June 2021

Thank you to all our contributors to this newsletter and especially to Gerry davies from the u3a botany group!

A big thank you too to Elaine Baker who has been running the monthly competitions (along with a little help from David) from March 2020 to the present.  Patsy Cooke has now taken over the organizing and you can email your competition entries to Patsy at malvernhillsgardeningclub@gmail.com

Helena Kent. Club Secretary

Save the date! Weds, 23 June at 7.20pm

Our next MHGC Zoom meeting!

Details: Join meeting at 7.20pm for 7.30pm talk. Approx one hour long.

June’s meeting is Wildlife Gardening by Jo Worthy-Jones.

Jo will talk about gardening with wildlife in mind.  For more information, visit her website, www.haven4wildlife.com or Facebook page Haven4Wildlife.

Subscriptions 2021.

Subscriptions are now due for renewal for this year. We are maintaining the yearly subscription at £10. The cancellation of the Malvern shows has resulted in a substantial loss of income for the club, as we usually receive monies from holding the plant crêche. In order to remain sustainable as a club, we need to continue with the usual subscription fee this year. Please look in the newsletter for details of how to pay electronically – our preferred method.

If you wish to pay by cheque, please make payable to Malvern Hills Gardening Club and send to the club treasurer. Address is Mary Pillon, 12, Arosa Drive, Malvern, WR14 3JP.

WILDFLOWERS IN AND AROUND MALVERN by Gerry Davies Malvern U3A Botany Group

One of the great blessings of living where I do on the eastern edge of Malvern Link is that I have a surprising number of wildflower habitats within a short walk from home.  These range from urban pavements, roadside verges, arable fields and woodlands; some of which have nationally scarce wildflowers growing in them.  Going a little further afield there are the Commons and Hills.  Less well known are the Limestone woods and meadows to the west.

The landscape and soils of the Malvern area have their origins in the underlying geology and because the geology changes quite quickly going from the east to the west of the Hills we find a wide diversity of plant communities in a relatively small area.  This gives plenty of scope for discovering places of botanical interest.  Since moving to Malvern in 1977 I have explored many of these locations.

Not all the wildflowers to be found around Malvern are spectacular and eye catching, some are very small and require getting down on hands and knees with a hand lens to fully appreciate.  This is particularly true of the tiny annuals that grow on the free draining acid soils of the Malvern Hills Ridge.  The ridge running south from British Camp has a particularly high diversity of wildflowers; particularly on the more alkaline soils on Broad Down and Hangman’s Hill and around Clutter’s Cave.  This area is the only part of the county where the nationally scarce Spring Cinquefoil, Potentilla verna grows.  This year has seen a wonderful display of this cheerful little yellow flower.

What comes as a surprise to many local residents is that we have at least eleven species of native wild orchids flowering in our area.  This is a small part of the 50 or so orchid species found in the British Isles.

In a roughly chronological order of flowering the orchids found in the Malvern area are:

Green-winged Orchid, Orchis morio

Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula

Pyramidal Orchid, Anacamptis pyramidalis

Common Spotted Ochid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii

Heath Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza maculata

Southern Marsh Orchid, Dactylorhiza praetermissa

Greater Butterfly Orchid, Platanthera chlorantha

Twayblade Orchid, Listera ovata

Bee Orchid, Ophrys apifera

Broad-leaved Helleborine, Epipactis helleborine

Violet Helleborine, Epipactis purpurata

Malvern Common SSSI is probably the best know orchid location with good displays of Common Spotted and Southern Marsh Orchids in most years.  These closely related orchids freely hybridise leading to a confusing array of F1 and F2 hybrid forms where hybrids cross with each other and either of the parent plants.

The more showy Heath Spotted Orchid occurs on a wet area of Castlemorton Common and a meadow above Colwall.  The Helleborine Orchids are later flowering and inhabit woodlands.  The best site for Bee and Pyramidal Orchids is further afield near Forthampton; although a single Bee Orchid has flowered on a grass verge at Newland.  Pyramidal Orchids have also been recently found on a roadside verge near Clevelode.  Greater Butterfly Orchids grow in good numbers (up to 100) along with Twayblade Orchids in a limestone meadow in West Malvern.  Green-winged Orchids are best seen outside the Village Hall in Welland or the Crescent in Upper Welland.

A single flower from a Greater Butterfly Orchid. Colour variants of Green-winged Orchids

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The solitary Bee Orchid that flowered by the Recycling Centre on the edge of Malvern Link

Our Cottage Garden – David Baker

For me the classic English Cottage garden is an image of tranquillity and calm, with borders filled with perennials spilling out onto paths and interesting nooks and crannies. Living so close to Hidcote and Kiftsgate gardens, we all have some good examples to give us inspiration.

Cottage gardens seem to have a sense of timelessness, with classic plants that are unchanged over many decades. Achieving this look, and sustaining it appears effortless. From my experience it is not, and requires quite a lot of work to keep things looking natural and under control.

