Standing room only

In 2010 we started our series of talks and workshops at Hampton Court.  The programme has become more adventurous and this year we added seats for weary visitors to rest their feet and stimulate their minds at the same time.  I was working in the adjacent area and although I was  very busy talking to visitors about Plant Heritage I caught some top tips from some of our guest speakers.

Vicky Fox from Plantagogo, advised on placement of Heuchera – the lime green cultivars need shade and as the colours darken, the plants can cope with more direct light.

Barry Clarke, Head Propagator at Hilliers, makes his own cuttings medium – 2 parts compost, 1 part vermiculite, 1 part grit for drainage.  He is a stickler for hygiene when taking cuttings – sterilise your knife/secateurs with a flame and use new pots for cuttings.  Square pots dry out slower than round pots and some cuttings (such as Hydrangea) can be halved longitudinally, doubling your number of plants.

Jon Wheatley prompted some gasps from the audience as he severely pinched out the tips of branches on a Dahlia to promote stronger growth and recommended that you don’t select the flowering plants when buying dahlias – go for the stocky plants with plenty of flower potential.  And Dahlia tubers are edible, although I didn’t hear if they were tasty.

Paul Barney from Edulis fascinated the audience with a list of attractive edible plants; lists can be found on his website.

Mark Lane, Head Gardener at Buckingham Palace, talked about the National Collection of Morus held in the palace gardens.  Our forefathers, keen to get access to silk, were responsible for bringing the mulberry out of Asia as a food source for silk worms.

With plants borrowed from Collection Holders around the show as props, Vivien Haskey talked about Interesting Plant Associations.

If you want to grow your own honey get an experienced beekeeper to act as a mentor, or book yourself onto a course at your local college, was the advice from Philippa O’Brien, garden designer, lecturer at Capel Manor College and bee expert.

A double act from Jim Marshall,  Dianthus (Malmaison), on the programme to reintroduce this historic plant and Sarah Cook, Iris, on the cultivars introduced by Sir Cedric Morris.

Cannas featured in our central feature and decorated our membership stand, so Keith and Christine Hayward of Hart Canna were able to answer visitors’ questions on this exotic looking plant.

Andrew Gaunt, NC of Hedychium, reassured the audience that these plants introduced by the Victorians and grown in hot houses, are actually hardier than we thought – the trick is to pick the right cultivars.

Steve Hickman of Hoyland Plants talked about his two National Collections, Agapanthus and Tulbaghia.

Finally Richard Gant, PH trustee and member of our Cambridge group, summed up our raison d’être by saying that we can’t archive plants in a filing cabinet, we need to keep growing them in order to conserve them.  Visitors left the show knowing a lot more about plants, design, propagation and conservation.  Next year will be even better.

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