October Newsletter

Now Autumn is well and truly upon us, we can certainly look forward to ‘mists and mellow fruitfulness’. John Keats’ poem ‘To Autumn’ was first published exactly two hundred years ago, in 1820. To quote Keats again, ‘To bend with apples the moss’d cottage trees, And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core’. Some things thankfully have not changed! This year we have had a bumper crop of pears from the one pear tree in our garden and apples from the allotment. With that in mind Hilary has again suggested some mouth watering recipes to make the most of the harvest, in her Swedish Apple Cake recipe and an online link to a pear almond cake recipe. This newsletter’s theme appears to be about changes, changes in the seasons, changes in the garden, changes through history and in our lives today. Rachel and Fay, our very own gardening gurus have produced articles related to Autumnal activities and seasonal colour in the garden. Mary has sent in a painting, which she did before lockdown, ‘Spring in the Malvern Hills’. Now we need an Autumn one, Mary. We also have a guest contributor, Phil Woodhead, manager of the Link Nurseries at Powick, who writes about changes at his place of work. David, the Club’s Chair, starts the ball rolling with an account of his own historical finds in his Leigh Sinton garden, in David Baker’s Blog.

What Have you Found when Digging in your Garden?

From David Baker

Our cottage was probably built around 1780, based on deeds, parish records and its construction. It is a “black and white”, although you wouldn’t know from the outside. It has an exposed timber frame in one internal wall. As time went on the amount of timber used was reduced to save money. Our house has relatively narrow timbers, making it a late example. Black and white house construction ended when brick house building took over in rural Worcestershire in ~1800. We know that the garden was used as a small holding and at one time there were henhouses, pig sties and a cider mill. Sadly the cider mill was derelict by the 1910 “Little Doomsday” survey of all houses. I think the pigsties were in use for quite a bit longer, but now form part of the summer patio we use for the barbecue. When we moved in the garden needed quite a bit of work. We needed to make better
use of the large vegetable patch that was full of weed and decided to create a cottage garden with eight beds separated by gravel paths and edged with old brick and tiles found in a heap in a corner. It has worked well, as you can see. As we dug down 6-8 inches to create the paths we removed a fair amount of topsoil, which now forms a raised area where we grow rhubarb and annual squashes. That much was part of the plan. What we didn’t expect to find was a significant amount of broken china and pottery. I know that municipal rubbish collection was limited and people burned their waste, but the quantities were quite large. The mystery was solved by talking to our neighbours. The lady who owned the house before us was very keen on buying antique china at auction and liked to take a chance on low priced lots. Some of them were real bargains. Many were not, and apparently she used to smash the rejects with a hammer! We know where the rubbish ended up. We also found
some old jars and bottles – our favourite is an old marmite jar which has very thick glass and a slightly different shape to the modern ones. And some toy cars, which some child lost in the 1960s.

We also found the evidence of pipe smoking over many years. The most common things found are pieces of clay pipe stem. They are the 18 th  and 19 th  century equivalent of cigarette butts. Apparently the tars in tobacco block the small hole in the stem, and so the smoker has to break off the end. The pipe stems were long enough to allow this to be done quite a few times. When the stem is too short the bowl was then discarded too. As you can imagine, there are many more bits of stem than bowls in the garden, but we have found some of each.

The newer pipes look like this:
If you look closely you can see Broseley on the stem. Broseley is near Telford, and there is still a clay pipe museum there. It is well worth a visit, as it is a “time capsule” museum – when it went out of business they locked the door, walked away and left a treasure trove. Clay pipes were made there for years. This one is typical of later ones made using presses. Tobacco was cheap, the bowl is quite large. They probably date from about 1860.  

We have found two very old ones:
These are very much smaller- tobacco was expensive and the bowl reflects that. They could be as early as 1650. So who was smoking and gardening in Leigh Sinton then? The Royal Oak three doors up from us has cruck beams and dates from that period. I imagine farm workers having a drink and puffing on their pipes then throwing the old ones in our garden !  Next time you are digging your garden look closely at what you find. It may be a ring pull from a coke can, or buried treasure.

