Category Archives: Club Lectures

Creating Good Plant Combinations, by Amanda Patton

Amanda Patton

On one of the coldest nights of the year so far Grayshott Gardeners were treated to an inspiring zoom lecture by Amanda Patton – without having to step outside into the cold night air.

Amanda has a background in archaeological drawing and illustration.  Her early career did not involve gardens at all, until the fateful day she was invited to see the garden a friend had created.  It took her breath away, and her first thought was “I want to learn how to do that”.  And learn she did, now running a successful design practice of her own in West Sussex.

One of Amanda’s garden designs

Amanda brings an artist’s vision and ability to critique to the world of garden design.  She showed us many examples of gardens where the design was excellent, but also examples where the design did not work.  Whilst most of us can see and feel the difference between these two extremes, it can be really difficult to pinpoint what is working and what is not.  Amanda tried to unpick the elements for us following four key rules:

  1. One thing the same
    Try to link plants to their immediate neighbours by having one characteristic in common e.g. both could have the same green leaves, but in different leaf shapes, or pair up the same leaf shapes but in different colours.
  2. Rhythm and Repetition
    Rhythms can be used in different ways to create a calming or dynamic feel, and having a theme that you develop through a border will make all the difference.
  3. Layers
    Give your borders layers – vertical, horizontal and seasonal – to give cohesion and avoid a random collection of plants.
  4. Colour and Value
    Use the colour wheel to create harmonious or complementary combinations. And remember that colours have tones (value) too, so shades and tints can be used to great effect.

Amanda gave us many practical hints to take away too.  Make your borders as large as you can; note where your garden catches the sun and plant in front of it, to make the most of light illuminating key plants; and take pictures of your garden in black and white – removing the colour can help you see where you have form, and where it needs to be introduced.

It was a fascinating talk, that gave us much food for thought.   And whilst not all of us will be able to embark on wholesale redesign of our plots, at least next time we come home from the Garden Centre with that inevitable impulse buy, we now have tools to work out where to position it for maximum effect.

David Hurrion Zooms in on Pruning Practices

David Hurrion pruning Garrya

Our Zoom lecturer for January was David Hurrion, who came highly recommended after his interesting “World Tour” talk for Grayshott Gardeners in March 2020, our last lecture in the Village Hall. Conforming to Covid restrictions, he did not stray far from home this time, but offered a handy, practical and timely guide on the art of pruning to our Zoom audience of 80+ participants.

As well as writing, lecturing, editing, designing and judging (RHS Shows), David is also an excellent teacher: he managed to pin down the practice of pruning to two rules of thumb: hard pruning at the end of the dormant season for late spring and summer flowering plants, and summer pruning (to remove spent flowers) for everything else. Fortunately he did not leave it at that, there were plenty of examples, illustrated with photos, and a few exceptions to the rules too.

David went on to explain various techniques in order to achieve a specific purpose, whether to correct the shape of a plant, to encourage larger or more flowers or fruit, to extend a plant’s life, or to control pests and diseases, and more. A diagram of the effect of different hormones (sap) rising in the plant’s stem, and the result of clipping or lopping at different areas of the stem was especially illuminating, as was the difference between leaf and flower buds.

To complete his pruning lecture, David demonstrated the different types of secateurs and loppers, not forgetting how to keep them clean, and he ended his talk with a bonus tip: he had it on good authority that we can expect very cold and frosty weather over the next 2 weeks. You have been warned!

Pruning a Wisteria in Summer

David has a website at www.davidhurrion.com as well as a YouTube channel with topical tips for 2021.

Adam Pasco, Gardener for All Seasons

The speaker for our second Zoom lecture needed no introduction: Adam Pasco launched the BBC Gardeners’ World magazine in 1991 and edited it for 22 years, he currently edits the Waitrose magazine, and has worked alongside gardening icons Geoff Hamilton, Geoffrey Smith and Alan Titchmarsh; he also lectures, is a renowned photographer and runs his own media company, adampascomedia.com

Grayshott Gardeners certainly felt the benefit of Adam’s more than 40 years of experience in horticulture. His talk, entitled Creating a Garden for All Seasons covered 10 different ways of adding interest to a garden, illustrated with a selection of superb photographs from his own cottage-style garden: a magnificent Wedding Cake Tree (Cornus Controversa variegata) added for structural interest, various plants and combinations for long-time colour, (Narcissi got a specific mention) and different features for focal points such as the bench in a shady part of his garden.

Trees also got a mention owing to their various displays over the year. Adam encouraged us to grow something different (illustrated with a photo of his Australian Ptilotus ‘Joey’, featuring a mass of feathery pink cones, and is drought-resistant too) and reminded us not to forget scent (Nemesia ‘Wisley Vanilla’), planting for wildlife to encourage bees and hover flies, and finally, to choose a star plant for every month.

To help us with the latter, Adam proceeded to list suitable plants for every month of the year, illustrated with eye-catching, colourful photographs. He finished his talk with jobs to do in winter, motivating us to identify gaps and to consciously look for something to plug that gap. The evening ended with a Q and A session, leaving the audience of Grayshott Gardeners greatly inspired.

