Meeting September 13

Our first meeting of the autumn was well attended on a rainy evening at Roundwood Park School. Our guest speaker was Chris Thorn of Ayletts Nurseries in St Albans.

His subject was ‘Towards sustainable gardens’.

Chris opened his talk with an invitation to see their new Celebration Garden showcasing 60 years in business. The nursery originally grew dahlias and over the years Ayletts have won 39 RHS gold medals (36 in consecutive years) for their dahlias.

Chris reminded us that compost containing peat is to be banned from 2024.

Ayletts stock a huge range of composts and the peat free composts are coming down in price as more and more gardeners are changing to peat free varieties.

Newer and more environmentally friendly slug and snail pellets are now available. Slugs injest these new pellets which give them indigestion causing the slugs to bury deep into the soil to die, thus leaving the soil surface free from contamination.

Given climate change it is even more important to conserve rainwater. New ground watering systems can be connected to water butts to deliver a drip by drip to borders and beds. On the market currently is a system made entirely of car tyres!

Interestingly we were told when disposing of black plastic plant pots and seed trays there is no point in putting them in your council recycling bins as the machines at the recycling centres cannot ‘see’ black plastic so they are diverted to landfill. Ayletts now sell blue plastic pots which can be recycled. Ayletts offer to take your old black plastic pots and can recycle them in Germany who have the machinery to convert them into coat hangers!

Next time you buy clothing in M&S it might be your old plant pots coming home to you!

Ayletts are constantly investing in new products and ideas and ways to help customers to become more sustainable gardeners.

Those with all electric cars can now take advantage of 6 newly installed charging points in the car park.

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Meeting May 10

Marina North of Plantiful Terrariums

‘Garden in a Bottle’

Our speaker this evening gave an excellent presentation and demonstration of the wonders of indoor gardens not just in bottles (closed or open) but baubles, balls, geometric terrariums in all shapes and sizes. Carboys too!

Marina who emigrated from Sydney to London in 2016 shared her passion and knowledge of this intriguing genre.

The centrepiece of the presentation was a demonstration of how to create a garden in a bottle.

Starting with charcoal as the base followed by a layer of small gravel, then a layer of soil/compost. It is important to level each layer to maximise the effect.

She chose a selection of plants including an Asparagas fern for height and texture surrounded by carpet and cushion moss, an English ivy plus an air plant which is native to the tropical climate of South America.

To manipulate the plants in position she used a series of long tweezers and skewers to to place everything in the bottle. She then laid a series of larger pebbles and bark to create a natural look to the garden.

It is important to use filtrated or rain water rather than tap water which will contain chemicals which will be detrimental to some plants.

Watering can be done by spraying or using a pipette. A ‘fogged up terrarium is a healthy terrarium’

Terrariums should last for years with minimum maintenance. The first terrariums were created in 1842.

Positioning is important. Avoid placing them near radiators and not too close to a window which could be harmful on very sunny days as it will dry out the plants.

If this was Marina’s very first talk, we must congratulate her for an entertaining ind informative evening.

Further information:

Telephone 075110030102



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TALK April 12th 2022

Darren Lerigo, Owner of Modern Mint

‘Diluted:How to cope with excessive heat and lack of rain’

The first time our Speaker gave this talk was in Shropshire when the county was being deluged continuously with heavy downpours of rain. He had to make an early exit after his audience found it all very amusing!

Fortunately he didn’t have to make an early exit last night. On the contrary members had lots of questions for him following his intersting and entertaining talk.

Given climate changes we are experiencing, the next stage in garden evolution, the majority of garden designers will be developing and encouraging ‘Rain Gardens’ to combat expected future drier conditions. Principal idea is to CAPTURE/STORE/REDISTRIBUTE rainwater.

Darren gave us many examples how this can be achieved. Create a sunken border (Bio Retention Pot in modern day jargon!) to retain water for longer. Plants that enjoy bog like conditions include Persicaria (good for containing ground elder) Eupatorium (provide lots of nectar for bees), Aster, Verbena bonarriensis are also recommended.

  • Full list of suitable plants at the foot.

Permeable paving for patios will again help to retain water. Mulching with bark of compost is a must. Compost containing wool holds water and contains nitrogen Gardens need to slow down and store water. A green roof on a shed or an outbuilding is another good solution. Mixing copper in rainwater makes it cleaner. Grey water can help but leave it for a minimum of 3 days to dilute out soaps and shampoo.

On a show of hands members only used rainwater on their gardens as opposed to tap water which was the first time in Darren’s experience he had this result!

