YDGS
Yateley and District Gardening Society

The 50th Anniversary Show of the Yateley and District Garden Society (26th August 2017)


The 50th Anniversary Show of the Yateley and District Garden Society

Yateley and District Garden Society has served Yateley and its surrounding villages for 50 years by encouraging people to take up and enjoy gardening. It held its 50th Anniversary annual Show on Saturday 26 August and our friendly show attracted 275 entries from 48 exhibitors which filled St Peters Church and Hall with superb exhibits of vegetables, flowers and handicrafts.

In spite of the weather being so variable this summer, there was a colourful display of flowers with the floating flower head attracting the most entries. Vegetables on the other hand have benefitted from the changeable weather and there was a very good selection of potatoes, runner beans and tomatoes and a record number of baskets containing 5 different types of vegetables.

There were imaginative interpretations of three flower arrangement themes - “autumn in mind”, “blood and bandages”, and “flowers with driftwood”. The handicraft section had some striking exhibits including drawings in pencil and ink, a hand crafted walking stick, embroidered patchwork and handmade jewellery. Cake categories included cheese scones, coffee and walnut sponge, lemon drizzle and boiled fruit cake. There was also an excellent selection of jams, jellies, marmalade, chutneys and pickles.

For the 3rd year running Ken Cook won the Brooks Trophy for the most points in Show, Juliet Breschinsky the Society Cup for the most points in the Floral Art section. Mary Lillicrap won the Kent Trophy and her exquisite beadwork chess set was the overwhelming vote for the People’s choice.

Visitors enjoyed refreshments of freshly baked cakes and teas which rounded off a thoroughly enjoyable and successful anniversary show.

How We Grow and Use Basil - Paolo Arrigo (13th February 2017)


How We Grow and Use Basil

Once again members were literally treated to a taste of Italy when we welcomed back Paolo Arrigo from 90 Seeds together with his mother, Theresa, who demonstrated how to make pesto using basil supplied by a supermarket, which during winter, has to be imported from Jordan. Whilst Theresa set to work Paolo told us about its introduction to Italy by the Romans who fed it to their horses and used it to treat ear infections. Surprisingly they never ate it themselves believing that it made you mad.

He commenced his talk by dispelling the mistaken view that all of Italy enjoys a Mediterranean climate by pointing out that the cooler alpine climate occurring in the mountainous regions is well suited to growing many vegetables that can also flourish in our gardens. Basil is no exception and advice was given on how best to ensure a continuous supply by making three sowings a year, commencing with sowing in pots under glass in March and April, followed by the main crop outdoors in May. A final sowing is recommended in pots sown during August that can be brought under glass to ensure a supply into the autumn.

Basil is the main ingredient of pesto where it is combined with pine nuts from China, Pecorino cheese and olive oil from Liguria. Parmesan cheese may be used instead of Pecorino, though the latter is considered preferable because it has a higher salt content. Garlic may also be added as an optional extra. Pesto takes its name from the verb ‘to crush’ and is traditionally made with a pestle and mortar. Its preparation was ably demonstrated by Theresa using a plastic hand operated mincer to crush the basil before mixing it with the other ingredients. Never chop basil with a metal knife as it causes it to blacken. With the proof of the pudding being in the eating, members were invited to sample the freshly prepared pesto spread on chunks of bread passed around at the end of the talk. The meeting concluded on a musical note as Paolo entertained us on his 90 year old piano accordion.

Flower Arrangements for Autumn and Christmas - Margaret Finch (14th November 2016)


Flower Arrangements for Autumn and Christmas

As our gardens lose colour an interest in the winter it is still possible to brighten up the gloomiest of winter days by having an attractive indoor flower arrangement. So a very timely and practical demonstration was given by Margaret Finch to show how it is possible to make the most from what remains in the garden or that can be cheaply purchased from the supermarket. Over the course of the evening members were shown how to make six very different flower arrangements combining flowers with Christmas decorations, decorative tins, twigs, fir cones, dried leaves, Hypericum berries, fruit and candles.

