August 2021

Well, Spring flew by and we are now in mid Summer and I am trying to keep up with my small but demanding garden!  Colours are changing and in my front garden, pinks, pale mauves, greens, silvery grey and white are now dominant.  Flowers are setting seed and fruits are developing and Nature is on its relentless march towards Autumn.

Since our last Zoom  meeting, we have successfully managed our first group visit since March 2020.  We will have some photos of the trip to Little Malvern Court in the next edition.

For those of us who haven’t been able to get away this year to foreign climes, we have had the time to appreciate our own gardens more and some members have shared their photos with us.  Others have shared their experiences of visits to English gardens as well as local volunteer work.

We have some heartening news that we are able to run a plant crêche at the RHS Malvern Show in September, so we have details of that included.

We also have a new feature called ‘Ask Rachel’, where you can ask questions of our own expert, Rachel Salisbury.  Send them in by email and Rachel will answer them in October newsletter.  Also we are looking for articles and photos on gardening with your pet!  Send in attachment in email to Helena, (Subject: Newsletter) to

Helena Kent. Club Secretary

Save the date! Weds, 22 September 2021

Our first in-person meeting for 18 months at our new venue:

St Matthias Church Hall in Malvern Link.  Church Road, WR14 1LX

The speaker is Paul Green, ‘Choice Plants for late season – they think it’s all over, but it’s not yet!’  Paul will be bringing plenty of plants to sell!  

Tea, coffee and biscuits provided.  Car parking in road near Hall.  As limited, please try to car share.

Due to Covid concerns, we will have hand sanitiser at entrance.  Mask wearing is optional but please feel free to wear if you are comfortable with that. Seating will be at tables with spacing.  

Memories of the Med

You may not be able to get to the Med this year but you can bring the Med to your garden!

I am not saying that you need to redesign your whole garden to create the style of a formal Italian garden, renowned for its manicured hedges of box, clipped topiary and stately Italian cypress, nor am I saying that you should introduce statuary and water features reminiscent of the Alhambra!

I am only saying that you could introduce a few plants that grow well in a Mediterranean climate and will remind you of lazy summer days and evenings spent at that little café or quaint taverna with their colours and scents.  Although we do not live in that sort of climate, except for the occasional heatwave, these plants are adapted to dry summers and mild, wet winters, climatic conditions, which, with our weather, we can experience in one week!

Mediterranean herbs are obviously well known, such as rosemary, bay, sage, thyme, lavender, borage, marjoram and fennel.  Extra benefits of growing these being able to pick them straight from the garden to enhance your culinary delights!

Other benefits, apart from adding fragrance to your garden, include attracting bees and other pollinators.  Flowers of borage are loved by bees for their nectar and also look pretty in a Pimms cocktail!

Most herbs, especially ones with silvery grey leaves, will prosper in full sun and dry poor soil and are most beneficial at times when water is scarce. 

These plants are as much at home in your traditional English cottage garden as in a French kitchen garden, ‘le potager’, where herbs are grown along with vegetables, fruit and flowers, providing ingredients for ‘le potage’, a thick vegetable soup.

You need not be restricted to just herbs but roses are also favourites in French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese gardens.  Fragrant climbing or rambling roses can be trained over a pergola or up a wall along with jasmine or wisteria.  There are so many varieties to choose from!

Other plants, which I associate with holidays in the Med are blue agapanthus, pink hibiscus, orange bird of paradise, gazanias, pelargoniums, bottlebrushes, agaves, palms, cistus, citrus trees, olives and figs to name just a few!  Fingers crossed for next year!  Helena Kent.  Art by Mary Pillon.

What a whopper!  From Carole Newton

This stunning Acer is the envy of many of my friends, family and even people walking past on the pavement who stop to stare and will, if I am in the garden, comment on its incredible size and colour.  It has been a feature in our garden for about 25 years and it just keeps getting bigger.  It must have been one of the very first shrubs I planted that has turned into one of the prominent features in the garden.

I have trimmed it annually to stop it growing over the path but it still puts on an amazing amount of growth every year.

Our cat Skye and her predecessor Emma use it to sleep under when the weather is hot, so this year it hasn’t had a great deal of use (let’s hope it will be used later).  It is also their favourite pouncing spot, unsuspecting folks coming down the 2 steps suddenly have a fur ball flying out of nowhere onto their ankles.

The colour it takes on in Autumn is spectacular too and the fallen leaves look lovely on the path until I gather them all up for the compost bin. I am so glad I was tempted to buy it all those years ago as a very small but pretty shr

NGS Open day Sunday June 27th 2021.  MaggieJo St John

An overcast but dry day so we ventured deep into Herefordshire to the Welsh border for the first of 2 visits. Reminiscences for me of an even more overcast day, heavy with rain, when two of us toiled up and over from Hay on Wye to Pandy on the Offa’s Dyke path.

This first garden is in a stunning location looking out over that line of the Black Mountains.  The renovation of the old farm buildings has been sympathetically and beautifully carried out and the planting around them is effective.  The main garden was not, at this stage of its development, to our taste.  The tremendous views and landscape of the Black Mountains were not brought into the design, in fact an alley of hornbeam ran across, not to, it.  It describes itself as a ‘modern garden’ yet includes a formal parterre, the planting of which was very mixed, not helped by a higher proportion of weeds than normally seen on an NGS day.

The second visit to a property occupied by the same family for over a 1000 years was quite a contrast.  Walking through the 14th century archway to the front of the house there is a fine vista onto the well stocked deer park (protected by a haha disguised as a swathe of wildflower meadow).  The walled garden had been carefully redesigned for herbaceous plants, while the vegetable and fruit garden occupy a more open area outside it.  The toll the past 18 months has taken on many gardens and properties that rely on volunteers to maintain their level of care is evident here too, especially in the woodland area.