Sink terracotta pots into the ground to let water seep out over time. When plants are established they need little watering. Always water early in the mornings not in the evenings.

In Essex all new build housing developments must agree to incorporate ponds and swales (flat bottomed canals a sort of gutter) to retain rainwater.

When carrots are established they need little water as it will discourage carrot fly. Tomatoes when established should be watered infrequently as over watering will dilute the taste. If you want really hot chillies only water when the plant is stressed!

If you are fortunate to have a stream running through your property get a beaver who will quickly build barriers to slow down the flow of water!

Here are some relevant links members may like to investigate:

Dalefoot Compost made of wool:

Charles Dowding and his No_Dig vegetable patch:


Nigel Dunnet of Olympic Park fame:

  • More plants for Rain Gardens










Hellebore Camassia


Helenium Inula (and other plants from the daisy family)

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ZOOM Meeting 8 February 2022

Lesley Chamberlain of LC Plants gave a talk about the ‘Life and Gardens of Gertrude Jekyll’

It was an interesting start with brief summaries of the family background. Would you believe that just a few centuries ago, in 1738, a relative of Gertrude’s, Sir Joseph Jekyll, left money in his will to reduce the national debt ? It was then onwards to look at the early influences in Gertude’s life that may have sparked her interest in gardens. The surroundings of Bramley House in Surrey, beacame a wonderful world for her to play in with her six brothers. All that play with boys and no female peers made Gertrude a bit of a tomboy, which definitely helped her stand her ground in her later years as a garden designer.

When she turned 18, Gertrude then became one of the first women to study at South Kensington School of Art. It was there where she studied not only art but also botany, anatomy and the science of colours. Gertrude also enjoyed her time with her father, looking at his scientific approach to things.

Later influenced by the likes of John Ruskin and William Morris, Gertrude started designing gardens in an Arts and Crafts style. Her close friend Edwin Lutyens often designed the houses that Gertrude would design for. This created a wonderful partnership of fluid house and gardens, with a close friendship that never bothered Edwin’s wife as Gertrude was considered one of the family.

Lesley has been lucky enough to visit some of the gardens Gertrude drew up. She showed us photographs of marvellous planting techniques and interesting dry stone pillars and paving, Some of the gardens are:


The Salutation



King Edward V11 Sanatorium

Tylney Hall

Upton Grey

Munstead Wood (Gertrude’s own home, now privately owned but you may be able to visit if you write to the head gardener)

In her later years, Gertrude unfortunately had deteriorating eyesight, which made her stop certain hobbies, but she carried on designing gardens. Never married, Gertrude died in 1932 without any children but with many dear friends. Edwin Lutyens simply describer her gravestone with :

Artist Gardener Craftswoman

One more thing: when you look for pictures of this incredible woman, you’ll never see her without a hat on!

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Meeting November 9

49 members were present to listen to our speaker Colin Moat of PineView Plants whose talk was

entitled ’50 greys of shade’. Colin’s colourful slide presentation highlighted his love of all shade loving plants and detailed his admitted ‘obsession’ with the genre!

His ‘Top 10’ of Bulbs/Corms/Roots

Narcissus Jenny/Jumbillie/Pippit

Lillies Cardiocrinum /Martagon/Nectaroscordum including the Himalayan Lilly which takes up to 7 years to flower!

Galanthus+Leucojum One variety fetched £1,390 for a single bulb last year!

Eranthis hyamelis, over 40 varieties to choose from.

Cyclamen hederifolum & coum. The foliage is sometimes just as attractive as the flowers.

Arum italicum marmoratum. slugs avoid them!

Anemone nemerosa (& blanda) blues, pale lilacs pretty tough plants.

Erythronium dens-canis/tuolumnense ‘White Beauty’+ Pagoda

Fritillaria meleagris. Doesn’t always need damp soil.

Trillium erectum/chlorupetalum/vasey/cuneatum/lutem/grandiflorum/pusillum + Arisaema+Colchicum+Hyacinthoides non-scripta (Bluebells)

Top 10 Ground Cover Plants

Geranium (includes magnificum/nodosum/macrorrhizum/phaenum/pratense)

Any Bergenia + cilata + Overture. Can also grow in full sun.

Epimedium orangekonigin + fargesii + versicolor + sulphureum + grsndiflorum + warleysense + pink champagne + amber queen.

Ajuga ‘Burgundy Glow’ + ‘Catlin’s Giant’ + ‘Purple Torch’ + ‘Metallica Crispa’ + ‘Black Scallop’

Ompphalodes verna + ‘Starry Eyes’ + ‘Cherry Ingram’

Brunnera maculatum ‘Jack Frost’ + ‘Looking Glass’ + ‘Mr Morse’

Pulmonaria ‘Ice Ballet’ + ‘Cotton Cool’ + ‘Diana Clare’ + ‘Stillingfleet Meg’ + ‘Dora Bielefeld’ + ‘Blue Ensign’.