As a retired professional florist Margaret had the knack of making the art of flowering arranging appear so very simple, whilst providing an informative and amusing commentary. There was lots of advice that included how to re-use Oasis by keeping it moist in a plastic bag, reviving rose stems by standing them in water up to their heads, keeping carnations warm, encouraging fir cones to open by placing them on a warm radiator and adding a drop of bleach to the water when watering flower arrangements in an Oasis, which should be done every day. There was also some practical advice for flower gardeners such as not cutting the stems of Verbena bonariensis back to ground level until Macrh, as their hollow stems traps water that causes them to rot.

At the end of the demonstration one of the flower arrangements was donated as a raffle prize and the remainder were sold off by a Dutch auction which raised over £30 for the a local charity supported by the Society.

Margaret was assisted by Francis Wingate throughout the evening.

How to Grow Vegetables in Small Gardens - Geoff Hawkins(10th October 2016)


Autumn Perennials

Following this inspirational and very instructive talk the members may be forgiven if they returned home resolved to convert their lawns into productive vegetable plots. Geoff Hawkins succeeded in covering almost every aspect of growing vegetables during his presentation. Whilst aimed at those with small gardens there was plenty of practical advice equally applicable to gardens of all sizes. Growing vegetables in containers is ideal where space is limited and the containers can take many forms including boxes, old tyres stacked on top of each other, bags and even items of ladies underwear strung up on a line. Raised beds also work well in small areas and are suited to ensuring the 4 crop (potatoes, legumes, brassicas and onions and roots) rotation system which is important to reduce the build up of pests and diseases in the soil.

Geoff explained why it is preferable to grow crops in rows running north/south so they can receive sunlight from the east and the west as the sun moves around during the day. Maintaining soil fertility through the judicious use of fertilizers and compost was also addressed. Whereas some popular fertilizers, such as Growmore, provide the three essential nutrients of nitrogen, phosphate and potash, other products, such as Vitax Q4, are superior as they also contain trace elements.

There was advice on what to grow and what not to grow when space is limited. Mangetout peas are preferable to ordinary peas, which Geoff conceded are better purchased in frozen packs. One of the benefits of growing your own vegetables is the freedom to choose tastier varieties than grown commercially, such as the tomato variety “Brandywine”, or the parsnip variety “Gladiator”, which does not require a frost to develop a sweet flavour. One can also grow vegetables rarely on sale such as kohl rabi, a brassica producing a tennis-ball sized swollen stem, which is very popular in Central and Eastern Europe.

Choosing varieties with disease resistance is an important consideration, so those plagued with clubroot, a plant pathogen that survives in the soil, should grow the “Crispus” variety of Brussel sprout, “Clapton” cauliflower and “Kilston” cabbage.

If members put only a fraction of all the advice we received into practice then we can expect even more entries and even a higher standard at future Autumn Shows.

Autumn Perennials - Rosie Hardy (12th September 2016)


Autumn Perennials

Rosie Hardy is no stranger to YDGS and once again this hardy and colourful perennial gave members a ‘blooming marvellous’ presentation without recourse to a projector and screen. Instead she set up a fine display of plants that virtually spoke for themselves, punctuated with lots of advice about where best to plant, nurture and propagate to ensure success and produce offspring.

Having been awarded yet another gold medal for her display at Chelsea Flower Show Rosie displayed her depth of knowledge and passion for plants during the course of the evening by introducing members to a wide range of plants that would provide colour in the herbaceous borders well into the autumn. From the traditional Michaelmas daisy, formerly a member of the aster family, but now assigned to a new genus Symphyotrichum, to lesser known plants such as Peroskia ‘Blue Spire’ members were shown many suitable plants to bring colour to the garden as the days shorten. The towering Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ with its yellow flowers is ideally suited to a well drained spot at the back of the border and can attain a height of 5-6 feet, which could be reduced to 4 if subjected to the ‘Chelsea chop’.

Other plants described included Actaea ‘Pink Spike’ requiring damp conditions but which dislikes being disturbed, the Japanese anemone, well suited to a shady place and propagated from root cuttings, Penstemon ‘Red Ruby’ from which cuttings can be taken from Spring to mid-August, Crocosmia ‘Emily Mackenzie’ with an orange flower that should be pot grown and must be kept dry on its side over the winter.

With so much information and inspiration imparted to the members it was hardly surprising that many could not resist purchasing some of the plants described at the end of the evening, so gardens in and around Yateley should be looking much more colourful as the year comes to an end.

