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.

Details for setting up an online BACs payment or standing order, for Club membership, due 3rd Wednesday of January each year.

  • Nat West Bank
  • Sort code:55-81-36
  • Account: Malvern Hills Gardening Club
  • Acc.No:  98859811
  • Please provide a reference (your name) so that Treasurer may identify your payment

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 malvernhillsgardeningclub@gmail.com 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, www.orchids.uk.com.

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

January Newsletter

A big thank you to all our contributors for this month’s articles.  We have many things to be grateful for, not least our gardens and gardeners!   Although we might have wished for the ability to hibernate like a dormouse this year, we can still find many jobs to do and new things to try, such as propagating root cuttings or growing orange trees. 

A special thanks to one of our new members, Richard, for sharing with us his bitter sweet relationship with citrus plants! 

Hoping that other members will rise to the challenge and send in an article for February’s newsletter, any length will be welcome with or without photos.  We will also put the newsletter onto the website but we will need your permission to publish your photos online. 

Next month we will be featuring orchids, so if you have anything to contribute, please get in touch at malvernhillsgardeningclub@gmail.com

Helena Kent. Club Secretary

January 2021

The beginning of the year 2021 signifies a new beginning with hope for the future. The days are getting longer and Nature is already preparing for Spring.  Gardeners are too!

A robin is singing loudly in my garden every morning now.  His Spring song, more confident and upbeat than the Autumn one, is in defence of his territory and hope of attracting a mate.

Traditionally, the first flower of Spring, the primrose has already made an appearance.

Iris, which has been blooming in my garden throughout December, signifies, in the language of flowers, hope, wisdom, trust and courage.  All of which we need at the moment.

Looking forward, we hope to resume our monthly meetings at the end of April with a talk on fuchsias by Geoff Oke and in May a talk entitled ‘The Role of a Head Gardener’ by Hugh Thomas.  In next month’s newsletter, further details will be given of the rest of the programme with dates, times, venues etc.

In the meantime, the Chair suggests that we try a Zoom talk in February.  How many members would like this?  Please email David at malvernhillsgardeningclub@gmail.com if you are interested.

Monthly competitions will also begin again in January.  3 categories, 1 entry each: Winter outdoor bulbs eg snowdrops, a flowering pot plant, birds feeding in your garden.

Lucy Bannister has a selection of spring bulbs available.  As usual, the money goes straight to St Richards Hospice.  £1 for 10.

Tulips, Clearwater, Sunny Prince, Hemisphere, Honeymoon, High Scarlet, Van Eijk, Canasta, Carre, Spring Break, Crème Upstar, Cummins, Corona, Hugs and Kisses, Shirley, Sanne, Purple Flag.  Narcissus, Big Gun, Golden Ducat, Replete, Flower Drift To arrange a mutually convenient time, please email Lucy, swissbannister@gmail.com or phone on 01905 831330

Helena Kent

My life with Citrus Plants

Early studies

As a boy I was fascinated by the thought that I could grow an orange tree from a pip and my brother and I grew various citrus plants from pips. As I remember they all germinated apart from ordinary sweet oranges. I must have lost interest after a while but my brother’s grapefruit trees continued for many years. None of them showed any sign of flowering, let alone fruiting.

Many years later, thinking I had no choice but to actually buy a plant, I got a Calamondin orange, sometimes called citrus mitis, with the correct botanical name of   × Citrofortunella microcarpa.

This is a very attractive ornamental orange, displaying fruit for much of the year and small enough to fit easily into the home. I didn’t eat the fruits but when new neighbours moved in next door, from Scotland, the first time their little girl saw the plant she picked a fruit, put in her mouth and ate it all, including the peel, so I suppose they are edible.

Eventually the little orange tree succumbed to the most dangerous pest known to house plants. It was left in the care of friend while we went on holiday. So I had another attempt at growing a new plant from its pips. They grew fast. At five foot high, much taller than their parent, with no sign of flowers, I ran out of space to keep them. Also they had numerous sharp spines whereas the original plant was spineless. This demonstrates another problem of growing plants from seed. They may not breed true, and in the case of hybrids certainly won’t.