We’d return here to spend more time in the garden and grounds as well as visit the house and learn more of the history of the Scudamore family and the changing fortunes of the house and estate.  We’d also hope to buy more of the excellent herbaceous plants, grown from seed and sold at a very reasonable price.

1st        The garden of the wind at Middle Hunt House, Walterstone,HR2 0DY

2nd       Kentchurch Court, nr Pontrilas, HR2 0DB

A June Day in 2 Cotswold Gardens.  Jenny Jones

Our first stop was Hidcote gardens owned by the National Trust.  We arrived at opening time giving us a quiet hour before it got too busy.  The roses were wonderful as were most of the flowers.  Some specific garden rooms were gardened to perfection but it was such a shame to see bindweed etc choking many plants in other areas.  All very understandable though, due to lack of gardeners and many, many volunteers.  The poor vegetable garden was heartbreaking to see, virtually untouched with everything going to seed.  Still very much worth a visit of course with lots of good things to see.

Garden number 2 was a very different story….Kiftsgate Court Gardens

This is a family run garden perched on the edge of the Cotswold escarpment.  Absolutely magnificent.  Again the roses were fabulous, the famous Kiftsgate rose was in flower and truly enormous.

Volunteering for the Link.  Fay Grist

I first used Link nurseries when it was on the site next to the new Malvern hospital many years ago.  It sold good plants at reasonable prices.

With a change of leadership it moved to Powick and the NHS took over the lease.  Friends of the Link were formed and I joined as a volunteer.  We had coffee mornings, fundraising etc.  Warwickshire College Group and Bransford Trust took over the lease in 2016 and I returned as a volunteer as did a lot of the old crew, creating a great family atmosphere.

The Well Bean Gardening group and Flower and Plant group were started.  I joined the Well Beaners as well as being a volunteer.

Plant and vegetable growing continued and strawberries, tomatoes and runner beans did especially well.

Then came COVID.  We were closed for several months.  Then slowly reopened, initially for site maintenance and then for small groups.  Things have really taken off since then. We now have 3 Well Bean groups, Art group, School group, Craft group and have just started a Mini Allotment group and are awaiting more materials.  Volunteers are involved in seed planting, pricking out, weeding, watering, looking after plants and helping run the shop, which sells local fresh veg, milk, eggs, fruit juice and seeds as well as our plants and compost.  In Spring bedding plants and hanging baskets and in Winter Christmas wreaths.

I have had a great time at the Link.  I have made friends, learnt a lot and we all support each other.  I realized how much I missed it during the first lockdown and am delighted to be back again.  Long may it continue to grow.  To visit us we are open 10.30 am to 4pm, Tues to Fri Hamilton Close, off Hospital Lane, Powick, WR2 4NH

Allotment News.  Barry Kent

This July the allotment has experienced a heat wave, dry conditions and heavy rain!  These extremes of weather have caused brown rot on the plum tree with all fruit lost.  On the other hand my black and redcurrants, apples and cultivated blackberries have produced record amounts of fruit.  I have a small first year crop of blueberries which I’ve never grown before.  The bushes spread low to the ground and I may have to put straw around the base to protect the fruit.

My beetroot, Swiss chard, French beans and parsnips are all doing well.  I need to thinly sow carrots as the first crop was attacked, especially on the lower root.  The dry conditions have not helped.  I have been watering in the morning but not every day.  The end of the month has seen thunder storms.  I look forward to harvesting my main crop potatoes next month.

Ask Rachel

Q:  Can I take cuttings from my Clematis montana and if so how?

A:  I would normally do Clematis montana cuttings in May/June. Use the new growth and cut off and discard the very flimsy top section, if the base is woody cut off and discard this too.  Take cuttings from the remaining section immediately above a pair of leaves and then about 5cm below them.  Repeat as you work down the stem.

Insert cuttings in a tray or pot of 50/50 multi-purpose compost and horticultural grit.  Cover with a lid or insert in a polythene bag and keep in good light but out of direct sunlight.  They should root in about 4 wks.

I don’t use rooting hormone and definitely wouldn’t advise it for these as they are relatively small cuttings and rooting hormone inhibits shoot growth. You can try now but have better chance of success earlier in the year.

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

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, 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, 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,

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 or follow MoRW on Facebook.

NGSG.  Weblink to June openings of Gloucestershire gardens in National Garden Scheme is

April 2021

Happy Easter

This month we have contributions from members about their particular interests and news of Zoom meetings for April and May. 

Helena Kent. Club Secretary

Save the date! Weds, 28 April at 7.20pm

Our next MHGC Zoom meeting!

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

The next Zoom meeting will be on Weds 28 April and the speaker will be Stuart Lees, who will be talking about ‘Adventurous Container Gardening’. Stuart’s biographical details are:

Having worked in horticulture since leaving school, Stuart studied for a Diploma at Askham Bryan College in Yorkshire before taking a gardener’s position with the Cadogan Estate in Chelsea. From there he progressed to various Head Gardener positions in the South East, including at a five-acre intensive garden in Berkshire for six years and responsibility for a 100-acre garden in Oxfordshire, which included the initial design work on the new garden and a one-acre, elliptical walled garden. Before becoming self-employed in 2000 he was the Head Gardener and Designer for a small London based gardening company, responsible for the maintenance of various private gardens in South West London.

We will forward you more details, the link, meeting ID and pass code nearer the time.