Autumn Flower, Produce and Handicraft Show (27th August 2016)


Children at Autumn Show

This year’s annual flower, produce and handicraft Show attracted many more entrants and visitors than in previous years. Held on Bank Holiday Saturday in Yateley, St Peters Church and Hall was filled with 325 exhibits from some 67 entrants.

The flower displays were striking especially the roses, dahlias and cut flowers as the weather before the Show had been very warm and sunny. In the home produce section there were a large number of cakes which included date and walnut, Victoria sponge and Bakewell tart. Notable in the handicraft section was an embroided map of the ‘Real Counties of Britain’ which had been stitched over a period of years.

There was also an increase in the number of childrens exhibits with some very colourful model animals made from fruit and vegetables and imaginative designs of miniature gardens.

Ken Cook won the trophy for the second time for gaining the most points in the Show and John Oakes was the people’s choice for the best exhibit which was a model of the world as a globe assembled from a large number of wooden blocks cut to size and shape.

Rayner Mayer

Show Secretary

Dig for Victory - Russell Bowes (11th July 2016)


Russell Bowes

Few of our members would be old enough to have memories of life during World War II but most are familiar with the expression “Dig for Victory” and know its war time origin. So our speaker, Russell Bowes who had a diploma in garden history, was well qualified to explain how the Dig for Victory campaign was implemented. Some fascinating facts emerged during his presentation. In 1939 the UK was importing 70% of its food as it was government policy to encourage the export of manufactured goods and disregard the importance of producing food at home. This resulted in there only being 7 weeks food supply in store at the outbreak of the war.

Farmers were instructed to plough up fallow land by the end of September 1939 for which they were paid £2 an acre. If they failed to do so then their land was confiscated. There was a serious manpower shortage with men required to serve in the armed forces so there was a call to women to work on the land. Lady Gertrude Denman, who founded the Womens’ Institute, mobilised 17,000 women into what became known as the Land Army, nicknamed the Cinderella Army, at the outbreak of the war. By the end of the war it had grown to over 250,000.

People were encouraged to grow vegetables in place of flowers in their gardens. Whilst in London, Kensington Palace Gardens and the moat at the Tower of London became allotments. Tomatoes could no longer be imported from the Canary Islands and onions that had formerly been imported from France and Spain became highly prized until people started growing them at home.

There was a need for advice on how to grow vegetables, initially provided by the RHS, then by gardening societies which became established at the time. The BBC also played its part with the birth of a gardening programme first broadcast on Sunday afternoons.

Russell Bowe’s presentation had been well researched and was delivered with humour and authority. It clearly struck a chord with many members having an interest in gardening history.

Roses at Montisfont Abbey Gardens - Thomas Stone (13th June 2016)


Thomas Stone

The rose is perhaps the quintessential element of any English garden, not least at Montisfont Abbey where our speaker, Thomas Stone, had trained as a horticultural student with the National Trust and had worked there for 38 years. So he was well qualified to describe both the history of the gardens and some of the 800 roses that grow there. The rose collection was started by Graham Thomas in 1970 and occupies over 2 acres and also includes over 1000 other herbaceous perennials such as Alliums, Campanulas and foxtail lilies. They are under-planted alongside the roses to achieve a rich palette of colours throughout the summer, when the garden can attract up to 25,000 visitors a week at the peak of its season.

The presentation described the history of rose growing and was illustrated with many examples of recommended roses, some with historical connections such as Empress Josephine, that was named by Napoleon who it is claimed negotiated a peace treaty to permit the importation of a China roses to France. The hybrid tea roses took their name from the tea clipper ships on which they were first imported from the Far East in the mid 19th century.

For those aiming to grow roses there was plenty of practical advice including the recommendation that mycorrhizae fungi are used when planting roses. This product had been developed at Montisfont and works by attaching itself to the roots and improving their ability to absorb nutrients from the soil. It is claimed to be particularly beneficial when planting roses in soil said to be ‘rose-sick’.

The Work of the National Plant Collection® - Sarah Quarterman (9th May 2016)


Sarah Quarterman

If you had ever wondered if anybody was safeguarding all the flowering plants we enjoy in our gardens then it was reassuring to learn that there are more than 600 National Plant Collections around the UK where plants are maintained and propagated to ensure that they do not become extinct.

