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.

March Newsletter

March 2021 

First of March.  First day of Spring!  Meteorologically speaking!  I can spell it but can I say it?

Daffodils are out!  The symbol of new beginnings.

This month we feature allotments and vegetable growing with thanks to those members who contributed.  We also include a delicious Delia recipe for carrot cake, so you can never have too many carrots!  In addition we have an invitation to peek into one country lady’s diary and another’s garden as well as continuing with theme of parents’ gardens.

Our Club had a mention in the February edition of the RHS magazine, ‘The Garden’, in an article, which referred to problems facing gardening societies and I quote “Malvern Hills Gardening Club revamped its Facebook page, produced a monthly newsletter and held monthly competitions online.  ‘We hope we have done enough so that, when we can meet again in person, our membership numbers will start to grow again’, said Patsy Cooke of the club’.”

Helena Kent. Club Secretary

Save the date! Weds, 24 March at 7.20pm

Our second MHGC Zoom meeting!

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

The speaker is Ian Thwaites, his talk is titled “The life of a plant and garden photographer”.

Biography: Ian is an International Garden Photographer of the Year award winning botanical photographer with a specialist knowledge of cacti and succulent plants. Many of his images capture the natural beauty of my subjects whether in a formal garden, their natural environment or as a simple portrait. He is a member of the Garden Media Guild, Professional Garden Photographers Association and Chairman of the British Cactus and Succulent Society.

His website is www.ianthwaites.com   it is definitely worth taking a look.

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

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

April and May Zoom talks have also been organised:

April 28 2021: Adventurous Container Gardening -Stuart Lee

May 26 2021: An Allotment Year – 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.

2020 A strange year in my garden by Fay Grist

January            A cold, wet and windy month
House sparrows, doves, wood pigeons, robins, dunnock, blue tits, great tits, long tailed tits, blackcaps and
blackbirds on table and feeders. 
Snowdrops, wall flowers, snowflakes, winter box, winter sweet, Iris stylosa all in flower.

February          Gales, wind and rain.  Storm Dennis.
Mahonia, Hellebores, aconites, snowdrops ‘Wendy’s Gold’, Iris stylosa, winter sweet, winter box, winter
honeysuckle and Edgeworthia all in bloom.

March              Very mixed; wind, rain and sun
1st Lockdown.  Link Nurseries closed.  Confined to house.
Goldfinch, blackbird, dunnock, blackcap, house sparrows, doves, robin.  Honey and bumblebees on rosemary
and ivy.  No frogs this year.
Crocus ‘Tete a Tete’ and ‘Jetfire’ all in flower.
Sow Cosmos, runner bean, Ipomea and mini lobata seed.

April                Cold, windy, dry
Goldfinch, blackbirds, doves, house sparrows, dunnock, robin.
White clematis and ‘Freda’, Chilean glory vine, red rhododendron and wisteria all in bloom.

May                 Very dry and hot.
Long tailed tits, blue tits, great tits, goldfinch, jackdaws, doves, house sparrows, dunnock, blackbirds, robin all
on table and feeders. 
Bearded iris, orange, bronze, purple, yellow and black flowering well.  Tomato seedlings coming up on
Back to work at Link as soon as allowed.

June                 Very hot and dry.
Starlings back.
Oriental poppies (all colours).  Runner beans suffering, strawberries doing well.

July                  Rain at last!
Grey squirrel back.  Red Admiral, Peacock, Meadow Brown butterflies.
Allium, phlox, clematis, pinks, salvias, cranesbills all good.
Redcurrant, gooseberries and Worcesterberry good.  First new potatoes.

August            Shasta daisies, Crocosmia, Rudbeckia, Helenium, Cyclamen hederifolium.
Tomatoes ripening.

September      Hot, a little rain.
Runner beans, raspberries doing well.

October           Warm and wet.
Great tits back.
Clematis flowering 2nd time.  Yellow Bearded Iris.  Dwarf   salvias very good.
Iris stylosa very early, usually Christmas time.

November       2nd Lockdown
Snowdrops ‘Three Ships’ in bloom, usually mid December.  Salvias, Fatsia, Mahonia, Fuchsia, Iceberg rose, pink
Kaffir lilies still in bloom.
Spindle, smoketree, witch hazel, Cornus, ivy, Euonymus great Autumn colour.
Cut down raspberries and shred.

December        Snow on 28th.
‘Three Ships’, 20 blooms, Iris stylosa, 18 blooms.
Cut off Hellebore leaves as buds forming.  Cleared leaves and put in leaf bin.


