This Month in the Garden – June 2021

For half of the time since I last wrote I have not been tending my own garden because I have been able to take advantage of the gradual easing of Covid restrictions and my wife and I have been away for two weeks with our caravan just outside Chichester. It is a lovely area combining the attractions of the shoreline around Chichester Harbour and the beautiful South Downs centring on Midhurst … Continue reading

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My favourite plants & shrubs by Colin Ward

We were pleased to welcome Colin Ward to our May meeting.  Colin is the owner of Swines Meadow Farm Nursery at Market Deeping.  The nursery is open to the public and specialises in rare plants and shrubs.  There is an excellent website detailing all the plants available and a mail order service is provided for those people who are   unable to visit.  However, having listened to Colins’s fascinating talk and realising that here is someone with an in-depth knowledge and passion for unusual plants I am sure there will be many BGA members beating a path to his nursery door.

Colin showed a series of excellent photographs of his favourite plants and shrubs.  He told us that he is a particular fan of plants with green flowers and showed many examples of these.  He described in detail the characteristics of his favourite plants, highlighting the unusual and those with odd features,  He was able to tell us, not only, the Latin names but the more colloquial names which stem from the plant’s use, its shape and form, where it is found etc.  To give an example, Euonymous Cornutus is also known as the jester plant as its pinkish-purple fruits are characterised by five slender horn-like extensions with the appearance of a jester’s cap.  Colin gave us a wealth of useful information on plants for all the different seasons, those plants which were good for pollinators and information on their care and propagation.  Colin described flowers, fruits, scents, foliage, form and bark but it is clear that his main love is foliage.

It was pleasing that Colin spent some time describing plants that do well in dry shade, plants that give good ground cover, plants for woodland areas and plants to attract the pollinators – all the things that we gardeners want to know.  The number and variety of plants Colin described is far too numerous to mention here but I would certainly       recommend his website as an excellent source of information.  It is clear that gardening is for all the year round and there is something for every season.  Many thanks to Colin for an excellent talk which provoked a lot of questions and interest from members.

Please join us next month on 15th June when Adam Pascoe will be giving us advice on how to “Grow the Best Glorious Plants”.  Details can be found on our website.  As usual this meeting will be open to all members and visitors.

                                                                                                                  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 – May 2021

This has been a slow spring with much of April continuing cold and dry.  This has meant we have been able to enjoy the daffodils over an unusually long period but many things have been slow to get going and hard frosts have done some damage.  Seeds that I sowed in my vegetable patch in the middle of March are just beginning to show a tiny bit of green here and there and the onion sets look much as they did when I planted them, and I am writing now in the third week of April.  The ground is exceptionally dry after a long period with no appreciable rain and, unless things change soon, watering will be high on the job list for May.  You will need to pay particular attention to newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials, soft fruit and freshly sown areas.  Established roses benefit from regular watering.  Concentrate on getting the water where it is most needed and, if you have time, use a hose at the base of plants rather than a sprinkler which waters indiscriminately. Continue reading

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Distinctive Containers by Kathy Brown

We were so pleased to welcome Kathy Brown to our Zoom meeting on 20th April. 
We were looking forward to her talk as Kathy is well known to us as she lives at The Manor House in Stevington and many of us have visited her four acre garden as it is open to the public on certain days during the year … Continue reading

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Peonies and Alstoemerias by Alec White / Primrose Hall Peonies

On 16th March Alec White joined us to talk about Peonies and Alstroemerias.  Alec is the owner of Primrose Hall Peonies an eight acre nursery in Westoning, Bedfordshire.  In 2012 Alec started exhibiting Peonies at the major garden shows and in 2019 the nursery won its first gold medal at Chelsea.  Exhibiting peonies is tricky as they have a short flowering window and do not respond well to forcing.  The stand at Chelsea takes about a week to build, the flowers are put into the display on Saturday and the judges start their rounds at 7am the following Monday.  All the hard work paid off as his gold medal was the first to be awarded for peonies in eight years.