All this voluntary work is managed by Plant Heritage, formerly known as the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens, which was formed to conserve and safeguard the garden flora that exists across Britain and Ireland.

Our speaker, Sarah Quarterman the Chief Executive of Plant Heritage, who also happens to be a member of YDGS, treated us to a most informative account of how this organisation achieves its objective, thanks to work of hundreds of volunteer gardeners and nurserymen throughout the UK who care for these collections.

So often plants come in and out of fashion and without the maintenance of every cultivar there is a risk that some would be lost forever when they cease to be fashionable. We were shown examples of some National Plant Collections including sweet peas, Michaelmas daisies and clematis and were impressed by the commitment displayed by those volunteers who dedicate themselves to maintaining collections amounting to several hundred cultivars. For those who would like to become involved with this important work it is possible to become a Plant Guardian by giving home to just one rare plant in our garden.

We learnt that it is possible to visit these National Collections by becoming a member of Plant Heritage (annual subscription £30) which also enables you to purchase and exchange some of the rare and unusual plants that are not readily available in garden centres.

We thank Sarah for a most interesting and lively presentation.

The Art of Bee Keeping - Geoff Galliver (11th April 2016)


Geoff Galliver

Whilst all gardeners realise that bees are very important for the pollination of fruit not so many know much about the private life of these fascinating insects and how they go about their work. Any deficiencies in their knowledge were entertainingly rectified by our speaker, Geoff Galliver, who gave a most enlightening presentation. He commenced by describing how former bee-keepers would capture a swarm of bees using a basket, known as a skep, made from straw bound together with twine obtained from Old Man’s Beard. He went on to describe the complex construction of bee-hives and the use of cork oak in Portugal as suitable material.

We learnt that each hive is populated by a queen bee, 500 drones (males) and about 60,000 workers, which are the unfertilised females. The queen can lay about 2000 eggs per day commencing in February, over a life-time of 3 years, to maintain a continuous supply of worker bees that live for only about 3 weeks. The workers lead busy lives collecting nectar to produce honey and plants resins, known as propalis, used to weather-proof their hives. The talk was brought alive as the speaker passed around a jar containing some propalis and the wax frames used in beehives for the members to examine.

The speaker also described how bees are maintained over the winter on sugar syrup and fondants after the honey has been harvested. He explained that the geographical origin of honey can be verified by pollen analysis and that some plants, such as oil-seed rape gives rise to honey highly prone to crystallisation and how it can be liquefied by a short treatment in a microwave.

By the end of the evening members came away with both a much improved understanding of how bees work together with the end result, in the form of jars of Hampshire honey.

Italy from Seed to Table - Paolo Arrigo (8th February 2016)


Paolo Arrigo

Members were promised an evening with a difference and to come prepared for a few surprises and thanks to the speaker, Paolo Arrigo of Franchi Seeds, they were not disappointed.

The evening got off to a musical start as Paolo commenced his presentation on his 90 year old piano accordion entertaining us with renditions of well known Italian music. This overture to the evening appropriately put us in an Italian mood to appreciate the Italian origin of many new vegetables brought to our shores by the Romans and now by 90 Seeds, the oldest family run seed business in the world established in 1783.

Contrary to our perception that Italy enjoys a Mediterranean climate Paolo explained that much of the country is mountainous and subject to a cold Alpine climate, thereby dispelling any assumptions that plants produced from seeds of Italian origin will not flourish in our climate. We also learnt that Franchi seeds is the only source of European vegetable seeds offered to the retail trade in the UK. All the other big names in the vegetable seed business import their seed from China.

We were introduced to many new varieties originating from Italy that are well suited to growing in the UK, including Raddicio from the Dolomites, Cavolo Nero from Tuscany, Fennel from the Alps and Borlotto beans that can be harvested for freezing when the pods shrivel and used to enrich casseroles. Given the abundance of interesting vegetables derived from Italy it was fully understandable that Paolo could claim that Italy is a ‘food driven economy’. As if to make the point Paolo had also written a vegetable cookery book that was on sale together with many packets of vegetable seeds. If all these come to fruition members should have plenty of interesting material to enter at the Autumn Show.