Sue W. is lining up a number of well-known captivating speakers , accompanied by superb photographs and more often than not unmissable tips, plus a chance to catch up with fellow-Grayshott Gardeners for our programme of online Zoom lectures to cover the COVID19 period. Information and a link to participate is included in the monthly Newsletter, or email info@grayshottgardeners.net

Neil Miller, Head Gardener at Hever Castle

Hever Castle clad in Boston Ivy

Neil Miller, Head Gardener at Hever Castle, conducted his online Zoom lecture, a first for Grayshott Gardeners, in cooperation with the Perennial charity. Having missed out on live talks for most of this year, some 70-odd G G members took up the invitation to participate in an online Zoom lecture. Neil, a Lloyds broker in the City of London, changed tack midlife to retrain as a horticulturist, ran his own business, but nevertheless did not think twice when offered a job at Hever Castle, where he was subsequently appointed Head Gardener in 2006.

Neil did not disappoint. His photographs of the Castle and gardens with the abundant vistas were wonderfully varied and colourful; he managed to fit in a vast amount of information on the history of the estate, the plantings and the layout, as well as inherent values and plans regarding future work, young people and education. A fluent and inspiring speaker, Neil succeeded in conveying his enthusiasm for the different species of plants. The hard work involved in their care was not overlooked either, especially in wrestling (more or less successfully) with the effects of wildlife, such as badgers, rabbits and greenfly.

We heard how Hever Castle dates from the 13th Century, that it was Anne Boleyn’s childhood home, and was bought by William Waldorf Astor in 1902, who used his fortune to commission the 125 acre gardens, known then as an Edwardian Pleasure Ground, and which involved 2000 men and 4 years (as well as many litres of beer) to construct.

Amazing photographs took us along the Topiary Walk, past the Yew and Box Maze, the Chess Set, the Tudor Herb Garden; the Italian Garden with its statuary and mostly Roman artefacts, the Pompeiian Wall and its Mediterranean plants, such as pomegranate and pistachio trees, backed by the heat-retaining south-facing sandstone wall; and opposite the 1/8th of a mile Pergola walk and shade-loving camellias and hydrangeas, with a marble structure gracing the well in between. (fact-check by the editor: etymological connection with “well-to-do” may be fake news).

Nearby is a fountain based on the Trevi fountain in Rome, flanked by nude female statues, which in less liberal times used to be cleaned by ladies from the Women’s Institute. (Fact-check required – ed.) A favourite picture is the loggia at sunrise, glowing with warm Italianate colours. The sunken garden used to be filled with water for bathing by the Astor family. The 38 acres lake with its water maze attracts many youngsters, and the wildlife also serves as an educational resource.

Neil is a rose fanatic, and a large part of his time is spent on the walled rose garden with its 4000 fragrant rose plants – greenfly is dealt with organically by birds and hover flies but black spot is regretfully but necessarily kept at bay by spraying.

All the Gardens look immaculate, and it is hard to believe that until last month, 9 members of staff were furloughed, leaving Neil with only 3 members of staff to cope. However, Hever Castle is currently open for visits and stays, with Covid 19 precautions in place. The Autumn colours are particularly fantastic this year, as are the vistas.

Aerial view of the gardens

Many thanks to Neil, and to Perennial who have guided and fronted this Zoom lecture for Grayshott Gardeners as a new fund-raising activity to replace many others lost to the coronavirus. Neil is donating his fee for his talk to Perennial.

Further information on Hever Castle and its Gardens on their website: www.hevercastle.co.uk

Perennial is a charity which looks after former horticultural employees and their families: www.perennial.org.uk

Photographs supplied by Neil Miller

World of Plants in your Garden by David Hurrion

On Wednesday, David Hurrion, teacher of horticultural subjects at all levels, broadcaster, editor, designer and a Designated Judge for the RHS, demonstrated the breadth of his knowledge and experience by taking us time-travelling around the world.

He began his fascinating talk with a slide depicting the separation of the seven continents causing plants to evolve into distinct groups, and continued to demonstrate how mountain ranges, rivers and other landscape characteristics, including climate (position vis-a-vis the sun) also impacted on the plant world. Human beings had a huge effect, intentionally (by collecting plants to bring home) as well as unintentionally (by carrying seeds home in their clothing).

David illustrated his talk with colourful slides of a wide range of flowers and plants from all over the world, some of which are reproduced here; he frequently dropped in nuggets of information such as why plants from the Himalayan region (as well as spring bulbs) have their dormitory period in summer, or how the Great White Cherry came to be reintroduced after it had become extinct in Japan.

David’s enthusiasm and passion for plants was most evident towards the end, when he cautioned the audience to be aware of human action and its effect on he plant world, based on the different aspects of his own garden, and his conclusion: East is Least, West is Best.

David has a very informative website with beautiful photographs at http://davidhurrion.com, as well as a YouTube channel with useful instructions.

David Haselgrove: Plants and Places in Patagonia and Peru

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/

What makes your local Garden Centre tick?

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.

W hen 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!

S.W.

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

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.

Seasonal, Scented and Sustainable

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 –

  • Mix nice smelling herbs such as Apple Mint with your arrangements.
  • Pick flowers early in the morning for longer lasting blooms
  • Don’t forget about Winter foliage and seed heads

Interesting facts about supermarket flowers –

  • Roses don’t usually have any scent because the ones that smell nice don’t last as long.
  • The rose buds that never open but just eventually die have been dipped in Silver Nitrate to extend their shelf last
  • Super markets only want flowers that last at least 7 days
  • The 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.

H.D.

http://www.plantpassion.co.uk/