We have had an allotment in many different parts of the country as we have moved quite a few times

The first one was in Eastney Barracks, Portsmouth, part of an old walled garden, where we grew mainly potatoes as it was quite a distance from our home.

Next was in Lympstone , Devon. A beautiful site overlooking the Exe estuary, the weather there was so warm things grew well but the spring flowers only lasted for a few days as I discovered when we moved up North……

The next one , again by the sea was way up North  in Tynemouth ( Newcastle) the thing I remember about that one was collecting seaweed from the shore, with the assistance of 3 young children, and wheelbarrowing it up some steps to the park where the plots were.

I have just read this piece of useless information – Newcastle has the most allotments per person of any city in the UK with 23 per 100,000 people. a total of 66 different sites!! 

Our next house, in Darlington Co Durham had a garden big enough for us to grow vegetables, especially huge cauliflowers one year, so 15 years without an allotment!

We then moved to London – yes I had an allotment in Merton, near the famous tennis courts. Most of the other growers were old men who spent all day there to get out of the house, they used to have mid day ’coffee’ – a bell was rung to summon the gang – I was invited to join them but only once – think I stalled their conversation!  We had free manure delivered to the site, it was said that it came from the Royal Stables.

I now  have one in Goodwood Road, Malvern Link. I was offered one in Madresfield Road but they have now gone to be part of the cemetery so just as well I declined it!

That was 10 years ago and I am still getting it into shape, it might not be the tidiest on site  but I maintain that I have produce to pick most  of the year round, and a freezer full of fruit for crumbles and summer pudding all year!  So….. at the moment, in February, I have parsnips, kale (Nero), spinach, parsley and a few left over carrots.  There are always some disappontments and this year it is the Purple Sprouting Broccoli which I love and usually does well so not sure what went wrong.  But the rhubarb is sprouting well , the broad beans are struggling. Fortunately I have some seedlings nearly ready to plant out . The plot is 125sq m. technically half a plot -rent is  £23.40 a year.

I have been very fortunate with the position of my plot as it backs onto houses and the occupants frequently  give me cups of tea, coffee or cold squash – they benefit from some of my produce.

Some are able to relax,& make a cuppa in their sheds

You can have sheds, greenhouses or even poly tunnels

Some plots are neater than others!!!

So upward and onward….. the allotment has been my lifesaver during the  past year I did rush down there in March 2020 to plant the potatoes in case we were prevented from going there but it was then decreed that we could attend our plots so it has been a hive of activity all year!!  Always socially distanced of course!

Trish Robinson

Allotment News.  Barry Kent

With the varied weather, there has been little to do on my allotment.  The leeks are doing well and delicious.  The weather has become milder but wet.  Early March sowing is not looking sensible at the moment.  The soil is cold and waterlogged.  Weeds are thriving, however!

A Challenge from Richard Winterton

What are these plants in the picture?

Clue: Seed sown at beginning of November and pricked out 2 weeks later. At beginning of January put into 3 ½ inch pots as shown.  Have been in house with gentle extra heat.  Lack of light during winter has made them spindly.  In due course will be planted in vegetable patch!

(Answer at the end of the newsletter!)

Memories of a Kent Garden by Barry Kent

I was born and brought up in mid Kent in the 1950s.  My mother kept farm records of how many hop pockets were filled by the hop pickers from London.  Here I am, next to a hop pocket!

My father was a police constable and our village home was a purpose built police house (late 1940s).  The garden started out as a blank canvas except for a large apple tree in the largest lawn.  My Dad was a keen gardener and was lucky to have such a large garden.  He grew most types of vegetables and as I grew older I was expected to help with the digging and lawn mowing.  Dad was successful in growing asparagus, which seemed exotic to me as a child.  Dad even experimented with growing melons against the garage wall.  We also benefited from raspberries and strawberries.  Most of the garden vegetables were eaten with Sunday roast, listening to ‘Two Way Family Favourites’ on the radio. 

Around the house and police office there were flower borders and I can remember spring bulbs flowering, lavender and fuchsias The garden was also a place to learn to ride a bike, keep pets and tree climb!  Dad loved to sunbathe in a deckchair with a hankie, knotted in four corners, on his head!

Cordylines and Phormiums by Hilary Thorogood

In this short article I do not intend to go into a detailed explanation of either in terms of botany but rather to point out the merits of both purely from a gardener’s point of view! I have come to love them in recent years and appreciate what they have to offer.