Container Gardening - Ray Broughton (9th November 2015)


Ray Broughton

Once again members were treated to a very informative and entertaining evening by Ray Broughton who presented lots of very practical advice about growing plants in containers.

His presentation covered everything from recent advances in the search for an effective peat substitute (recycled paper coffee cups) to how the flowering of plants, such as tulips, can be prolonged in containers by removing the female parts (stigmas). We were given a glimpse of some recent innovations which included vegetables seeds that are coated to improve germination, biodegradable plastic pots and cardboard pots made from a cereal by-product which incorporate plant nutrients and a water retaining gel.

There was plenty of practical advice too, including how to prevent clay pots from succumbing to frost by sponging them with vinegar, how to make a liquid feed from nettles, how to protect leeks from fungal diseases (smut and rust) by growing them in plastic pipes, the importance of applying sulphate of potash during the winter to promote the flowering of shrubs and how to grow a crop of new potatoes in a container for Christmas Day.

Behind the Scenes at the Chelsea Flower Show - Steve Bradley (12th October 2015)


Steve Bradley

From a muddy building site to a royal occasion, Steve Bradley led us through all the stages behind the scenes that go into the spectacle of the Chelsea Flower Show. We were treated to a worm’s eye view of all the hard work and the ultimate glamour that make this spectacle the leading RHS event of the year. This revealing glimpse behind the scenes from somebody who had first-hand experience of taking part provided an insight into the attention to detail and hard work required of the competitors for the much coveted gold awards.

The construction of the show gardens is subject to the watchful eye of the RHS to ensure that all Health & Safety requirements are met. This requires the exhibitors to stipulate how heavy items will be lifted and to wear high-visibility jackets during construction. The creation of the model gardens entails the delivery of over 500 lorry loads of soil from Battersea Park, which must all be removed within a month of the show ending to fully re-instate the site to its original condition.

With so many royal visitors and celebrities amongst the guests, security is a major concern for the organisers and the police, who inspect the site with the assistance of sniffer dogs the day before it opens.

Steve explained the importance of the Show to a number of charities, including Help the Heroes, as a means of gaining publicity and in raising funds. By sharing his experience of the Show in his various guises with us we will certainly have a better understanding of what goes into making this event just so special when it comes round again.

The Autumn Flower and Produce Show 2015 (29th August 2015)


ST Peterss

Considering the weather that had preceded the Show had involved intense wind and rain, John Negus, the chief Judge, remarked that ‘the standard had been remarkably high’. He was referring to the 2015 Flower, Produce and Handicraft Show which was held on Bank Holiday Saturday in Yateley in St Peters Church and Hall which was filled with 340 exhibits laid out on some 40 tables.

The floating flower head, runner beans and raisin scones attracted the greatest number of entries while the most colourful were the annual cut flowers and mixed perennial flowers. The floral arrangements were very striking as a wide variety of flowers had been used particularly those assembled in a teapot. The miniature gardens in the children’s section were surprisingly detailed and must have taken considerable time to prepare while some of the greeting cards were quite elaborate.

Ken Cook won the trophy for the most points in the Show and Margaret Hodge was the People’s choice for the best exhibit which was an item of hand knitting.

Herbacious Borders - Geoff Hawkins (13th July 2015)


Herbacious Bordeers

Like a well designed herbaceous border Geoff Hawkins presentation was well structured, colourful, long-lasting, packed with interest, inspirational and anything but dry. His wealth of knowledge and obvious passion for plants resulted in a very enjoyable, informative and instructive presentation.

Starting with the definition of a herbaceous plant, as a non-woody perennial, we taken through the history of herbaceous borders from the Romans via the Victorians, whose borders also contained bedding annuals to the pioneering gardeners of the 20th century including Gertrude Jekyll, Vita Sackville-West and Beth Chatto. They each contributed to the development of the herbaceous border and making them fashionable in different styles. The over-riding message was that every plant has its place and can only be successfully grown when the appropriate soil and climatic conditions can be met. Herbaceous borders can vary in style from the unstructured cottage garden to the extensive planting of ‘prairie borders’ more suited to larger areas than available in most of our gardens. The introduction of focal points such as garden ornaments, seats, gates, arches or even holes in hedges, to lead the eye into the distance, are equally important as considering the types of plants their colours and shapes when planning the herbaceous border.

