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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Talk 6 December 2016: Fergus Garrett-Head Gardener at Great Dixter

On a cold and foggy evening a large gathering of members and guests at Roundwood Park School were captivated by a superb master class accompanied by a colourful slide show depicting the succession planting in the mixed border at Great Dixter by Head Gardener Fergus Garrett.

The garden is managed in the same way as in Christopher Lloyd’s time. High impact visual displays but also intimacy in plant combinations. All within a strong infrastructure of buildings, garden hedges and landscaped trees. Wildflower meadows flow into the garden and cut twice a year after seeds have set.

The trees within the meadows are allowed to grow in their natural state without too much interaction from pruning.

The borders are mixed plantings of trees, shrubs, biennials, annuals and climbers. The trees give structure, perennials give us the main season along with self sowing biennials that soften the picture. Everything is under planted with bulbs, pockets of annuals and ephemerals that lengthen the display from spring through autumn.

The display in the garden works in a series of peaks and troughs depending on the season.

The borders are mixed but not herbaceous. Choosing flowers that give 4 month displays than 4 weeks always important to maintain colour. Some smaller borders at Great Dixter have remained the same for 20 years with clever underplanting. Primroses/snowdrops in early spring followed by tulips in late spring and fuchsias from summer onwards, just one example for light maintenance throughout the year!

For further information on Great Dixter opening times and tours go to:

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Meeting 8 November 2016

Our guest speaker Geoff Hodge delivered an interesting and sometimes provocative explanation of the range of products currently and some currently NOT available to gardeners in the relentless effort to combat bugs, pests and diseases!

Geoff, being a journalist involved in broadcast media and having wide experience with spells at the RHS and several respected  gardening magazines is in the unique position of being the recipient of every conceivable product from manufacturers to test and write about their efficacy.

A virtual test recently discovered that only one aphid could multiply to trillions (40 tons worth!) in one year.

Geoff’s presentation featured simply dozens of different products with which he shared his knowledge with members in a lively question and answer session.

Some gardeners have been known to use a dilution of Fairy Liquid washing liquid to use on plants to eradicate pests. This is not a good idea as the liquid removes the waxy coating on leaves as it does to remove the grease from plates. The waxy coatings on leaves protects from wind and sun damage and therefore making them more vulnerable. More importantly as Fairy Liquid is not an approved treatment a fine of £2,000 can be levied by DEFRA as it is classed as an illegal product!

Chemical products are slowly being withdrawn from the market and being replaced by more organic products. The chief reason for this reduction is the high cost of having to retest them every few years due to current laws. Retesting products can often run in to millions of pounds hence the manufacturers reluctance to spend additional sums!

Geoff kindly donated some of his practical gardening aids as raffle prizes to round off an entertaining and informative evening





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