Phormiums  New Zealand flax

Phormiums are undemanding exotic looking evergreens with eye catching coloured, sword like leaves.

They are ideal for sunny borders, gravel gardens or containers and I have fallen in love with them over the last few years

They vary in height from 1m to 2.4m, they prefer full sun and are drought tolerant once established. It’s a good idea to check the size so they are going to do well in the position you have chosen.

There are many varieties that are now frost hardy down to -10C but some may need protection in the severest cold.

Phormium Rainbow Queen 1m high -1.5m spread.
A statement plant in this mixed bed, beautiful colours.

Pink Panther 0.8 x 0.8 upright, both frost hardy to -10C
Golden Ray 1.5m-2m x 1.5m-2m spread.


Known as the slender palm lily are many and various. Whereas Phormiums form their leaves from the base of the plant and grow as a clump, Cordyline have a central ‘trunk’ and sword like leaves. They vary in height from 1m to 20m but there are plenty of varieties for small gardens but check before you buy!

I have them planted in the border where they created interest and texture but I like them in containers too.

Cordyline Maori Sunrise planted in perennial beds

Both species are beautiful architectural plants and are a huge bonus in the winter garden as they are evergreen. Their often vibrant colours sing out across the garden. The strap like leaves do get untidy after winter but the worst affected leaves can be pulled off and a liquid feed in spring will set them going again. Container grown phormiums benefit from regular feeding through the spring and summer.

They have flower spikes in summer once mature. Mine are not yet mature enough!

Report on Zoom meeting 24 February.

Our first Zoommeeting proved to be very successful with an enjoyable and interesting talk given by Robin Pearce, a retired nurseryman of hardy plants, on hostas and companion planting.

Robin showed us photos of hostas ranging from miniature ones to large leaved varieties. 

He told us that hostas are native to NE Asia with over 70 species and 6100 cultivars.  They are also known as plantain lilies and are apparently edible. 

They like a rich fertile soil, ph6 and light shade, although some will take full sun.  They prefer damp but not waterlogged soil.  You can mulch them in bark, gravel or ‘Strulch’, which is composted straw.  They can be fed in spring and summer.  You can divide them at any time.

They are mainly trouble free but their major pests are vine weevil, rabbits and snails. 

Robin offered some ideas for controlling pests, which were: use of natural predators, removing dead leaves, grit, coffee grounds, copper bands, WD40 and possibly garlic or simply keep them in pots.  He employed the technique of ‘dawn patrol’, when he would get up at dawn and pick off the snails!

There are now some resistant strains on the market, such as ‘Halcyon’ and ‘Devon Green’. 

There are all sizes of hostas from miniature ones, which are best grown in pots, small ones for ground cover, medium ones to large.  There are green ones, blue ones, yellow and white, some with variegation and streaky ones.  Also ‘pie crust varieties’ with a wavy edge, popular in the US.

Robin suggested a number of plants that make good companions for hostas, such as ferns and plants that perform in winter, when hostas are dormant and die back in summer as hostas come into their own.  He suggested snowdrops, Arum, Bergenia, Brunnera, Lily of the valley, Cyclamen, Epimedium, Erythronium, Heuchera, Hellebores and Liriope muscari. 

The meeting lasted about an hour.

Plant news from Lucy Bannister

It struck me the other day that for the last few years I have become a plant collector, not to be confused with a plant hunter. Not for me travelling to the four corners of the earth, wading through rivers, climbing mountains and dealing with unspeakable insects, but rather driving around Worcestershire, picking up donated plants from generous nursery men and women, all in aid of St. Richard’s hospice.

I like to think that Spring is on its way, and as this is the time when we assess our gardens for the coming year, we may decide to dig up or split plants. If this is the case, I would be very grateful for any surplus plants you may have, that I could sell in aid of the hospice. All I ask is that they are in pots and labelled. It seems now that the “garden centre” on my drive will be open until April 12th and after that plants will be for sale at the hospice shops in Malvern Link and Pershore. I would be more than happy to collect any plants you may have, combining it with an essential journey to the supermarket!  Many thanks.  Lucy.  swissbannister@gmail.com

Answer to challenge

Potatoes grown from seed.  Not seed potatoes!  Did anyone get it right?  Look forward to seeing photos of the crop!


We would like to get some feedback from members, so would be very grateful if you would answer this short questionnaire and email your replies to malvernhillsgardeningclub@gmail.com.