Ian Thwaites, a professional plant and gardens photographer, gave a very interesting Zoom talk to 21 participants at our March meeting.  We also learned a few tricks of the trade, which is all about ‘selling the dream’ to quote the speaker.

May’s meeting, Weds 26 May, will be a Zoom talk on ‘An Allotment Year’ by Alan Williamson.

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.

Upsize/Downsize by Phil Bunyan

When we retired in 2002 we decided to move from Hertfordshire to Worcestershire. We needed to get away from M25/M1 and all the other traffic. I had always been keen on gardening and had 2 allotments in Hertfordshire. We could not afford to move to a detached house with land in that area.

Hence we purchased converted agricultural buildings with 4 1/2 acres which included an old neglected orchard. We concentrated on upgrading the buildings to start with, just ticking the garden over. The following year I concentrated on the garden. A vegetable patch was dug out from rough grassland and fencing constructed to divide the garden into various areas. An old fish pond was relined and increased in size, with new fish introduced. A new wildlife pond was also created which encouraged newts, frogs and other pond life.

It was time to start on the orchard which had not been pruned for many years. A neighbour agreed to keep about 20 sheep in the orchard. The old dead lower branches of the fruit trees were removed and the upper branches pruned. This was done in 3 stages over 3 years. A circular path was mowed through the orchard which allowed easy access to all the trees. New trees were planted where there were gaps in the rows, and also in an area down the bottom which had been left open.

We planted organically grown trees from Walcot Nursery in Drakes Broughton, choosing local Three Counties varieties. In all we ended up with 172 apple 34 pear 22 Plum and 3 Cherries. Local varieties included Madresfield Court, Newland Sack, Colwall Quoining, Pitmaston Pineapple and William Crump. A survey of the orchard was carried out in 2014 by Worcestershire Wildlife Trust which confirmed it met the required habitat quality for selection as a local wildlife site. (LWS)

Each year in the autumn with 5 other couples we would spend the day making apple juice and cider, dividing the three hundred odd bottles between the helpers. The orchard in the winter was full of redwings and fieldfare feeding on the fallen fruit with woodpeckers nesting during summer in the old trees.

The excess fruit and vegetables grown on the plot were either given to friends/neighbours or put in the freezer. As I advanced in years I found that the garden was taking more of my time keeping to the standards I had set myself. Holidays became more of a problem, finding time to get away then catching up with the jobs on our return.

We had been at the house now 15 years, so a decision was made to move into Malvern where we had facilities available within walking distance. We eventually found a property that we liked however the garden was very small. When moving house one always has to make compromises and the garden size was outweighed by the other benefits. Hence we now have a back garden approx 60ft by 45ft which is divided roughly 50/50 with flowers and vegetables. I have a greenhouse which enables me to grow most of my plants from seed.

I do miss the large garden walking around the orchard enjoying the wildlife, but as I get older I think we made the right decision at the right time in our lives.

Allotment love by MaggieJo St John

I’ve grown vegetables and fruit whenever I have had a bit of garden. Most exotically in Singapore where a papaya tree actually gave us our own fruit; most consistently in Birmingham until the lovely neighbouring park trees soared so high that my veg patch was shaded out and became more of a woodland habitat; most bizarrely here in Malvern where I use part of my small front garden for beans, corn on the cob, tomatoes….it’s the only south facing area so there’s no neat flower border for neighbours to admire; these edible delights are in full view!

And I have even more edible delights now that I have the immense pleasure of an allotment. I was allocated a plot in 2018; a full size one (200+sq m) became vacant and was divided in two. I misunderstood which was my half, was very happy with it as it was in relatively good condition and started putting down large quantities of cardboard to prevent weeds growing. When I realised my mistake I had mixed emotions: on the plus side I now inherited a shed, an overgrown fruit bush and even some chard, perpetual spinach and edible unharvested potatoes; on the downside I discovered that two thirds of it was heavily overgrown with rampant old raspberry canes and matted bindweed.

I gave myself three winters to eradicate all that, a third at a time. Now, in 2021, I can establish permanent areas for perennials such as rhubarb, an asparagus bed, new raspberry canes, some soft fruit bushes and a central strip of plants for pollinators. I was mapping that out on paper when, walking along Court Road in January, I cast my beady eye over a skip and spotted treasure! Long boards in good condition. A “help yourself” from the owner and 30+ one metre long flooring boards plus shorter ones were mine. With a third lockdown, there’s not been much to do; it’s too wet to walk the fields, let alone work the ground. Suddenly I had a reason to be down on the allotment on a regular basis: cobble the boards together and create paths and borders. To call them raised beds would be a misnomer as yet: I need, over the years, to build up sufficient layers of compost and manure before they merit that name.

I get immense pleasure from my allotment and was especially grateful to have one last year. Grateful too, unexpectedly, to Michael Gove who explicitly mentioned working on allotments as allowable activity in the first lockdown. I’ve wondered why I get such pleasure from it, more perhaps, certainly in a different way, than from my garden. Our gardens (if we have one) are mainly enclosed and private. For me, the allotment is a large open space where I have a sense of freedom: there’s no feeling that it should look good – it’s a place for practical, purposeful activity. Every plot is different, each allotment holder there for their own reasons yet all happy to pass the time of day and share ideas. Nowadays, few of us aim to be self sufficient and feed a family. We may want to grow organically, reducing the amount of chemicals we ingest or have space for a greenhouse or polytunnel so we can ripen cucumbers, grapes, pepper, melon, so many possibilities! Or just have more space and light.

While allotments have existed for hundreds of years, our current system stems from the nineteenth century when industrialisation left many labourers without access to land, unable to grow food to feed their families. The 1908 Small Holdings and Allotments Act placed a duty on local authorities to provide sufficient allotments and this was extended, after the First World War, and land was made available to all, not only the labouring poor.

