Meeting 4 December 2018

Our Guest Speaker this evening was Graham Spencer whose Talk was entitled ‘The Future Of Your Garden’.

His company (Plants For Europe Ltd) which he has been running for over 20 years links Breeders to Growers and has been responsible for the development and introduction of many new species, constantly striving to improve plant quality and increased variety for gardeners in the UK and Europe.

The company works with breeders across the globe from Newfoundland to Australia and is heavily involved in the marketing of new plants which are often launched to the gardening public at the well supported RHS Shows as at Chelsea, Malvern and the like.

Plant sales in the UK are becoming more popular via the big supermarkets. Waitrose in particular have made great strides in recent years. The biggest cost for growers is the cost of transport which is reflected in the retail price. Interestingly B&Q realised with their fleet of large lorries delivering daily from their depots to their stores  making  a detour to collect plants from their growers they could save the growers costs. Therefore reducing the cost to the B&Q customer. A ‘USP’ (unique selling point!) which has greatly increased sales.

A list of new plants featured in Graham’s talk from Arugas to Spireas will follow shortly. Further information can be found on

New Plants – The Future For Your Garden – a talk by Graham Spencer

  • Ajuga Black Scallop BINBLASCA
  • Ajuga Sugar Plum BINSUGPLU
  • Brachyglottis Walberton’s® Silver Dormouse WALBRACH
  • Digitalis Walberton’s® Goldcrest WALDIGONE
  • Eryngium zabelii Neptune’s Gold – Best New Perennial at Grower Awards 2015
  • Erysimum Walberton’s® Fragrant Star WALFRASTAR
  • Erysimum Walberton’s® Fragrant Sunshine WALFRASUN
  • Euphorbia martinii Ascot Rainbow – RHS Award of Garden Merit
  • Euphorbia characias Glacier Blue
  • Geum Totally Tangerine – a “Chelsea hero”
  • Helleborus Walberton’s® Ivory Prince WALHELIVOR
  • Helleborus Walberton’s® Rosemary WALHERO
  • Hibiscus Walberton’s® Rose Moon WALHIROSMO
  • Lavandula intermedia Heavenly Angel DOWPHANGEL
  • Lavandula intermedia Heavenly Night DOWPHNIGHT
  • Lavandula intermedia Heavenly Scent DOWPHSCNT
  • Lavandula pedunculata Fairy Wings® Blush
  • Lavandula pedunculata Fairy Wings® Pink
  • Lavandula pedunculata Fairy Wings® Purple
  • Nemesia Amelie FLEURAME
  • Nemesia Framboise FLEURFRAM
  • Nemesia Myrtille FLEURMYR
  • Nemesia Wisley Vanilla
  • Nemesia Berries and Cream FLEURBAC
  • Nemesia Berrie White FLEURBW
  • Nemesia Raspberries and Cream FLEURRAS
  • Nepeta grandiflora Summer Magic – winner ISU Plant Award 2016
  • Pennisetum advena Chelsea
  • Philadelphus Starbright
  • Pyracantha Golden Paradise
  • Rehmannia Walberton’s® Magic Dragon WALREMADRA
  • Ranunculus Rococo® series
  • Salvia Ember’s Wish SAL0101
  • Salvia Love and Wishes SERENDIP6 – many awards incl. Best New Bedding Plant, Grower Awards 2016
  • Salvia Wendy’s Wish
  • Salvia Kisses and Wishes
  • Spiraea Walberton’s® Magic Carpet WALBUMA – RHS Award of Garden Merit

Useful websites:

CIOPORA (organisation for breeders of ornamental plants) –


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Meeting 13th November 2018 ‘Pin me to the wall and do what you want with me!)

Following the Society’s AGM our Speaker Andrew Mikolajski delighted over 75 members and guests with a delightful presentation delivered with great panache, wit,style  but above all his in depth horticultural knowledge . His talk was  accompanied by a stunning slide show highlighting a huge range of well known and not so well known garden plants.

Andrew an RHS Consultant and author of over 30 gardening books focussed on wall climbers and roses for the smaller garden.

He demonstrated the variety of plants that can be used successfully to cover walls and fences whether they are warmer south/west facing  or cooler north/east situations.

Andrew tends not to favour using  horizontal wire as too often branches climb behind the wire and chafe causing bruising and make it difficult for pruning. His favourite methods include ‘pig wire’ a heavier gauge metal tying plants in with raffia.

To encourage fuller flowering of wall climbers it is best to train the branches horizontally rather than letting them continually climb vertically.