Changes in the Seasons
Autumn and Winter Colour by Fay Grist

Where to start?…
Let’s start with shrubs. Dogwoods come into their own as their leaves fall, leaving stems of apricot, yellow, red, black or green. Mine are under planted with Hellebores and Snowdrops with mini daffs at the front. Euonymous with yellow, white or green variegated leaves are semi evergreen and can lighten shady corners. Callicarpa or Beautyberry changes from a rather dull bush to a mass of purple berries on bare stems. Ghost bramble, for the brave, plant at back against a dark background, where it gets some sun, 10ft height. Rosa glauca Evergreens: Pyracantha. Garrya elliptica/ Silk Tassel bush. Hollies, variegated varieties, preferably female bushes for the berries. Ivies, you love them or hate them but they give colour and nectar for bees and food for birds in Autumn and Winter. Small trees: Crab apples. Trees for bark(if you have space): Silver Birch or Prunus serrula/ Birchbark Cherry
Grasses: If you like hazy browns, gold, fawn then try grasses. They look lovely with the winter sun
shining through. Try plants with different seed heads. I have Heavy Metal, Frosted Curls, Hair
grass, glauca and Red Rooster (subject to change). Echinacea, Verbena bonariensis and Phlomis also
seem happy here so far. Pots: Winter heathers, Violas, Ophiopogon/Black mondo grass and Heucheras under planted with spring bulbs. You could also use small evergreens in the centre, depending on size of container.

Do we have room for some bloomin’ good jokes?
‘A friend perfected his garden flower beds through a process of trowel and error.’
‘What do you get if you divide the circumference of a pumpkin by its diameter?
Pumpkin pi.’

Apparently not!

Propagation Notes

from Rachel Salisbury

I was going to make this a one off article on autumn propagation but I decided that it
was becoming too long, and too complicated and that nobody would bother to read it!
So my intention now (so long as the editor approves), is to produce propagation notes
each month with a few suggestions as to which plants to try. On the basis that we all
have to start somewhere, I make no apology for the fact that some of this will be very
basic to some of you. More challenging suggestions will follow!

Just a few general observations before we start:-
Propagation falls into two main types – Seed and Vegetative. There are pros and cons
for each, but put simply 1) if you propagate vegetatively, the offspring will be genetically identical to the parent plant. If you use seeds, the progeny will be variable (except in the case of commercially
produced seed where pollination has been controlled). 2) Generally vegetative propagation results in smaller numbers of progeny 3) Some plants, particularly hybrids, do not produce viable seed. Others will not produce seed under UK climatic conditions. 4) Some plants will only propagate by seed. These include annuals but also some perennial plants and trees.

Propagation tasks for October

  1. Division.
    The simplest form of vegetative propagation suitable for herbaceous perennials
    which bulk up by gradually forming bigger and bigger clumps. Plants of this type should
    be divided about every three years to maintain their vigour. Lift the entire clump and
    gently tease apart. Each piece should come away with some root attached – for tougher
    plants you will need to use a knife. If you are just replanting, there is no need to break
    up into individual pieces. Simply split it into a few new clumps taken from the outside of
    the old one. Throw the centre (oldest) part on the compost heap. If you want to produce
    a lot of plants, then you can take individual pieces and pot them up into a low nutrient
    compost. This is important at this time of year as the plants will not make much growth
    before next year and excess nutrients will encourage bacterial growth. They may also
    encourage soft growth before winter sets in, which will make the plants more
    susceptible to frost damage. Feeding can begin in spring next year. The plants can be
    left outside without protection. Plants which can be propagated in this way in the
    autumn are most of the earlier flowering perennials, eg Alchemilla mollis, Cephalaria
    gigantea, hardy geraniums, violets, and lots more!
  2. Softwood cuttings
    It’s getting a bit late for these now and I’ll say more about them at a later date.
    However, if you have plants that are not reliably hardy, you might consider taking some
    cuttings and overwintering them with protection (frost free), just in case the parent plant
    doesn’t survive. Penstemons and Osteospermum are obvious candidates from the
    garden borders, and Pelargoniums from your pot plants.
    Choose non-flowering shoots from the current season’s growth. Using the upper
    section of the shoot, reduce the length to about 8cm, cutting immediately below a node
    (the point where the leaves come out of the stem). Trim off the lower leaves so that you
    have a clean piece of stem to insert into the compost. Use a low nutrient compost
    mixed 50:50 with horticultural grit (or perlite if you prefer). Depending on numbers, you
    can use pots or seed trays. Once the cuttings are inserted, water gently and put in a
    propagator. The main purpose of this is to stop the cuttings from drying out. If you have
    a heated one, that’s perfect, but it’s not essential. Heat will simply speed things up a bit
    and also makes things a bit more tricky when it comes to hardening off the rooted
    It’s worth noting that Pelargoniums don’t like a damp atmosphere and I usually leave
    them uncovered. The old gardeners used to take the cuttings and leave them out
    overnight on the potting shed bench before completing the process! Whatever you
    decide, I would advise that you don’t keep them in with other cuttings that like a bit more
    moisture. By late January you should have some rooted cuttings that you can pot up and
    gradually harden off ready for planting out in May.

