What do I do with this Space?

At our September meeting there was a very good turn out to welcome Darren Lerigo from Essex who set about answering this question.  But before he did so he passed round a box of what looked like sweets, but not to eat, as they were little balls of clay containing wild flower seeds which he asked us to throw onto a patch of earth – in our garden or elsewhere.  So, back to the question – and it seems that what most people want to do with the space around their property, according to a survey conducted by The Horticultural Trades Association, is to reduce maintenance.  In order to do this Darren said that we should mulch the soil and then the easier our gardening will become.  Mulching bare soil excludes the light and therefore restricts weed growth.  Darren’s next tip was to grow perennials, not annuals, and he especially recommended the Hemerocallis (Daylily) and the Helenium which is especially good for bees as it frequently replenishes its nectar supply.  The third suggestion was to reduce the lawn and grown tough perennials in its place.  Number four was to use bigger pots.  Number five was to use wool compost.  It is expensive but it holds the water for longer, is peat free and provides nitrogen.  The last tip was to see weeds as flowers.  As Darren said “The bees don’t care”.

Darren spends a good deal of his working life on helping his clients to create topiary within their gardens.  He showed us a number of photos of Organic Topiary or Cloud Pruning.  Darren maintains that, in the art of topiary, the plant tells us what it wants to be.  It is important to look at the characteristics of the plant, where the light reflects off the leaves and changes throughout the day.  Topiary can add life and drama to a garden – but his talk on this is for another day.

Darren is clearly an enthusiastic gardener committed to preserving and celebrating nature and the whole audience warmed to his philosophy of gardening with a sense of love, calm and joy.  He suggested that the use of pesticides is a mortal sin, that we should disturb the soil as little as possible, be frugal with water and make sure that there is a plant outside our front door to welcome us home.  Darren said that we    humans, as top level predators, have a duty to enhance life.  He suggested that, in our gardens, we cut back on pesticides, create a pond and plant flowers for the bees.  How refreshing to listen to someone who talked such sense!

the master craftsman at work!

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 15th October when Rob Potterton will be talking to us about Alpines and Bulbs.  Please do join us – just come along to the Village Hall for a 7.30 pm start – you will be made very welcome.  

 Linda Truscott                                                             

New members and visitors are always welcome. 
For more information contact:     Linda Truscott on 01234 270747


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This Month In The Garden – September 2019          

August was the month of the big wind. Most people probably avoided major damage but there was enough to stir things up in the garden. Some of my dahlias were spoiled and I just got to the vegetables in time to stop the line of runner beans being blown down. It was a salutary reminder of the importance of providing support for plants and checking that the support hasn’t been outgrown.  Many of us start sticking in stakes and tying things in when plants start flopping about but that is really too late. Ideally the support needs to be in place  before a  plant has grown much and of sufficient height and strength to deal with the plant when it is fully grown. For dahlias, that means strong stakes driven into the ground in the planting hole before the tubers are planted so that the tubers are not damaged. Shoots can then be tied in to the stake as growth develops. It is also a good idea to cut out any new shoots from the base once the main structure is established to prevent overcrowding.  For many perennials,  support can be provided, before growth gets going, by covering the area of the plant  with raised netting fixed to fairly low vertical wooden supports or, if you can get young hazel branches, by weaving a mesh of twigs over the plant. This type of support tales a bit of trouble but it is strong and nearly invisible when the plant grows up.  A couple of my runner beans were uprooted when the bamboo framework started going over and I could have prevented this by pegging in a couple of guy lines when high wind was forecast.

 For many parts of the country August was also a month of damagingly heavy rainfall but,  although we have had some wet days, I have been surprised to find how dry our soil is. That may not be the case for those of you on clay but my soil on the river gravel is very sandy and it dries out quickly. That means checking the soil from time to time and giving needy plants a good drenching. This applies particularly to anything newly planted, especially trees and shrubs. Don’t forget trees planted on verges. The council do water them nowadays but not always enough to stop them drying out. A good soak spaced out a bit is always better than frequent superficial watering. Try to water in the evening or early morning to give the water a chance to soak in rather than evaporate quickly and encourage shallow root growth.

Although ”little and often” isn’t a good rule for most watering it does apply to  dead-heading many perennials, bedding plants and roses. Plants look better without tatty dead blooms and you will get more generous flowering, as plants that have set seed will feel they have done their job and don’t need to produce any more flowers.  Where you are troubled by plants given to promiscuous self-seeding you need to get in early and cut off the dying flower heads before they set seed.

For vegetables this is mainly a time for harvesting but you can look ahead and sow winter lettuce and brassicas for spring.  Taste rather than size is the aim for most vegetables so keep an eye on your crops and gather them young. Courgettes are particularly keen to turn into marrows overnight when you aren’t looking. The hot dry conditions this year have not been good for runner beans. They need copious watering and setting the beans can be helped by spraying with a fine spray in the evening.

If you haven’t already  done your spring bulb ordering on line, bulbs will now be in the garden centres in profusion. Most can be planted straight away but remember that it is best to leave planting tulips until November when they will be less vulnerable to blight. If you are not too bothered about choice of variety or later flowering, you can often get a bargain by  buying late; most bulbs will still flower.