 I have a plot at Goodwood Road, a site that adjoins the railway line, owned and run by Malvern Town Council. Just as individual plots differ so too do the ways in which allotments are run with many now operating under devolved management schemes. There is a National Allotment Society (NAS) which supports members, be they individuals, societies, local authorities or others and champions the allotment movement. Taking on even a part size allotment is a substantial time commitment and can be a physical challenge. Sadly, we seem to love them so much that we hold on to them even when we cannot look after them properly and they become overgrown. At Goodwood Road this is the time of year when new people arrive to cast their eyes over a plot and assess whether its location, condition and aspect bode well. Some last a year or so, some will become the old stalwarts; some are enthusiastic beginners, some bring a wealth of experience; some live close enough to pop in daily, whilst others fit a visit around their work shifts; some of us raid skips for useful items, others invest money as well as time to create a special space. We all (mostly, most of the time) have a smile on our face.

Competitions by Carole Newton

Following a heartfelt plea from the chair of the group for more members to enter the monthly competitions I finally decided to give it a go. That month was Spring flowering shrubs. My entry was Edgeworthia, a fantastic very early flowering shrub in my garden. It was relatively unknown to most of the members in the group who were amazed at the strong honey perfume which filled the air, and too the wonderful blooms.

Duncan Coombes the speaker/judge that evening was very taken with it and awarded it first prize. That was it, I was hooked. It wasn’t always easy to find the flowers, foliage or decorative arrangement each time. Nevertheless, I tried and managed to find something almost every month.

Imagine my surprise and delight a couple of years later when I was awarded the RHS medal for overall winner of that year. The only medal I had been awarded since winning the egg and spoon race at junior school, (it was cardboard though), more years ago than I care to remember. I am very proud of that achievement.

So, if you have never tried your hand yet, why not give it a go and you too could be a medal winner.

What are the origins of our plants?  Helena Kent

Having watched ‘Monty Don’s Japanese Gardens’ on tv, I wanted to get a Japanese theme going in my own back garden, albeit on a miniature scale!  After all, I had the necessary elements:water, stone and a fertile imagination!

I already had a wildlife pond and several trees and shrubs, native to Japan and Asia and plenty of Malvern stone.  The soil is neutral and mostly well drained with mixture of sun and shade.  I had planted an azalea and a Japanese maple, as well as a young Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) because I love the scent of its leaves in Autumn.  When you crush them they smell of toffee apples!  It was also one of Geoff Hamilton’s favourite trees and he loved to sit in the shade of one at Barnsdale Gardens in Exton, Rutland.

When we moved here 3 years ago now, I inherited several established shrubs and surprisingly enough, after a bit of research I found that most of them originated from Japan or Asia.  One was a red Camellia, originating from the Himalayas to Japan and Indonesia, another was Skimmia japonica, native to Japan, China and Indonesia.  The bees love it but only when the sun is on it.  I also inherited a Spirea (Spiraea japonica) native to Japan, China and Korea and a Weigela.  The Weigela florida has an interesting history.  It was the first species to be collected for Western gardens from N. China, Korea and Manchuria.  It was found by Scottish botanist and plant hunter Robert Fortune and imported to England in 1845.

The Viburnum, I think, is Viburnum x bodnantense, a hybrid cultivar, V. farreri (native to N. China) crossed with V. grandiflorum (a Himalayan variety).  It was made in 1935 by Charles Puddle, head gardener to Lord Aberconway, of Bodnant Garden, Wales.  It certainly earns its place in the garden in Winter,due to its beautiful scented blossom, when most other shrubs are just bare stems.

I have since planted a Peony and Daphnes in the garden; a Pieris, in a pot containing acid soil and a Gingko (native to China) also confined to a container.  I find the Gingko biloba fascinating because of its leaf structure and history, considered as a ‘living fossil’.

Bleeding heart, Dicentra spectabilis, as I know it, now called Lamprocapnos spectabilis had a beautiful display in my garden last year and I am hoping it will return!  It is native to Siberia, N. China, Korea and Japan.  Plants were introduced to England from Asia in 1840s by Robert Fortune.

I am now looking for more plants for ground cover, which fit into the theme!

I recommend the book: Authentic Japanese Gardens by Yoko Kawaguchi.

Allotment News.  Barry Kent

The weather in March has been varied, with some sharp frosts, rain and dry cool days.

I will harvest the last of the leeks.  All the fruit trees and bushes look healthy and are in bud.  The weeds now need regular hoeing and the paths strimming.  The water supply is now back on.

I am experimenting on part of the allotment with a ‘no dig’ policy.  It will be interesting to see which vegetables prosper in the different plots.  Presently the soil is cold and wet but hopefully I can sow some seed before the end of the month eg spinach, parsnips and lettuce.

February Newsletter

February is all about hearts and flowers (and foliage for some)! 

Orchids seem to make more of an appearance on supermarket shelves as we approach St Valentine’s Day, so I have written a piece about them for this issue. We also have a variety of articles, some from new contributors. One in particular, by Patsy Cooke, follows a trend, that I hope we can continue, about parents’ and grandparents’ gardens.

Helena Kent. Club Secretary

Breaking News…..…Breaking News……..Breaking News…..…

Save the date! Weds, 24 February at 7.20pm.

Our very first MHGC Zoom meeting! Speaker: Robin Pearce has been booked to give talk on ‘Hostas and Companion Plants’.

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

I will forward you more details, the link, meeting ID and pass code nearer the time.

