Talk 10th October

The Society is indebted to Chris Thorne of Aylett Nurseries for stepping in as our guest speaker at the very last minute as our scheduled speaker unfortunately had to cancel at short notice due to unforeseen circumstances.

Chris, the Retail Manager of Ayletts for the last 16 years, provided a very informative talk on the huge range of garden care products currently on sale at the popular St Albans Garden Centre.

His top tip was ALWAYS read the small print on the label as this will help you compare products. Many brands are packaged in different colours with different wording and different pricing. Often the contents are identical!

Gardeners looking to get the most out of their plants like bigger flowers, more colour, more leaf growth there is a growing and diverse range of fertilisers to choose from.

Plants need three basic types of food. Nitrogen which helps shoots and leaves to grow, Phosphorous which encourages roots and Potassium, important for fruits and flowers. A general purpose fertiliser like Growmore will contain  equal amounts of the above nutrients and can be used on all parts of the garden. These nutrients can be bought separately and are known as ‘straight’ fertilisers.

Fertilisers are sold in different formulations. Liquids that are quick acting but granules can be slower in their action. Miracle Gro for example is a controlled release fertiliser releasing food over many weeks.

Then there are specialist fertilisers like Tomorite which is high in potash which encourages flowers to form resulting in more fruit. Also useful in hanging baskets where flower production is essential.

Mycorrhizal funghi (been around 400 million years!) has grown in usage in recent years, heavily promoted by Monty Don on Gardeners World and endorsed by the RHS. The fungus colonize roots forming a biological link between the root and the soil. The fungus in the soil absorbs water and nutrients and accelerates healthy root growth.

Nematodes now can be bought in packs which are important in the decomposition of organic material and recycling of nutrients in soil.

Ayletts produce over 40 leaflets to help gardeners get the possible advice and are freely available online or from the nursery. Ayletts have a large, knowledgable staff who are on hand to answer any questions gardeners may have again online or on site.

Last top tip from Chris was if you are buying winter pansies in the next few weeks only by plants in flower. If they are not they will not produce flowers until the Spring.


For further information, help or advice contact:

Aylett Nurseries (south of St Albans on the A414….. Sat Nav AL2 1DH)

01727 822255




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12th September 2017 Meeting

Paul Green of Greens Leaves Nursery in Gloucestershire was our guest speaker at the first meeting in our autumn series of talks at Roundwood Park School.

The nursery set up in 1994 specialises in rare and unusual plants sourced from all around the world for growing in the UK.

Paul brought along a huge range of plants to showcase and illustrate his talk…..many of which were eagerly snapped up by members and guests following his highly interesting and informative presentation.

The specimens ranged from masses of foliage plants, ornamental grasses, sedges and colourful perennials.

One of Paul’s favourite plants is the Corokia, an evergreen shrub, otherwise known as the wire netting bush. Originating in New Zealand the plant has a mass of contorted stems with tiny leaves and is ideal for tubs. Paul is gathering many of the different varieties of Crokia and is hoping his range will become a National Collection.

Another fascinating plant featured was the Australian Mint Bush which has a scented foliage and is loved by bumble bees particularly in early summer.

The hardiness of plants has a new rating system which is being introduced by garden centres and nurserymen. From H1-H7 with 7 being the most hardy and 1 being the least hardy. However the USA have the rating in reverse which could lead to confusion!

Given many plants are subject to attack from slugs and snails, Paul recommended the use of Ferric Phosphate as an effective treatment. It is harmless to wildlife but beware of robins who devour it with apparently no ill effects!

To purchase any of the fabulous range of rare and unusual plants or download the plant catalogue visit the website:




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Chelsea 2017

Congratulations to Anne Godfrey of Daisy Roots Nursery our speaker in February on winning her first GOLD MEDAL at the 2017 Chelsea Flower Show.

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Meeting 9 May

Our guest speaker, Anne Luder the recently retired Lecturer from Capel Manor College delivered an interesting talk with slides on Capel’s show winning gardens over the 30 years of her involvement at Capel Manor.

Many of the show gardens at Chelsea and Royal Hampton Court return to Capel Manor for students to learn and acquire the many techniques necessary in the design, construction and plant implementation of winning show gardens. It is also an opportunity for the general public to get up close and personal with gardens they may have seen and admired from a distance at Chelsea. Many of the gardens are adapted on return from shows such as Chelsea to make them more people friendly.

Designs for Chelsea need to be submitted for approval 18 months ahead of the show. Some of the more famous designers, however, do not always meet the deadline!

One of the popular attractions at Capel Manor is ‘Sunflower Street’ a series of front gardens where over the years students are involved in updating each one to reflect the changing influences  and fashions year by year.

Currently a diverse range of gardens can be viewed and enjoyed at Capel Manor including a Artisan Garden, Fresh Garden, Courtyard Garden, Natural Dry Garden,  Minimalist Garden, Low Allergy Garden and a Be Safe Garden.

The most unusual ‘garden’ is a load of 66 old fridges piled high on top of each other which to everyone’s surprise won a silver medal at the Royal Hampton Court Show. Not sure in which category though!

The cost of exhibiting show gardens at Chelsea has increased significantly over the years resulting in fewer each year. Sponsors need to be found to help fund the exhibits. Many of the larger show gardens have budgets in excess of a £100,000.

One of the most expensive show gardens at Chelsea in 2016 was the gold winning design by Dan Pearson whose homage to Chatsworth House involving a series of massive boulders had to be rearranged 3 days before the show opened as Chelsea and Kensington Council discovered the huge boulders were placed over a sewer pipe which could have caused an unprecedented disaster during the show had there been a problem!

