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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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

                                            www.biddenhamgardenersassociation.org.uk

 

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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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Plant Hunting in Eastern Anatolia by Timothy Walker

The title of the talk given by Timothy Walker at our meeting on 19 March was Plant Hunting In Eastern Anatolia″. Timothy is a former Director of the Oxford University Botanic Garden, a lecturer at several Oxford colleges and is also semi-retired while having a busy life as a speaker on horticultural topics. 

The subject of his talk prompted the question of where is Eastern Anatolia ? The answer on the internet is that it borders the Black Sea and forms the eastern boundary of Turkey. It  has “the highest average altitude, the largest geographical area and the lowest density of all the regions of Turkey.”

Timothy’s talk was based on an expedition that he made with the Alpine Garden Society. The primary object of the expedition was to see alpine plants growing in the wild and this provided a strong contrast with most of the talks we have which are concerned with garden cultivation. Contrast was in fact a theme for the evening brought out by Timothy in all sorts of ways through his presentation. His illustrations varied from the minute scale of the alpine plants shown in close-up to the grandeur of the mountain scenery rising two thousand feet above the valleys and from very primitive farming and living conditions in the countryside to modern oil-rich towns. The contrasts of the area showed horticulturally in the meeting of three different plant groups from the Mediterranean, Armenia and Georgia and from the South and in the history of the area with invasion and  the change from Christianity to Islam, The architecture of the region was illustrated in pictures of  ancient churches, monasteries and mosques. The strongly contrasted growing conditions ranged from alpine meadows to arid scree.

From a horticultural viewpoint we were interested to see many plants growing in the wild that we are familiar with in our own gardens.  Some come from plant families that we recognise but grow in very different forms that are almost impossible to cultivate in our environment while others transfer very readily to our conditions. Examples of some of these that we saw illustrated are iris reticulata, gentiana pyrenacia, veronica gentianoides, cyclamen, primulas and, particularly, tulips in dwarf form.  Timothy made the point that, in contrast with animals which are the same wherever they live, plants have the ability to change their growth habit according to the conditions in which they grow. Thus some  plants which are small in alpine conditions grow in substantially larger form elsewhere.

Timothy’s presentation was  hugely entertaining and informative; so much more than  a purely gardening occasion and very much enjoyed by the audience. It was probably the funniest talk we have ever had with many asides and general comments and we learned that the jelly-like consistency of Turkish Delight comes from the roots of orchid dactylorhiza and  aristolchia pontica  acts as a kind of “uterine syrup of fig”  in bringing on a tardy birth.

Jeremy Arthern

A small selection of photos from Timothy’s presentation:

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 16th of April at 7.30pm. It will be  on the subject  “Strictly Day Lilies” by Paula Dyason the owner of  a specialist  Day Lilly  nursery at Histon north of Cambridge. 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 – March 2019

This is the time to come out of hibernation and to start being really active in the garden. There is a lot to be done and a good start now will pay off for the rest of the year. Where you start will depend on your gardening priorities. Do  you just want to keep things tidy and ticking along quietly ? Is the ornamental garden your pride and joy with the aim of  colourful all year round interest or do you fancy the Good Life, being as self-sufficient as possible with vegetables and fruit ?   …
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Flowers from the Farm – Home Grown Talent

On Tuesday 19th February we were pleased to welcome Rachelle Merrill who stepped in at very short notice when our scheduled speaker was unable to be with us.  Rachel and her husband run a family Christmas tree, foliage and flower growing business in Oakley.  In 2017 they opened up their farm to allow local florists to buy flowers direct from the farm.  In 2018 they started co-hosting workshops with local florists and also introduced “Pick Your Own” tours.  On their 70 acre site they have 8 acres of trees (five plots with 5,000 Nordmann fir trees on each plot) and 2 acres of flowers.  Since 2017 they have built two polytunnels for flowers which need more protection.

Merri Flowers, as their business is called, is a member of the “Flowers from the Farm” consortium.  This is a not for profit association which was founded in 2011 and now has 500 growers across this country, two of whom are in Bedfordshire.  This organisation provides British grown wholesale flowers, flowers for events, workshops and tours.  They also exhibit at most of the RHS shows, winning a Gold medal at Chelsea in 2018.

There are many reasons to buy British grown flowers.  Air miles and the chemicals needed to keep foreign grown flowers alive in transport are eliminated.  Wildlife tends to flourish on farms where flowers are grown – food is provided for the pollinators and British grown flowers tend to be more scented.

The flower season at Merri Flowers is between May and October.  The Early Spring sees narcissus, then follows ranunculus (grown in polytunnels), scabiosa, peonies, roses in mid June through to the dahlias in the early Autumn.  Of particular delight was the view of the sweet pea tunnel – we could only imagine the perfume!  Amongst the most requested flowers are antirrhinums, delphiniums, statice, roses, dahlias and sunflowers.

Rachelle and her husband are clearly passionate about what they do.  The flowers in her photographs looked stunning and their farm is very local to us.  They welcome visitors, but by appointment, as Rachelle’s husband works on his own and therefore needs to arrange his work schedule carefully.  We were very grateful to Rachelle for stepping in at such short notice and providing such an interesting and pleasant talk.

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 19th March when Timothy Walker will talk about Plant Hunting in Eastern Anatolia.  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 – February 2019

Here we are again at the start of another gardening year. As usual, we wonder what the year will hold for us and, in particular, what the weather will be like. Already, this year has been unusually dry and many of our lawns are still showing the damage from last year’s drought. I have been hoping for a natural recovery but this looks increasingly unlikely and some re-sowing may well be necessary.  It will be a good idea to scarify and aerate the lawn before any sowing. You can do this yourself on a small lawn, raking out dead grass and moss and going over the grass with a fork held vertically to dig holes in the soil. Professional lawn care companies will gladly do the job for you, at a cost but with a lot of saving in effort …

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My Garden – 2019

This year, at our meeting on 15th January, our speakers  on the subject “My Garden” were two BGA members; Liz Hurford and Rosemary Harris. Liz spoke about her garden in Church End and Rosemary talked about her garden in Nodders Way and her allotment in Queens Park on the Allen Park site … Continue reading

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