To misquote a famous person “Life is too short to attempt to grow orange trees from pips.”

Seville oranges

Many years later my daughter announced that she was going to spend a term at the University of Grenada in Spain. Up to that point her mother and I had shown little interest in her foreign travels but we immediately said it was very important to visit her and see that she was OK. In the course of this trip we saw Grenada, Seville and Cordoba and all these cities had Seville orange trees lining the streets, in bloom and in many cases still with oranges on them. It would seem appropriate to say that the crime occurred in Seville but it was in Cordoba that I stole two cuttings from a tree in the street. You might think that this is not seemly behaviour for a member of the Malvern Hills Gardening Club. After some thought I have come up with a very convincing justification. All these trees are tall with a single smooth trunk. The flowers and fruits are high up, too high for passers-by to pick them. Evidently the Superintendent of roadside trees in each city has the job of removing a shoot that appears low down. I was merely helping them.

To my surprise the cuttings took and are the ancestors of my three current orange trees. The photos show a flower and one of the little standard trees. The Versailles planter is, pardon my French, merely a cache pot. The tree is actually growing in a builders’ bucket, as builders’ buckets are cheaper and stronger than plastic flower pots. The plants spend the entire summer, May 1st to September 30th out in the garden.  I bring them into the conservatory for the winter months.  I repot them using a compost/soil mix, feed them with Phostrogen all year round and extra nitrogen in the summer. I water them using rain water, but only when the pots seem dry; they dislike overwatering.

Other citrus plants.

One unsuccessful present I received was of a very handsome Kumquat plant, covered with oval fruits. That was it. It never flowered or fruited again.

For years in the garden we had a Japanese bitter orange. When purchased it was not classed as a citrus but several years ago the botanists reclassified it as a citrus species. It is not my place to argue with the botanists but clearly they are wrong. The Japanese bitter orange is: a) the only hardy citrus; b) the only deciduous citrus and c) the only one with trifoliate leaves. Anyway it never produced a ripe orange, was occupying a large space I wanted for something else and had the most vicious spines of any plant I have ever grown in the garden. Curiously, in a gardening column in this month’s i newspaper, three plants were recommended for forming an impenetrable barrier. These are berberis, pyracantha and, to give it its proper name, citrus trifolata. I have never seen a hedge of citrus trifolata – it would be quite something.

More recently I have been growing a Kaffir lime, started from a pip! (I know it is unlikely to ever flower but we only want the leaves. Three or so go well in a Thai curry.) As shown in the picture, the leaves have a characteristic double shape, with a bulge near the stalk.

How to win a marmalade competition

Once I had a supply of oranges I started making marmalade with them. Coming across a reference to the grandly named The World’s Original Marmalade Awards I decided to enter. In those days you could save postage by dropping the jar off at a Paddington Bear shop. I was very proud to receive a Silver Medal – as you can see from the label that I used to put on my marmalade jars.

The main criticism of my silver medal winning jar of marmalade was that I hadn’t filled it up to the brim. So the following year I decided to enter again, in person. The awards are held at Dalemain Mansion in Cumbria, quite convenient for staying at the house of some friends. There were hundreds of jars set out on tables. Imagine my disappointment to find I had been demoted: this one only deserved a bronze medal. I was too numbed to think further but my wife is made of sterner stuff. She sought out two of the judges and challenged them to explain the criteria they used.

The key thing is how clear the marmalade is. To achieve this you should pass the juice and pulp through a muslin bag. The marmalade is essentially a jelly made with the filtered juice. Most of the peel is then discarded with just a few strands allowed to be suspended in the now clear jelly.

I am happy to pass on these insider tips in case you should decide to enter yourselves. I will not be competing with you. 

Richard Winterton, November 2020.

Chairman’s BlogSpecial Plants in Our Garden. 

At this time of the year our garden is very much in hibernation. We have our first snowdrops, and the winter flowering jasmine is looking good, but everything else is biding its time. It is good to look out into the garden and see some plants which have special meaning.

