First meeting of the year and the Surrey group made it a real members’ evening by inviting them to be the speakers. Heading up the evening was our very own Mercy Morris, who gave us a whistle stop explanation of what fantastic species conservation is found in our National Collections, including plants on the IUCN red list. Sylvia Clayton followed with a very enthusiastic talk on what it is to be a volunteer garden guide at Nymans in Sussex. She made it sound so enticing that a guided visit was arranged for the group in July.
‘Plants on the edge’ was the theme of Michael Boatman’s talk about his cruise around the UK with gardens looking very lush in the rain. The garden’s theme was continued by Marian and Peter Badger who talked about ‘Four Welsh Gardens’. Spelling of Welsh words made noting down their names a little difficult, but I think they were Powis Castle with its fantastic topiary and NC of Laburnum, Erddig with a superb 18th century formal garden and NC of Hedera, and on Anglesey Plas Cadnant a lost garden being restored on a grand scale and Plas Newydd, home of the Marquess of Anglesey.
Jeff Bull finished off the evening with some tips on pruning; wear a leather glove on your free hand to protect it from your secateurs which should be held in a naked hand to help with the grip; regularly clean the sap off the secateur blades and finally think about when the shrub flowers – for early flowering specimens, prune after flowering and for late flowerers, prune in spring. Obviously this is much simplified but a very good guideline.
But for sheer DIY cheek, Brian Deaville with his talk on Simple Propagation was a star. If you thought that Geoff Hamilton was a ‘make do and mend’ kind of gardener, then he could have learned a few things from Brian. Using large glass jars he created the perfect environments for successful cuttings. (See the pictures for how this looks). Moss, gleaned from his lawn, in the bottom of the pot provides a reservoir of water, add compost, shaken not pressed, then fuchsia cuttings taken above a node and handled by the leaves only. Seal up the jar and leave until signs of growth are seen, on a north facing window sill or at the bottom of a north facing wall once the weather improves . Using a soup carton with its inbuilt ‘shading’ means that sunnier spots can be used without risking scorching the plants. Short of space? A coleslaw pot with lid provides space for several leaf cuttings. A foil tray from a chocolate tray bake, a polystyrene tray from last year’s bedding plants and a plastic container from the Sunday roast make a perfect mini greenhouse. Needless to say, when asked if he used rooting powder, the idea was dismissed as ‘an unecessary expense’.
All this home grown knowledge and information, as Sylvia said in her talk ‘you learn something every time’. And the winner of Anne Folkes’ fiendish quiz? No time to mark the questions, so that accolade will be awarded at the next meeting on February 13th when Andrew Fisher Tomlin will give a talk on ‘New Planting: a Prediction of the Gardens and Plants that will Become Iconic’.