Geoff also gave some advice about the maintenance and propagation of plants in the herbaceous border. As a general rule it is best to cut down only early flowering plants in the summer but to leave later flowering ones until the following spring so as to provide seeds for the birds during the winter. When cutting back the dead material in the spring these plants can also be lifted and divided.

Heavenly Hostas - John Baker (8th June 2015)


Heavenly Hostas

Growing hostas in the vegetable garden would not be totally out of place as our speaker, John Baker, told us that in Japan they are eaten stirred fried. These attractive plants with their stripy foliage and blue and white flowers originated in Manchuria where they grow naturally in the forests and have spread throughout the Far East to Japan and Korea. They take their name from Nicholas Host a highly esteemed botanist and physician to the Austrian Emperor. They have become popular garden plants throughout Europe and North America where a number of hosta societies have been formed dedicated to their promotion and cultivation. They are easy plants to grow preferring dappled shade with about 4 hours sunlight a day. Though the yellow leaved hostas prefer to be in full sun, whereas the blue types have a waxy leaf covering which can melt in hot sun. They thrive on a well drained gritty loam enriched with farm yard manure.

There are several thousand different types and the numbers continue to expand as plant breeders produce new varieties which are commercially propagated using micro-propagation. They are best divided in late August after flowering. The foliage dies back in the autumn when they are best fed with lawn feed to promote strong growth the following spring. They are hardy, so those in containers can be over-wintered outdoors, preferably covered with some horticultural fleece to provide some protection against frost and snow.

Hostas are well known as a delicacy for slugs and snails, so John was full of advice on various ways of keeping these pests at bay. He advised keeping the garden tidy by removing all debris to deprive these pests of places to hide and lay their eggs. Chemical remedies such as the application of common salt or preferably Epsoms Salts ( magnesium sulphate) by dissolving 2 tablespoon in 2 gallons of water then applying to the soil are effective at controlling slugs and snails. Epsoms Salts has the advantage of also serving as a plant food. More natural deterrents are used coffee grounds (boil again and apply the liquid to the soil) and garlic. Take 2 garlic bulbs, boil in a litre of water for 3 minutes, then dilute 2 tablespoons per litre and spray directly on to the leaves.

John has a collection of over a 1000 hostas and opens his garden (Hanging Hostas, Narra Frensham Lane, Lindford, Borden Hants, GU35 0QJ) to visitors under the National Gardens Scheme. This year they will be open 6th-10th and 13th-17th July. For details call 01420 489186.

Growing Vegetables for Showing and the Kitchen - Geoff Peach (11th May 2015)


Growing Vegetables for Showing and the Kitchen

Any gardener who claims to have 15 water butts and 3 composts heaps ought to be worth listening to, and Geoff Peach certainly did not disappoint as he dispensed advice and shared his experience of growing vegetable for the show bench and kitchen. From his early days of working on a dairy farm he had recognised that compost, like silage, will only rot when exposed to air. Apart from bind-weed roots, which he advised were best dealt with by rotting in a bin of water, just about everything else could be converted into compost given time and exposure to air. Whilst not opposed to the use of chemical fertislisers, such as Growmore, he recommended an organic alternative such as fish, blood and bonemeal which is cheaper and slow acting to provide a more gradual release of plant nutrients.

From making compost to growing vegetables Geoff reeled off a plethora of practical suggestions to ensure success. Some of his recommendations included sowing just 12 lettuces once a fortnight to avoid a glut ant to ensure a succession throughout the summer, sowing courgettes and other cucurbit seeds on their edge, sow runner beans in pots on 8th May for planting out in June, grow a range of tomato varieties but avoid Moneymaker, Marmande and English Breakfast all of which lack flavour. Broad beans should be staked for support and runner beans are best supported by a row of cross sticks in preference to using wigwams. To promote the production of several cobs on sweetcorn the plants should be ‘earthed-up’. When it came to controlling garden pests and diseases Geoff cautioned against using chemical sprays if at all possible, but had yet to devise a way of stopping badgers from getting to his carrots.