The Biddenham Show will be on us only a week after you receive your copy of The Loop  but have a look at the Show brochure and see what you have got in the garden that you could enter. The more entries there are, the greater the enjoyment for visitors and the thrill of winning is always better in the face of strong competition. Judging is on the basis of what any of us can grow in our gardens and no fancy molly-coddling or preparation of plants is necessary.

Jeremy Arthern

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Annual General Meeting – 2019

This took place on Tuesday 16th July.  After a short business meeting when Paul Fricker was voted to be the next Chair of the BGA and all Members of the Committee were re-elected to serve in office for the forthcoming year. We welcomed Charmaine Norrish, Senior Community Fund Raiser for the British Red Cross in Bedfordshire, to talk about the work of the Red Cross including their involvement with the Open Gardens   Scheme.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the biggest humanitarian movement in the world,  started in 1863 and was inspired by the Swiss businessman Henry Dunant who had been moved by the suffering of thousands of men following the Battle of Solferino.  He proposed the creation of national relief societies, made up of volunteers, trained in peacetime to provide neutral and impartial help to relieve suffering in time of war.  The founding charter of the Red Cross was drawn up in Geneva where it was proposed that countries adopt an international agreement which would recognise the status of medical services and the wounded on the battlefield.  This agreement, the original Geneva Convention, was adopted in 1864.  Following the outbreak of war between France and Prussia in 1870 there was a call for a National Society to be formed in Britain in line with other European nations.  In this year the British Red Cross was formed based upon the rules laid down in the Geneva Convention.

Charmaine outlined the work of the Red Cross today.  This includes event first aid, provision of a fire and emergency support service, with safe places to stay and  packs of basic necessities as well as emotional support for those who have lost their homes through fire.  Emotional support for those affected by floods, bombings and distraction burglaries. Independence support for those discharged from hospital.  Medical loans of wheel chairs, walking aids etc.  Community based first aid training, refugee services, message and tracing service for people who have lost touch with their families, support for those experiencing loneliness and isolation – the list goes on and on.

Funding for all this work is achieved through Red Cross collection weeks, local events, challenge events, recycling, individual giving, emergency appeals, legacies, and through the Open Gardens Scheme.  Since 2008 Bedfordshire has been involved in this scheme and residents of Biddenham have opened their gardens to the public on a number of occasions in support of this very worthy charity.  We were pleased to be told that last year the open gardens in Biddenham took the largest amount of money in  any one day.  We were pleased also to present Charmaine with a cheque from the BGA.

After the talk members enjoyed a very nice cheese and wine buffet.  Many thanks to Liz Hurford for organising this.

Ann Ebbs and Ann Manze, who have organised the tea rota for a number of years, are now having a well earned rest and we thank them for their hard work in making sure that refreshments have been available at our meetings.

During the business section of the meeting Jeremy Arthern announced that he would be standing down from the Chairmanship of the BGA.  Jeremy joined the BGA Committee in 2006 and for the last 7 years has been our Chairman.  Jeremy has been unfailing in his support to the Association and has led the Committee and the monthly Visiting Speaker meetings with enthusiasm and commitment.  Jeremy will be much missed as Chair, although he has assured us that he will still be a regular attendee at the Tuesday meetings.  However, we are delighted that Paul Fricker, who was co-opted onto the Committee this year, has agreed to take over from Jeremy and the Committee look forward to working with him in the future to ensure that members are offered interesting and informative talks in a happy, welcoming Association.

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 17th September when Darren Lerigo will be answering the question “What do I do with this space?”  We assume he means in your garden and not in the spare room or loft! 

Please do join us – just come along to the Village Hall for a 7.30 pm start – you will be made very welcome. 

Linda Truscott

Photos from the meeting:









Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 17th September when Darren Lerigo will be answering the question “What do I do with this space?”  We assume he means in your garden and not in the spare room or loft! 

Please do join us – just come along to the Village Hall for a 7.30 pm start – you will be made very welcome. 

Linda Truscott

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Weeds and the Weed free garden

The subject of  our meeting on 18th July was “Weeds and the Weed free garden”. Our speaker was Geoff Hodge, a garden author and broadcaster, who gave us a lot of useful information while engaging the audience with a stream of banter. Geoff started by offering us a miracle cure for weeds which he calls “VIAP”; Vigilance, Instant Action and Persistence”. Always be on the look-out for weeds and do something about them as soon as possible. The weeds will be growing while you procrastinate … Continue reading

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A couple of days ago we had our first ripe raspberries from the garden. Just four of them, but there is the promise of lots more to come and the rain came at the right time to make them swell. A year ago I was wondering how the raspberries would get on without netting; would the birds do better than we would? I am pleased to say that we won so I am hoping for the same again this year …

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Strictly Daylilies by Paula Dyason

We were joined on 16th April by Paula Dyason and her husband Chris.  They are the owners of the Strictly Daylilies Nursery in the village of Histon, just north of Cambridge.  Paula grew up in America where hemerocallis, to give them their proper name, are very popular.  Paula’s mother was an enthusiastic collector of daylilies and when Paula moved to England she wanted to cultivate a typical English garden but populate it with these plants. 