  1. Which newsletter articles have been of most interest to you?
  2. What are your main interests in the garden – flowers/fruit/veg or other?
  3. Have you a particular passion in the garden?  What is it?
  4. Have you any gardening tips you would like to share?  What are they?
  5. Can you recommend any local gardens or nurseries to visit?
  6. What would you like to see featured in future newsletters?

Next month we will feature members’ gardening passions or special interests, so please send in your contributions by 24 March!

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 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.

November Newsletter

Welcome to our November Newsletter. We have articles from members – Elaine Baker and Tracy Lillington – from the National Trust’s Katherine Alker, Garden & Outdoors Manager for South Worcestershire, our Chairman’s Blog, recipes and propogation notes.

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

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

Helena Kent. Club Secretary

My grandparents’ garden      

Many of us have a collection of family photos, showing great uncle Jim or your grandparents’ wedding or a studio portrait taken in the 1880s of a relative whose name has been long forgotten. But how closely do you look at the background of these photos either for clues as to when the photo was taken or as a comment on social history, or as in this case, how garden designs and tastes have changed over the years?

My grandparents lived in the same house from 1926 to 1981, and we have numerous photos taken in the garden. I’ve picked out three, all taken in approximately the same spot, to show how taste and circumstance impacted the planting.

The first photo is my Mum, taken in 1930 when she was 18 months old. Note the rocking swan, not a rocking horse! The border is full of perennials, possibly lupins and delphiniums to the right, perhaps a cistus on the left. At the front there are some bedding plants. It’s hard to tell in black and white, but perhaps marigolds, petunias, or bachelor’s buttons, all of which were popular bedding plants in the 1920s. The trellis is a distinctive feature, separating the upper part of the garden from that closer to the house. At the time the photo was taken it hides the kennels and run where my great uncle kept his prize-winning German Shepherd dogs. It later became a tennis court.

The next photo was taken in early 1945 and shows my grandmother, mother (then 16) and her younger siblings Chris and Liz.

The trellis is still in place, but the beds are bare, possibly dug over ready for spring planting. The upper garden was converted into an allotment and hen pens as part of my grandparents’ war effort. My grandfather was not a gardener! He had the best of intentions, but only managed to grow potatoes with any success as his contribution to “Dig for Victory”. The hens were more successful. Any bird that no longer laid eggs, “gone leet” in Lancashire dialect, could be traded at the local pub or appear on their own table for Sunday lunch.

The third photo was taken on 23 July 1966, I’m to be a bridesmaid at Liz’s wedding later that day. The trellis has gone, replaced by large posts that support climbing roses and creating a large border. The bed is dotted with large white quartz stones to form a rockery, and planted with bedding plants including pansies, impatiens and nicotiana, plus a cistus. The wartime allotment has been converted into a lawn. In the background are more pansies and dianthus. It is still work in progress, if you look carefully you can see a stack of empty flowerpots behind the far-right post.

The planting schemes altered over the years in line with changing tastes and circumstances. The 1966 planting scheme remained with the addition of perennials and more roses until the house was sold in 1981.

It’s nearly 40 years since my grandparents lived in the house. I know that the lawn where we all had our photos taken is now under a conservatory, and it is unlikely that any of my grandparents’ plants still survive. But I sometimes wonder what the garden looks like today.

Many thanks to George Rees whose plant knowledge helped identify some of the plants.

Elaine Baker

Hello from a newcomer

I am both a new club member and also new to Malvern. I managed just one club meeting before lockdown. I think it was March, it was the one with the chap with the vegetables – remember? lt was in pre-covid days when we were all allowed to squeeze into one room, bump elbows, share pens……

Since then life has been a little different, although we all seem to agree on one thing – if you have a garden then the last few months have probably been much easier for you. Monty tells us this every Friday (so it must be right) but various surveys etc always seem to confirm it.

This is so true for us. Last Christmas my husband and I moved from London to a six acre plot on Castlemorton Common.  Recently retired, we wanted to be able to fill our days working outside so our new place suited us ‘to a T’ as it’s just a series of fields with lots of trees, waiting to be turned into a beautiful garden…..

It was tough in the beginning. We had all that rain and much of the garden was waterlogged. Then the animals started to make themselves known.  Muntjac, moles and foxes.  Even worse…… bunnies. Then the lambs started jumping over the cattle grid. Cattle got through fencing. So was this why we inherited virtually no plants in the garden? I was no longer optimistic about being able to create a beautiful garden from these muddy fields.

But then March arrived. I started sowing seeds. There is something so special about growing seeds; I absolutely love it.