When we moved into our house the back area of the garden was something of a blank canvas – a large area of lawn, and a patch where the last owner had probably grown vegetables.

It was reasonably sheltered and we wanted to create a cottage garden. In search of inspiration we found a useful book “Projects for Small Gardens” which gives step by step guides on how to create structures and planting. It can still be found on-line, but is now out of print.

This allowed us to create a plan for the area, which is not quite rectangular, but which has enough space for 8 beds and a central feature:

The most important step was to create the hard structures formed by paths, border edges and fences. This required a degree of digging out the paths, putting down weed suppressant and edging the borders. The following pictures show the stages of creation:

These structures have served us well and are still in place fifteen years later. The most successful edging used old floor tiles to create serrated edges, which have lasted well and look interesting. The curved edges using log roll are good, but this only lasts about 5 years before needing to be replaced. Using gravel boards was least successful – only about 2 years before they needed to be replaced. I now use recycled roof tiles as they look good, and should be indestructible.

Planting was initially using herbs and lavender and looked great, but I had dug in too much manure and everything bolted. Fortunately it takes very little time to dig out the beds and start again.

We replant every 3-5 years, maintaining the general scheme of perennials which attract bees and butterflies.

The cottage garden is currently in flower with forget-me-nots, which I now know are named because once they arrive uninvited they will never leave, dicentra and Solomon’s seal and some self seeded aquilegia. Alliums and chives are coming into flower, with the geums and salvias coming soon. Mid summer’s flower will come from achilleas, rudbeckia, veronica and nepeta, with red hot pokers. At the year’s end we have sedums. We have added two apple trees and raspberry canes to add year round interest, and a redcurrant and gooseberry bush are recent additions.

Overall the cottage garden is a great delight, with year-round colour and attractive to wildlife. But it needs constant attention – tranquillity comes at a price!


After reading the newsletter a couple of months back about Patsy’s deluxe garden shed cum summerhouse, I cast a jaded look at my own shed and resolved to do something about it.

I had inherited my shed with the house when I moved here 8 yrs ago and it was sagging then.

Sadly hadn’t improved with age like the rest of us.  It was leaning rather badly, its bottom wood panels and windows were quite rotten and the base was very uneven with slabs at every which way.  My daughter told me to get it emptied and she would “have it away” for me.  Alas by the time I had emptied it daughter was in the middle of lambing so was unable to take up her offer.  My son told me to take photos of it – the good, the bad, and the ugly and he would sell it on Facebook.  I immediately took up his offer and sent off photos.  I said I would be happy just for someone to come and collect as I would be embarrassed to take money for it.  After some 10 days…. Not a single bite.

My son assured me it would go but one morning the lump hammer just happened to be in my hand and I wondered how difficult it would be for me to “rip it apart” bit by bit.  So I set to with vim and vigour, knowing that afternoon I was due out for tea and a stroll with a friend.  How difficult could it be to drop a shed I thought?  After all, it’s fairly rotten.  With several mighty whacks I knocked out most of the uprights and realised that a couple of long shelves screwed to inside would have to come out as they seemed to be holding it together.   That brought me out in a sweat.  Wretched screws were put in at an angle (obviously not by the female species), and as a result was only able to get one shelf out.  Never mind I thought, won’t matter.  I yanked out planks of wood from outside of shed careless of nails/screws flying around, and put them away out of stumbling reach but called a halt on that when the remainder refused to give.  Ah, I thought, should have done roof first.  I fetched my 2 x step steps from kitchen and reached to examine roof.

With aid of screwdriver and much cussing I managed to extract a screw or two by which time the whole shed “slumped”.  I was then very hopeful of getting it sorted before tea.  On entering the shed at that point it was rather like walking on a ship in a turbulent sea as the floor panels moved up as I walked on them.  Bit risky I thought and backed out again.  Had to go in again armed with “gaffer tape” to put across windows to limit broken glass.  Was rather pleased with my forethought on that even if I did only do the inside.   The moment had come,  I had done all I could so with one arm on each side of shed door way I began swinging it from side to side.  And again, side to side.  After several swings I heard it creak and shortly after that on the next swing it broke in half and fell just where I had intended it to.   Mind you it was a very ungainly heap.  And it was time for tea so off I went.

That evening my son rang to report no enquiries re shed and to ensure that I was not thinking of trying to get it down myself.  Has he got a sixth sense or what….he lives near Inkberrow!  I assured him I wouldn’t do anything so foolish and I would wait.  Another call from son at 8am the next morning.  He had a sale for me!   I had to ‘fess up much to his horror.  It also made my work that day much harder knowing someone would have done all that work for me. 

The roof was extremely heavy so I ripped off the roof felt and then got a crow bar into the middle bit and giggled around until it separated.  Was then able to stack it and the remainder of shed neatly although the rotten floor was too heavy and stubborn for me to do anything with so left it. 