Capel Manor is open to the public 7 days a week from 10.00am-5.00pm.


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Meeting April 11

On a fine spring evening over 80 members and guests welcomed a return visit by Colin Ward and his wife Karen from Swines Meadow Farm Nursery. They brought with them a very large selection of healthy plants ideally suited for shade and semi shade planting which were for sale after their talk.

The nursery, now over 10 years old is one of the UK’s leading specialist growers of exotic and rare plants.

Just some of the plants Colin and Karen featured in their talk were:

Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pewter lace’, a stunning painted fern with metallic pewter fronds with a purple mid rib.

Brunnera – Alexander the Great a particular favourite with silver haired foliage on heart shaped leaves.

Dryopteris – erythosora – evergreen fern with red fronds in spring turning yellowish on maturity.

Helleborus- nigra Gold Collection Jacob. Evergreen perennial, leathery like dark green leaves with saucer shaped white flowers.

Hosta Empress Wu, reputedly the largest hosta in the world with the potential of 50 cm leaves and over a metre in height. Dark green leaves with lavender flowers.

(Colin recommended an effective method for controlling slugs especially for hostas is an organic concentrate garlic spray (‘Garlic Wonder’) which is harmless to bees, earthworms, ladybirds, lacewings and other beneficial insects.)

Podophyllum – ‘Spotty Dottie’ very attractive perennial, green leaves beautifully marked purple brown. Open cup shaped white/pink flowers followed by red fruit.

This plant was so popular one had been bought BEFORE the talk started!

To find out about the full range of  shade and semi shade plants plus many more herbaceous perennials, shrubs, grasses, bamboo and conifers visit the website:






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Meeting 14 March 2017

A full house of members and guests were in attendance to learn more about Coton Manor Garden set in the peaceful Northamptonshire countryside which was visited last year by many members on one of our organised coach outings.

The ten acre garden was originally created almost a hundred years ago by the grandparents of the present owners.

Our speaker, Caroline Tait the Nursery Manager of Coton Manor provided a colourful and informative presentation of the gardens and how they have evolved over the years using knowledge passed down through the generations of the family.

The presentation showed the  changing landscapes and colours of the gardens throughout the year from deep mid winter to glorious summer sunshine.

Beyond the gardens there is a 5 acre magical bluebell wood plus a wildflower meadow which has been used over the years by BBC TV on screen idents between programmes.

Over a thousand varieties of plants seen in the garden are propagated by Caroline and her team every year to maintain colour and interest and variety through the seasons in the luxuriant borders and beyond. Many are unusual and not easily found elsewhere.

Throughout the year Coton Manor offers a series of one day courses and talks featuring well known gardeners and designers including Chris Beardshaw, Fergus Garrett, James Alexander-Sinclair and Robin Lane-Fox to name but a few!

This year the Garden and the Nursery are open from 1st April to the end of September Tuesdays to Saturdays. For further information go to their website




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Meeting 14 February 2017

Our first meeting of the year drew a large number of members and guests to listen to one of our favourite guest speakers, Anne Godfrey of Daisy Roots Nursery.

Maybe one of the attractions  was the title of her talk ‘Good In Bed’ especially as it was on Valentines Day ! Of course it was about plants that have a long season of interest!

A very informative series of colourful slides depicted many of her favourite plants which she recommends for extending colour, structure and texture through the early Spring,Summer and Autumn months until frosts in November and December.

A few of Anne’s favourites:

Heucheras, native of North America, lots of breeding work includes new trailing varieties. Paler leaves cannot take strong sun and prefer dappled shade.

Viola, Corsica, azure blue flowers, with dead heading can flower continuously from March to October. Good in sun and light shade.

Again with continuous deadheading, Papavers can give colour from April to Autumn.

Geranium ‘Mavis Simpson’ will flower from May until early frosts and does not require deadheading.

Euphorbia ‘seguieriana’ with it’s brilliant acid green colour flourishes from June to Autumn.

Persicaria ‘polymorpha’ grows fast and can reach 8 feet in 8 weeks with changing flower colours through to late Autumn.

Origanum laevigatum flowers well from July until the first frost and is drought tolerant.

Chamerion augustfolium, a herbaceous perennial, creeps by root so beware!

Serecio polyodon, native of South Africa grows masses of stems with daisy like flowers but deadheading is essential to prolong flowering.

Sisyrinchium ‘quaint ‘n’ queer’ with pink upward facing flowers that only open up in good daylight.

Campanula ‘sarastro’, deep violet blue can grow up to 2 feet tall. 6 week flowering period but will flower again in September if cut back.

Erigeron karvinskianus, white flowers turning pink through Summer to frosts. Cut back in Spring.

Archillia  ‘salmon beauty’. Plant early June. Lots of varieties, second flush in September onwards if cut back.

Sedum ‘matrona’, deep pink flowers followed by dark seed heads in winter. Needs well drained soil.

Sanguisorba ‘swarming raspberries’ long term flowering, good for growing in Harpenden clay and attractive to hover flies.

Diascia personata  tough plant grows to 3-4feet but flowers all summer long.

Rudbekia ‘goldstrum’ , good for clay soils, flowers July onwards until the first frosts. Attractive to bees.

Salvia involucrata ‘Bethellii’, long pink flowers through Summer to first frosts.


The Daisy Roots Nursery is open every Friday and Saturday from March to October from 10.00am to 4.00pm. Telephone 07958 563355.



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