The Growing and Care of Fuschias - Carol Gubler of Little Brook Fuchsias, Ash Green (13th April 2015)


Carol Gubler of Little Brook Fuchsias, Ash Green.

Our guest speaker, Carol Gubler of Little Brook Fuchsias, enthused members about growing fuchsias drawing on her 29 years' experience of growing these versatile and unfussy plants. The overriding message was that these plants are easy to grow and there are few hard and fast rules for success. Fuchsias grow in the wild in South America and New Zealand, and from these native plants several hundred species have been bred. Their flowers range in size from discrete tubular bells to blossoms as large as your hand, some species are scented and those from New Zealand have yellow flowers with blue pollen, allegedly used by the Maoris for face paint.

Carol demonstrated how to take cuttings from young soft growth, which is best be done in the spring, but can also be done up till late summer, and recommended moistening the tips in your mouth before placing them in compost in a shaded position around 15C. To encourage bushy growth and flower production the growing points should be pinched out. After this it takes 8 and 11 weeks respectively for singles and doubles to subsequently flower.

In the autumn cut back the plants to above half their height and remove all the leaves. Allow the compost to become almost dry and place pots into a polystyrene, or similar, insulated box to keep the roots frost-free. Place the box in a garage, shed or spare room. It does not need any heat or light. In spring check for signs of growth, re-pot into fresh, multi-purpose compost and gently start watering again. .

Carol is the Assistant Secretary of The British Fuchsia Society. For more information about growing fuchsias visit the website www.thebfs.org.uk.

The Gardens of Western Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly - Dr Michael Keith-Lucas (13th October 2014)


The Gardens of Western Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

Jutting out into the Atlantic the coastline of Cornwall and the Scilly Isles enjoy a favourable climate where many plants can flourish that would not survive further east.

Our speaker, Dr Michael Keith-Lucas, a former senior tutor in Plant Science at the University of Reading, introduced us to many of these tender plants that thrive in Cornish gardens open to the public, including Heligan, Trelissick ( famous for the South African plants established there), Trewithen and Tresco on the Scilly Isles. We also learnt that the Eden Project was assisted by the University of Reading with horticultural advice. The Lizard is of particular botanical interest because only plants that can survive the wind-swept conditions are suited to growing there; amongst them is a sub species of Juniper that is not found growing anywhere else in the British Isles.

For those who were so inspired by the presentation to go and seek out some of these gardens for themselves the best time to visit is in April and May when many shrubs are in full bloom, a testimony to the unique and favoured climate enjoyed by the Gardens of Western Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

Companion Planting - Ray Broughton (8th September 2014)


Companion Planting

If there had been a run on tomato ketchup the day after Ray Broughton gave his talk to the Society it might have been attributed to those present taking up his advice that the most effective way to clean secateurs and hedge trimmers is to apply some tomato ketchup to the blades and leave overnight. This was just one of the many unorthodox and practical pieces of advice that he dispensed during his riveting presentation.

We had expected his presentation to be all about “Companion Planting”, but apart from explaining that planting marigolds (Tagetes) next to a crop to deter aphids only works if the plants are left in place after flowering, we were led up the garden path to learn a wealth of other remedies and measures to ensure that plants flourish and how to ward off pests and diseases. For example, carrot root fly can be controlled by applying malt vinegar alongside the rows when plants are 1” high and again after thinning. Pine needles are a more effective mulch than wood bark as a weed suppressant; tomatoes and cucumbers can be grown in bales of organically grown barley straw; and cream removed from Gold Top milk is an effective pesticide for controlling aphids when applied as a spray in the evening.

After his presentation members sought his advice on a range of gardening problems which he solved in very practical ways drawing on his wealth of knowledge and experience.

A Gardener’s Look at Ireland’s Gardens and Plants - Geoff Peach (14th July 2014)


Vegetable Gardening

By the end of his presentation we were not left in any doubt that Geoff Peach had a personal affinity for everything Irish, from Guinness to fuchsia hedges which thrive in the mild climate of County Kerry.

He combined his enthusiasm for the gardens he had visited with an entertaining narrative, occasionally wandering off the beaten track to introduce us to a long abandoned potato field and a dolphin that has made its home off the Dingle Peninsula.