March meeting will also be by Zoom. Weds, 24 March at 7.20pm. Speaker will be Ian Thwaites on ‘The Life of a Plant and Garden Photographer’.

Due to the present uncertain situation, we will send you details of April and May meetings and future visits nearer the time.

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.

Looking forward to March, we are going to feature allotments and vegetable growing.

Here is a taster from Barry Kent. .

Tales from the Allotment. January 2021

Two years ago, I took over an allotment at the Goodwood Road council site. I was surprised to be offered the plot, as there was a long waiting list. The previous tenant was obviously into fruit. The plot was overgrown but during 2019, I found healthy red and blackcurrant bushes, cultivated blackberries, an apple tree and two gooseberry bushes. For some reason, 2019 was a good year for currants and 2020 for apples and blackberries.

The plot could not be rotivated, as there were many ‘hidden’ paving slabs and wooden planks, which were possibly used as dividers? In the last three months I have pruned the fruit bushes and apple tree. New strawberry plants have gone in, replacing old plants. Young blueberry bushes have been planted and dwarf raspberry bushes will replace the old ones, which have expired!

The only vegetables I have left are leeks, which are okay, despite part of the plot having been recently flooded. As this winter weather is so variable, weeds are still appearing. Thinking back to the 1970s, in November, when my garden was dug over and manure added, weeds never seemed to be a problem!

If you wish to share your experiences (good or bad) of vegetable growing or allotment holding with fellow club members, please email by February 20 for inclusion in next newsletter. Thanks!

Helena Kent

A Dream of a Greenhouse by Patsy Cooke

I started gardening in the late 50’s as a small child, helping my widowed mother in our garden on the outskirts of London. We talked about gardens and gardening while we worked. I loved that garden.

The things I remember were mostly colour or form: lots of bulbs, day lilies, “grandma’s bonnets”, phlox (that unforgettable scent), masses of Lily of the Valley and forget-me-not, London Pride (of course), bears breeches, peonies, Michaelmas daisies, globe thistle (called by us Pippa Flowers as they were always in bloom for my sister’s birthday) and periwinkle under a very early flowering pink rhododendron.

We had walnut and apple trees and lots of soft fruit. My father had planted roses: Albertine, Peace and Pauls Scarlet among them.  I remember too primroses originally brought from the family home in Devon to form Mother’s wartime wedding bouquet – some of them pink. I have their offspring in my garden even now. Mother cultivated a veg patch – anything she could get hold of. She saved seed whenever she could.

On her own with five children, my mother couldn’t afford a greenhouse. She was a very pragmatic gardener and only grew what she knew would survive hordes of children, some neglect and next door’s enormous tortoise. “Loity” had a voracious appetite for our veg and regularly had to be rescued from the bonfire heap. Anything the least bit tender lived on the window ledge in the small conservatory and endured the attentions of a series of interested budgies.

Apart from a vegetable garden, they had a rose garden, another garden planted with flowers for the house, espalier fruit underplanted with strawberries lining the footpath to the front door, extensive lawns and several greenhouses. How the other half lived! I could only dream about having my own garden and it had to have a greenhouse.

I did get a garden in 1980 and was able to share a 6’ x 4’ aluminium lean-to greenhouse with my then husband. Whilst it was a start, it wasn’t satisfactory for either of us as it was small when we each wanted different things from it. But we were able to be a bit more ambitious than before and certainly enjoyed our successes. It was definitely better than nothing, but it wasn’t the greenhouse I was dreaming about.

In 2000 I moved to Malvern. The garden was now my sole responsibility to do with as I chose. I began to plan. I had inherited ‘the shed held up by ivy’. It really would have fallen down if I tried to remove the ivy. All I dared to do was give it a serious hair cut each year but it was where my greenhouse would eventually go.

Funds were tight and I still had three children at home… so still no greenhouse. I spent hours in the garden, learning more about what would grow, plant names, planting times a bit about pruning and some of the endless other things that go with learning to be a gardener when you’re just doing it. I tried a plastic covered mini-greenhouse anchored to the wall to keep a few plants in and was frustrated by its limitations. I learned the gardener’s lesson – patience.

All this time I was looking at sheds and greenhouses and every possible combination thereof. So much so that my daughter christened it “shed porn”.

My dream greenhouse had to be exactly what I wanted. For practicality it had to be part shed, to effectively store all my garden and household tools, as well as a reasonably sized greenhouse. Later I decided that I needed automatic vents and power for heating and lighting, for dark winter days and long evenings and the essential radio. I wanted room for a seat and a small table for the very important cuppa or glass of vino colapso. The greenhouse itself had to be made of cedar, for its beauty, long life and low maintenance qualities.

By 2017, children gone, I knew that I’d saved enough that I could afford something special at the Spring Show. With a view to having time to prepare the base, I enlisted my sons’ help to demolish the old shed.  I couldn’t wait for my Sheddy-greenhouse to arrive but was also anxious as it is still the most expensive present I’ve ever bought myself.

I knew that I wanted to be able to maintain the shed myself and stop the ivy from returning, so there had to be a walkway all round, with space at the back for at least one water butt and a storage box.

Like most Malvern gardens mine is not at all level, so with the help of a local contractor, who was able to rid me of the final obstacles by pulling an old tree stump and an 8-foot length of sleeper out of the ground. Who buries a sleeper? By the end of July, he had levelled and then paved the area, ensuring that there was a suitable gravel filled run-off for water around the outside of the greenhouse. I was then able to use the warm dry days of August to edge the step with some leftover Moroccan tiles.

On 13th October 2017 it was delivered and erected by the suppliers.