When we had our first house we received two plants which we have taken care to transplant twice as we have moved to a new house. The first is a deutzia, with very pretty pink flowers. It was a wedding present from a very keen gardener and it was chosen by her because it flowers on our wedding anniversary in early May. It has never failed to do so – sometimes in a year with a late spring we have just the first flowers open, most years it has hundreds of open flowers, in an early spring (global warming) it still has open blooms on the day.

The second is a spirea “bridal wreath”, with cascades of white flowers. It also flowers in May, and looks fantastic in the corner of the spring garden. They need careful pruning to continue to give  a good display as they flower on new growth, but need to be trimmed to keep their shape. I don’t always get it right, and that gives a lean flowering year in the spring.

The next plant is an ornamental weeping pear (Pyrus salicifolia pendula). This was chosen by us to celebrate our silver wedding anniversary, as a gift from my brother. He had suggested a silver birch, but the weeping pear is much smaller, has beautiful spring flowers, weeping posture and small, slender leaves and ornamental fruit in the autumn. It looks great and I am gradually lifting its crown to give it a better shape.

The next group of plants are the four apple trees on our main lawn. When my grandmother died aged 101 she wanted all her many grandchildren to receive £100 which my Uncle Mickey proudly distributed. We decided that we would like a permanent memory of her, and the apple trees are a lovely reminder of her long life.

The final memories are also an “in memoriam”, but with a different story. When my Dad died in February 2018 we found that he had been planning a major replanting of his large garden. A good number of plants arrived by mail order, and we had no idea what would arrive next. Not all of them survived between their arrival in Hampshire and getting them home to Malvern. However, the collection of three peonies that he ordered have settled well. We have Shirley Temple, Sarah Bernhardt and Karl Rosenfield and each year they get a bit bigger and have more flowers. They were fantastic this year, one of the few rays of sunshine in 2020.

David Baker

Propagation Notes January

January can be a bit of a dead month for plant propagation, but there are still things to do.  You have no excuse to stay indoors!

There is still time to take hardwood cuttings as discussed earlier. In fact, late January seems to be a particularly good time for these, just as the sap is beginning to rise.

If you haven’t sown those seeds that need stratifying (exposure to cold), there is still time for that too, especially as we seem to be having a cold snap right now.

If you’re desperate to get going with the new season you can sow broad beans such as Aquadulce Claudia.  I usually start mine off under cold glass, mainly to keep the mice off, but they are ok planted directly into the soil.

If you can provide some gentle heat, you can start tomatoes and onions in pots.   Only do this with tomatoes if you are intending to grow them on under heated glass, otherwise you’ll have plants ready too early for planting out.

Most half hardy annuals are sown from February onwards, but if you’re desperate to start some flowers, then Antirrhinum can be sown now.  Like  tomatoes and onions they will need gentle heat but a window sill is fine.  Sow the seed on the surface of moist seed compost, spray gently with a mister, just to settle the seed into the surface.  Do not cover with compost and do not exclude light.  Ideally place in a propagator with a lid to prevent drying out.  You can put the pot inside a polythene bag, but I’m trying to avoid single use plastic, so prefer any alternative I can find.

If that’s not enough to keep you occupied in January then you can have a go at taking root cuttings. January is the perfect time to do these, as they have to be done when the plant is dormant and there always seems to be more time in January.

Root cuttings are taken for a fairly select group of plants and fall into two main groups.  Thick cuttings are taken for most types, including herbaceous and trees and shrubs. Thin cuttings are taken of just a few herbaceous perennials.

Method.  (Thick) If practical, lift the plant.  Select a few roots about pencil thickness.  Never remove more than one third of the roots.  Cut the selected root(s) close to the crown of the plant, making a horizontal cut.  Remove any fine fibrous roots from the base of the severed section. Now cut the remainder into lengths of about 5-8cm (2-3”), making a horizontal cut at the top of the cutting and a diagonal cut at the base.  This is important as you will need to know which way up to put them in the compost!

