Category Archives: Club Lectures

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.

Spring in the Garden with Steve Bradley

Grayshott Gardeners celebrated the last of our 2019 lecture evenings and the return of speaker Steve Bradley and his wife Val with mulled wine and mince pies, enjoyed thoroughly by a very large turnout of members, on a cold December night.

Steve has appeared on TV and writes extensively about practical gardening techniques and skills. Together with his wife Val he answers questions and offers advice on panels and in the Sun newspaper, which entails keeping up to date with new production techniques, products and plants.

Steve’s light-hearted talk illustrated with slides allowed members to reap the benefit of Steve’s knowledge as tips and recommendations, starting with frost protection, and followed by pruning advice (loppers in the case of Mahonia, to protect fingers), lawn care, bulbs and pots and propagation were offered in quick succession. Steve’s love for roses stemming from his youth spent in a rose nursery was evident; experience has taught him that hard pruning produces better and longer-lasting blooms, especially if followed by feeding (well-mixed into soil or compost); he advised to plant grafted roses an inch proud of the soil surface at the graft point, in order to prevent suckers. Another very interesting detail was the latest technique for grafting small tomato and other related cuttings, with amazing results.

Having answered a number of questions from the floor, Steve was then thanked by Gordon Rae, our patron, for a very interesting and useful talk.

Notice to members:

As announced at last month’s AGM, our President for the past 5 years, Gill Purkiss, had to step down at the end of her term of office. This left Grayshott Gardeners with a vacancy, as nobody had come forward to take over from Gill. Gorden Rae has now kindly offered to take up the post in the interim, which will need to be confirmed by members at the next AGM.

Steve and Gordon

Stuart Lees: Adventurous Container Gardening

The speaker at Grayshott Gardeners’ September lecture was Stuart Lees, a trained horticulturist and experienced head gardener, who now runs his own Garden Design and Consulting business. A keen supporter of the Perennial Charity which helps people and families in crisis who have a connection with horticultural trades, Stuart has donated his speaker’s fee to the charity.

Stuart Lees and Club Patron Gordon Rae (Photo John Price)

A series of slides taken at various client locations illustrated not only the variety of pots available (different sizes, shapes, materials) and the various functions (framing doorways, indicating presence of steps as a safety measure) but also the different effects created by the planting schemes. These ranged from empty but decorative pots, to pots with one plant, or containers with combinations of various species of plants, often with phorbiums to add height and an architectural touch. Stuart favoured shrubs over bedding plants, as the latter are labour-intensive, although excellent for providing colour when planted in window-boxes; we saw slides of some magnificent pub front displays. Nevertheless, colourful displays are also possible without annual flowers, as shown by the Christmas-themed schemes in a collection of similar containers devised by Stuart.

Answering a question from the audience, Stuart admitted to always adding crocks in plant pots “to keep slugs and insects out”.

Harry Baldwin

Harry Baldwin is a young dendrologist (study of trees and shrubs) and horticultural taxonomist, currently working at Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. His CV lists an impressive number of diplomas, honours and awards, as well as an array of practical experience and botanical travel trips worldwide. His articles have been published in botanical publications, he has been involved in organising and giving lectures, and is particularly passionate about reaching out to youngsters faced with making career choices.

Harry Baldwin and our Patron Gordon Rae (photo John Price)

Wednesday’s lecture, accompanied by interesting slides from his travels in China, South Africa and the USA, followed his career to date, starting with helping his Dad in his landscaping business, his particular interest in trees (he calls himself an “oak man”), and relating the many opportunities and choices he encountered along the way. His enthusiasm is infectious, and on Wednesday he managed to both entertain and educate our members, who may be looking at a career from the wrong end, but who are now well-equipped to advise the next generation about careers in horticulture!

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.

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