I can honestly say that apart from being a really practical answer to my storage demands, it answers all my other needs. My neighbours love that the shed is at the back and does not take any light from their veg plot and I love that when the light from the shed window isn’t enough, I can flick a switch and find everything within arms reach. The front gets all the light it needs for plants to grow strongly and in summer gets some shade from next door’s cherry tree. It’s all accessible and easy to keep clean. For fun I’ve titivated it with fairy lights and with a lizard on the finial. My grandchildren love it and so do I.

Just over three years on, I still feel that it has been my best present and investment. Hours fly by when I’m pottering in there. I have grown more, sown more and propagated more and differently every year. Even though it’s not as tidy as it was in last February, it has been a place of refuge and sanity during the madness of the last year.

Even on days where I’ve not felt like gardening, when it has been icy outside or during a downpour, I’ve found myself in there listening to the rain and wind, to the radio or just to nothing at all. I remind myself that this is a dream that has come true. As Winnie the Pooh would have it “Sometimes I sits and thinks. And sometimes I just sits.”

My Love Affair with Orchids

My love affair with orchids began in Florida, several years ago. It is a wonderful place to grow orchids and any sub tropical or tropical plant. A wide variety of orchids are readily available to buy in garden centres, specialist orchid nurseries, at fairs and shows. Every town seems to have an orchid society and best of all the raffle prizes are orchids! This photo shows a Dendrobium phalaenopsis hybrid, which I won in a raffle!

In Florida orchids are happy to grow outside, as long as they have the required amount of shade. They love the humidity and heat and can survive some cold, if temperatures drop during a cold front. You can attach the epiphytic types, such as Phalaenopsis to trees or bark and as their roots develop, they will cling happily to the tree, following their natural habit, as they would grow in the wild.

Of course, Florida is a long way from the UK and conditions could not be more different but the good thing is, you can replicate most of the conditions they need in your own home. Orchids are fairly tough plants and will tolerate a lot of abuse! If you consider how they grow in the wild you get a better understanding of their needs.

Phalaenopsis (Moth Orchids) are the most popular type here and most supermarkets sell them. They are considered as ‘throwaway’ plants but there is nothing more rewarding than getting them to flower again. It may take a year but well worth trying! When they do bloom, the flowers can last for 3 months or more. In the photo, this Phal rebloomed after a year, (if I remember right!) and lasted for so long, that when the final flower opened the rest had faded!

There are many books and magazine articles which give advice on growing orchids. One book I would recommend is ‘Growing Windowsill Orchids’ by Philip Seaton. (Kewgrowing). A few simple tips I would give for growing Phals are: keep them out of direct sunlight, away from draughts and radiators and do not overwater! Water them once (or twice) a week in summer and less in winter. When you can see their roots are very green, they should not need watering but when the roots turn a silvery white, then they can be watered. The mantra I followed in Florida was feed ‘weekly, weakly’ and here too but not in winter. You can mist them regularly too or grow in bathrooms or kitchens, where they like the humidity.

If you want to try something other than Phals, you can sometimes find Oncidium (dancing ladies) in local grocery stores, supermarkets or nurseries. Otherwise you need to visit a show, such as the Three Counties in June, which hosts an International Orchid Show or Gardeners World Live at the NEC, Birmingham in June, which have orchid growers or buy online from an orchid specialist, such as Burnham Nurseries in Devon,

The same general rules of care apply to Oncidium but water regularly or leaves will concertina. Do not allow to dry out completely between waterings.

When you buy from a specialist, you will get the species name and although they are usually more expensive, they tend to be better quality and come with advice on growing. Orchids used to be very expensive and the preserve of the rich. Some even have been the motive for murder! However due to modern techniques of propagation, they are now on mass production and we don’t have to worry about anyone with orchid envy!

In my opinion, Oncidium (as in these photos) are hard to beat when it comes to variety of colour and some species even have scent. However, when it comes to fragrance, my favourites have to be species of Cattleya.

The genus Cattleya was named after an English merchant and horticulturalist, William Cattley. Cattleya spp have the most divine perfume and the blooms used to be chosen as corsages. I bought one plant a couple of years ago and it kept producing more leaves, so that I divided it to make two plants, which have survived my repotting. They don’t show any signs of flowering yet and I may have to be a bit patient! Anyway I live in hope! Here’s a photo of original plant. Unfortunately a picture doesn’t reproduce the fragrance!

I hope that I may hear from some other orchid enthusiasts. The nearest orchid society I know about is Cheltenham and District Orchid Society but if there is anything nearer I would be pleased to hear about it.

Helena Kent


In many ways these make ideal house plants. They do not require constant attention and spend the summer in a shady place outside. In the winter they prefer a cool room indoors, in our case a conservatory. Clivias cannot take sun. Sun will burn the leaves. The flowers are showy and long lasting, mostly orange or yellow. The main flowering season is spring and summer but ours can flower at any time of year. The picture was taken on January 18th. When they flower in the summer we bring them into the house so we can appreciate them.

The plant in the picture is our original purchase, several years old now. In the meantime it has been split several times and offshoots passed on to friends. Being pleased with the original, unnamed, plant we have added to the collection, plants mostly with cultivar names, some bought online from a grower and a couple from Bob Brown’s Cotswold Garden Flowers. We bought a magnificent plant from him with very large pale yellow flowers. Keen to try different colours we bought a variety called Pink something or other. It turned out to be orange. We took it back. They were fine about replacing it with another Pink something or other. It too turned out orange. We could not be bothered going back a second time. The nearest we have to pink is a shade I call peach. We are still looking for red.

The seeds need time to ripen and then germinate readily, just place them on the surface of the compost, do not bury them. They are slow growing. Our first seedlings may flower this year. Until recently there has been little trouble with pests but over the last 12 months several different houseplants have been attacked by mealy bugs. Oil based insecticides have little effect. I am going to try Bug Clear Ultra.

