils we buy in the supermarkets are usually by products of the bulb
growers who are, actually, not really interested in the flowers.
At the end of a fascinating evening Claire answered questions from the floor, once again showing her wealth of expertise and knowledge.