Insert the cuttings into pots of gritty compost, diagonal cut downwards, so the top of the cutting (horizontal cut) is just about level with the top of the compost or a fraction below.  Cover with a layer of grit, water and place in a cold frame.  All you need to do then is wait until you see signs of shoot growth, usually late spring/early summer. at this stage you can pot your new plants up and grow them on ready for planting out.  Herbaceous plants that are propagated in this way include, Oriental Poppy, Acanthus, Echinops, Eryngium.

Assuming you want to keep the parent plant, replant it as soon as possible.!

If it isn’t practical to lift the plant, as will be the case with trees and shrubs, you need to carefully scrape away the soil from one section of the plants and sever the exposed roots. The rest of the process is the same.  Shrubs to try include Chaenomeles, Catalpa, Robinia, Campsis and Solanum

Thin root cuttings are taken from plants such as Japanese Anemones, Primula denticulata, Verbascum and Phlox.

For these plants, lift if it’s practical.  Remove a few roots and trim off the very thin ends.  The roots you are using will probably be no more than 2mm thick and you need to cut them into lengths of about 10cm (4”).  You may only get one section from each root.  In this case they are laid horizontally on the surface of the compost and again covered with grit and watered as before.  I find with these that it works better to use trays rather than pots. Place in the cold frame and continue as above.

Root cuttings really are very easy and the only thing that can go wrong is that they get too wet and rot, so take care not to over water.

Pros and Cons (mostly pros!)

Done in winter when you’re less busy with other jobs in the garden

Can be done with plants which don’t produce suitable shoots for cuttings

The roots will not be infected with any of the pathogens which may be affecting the shoots. This is especially true of Phlox, which are frequently infected with virus transmitted by eelworm.

The only con that I know of is that if you take roots cuttings of variegated plants (eg Phlox ‘Norah Leigh’ you will finish up with progeny with plain green leaves!  You have been warned.

I hope the ground thaws soon so you can all get out and have a go at root cuttings.  It is remarkably satisfying!!

Rachel Salisbury

December Newsletter

Love gardens? You’ll love this month’s edition!

Welcome to our December Newsletter. We have articles from members – Helena Kent and Trish Robinson – from the National Trust’s Katherine Alker, Garden & Outdoors Manager for South Worcestershire, our Chairman’s Blog, recipes and propagation notes from Rachel Salisbury and an article from Club President Carol Nicholls.

Artwork is from Mary Pillon

We would love to hear from other members too, for the December newsletter.   Please send in your contributions, in an email attachment, by December 20th to malvernhillsgardeningclub@gmail.com

Helena Kent. Club Secretary

A Trip down Memory Lane 

Feeling inspired by Elaine’s article in the November newsletter, about her grandparents’ garden, I wrote this short piece about my childhood in the ‘50s.

My Grandad’s garden was actually an allotment down Water Furlong in Stamford, Lincs.  We always called it a garden because it was more like a garden than an allotment.  It had a lawn, flower beds, old apple trees, as well as vegetable plots, a hen house and run, greenhouse and a wooden shed.  Most of the allotments down Water Furlong were bordered by hedges or stone walls with their own wooden entrance gate with a padlock.  In our case, a large brass padlock with a key, which hung, on a piece of string, over the inside of the gate!  

I remember being fascinated by many things in this garden. To name a few, the greenhouse, whitewashed in summer, full of tall tomato and cucumber plants, laden with fruit; the rows of Grandad’s prize winning Chrysanthemums and Dahlias in the flower beds and especially the musty smelling shed with balls of string, brass weighing scales with a hook, a dibber and tools with smooth wooden handles and the boxes of orange and brass shotgun cartridges.  My Grandad was the archetypal Lincolnshire Poacher!

In Spring, I would walk around the grass paths, alongside the hedges and pick the primroses and sweet violets, that grew there and give them to Mum on Mothering Sunday.

In Summer, my brother and I always helped to pick the runner beans and garden peas. I do not remember peas ever tasting as good as those we picked then; popping open the pod and eating the small, bright green peas, fresh from the pod, whilst discarding the occasional, tiny wriggling maggot we found! 