Surprisingly he believes November is a good time to plant climbers. (sweet peas too!) Bare rooted roses are best as November still has warmth in the soil (especially after this wonderful summer) which offers good  root growth surge providing good soil adhesion. Most pot plants purchased from garden centres are grown in peat compost which dries out too quickly. Often before you get the plants home! It helps to trim these roots to stimulate faster root growth.

The RHS has recently changed the rating system for the hardiness of plants. Instead of the ‘snowflake’ system plants are now numbered 1-7. The hardiest being 7. So for north/east facing situations plants numbered 5/6/7 are best.

A full list of Andrew’s recommended plants featured in his talk last night below:

Shrubs for informal training

Warm walls (south- or west-facing)


Blue flowers in spring/summer; deciduous forms hardier than evergreen

Fremontodendron californicum

Bright yellow flowers in summer; stems covered in a skin-irritant powder

Itea ilicifolia

Long racemes of pale apple green, scented flowers in summer

Cestrum parqui

South American; night-scented flowers reliably produced only in hot conditions

Lagerstroemia indica

Panicles of bright pink flowers in late summer/early autumn

Jasminum humile

Upright, with glassy stems and scented yellow flowers in summer

Myrtus communis

Myrtle; aromatic leaves and white flowers in late summer


Prune in summer only lightly to expose fruits

Shady wall

Garry elliptica

Winter flowering; useful as a support for late-flowering clematis

Shrubs for formal training

Malus (apple)

Can be espaliered; can fruit if flowering spurs are developed


Can be espaliered – at the expense of flowering and fruiting

Cedrus atlantica f. glauca ‘Pendula’

Weeping form of Blue Atlas cedar; flexible stems are easily trained

Climbing plants (shade tolerant unless otherwise indicated)

Clematis ‘Alba Luxurians’

White flowers touched with green from mid- to late summer; late flowers pure white

Clematis ‘Josephine’

Large, double, rich pink flowers in mid-spring followed by a later crop of single flowers; best in sun

Clematis ‘Fireworks’

Large, luminous violet flowers in mid- to late spring – essential!

Clematis ‘Mme Julia Correvon’

Dark magenta-pink flowers over several weeks in summer

Clematis ‘Arabella’

Flopping stems carry a succession of blue flowers throughout summer; best allowed to wander through low-growing shrubs

Passiflora ‘Silly Cow’

For a warm wall; large, luminous violet flowers in summer – essential!

Solanum laxum ‘Album’

For a warm wall; endless clusters of white flowers until well into autumn

Trachelospermum jasminoides

An evergreen for a warm wall; sweetly scented white flowers in summer

Lonicera x tellmanniana

Unscented, trumpet-like yellow flowers in summer; tolerant of deep shade

Hydrangea petiolaris

Large heads of white flowers in early summer; tolerant of deep shade but very slow to establish

Rosa ‘Fortune’s Double Yellow’

Loosely double yellow and pink flowers in late spring; needs a warm wall and minimal pruning; connoisseur’s plant

Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’

Clusters of duckling yellow, unscented flowers in late spring; prone to mildew and a rampant monster once it gets going

Rosa ‘Etoile de Hollande’

A good red rose for a warm wall; flowers tend to droop, so best when trained above eye level

Rosa ‘Malvern Hills’

A yellow, repeat-flowering rambler, with flowers in clusters

Rosa ‘Albrighton Rambler’

A repeat-flowering rambler like ‘Malvern Hills’ but pink; flowers small but perfectly formed

Rosa ‘Mermaid’

A great plant for a stately home; tough, thorny stems carry large, single, yellow flowers over a long period

Rosa ‘Warm Welcome’

Dainty miniature climber with clusters of vermilion-orange flowers over a long period; a must-have, and good in a container

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Meeting October 9th 2018

It was a pleasure to meet up with Johnnie Amos again since the Society’s tour of his very attractive HGS garden at The Old Bakery in Northamptonshire last year.

His interest in gardening was sown when he first went to school at 5 years of age where each child had their own small piece of land to grow  vegetables and flowers. This year alone he has attended 25 schools in England that have introduced gardens for pupils to get involved in gardening.

Johnnie who has a wealth of experience and knowledge across the gardening and horticultural spectrum with his work across the globe and for the BBC hosted a very entertaining and informative evening of questions and answers. Fortunately he was answering the questions many of which were formulated by members and guests beforehand.

So many questions, so little time ,60 minutes flew by! From coffee grounds, do they keep  slugs and snails at bay? to how to keep in check a large willow tree in a small garden (constant pruning spring and autumn).  Removing suckers? (do not cut but twist and pull to damage the roots) Interestingly coffee grounds are good for acid loving plants like camelias and rhodedendrons . Pine needles too.