The weather started to improve and we had that fantastic spring. The once dilapidated greenhouse was repaired and soon filled with seed trays and seedlings. Loads of rubbish was removed in numerous skips; mulch and compost were delivered. We started clearing the fields of brambles and thistles. We have laid industrial sized rolls of black plastic everywhere, hoping that all the weeds underneath will magically disappear by next year. The lambs got too chubby to jump over the cattle grid and the cows now gaze longingly at the garden over the newly built stock proof fencing.  Yes, at last, we are beginning to feel more like Tom and Barbara.

My plan was to grow almost everything by seed/cuttings and plant them out as very young plants. Those pesky rabbits put paid to that idea. We did try to catch them in cages. But all we managed to catch was Fred the pheasant who has trained me to give him sunflower seeds every time he visits the garden. The cages have now gone as my husband got fed up with rescuing Fred (who was equally unhappy).  Growing all the plants from seed was probably a crazy idea anyway and would have taken far too long. Very fortunately, as a member of this gardening club, I got to know the lovely Lucy Bannister and have bought numerous more mature plants from her at bargain prices, all in support of St Richard’s Hospice.

Having such a big garden made me realise I needed to brush up on some practical skills. So I recently enrolled on the RHS Level II Practical Horticulture course at Pershore College. lt’s early days but I think l’m going to really enjoy it. As part of the year long course you get your own little allotment to look after and grow vegetables on throughout the year. The College itself offers a huge array of courses (not all related to gardening) so it might be an idea to pick up one of their brochures if you are thinking of starting a new hobby over winter.

For inspiration for our new garden we visited a few of the NGS gardens over the summer. (Wasn’t it lovely when you could get a cup of tea and a slice of cake whilst walking around? Hopefully next year). We went to many but one that really stands out is a beautiful seven acre garden, Moors Meadow in Bromyard, Herefordshire. lt is absolutely packed with unusual plants and has so many different areas to explore. I recommend a visit if you haven’t already been (or check out the website).

So I have started to build a collection of plants for the garden and have ideas for how I want it to look…..but I’m not sure how to go about achieving this look. With little money for a garden designer but with lots of time on my side, I decided to enrol on a garden design course at the Cotswold Gardening School. By the end of the ten week course I should have a high level plan for the whole garden and a detailed plan and planting scheme for a small area within it. I’m not sure yet how well I will manage this but I will be giving it my best shot and I’m having fun doing it. I’ll be happy to let you know how I get on if anyone else is interested in doing something similar in their garden.

So we are now entering winter, with its limited gardening time and of course, all the uncertainties that this wretched disease brings. If you are anything like me, you may be looking ahead with a little trepidation. I’m hoping to beat the winter/virus blues by keeping busy with my new projects. I’ve also stopped watching the news! That’s a really big help. And I’m going to explore the hills when weather permits to try to keep my fitness levels up. I’ve downloaded the ‘Malvern Walks’ app which has lots of lovely walks, many that are circular, all easy to follow. I highly recommend it.

I feel so fortunate that we moved to Malvern when we did. How lucky are we that we all live in such a beautiful place? 

Tracey Lillington

Propagation Notes November

from Rachel Salisbury

I am trying to make these notes relevant to the month in which you receive them, so this time we’re going to be taking hardwood cuttings. These can be taken from a wide range of shrubs, both deciduous and evergreen, but the methods are slightly different.

Deciduous shrubs

Choose wood of the current season’s growth, ideally about pencil thickness.  Many of the shoots you select will be quite long and it’s fine to make several cuttings out of one shoot.  Cut the stem into lengths of about 30cm, cutting just below a node for the base of the cutting and then trimming the remaining piece to just above a node.

Insert cuttings to at least a third of their length into pots of gritty compost and leave outside.  Alternatively they can be inserted straight into garden soil (add grit if it’s very sticky).  Leave until new growth is showing next year, then pot up into a compost containing nutrients and grow on for a year before planting out in the garden.  

Plants to try – Forsythia, Willow (both very easy), Weigela, Deutzia, Buddleia, Cornus

Evergreens, including conifers

Take the top section of shoots of this year’s growth, about 10 – 15cm in length. If the top is still soft, pinch it out, leaving yourself with a woody stem. Strip off the lower leaves/needles for approx 5cm to give you bare stem to insert into compost.  Place in trays or pots of gritty compost (low nutrient) or even pure sand.  Water well and place in a cold frame or unheated glasshouse.  Ensure cuttings do not dry out, but they should need very little watering during the winter.  Leave until late spring then check for rooting – a gentle tug will meet with resistance if rooting has occurred.  Pot up into a good potting compost and grow on for a year before planting out into the garden.

