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January 2019
In October we had Katherine Kear talking about ‘A Victorian Christmas’ and in November we had Alison Barnes on ‘The History and Practice of Botanical Art’. Two very interesting talks to close the year. And the club.

Yes, that’s right. No more Hawkesbury Gardening Club. We lasted for 10 years and had a lot of fun but nothing lasts forever.
As a punishment for failing to reach our centenary the committee will be subject to 40 lashes (collectively I hope) with a wet frog administered by Miss Hazel Whip from Lower Woods.

But we cannot go without offering a little gardening advice, so here goes - What are the 5 best controls for slugs and snails?
• Slug pellets.
• Nematodes (Not to be confused with common toads and other amphibians.)
• Ducks and Geese. (Mr. Fox likes these, but if you can keep him away then you might get some tasty roasts for yourself later on.)
• Copper bands. (Relieves rheumatism so I'm told. I've never seen a slug with rheumatism, have you?)
• Collecting them by hand, usually at night. (Yeucch!)
One thing for sure is that sand, grit and crushed eggshells have very little long term effect. Apparently when slugs come across a ring of these things they know that there is something tasty in the middle. It's like putting up a sign saying 'Free Food Here!'

And so it’s Goodbye from me and it’s Goodbye from them and thank you very much for your patience.

 
November 2018
I was looking through some of my old notes for this magazine and came across a few juicy tidbits:-

In the past it was thought that if a plant had parts that resembled human parts then they might be good for remedying ailments of those parts. I’m glad to report that none of my parts look a bit like a plant. Celandine apparently is good for wrinkles – you simply rub the plant into your wrinkles and sand it off when it’s dry for a lovely smooth finish. A coat of varnish afterwards will help to keep it in place. White nettle soup tastes like boiled knickers water. How would you know unless you’ve tasted boiled knickers water? The mind boggles!
Our chairladyperson Liz reported on a proposed national survey of earthworms. Participants lucky enough to be chosen for this essential endeavour will be required to spend long hours at night lying on wet grass with an ear to the ground recording the sounds of worms traveling through the soil. Next year the survey results will be made into a docu-movie presented by Al Ogre entitled 'The Great Global Worming Swindle - An Inconvenient Cast'.
Such fun.

 
August 2018
This past year we have had speakers on subjects such as Islamic Gardens, Pruning, Rare Plants, Penstemons and on Attracting Wildlife to your garden. As ‘old blues eye’s’ said ‘It was a very good year’.

The current (at the time of writing) drought has played havoc with my real-grass lawn. It is as brown as a brown birds backside. Meanwhile, my plastic lawn is as verdant a green as Robin Hood’s tabard. Good eh?

As a matter of interest we recently visited Kiftsgate Gardens and they too have discovered that plastic grass is the answer to some of those ‘difficult’ locations – heavy foot traffic, shady areas etc. Other visitors were very intrigued and some vigorous, ‘Well I never’, stroking of chins was going on.

However, the lack of rain has had a bad effect on the broad beans which are usually succulent and sweet but this year are a bit dry and tough, which is a shame because they are one of the few veg’s that I really like.
Never mind though, it will start to rain on Hawkesbury Show Day on Saturday 25th August just as it did after a similar hot, dry, spell in 1976 when we first moved here. And, hey, the grass, and most other plants, will recover. Believe ye not the doomsayers. What goes around comes around as they say.

 
June 2018
Our speaker for April was Ian McGuire from WildOwl who gave a very amusing and informative talk about Attracting Wildlife to Your Garden.
Ian lives on the Ridge estate in Yate and is well known in this area as ‘The Owl Man’. He has turned his back garden into a veritable safari park for British wildlife. He documents his work on his website - wildowl.co.uk, on Facebook - facebook.com/wildowltv and on his YouTube channel - youtube.com/user/WildOwlTV. Have a look. They are good.

We had our annual Plant Sale last weekend (12th May). Every year we worry whether anyone will turn up but when we opened the doors at 10.00am a tide of people surged in and devoured pretty much everything on offer. Thank you for supporting us. Thanks also to those who donated plants and cakes etc. and to those who came to sell – Dave & Moira, Colin & Pauline, Josie and the Mockfords (who come all the way from Keynsham). Thanks also to Lee Kemp for giving us a good discount on what we buy from him.

Meanwhile despite the cold spring the garden is looking great, the apple blossom is glorious and a quick vacuum has left the lawn looking like a well kept billiard table. Ah! The joys of plastic!

 
May 2018
Our speaker for March was Paul Green from Green’s Leaves Nursery near Newent who gave a very amusing talk about Rare and Unusual Plants.
Paul, like our previous speaker Jon Mason, recommends giving plants a good hacking after flowering – even perennials – which will result in a new flush of foliage and often a second bloom. (This is the way! Just do it!) Paul brought along a large selection of dark, twisted, spikey plants which, he said, were his favourites, and which his wife reckons says a lot about him.
When asked to choose between Phormiums and Cordylines he would always opt for Phormiums because they are interesting all the way from ground to tip, whereas Cordylines always have bare bottoms - and bare bottoms are not a good thing in a garden. Ooh! Matron!
He markets Agave and other spikey plants as ‘good with grandchildren’ because they, the plants, can fight back.
Some plants that are good for hedging – winter flowering (or Sweetest) honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) and Silver hedgehog holly (Ilex aquifolium 'Ferox Argentea'). Again, hack it all back to make it bush out and form an impenetrable barrier.
Another good speaker whom it would be nice to have back.
 
April 2018
Our speaker for February was John Mason from Highfield Garden World who taught us all about Pruning.
John first outlined how garden centres have changed since the Highfield Centre was first set up. It is clear that today few people are actually gardeners in the classic sense – they are now mostly shoppers who happen to buy a plant now and then. They have, for instance, no idea what a bare-rooted plant is – everything must come in a pot. Even then nothing is fool-proof. One customer complained that a pot of raspberry canes he had bought weren’t growing many months after being planted. John told him to bring them back, which he did. There were 10 canes in the pot and they were still tied together in a bundle just as the guy had bought them. I’m saying nothing! Furthermore, hardly anyone one gardens for 12 months of the year anymore, hence the need to provide shopping and eating and quaffing facilities at garden centres in order to keep the business alive. Johns approach to pruning is very refreshing, particularly when compared to the kind of dross we are bombarded with by TV ‘experts’. Simply put - prune like the grim reaper. Cut it short. Sometimes even down to ground level. Show no mercy. The plant will love it. Simply, if it flowers in the Spring then prune after the flowers are finished. If it flowers in the Summer then prune in the Spring. Some plants can take any treatment but if you manage to prune a Euonymus to death then it’s time to give up gardening altogether. There are exceptions of course e.g. do not prune box until after Derby Day. Let it grow strongly until then. Just like Granny told you.
 
March 2018
Our next meeting will be on Monday 26th March 2018 when Paul Green will talk about Rare and Unusual Plants.
 
February 2018
George Bush (The Elder) said "I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli." This came to mind when I was scanning the menu at a pub when my companion, an Italian, asked what I was having. I said that I was looking for something that did not come with ‘a selection of seasonal vegetables’ or something similar because I don’ much like them. He looked at me like he had found a long lost kinsman. ‘Me neither!’ he said. ‘Especially sprouts and broccoli’. Men after my own heart – Presidents and Italians.

Our garden looks like a battlefield because the snow ripped off branches and flattened shrubs. It will all bounce back because that is what plants do. They just need a little help. Meanwhile snowdrops are out and daffodils are ready to bloom. Ain’t nature wonderful?

 
January 2018
Our speaker for November was Nathalie Mignotte who gave a very interesting talk entitled Islamic Gardens during which she described the meaning and symbolism of the various aspects of the structure and colour of Islamic gardens.

At the time of writing I am looking out at a beautiful snow covered landscape and rather hoping that we will have another 12” so that Hawkesbury Upton will be cut off as it was in January 1982. The village became like a holiday resort – everyone came out and had fun. We knew it wouldn’t last so we made the most of it. The pubs and shops stayed open as long as there were customers and stock. After 3 days the ploughs finally got through to clear France Lane and were pelted with snow balls and told to go away. Ah! The good old days!

I understand that this week is ‘National Beanpole’ week. Who would you nominate? Or am I missing something?

 
November 2017
A tip for tired gardeners. There is no need to wash all those used plant pots before re-using them. All you need to do is brush any old soil or other detritus out and re-use the pot. Apparently any microbes remaining in the pot will aid germination of the new seeds. You heard it here first!
 
October 2017
What an amazing growing year we have had. My climbing rose, a pink Albertine, is usually over and done by the end of July but this year, for the first time ever, it has had a second flush and is flowering again in the middle of September.
The runner beans looked at us and smirked when they should have been cropping in July but eventually by late August they got going and fruited heavily. Unfortunately, last week one of the ‘worst storms since records began’ blew the whole row over which dragged some roots out of the ground. Gill and I managed to set them upright-ish again (have you ever tried to do that? It’s like trying to stand a bag of alligators on their tails) but not before a rainstorm the like of which has not been seen since Noahs flood drenched us.
And the Brambly apple trees! They have been in our garden since 1980 and have hardly produced more than a dozen crumbles yearly between them but this year the branches are drooping with fruit. The best apples are, of course, at the top of the tree – why is that? - but like yon Blackbird in yon wurzel bush – I’ll have thee! More crumble and custard vicar?
 
September 2017
Nothing to say.
 
August 2017
This past year we have speakers on subjects such as ‘Birds, Tigers and the Taj’, ‘Butterflies of Gloucestershire’, ‘Veg Growing in Syria and Burma’, ‘The plants of Fiji and Samoa’ and ‘The walled gardens at The Priory in Bath’. As a special treat, in June, we were given a private tour of those gardens by its head gardener.
And in July some lemonade and a snifter or two when we invaded some club members gardens for a good old nosey-parker.

 
July 2017
Our speaker for May was William Scott who gave an interesting talk entitled ‘Walled Garden at Worcester’. William and his wife took over an abandoned walled garden in Worcester and are slowly restoring it to its former glory. During this time he has disproved some of the ‘expert’ advice about certain gardening fads. For instance, he has found that fan-training fruit trees involves far too much effort and really does not work at all after a few years. Also, he has used companion planting (something you do with friends?) quite a lot but he is sceptical about its efficacy. His results show little improvement over what would have happened if he had not bothered. Interesting eh?

For our July meeting we will invade some club members gardens for a good old nosey-parker and perhaps a stiff tincture or two. The star of the show, of course, will be my new plastic lawn (as some ‘experts’ call it). Once they see it though I bet there’ll be a ‘Hmm dear! I never thought it would look that good. Do you think….?’ or two. Meanwhile, my not-plastic lawn needs so much attention that it keeps me from causing mayhem on the streets and from being a nuisance around the house. See ya!

 
June 2017
Our speaker for April was Adam Alexander who gave a very interesting talk entitled ‘Veg Growing in Syria and Burma’. Adam works for the Heritage Seed Library and styles himself a ‘Plant Detective’. He travels the world, mostly in the third world, visiting markets and villages where traditional plants are still grown and sold. Here he discovers plants that are endangered due to the changes in what we eat. Many traditional food plants are no longer grown because they do not conform to the diktats of major supermarket buyers. The Heritage Seed Library aims to collect and preserve these ‘old’ plants in order to keep their strong, unaltered DNA intact for future generations.

I am told that spent hops are not only a good mulch but that they keep dogs out of your garden. Joan told me that used teabags keep cats out of her garden. Any tips for keeping J-C Junker out of the UK?