My total impatience meant I had to pay a local man £50 to take it away for me….but the good news is that same man came back and has made a very lovely patio area for me. I have a new fence panel already painted by me to match the rest of fencing – Forget me not Blue.   It is a sun trap and makes the garden look so much nicer without big brown leaning shed.  Daughter has donated an aged bench for aged Mum which will be fine for this year.    I am resolved to go this year without a shed at all, using garage for garden tools and a gravel area for storing various pots.

 And my son still speaks to me!  Mary Pillon

OYEZ! OYEZ! Garden visit in July!  

Can I hear distant cries of joy break out all over the Malvern Hills!  Rachel has booked a visit to Little Malvern Court with the Head Gardener at 6pm on Weds, 28 July.  Put the date in your diary and we will send out details nearer the time!

Thanks to Lucy Bannister

Some months back one of many plant lists arrived via the MHGC newsletter from Lucy, so after looking up what some of them were, off I went to do some purchases.  Among them was a Deutzia Yuki Cherry Blossom which was not a large plant at purchase and possibly not looking at its plant centre best but I took it home and planted it up.  In early spring it was covered in tight little buds which I was willing to open, in time for last month’s “Cherry blossom” competition.  Alas the little buds hung on but now just look at how beautiful it is!  I only wish I had bought another couple of these magnificent shrubs.

Many thanks to Lucy for all the offers we have been given and I hope others have had success as I have, not only with the Deutzia but many others that have given pleasure and beauty to my garden.

Mary Pillon

Allotment News.  Barry Kent

After a dry, cold and frosty April, May has been wet, cold and cloudy until the Bank Holiday weekend!  Dandelions have now given way to buttercups.  All the fruit bushes and trees are looking healthy.  I have recently sown main crop potatoes in wet soil but hopefully there is no danger of another frost!  In this last week I have sown French beans as well as successive sowings of beetroot, chard, parsnips and carrots.  Previous sowings are looking healthy.  Strawberry plants will need a layer of straw soon to protect the ripening fruit.  Future main jobs will be weeding and thinning out.

My Gardening Day

A poem contributed but not written by Carole Newton, who thought it might be quite an apt subject for the newsletter.  It certainly strikes a chord with me!  Collectively, I must have spent many hours looking for that elusive trowel with the brown handle, that I’d just put down somewhere, in between doing one job and another and those secateurs with the green handles that magically seem to disappear into thin air! 

Saguaro cactus


The Saguaro, Carnegiea gigantean, is the largest cactus in the United States. It appears in the background of countless western films, with its characteristic arms. Even 5 cowboys, standing on one another’s shoulders, would not reach to the top of the plant. The white flowers are now the state flower of Arizona. It is native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. It grows very slowly from seed and may only be ¼ inch tall after 2 years. Another reference says 1.5 inches tall after 10 years.

My seedlings

My granddaughter gave me a packet of seeds about 5 years ago, plus a kit for germinating them. This was a small pot and saucer, some vermiculite, and transparent box to put over them. The surprising thing, to me, was the instruction to keep the saucer permanently full of water. Anyway it worked, with near 100% germination. Now I had a small army of tiny seedlings. Once they had grown to a reasonable size I gave some away and sold a few for charity.

So, 1.5 inches tall after 10 years. My seedlings have now grown to over 3 times the height in only half the time (see picture below). It just shows the advantage of regular watering as opposed to exposure in a dry desert.

I am starting to realise that I do not have room in my house for several 30 ft tall cacti. So I am trying to give one away free to a good home (the 5 inch one in the picture). There is also a slightly shorter one available. Recently images or models of cacti have become very fashionable. A short walk along Church Street will demonstrate this. A plastic cactus has become a fashion statement. How much more effective is a real cactus, with spines, and an interesting story to tell.

Richard Winterton, May 2021.

If you would like a free Saguaro, email Helena, at malvernhillsgardeningclub@gmail.com, who will put you in touch with Richard


Notice from Malvern Rotary Club

The Rotary Club of Malvern needs old and unwanted hand and power tools, in support of the charity ‘Tools for Self Reliance’.  Tools will be refurbished  and sent to TFSR.

TFSR has been training, equipping and supporting people in 6 African countries since 1979.  More details of their work can be found on their website, www.tfsr.org.

The Rotary Club will be collecting tools at B and Q Malvern from 9am to 4pm on Thursday, 10th June.  There is also a regular collection point at Bradford’s in Pickersleigh Road. 

Museum of Royal Worcester

New Botanical Art Exhibition 27 May – 31 October 2021.  ‘Botanical Treasures’ celebrates flowers and fruit on porcelain.  Workshops and demonstrations.  For more information visit www.museumofroyalworcester.org or follow MoRW on Facebook.

NGSG.  Weblink to June openings of Gloucestershire gardens in National Garden Scheme is https://ngs.org.uk/gloucestershire.

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