David Haselgrove, retired solicitor and former Council Member of the RHS, presently chairman of their Joint Rock Garden Plant Committee, treated us to a breathtaking show of alpine plants and flowers in South America, set against the imposing landscapes of Chile, Argentina and Peru.
Starting in the very southern-most part of the continent, with its snow-covered mountains, blue icebergs and glaciers, we travelled (virtually) across many miles of grasslands, stopping at chrystal-clear lakes, climbing mountains and volcanoes and crossing dangerously windy plains at high altitude in search of alpine plants growing in the wild.
We were rewarded with the most diverse and colourful range of plants, in unexpected shapes and sizes. It came as a surprise that many of the plant names were familiar, and commonly sold in local plant nurseries, yet the shapes and sizes seemed completely different.
The selection of photographs shown here should give some idea of the variety of plants grown in this hostile climate; during questions John indicated that many require a great deal of attention, with drainage foremost, when grown in this country.
If anybody missed this interesting and entertaining lecture, or would like reminding, a number of photographs taken on this trip are shown online here: https://www.alpinegardensociety.net/tours/southern-patagonia-2019/
Grayshott Gardeners started the new year with a fascinating peek behind the scenes at one of our most popular chain of Garden Centres. Sarah Squire, Chairman of Squire’s Garden Centres, gave our first lecture of 2020, and explained the history and the ethos of this long standing family business. She also gave us an insight into some of the challenges Garden Centres face today, and how they try to manage them.
Squires was founded in 1936 by Sarah’s grandfather, D.J. Squire. It started as a company that took on small scale landscaping work, and soon expanded into plant nurseries. It wasn’t until the 1950s and 60s that Garden Centres as we know them today came about – driven by the fact that people now cared for their own gardens (employing gardeners had become a thing of the past), widespread car ownership, the availability of container grown plants, and the emergence of garden centres in the US.
DJ retired Sarah’s father, Colin, took over the running of Squires.
He remained Chairman for 30 years, and still plays a part in running
the business today. Sarah took over as Chairman in 2019. She has
had many roles different roles in the company, starting off as a
Saturday girl, and has worked outside the company as a solicitor
specialising in commercial property.
Squires today has
16 Garden Centres in the Surrey/Sussex/Berkshire/West London area –
three of which are very familiar to Grayshott Gardeners. Squires are
happy to keep this tight geographical footprint, as it allows them to
really understand their customers and their needs. They employ
nearly 1,000 people, across a whole range of disciplines, from IT and
Marketing to plant and animal experts.
Their business is very seasonal, with plant sales peaking in spring and early summer. And throughout the year Saturdays and Sundays are their busiest times. In order to attract customers outside of these peaks, diversification is key – with restaurants and Christmas decorations being good examples of this. However, we were left in no doubt that it is plants that are the raison d’être of this great family business, which raised a cheer from this audience of gardeners!
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
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.
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.
A packed village hall eagerly awaited the arrival of Nick Bailey, a little later than expected, due to a delay at Waterloo Station caused by an incident on the line. After the warm-up act comprising Gill (upcoming events), Vanessa (Hidden Gardens 2019) and Gordon (Snowdrop viewing on Saturday), the audience was well-primed to warmly welcome Nick Baily, horticulturalist, author, award-winning TV presenter and garden designer.
Nick spent part of his
extensive and varied 15-year career as Head Gardener at Chelsea Physic Garden, which
has its own micro-climate, which Nick
took full advantage of when redesigning the gardens and diversifying the plant
collection. A visit is definitely recommended.
Continuing with the main theme of colour (usually against a general background of nearly 90% green foliage) Nick then told us how to add colour by interplanting, and contrasting or harmonising colours. He identified the gardener’s colour wheel as a useful aid for pinpointing nuances of colour.
All this led up to a series of slides showing colourful flowers and plants taken from his best-selling book 365 Days of Colour, which has tips as well as lists of plants which will provide year-round colour in our gardens.
Our patron Gordon Rae kick-started this season of GG lectures with a raft of marvelously colourful images of his and Judith’s garden photographed month by month throughout the year, in the form of a varied and well-balanced slide show which was assembled by Kathleen Bird. The many different and sometimes surprising colours complimented the “50 shades of green” pointed out by Gordon, who acknowledged Judith’s expertise in setting off the different shades against each other. We time-travelled through the worst of the winter (cue: icy picture of a frozen fountain, but also snowdrops popping their heads above the snow) and interesting architectural shapes – Gordon’s tip: buy winter pansies for a pop of colour – followed by spring with its numerous flowering plants, the high point of this garden. There was still plenty of colour during the summer months, although drought put paid to the lush green of the lawn, which had to be reseeded in the autumn.
also an expert photographer, as demonstrated by the superb landscape images and
amazing close-ups of individual flowers and adorable animal pictures – he
clearly has a soft spot for foxes, squirrels and birds (except for snowdrop-ravaging
pigeons!). He also has an eye for the weird and wonderful (fungi) and tells a
Gordon reminded us that this garden was started from scratch 47 years ago, on land which was completely overgrown; a drop of 50 ft from the house meant that they had to install all of the hard landscaping and terraces before planting could begin. The presentation showed what can be achieved on Grayshott’s sandy soil with dedication, skill and sheer hard work.