 
May 2017
Our speakers for March were Sue Dodds and Sue Smith who gave a very interesting talk entitled ‘Butterflies of Gloucestershire’. These ladies are a bit like the 2 Ronnies, happily taking turns to speak and coming up with well rehearsed quips when required.
I think we were all rather surprised to discover that there are a host of butterflies in this county that very few of us have ever seen.

If you are having problems with moles there is now deterrent that doesn’t kill them. It is called Sork Anti-Mole Bulbs and they have been sold for over twenty years on the Swedish market. Apparently the bulb secretes a smell that keeps moles and field mice away or forces them to move. Made with natural ingredients, gathered in the Swedish countryside, Anti-Mole Bulbs are currently the only product with the capacity of making moles move away without the use of pesticide or poison. Whatever! They look like garlic bulbs to me.

 
April 2017
Our speaker for February was Roger Umpleby who gave a very interesting talk entitled ‘A plant lovers view of Fiji and Samoa’.
 
March 2017
As previously reported, several years ago pheasants came over the fence and scratched up big patches of lawn and no matter what I did I could not get it back looking how it once was. I carried on umming and ahhing about what to do – re-seed, turf, astro-turf, paving - and eventually decided to kill all the grass in readiness for the big leap forward. Trouble is that I still cannot decide what the big leap forward should be. Where’s Mao-Tse-Dong when you need him? Meanwhile, what was once grass is now mostly moss, which song birds take great enjoyment in turning over in their search for grubs so it all looks even worse than it did before. John Weaver very kindly lent us a pheasant trap but the local itinerant population took one look, said ‘Yeah! Right!’, and scarpered. The song bird population however are loving it and are leaving notes thanking us for giving them tasty feed during the cold weather. Oh joy! Such fun!
 
February 2017
Things went well at our pre-Christmas social – Skittles and nibbles at The Beaufort Arms – and some bloke who only plays 1 game of skittles a year won the round of Killer by knocking out the last pin standing, straight and true, right down the middle, all professional like. The luck of some people, hey? Tsk! Tsk! Watwassisname? Oh yes. It was little old me. Better luck next year team.

 
January 2017
Our speaker for November was Jane Moore, the head gardener at The Priory in Bath since 2003, who gave a very interesting talk entitled ‘Colours in the Garden’. The walled gardens at The Priory cover nearly 4 acres and Jane manages it all with just one helper - her friend Anna. The gardens have been described as ‘four acres of horticultural paradise’ and they were recently selected as the best out of 518 other Relais & Châteaux properties spread across 60 countries. Two of the special sights of the gardens are the magnificent Wisterias on the terrace and a 150 year old Lebanon cedar tree. And you can see them all when they open for the NGS in April and August.

 
December 2016
There has been a bit of a furore recently about the sighting of an Asian hornet near Tetbury. Apparently a pumpkin-sized hornets nest was found up a 55ft conifer tree. I enquired how one could identify the creature – What do they look like? How big are they? Do they wear turbans? No help has been forthcoming. If you happen to see one when you are next in Tetbury please take a photo of it and send it to me.

Our speaker for October was Arthur Ball who gave a very interesting talk entitled Birds, Tigers and the Taj during which he described the sights and sounds of his journey through northern India whilst on a bird watching trip. The highlight of the trip was an encounter in the jungle with a tigress and her 2 cubs that just ambled, unconcerned though wary, past his group. If this happens to you, should you be in Tetbury running away from an Asian hornet, please take a photo and send it to me.

 
November 2016
Well you missed it! It’s too late now and it won’t be repeated until next September. I refer of course to our AGM when we had wine and nibbles and a fun quiz. Don’t miss it again.

I have been having problems with my lawn. Several years ago some pheasants come over the fence and scratched up big patches of grass searching for something tasty and no matter what I do I cannot get it back looking how it once was. There must be a way to restore its former glory but it might not be worth the effort because the pheasants keep coming back. Even if the pheasants were to leave it alone there is still the mowing to do. Mowing the lawn can be enjoyable but I remember what an old friend said when he saw a lorry go by loaded up with rolls of turf. 'I'm going do that when I win the lottery, Tel.' he said. 'What's that Tony?’ I asked. 'Send my lawn away to be cut' he said. He’s always full of good ideas, our Tony. But I reckon the answer may be to give up fighting nature and lay plastic grass. I might have to give it a vacuum and a shampoo and set now and again but at least I wouldn’t have to mow it. And pheasants would find it hard to scratch up too. Woss fink?

 
October 2016
This is Terry Truebody’s Ghost Writer reporting this month. Having last month informed us that he has lived in Hawkesbury Upton for 40 years, he has absconded from his duties. I suspect he is sunning himself in some outpost of the British Isles, but rumour has it that he has been seen recently blowing his own trumpet in the nether regions of Hillesley.

We often focus our gardening thoughts on flowers and vegetables – especially around Show time, but what about the trees that adorn our village and countryside? Having been successful in making walnut liqueur (an ancient French recipe) I am amazed at the number of walnut trees that we have in our village. Most of the walnuts will become food for the local crows, magpies, rooks and the like – the odd empty shells appearing like magic on garden paths and lawns. Some even have been known to fall on people’s heads (dropped, one assumes, by a passing bird). However, walnut liqueur is perhaps one of the best ways to taste walnuts. Five walnuts, picked “in the green” (ie in July), chopped up and mixed with sugar. Add 100% proof alcohol (available in French supermarkets – of course!!) – or vodka - a few litres of red wine and that’s all there is. You do have to leave it for at least 4 months – or a year if you can manage it. Small sips at a time are recommended.

 
September 2016
I am writing this on 14th August at Pat & Jon Fisher’s house in Saltdean, near Brighton and it comes to my mind that Gill and I have lived in The Row for 40 years. We moved into a small touring caravan that we had dragged into the garden two Saturdays before Show Day of 1976. I say ‘the garden’ but it was nothing of the sort. It was actually more of a tangle of brambles, nettles, elders, dandelions, dock, rabbits and scrap metal (including a motorbike). We had worried that the soil was going to be glutinous clay but we discovered to our delight that the previous 200 years of cultivation had produced a lovely loose top soil that gave little resistance to a spade and so clearing away a patch of weeds to grow some vegetables was reasonably easy. All the while Dora Thompson kept us supplied with cups of tea. My Dad showed me how to build a proper garden fire and we kept it going for many months and produced enough potash to last for years. The scrap metal filled a skip to the brim and the rabbits were discouraged from their depredations in a way that I would rather not disclose in polite company. Then on 28th August 1976 the long hot summer came to an end and we experienced our first Hawkesbury Show. We stood amazed as this little village put on a show to rival anything we had seen in elsewhere and we knew we had made a good move.
40 years on and the caravan has gone to the great holiday park in the sky, the rabbits have not dared to return, our garden has matured and Hawkesbury Show is still the best anywhere - and long may it continue.

 
August 2016
I can hardly believe the way that everything is growing. Our roses are usually over quite quickly but this year they seem to go on and on. And the fuchsias are so full of flowers that they are bending the stems - that blast of fire up the mites backsides from my blow torch last year really worked. I’ve never seen the Hebe’s so full of blossom and the honeysuckle scent is so sweet that it’s giving me a headache.
We’ve had a good crop of broad beans and the runner beans are (at time of writing) getting there.

Our meetings this year have included talks on winter container plants, making gypsy flowers, the way that flowers range from being flamboyant to demure, making a winter garden, living on the Scilly Isles, caring for houseplants, enjoying herbaceous perennials and ‘Brussel’s sprouts - an EU conspiracy’.
We have also had several trips out – to Hampton Court near Leominster, to Hookhouse Pottery and to Dewstowe.

The debate over compost rumbles on - sell-by dates, is there a difference between multi-purpose and all-purpose, is it better to use home made compost or ‘green waste’ from local councils, is peat-free compost any good?
As ‘old blues eye’s’ said ‘It was a very good year’.

 
July 2016
We recently hosted Michael Smith who gave an entertaining talk about ‘Caring for your houseplants’. He reminded us that houseplants were originally wild-flowers and are well adapted to being treated rough. Indeed the most common cause of failure when keeping houseplants is over-watering because wild-flowers are used to taking in water only when it becomes available. So, keep ‘em dry and treat ‘em rough and then they will thrive and flower well.
A good reason to keep house plants is that the air in our homes is full of invisible, potentially harmful, particles that are left behind from fabric treatment, cleaning materials and many 21st century devices. House plants can remove these and replace them with oxygen. Michael provided a list of some of the best plants to keep for this purpose. These include English Ivy – Hedera helix, Peace Lily – Spathiphyllum species and Boston Fern – Nephrolepsis exalta ‘Bostoniensis’.

In May we had Tim Hancock from Tortworth Plant Centre over to tell us about Herbaceous Perennials. He brought along a lot of common, and unusual, plants to sell and was not disappointed by the response. He didn’t take a lot of them home.

Instead of a meeting in June we went for an evening trip to Hook House Garden & Pottery near Tetbury. On Sunday evening 24th July we are going to Dewstowe House near Chepstow.

 
June 2016
Our speaker for April was Michael Smith who gave an entertaining talk about ‘Caring for your houseplants’. He pointed out that most of what we term ‘houseplants’ originate from tropical or sub-tropical regions and so need a different care regime than those that are native to Europe. It should also be understood that our ‘houseplants’ are wild-flowers in their natural habitat and are well adapted to being treated rough. Indeed the most common cause of failure when keeping houseplants in our homes is over-watering since many plants only take in water when they need it or only when water becomes available. So, treat ‘em rough and keep ‘em dry and then they will thrive and flower well.
A good reason to keep plants is their ability to filter and cleanse the air. The air in our homes is full of invisible, potentially harmful, particulates that are left behind from fabric treatment, cleaning materials and many 21st century devices. House plants can remove these and replace them with oxygen.
Michael provided a list of some of the best plants to keep for this purpose. These include English Ivy – Hedera helix, Peace Lily – Spathiphyllum species and Boston Fern – Nephrolepsis exalta ‘Bostoniensis’.

 
May 2016
There has been another magazine trial to determine which brand of growbag is best. The ones recommended were both peat free varieties. But the chief nurseryman from a local garden centre told us that peat-free potting compost is usually not a lot of good. Who to believe?
Another survey recorded that the most hated garden noises included dogs barking, road traffic, crowing cockerels, lawn mowers, low-flying aircraft - particularly helicopters, garden parties (not including any at Buck House of course) and cannon-fire (with or without battlefield re-enactments?). Where do these people live?

Our speaker for March was Brian Bailey who gave an entertaining talk about his time living for 8 years on the Scilly Isles with his wife and young daughter. There was not a lot to entertain them there – no pubs or clubs - and the highlight of a Saturday evening was to walk to the local telephone box to watch the light come on.
He made a precarious living working mostly on daffodil farms. To pick Daffodils one used the ‘quasimodo’ walk – waddling along bent over with arms waving back and forth to collect and stack the spills. There was always a dripping nose at the end of the row which was swiftly dealt with by a snort and a deft nose-wipe with the shirt-cuff.
He noted that natives prefer to be called Scillonians not Scilly islanders. I wonder why.

 
April 2016
Our speaker for February was Ross Barber who gave a very interesting talk on The Winter Garden. He gardens at Ragley Hall near Malvern and has created a garden that is full of colour and interest during the winter months by using dappled shade, trees with special bark, colourful leaves and under-plantings of winter and spring flowers. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you know how (and when your spouse lets you).

 
March 2016
Not a lot happens in our garden in mid February. Well, not usually anyway, but this year we are looking out on Crocus, Grape Hyacinth, Hellebore, Ipheion, Jonquil, Primrose, Sarcococca, Snowdrop, Viburnum and a few tiny Fuchsia flowers hanging on from last year. Glorious! Last night, though, there was a hard frost which will probably see off the fuchsias but with any luck will finally put a bit of flavour into the parsnips. It’s an ill wind and all that.