Primrose Hall Nursery holds the Plant Heritage National Collection for unusual Intersectional peonies.   Intersectional are a cross between herbaceous and tree peonies and Alec grows these as well.  On site, between 60 and 70,000 peonies are grown in the fields and in containers.  There are currently 370 varieties in commercial production.  There is a breeding programme and new varieties are being developed each year; the process from seed to established plant takes 8-10 years.  The mature plants are sold to the public in 5.5 litre pots.

Alec gave us a wealth of information on the requirements of peonies.  They are hardy down to minus 25 degrees C. They are low maintenance and are relatively pest free.  They like a free draining soil, a sunny position and the herbaceous and intersectional varieties should not be planted too deeply.  Cut them down to ground level in the late Autumn and ensure they are well watered in the spring when the buds are forming. Tree peonies can be planted more deeply.  They can grow up to 9 feet tall and respond well to pruning.  All peonies are long lived and, once established, will continue to flower for many decades.  They make an excellent cut flower.  Different varieties flower from April through to July so it is possible to have a succession of flowers in the garden.

The nursery also grows over 30,000 alstroemeria plants and these are marketed through the website Alstroemeria Select.  This plant originated in Peru so it is used to the cold.  However, it does like a free draining soil and lots of sun.  It is a good idea to mulch the plants in winter and give a high potash feed in the summer.  The plants are sold in 9cm pots, they flower continually from June to November, make great border fillers and are excellent as a long lasting cut flower.  The dwarf varieties make good container plants.  

There were lots of questions for Alec who was able to answer all the queries on depth of planting, pruning, feeding and moving and yes he is going to be at Chelsea this year when it takes place in September. It was a joy to have discussion with someone as knowledgable and passionate about his subject as Alec and members were clearly keen to know more about these stunning plants.

Please join us next month on Zoom on 20th April when Kathy Brown will be advising us on how to grow distinctive containers.  Details can be found on our website.  As usual this meeting will be open to all members and visitors.

                                                                                                          Linda Truscott  

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

Click here for Primrose Hall Peonies website

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rare Amazonian Cactus – Cambridge Botanical Gardens …

If you look on the Cambridge Botanic Garden Website you can see the live webcam on the cactus plant which grows up a tree.  I have been monitoring it for the last few days and today it has flowered. Apparently  it has never flowered before in this country and its flower only lasts for 12 hours. 


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Gertrude Jekyll by Andrew Sankey

On 16th January forty three members took part in our BGA Zoom session. We were joined by Andrew Sankey who gave us an insight into the life of Gertrude Jekyll, one of the most well known horticulturalists of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century and recipient of the RHS Victoria Medal of Honour …

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Our Gardens

The Gardeners’ programme for 2021 began on 19 January with two members talking about their own gardens. Once again Zoom came to the rescue and the monthly programme will continue to be presented in this way for the foreseeable future. The speakers at this first meeting were Linda whose garden is in Ison Close and Josie with a garden in Darlow Drive. One of the pleasures of having two speakers with a common topic is the contrast it  provides in the size and nature of the gardens and differences in the style of presentation …

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This Month in the Garden – December 2020

The disillusioned philosopher Ecclesiastes writes in the Old Testament “Of making many books there is no end”.  This is no less true of gardening than of any other subject and in the run-up to Christmas when there is likely to be less to do outside in the garden I am devoting my article to books on gardening.  Maybe this will offer some ideas for Christmas presents or just improve your gardening knowledge … Continue reading

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‘Designing a Border from Scratch’ with Lucy Hartley

Lucy Hartley

On Tuesday 17th November Lucy Hartley, an award winning Garden Designer based in Stratford-upon-Avon, joined us via Zoom to talk about the principles and pitfalls of designing a border.  Lucy started her talk by advising that a border should be viewed from different angles  She went on to say that borders should combine restfulness with interest.  The principles of designing a border are the same as those involved in painting a picture.  Lucy illustrated this by showing us an example Van Gogh’s painting of  “Starry Night.”  Continue reading

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This Month in the Garden – November 2020