Richard Winterton 20th January

Houseplants by MaggieJo

There’s a radio programme I occasionally catch ,when someone is given the opportunity to thank someone, that at the time, they didn’t have the chance to. This is my thank you to a Bizzie Lizzie.

Bizzie Lizzie. As I recall from the early and mid 1970s, she was an indoor plant; mind you I didn’t have a garden, so maybe hardy versions of her were out there then? A Bizzie Lizzie first lived with me in a first floor flat in Putney until I went abroad to work for nearly three years, leaving her in the care of my green fingered Mum. While I was away, I was stunned, on a trip in the hills of Argentina, to meet her family, growing in profusion as huge swathes in the moist shade along the edges of roads. My own Bizzie Lizzie had also flourished and came back, a foot in diameter, glossy leaved and colourful, to live in another first floor flat, this time alongside Wandsworth Common and whenever I see her now, I am mentally transported back there because she became a saviour. An unhappy love affair had left me there, moping alone in November, impelled out of bed only by the need to go to work; my evenings were spent miserably curled up by a radiator, unable to motivate myself. Until one evening, I glanced over and horror of horrors my gorgeous large Bizzie Lizzie was looking just like me: her leaves were drab and wilted; her flowers had dropped; her buds were drooping; her soil was dry and bereft of life. I moved faster than I had for several weeks and I gave her water. Slowly over the next few weeks she and I picked ourselves up; her leaves spread out and so did my footsteps; I picked off her dead stems and put them, with my romance, in the bin; her leaves began to shine and I took care over how I looked; she put out new blooms; I smiled and thanked her for returning me to sanity!

Splitting/Sharing Ornamental Grasses

Those who collected tomato plants from me last year will know I have a small front garden, sloping down with a good view onto the Beacon. Lovely. It is the sunniest place I have; it is also wind blown and dry. A talk at Colwall garden club on ornamental grasses set me thinking, some might thrive there better than the lawn grass, which turns brown each year. I’ve read that late winter/early spring is the time to split them, so 2021 is my yearof action. Please do any of you have ornamental grasses that will benefit from splitting and you’d be willing to share?

Thank you, MaggieJo
Tel 01684 574999
7 Tudor Close, Poolbrook, WR14 3SA

Propagation notes  February 2021 by Rachel Salisbury

House Plant Propagation

Helena has asked me to focus this month’s notes on house plants.  Anyone who knows me will be aware that my relationship with houseplants is not great, although I do have intermittent spells of ‘I will try harder’!   Most of my experience of house plant propagation dates back to when I was a student, when my desk looked more like a greenhouse bench than a serious workplace for a student.  What that did teach me was that ‘trial and error’ is a good way of learning.

That said let’s have a look at a few appropriate methods.

Seed.  Houseplants which produce flower can be propagated from seed.   Most can be sown at any time of year and germination times vary enormously.  They will need warmth: for most 20-25C is ideal and should be as constant as possible. A windowsill that gets cold at night is less likely to produce good results.  If you have a heated propagator, this is a good time to use it.  If you choose to put your seeds in the airing cupboard, make sure to check them daily. Once germinated, they need to be removed into a light place and not exposed to a sudden temperature drop. 

Sow seeds in a moist loam based seed compost. For very small seeds just mist spray lightly to settle them into the surface. Don’t cover with compost.  Place pots in a propagator with a lid, or seal in a plastic bag.  Check daily for germination and prick out/ pot up when large enough to handle. 

Stem Cuttings  Plants which have obvious stems and branches (like a small tree) can often be propagated from cuttings. These can be taken at any time of year, but Spring and Summer are best. Make the cutting as described for semi ripe cuttings earlier.  Insert into moist, gritty, low nutrient compost.  Place in propagator or seal in plastic bag and keep in a warm place out of direct sunlight.  Do not place in airing cupboard ` cuttings need light! Most will root in 3-4 weeks.  (Pelargoniums, Fuchsias, Christmas cactus)

Division  Plants that expand sideways and gradually fill their pot, can be divided.  This can be done at almost any time, but I would recommend Feb to Sept.  Divided sections can be potted up immediately into a good potting compost and should establish quickly in their new pots.  (Peace Lily , ferns, Clivia)

Air layering  Used for a few woody house plants such as rubber plant.   I’ll describe this in a later article when I cover it for outdoor plants too.

Leaf cuttings  these come into their own with certain groups of houseplants.  If you grow African Violets, Streptocarpus, Peperomia, Sanseveria or Begonia rex, this is the method you need to know about. African Violets and Peperomia are propagated from the whole leaves, whereas the others can be cut into sections to produce even more baby plants.  In my impoverished student days I successfully propagated African Violets, Streptocarpus and Peperomia in jars of water, but I wouldn’t say this is my recommended method! 

African Violets and Peperomias Take the whole leaf with the leaf stem. Insert into gritty low nutrient compost so that the base of the leaf blade is just at the surface of the compost.  Keep moist (not too wet!) and warm.  My mother had underfloor heating and used to have tray of African Violet leaves on the floor in the hallway!  Basal heat certainly seems to help if you can provide it.  After a few weeks, small plant will appear at the base of the leaf where it meets the compost.  Allow to grow in for a few weeks then pot up. 