 
February 2016
I received a lot comment on my post last February about my dislike of sprouts. And, as sure as eggs is eggs, at Christmas dinner at my sister-in-laws an enormous bowl of those putrid little green balls of impending flatulence appeared on the table. And although other guests raved ‘Ooh! Sprouts! I just love sprouts!’ it gave me no satisfaction to see that no one actually ate very many. To test my mettle further my daughter-in-law gave me some chocolate sprouts as a Christmas present, which was a fun idea but, no, they didn’t do the trick either.
However, a concerned friend (Gef), noting my aversion, sent me a recipe for ‘Sprouts For People Who Don’t Like Sprouts’ that he was sure would be acceptable to me and here it is (the quantities are arbitrary) :-
Slice the sprouts into fairly thin pieces, chop a red chili, chop or press a couple of cloves of garlic, finely grate a thumbsize chunk of fresh root ginger.
Fry chilli, garlic and ginger in oil for a couple of minutes then add the sprouts.
Add 3 tablespoons of medium dry sherry and 3 tablespoons of soy or Teriyaki sauce.
Stir-fry until the sprouts are just done.
Eh voila! Cooked like this sprouts are quite enjoyable, mainly because if, like my son, you are a bit heavy on the chili you can hardly taste the little blighters at all. An acceptable compromise I reckon.

 
January 2016
Growing tests have found that home made compost is better than ‘green waste’ from local councils.
This summer there has been an increase in the numbers of slugs and snails but a reduction of lily beetles and cabbage white butterflies.
Joy of joys - there is no mention of sprouts or any other brassica in the list of the nations 10 most favourite vegetables. I told you so!

Our speaker for November was Keith Ferguson who gave a very interesting talk on Flowers – Flamboyant to Demure. He showed the often strikingly different ways that flowers exhibit their wares – some varieties of the same species are very colourful and ‘in-your-face’ whilst others are almost shy and retiring in a ‘now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t’ way.
One thing I love about these talks is how they help us to see our, often very familiar, garden plants in a new light. Roll on next year.

 
December 2015
The debate over compost labeling rumbles on. Not only should there be a sell-by/use-by date displayed on the sack but it is not clear what difference there is between Multi Purpose and All-Purpose compost. Some manufacturers claim that ‘Multi’ means ‘suitable for a variety of uses’ and ‘All’ means ‘suitable for all uses’ which to you and me means the same thing really. Doesn’t it?

Some members reported ‘strange goings on’ in their gardens. One member has cowslips in bloom whilst another has seen pheasants mating. Positive proof of man-made climate change I reckon. I shall inform Albert ‘the inconvenient’ Gore.

Our speaker for October was Carl Sadler who gave a very entertaining talk and demonstration on Gypsy Flowers. Carl specialises in woodland crafts – making trugs, hurdles, rustic furniture, gypsy flowers etc - and has been a supplier of these items for many films including Star Wars. He also takes part in historical re-enactments when he plays Little John amongst other roles.
This evening, before our very eyes, he scraped away at green Elder cuttings making Gypsy flowers whilst entertaining us to a constant string of amusing anecdotes and non-PC tales about his life and family. As Gill said - ‘He wittered whist he whittled’. He had us chuckling and at our ease in no time.

 
November 2015
Liz reported that Gardeners Delight tomatoes have mutated and now grow to a much larger size. Unfortunately the taste has deteriorated also. Some members have experienced this for themselves. The cause is being investigated.

Our speaker for September was John Mason from Highfield Garden World who gave a very entertaining talk and demonstration on Winter Container Plants. John started out as a nurseryman and worked his way up to become a departmental manager in the family-run business. He gave a very amusing explanation as to why garden centres today are as much about providing a shopping experience as they are about plants and garden-related stuff.
John brought along a large range of plants and plant pots and showed us the proper way to choose, pot and display potted plants. He has two main messages:-
First make sure that the pot is big enough for the plant to grow and that the shape will allow you to remove the plant when it is ready for re-potting and secondly, do not buy cheap potting compost because it is cheap for a reason. Usually that reason is that cheap composts do not contain peat and if it does not contain peat then it is not a lot of good. Wise words!

 
October 2015
What an odd growing year we have had. Apples? Foggedabowdit! as they say in Noo Yawk. Despite a good blossoming and early fruiting they failed to grow and turned scabby and fell off.
The Blackberries looked very promising but they went mouldy just as they were ripening. Raspberries ditto. As for tomatoes, well they didn’t really get ripening soon enough and we reckon that there will be loads of green ones. Maybe we should set up a food outlet like in that film ‘Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Café’. Has anyone got a recipe other than for chutney?
We had a good crop of broad beans (thanks for the plants Mabel) and the runner beans are (at time of writing) still cropping well.

This year our Fuchsia’s have been the best we’ve ever had, with stems so laden with flowers that they drooped to the ground. For several years they had refused to flower because they were infected by some tiny, unidentified, pest that sucked the sap and made the top leaves curl up. Since insecticide had no effect I was advised to dig them out but decided instead to give ‘em a blast of fire up their backsides from my blow torch to see if I could kill them off. It seems to have worked. No more pesky pests. Looks like they really don’t like it up ‘em, Mr. Mainwearing!

What a wonderful day we all had at the Hawkesbury Show in August. Some friends who, after many years of coaxing, had finally made it to the show this year went home dazed and amazed that such a fabulous event has been put on for here the past 130 years. “Only in Hawkesbury” I said. Well done Keith and team. And well done also to Betty Salthouse for coming first in our ‘A Vase of Culinary Herbs’ class.

 
September 2015
I thought it would be good to recap a little on the clubs meetings over the last year. We have some marvelous speakers and social events
 
August 2015
No copy submitted.
 
July 2015
Instead of a meeting in May we went by coach to Hestercombe Gardens near Taunton and a very nice day was had by all. I heard whispers by some about ‘Ooh! I really do covet those daisy type things growing in the walls’ and ‘Here, Pat, what are those nice things with the spikey leaves?’. I didn’t actually see anyone snaffling samples to take home but I’m not saying it didn’t happen.

On Monday 6th July we will be going on an evening visit to Wyndcliffe Court near Chepstow and for our July meeting on Monday 27th July we will be going on an evening guided tour of the Bristol University Botanical Gardens. How do we fit it all in?

 
June 2015
Our speaker for April was Adam Alexander who gave a talk on ‘Gardens of the Mekong’. Adam is the Seed Guardian for the Heritage Seed Library of Garden Organic. He visited Mekong River in Laos to collect exotic seeds which may be under threat. Adam seeks out little, old ladies in markets as most are likely to have seeds passed down through generations. He also had some exotic food to eat including fruit bats, frogs, tarantula spiders and cockroaches all of which he said were delicious!
Land along the Mekong is incredibly fertile as the river floods every year meaning that 2 or 3 crops can be grown in six months although this is under threat due to dams being built in China, Vietnam and Laos. He says to save your own seeds to get best results as many seed companies now source their seeds from China so you may not get what you are expecting and never buy seeds online.

 
May 2015
I found this amusing extract by Anne Wareham about garden pests in a magazine :–
‘One person's amazing solution to deter pests does absolutely nothing for the next person. All pests are not equal: some are easily foiled but others have uncanny abilities. It is a mystery, for instance, why some slugs, with apparently little brain or expertise, in experiments will happily find a way to scale any obstacle, even a razor blade or shards of glass, while others are deterred by a little grit. The progress of slugkind depends on defeating human ingenuity. We are told that some moles run a mile from the noise of a child's windmill stuck in the ground. Others would not be deterred by a landmine but would plough on relentlessly through your lawn. The lesson is to know your own pests, to watch them and to learn from their behaviour, see what dents their confidence. In particular watch those pesky squirrels. You will need their persistence, determination and ingenuity to stand a chance of protecting your garden. But at all costs beware the garden expert. Your desperation will make you vulnerable and eager for 'infallible’ solutions, but the garden 'expert' has acquired this status by no better means than having attended a horticultural course some time in the previous century, or perhaps having written amiable nonsense about deterring deer with lion dung.’

Our speaker for March was Sally Nex who gave a talk on ‘Behind The Scenes At Chelsea’. Sally is a garden journalist and is able to see what goes on at shows before the public is allowed in. Chelsea is particularly interesting in that in order to remain the best flower show in the world the exhibitors have to comply with very strict rules. What we see on the day has involved some very intricate. painstaking and expensive work behind the scenes. Nevertheless there is always humour and camaraderie in abundance.

 
April 2015
This winter, John Weaver experienced ‘strange-goings-on’ in his vegetable patch. During the night something had been pulling his sprout plants down to the ground and stripping the stalks of produce whilst leaving no trace of tracks or spoor on the soft ground. After setting up a camera he discovered it to be a blooming large rabbit wearing snow shoes – no, I jest, the rabbit wasn’t all that large.

Our speaker for February was Nathalie Mignotte who gave a talk on ‘Gardens of Versailles’.
A lover of and frequent visitor to Versailles, Nathalie gave an impassioned and informative presentation of the garden rooms and fountains at the palace and at Marie Antoinettes nearby Le Petit Trianon.

 
March 2015
As I write this in mid February the words of that 1960’s Move song flow through my mind - ‘I’m just sitting watching flowers in the rain, feel the power of the rain making the garden grow.’ Yes, it’s raining again and it’s cold but the snowdrops, those fabulous heralds of spring, just shrug it off. The crocuses are not quite so happy because their cups are open and the water soon destroys their poise. The primroses and aubrietia just issue a challenge for the weather to ‘Bring it on!’. As my Dad used to say - ‘Ain’t nature wonderful?’ ‘…… I feel the power of the rain keeping me cool.’
Spring is coming. Another gardening year. Another Hawkesbury Show. Bring it on!

 
February 2015
I don’t like sprouts. There, I’ve said it out loud. In fact I’m not at all keen on any kind of cabbage. It’s probably the one thing that I regret the Romans doing for us. We were surviving quite nicely without cabbages but they had to bring them with them didn’t they. Gee, thanks Romans!
However, it is the Belgians who we can thank for sprouts, those weapons of digestive destruction. Gee, thanks Belgians! What did we ever do to you to deserve that?
And when did it become de-rigueur at Christmas dinner that you have to have an enormous barrel of sprouts on the table stinking up the otherwise delicious aromas of meat and gravy and more meat and more gravy? And why is it against the cannon of polite society to say ‘No thanks’ when those putrid little green balls of impending, raging flatulence are passed around the table? You feel that you would be more welcome if you were an Orc or a flu bacterium. And why does everyone else pretend to love them? ‘Oh, don’t you like sprouts? I just LOVE sprouts’ they say. ‘Then why is it that you have them only at Xmas?’ I say ‘and why are you only taking 2 and why is your nose growing?’ Nasty little Brussels brassicas!
Perhaps PM Dave should tell the Bruxelles bureaucracy that we don’t want their nasty, smelly minature cabbages either. I’ll vote for that.

 
January 2015
Our speaker for November was Nick Wray from the University of Bristol who talked about Darwin and The Beagle.
Nick is clearly a great fan of Charles Darwins achievements. He is much impressed by the fact that Darwin undertook the voyage on The Beagle, which was scheduled to last for 2 years but actually lasted for 5 years, at the tender age of 22. Indeed the ships captain, Robert Fitzroy, who was a close friend, was only 26. Darwin was often dropped off on the shore of some strange land and left to fend for himself for months at a time whilst the ship went off surveying the ocean. No www. or cell phones then of course, just him and the wilderness.
Nicks enthusiastic manner made his talk highly entertaining and informative.
He gave us an update on how Darwins work in plant studies was continuing at Bristol University Earth Sciences department and also what was happening at the University Botanical Gardens.