Vinca minor ‘illumination’

Hosta ‘June’ + ‘Blue Moon’ + ‘Junco’

Heuchera ‘Obisidian’ + ‘Venus’ + ‘Tiarella’ + ‘Heucherella’.

Top 10 Stars Bombproof/Long Interest

Helleborus x hybridus + foetidus + argutifolius.

Convallaria majalis + rosea = ‘Vic Pawlowski’s Gold + Bordeaux’

Polygonatum x hybridum + ‘Betburg’

Aquilegia various hybrids. Greatly affected in 2021 with mildew.

Euphobia amygdaloides var.robbiae + dulcis ‘Chameleon’ + griffithii Dixter

Astrantia major ‘shaggy’ + Star of Fire’ + ‘Roma’ + ‘Venus’

Digitalis purpurea ‘Anne Redetzky’ + lanata + lutea + ferruginea + mertonensis

Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy’ + ‘Pink Pearls’ + ‘orvala’ ‘Album’

Viola cornuta + odorata + ‘Hearthrob’ + ‘Duchesse de Parma’

Anemone hupehensis ‘Honoreine de Jobert’ + ‘Richard Ahrens’ + ‘Bodnant Burgundy’ + ‘Konigin Charlotte’

For further information you can contact Colin at : or visit the website:

Our next meeting is on December 7 when our speaker will be George Lockwood an organic gardener

who will talk about ‘creating structure with evergreens’. Followed by a glass of wine and mince pies!

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Meeting October 12

Margaret Easter “Autumn & Winter Gardening”

Over 40 members turned out on a damp evening to listen to our guest speaker who has been

a Harpenden resident for over 30 years and holds the National Plant Collections of Thymus, Hyssopus

and Satureja in her garden in Wroxham Way.

Margaret’s talk was accompanied by her colourful series of autumn and winter pictures of plants in

bloom in her extensive plantsman’ garden planted for year round interest and for wildlife.

The front garden is a large mixed border with shrubs along the pavement including potentilla fruiticosa,

viburnam farreri ‘nanum’. Planted with herbaceous perennials zoned in colours and underplanted with

crocus and narcissus. Naturalised crocus tommasinianus is a welcome site in winter.

Colour is maintained throughout the autumn months and early winter with, asters, anemones,

chrysanthamums , dianthus, colchicums and repeat flowering roses.

Margaret has been gardening organically for 25 years and since 2002 has been peat free.

The garden is open to visitors by arrangement. For further information you can call her on 01582

768467 or by e:mail

The next meeting will be on Tuesday November 9 in the canteen at 7.45pm. The speaker will be Colin

Moat of Pine View Plants whose talk is entitled ’50 shades of grey’ The talk will be preceded by the

AGM. We look forward to seeing you then.

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Meeting September 14

Speaker Jacqueline Aviolet

“Hardy Geraniums-history and propagation

At our first ‘live’ meeting after 18 months of Zoom talks we were pleased to welcome 46 members and guests who enjoyed an informative and humourous evening talk.

Hardy geraniums are mostly pink, blue, mauve and white colours. They can grow in sun and semi shade with ease. You do not have to bring them in, in winter, some will die down into the ground and some will have leaves showing all through the cold winter months. Geraniums greatly support the insect world and different varieties will re-grow from spring to autumn. They grow in any type of soil in sun or semi-shade and bugs and snails do not feast on them. What’s not to like!

At the nursery in Kent over 400 varieties are in stock. The nursery is not open to the general public and all plants can be purchased via mail order via the website. All plants are grown in the open with no poly tunnels.

Members were shown various simple techniques for collecting seeds and taking cuttings. Important to always plant cuttings around the edge of the pot to maximise saturation.

A few of the many varieties in stock were featured in the talk.

Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’ rich magenta pink with black eye, flowering June/October, busy green foliage, height 45cms, sun/semi shade.

Geranium dalmaticum ‘Album’ shell pink, flowers May/June semi evergreen, height 10cm, sun/semi shade, low compact foliage, rock garden and pots.

Geranium himalayense ‘Baby Blue’ large blue/violet, flowers May/July, height 45 cm, sun/semi shade.

Geranium nodosum ‘Silverwood’ pure white flowers, thin acer shape fresh green leaves, height 40 cm, flowers June/October, sun semi/shade.