The quieter winter months are a good time for planning and carrying out a garden project.  Two projects that I am hoping to get done, with the help of one of my sons, are replacing broken glass in an old greenhouse and generally improving its appearance and, the big one, clearing out the silt of many years accumulation in our pond.  This will also mean taking out all the plants in baskets, weeding and replanting them.  It will be necessary to drain out the water in the pond and, as it is always best to use rainwater if possible, I am hoping to pump some of the existing water into dustbins so that all the refill will not be tap water.  I shall put the silt on plastic sheeting round the pond edge so that the wildlife in the pond has a chance of getting back where it belongs.  Once dried, the silt can be spread on borders or the vegetable garden.  One of my hopes is to clear out most of the roots of a rampant waterlily that has escaped from its basket and is dominating much of the pond surface.  The moral is to check the ultimate size of any plants that you plan to put in the pond and to be careful to avoid invasive species.

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Bedford Market – Plants & Flowers

Dear BGA member,
We, at the BGA, hope that you and your loved ones are keeping well during these very trying times. We are so pleased to be able to continue with our monthly meetings/ talks via Zoom.  It is wonderful to see so many of you come together to be part of the talks.  We hope that you are enjoying them!

Today (Saturday 31st October), I ventured into Bedford market to purchase plants for my pots to get me through Winter.  I discussed the ‘possibility’ of a further lockdown with the proprietors, Bootsies Nurseries, and subsequently, the Prime Minister this evening has announced a second lockdown, albeit not as severe as the initial lockdown in March. This means that only essential shops will be permitted to remain open. Given this, you may wish to know that Bootsies Nurseries which is a Bedfordshire business trading at Bedford market will be happy to deliver orders to Biddenham and Bedford (delivery charge:£5)  Furthermore, they will soon be delivering Christmas items such as Christmas trees and Christmas wreaths etc. If you are interested, their contact details are as follows:
Lloyd Cleverly 07824368443 and Karen Cleverly 07788920501

We look forward to seeing you on the 17th November when Lucy Hartley will give a talk titled ‘Designing a Border From Scratch’.

Until then, take good care …
Best regards Paula Church.

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This Month in the Garden – April 2021

Making a garden attractive is not just about plants.  Major structures like paths and walls, pergolas, fencing and trellis all have a significant part to play.  On a smaller scale, ornaments of all sorts can add focal points, visual attractions and a sense of atmosphere.  There are plenty of objects available in garden centres and specialist suppliers of stoneware and statuary but there is a rich source of attractions to be found in architectural salvage centres; the places where money is made from bits and pieces recovered from demolished buildings and abandoned gardens.  I imagine these have been closed during lockdown but will be open again if non-essential shops are opened during April.  Places like this provide free entertainment where you can pass a fascinating hour or two poking around to see what is available and you can often strike lucky with a quirky container or something purely ornamental.  Our two best acquisitions have been a nicely detailed statuette of a young girl holding a basin and, more recently, a patterned concrete trough, and it is the trough that gets me back to plants. Continue reading

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This Month in the Garden – March 2021

As the weather warms up and Spring moves through its various phases, gardening will once again keep many of us busy and provide the stimulus and relaxation  that will keep us happy and fulfilled during lockdown.  The therapeutic benefits of gardening have had a good press during the pandemic and it may even be that I have acquired some new readers.  If so; welcome and I hope you are finding that gardening is bringing you a lot of pleasure and satisfaction.

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This Month in the Garden – February 2021

A cold and wet January has not encouraged activity in the garden so gardeners will be raring to go this month. This is particularly true as we face the prospect of another two or three months in Covid-induced lock-down. Last year many of us in isolation were made even more aware than usual of the therapeutic power of gardening and  this will be  a source of relief and hope this year.

The onset of spring always brings a lift to the spirit and we shall be especially glad of this at a time when, sadly, we shall once again need all the sources of hope that we can find.  I walked around my garden before writing this in mid-January and I was delighted to see the first snowdrop buds showing white under an apple tree. Continue reading

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