Johnnie kindly donated several packs of  nematodes (keep them refrigerated before deployment), ideal for use in the autumn to defend hostas  and many other tasty plants  from slugs and snails whose eggs will be hatching ready to devour roots over the winter months!


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Meeting September 11 2018

The first in our series of Autumn Talks drew a large number of members and guests to listen to the popular plantsman Bob Brown of Cotswold Garden Flowers based in Evesham , Worcestershire.

In his nursery Bob has grown over 17,000 plants, currently over 8,000 in stock. Good old fashioned ones, newly introduced ones bred for colour and form but for vigour as well.

Many of which were on sale which caused a stampede as members started buying before the talk even started!

His talk concentrated on ‘Plants for Autumn’ illustrated by a beautiful and colourful slide show, accompanied by his amusing ,colourful and forthright views on some plants he does not like! Red Hot pokers to name but a few!

He praised the Hertfordshire plantswoman Judy Barker who took it upon herself to convince the very elderly committee of gentleman in the Chrysanthemum Society that many chrysanthemums were hardy and can flower in winter months.

Many of the slides were shot in the last few days to show a range of plants still blooming in full colour and will be doing so for the next few months.

Asters are a particular favourite. However in the USA they are known as symphyotrichums and cannot be bred with the European varieties more commonly known as michaelmas daisies so called because of their late flowering around Michaelmas day , September 29.

The slides covered a whole range of plants giving good Autumn colour from anemones , cyclamens, euphorbias, alliums (only some are hardy), saxifrage, phlox, nerines (Bob conducted a recent trial) and some varieties of golden rod!

The audience were taken aback by Bob’s insistence that wasps were good for the garden as they devoured caterpillars and aphids.  Also ivy was good for climbing up your house as it sealed up cracks and added an extra layer of warmth in winter!

Not everyone agreed!

For further information go to the website: or telephone 01386 833849 to book one of Bob’s monthly talks at his nursery, cost £7.00 including home made cake!


























































Quote from the RHS website 25/7/2017:
Nerine bowdenii
Bowden lily

© RHS 1990
55 suppliers RHS Plant Shop from £3.99
Jointhe RHS todayand get 12 months for the price of 9
Join now
Other common names Bowden lily
Genus Nerine are summer-dormant, perennial bulbs with erect leafless stems each bearing a terminal umbel of funnel-shaped flowers in autumn, and strap-shaped or linear leaves appearing after the flowers
Details N. bowdenii is a bulbous perennial to 50cm, with strap-shaped rich green leaves preceded by erect stems bearing umbels of lily-like pink flowers 6-8cm in width, with wavy, recurved segments
Plant range South Africa

The Telegraph

Alun Rees
12:01AM GMT 12 Nov 2013
How to grow: Nerine bowdenii

Nerine bowdenii is a breathtaking plant, especially on a dull autumn day.
With its tall scapes, terminated by a loose umbel of five to 10 trumpet-shaped, shocking-pink flowers, it must surely be the most exotic autumn-flowering bulb. Each flower has six narrow perianths with flamboyant wavy edges, which in certain lights appear to have been sprinkled with gold. And their faint musky scent carries on the autumn breeze.
Grown as a block or a thick row, Nerine bowdenii is a lively addition to an autumn border.
It flowers outdoors from September to early November, depending on temperature and site, with stems 30cm-50cm (12in-20in) tall. The flowers are long-lasting in the garden and keep going when cut for indoor decoration. The strap-like leaves emerge after flowering and survive the winter undamaged.

…….  Bulbs should be planted in autumn or early winter, spaced 7-10cm apart. Give them a good mulch to protect from frost in the first year until they are fully established.

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Talk,Tour & Tea @ Luton Hoo Walled Garden

On a glorious sunny afternoon our group enjoyed a very interesting and informative colourful slide presentation on the history of the Estate of Luton Hoo through the ages until the present day. Originally designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in 1763 as a unique 5 acre octagonal walled garden for the then owner the 3rd Earl of Bute.

The Estate then passed through 2 more family groups, the Leighs in the 19th century  and the Wehners and Philips in the 20th century. Sadly the walled garden fell into decline from the 1980’s but is now going through a great restoration aided by around 150 dedicated local volunteers.

Many areas within the garden are undergoing continuous maintenance with plots being weeded and brought back to life with vegetable crops (pumpkins,sweetcorn, beans, courgettes) sown together with many shrubs and plants of yesteryear discovered from old plans through diligent research by a dedicated team of volunteers.