 

December 2014
Our speaker for October was Caroline Sheldrick who talked about Medicinal Herbs in the Garden. And a very interesting talk it was too. Caroline outlined the uses and effects of many common plants, explaining that people have always used plants as medicines, learning over the centuries which plants were effective for their common complaints.
All, though, is currently not well in the herbalist world because the jolly old EU has come up with a scheme to control and licence every single herbal product. Herbalism, as we know it Jim, is soon to go the way of the dodo.

There was this experiment to find out what is the best way to deter snails from eating your plants. Snails were collected and put overnight in a box lined with green paper towels. A few maize leaves were put in for their supper. In the morning researchers were dismayed to find that the snails had eaten the paper towels and not touched the leaves. Methinks therefore that the best way to keep snails off your plants is to surround them with green paper towels.

 
November 2014
Our speaker for September was Mr. A.J. Pedrick from Evesham who talked about wall shrubs and climbers. He explained some simple yet oft ignored facts and tips about climbers:-
1.   Use vine eyes to keep climbers away from walls.
2.   If you are wondering why the clematis that you planted in 1945 seems a little worse for wear it might be that it needs a bit of feeding right now.
3.   Use slow release feed blocks when planting in pots. If you buy a potted climber from a nursery and the compost has a block of little yellow balls do not complain to the seller - they are not slug eggs. Slug eggs are white.
4.   There are 5 steps to pruning – secateurs, lopper, hand saw, chain saw and JCB. It’s your choice. 5. To check if a pot plant needs watering stick your thumb in the compost. If your thumb stays dirty after you’ve wiped it on your clothes then the compost is wet enough. This is called a ‘Rule of Thumb’. This is probably an illegal piece of advice since thumbs have not been authorised by the EU for this use – see item 6.
6.   If your thumb comes out clean then the compost is very dry. Put a few drops of washing-up liquid in the water. This will help the compost to absorb the water. Please note that this advice is actually discouraged by the EU because it is not the primary use of washing-up liquid which makes it illegal to disseminate which makes it necessary for all of us to tell as many people as possible.
This man from Evesham comes with a laughter warning and will be very welcome to visit us again.

 
Aug-Sep-Oct 2014
Nothing worth including here.
 
July 2014
Our June meeting was also our AGM. True to form we have had another good fun year. We have had to reduce the number of speakers in order to make the funds go farther but this hasn’t reduced their quality. We have also had some really good social events. Thanks to the team for organising that.
Members breathed deep sighs of relief when the committee volunteered, almost en-bloc, to continue for another year. Business as usual, OK!
Business over, there was no reason to delay the main event of the evening which was a Gardeners Question Time with Brian Noble and Angie Chillcott in the hot seats. Brian handled the vegetable questions and Angie took the flowery ones.

The club class in the Horticultural Show on Saturday 30th August will once again be ‘A Vase of Culinary Herbs’. On hearing this Diane Musty chuckled her little chuckle and promised not to win again – actually she didn’t win last year - but if she does we send her to the foot of our stairs.
The entry should consist of a maximum of five different herbs used for cooking or in salads. The herbs must be grown in the entrant’s garden or allotment. Leaves and flowers of the herb may be used. The herbs will be judged on quality, variety and arrangement.

 
June 2014
The European Commission demand for an "officially recognised description" for every plant has been abandoned due to pressure from all those who generally exist outside that unelected numptyhouse i.e. those blessed with more than two brain cells i.e. just about the rest of the world.

Our speaker for April was Fiona Warin who enthralled us with a talk, or rather a performance, about the wartime Land Army. She welcomed us to the Hawkesbury Upton branch of the Women’s Land Army making especial mention of the ‘honourary women’, namely the men present.
All women between the ages of 17 and 42 were eligible to join as long as they were at least 5 feet tall because it was thought that women under 5 feet tall would not be strong enough to do farm work. Government officials have always been out of touch with real people then!
We were surprised to learn that we imported the majority of our food, especially grain, before 1939 which made it essential that we started to grow more here, hence the need for the Land Army.
For many of the young women who joined the Land Army the work and conditions came as quite a culture shock – imagine an innocent 17 year old inner city girl who found herself having to acquaint herself with the dangly bits of a cow or the inner workings of a Fordson tractor. She was also introduced to showers, which she had never before experienced, only to find that she had to share the event with other girls – naked! Fiona made us participants in her story which was not only amusing and entertaining but highly informative. But then, that is what Fiona Warin does. Do not miss her when next she visits here.

 
May 2014
Our speaker for February was Davina Wynn-Jones who gave a talk on ‘The Influence of my mother Rosemary Verey’.
Rosemary Verey was a self-taught garden designer whose most famous garden design was that of her home, Barnsley House, near Cirencester. The famous laburnum walk at Barnsley House is an example of her technique of taking imposing elements from large public gardens and bringing them into scale for the home gardeners use. She was also noted for making potager gardens fashionable.
When her husband David died, Rosemary, at the age of 66, began designing gardens for American and British clients such as HRH the Prince of Wales, Sir Elton John, Princess Michael of Kent and the New York Botanical Garden. Then in 1989 she started to write books including ‘A Country Womans Notes’ and ‘The Art of Planting’ which sold in their thousands. She was awarded the OBE in 1996. A truly remarkable lady. Davina Wynn-Jones’ humour and fond memories of her mother was much enjoyed by everyone.

 
April 2014
Our speaker for February was Brian Noble who gave a talk on ‘Growing and Cooking Potatoes’.
Brian, as usual, gave much more info than is possible to record here but some details are not well known. Potatoes originated in South America and have been found in Incan tombs. In the wild they were very small in size. They did not suffer from bugs or infections because they were grown at over 600 feet above sea level which is free from noisome insects etc. Potatoes were brought to Europe by the Spanish Conquistadores and initially fed to the poor as they were not thought to be a fit food for anyone else. A Frenchman, Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, believed that potatoes were a bit special and planted a potato garden in Paris. To get his point across he began a series of publicity stunts. He hosted dinners at which potato dishes featured prominently and invited guests such as Benjamin Franklin and Antoine Lavoisier. He gave bouquets of potato blossoms to the King and Queen. He surrounded his potato patch with armed guards to suggest that he was growing valuable plants. He then instructed the guards to accept bribes and he withdrew them at night so the greedy crowd could "steal" the potatoes.
As usual Brian was eager to impart his knowledge and was ready to answer any question thrown at him. We look forward to what he will come up with next year.

The Gardening Club will be planting snowdrops on The Plain in April. If you have any spare ‘in-the-green’ snowdrops that you would like to donate we would be very pleased to receive them. Please drop them off at Stoke Cottage, opposite The Fox. Thanks.

 
March 2014
I would hope that by the time you read this we are having a little less rain than of we had during January and February but in any case now is a good time to service your gardening tools, lawn mowers and garden furniture. Also remove moss and weeds from paths, terraces and driveways. They may be boring tasks but if you don’t get on top of the garden now it will be a nightmare for the rest of the season and we’ve had enough of those for one year thank you.

 
February 2014
No real notes. Just a few coming dates etc.

 
January 2014.
Our speaker for November had to cancel at the last moment so we had a gardening quiz with wine and nibbles instead. I didn’t do very well. Later on I ate what I thought was an onion. It turned out to be a daffodil bulb. I’m in hospital now. Should be out by spring.

You always learn something from a quiz. I learned that a weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for how to grow in rows. So when weeding, the best way to make sure that you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.

I'm feeling beet now. Lettuce rest.

 
December 2013.
The EU is demanding an "officially recognised description" for every plant. Each description could run to two pages and include details such as hair lengths on stems. Needless to say it will cost a fortune which we will all pay for. Nurserymen are not at all happy and are campaigning to get it quashed. It’s a wonder how these EU twerps dream up such nonsense but they do, and on a regular basis too – let’s not forget the fishing quotas where perfectly good fish have to be thrown back into the sea if they are not the ‘right’ species on the trawler men’s licence.

Our speaker for October was Paul Hervey-Brookes who gave a talk on ’Encounters with Plants’. He gave an amusing talk which included some details about his early family life and how it stirred his interest horticulture. Gin seemed to be the reason that certain aged relatives wobbled a lot and their potted plants were liberally dosed with the spirit as soon as more sober relatives hove into view. None the less these lovely people instilled in Paul a love of plants and gardening.
Paul is a noted English garden designer who has won numerous medals at Royal Horticultural Society Shows, including Gold at Chelsea Flower Show in 2013 and at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in 2012. Paul has also created a number of show features for Malvern Spring Gardening Show.
A quiet and unassuming man he has knowledge of the secrets of SAS fishing techniques that will be of great use to me should I ever become marooned in the wild. How he came by these tit-bits I do not know and dared not ask.
That Linda and Pat managed to get such a celebrity to speak at our meeting was a coup indeed.

 
November 2013.
Well, yes, this summer was much better than that which we endured in 2012 but it didn’t come bearing gifts and bounty for all did it. We usually suffer some problems with butterfly damage to our cabbages so this year I built a proper cage around the brassica patch complete with a sturdy 11mm mesh net pinned to the ground with bricks. Let’s see you get through that! we said. Now tell me - was it just us? Were we the only ones plagued by cabbage white butterflies? We hardly saw any other species. Cabbage whites descended on our new ‘impenetrable’ cage in numbers like those flights of monarch butterfly you see on TV. And that lovely close mesh that was surely far too small for a butterfly with 30mm wings to get through? It might as well have not been there at all. I never actually saw one detach its wings, crawl through and re-attach them once inside but before my very eyes one moment they were fluttering about outside the net and then they were inside thumbing their noses. We gave up, went on holiday and left them to it. That was another mistake. When we came back the caterpillars has reduced everything in the cage to cabbage skeletons. So we took off the net in the hope that the birds would come in and have a feast but they didn’t seem interested either. Next year we’re going to double over the net but if that doesn’t work then out will come the insecticide.

 
October 2013
As with most village clubs we do not meet in August and so the main event of that month is always Hawkesbury Show. Our special class - ‘A Vase of Mixed Culinary Herbs’ - was won this year by Gill Truebody. Each year the judges seem to see the winner as soon as they eye the exhibits. ‘That one’, said the most experienced judge, pointing at Gills entry. ‘I agree’ the other 3 of them chanted, ‘although, that one there is good also.’ ‘There is only one prize’ I said and so Gill won and the good lady Diane Musty didn’t, which actually pleased her no end since she has been a bit bemused about winning four times in a row – every time was much deserved though – and threatened not to enter this year.
I will pass on the judges comments to our members in due course. Secrets eh?
Once again the Show committee put on a fabulous event. The weather was just right as was everything else. Lots of people came out to ‘the sticks’ looking for Gromit Harmony at The Beaufort Arms only to discover it was Show Day and, on seeing what goes on, realised what an extraordinary place Hawkesbury Upton is. It still amazes me how such a small place can come together to put on a show like it. Many thanks to Keith Player and his team.
Many thanks also to Mark Steeds for sponsoring Gromit Harmony which gave so many of us such enjoyment.