A range of geranium plants, attractively priced were snapped up by members following the talk.

Further information can be found on the website:

Telephone 01622715777


The next meeting will be held at Roundwood Park School on Tuesday October 12 at 7.45pm.

The speaker will be Margaret Easter of LW Plants who will talk about Autumn and winter gardening.

We look forward to seeing you then.

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April 13 ZOOM Meeting

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March 9 ZOOM Meeting

Our second Talk of 2021 was presented by Simon White of Beales Roses in Norfolk who gave us his A-Z of Roses.

Simon who has spent 40 years working for Beales certainly demonstrated his vast knowledge and passion for roses – ‘Britain’s favourite flower’ during his fascinating talk.

Beales Roses hold the national collection of species roses and hold over 1000 varieties in 3 acres of show gardens.

Below are some of Simon’s favourites:

Alba Maxima, very popular and fragrant, non repeat flowering. Maidens Blush/Queen of Denmark can also grow in light sandy soil.

Bourbon Madame Isaac Perere can grow up to 7 feet. Souv de la Malmaison white/pink and can grow up to 12 feet. An American single red rose named after Peter Beales has 5 flushes and good glossy foliage. Loved by bees.

It is important to note there are no disease free roses. A granule feed is recommended now in March and again in May.Liquid Tomatorite or Maxicrop seaweed are good but the best is Uncle Tom’s Rose tonic but is the most expensive!

Centifolias Fantin Latour one big flush,Old Blush (monthly rose) because of repeat flowering. Can be tender. Irene Watts can be grown in pots, subtle perfume. John Innes No 3 recommended if grown in pots.

Damasks Kazanlik sometimes called the Bulgaria rose as it is widely grown in Bulgaria for its repeat flowering to make rose water.

Eglantyne (Sweet Briar) Rose Eglanteria produces masses of hips.

Floribunda Clustered roses, Dusky Maiden, hard pruning in a wine glass shape recommended.

Gallicas Camaieux one flush and can grow up to 4 feet. James Mason can grow up to 5 feet.

Hybrid Perpetual Ferdinand Pichard repeat flowering and strong fragrance. Souv Du de Jamain, repeat flowering. Petals can go brown in hot sun.

Ice Leverkusen Good in cold weather but can bleach in hot sun. A climber and important to train horizontally on wall or fence.

June & July Bonica good ground cover. Rambling Rector and Chevy Chase too.

Kiftsgate Biggest climbers with thousands of flowers.

Low Growing Comte de Chambord first bred in 1860, Rose De Rescht.

Moschata Ballerina a ‘cottagey’ rose repeat flowering. Prosperity, easy to grow.

Noisette Climbers need pruning 3 times a year Alister Stella Gray, repeat flowering

New The Churchill rose named after the College not the man! Terry Wogan wanted his rose to be named “Togmeister” following his popular radio programme.

Orange Westerland repeat flowering in big clusters. Alchmist tends to attract black spot.

Pests and diseases Aphids, Black spot, Downy mildew, Rust all very common. Try ‘Rose Clear’ or an unusual tip is a mix skimmed milk with water. Important to spray under the leaves to eradicate rust.

Queen of Flowers Spanish Beauty can grow up to 15 feet. Ena Harkness

Rugosa Toughest and old fashioned. Scabrosa, repeat flowering.

Species Rosa Glauca, Rosa Omeninsis Petercantha unusually has only 4 petals.

Union bare rooted and must be pruned hard.

Variegated Most popular Rosa Mundi.

Wichurana Ramblers Albertine with large thorns!

Yellow Leah Tutu delicate amber flowers.

Zephrine Drouhin grows to 10 feet fragrant and thornless.

For the full run down go to the website: or call 01953 454707

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ZOOM Meeting 9 February 2021

Timothy Walker ‘Plants Borders & Gardens’

Timothy is an ‘old friend’ of the Society and has talked on many occasions and many subjects. He is a well known British Botanist and previous Director and horticultural Praefectus of the Oxford Botanical Gardens.

Timothy packed a large amount into his lavishly illustrated talk, so I am afraid this synopsis will not be as colourful as his live Zoom presentation.

He started his talk by looking at some plants from all over the world that deserve to be more widely grown in our gardens. This was followed by a look of some ways of putting plants together to create borders and finished with what makes plants and borders into a garden in a pleasing way, using colour, lines and shapes to create pleasing gardens, large or small.

Timothy went around the world (literally) gathering specimens and seeds from various countries, that might work in the UK. Some need dmp areas, some shady, some full sun and obviously some are hardy and some will grow in milder areas such as Devon and Cornwall and the Scilly Isles.