Several propagation greenhouses have been renovated and now  growing melons (in netting) courgettes and cucumbers. The long conservatory has a series of grape vines on one side and a wall of figs along the wall. Behind the wall are a series of rooms for tool cleaning and storage, a room for mushroom growing and washing of vegetables ready for service in the mansion’s kitchens. Cut flowers were also supplied to the house each day, the responsibility of the head gardener who was also responsible for the arrangements too!

15 to 17 under gardeners were employed and all lived together in a house on the estate overlooked by the head gardener’s own house who kept an eye on them for any misbehaviour! Especially as the dairy maids lived close by in a another house. The under gardeners were responsible for the upkeep of their own standard apparel. Boots highly polished were inspected by the head gardener every morning before work commenced at 7.00am. Training at Luton Hoo was a very prestigious posting as it was regarded as second only to Kew which would greatly enhance their future careers.

Our group were also able to view inside the dairy which is under restoration. The large marble slab in the centre of the room was recently used as a morgue in the recent film, Bleak House!

The Walled Garden is open to the public every Wednesday throughout the summer until 26 September between 10.30am-4.00pm. There is a £5.00 entry fee. Current produce grown in the garden is on sale, also honey and honeycomb from the Estate’s own bee hives.

For those who have never visited it really is a worthwhile outing. Those that have not visited  in recent times will be amazed by the progress that has been made over the last few years.  Click to see photos

To complete all the renovations a sum of 8 million pounds is thought to be the amount needed!  Lottery winners are very welcome to apply here!

For further information visit:

…and Volunteers always welcome!

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Meeting 8th May 2018

Around 70 members and guests attended the Talk on a very warm evening given by Barry Gayton the well known East Anglian retired Head Gardener who shared his life long love of gardening with ‘bulbs, corms and tubers for all seasons’ accompanied by a colourful slide show.

Barry told us that when he was 7 years old he was asked by his parents what he wanted for Christmas. Most children of that age would have wanted a train set but Barry asked for a glass house! His parents duly obliged and that was the start of his life long love of gardening. From the age of 8 onwards he was able to start supplying his local nursery with plants!

Leaving school he went to horticultural college, cycling 25 miles each way each day.

Barry’s garden is set in an acre and a half on the Norfolk/Suffolk border and contains over 50,000 cacti and shrubs all grafted or from cuttings.

He demonstrated that bulbs have a single upward shoot, corms are solid with no scales and tubers like potatoes have several shoots from all angles.

This year has been the strangest since Barry can remember inasmuch as the very hot bursts of spring weather has caused many spring flowering bulbs to go over so quickly.

It is important to leave the stems for several weeks after flowering so all the energy can return to the bulb to guarantee flowering the following year. At this time it is very important to feed the plants. Dead heading too if you have the time!

Squirrels are very fond of breakfasting on bulbs especially crocuses so a good tip is to put a layer of wire mesh under the surface of the soil which will stop any interference. Also small plants like irises can be protected by a layer of small stones (not shingle) which will also protect them from sudden downpours.

Barry’s garden has evolved over 38 years and with his constant devotion and plant expertise provides year round colour a feat he can be justly proud.

..and lastly another top tip for the really keen gardener, the best time to remove the lily beetle is around 3.30 in the morning when they can be easily found and disposed of…..!



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Meeting 13 March 2018

An eventful and entertaining meeting held at Roundwood Park School! Our guest speaker Joe Sharman of Monksilver Nurseries was seriously delayed on his journey from Cambridge due to many major road closures!

As our Chairman was away on holiday, committee member Glyn Goodwin improvised splendidly for an hour with a series of entertaining asides including several jokes from the recently departed Ken Dodd’s joke book!

One of our members Gillian Whitbread boldly stepped in to the breach with a masterclass on one of her favourite flowers the snowdrop currently giving some colour in this grey winter month.

Still awaiting the arrival of our guest speaker (who was continually updating us on his progress!) an impromptu question and answer session was developed by Glyn involving members and guests. How to stop squirrels eating bulbs provided an entertaining range of answers from mothballs to airguns.

Two members gave suggestions to the perennial problem of killing moss was well received. A propriety brand ‘Mo Bacta’ and Ferrous Sulphate were recommended and are available from local garden centres.

At last Joe Sharman arrived and after some calming down and cups of tea he gave us a masterclass on the huge varieties of hellebores available backed up with a colourful slide show.

Basically there are two distinct types, stems and stemless with the latter having leaves at ground level. The stem variety are all evergreen and grow profusely on sloping ground.