 
September 2013
Since the club’s beginning in 2008 we’ve had a lot of good speakers. We’ve only had one speaker who was a bit under par. We think he was confused as to whether he was addressing a gardening club or a steam rally. Nonetheless it was a bit of fun.
Some of our speakers have been a real hoot. There was Richard Cripps who asked questions like – what do you want to do in your garden, do you like lots of space or do you prefer small enclosures, is your garden REALLY big enough for that sequoia, what will be your legacy if you actually do plant a monkey puzzle tree in your 20ft x 15ft front garden. He also promised to send around the ‘heavies’ armed with clubs and sledge hammers to dispatch outlandish garden ornaments.
Then there was Keith Bishop from Kemp Plants who had never given a talk before but had us in stitches whilst constructing a hanging basket. And many, many more.
We’ve had Gardeners Question Time. We’ve had Brian Noble passing on his growing (and cooking) secrets. We have a gardening news section at each meeting – mostly concerning what the EU has banned this month. We have a Tips & Wrinkles section where members can give voice to their concerns or their triumphs.
One speaker expressed surprise that we actually talk about gardening since that has not been his experience at other clubs.
On 22nd July, to celebrate our first 5 years, club members were treated to an evening visit to Rodmarton Manor and gardens where we were given a guided tour of the house by the owner. If you’ve not been there you are missing a treat.

 
August 2013
Our speaker for June was Mr. Perkins who gave a talk on ’Towards Greener Gardening’.
Here are a few steps you can take to make your garden greener:-
Use pesticides and herbicides sparingly and only as a last resort. Hoe the weeds instead, but only on dry days because doing it on wet days is called transplanting.
Make a pond which will create a haven for frogs, toads, newts, dragonflies, blanket weed, herons, etc.
Get a rainwater butt and direct the downpipe into it because it works better that way. Also a lot of water goes straight down the plughole so use your bath water to water the plants by running the bath waste pipe to the above rainwater butt. Water spillage from bad connections will save you the trouble of filling a bucket to wash the floors of the house.
Start a compost heap and put your kitchen waste to good use.
Encourage animals and insects by creating a variety of places for them to live – like ponds and compost heaps.
Buy decking, planters and garden ornaments made out of reclaimed timber. Then after a very few years you can donate them to me for firewood. Thanks in anticipation.

 
July 2013
Our speaker for May was Victoria Logue who gave a talk on Extending the Flowering Season.
She pointed out that the difference between amateur and professional growers is feeding. Amateurs don’t do enough of it. Any fertiliser will do.
Take photos of your garden to help you remember how awful it looks. On a photograph plants that are in the wrong place and plants that are no good etc stand out like sore thumbs. Get rid of them! Unloved or unwanted plants should be thrown in the recycling bin. It is not murder!
Dig up and divide herbaceous perennials and remember that for divisions you only need a shoot and a root but they should preferably be attached to each other.
Make a single focal point in your garden and borrow the surrounding landscape. Knocking down the neighbours fence in order to ‘borrow’ their landscape is not recommended.

 
June 2013
Our speaker for April was Chrissy Ching who gave an amusing and entertaining talk on Potagers. After enduring our club business she said she was quite surprised that we go to meetings to talk about gardening. She has found that members of some gardening clubs go to meetings for a good sleep. She obviously didn’t notice ‘No name no pack drill’! You all know who I mean! Chrissy is a garden designer and a teacher of horticulture and has a permanent show garden at Malvern Show Ground. A potager is essentially a vegetable garden but one that also includes flowers, for decoration as well as for encouraging beneficial insects. A typical potager is a series of small beds. Each bed being enclosed by low box, or similar, hedges separated by well defined paths. Alternatively the beds are raised to dispose of the hedges. But for all intents and purposes any veg patch is a potager so don’t lose any sleep over it! The owner of one of the gardens Chrissy talked about gave her husband a corner of her garden for a Christmas present. He wasn’t well pleased with the gift and hasn’t been seen for quite a while but there is now a tall stone in the middle of what is now the potager and the plants are growing really well. Be afraid chaps! Be very afraid!

 
May 2013
Our speaker for March was Kate Williams who entertained us with verses, stories and songs about her gardening experiences.

Dear snails please remove your houses.
It's bad enough having rats and mouses.
I've got no time for your grimy slime,
It's sticking on me trouses.

Sow some squash seeds in a cloche.
One week on and they look posh!
Put in ground to grow them on.
Turn around and they are gone.
From which I glean some spy unseen is also keen on squash.

Kate Williams came to talk to us, she talked and sang without a fuss, she made us laugh, she entertained us, then she left to catch the late bus.

 
April 2013
Our speaker for February was Valerie Hurlstone-Gardiner who gave a talk on The History of English Gardens through Painting.
Val took us on a journey of paintings of English gardens from medieval to modern times, demonstrating on the way that early garden layout and plantings were full of religious and social symbolism. Each plant and where it was placed in the garden had a purpose and a meaning. Early paintings in particular are records of how the garden owners saw themselves in society. Prominent families commissioned paintings of their land to show their wealth and importance and their allegiance to church and state. These gardens and paintings were a statement and not just a decoration. Val showed us what to look for and it was a fascinating insight into a fascinating subject.

 
March 2013
Our speaker for January was Brian Noble who gave a talk on Mediterranean Vegetables and What to Do With Them.
Brian first explained that he had actually wrongly titled his talk since the ‘vegetables’ he referred to were in fact fruits – courgette, chili, tomato, aubergine, zucchini etc. (5 points to the reader who spots the one mentioned twice) and that the ‘Mediterranean’ element was really Southern European. Nevertheless he gave us priceless information on the best way to grow these fruits in our cool, northern European, climate. He also encouraged us to try new varieties and indeed new seed suppliers. His favourite seed supplier is ‘Franchi’ who still fill their packets with seed unlike some others who like their customers to play ‘find the seed’.
As usual Brian was eager to impart his knowledge and was ready to answer any question thrown at him. We look forward to what he will come up with next year.

 
February 2013
Some might think that February is a pretty inactive month for gardeners but it ain’t necessarily so. There are actually lots of things to do, like preparing vegetable seed beds, sowing some vegetables under cover, chitting potato tubers, netting fruit and vegetable crops to keep the birds off. You can prune winter-flowering shrubs, Wisteria, hardy evergreen hedges and conservatory climbers. Then divide bulbs such as snowdrops, and plant those that need planting 'in the green' as well as cutting back deciduous grasses left uncut over the winter. Whew! Not so inactive after all eh?

The final recorded 2012 rainfall in my garden was 1412mm (55.6”). My wife went out in the rain to harvest some sprouts for Christmas. I told her not to be so reckless, that I can live without them. That it was just TOO WET out there! She came back with 3 sprouts which was plenty enough for an entire family. It’s an ill wind eh? Better luck this year, dear.

 
January 2013
A club member queried whether, due to the continued heavy autumn rainfall, there was any advice available on how to grow rice. Sadly no one felt able to help since by the time we find out how to create paddy fields our gardens might have finally turned to deserts more suitable for cacti. In the meantime, yearly rainfall measured in my garden from 1st Jan up until 12th Dec 2012 = 1224mm (~48¼”). In 2011 we had 836mm (~33”) in total. Carry on sloshing!

Our speaker for November was George Hargreaves who gave a talk on Gardens of Gloucestershire. He included many gardens that were unfamiliar to us including the Moghul Garden at Sezincote and Bourton House at Bourton-on-the-Hill off the road to Batsford Arboretum, both near Moreton-in-Marsh. It was really nice to discover that there are lots of gardens quite local that most of us simply do not know about. Roll on next summer.

 
December 2012
Disney Research have created ‘Botanicus Interacticus’, an interactive living plant exhibition which ‘seamlessly merges computer generated images and sounds with living plants’. Apparently one can communicate with living and artificial plants by reaching to and touching them and ‘observe the plants reply in the form of rich computer-generated imagery and sound’. It sounds a bit like ‘Lucy in Sky with Diamonds’ to me! You can watch the video on our website.

Our speaker for October was David Cramp who gave a talk on Wildlife in the Garden. He pointed out that most gardens are just too tidy to be much of a welcome to wildlife, indeed if we want to see wildlife in our gardens we would be better off letting the land go wild. However, many farmland birds are now coming into gardens because of modern farming methods such as the removal of hedgerows and since gardens cover more acreage than all the country’s national parks put together there are many things that gardeners can do to help. Well-kept lawns in particular are not very wildlife friendly because the grass is too short and is treated with fertiliser, weedkiller and pesticides which kill off many of the natural food sources. Also clearing away dead or dying plants deprives birds of seeds and other small vertebrates of food and shelter. So let your garden and yourself go to pot and you’ll soon be overrun with wild things, not all of which will be welcome I’m sure.

 
November 2012
Our speaker for September was Peter Jones who gave a talk on The Night Garden.
He believes that a garden should be enjoyed after work and involve as little maintenance as possible. Also a garden should be fragrant and include lights and crunchy gravel, rustling leaves and bird song (a sensor to set off nightingales recordings and a cushion that when sat on sets off an owl hooting) and small water effects such as pots that trickle or larger runs and rills (but not too much as you’ll end up running into the loo all the time).
He suggested various flowering plants that give off perfume – purple petunia, night scented stock, nicotiniana etc. And he suggests running naked through the plants to release the scents (and also to enjoy the sensation!) A garden doesn’t need to be large but, for the nakedness, it must be enclosed. Some members were more than a little intrigued by this idea!
He recommended dipping bulbs in methylated spirits (good for shallots and onions as well) as its smell keeps away mice, squirrels etc. and, to avoid having to constantly water new plants, dig a large hole and line it with thick layers of newspaper that has been soaked overnight.

 
October 2012
In late August the 127th Hawkesbury Show went ahead as planned and despite the appalling growing weather this year the horticulture exhibitors came up trumps and gave us all a treat. Needless to say the cooking, arts and crafts etc were as good as there always are. Well done to the show committee and to everyone who took part.
The heavy rain in the afternoon turned part of the Rec into a quagmire reminiscent of a WWI stage set but, as is so typical of Hawkesbury folk, no one seemed to notice much.

As a first-time steward I was a gofer for the RHS horticulture judges and picked up some useful information on how things are judged. Once the main classes were done I steered the judges to the Gardening Club class - ‘A Vase of Mixed Culinary Herbs’. There seemed to be some trepidation amongst them as they gathered before the collection of exhibits. It was almost as though they would rather not get too close. I reminded them that they need only award a first prize and the foremost of them bravely pointed his finger and said, ‘Well that’s easy, it’s that one!’ Suddenly a blinding ray of light burst from the heavens and burned through the quivering, wet, canvas of the marquee. The unearthly beam pierced down and clearly illuminated the exhibitors ticket marked 4. The cowering judges shrank back as a deafening, heavenly, voice boomed out the words ‘AND THE WINNER IS (roll of drums, rattle and crash of cymbals) DIIIIIIIANE MUUUSSTY.’ Then a wailing cry of anguish and a gnashing of teeth rippled amongst the other entrants who mingled within the multitude gathered outside the marquee. ‘How does she do it?’ they cried, for this was the 4th year running that Diane had won the prize. Is this some kind of miracle I wondered? Does Diane have some magical hold over the judges? Is she a sorceress? No! She reads the rules and follows her intuition. Last year we gave Diane a medal, but now what? Should we instigate some local form of an honours list? I am open to suggestions.

 
September 2012
We were lucky for our July meeting when we visited members gardens in Hillesley. After all the rain and wind of previous weeks the evening was balmy enough for us to enjoy some drinks and nibbles al-fresco. When the idea of going to Hillesley was mooted our members from there were a bit sceptical saying that their gardens were not interesting enough or big enough. In the event we discovered that they were hiding little gems as all 3 gardens (and the allotments) were just the ticket. Thanks to all concerned.
 