Sanseveria, Streptocarpus and Begonia rex can be propagated from sections of the leaf, although whole leaves do also work.  There are a number of similar methods, but for the sake of simplicity I’ll just describe one, known as butterfly cuttings.  Take the leaf and with a very sharp knife make a cut diagonally from the edge to the midrib. Repeat from the other side so that the cuts meet in the middle.  Repeat this process along the length of the leaf, at approximately 2.5cm intervals.  You will then finish up with several V (or butterfly!) shaped cuttings.  Insert the cuttings with the point of the V into the compost and treat as above.   New plants will form at the point, and may also form where other cut veins are in contact with the compost.

Streptocarpus and Begonia rex  These can also be propagated from whole leaves laid on the surface of the compost. Lay the leaf flat on the compost.  Make cuts through some of the veins and pin down to make sure there is contact with the compost.  New plants will form at the cut ends of the veins.  Don’t get over enthusiastic with this at least until you become expert.  A few cuts will probably give you all the new plants you need.

A few general points re: leaf cuttings

  1. Use a sharp knife to ensure clean cuts
  2. Give basal heat if possible
  3. Keep in the light but out of direct sunlight
  4. Never use rooting hormone.  More about this later, but for now suffice to say that rooting hormone inhibits shoot growth and is totally inappropriate for leaf cuttings.


George Rees – 13th January 2021

I could live in a garden without flowers.  Now there is a statement to start an article.  But it is true and before I got into gardening it was the foliage of plants like ferns that drew me, rather than say roses. When I go to visit a garden (ah we all remember this right, ambling along losing oneself in the fauna and flora) it was always the kaleidoscope of greens that would catch my eye.  Depending on the season it’s the layers from the trees, down through the shrubs, to the tall grasses, down to the perennials, evergreen ferns, and foliage like hostas, and down again to the ground cover of grass, moss or plethora of saxifrage say.  The different forms, textures just a delight to my senses.

Here is a vista from John’s garden at Ashwood Nurseries that encapsulates everything I mean.

I attach this photo as I am actually in the exciting position of having just moved into a new garden in November (there was a house attached you will be pleased to know) so I am still in that stage of impatiently waiting to see what comes up in Spring before making my mark on it and creating my vision of what a garden could be.

This is where the article was born as I have quite a lot of plants in varying ornamental pots and planters waiting for their forever home in the ground and this winter has really shown just how much foliage especially evergreen I have. I could talk about ferns, hostas, heucheras, or grasses but I would imagine most of you have heard of these so instead I wanted to maybe introduce you to three of my favourite plants that will feature in the new garden and my thoughts on how and why.

Cryptomeria Japonica Elegans

When I found my love for gardening and started reading and researching I was astounded at the bad press conifers seemed to get.  Luckily not everyone thinks that way and I could indulge myself with some amazing varieties of all shapes and sizes.

This here is the Japanese Red Cedar.  It is evergreen, but not only that actually gives you three different colours with blue/green juvenile foliage turning to verdant green in the summer then an amazing mahogany plum in the winter with the added bonus of not dropping but staying all winter long.  It really is stunning.  Now yes this depending on garden size might be too big for some with a mature size of 6 to 10 metres but there is also a compact form (Cryptomeria Japonica Compacta) which is only 1.5 to 2.5 metres tall at maturity.

There is a huge array of dwarf conifers out there and if of interest Ashwood Nurseries and Limecross Nursey are two good places to start.

Thamnochortus Insignis

I love bamboos and tall grasses but both present issues not least in general bamboos are huge and run, while tall grasses although beautiful throughout winter have to be cut back to the ground early in the year leaving a big hole in the planting plan.

When idling away time I tend to virtually wander from plant nursery to plant nursery online looking at different forms of plants that lead me to country specific plants and nurseries in this case South Africa.  But as we know we live in the UK with unique climate and hardiness can be a problem so I always check this first before I get too excited about a new finding.

Thamnochortus Insignis is a type of Restio from South Africa that produces graceful arching culms eventually reaching 2 metres tall with a similar spread.  For as well as being a striking plant it has the extra benefits of being clump forming, evergreen with a lovely seed head, and hardy down to -10°C.

I will use it interspersed with other tall grasses like miscanthus and calamagrostis so as they are cut back, the thamnochortus will still give me the presence I desire.


Sword shape foliage.  I think of phormiums (which become huge as David and Elaine will testify to) and crocosmias and irises (which die back in winter).  I missed this foliage throughout the winter and that led me to Dianella or the tasman flax lily as it is also known.

Evergreen or deeply variegated “Destiny” it gives presence all year round with the added bonus in green form of stunning blue berries.  Now I will say that this plant can run if left unchecked but it only involves digging up the runners and passing them on to gardening friends.  They look lovely interplanted with the like of the irises of crocosmia where they will maintain that sword shape foliage throughout the year once the others have died back after flowering.

I hope this has given you some ideas or maybe a slightly different view of a garden and if you have managed to stay with me to the end then I applaud you as I know I can waffle.

I will leave you with some collages of foliage from my garden.

Peace on Earth biscuits from Hilary Thorogood

So called in our family because the recipe was written on the back of a Christmas card!

They are however very good and deserve the name. Also semi frozen.


  • 4 oz of butter/margarine
  • 4 oz caster sugar
  • 1 dessert spoon golden syrup
  • 6 oz SR flour
  • ½ tsp bicarb of soda dissolved in 1tsp milk
  • 3 oz sultanas/choc chips/chopped glacé cherries

Preheat oven to 180̊̊ C


  • Cream butter and sugar together
  • Add syrup and bicarb of soda
  • Add flour and rest of ingredients
  • Divide mixture into small balls roughly walnut sized
  • Place on greased tin leaving room around them for spreading as they cook
  • Press lightly with a fork
  • Cook at 180̊̊ C for 10-15 minutes. They should be just cooked
  • Leave to cool and firm up on tray