I hope you’ll all have a go at division and softwood cuttings. Let me know how you get on and if you have any questions, feel free to message me and I’ll do my best to help. greentouchpaper@gmail.com

Swedish Apple Cake
Recipe from Hilary

Grind cardamom seeds for this cake in a pestle and mortar with a little granulated sugar, which acts as an abrasive.

Prep time: 30 minutes | Cooking time: 1 hour | Serves: 8
– 150g butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
– 175g soft light-brown sugar
– 50g marzipan, broken into little chunks
– 3 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
– ½ tsp almond extract
– 4 tart apples, such as Granny Smith
– 175g plain flour
– 2 tsp baking powder
– 75g ground almonds
– Seeds from 8 cardamom pods, ground
– 2 tbsp milk, if needed
– 2 tbsp granulated sugar
– 6 tbsp apple or quince jelly or apricot jam, to glaze, or icing sugar, for dusting


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/170C fan/gas mark 5. Butter and line the base of a 23cm
    spring form cake tin.
  2. Beat the butter and brown sugar together until pale and fluffy, then beat in the
    marzipan. The marzipan should break down. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating well
    after each addition, then add the almond extract.
  3. Peel, core and chop two of the apples and add them to the mixture.
  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt, and add the ground almonds
    and cardamom. Fold this into the batter, adding it in three lots. The mixture shouldn’t
    be too stiff. If it is, add the milk.
  5. Peel the other apples, halve, core and cut them into slim wedges. Toss with the
    granulated sugar.
  6. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and arrange the apple wedges on top in
    concentric circles. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of
    the cake comes out clean. Cover the top with foil if it starts to get too dark.
  7. Cool the cake for about 15 minutes then run a knife between the edge of the cake and the
    inside of the tin, and unclasp the spring. Remove it and carefully remove the base and
    the paper. Slide the cake on to a plate and leave to cool completely.
  8. You can either glaze the cake or sift some icing sugar over the top. If you want to glaze it,
    put the jam or jelly in a small saucepan with 2 tbsp water and heat until it has melted. If
    you’re using apricot jam, you need to sieve it to get the bits of skin out. Brush this over
    the top of the cake and leave to set.