We would also help to collect the hens’ (or chucky) eggs. I remember the feel of the newly laid eggs, smooth and warm with bits of straw attached.

At the end of the day, we often walked back to Nan and Grandad’s house, in Water Street, through the Meadows.  At the bottom of Water Furlong was an old stone bridge, crossing the stream, which flowed into the main River Welland.  In those days the stream ran fast and we often caught a flash of brilliant blue, as the kingfisher dived into the water to catch a fish.  Those days seem idyllic now looking back!

Helena Kent

Chairman’s Blog

As winter approaches Elaine and I are planning projects for next year. Almost ten years ago we bought a summerhouse. We had looked at them at several Malvern Shows and had reluctantly decided that they were simply too expensive. On a visit to John Lewis in Southampton we accidentally got out of the lift at the wrong floor and found a display of Cranes summerhouses in the lift lobby. We looked at the brochure and found that they were only half the price quoted at the shows and for a larger model too. It duly arrived – Cranes come and build the summerhouse themselves – and it was very smart. It sits alongside the cottage garden and has lovely views of summer flowers. But it looked very much like a Tardis had landed in the garden – completely disconnected from the garden and out of place.

We went to Grange Farm Nursery and asked for advice. They recommended that we created new planting to allow the summerhouse to connect with the garden. So we dug a new border that sits between the summerhouse and the lawn. We planted two phormiums and some bedding plants and after two years the summerhouse blended in nicely. What we didn’t realise was that phormiums need a lot of care, and don’t stay as the small plants we had bought. They are also known as New Zealand flax, and the leaves can be cut to make woven baskets. The plants have great significance to Maoris and there are rules on how they should be pruned, by whom and when. Suffice to say we didn’t have the skills needed and they got out of control. Reluctantly after ten years we decided that they had to go.

It turns out that phormiums are quite shallow rooted and digging them up was not as hard as we had feared. Each clump could then be divided into small plants – we got about 50 from the two clumps. We potted on about four of them and managed to give away the rest. It was fun to see the dog walkers at the bottom of the drive leaving with three or four plants, little knowing that they were holding future time bombs waiting to take over their gardens. So what to plant instead? After a recent visit to Biddulph Grange in Cheshire, which is famed for its dahlia walk, we decided to experiment with a matched collection of dahlias. Sarah Raven and Halls of Heddon have excellent websites and even if you don’t have a spare space for them it is fun to window shop. We decided on Sarah Raven’s Venetian dahlia collection which is shown here as cut flowers. All I have to do now is to enlarge the borders to accommodate the new dahlias when they arrive next year, prepare the soil and hope that we have reasonable weather (not the cold wet spring followed by a very dry early summer we had last year). I hope you enjoy making plans for next year.  It seems very likely that the Malvern Spring Show will return – tickets are now on sale – and we can return to a more normal world.

Malvern Shows

We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful place as Malvern  & having the Three Counties Showground near by. For us gardeners the draw of the R.H.S. Spring, Autumn & the 3 Counties Shows are an added bonus.

Local gardening clubs run the plant creche at the Spring & Autumn shows, our club usually do the Saturdays and lately have been manning an additional Floral Marquee plant creche on the Thursday of the Spring show.  It is hard work physically but great fun & rewarding with the added bonus of getting an entry ticket to the show for doing 2 hours on duty, the club also receives a fee from the organizers. We take in plants, tie no more the 2 bags together and give the owner one half of a raffle ticket stapling the other half onto the bag, these are then put in numerical order on the benches in the marquee. (Sometimes one owner might have 2 or 3 bundles). The later shifts hand them back hopefully still looking beautiful. It is fascinating to see what is in vogue that year.

Fingers crossed, by May 2021 life will have got back to some form of normality and we will again be asked to run a creche. If you fancy helping, make sure you volunteer in good time.