August 2012
I’m writing this in mid July when the rain is lashing down like the days of Noah’s flood and the wind is unwinding the runner beans as they struggle to climb the canes. It’s a good job that we don’t rely on our veg patch for all our food because come autumn we would both be as skinny as size 0 fashion models. Yet I recall when Titchmarsh was wittering on about how we should rip up our herbaceous borders and plant cacti because the Met Office were warning that we were soon going to be living in a hot, dry Mediterranean climate. In the ‘BBQ summer’ I visited Kew Gardens and noted that the plants in their Mediterranean gardens were a bit worse for wear due to the over-liberal rainfall. That went well didn’t it? Unfortunately the Met Office continue to get it wrong, as their 3 month outlook on 23 March this year attests - "The forecast for average UK rainfall slightly favours drier than average conditions for April-May-June as a whole, and also slightly favours April being the driest of the 3 months”. That also went well didn’t it? April was the wettest for 100 years! A well known airline owner once said of the Met Office – “These people can’t tell us what the weather will be next Tuesday but they can predict with absolute precision what the global temperature will be in 100 years time. It’s a crock of horse’s ordure”. (Actually it was a little less polite than that). I reckon it’s time that the NMO forecasters consulted that guy who foretells the weather by talking to snails or perhaps they should learn to read bones. It’s not that the weather would have been any better this year but I might not have bought that all-in-one pink lacy sunsuit.
FYI – In Hawkesbury Upton I recorded rainfall from 1 January to 31 March at 148mm (~6”), 1 April to 14 July at 533mm (~21”). Year 2011 we had 836mm (~33”) in total.
 
July 2012.
Our speaker for May was Geof Hobson who gave a talk on Orchids for Beginners. Orchid comes from the Greek word órkhis which literally means ‘testicle’ and there are more than 21,000 currently accepted species (of orchid). Most orchids that we are familiar with are of the ‘epiphytic’ variety which means that they have aerial roots that collect food and moisture from the water that runs over them.
Orchids are very susceptible to temperature and humidity and need a lot of attention in order to thrive. Geof once had a large orchid collection that was completely lost due to the heating system failing one night. Now he only keeps a few dozen plants on window cills inside his home.
Orchids do not require much in the form of nutrients and are planted in bark compost in pots mainly to stop the plants falling over and also to present the flowery and green bits in a tidy fashion.
A common problem of keeping orchids in pots is that it is very easy to over-water them so that the plants effectively drown. Another reason for potting them is that most people do not have a 40 foot high tropical tree growing in their living room on which to attach their orchids so that the aerial roots can dangle free in a hot, humid atmosphere that is home to a flock of parrots that occasionally splash a liberal dose of poo on them. Not in Hawkesbury Upton anyway!
Apparently orchids only flower when one of two conditions are met, a) when they are ‘happy’ or b) when they sense that they are going to die and so feel the urge to reproduce. We know that feeling don’t we guys?
 

June 2012.
Our speaker for April was Roger Turner who gave a talk which was entitled ‘Amaze The Neighbours’. The idea is to use tall, architectural plants that poke their heads above your fence so that neighbours can go ‘Oooh! Look at that!’ Plants that are suitable for this ‘rising above the Jones’s’ process are, to name just a few, yucca, phormium, cardoon, giant hogweed, hemlock, reeds, grasses, gunnera, delphinium and verbascum.
Some people hold to a theory that not only can you resemble your dog you can also resemble your favourite plant. So if you have a garden full of cardoon your personality and looks may be just as exotic and spikey as the plants. Was this the origin of the legend of Triffids? Beware the next meteor shower folks, your neighbour may be on the prowl!
A good place to see specimens mentioned in Rogers talk is at Bressingham Gardens near Diss in Norfolk where they specialise in herbaceous plants.

 
May 2012.
Our speaker in March was Alan Phipps who gave a talk which was entitled ‘Smoke, Scenery, Spines & Flowers’. At first it was difficult to see that this was a talk that had anything to do with gardening since it consisted of snowy scenes of Colorado in the spring and of restored steam locomotives trundling through the mountains belching black smoke. We eventually got onto some pictures of cacti in the southwestern states. Getting close to the places where cacti grow is apparently hazardous because the terrain is usually covered in very sharp volcanic debris that can cut even strong leather boots to ribbons. Cacti are indeed very interesting plants and produce beautiful flowers but since their flowering season is short you have to be there at the right time.

 
April 2012
Our speaker for February was Fiona Warin who gripped us all with a very amusing talk about herself and the history of allotments which she entitled ‘Losing the Plot
. Her first allotment had long been untended and was a bit more than she reckoned she could manage on her own so she advertised for help in the local newspaper – ‘Slim (she’s not) blonde lady (she is) seeks a tall dark handsome man who likes a challenge (the allotment, not her) and comes equipped with the right equipment (e.g. a rotavator)’. Roger applied and got the job and, later, the girl. She is now Allotments Officer for Cheltenham Borough Council and is in charge of over 700 allotments.
Her historical talk, during which she used a variety of fun props, took us from William the Conqueror until today via the plague, famine, the poor laws, the riot act, wars and several attempts by government to provide ordinary folk with a bit of land on which to grow a few vegetables. Allotments seem to go through phases of popularity which follow the economy of the age. But where once they were the domain of men and used simply to feed a hungry family they are, in urban areas certainly, today mostly worked by women and are often used as social recreational spaces where they discover their neighbours whom they would otherwise never know or see.

 
March 2012
Our speaker for January, Brian Noble, gave a talk on Raised Bed & Container Gardening.
Brian told us about the advantages off raised beds - where to put them, how to build them, useful equipment for the beds including a combined pH meter/moisture and light meter, soil structure, preparation of the beds, plant spacing, cultivation, watering, feeding and the necessity of keeping a garden diary.
Fortunately Brian came armed with detailed print-outs so we didn’t have to take any notes. Brian especially noted that a raised bed should be no more than of 4’ (1200mm) across because it makes it easy to reach into the middle to weed the bed. Carol misheard this nugget of information and thought he was alluding to people who wee’d the bed. Who am I to question what goes on in her head? Live and let live I say.
A raised bed system, which removes the need to walk on the soil, reduces the spread of soil borne diseases which are often carried by foot which is as good as any reason to use them.
Brian, who is a regular speaker at our meetings, pulled in the biggest audience we have had in a long while and has gone away to think about what he will teach us next year.

 
February 2012
Nothing to say!

 
January 2012
Our speaker for November was Sally Taylor who demonstrated how to make Seasonal Arrangements.
Sally lives in Ya-Té where, she said, weeds don’t grow and neither does anything else. Her demonstration was a bit like the Generation Game. She stripped bits off of plant cuttings then, in what seemed to be a random fashion, shoved even tinier bits of them into an Oasis block and all the while she talked twenty to the dozen. Needless to say, she ended up with a work of art. Eh voila! Follow that!
Now and then during her constant chatter came an aside about her personal circumstances that had us all laughing but often quietly contained a nugget of really useful information that entered our heads without us being consciously aware of it. One such snippet of advice was to be patient when loading an Oasis block with water. Don’t try to force water into it by shoving it below the surface but let it float, Jesus like, on the top and it will gradually sink as it absorbs water naturally. Also make sure to push cuttings deep into the block so that they are actually in contact with water. Another good, fun, evening. Come again Sally Taylor.

With more people buying wood burning stoves there seems to be a growing problem of what to do with the ash. A gardening magazine recommends that you spread it on your garden. Why didn’t anyone think of that before?

 
December 2011
Our Speaker for October was our chair Liz Howard who gave a talk on Making Wines & Spirits from Plants. Liz has entered the modern way of making home made wines but doesn’t go over-the-top with all the latest fads. Chemicals like sodium metabisulphate are used for sterilization but she doesn’t use much else. My Granny used to just bung oranges, sugar, bread yeast and warm water in a bucket and leave it in the corner of her parlour to brew for a few months. There might have been toast spread with yeast involved but I don’t remember. I also don’t remember bottles being used, the liquid - I won’t call it wine - was just scooped out of the bucket, pieces of orange and all, around Christmas for immediate consumption. Those who drank it all lived to ripe old ages but even so I think I prefer Liz’s way.
The paraphernalia involved in brewing can sometimes remind you of a Heath Robinson machine but it all seems to be necessary. However the hygrometer, which is supposed to tell you the strength of your brew, is rarely used. Liz and Sam prefer to drink it to gauge its strength. And sho shay all of ush!
The talk was kept short so that we could all sample the results of her labours and really good they were too. We were reluctant to go home until the last drops had been slurped.

 
November 2011
Our Speaker for September was Marcel Floyd who gave a talk on Clematis. Marcel is a disciple of Richard Cripps, one of our favourite speakers, and displays his mentors gift for putting his subject across in an amusing, friendly and informative way.
He first talked about the 3 groups of clematis and how to plant and prune them. Like some other speakers who actually run nursery business’s he is not much impressed by TV gardening programmes which sometimes give poor information, for instance, the idea of planting clematis deep, deep, deep is not recommended because it can easily lead to stem rot. He said to plant them no more than 4” below the surface. To make clematis sprout side shoots a friend of his plants them horizontally which makes the plant throw up multiple stems.
When demonstrating how to prune vitticella varieties he cut a specimen plant almost to compost level. Some ladies suffered the vapours on seeing this wanton butchery but Marcel soothed them with a grin and calming word.
After the demo he showed a collection of slides of clematis. He of course knows all the Latin names but was a bit surprised that so few of us could do the same for the varieties that we had in our gardens. ‘Nullius in verba et caveat emptor’ I always say!
Marcel said he enjoyed his visit and commented that we were much more interactive than a recent audience at Ya-Té. Well, said I, you can’t keep this mob down.

 
October 2011
Our next meeting is on Monday 24th October when Liz Howard will talk about making Wines and Spirits from Plants. She will be bringing some samples along for us (and you) to taste. Bring a glass.
I used to make elderberry wine. It was awful. But whenever I had a cold I would drink a whole bottle, crawl very gingerly up the stairs to bed and slide between the sheets like a limbo dancer so as not to disturb the frothing potion in my stomach. By the morning the germs had surrendered and my head throbbed so much that I couldn’t tell if I had a cold or not. The perfect cure. It worked every time.

 
September 2011
Our July gathering saw us traipsing the streets of Hawkesbury looking for members gardens to invade. Those we weren’t instantly thrown out of were little gems and really worth the visit. We all look forward to next years event.

 
August 2011
Our speaker for June was Margaret Headen who gave a talk on Westonbirt & The Westonbirt Project. Margaret is a year round volunteer at Westonbirt and has a good knowledge about the Arboretum and also Westonbirt House. Built in Victorian times the house has a huge water reservoir under it because the owner was determined that the house would never burn down due to a lack of water. The house also boasted a water driven organ which went flat whenever Lady Holford ran a bath.
The Westonbirt Project has finally received planning consent after originally being turned down because the new reception building was not ‘iconic’ enough and was ‘too agricultural’. Whatever next? A building that would blend in with the surrounding countryside? We wouldn’t want that would we?

 
July 2011
Our speaker for May was George Always who gave a talk on Growing Sweet Peas. We’ve seen George before and he is Always good for an entertaining evening. He slips in the occasional comment or image that has only a tenuous connection to his subject but is guaranteed to raise a chuckle. One of his friends grows hundreds of sweet peas for show and it takes such a long time to tie them in that he and his wife are, he says, always at it. Sue W took this the wrong way and was quite wistful about the ladies good luck.
An interesting fact about Sweet Peas is that there are no yellow flowered ones but if you want some then put white ones in a vase of lemonade and hey presto – yellow flowers!

A dozen of us visited Hanham Court gardens at Hanham Abbots, near Bristol on Sunday 5th June. The owner (a friend of Prince Chuck) is a landscape gardener who clearly has a liking for box hedging, roses, peonies and mock orange. He also likes to use oak in place of stone and has created some interesting features by doing so. The house (not open to the public) is a real gem in itself and the little church is delightful. We were invited to ring the bell which brought the child, though not the musician, out in several members.
I understand that the house is up for sale and it is anyone’s guess whether the gardens will remain open to the public so I would urge you to visit soon.