Geoff had an eye for a good rose, (what else, but the Rose of Tralee?) and also for the occasional wild orchid that flourish in the largely unspoilt terrain.

If anyone had never visited Ireland then his presentation was an excellent inducement to go and discover the delights of both its formal gardens and landscapes, but remember to take some water-proof clothing.

Growing Herbs All Year Round - Claire Brown (9th June 2014)


Vegetable Gardening

Anyone who has struggled to maintain a fresh supply of herbs all the year round would have come away with all the answers after listening to our guest speaker, Claire Brown, who took us through an A to Z of how to succeed in growing herbs.

With over 22 years experience in horticulture Claire now has her own cut flower business and specialises in designing herbaceous borders, but she also knows her herbs and promoted their virtues as healthier alternatives to sugar and salt when it comes to their culinary uses. Her informative presentation, made without any visual aids, came alive as she passed around some examples of the plants she described such as mint and thyme.

We learnt many usual tips such as not to grow a mixture of herbs in a single container, to keep cutting back chives and tarragon and how to recognise the shiny black rosemary beetle which also attacks lavender. She recommended growing parsley, chives and thyme in solid (not wire) hanging baskets and also advised companion planting of chives alongside carrots to deter carrot root fly. Some herbs, such as thyme, parsley and dill can be grown easily from seed, whereas thyme can easily be propagated from young cuttings. Contrary to the advice often given on seed packets coriander is best sown in late Summer/September and over-wintered in the greenhouse for a crop the following year.

Many of those attending came away not only more knowledgeable but also carrying some pots of herbs which will hopefully flourish if Claire's wisdom does not go unheeded.

Vegetable Gardening - Geoff Hawkins (12th May 2014)


Vegetable Gardening

If any member had never grown a vegetable before they could not have failed to be inspired to 'have a go' after listening to one of the most enthusiastic and entertaining speakers to address the Society in recent years. Geoff Hawkins delivered a lively and humorous presentation drawing on his wealth of practical experience acquired over the past 30 years, when he was Head Gardener at Mill Court Gardens, Alton, Hampshire.

His comprehensive talk covered everything from the selection of containers for growing vegetables on patios to the sheer mouth-watering delight of tasting freshly harvested sweetcorn. We learnt about soils, compost, fertilisers, pest control and how to grow everything from radishes to kohl rabi. Some of the more unusual tips he shared with us were how to pre-germinate carrot and parsnip seed by mixing it with moistened vermiculite in a plastic bag placed in a warm spot, then sowing the mixture into the ground when it has germinated. He also explained how to avoid gluts of lettuces and runner beans by sowing seeds in succession about 3 weeks apart, that cauliflowers and cabbages could be planted a foot apart to produce smaller heads and that tumbling varieties of tomatoes can be grown in hanging baskets.

He concluded his presentation by answering questions from members who had an insatiable appetite for his wealth of knowledge. For more information about Geoff and the variety of talks he can give go to http://geoffhawkins.org.uk

Early Summer Hardy Perennials - Rosie and Robert Hardy (14th April 2014)


Early Summer Hardy Perennials

Rosie & Robert Hardy are no strangers to YDGS and once again treated members to an entertaining and informative evening on their latest recommendations for early spring flowering hardy perennials. As accomplished speakers and show exhibitors, with a string of Chelsea and Hampton Court Show gold medals to their credit, we were privileged to hear about some of the latest introductions that will bring colour and interest to our gardens.

Aided only by a dazzling array of specimens Rosie introduced to us to many new plants including Lamprocapnos spectabilis, formerly known as Dicentra, but more commonly known as "Bleeding Heart", Phlox divaricata ( Clouds of Perfume) with fragrantly scented blue flowers and Geum (Totally Tangerine) with subtle orange flowers, Cirsium rivulare 'Atropurpureum' ( a thistle-like flower) best suited to damp soils and Nepeta grandiflora ( a relative of Catmint which does not attract cats).

It was a splendid evening, combining humour with a wealth of knowledge from a 'hands-on' expert, so it was very gratifying that it was so well supported by the members who turned out in record numbers. We wish Rosie and Robert continued success in 2014. For those were unable to attend a visit to the website http://www.hardys-plants.co.uk is highly recommended.