At the Spring Show there is so much to do & see. Especially the gardens built  for the show. The children’s entries are great fun  Famous gardening celebrities give talks & demonstrations. If you want  a special plant this is the place to look for it. The Autumn show celebrates all the fruit and vegetables with some amazing displays. The Giant Vegetable Championships for heaviest & longest vegetables is worth visiting just to see the weird & wonderful shapes. Growers come from all around UK to show their produce & flowers and there are national competitions for roses, chrysanthemums, dahlias and other flowers also filling a Trug! But we grass root gardeners can also enter, and there are some classes restricted to local entries.

I have been entering the ‘Grow to Show’ for the past few years it is not much more difficult then entering our own club monthy competitions and if you enter 5 categories you are given tickets for each day of the show!! Next year pick up an entry form and have a go!! There are  classes for first timers too. One year a friend & I thought we could do a better display in an alcove – it was more challenging than we’d realised but worth it in the end as we won a 3rd.

Trish Robinson

RecipeFrangipane topped mince pies

• Jus-Rol all butter shortcrust pastry (or homemade)
• Approx. 200 g mincemeat
• 45g caster sugar
• 45g butter – melted
• 1 egg
• 45g ground almonds
• Few flaked almonds

• Preheat oven to 180C Gas M. 6
• Unroll sheet of pastry and cut out 12 discs and transfer to jam tart tin
• Spoon out mincemeat
• Beat the egg and sugar together and stir in the melted butter and ground almonds.
• spoon the mixture onto the mincemeat and scatter a few flaked almonds
• Bake for 15-18 mins until pastry is golden brown.
• Serve warm with brandy or Amaretto butter

Do you know your Christmas Carols and Songs?

Fill in the gaps!

1 Here we come a-wassailing amongst the ……
2 …… roasting on an open fire
3 The holly bears a …… as white as …… ……
4 …… to offer have I
5 It’s time for …… and ……
6 Now bring us some …… pudding
7 O ……, O ……
8 …… is mine
9 Rocking around the …… ……
10 A partridge in a …… ……

Answers at the end of the Newsletter


A plug from Rod Wells, Secretary of Gloucestershire Federation of Gardening Societies for ”Cuttings”

This fun and feisty little book is jam-packed with bite-sized snippets of wisdom born from the gardening experience of the great, the good and the very green-fingered. What do Joanna Lumley, Julian Clary and Justin Welby have in common? You’ll find their favourite tips within the 160-pages…., along with a host of hints from well-known gardening faces such as Carol Klein, Roy Lancaster, Bunny Guinness, Mark Lane and Alan Titchmarsh: and from the horticultural élite working in private and public gardens across the globe. The appeal of this little book is further enhanced by sparklingly beautiful photography by Justine Stringer (aka @generousgardener) and engaging illustrations by Sharon Grosse.
Priced at an introductory price of £10 (plus postage & packing), this colourful and uplifting little book will be a perfect Christmas stocking-filler for gardeners, for the unexpected guest or indeed a little token for anyone with a window-box. Please fill in the form on our website and specify how many copies you would like. On receipt of your payment your book/s will be despatched by Royal Mail 2nd Class Post, un-tracked. We will do our best to get them to you within 2 weeks. Sold in aid of Gardening for Disabled Trust.

Best regards, Angela Goddard, Hon. Secretary

National Trust – Croome News

Since Lockdown version 2 started, we have seen a steady flow of visitors to Croome. People are clearly keen to make the most of National Trust places still being open and they are enjoying the bright sunny Autumnal days we have had. As I write, I don’t know what December will bring, but I expect that the garden and park at Croome will remain open for people to get a breath of fresh air and some exercise outdoors.

Plenty of signs of Autumn have been on display in the garden, with brightly coloured seeds, bronzed leaves and fungus popping up in various locations. The Spindle trees (Euonymus europaeus) have fantastic pink seed pods which burst open to reveal their orange seeds inside. In the herbaceous beds, the iris (Iris foetidissima) are displaying their bright red seeds. The hollies in the Home Shrubbery are laden with berries so there’s a feast for the birds to enjoy. If the old wives’ tales are anything to go by, this means we’re in for a harsh winter! This won’t be such a bad thing – many plants and fruit trees need a good cold period to trigger the process known as ‘vernalisation’ so that they burst into flower at the correct time in Spring.