 
June 2011
Our speaker for April was Robert Harvey who gave a talk on Travels in Search of Remarkable Plants which took us all over the world chronicling his travels in often inhospitable habitats in search of, guess what, remarkable plants. All joking aside, he has seen and photographed some extraordinary plants in extraordinary situations and his knowledge of the proper names of plants and animals is encyclopaedic.

We had our annual Plant Sale on Saturday 14th May which was very well attended. Only a few plants were left unsold and we know that the growers felt that their efforts were adequately rewarded because they all want to come again next year.
Tea, coffee and cakes (scrumptious) were provided by the Hillesley Troup of the Hawkesbury Guides who were raising money for their summer camp. Don’t let anyone tell you that today’s kids lack initiative, several of those girls would give Alan Sugars apprentices a run for their money. (Where does he get those numpties from?)

 
May 2011
I saw an advertisement the other day about a ‘Daffodil Walk’ due to take place in May. With the warm weather in April when everything came to flower early I think that anyone going to that event will be disappointed. The Rhododendrons, Camellias and Magnolias at Westonbirt Arboretum were fabulous in early April and the bluebells were showing colour one week later. What a fabulous, colourful, spring we have had! Perhaps this was a result of the intense cold we were treated to in November and December. Nature has a way of leveling things out so let’s enjoy what it brings us. There is lots of good stuff to come.

Our speaker for March, Don Everitt, gave a very humorous and interesting talk on various flowers you might grow to use in flower arranging. Our new screen worked perfectly but unfortunately his slide projector didn’t. But true to the code of performers everywhere the show went on regardless. There may have been no pictures but his enthusiasm made them unnecessary. It’s all in the mind and as the saying goes – “The mind is like a parachute, it only works when it is open.”

 
April 2011

The club has bought a screen which was used for the first time at our February meeting. Our chairman Liz, who normally keeps us all in order, was away in Aus on personal business, so some of the more unruly club members took advantage of the acting chairs good nature and insisted that as the screen is large enough to show movies we should stage cinema evenings. It was no surprise that ‘The K-K-Kings Speech’ was suggested for the inaugural evening. To try to quell the revolt the secretary agreed that we could advertise for usherettes and box office personnel.
Oh for those good old days when one could quell such insurrections with a well aimed blackboard eraser.

Our speaker for February, Gordon Cottis, found our new screen a boon as he talked about Hellebore Species and Hybrids. He gave some tips on how to propagate hellebores but it seemed to me that since growing them on to flowering stage is such a long process it might be wiser to buy them fully grown from your nearest garden centre.

 
March 2011
Our speaker for January, Brian Noble, gave us a master class on growing and cooking vegetables. Some of Brian’s 10 recipes revolved around cooking sprouts and cabbage in a way that children would eat them. As a rule they included the addition of ingredients that masked the taste of the vegetables, especially sprouts, to make them more palatable such as bacon, seasoned beef mince, ginger, garlic, spices etc. There was also a battered, deep fried, way of cooking cauliflower. It got my juices flowing let me tell you. Unfortunately Brian did not extend an invitation for us to dine with him any time soon.
My view of sprouts as a food source is to have just one on the plate for colour balance.
But surely, a much better way of getting kids to eat vegetables is to feed them, the vegetables not the kids, to pigs, cows or chickens and then eat the pigs, cows or chickens. You may scoff but meat is only recycled vegetation after all. And then if kids are given meat every day, with salted chips of course, then they get their ‘5-a-day’ and actually enjoy their food into the bargain. Oh harken! Is that the diet police knocking?

 
February 2011
Since my last note, written in early December, the only real event has been the prolonged severe cold period. According to some gardening books those freezing conditions will mean that many common plant pests will have been killed off and so should be less of a problem in the coming growing season. Time will tell but mother nature has a knack of sorting things out and I’ll wager that those wily pests will make just as much of a mess of my crops as they usually do.

 
January 2011
According to ‘Gardening Which’ magazine it is no good throwing your snails over the hedge because they have a homing instinct. They will find their way back to your garden from up to 30 metres away. If you cannot bear to KILL them it has been proposed that you take them 100 metres away. To a nice comfortable habitat and supply them with copious quantities of forage I suppose. The mind boggles!
The same magazine casts a pall of gloom over the makers of those twee, expensive, save the planet, insect hotels and hedgyhoggy houseywousses etc. THEY ARE USELESS! Now there’s a surprise!

Our November speaker, Richard Cripps, talked about Pruning. Richard invoked his bête-noir handyman-gardener called ‘Bert’ who, after the ‘cutting-the-grass’ season and the ‘raking-the-leaves’ season, needs a ‘pruning’ season to keep the money coming in. ‘Bert’ likes to use terms like hit-back, lob, chop, lop and hack when referring to pruning. He likes to use a hedge trimmer for everything and you usually end up with a jelly shaped or ball shaped tree or shrub. Beware if he gets out his chainsaw. This will only lead to ‘combat pruning’ and a massacre of the plants. If you are really lucky ‘Bert’ will also offer to tarmac your drive for next to nothing. Don’t let this man prune anything.
Without going into detail, the essence of Richards message was to cut out dead and diseased material, be sympathetic to the plant, check visual balance and shape and always use sharp tools. There is of course much more to it but If you only follow these simple rules then you cannot go far wrong.
Richard was once again entertaining and informative at the same time. Any one who didn’t learn a lot about pruning from this talk must have been asleep. Book him again Danno.

 
December 2010

We have received a letter of apology from the no-show speaker of September. He expressed his mortification at letting us down. Fair enough. No real harm done. We’ll give him another chance.

Our speaker for October was Eve Hessey who talked about Gardens of the National Trust. She discussed the gardens at Hidcote, Snowshill, Sissinghurst, Blickling Hall and Stourhead amongst others. Eve has first hand experience of one of the gardens because her godmother lived at Chastleton House near Morton-in-Marsh. An interesting point was that one can see works by an unsung garden designer named Norah Lindsay at many of the gardens. Her signature work can be found in the form of distinctive topiary - she liked to trim trees into a cone with a hat box shaped base. She also had plant pots cast with her initials NL on the sides. It’ll be fun to see if we can find these items next time we go to NT gardens.

 
November 2010
The visit to Derry Watkins’ gardens in September went ahead even though the weather was atrocious. We set out during the Hawkesbury monsoon, passed through the Sodbury dry season but soon entered the Cold Ashton monsoon. We all got soaking wet, but hey, we’re British so we enjoyed it!

When asked her secret for winning first prize at Hawkesbury Show, Diane Musty said “Well, you take a piece of plant and put it into the vase and then you take another piece of another plant and put it into the vase and so on until there are 5 pieces in the vase.” Priceless advice this, that’s what we’re here for!

At our October meeting we were expecting, as usual, to settle down to be entertained by our speaker. However, when it was already 10 minutes past eight and we had searched for him in the dark, lonely streets of Hawkesbury Upton we decided to phone his home. Imagine our surprise when he answered! “I thought it was tomorrow” he said sheepishly.
When it was put to the members whether they would be happy to hang around in the Methodist Hall until Tuesday evening, there was a disappointing lack of enthusiasm and esprit de corps. So we had a Q&A session and, as the song goes, we had a cup of tea and then we went home. Oh, what fun we have!

 
October 2010
Our class, ‘A Vase of Mixed Culinary Herbs’ at the Hawkesbury Show was won by Diane Musty, again! Diane certainly seems to have the winning touch. I can also report that no one dared to enter an outrageous exhibit. Perhaps the threatened enforced stewed rhubarb diet for any transgressor did the trick.
 

September 2010
Our ‘A Vase of Mixed Herbs’ class last year engendered a severe tongue lashing from the judges for not being specific enough, so this year we asked for ‘A Vase of Mixed Culinary Herbs’. I will report on the actual entries and the judges’ response at a later date. However, if any member disregarded the request to restrain their desire to enter the biggest and highest exhibit will be subject to the punishment of having to eat nothing but stewed rhubarb for 5 days. I hope you do not live next door to the misguided miscreant!

 

August 2010
Our June meeting was also our AGM. To cut to the chase, we have had another good fun year. Good speakers and good social events. The members breathed audibly deep sighs of relief when the committee volunteered, en-bloc, to continue for another year. Business as usual, OK! Business over, there was no reason to delay the main event of the evening which was a Gardeners Question Time with Brian Noble, Keith Player and Pat Sherry in the hot seats. This proved to be a very entertaining and informative event which revealed some deep secrets about how to make the most of your garden. Yah Boo to those who missed it!

 

July 2010
According to a recent magazine survey one of the best ways to control weeds is to treat them to a serious scorching by flame thrower. Shades of Corporal Jones – ‘They don’t like it up ‘em, Captain Mainwaring!’

Our speaker was Christine Stapely talking about Herbs to Aid the Gardener. She treated us to an arsenal of facts including useful tips about the various uses of herbs in organic gardening, pesticides, medicine and cooking - nettle stings reduce rheumatic pain, juniper berry juice keep cats away, peppermint oil deters ants, house leek juice relieves ant bites etc.
Christine has discovered a unique way to keep plants free from slug damage – put your plant pots on your roof!
Apparently borage flower cordial makes men ‘merry’. It fights depression. Could this be the answer to our current economic woes? Get everybody high on borage flower cordial? Are you reading this Mr Osborne or are you already using it?

 

June 2010
Our speaker for April was Sue Smith (and friend) talking about Wild Flowers of The Cotswolds. They made a good case for carrying out more research on our wild flowers to see what medicinal benefits they might harbour.
In the past it was thought that if a plant had parts that resembled human parts then they might be good for remedying ailments of those parts. I’m glad to report that none of my parts look a bit like a plant.
Celandine apparently is good for wrinkles – you simply rub the plant into your wrinkles and sand it off when it’s dry for a lovely smooth finish. A coat of varnish afterwards will help to keep it in place.
Dandelion, from the French ‘dent-de-lion’ (lions tooth), is a diuretic. Perhaps that’s why I’m up all night after drinking dandelion wine.
The Iris is the origin of Fleur-de-lis.
White nettle soup tastes like boiled knickers water. How would you know unless you’ve tasted boiled knickers water? The mind boggles!

 

May 2010
Our speaker for March was Mr. George Always on Hanging Baskets & Patio Tubs. George brought along bits and pieces to demonstrate his methods. First out of the hat was the variety of liners available. My blood ran cold when he suggested that you could use an old, full-of-holes, baggy, long past its OK-to-be-worn-in-public, cardigan! Crikey! I’ve got a drawer full of those. I was wearing one that evening! Next up was a used margarine container which he put in the bottom of the basket to make a water reservoir. Obvious when you think about it but who of us has? Most important of all was his warning not to use too much of that expanding crystal gel stuff. It’s so easy to overdo it and end up with your plants pushed out of the compost when it rains, like hatchlings in a cuckoo nest.
Basically though, his message was that there is no limit to what you can do with baskets and tubs. Be adventurous but remember to keep picking out the top shoots well into early June if you want lots of flowers. And keep watering.

 

April 2010
Our February speaker Victoria Logue demonstrated the various ways of propagating plants. She suggested that you don’t have to sow EVERY seed in the packet. It is allowed to sow only a few.
She doesn’t use rooting hormone for cuttings. And she told us to throw away those pots of rooting compound that we have had in the shed since pre-decimal coinage was in circulation. Apparently it might not now be a lot of use! What? After only 40 years? Hey! It looks alright! So I will use it! OK?
Similarly, there is no need to worry about planting root cuttings the right way up. Just lay them horizontally in the compost. The roots will soon sort out which way is up. They’ve been doing it for millions of years without any help from us.
To cap it all, Victoria said that if a plant is not doing well or is in the wrong place it is OK to get rid of it by putting it in the compost bin or shredding it. She said that it was not murder! You are allowed to do it.