Changes at Link Nurseries

From Guest Contributor, Phil Woodhead

Link Nurseries has been operating as a therapeutic horticultural centre for many years. It is in the grounds of the old Powick Psychiatric Hospital and was previously run by the NHS. In August 2016 the site was taken over by the Warwickshire Colleges Group, who had previously be providing some
horticultural training for people attending the centre. Phil Woodhead was appointed as the new manager and with the help of existing friends of the Nursery, he established a new therapeutic regime. The main activity is the Well Bean Gardening Club, where each member has their own ‘square foot’ garden to grow their own choice of vegetables, fruit or flowers. All seeds and tools
are provided, together with instruction and guidance, as well as developing a friendly and supportive atmosphere for members to work in. Then, as with so much of our lives, this all came to a stop in March. Phil and his apprentice James have continued to work throughout lockdown and slowly, as things eased, the volunteer team started to return. The Well Bean Gardening Club plots had all become overgrown and surrounded by weeds, and production of the vegetables and flowers that we grow for sale suffered under the very hot weather and limited people- power to manage the
crops. In July, when Garden Centres were allowed to open again, Link Nurseries, in conjunction with the Plant Centre and Garden Centre at Pershore College, got going again. We have a reasonable range of seasonal plants and shrubs, not in the quantity of some of the large Garden Centres, but also include some interesting varieties of well-known plants. Each plant we sell contributes to the funding of the Well Bean Gardening Club, which is focussed on supporting our community through providing opportunities for growth and well-being, to improve mental and physical health through a
range of activities for amateur or keen gardeners looking to grow vegetables/cut flowers and get involved in the horticultural side of the Nursery. We have just started to re-open the Club, at the moment with very limited numbers, but as the position with regards to students at the WCG sites becomes clearer, we hope we will be able to increase capacity and open the Club to new members.
There is also a new exciting growing project to which we are hoping to attract new volunteers. We are starting our own small commercial growing project that will produce a small range of crops and products which can be sold through Link to compliment some of the products we retail at present and to generate some income to help the therapeutic activities at the Link This project will have a slightly different focus to the Well Bean Gardening Club as the activities will be seasonally programmed and structured to provide an insight to commercial plant production, develop skills and promote team working. The growing project is open to all, but to start with we are looking for a small team of 3 or 4 volunteers who can kick start and oversee the first crops to be grown. The crops will all be small and simple to grow and all instructions and support will be given. The role of the small team is primary to communicate to everybody how the crop is growing and organise any timing of activities and crop checks etc. Most of the crops on the planner will require daily monitoring which may include weekends. This is likely to be a quick look to see if watering is required during the warmer periods, so would take maybe 10-20 minute per crop. This is very important that it is done as we know that one extra unchecked sunny day can wipe out a crop of young plants and in this case could be the whole crop in the programme. Basically a small team will be in control of the crop throughout its production. This is a whole Link activity which is hopefully will help develop some new skills and team working so there will be plenty of help and support around. The first crop we thought we would try this with is Primula ‘Crescendo’. A reliable hardy Polyanthus, which is distinguished from a bedding primrose by the bright coloured flowers appearing on a flower stem. It is commonly used in autumn and early spring bedding displays.
A great plant for seasonal tubs or at the front of a garden border. The plants form a rosette of leaves in the autumn and the flowering stalk starts to grow in early spring. The height of flowering is around 10cm. ‘Crescendo’ is the most reliable form and great to grow. We could use it for sales of spring baskets and Mothers Day posies. If this sounds like something you would be interested in
please contact us at the Link for more details. (linknurseries@wcg.ac.uk or 01905 831881). We are
always looking for more volunteers, particularly for this project and for working alongside the members of the Well Bean Gardening Club.

We are open for commercial sales of plants, shrubs, compost and we are still selling seasonal fruit and vegetables, eggs and juices and about to stock milk.

Our opening times are: Tuesday – Saturday from 10.00am until 4.00pm.

Phil Woodhead
Link Nurseries Horticultural Therapy Centre

By Anemone Mouse

It was on a crisp, sparkly morning,
When, out of the corner of my eye,
I glimpsed a thread of gossamer
Subtly flying by.

Was it from a faery’s wing,
Revealed to my sight
Or just a strand of spider’s silk,
Encaptured by the light?

I still believe in faeries,
However incongruous that may seem!
It’s way past Midsummer
And ‘life is but a dream.’

We’re living in uncertain times.

Don’t tell me to ‘get real!’
I’m wearing a three-layered mask.
Life is just surreal!

In Spring, I tended my garden,
Bees pollinated apples and pears,
In Autumn, I reaped the fruits of my labour,
Best and worst of years!

With the Harvest gathered in,
Now’s the time to ponder,
What the future holds for us,
In the wide, blue yonder.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s