He started in the USA. Here he mentioned Lupus, Frauklinia altamaha,Echenaeceas, Rhodenndron maxi, Penstemon, Eschscholtzia (Californian poppy) Garrya Elliptic and Veratrum viride which like the damp and have hosta leaves but can grow to 6ft !

Next came Chile with Drimys winteri which are so old fossils of them have been found in the area.

Lobelia tupa is a plant Timothy used to say needs lifting in the winter but now says to mulchand leave in the ground they can grow 3-6ft.

Nasturshams from the Andes. To Easter Island with Sophya (which needs a south facing wall)

Chatham Island with a variety of forget-me-not, Myosotidium hortensia and New Zealand with Cianthus puniceus (lobster claw) which in the wild needs to be polinated by birds and unusual that it needs hot and wet conditions…obviously not usuaal conditions for the UK !

Phillipines next on this tour with Jade vine (polinated by bats) Strongylodon macrobotys.

Japan known for it’s chrysanthamums and a mention of Yezoense which was named after one of the Japanese islands…they later changed the name of the Island! But no provision to change the name of the plant! This low grower looks wonderful grown over rocks, slabs and concrete and likes sharp drainage.

At this point Timothy mentioned that GREEN is a colour too, where more people think of the Autumnal colours of Vermont he said every garden needs a variety of green as a background and frame for vibrant plant colour.

Korea with Abeliophyiium distichum and scented Mukdeniarosil which is decideous before heading to China on which Timothy said he could devote a whole evening of plants that have originated .

A palm- Trachycarpus fortunei of which Timothy has one or two at home is a magnificent specimen unlike (in his opinion) Decaisnea fargesii- also called dead mans fingers as the pods look like bruised puffy cold and clammy fingers!

Lots of clematis originate in China and a UK favourite is C Armandii…with its lovely white blooms. Aconitum episcopale likes dappled shade and Sarcoccoa is a beautifully scented lant for outside but the fragrance becomes a ‘too strong smell’ if cut and brought indoors. He said it reminds him of his teenage son’s bedroom so best left outside!

Davida involucrata or Hankerchief plant is also used a lot in Chinese and oriental planning schemes where the rule is fairly set into 4 elements…Water, Pavillion, Plants and Rocks.

From China we headed to Turkey where Iris Iberica subspecies Elegantissima was shown. Hard to grow but must be kept completel virus free. Fritillaria Michailovski and Delphinium Requenii, Euphorbia characais and Iris Unguicularis to place against a sunny wall…but still needs watering well were also from this part of the world.

Next to Killimanjaro with tree heathers (Erica Arborea) then to South Africa with Melianthus Major which likes a sheltered and dry spot away from likelyhood of frost. Xysmalobium Stockenstromense Strophanthus (periwinkle family) and Sutherlandia Frutescens.

Orange flowers are popular in the Cape area and Tinnie nature reserve has carpets of Elegia Capensis (not very hardy in most of UK). Aloe Dichotoma is another popular plant in South Africa.

Moving on to Morocco we saw pictures of Euphorbia Nereeidim which grow to 10 ft.

Tenerife brought us Euphorbias-Mellifera which is scented and just hardy for UK climate and Antropurpereum which is hardier. Lamarkii, Canariense like frost free conditions to thrive.However Cistus Momspes salvifolius likes soggy conditions.

One drawback of taking wild plants to grow in our gardens is that they can take over so we need to be careful.

Cape St Vincent with Lithodorus, Lavendula stroechas then to the Algarve bringing Narcissus papyraceus and Ruscus aculeatus flowers from what appear to be leaves but are in fact flat stems.

Closer to home in Northern Ireland and Britain. Horsetail (hard to get rid of) Fushias , Bluebells which love dappled shaade, Primroses, Digitalis (foxgloves) Fritillaries, Paris Quadrifolia which likes shade and verbascum Thrapsus loved by Mullin moth caterpillars.

Well that was a whirlwind tour and obviously with pictures much more interesting than my but I didn’t want to skip over the plants too much. A challenge with the spellings so apologies if some might be wrong!

Afterwards Timothy showed borders in particular gardens and how some of the plants mentioned can be used. He highlighted many lovely venues in the UK where these can be seen in all their glory many of which Society have visited in the past and some planned for the future where we can.

Coton Manor in Northants was one such venue as was Rousham House and Gardens and obviously Rose Cottage where the current Director of the Oxford Botanical gardens live.

Timothy ended his very full talk with the statement.

‘A garden is a place where plants and people sit in them and enjoy them,whatever size they may be’

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