 

March 2010
Did you know that snowdrops contain a form of antifreeze that enables them to survive extreme cold? An enterprising company is hoping to market a snowdrop based antifreeze for cars. It will be given some catchy name like ‘Galanthifreze’ or ‘The stuff that comes from snowdrops that will help stop your engine freezing’.

At our January meeting Brian Noble gave away some of the secrets of how he prepares Dahlias for showing at the Hawkesbury Show. As expected with Brian the talk was both humorous and informative. We were all surprised to learn for instance that decorative Dahlias heads can exhibit a touch of brewers-droop when on the show table. Brian was too much of a gentleman to explain the origin of the term for those ladies who did not know what that was.

 

February 2010
There seems to be a lot of moles around at the moment. For some reason I thought that they hibernated but clearly they do not. Even during the recent freeze and heavy snow fresh mole hills were to be found all over the place. They must be tough little critters to burrow their way through frozen ground. Fortunately we have no evidence of them in our garden but I’m told that some local allotments have been attacked. Does anyone have any interesting ways of deterring them? Shoving a radio tuned to Jonathon Ross or Steve Wright down a mole burrow is supposed to work but I have my doubts. Just a thought! When moleskin coats and trousers were all the rage were moles bred for the purpose? There is a restaurant in Kent that serves squirrel pie so I wonder if they might do the same with moles? I expect they taste like chicken so they might already be doing it. ‘Filling up the sausages with this and that’ as sang the Landlord in Les Miserables. You would never know would you?

 

January 2010
The RHS and Wildlife Trusts have opened a new website called ‘wildaboutgardens.org’ which wild things have found it to be particularly user friendly and have so have given it a 5 star rating.

A gardening magazine has called for the Royal family to give up some of its land for allotments. We understand that this is not going down well at Highgrove. Mr. C. Wales was heard to mumble ‘Veggie allotments on Highgrove? Bah! Humbug! Let ‘em buy ‘em from me shop’. Is that a tumbrel I can hear?

Our November speaker, Dr. Mike Martin, talked about The Flora of Lower Woods. He explained that Lower Woods are considered to be ‘ancient’ woodland and that they contain specimens of 28% of Britain’s indigenous flora. To try to cover here what he said would be impossible. He is clearly an enthusiast for the woods and, being a botanist, he has an in-depth knowledge of the fine detail which could easily have gone way over our heads. Fortunately, he has a way of conveying information to his audience that leaves the listener feeling that every detail is clear and easy to understand. We came away enlightened.

As the year drew to a close we had a skittles evening at The Fox. This year the teams were The Leeks and The Sprouts and the front pin was decorated with a giant strawberry. As an incentive, if the strawberry was struck with the first ball, an extra point was added to the score. The highest score for the evening came, as usual, from a lady who rarely plays the game but she did seem to have an unhealthy grudge against strawberries. The Leeks gave The Sprouts a good drubbing but in their defence, sprouts don’t usually play skittles, they would rather play squash. If you don't like this joke, I don't carrot all.

 

December 2009
At our October meeting a member asked if anyone knew the origin of walnuts suddenly appearing on her garden paths. Some were complete with green outer shells, some without and others just empty shells. Other members volunteered that they have had similar experiences. Betty S reported that she was in her garden when a walnut crashed to the ground beside her. She immediately headed for the bike shed to retrieve her safety helmet. She never ventures into the garden without it now. The culprits would seem to be birds although no one can actually point to a particular species. Photographs of ‘the-amazing-cycle-helmeted-gardener’ are available on-line and a TV crime-scene spectacular is being planned. Another case for David Attenborough?

Our October speaker, Sally Gregson, gave an absolutely superb talk about Cottage Gardens for the Millenium. Her talk presented a history of how and why cottage gardens came about which included all ages from medieval times to the present day. The various styles, gradually progressing from informal to formal to Getrude Jekyll to Vita Sackville-West and on to the meadow/prairie planting of today, were illustrated with stunning slides and informative, inspiring words. It is no exaggeration to say that we were enthralled.

 

November 2009
A member asked what was going wrong with his leeks. They are all limp and listless. It would seem that the problem is the leek moth, a Johnny foreigner (probably Welsh) interloper that has invaded merry England in the last few years. A solution is to keep the crop covered with fleece from cradle to grave.
A further problem for 2 members this year is the failure of a hardy fuchsia variety to flower. My Auntie Jean has the same problem. Does anyone out there know why?

Our speaker, Chris Cudlipp, started the evening by asking for people to list as many vegetables as possible. He then went on to break the various vegetables into 3 groups – those that need heavy, moderate or little or no feeding. All well known stuff but it was good to be reminded of the need to rotate crops properly and by getting us to participate, Chris, put the information over in such a way that it all made good sense.
Did you know that brightly coloured - red, orange, yellow - caterpillars taste bitter and that pale green ones taste sweet? Yes, someone has actually tasted them! Is that what they do at ‘uni’ these days? Fast moving insects are the gardeners friends and slow moving ones are enemies. Think about it. One greenfly can result in a population of billions within 48 hours. The time we spent under Chris’ spell seemed to fly by.

 
October 2009

Our class, ‘A Vase Of Mixed Herbs’ at Hawkesbury Horticultural Society Show was won by Diane Musty. I am pleased to report that all exhibitors abided by the rules and curbed their lust for flamboyant displays. As a result the badger was given the day off. Our thanks go to the Show committee for all their hard work.

September 2009

The Hawkesbury Horticultural Society Show Committee kindly agreed to allow us some space in the marquee for a Gardening Club class entitled ‘A Vase Of Mixed Herbs’.
There were no specific rules and the size of vase did not matter, but each exhibit footprint was to be no more than 12” x 12”. The committee also offered a plea of ‘for goodness sake, please remember that the marquee is not a sky scraper, so exhibitors should control their enthusiasm for flamboyant displays of giant hogweed, sweet cecily, fennel and such-like’.
I will report on the actual entries at a later date because at the time of writing the show has not yet taken place. However, any member that disregarded the above request will be taken out and given a good scrub with a badgers backside.

August 2009

On 7th June we had a very enjoyable visit to RHS Wisley. Due our RHS affiliation we are allowed one visit per year to an RHS garden. I reckon that we should look at a trip to RHS Fiji for next year.

Our June meeting (22nd) was also our AGM. Unfortunately I, the club secretary, was prevented from being present due to a severe case of sunning myself on the Dorset coast. The minutes were ably taken by our esteemed vice-chair Claire Morgan. The usual punishment for non-attendance at AGM, forty lashes with a wet frog, will be administered to TT in due course. Liz had the temerity to suggest that getting the AGM date wrong was what secretaries were for. A foul and uncalled for calumny and an insult to proper secretaries everywhere!

July 2009

In May, our speaker Mr. Richard Cripps, gave us an introduction to Garden Design. His talk was not intended to be a complete ‘this is how to design a garden’ but more a case of ‘what to think about’ when designing a garden. Questions like – what do you want from your garden, what do you want to do in your garden, do you like lots of space or do you prefer small enclosures, is your garden REALLY big enough for that giant redwood, how will you be remembered if you actually do plant a monkey puzzle tree in your 20ft x 15ft front garden?
He also promised to send around the ‘heavies’ armed with clubs and sledge hammers to dispatch outlandish garden ornaments. A major plea of his is that we do no become ‘plonkers’, by which he means ‘do not just plonk one plant down like a dot on the ground, plant a group of 3 or 5 or 7.
Richard is not too impressed with TV gardening programmes and neither is he much fond of sending budding horticulturists to university. His preference is to concentrate on practical experience – think about it, discuss it, it then go and do it! He was interesting, informative, funny and very entertaining. We must get this man back for another talk.

June 2009

Our June meeting is on Monday 22nd June when our speaker Mr. T. Sanday will tell us all about Rose Care, Pruning and History.

May 2009

'What are the 5 best controls for slugs and snails?'
It turned out to be not too difficult. The answers are as below.'
1. Chemical controls such as slug pellets. (Other chemicals like sulphuric acid, caustic soda, sodium chloride, quicklime etc work just as well but usually destroy more than just the slugs.)'
2. Nematodes (Not to be confused with common toads and other amphibians.)'
3. Ducks and Geese. (Mr Fox likes these, but if you can keep him away then you might get some tasty meals for yourself later on.)'
4. Copper bands. (Relieves rheumatism so I'm told. I've never seen a slug with rheumatism, have you?)'
5. Collecting them by hand, usually at night. (Yeucch!)'
One thing for sure is that sand, grit and crushed eggshells have very little long term effect. Apparently when slugs come across a ring of these things they know that there is something tasty in the middle. It's like putting up a sign saying 'Free Food Here!'

April 2009

It came as something of a surprise to learn that even when we are all being urged by the government to recycle like crazy, the funds available to local councils to respond to our efforts is very sparse indeed. Several composting sites in our area have had to close temporarily in order to clear backlogs of green waste because there just isn’t enough machinery, manpower or physical space to deal with the current deposits. It just goes to show that the general public are keen recyclers but our ever-ready-on-the-ball political masters didn't figure that we would be. So what's new? To paraphrase W.C.Fields, 'I love politicians. I have one for breakfast every day.'

Our chairladyperson Liz reported on a proposed national survey of earthworms. Participants lucky enough to be chosen for this essential endeavour will be required to spend long hours at night lying on wet grass with an ear to the ground recording the sounds of worms traveling through the soil. A CD of worm-song will be available later in the year. A further task will be to pull them, thrush-like, from their tunnels whenever they break the surface to measure them, length and width, to the nearest millimetre. Stretching them to make them longer will frowned upon. They break easily and messily. Once captured and counted it will be necessary to fry them in a little cooking oil, add some salt and pepper and sample their taste. Are they better crispy or just lightly done? Next year the survey results will be made into a docu-movie presented by Al Ogre entitled 'The Great Global Worming Swindle - An Inconvenient Cast'. Anyone interested in taking part in the survey should visit the website at http://www.opalexplorenature.org/

March 2009

In January Mr. Brian Noble gave us some invaluable information on how to prepare plants for Hawkesbury Horticultural Show. Needless to say it all sounded really easy to win the cup. You just follow the instructions on the handouts Brian provided and the judges will be beating a path to your exhibits. Simple really! One very important thing to remember though is to read what the schedule actually says and not to make it up as you go along. Doh! Now there's a thing! Read the instructions first? Only an eejit needs to read the instructions, right? It would be nice to think that a new champion will stride the stage. Hey! Look out Keith, Dave, Brian, Annette. Your days are numbered.

February 2009

We didn’t have a meeting in December so we had a skittles evening at the Fox instead. We split up into two teams - The Roses and The Pansies. A more macho team name than ‘Pansies’ might have helped my concentration but no matter. Liz tried to help us to aim at the front pin by pasting a picture of a flower on it. It didn’t help. Well, not me anyway. As usual at this sort of function there were ‘players’ and those who claim to ‘have never played before’. No prize for guessing the ones who knocked down most pins. Sometimes it seems that the best way to play skittles is to close your eyes, aim in the general direction of the diamond and let the ball trickle it’s way through the pins. It obviously works for some. We Pansies are not bitter, honestly, but next time we might throw a strop and take our ball home. Perhaps the extra drink played a part too. Suffice to say that we all had a ball.

 

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