This Autumn we’ve seen a lovely range of colours – reds, yellows, oranges and bronzes – in the falling leaves throughout the garden. Leaf collecting has been taking a lot of my time in the garden these past few weeks…. If only all the leaves fell on the same day, then I wouldn’t have to go back to the same spots several times!

We dump the leaves in large cages that we have created; this allows the leaves to break down and provide us with a lovely leaf mulch to use in the garden.
As well as the garden walk with its hard surface path, the wider parkland is open for longer walks. You’ll need to have decent walking boots or wellies, but maybe you fancy a walk along the river to the Park Seat? The Park Seat is an arched building, designed by Robert Adam in the 1760s for the 6th Earl of Coventry as part of the grand re-design of the parkland at Croome. The National Trust restored the building in 2006, and it’s now a lovely spot to stop on a parkland walk; there’s a bench inside where you can take a seat and admire the view across the park back to Croome Court.

Croome is open from 10am 7 days a week. The café is open for takeaways only (at the time of writing). We are offering hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, cakes and pasties. Find out more about what’s open at Croome on our website. Visits should be booked to guarantee admission via our website http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/croome

Katherine Alker
Garden and Park Manager, S Worcs, National Trust

Winter Wonderland

Let’s not forget our feathered friends!  Ducks can be fed small amounts of bread but they require more nutrients, which are found in cracked corn, barley, oats, birdseed and other grains. Robins and other birds still need water, so break the ice on your ponds or birdbaths.  Plenty of advice online and from RSPB.

Ducks on Ice by Mary Pillon

Propagation Notes December

Seed Sowing
We tend to think of Spring as the time for seed sowing. Whilst this is true for many plants, there are some significant exceptions.
Many seeds have built in mechanisms which prevent them from germinating at times which would limit their chances of survival. One such group is plants that flower in spring or summer and set seed relatively late in the growing season. If these seeds germinated straightaway, the resultant small seedlings would be unlikely to survive the oncoming winter. These seeds have a built in requirement for a period of cold before they will germinate.

These are the seeds that we should be sowing now. The exact amount of cold, measured in cold units, varies from species to species, but you cannot give too much. Once enough had been experienced, the seed will still not germinate until conditions are favourable.
Which seeds need this treatment? In general it is the seeds of plants which in their natural habitat would experience a seasonal cold period eg Aconitum, Astrantia, Dodecatheon, Gentian, Liatris and many alpines.

How do we know?

  • For commercially produced seed in a colourful packet, the instructions will tell you!
  • If you have collected the seed yourself or obtained it from one of the many plant societies, you will need to do some research. The internet is a valuable tool here.

    Sowing methods
  • Sow the seed on the surface of moist loam based seed compost. Cover with a layer of grit or vermiculite. I use 7cm square pots for this as I can then group 15 in a standard seed tray and reduce the chances of them getting knocked over. There is no need to cover with a lid. Leave outside.
    Keep checking for germination in Spring. Some will take longer than others and some will germinate erratically. Be patient!! Once shoot growth has started the seedlings can be moved into a cool greenhouse or cold frame and pricked out and grown on. They can also be left to continue growing outside, but growth will be slower.
  • This method applies to berries of a range of plants. Try it with Sorbus, Cotoneaster, Pyracantha, Holly or anything else in your garden that has berries.
    Collect the berries and crush them between two sheets of greaseproof paper. Mix the resulting mush with moist silver sand and put in a sealed container (to protect from mice!) Leave outside.
  • From about mid February check for signs of root emergence. Once this has occurred, spread the entire mixture evenly on the surface of loam based seed compost in a pot or seed tray, cover with grit and leave to grown on. It is now safe to bring into a cool greenhouse or cold frame to speed up growth a bit, but this is not essential. Once the seedlings are big enough to handle they can be potted up into small pots and grown on.