Hellebores niger have black roots and thrive in an acid soil and come in a range of colours from red/white/pink and green.

The range of hellebores has grown significantly over the last few decades thanks to leading breeders like Helen Ballard who have perfected the art of creating the subtle colours and hues of hellebores we see today.

Hellebores are unique to their area. Those grown in Harpenden will have unique characteristics as will those grown in nearby Batford or Wheathampstead.

Members were able to purchase a whole range of spring plants including snowdrops, daffodils and of course many different species of very healthy looking hellebores which hopefully made Joe’s arduous journey worthwhile.

For further advice and information visit the website:

or visit: Monksilver Nursery, Oakington Road, Cottenham,Cambridge, CB24 8TW


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Meeting Tuesday 13 February 2018

On a cold and wet evening,the first meeting of 2018 attracted a good number (60-70) of members and guests to listen to our guest speaker, Thomas Stone the former Head Gardener of Mottisfont Abbey Gardens which members visited on an organised Society outing last year.

Thomas came to talk about ‘Hardy Geraniums and their uses’.

Geraniums (not to be confused with pelargoniums) are a truly global brand, found originally in the Americas, Europe, Middle East, Far East and Australasia.

Incredibly there are over 600 species of geraniums. Fortunately Thomas assured the audience he would not be covering all of them during the next 60 minutes!

With a series of stunning slides giving great clarity and fine detail he ran through many of his favourites as well as some ‘enemies’!

From asphodeloides that flower all summer long that are tough plants and can grow in full sun or shade to machrozzhizums with ‘apple scented’ leaves that need dryer conditions. Himalayense (no prizes for guessing where they originate!) grow to 8 inches in height but not only take over a border but will take over the garden if not checked. You have been warned!

Nigricans originally discovered in New Zealand grow to only 2 inches in height, give a beautiful display with their dark red leaves and delicate white flowers.

These are just a few examples from the talk but you can get in touch with Thomas via;

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Talk 14 November

Given the traffic gridlock in Harpenden caused by the closure of the M1 motorway and further problems in the High Street, a surprising number of members and guests made it albeit a little later than normal to enjoy our guest speaker Andrew Sankey talk entitled ‘Six of the best! (he admitted to being a teacher in earlier years!)

With a colourful series of slides he featured his 6 favourite lesser known gardens in the UK.

The Dorothy Clive Garden. The garden was created in the 1940’s by Colonel Harry Clive for the pleasure and enjoyment of his wife Dorothy. Originally a disused gravel pit, the garden was transformed into a woodland garden for Dorothy who was suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

There are plenty of landscape features including a woodland garden and waterfall, displaying a large collection of rhododendrons and azaleas, a hillside pool and a spectacular 30 metre long laburnum arch.

Powis Castle, a paradise in Wales dating back to the 17th century. The world class Italianate  terraced gardens blasted from solid rock display a theatrical mix of sophisticated borders with colourful planting, amazing topiary of the massive yew trees forming a cloud effect soaring over 30 feet in height above the terraces.

As you wander along the terraces you can experience the wonderful panoramic views of the Welsh countryside for mile upon mile.

Chatsworth, famous for it’s rich history, historic waterworks including the 300 year old cascade fountain, the willow tree fountain and the amazing gravity fed fountain, plus the spectacular 6 acre rock garden created by Head Gardener Joseph Paxton the most innovative garden designer of his era.

In addition there are 5 miles of walks, rare trees, shrubs, streams and ponds to discover.

Knightshayes Court a country estate on a grand gothic scale. The formal and woodland gardens contain one of the finest and most varied plant collections in the country. Over 1200 plant species are unique to Kingshayes. A walled kitchen garden is packed with fruit and vegetables used in the onsite Stables restaurant. Out in the parkland there are woodland walks and acres of tenanted farmland- home to the Exmoor long haul sheep.

Hestercombe Gardens a unique garden spanning three centuries of garden design. Set in 50 acres includes a Georgian shrubbery, a Georgian formal garden, a Georgian landscape garden and an Edwardian formal garden all offering  a different experience as you explore Hestercombe. A spectacular Great Cascade is the centrepiece of the landscape garden. Two ponds, the Box pond and the Pear pond make tranquil places to rest and enjoy the views. The formal garden houses the Dutch garden and the impressive Orangery.

If Shrewsbury was used as a centre point, the Dorothy Clive garden, Powis Castle and the Garden of the year winner Hodnet Hall Gardens,(recorded in the Domesday Book with its series of attractive lakes and waterfalls are all within easy reach.

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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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