Gordon for his interesting lecture, president Gill Purkiss offered Gordon a
donation to give to a charitable cause of his choice.
For an impression of the many colourful plants in this garden, or a reminder, please visit the members’ gardens gallery, as many of the photos featured are by Gordon taken in his garden last year.
Gordon and Judith are kindly inviting GG members and their guests to visit the snowdrop display in their garden on Saturday, 16th February 10 – 12 a.m.
December it may have been, but there was nothing bleak about Grayshott village hall as Grayshott Gardeners flocked to this month’s lecture evening, where the now traditional mulled wine and mince pies dispensed by Terry and his team awaited our keynote speaker Timothy Hall, as well as members and visitors.
Timothy is a renowned botanist, who between 1986-2014 was General Foreman, followed by Horti Praefectus and later Director at the University of Oxford’s Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum. During that time he has given more than 1500 talks worldwide, while also lecturing in the Department of Plant Sciences Oxford and other Colleges. He was made a Fellow of the Linnaean Society of London, has written a number of books, has appeared on TV and is also involved in outreach work.
His informative and entertaining lecture, accompanied by numerous colourful slides, took us from the start of winter in December/January through to the beginning of spring. We were alerted to the difference in appearance caused by changes in the light, the different plants which emerge as temperatures drop, e.g. mosses, and clearer outlines ( topiary), as well as the contrasting images associated with a rapid change in the weather.
Click on the pictures to enlarge
Timothy discussed climate change, the varied effects of snow and ice, of drought, and how mistletoe is increasing due to milder winters and a change in the migration habits of black cap birds: in contrast to mistletoe thrushes, they cannot digest the seeds, but rub them into tree bark when stuck in their beaks.
We heard how Piet Oudolf recommends growing plants “that die well”, and were shown a series of flowering shrubs, common as well as more unusual ones; were told how plant species are determined with the example of snowdrops/flakes, at which point our patron came in for some gentle teasing. A summing up of winter jobs concluded this wide-ranging and topical talk.
Timothy generously shared some of his stunning photographs to be published on our website; he happened to mentioned that next April he will be running the Brighton Marathon to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support, details of which in italics below.
Membership fees are now due and the 2019 Handbook with a program of all events will be available at the next Club meeting on 9th January, when Gordon Rae will tell us about A year in a Grayshott Garden.
Bonus picture: our president Gill Purkiss in a seasonal jumper, with treasurer Dennis Homer in the background:
On April 14th 2019 I am running the Brighton Marathon to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. If you could bring yourself to sponsor me I would be very grateful and many people suffering with cancer would be even more grateful. More details can be found on my justgiving page – address below. Thank you! https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/timothy-walker6
Graham’s October lecture gave a different aspect to autumn gardening, with his love of plants when the sun is lowering its arc, which enriches the colours of plants. He likened it to a ‘tarts parade’ of powerful colours that brighten the borders!
He advised dispersing clumps of colour throughout the garden so that it is not all seen in one hit. Groups of colours interspersed with a variety of grasses give a wonderful effect. Of the many plants he recommended, and the slides were beautiful, his own favourites were Rudbeckias, Asters, Salvias, Limonium, Heuchera autumn bride, Helianthus, Sanguisorba korean snow, Fuchsia hawkeshead white, Persicara pendula, light blue Agapanthus (when in the border, needs to be mulched well to get through the winter) and many more.
He made a plea for not cutting back stems too early as seed heads can be really beautiful in winter especially when frosted, and provide food for the birds. Some of the best heads for late interest and contrast are:- Artichoke, Eupatorium, Veronicastrum, Phlomis, Echinacea and Panicum. A garden is not just for spring and summer, and an element of autumn flowering should be included in all gardens for maximum interest.
Graham Gough is the owner of Marchants Hardy Plants, Sussex. For a list of Late Flowering Perennials recommended by Graham, click here. More information, as well as a complete catalogue of plants and grasses for sale, is available from the Marchants Hardy Plants website: https://www.marchantshardyplants.co.uk
On Wednesday, Johanna Crawford, Senior Gardener and standing in for Head Gardener Paul Gallivan, entertained us with captivating images of Woolbeding Gardens, situated near Midhurst and presently owned by the National Trust.
Jo’s gardening career started 8 years ago as a complete novice with a notice in the newsagent’s, an armful of gardening books, a fork and trowel. 8 years of practical experience alongside studying for professional qualifications paid off well, as her passion for heritage gardening at Woolbeding clearly shines through.
Originally mentioned in the Doomsday Book, Woolbeding’s 26 acres of gardens, including the Grade I listed house (privately rented) and Saxon church, are set within the “greenest valley and prettiest river”. The gardens match and enhance the setting, and, following a suggested path, visitors are led through various “rooms” each with their own colour (vegetable, fountain, herb, pool garden), past follies and intriguing sculptures (in memory of ancient and monumental trees), ornamental and architectural greenhouses and an orangery fronting the pool. A ”ruined abbey” and a river walk reveal more hidden features.
But the gardens, meticulously maintained in keeping with the original planting but with design tweaks to always offer something new to visitors, are the main attraction and a tribute to the 6 members of garden staff who, aided by a number of volunteers, keep the beds and borders, the climbers and greenhouse plants, including orchids, looking magnificent.