    With both the above groups, if there is no sign of germination by about late April, this is probably because insufficient cold has been experienced. You can compensate for this by transferring them to the fridge for 3-4 weeks and then returning them outside. This tends to upset other household members and you may need to buy a second fridge!! Now it’s up to you to experiment. Let me know how you get on and feel free to ask questions if I’ve confused you.

Rachel Salisbury

National Tree Planting Week. November 28 – December 6

The end of November is National Tree Planting week and I would like to recommend a few of my favourite trees for small gardens.  lf we could all find a space to plant a tree this year it would be helping in some small way with the environment and for wildlife.

Sales this Autumn for trees has so far been very good which is encouraging, probably due to customers spending more time at home and also with new people moving to Malvern to enjoy their active retirement. As we all know Malvern is a wonderful place to live and many more people are discovering it.

I have been ordering as many trees as I can so have enough for this Winter and for sales in the Spring, although there is already a shortage of availability with a lot of wholesale nurseries selling out fast. This is compounded by the prospect of Brexit at the end of the year with a fear of more costs from the Dutch growers. ln fact the shortage is not just on trees, but also with many hardy shrubs, including roses, which by my calculation will take six months to rectify. ln over forty years of running my nursery I have only known this once which occurred after the cold winter of 1982.

Trees take a long time to grow to the usual 10/12 litre size, and the Covid effect in the Spring hasn’t helped the situation. I have already sold out of a lot of Apple tree varieties which were to see me through until next Spring. Anyway, enough about my business which I am very passionate about.

Here are five trees I would recommend for small gardens.

Prunus serrula/Tibetan cherry.

Every morning I pass by my tree and say hello. It only has small, tiny white flowers but these are loved by our resident bees in Spring time. Small green foliage and no Autumn colour. lt does however have the most beautiful peeling mahogany red / orange bark, which the early morning sun shines through and gives me such joy. lt has reached about 14 ft by 12 ft in twenty years.

Sorbus aucuparia vilmorinii.

A lovely small growing tree with fern like leaves which turn red in the Autumn. My Sorbus is covered with pale pink berries which are devoured by birds in the month of November and is about 14 feet by 8 ft after twenty years. These mountain ash or Rowans are ideal for smaller gardens where you can usually plant about 4-5 metres away from a house. They require a well drained soil in an open sunny position.

Malus ‘Red Sentinel’

A crab apple with beautiful apple blossom in Spring providing good pollination for other apple trees. This is followed by bright red crab apples. They are a hard fruit which do not fall to the ground. I use them for adding red fruit to our Christmas wreaths. For some reason the birds in our garden leave them in the Autumn and feast on them in January. lt is about 12ft by 8ft after 20 years.

Cornus mas/Cornelian Cherry

A little known and planted Dogwood, the bare branches are covered in little yellow flowers in February heralding the beginning of Spring. Underplant with snowdrops, primroses and hellebores to complete the picture. I have planted one close to a wilder part of my garden where it sits very well with its surroundings. lt is also close to our bee hive where it  provides valuable pollen in the early months for them.

Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’

This is the Winter flowering cherry which forms a round headed shaped tree to about 12-14 ft. They flower during mild spells in the Autumn and Winter. lt is covered with small pink blossoms on bare branches. Travelling around Malvern one can see various specimens coming into flower and looking really beautiful and almost too delicate to flower at this time.  The cut stems can be used for winter decorations. lt will flower right through mild spells in winter and then produce a final show in March. lts Autumn colour is of oranges and yellows. It is often confused by people with the Winter flowering Viburnum, which produces larger and deeper pink blossoms on its bare branches. The common planting mistake is to not give it enough width room for it to grow. I so often see them cut back in size which spoils their beautiful graceful habit.

Carol Nicholls from Grange Farm Nursery and our Club President

Quiz answers: 1. Leaves. 2. Chestnuts. 3. Blossom, lily flower. 4. Frankincense. 5. Mistletoe, holly. 6. Figgy. 7. Tannenbaum, Tannenbaum. 8. Myrrh. 9. Christmas tree. 10. Pear tree.