Soon the opportunity arose to turn a hobby into a business and the nursery was started 5 years ago with 300 cultivars.  Strictly Daylilies now has 1,700 cultivars, their display garden has 600 varieties and they show at Chelsea and RHS Hampton Court.  The nursery has 5 acres and is one of the largest growers of daylilies in the U.K.  Paula has begun a significant breeding programme and produces about 8,000 seedlings a year.  The emphasis is on producing clear bright colours and patterned unusual forms with habits which are suited to the UK climate.

The genus hemerocallis translates as “Beauty for a Day”.  However it is not a true lily, it has a fibrous root and no bulb. The species are native to Asia where they are farmed as a food source.  Hybridising started in the 1930s using around 20 species.  There are now over 88,000 registered varieties of daylilies.  Paula took us through the classification of daylilies.  This includes colour – some are just one colour.  Colour patterns where two or more colours are blended and petals and sepals may have different intensity of colour.  Blooms can be single, double, polymerous (4, 5 or 6 petals and sepals), or spider (long and thin).  Bloom diameter ranges from less than 3 inches to greater than 7.5 inches.  Height can range from 6-24 inches to over 36 inches.  Bloom times range from extra early May-June to very late September-October.  So there are very many hemerocallis to choose from to suit all aspects and taste.  However, the biggest advance in the modern daylily is the ability to re-bloom.  

Paula talked us through caring for our daylilies.  They are quite hardy, are not fussy about soil type or situation, although a sunny spot is best, and are drought tolerant.  Their main pest is the gall midge which seems to only affect the early varieties; so these are best avoided.  Grubs feast on the buds which are then recognised by their bulbous shape.  These buds should be picked off and destroyed.  Dividing is best done after the plant has flowered.  Dig up the clump, rinse off the soil and twist apart, plant the crown no more than an inch below the surface of the soil.

It was pleasure to listen to someone who is so passionate about what they grow and we were given a wealth of information.  The nursery is open for visits on specific days and there is a comprehensive website giving all the details.  As Paula says on her website she is on a mission  to convince the world that daylilies should be in every garden.  They have certainly come a long way from the orange hemerocallis many of us remember in our grandparents’ gardens.

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 21st May when Anne Luder will be talking to us about Capel Manor College and Gardens.  Please do join us – just come along to the Village Hall for a 7.30 pm start – you will be made very welcome.  

Linda Truscott

New members and visitors are always welcome.  For more information contact
Linda Truscott on 01234 270747



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This Month in the Garden – June 2019

At last my front and back lawns are looking like continuous areas of mown grass rather than a random mixture of grass and patches of bare earth.  In April I loosened the soil in all the bare patches, sowed lawn seed (much to the delight of the wood pigeons) and lightly covered it with sieved topsoil.  Since then it has been well watered, either by sprinkler or by the blessed appearance of proper rain and the new seed together with some natural regeneration of the old turf has done the trick.  A closer look shows there are still small bare patches, some of which may need a bit more seed, but the overall effect is pretty good. A downpour in May means that the soil is nicely wet at the moment but a return of dry weather may pose the problem of whether or not to water the lawn. Official advice is to leave it unwatered and it will regrow but last year showed that this may not apply to prolonged very hot drought and newly sown or turfed areas will certainly need continued watering … Continue reading

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A Taste of Capel Manor by Anne Luder

Our speaker at a well-attended meeting on 21st May was Anne Luder. Anne is a retired horticulturalist, garden designer and part- time lecturer at Capel Manor College in Enfield. The college is primarily a horticultural college and offers a wide range of courses to students from the age of 16  to 60 and beyond.

The site of Capel Manor  was  formerly known as Honeylands owing to its association with the nearby Waltham Abbey where the monks were famous for their production of honey and a honey-based drink similar to mead … Continue reading

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This Month in the Garden – May 2019

As I write in mid-April, the vegetables seeds I sowed in March have just begun to germinate. I have needed to water them, though, because we have not had any appreciable rainfall since then. If this continues it will mean that watering will, once again, be at the top of our list of priorities (provided there isn’t a hosepipe ban). Wherever possible, water in the evening so that loss from evaporation is reduced. It is best to water plants thoroughly once a week rather than do frequent light watering although plants in containers may well need daily watering. Although time consuming, it is more economical to use  a hose to put  water exactly where it is needed rather than using a sprinkler . If you have acid-loving plants keep rain water in buts for them as tap water is alkaline and will not suit them. The lack of rain is a problem but a happy side-effect is the absence of damage by slugs and snails.
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This Month in the Garden – April 2019

There are firm historical and theological reasons for having Easter Day on a variable date  but it does mean that sometimes the Church’s celebration of new life  gets rather widely separated from the new life of spring  in the garden. This is one of those years and, by the time we get to Easter, the snowdrops will be a distant memory and the glory of  the daffodils will have faded. That means that one of the jobs for the Easter weekend may well be attending to the daffodils so that they are in good shape for next spring … Continue reading

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