Plants to try – Evergreen Viburnum, Myrtle, Skimmia, Thuja, Cupressus.

The above are the simplest methods. Some plants need a bit more refinement and we’ll come to those later.

Deciduous hardwood cuttings can be taken throughout the winter until about mid February, Evergreens are better done early in the winter and definitely this side of Christmas.

NB some plants will never root whatever you do!!  They simply do not have the right chemistry/physiology to do so.  Others have very specific requirements.  We’ll look at some of those later, but for the time being just have a go and remember there’s no such thing as failure. It’s all a learning process.

I look forward to hearing about your successes and failures next spring and if you have any questions, feel free to message me and I’ll do my best to help. greentouchpaper@gmail.com

Pumpkin Pie (a thoroughly good recipe!)
Recipe from Hilary

For the pastry



  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
  2. If using a shop bought sweet crust pastry case, use one that is 23cm/9in diameter and 4cm/1½in deep. If using your own pastry, roll it out and use it to line a 23cm/9in pie plate (not loose bottomed). Bake the pastry case blind for 20 minutes.
  3. To make the filling, place the pumpkin chunks on a baking tray, cover with foil and roast until tender. This will take about 20-30 minutes, depending on your pumpkin. Press the cooked pumpkin in a coarse sieve and to extract any excess water. Set aside to cool before blending in a food processor, or mashing by hand to a pureé.
  4. Lightly whisk the eggs and extra yolk together in a large bowl.
  5. Place the sugar, spices and the cream in a pan, bring to simmering point, giving it a whisk to mix everything together. Then pour it over the eggs and whisk it again briefly.
    Now add the pumpkin pureé, still whisking to combine everything thoroughly.
  6. Reduce the oven temperature to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Pour the filling into your pastry case and bake for 35-40 minutes, by which time it will puff up round the edges but still feel slightly wobbly in the centre.
  7. Remove the pie from the oven and place the tin on a wire cooling rack. Serve warm or chilled (stored loosely covered in foil in the fridge) with some chilled créme fraïche or whipped cream.

The Firs, Elgar’s Birthplace

From Guest Contributor Katherine Alker, Garden & Outdoors Manager, S  Worcs

Unlike Croome, The Firs, Elgar’s Birthplace in Lower Broadheath, remains closed to the public for the time being due to the Covid-19 crisis. Throughout this year though the place has been well cared for by gardener Dawne, who has been onsite to carry out essential security and maintenance tasks, as well as keeping the garden looking beautiful. She has also taken the opportunity to tackle some large-scale jobs which would not have been possible if the place had been open.

In the birthplace cottage garden, Rosa ‘Arthur Bell’ has been blooming for several months; it’s a beautiful deep yellow flower. ‘Arthur Bell’ was bred by Sam McGredy, in Northern Ireland in 1964. The new cultivar was named for the Scottish whisky manufacturer, Arthur Kinmond Bell (1868—1942). Many of Sam McGredy IV’s rose varieties are named after alcoholic drinks. ‘Arthur Bell’ is a cross between ‘Cläre Grammerstorf’ and ‘Piccadilly’, and is classed as a modern floribunda rose.

Dawne made the most of the place being closed this year and removed several huge viburnum shrubs that had become very overgrown in the cottage garden. By cutting them right back she opened up an area that she could plant with some herbaceous perennials such as heuchera, penstemons and geraniums which would provide some good colour and nectar for pollinators too. This area, known now as ‘the mount’, is filling out nicely and we hope that visitors will enjoy it next year when we re-open.

Another large job was to open-up the view of the Malvern Hills from the statue of Elgar at the bottom of the garden by reducing the thick hawthorn hedge down to waist height. Dawne made room to add a second bench to the area and some climbing roses behind it, so when visitors sit there in future they will have a fantastic view and smell a gorgeous scent too. During his final illness in 1933, Elgar hummed the Cello Concerto’s first theme to his friend Billy Reed and said, “If ever after I’m dead you hear someone whistling this tune on the Malvern Hills, don’t be alarmed. It’s only me.”

We hope to re-open The Firs in 2021. Please keep an eye on our website for any news. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/the-firs

Chairman’s Blog

We drove past one of the churches in the Link recently and they had a banner celebrating harvest. It is certainly the time of the year in the garden when crops stop ripening and it is time to harvest what we have grown.

Over the last few weeks we have harvested the last of our tomatoes from the greenhouse. They have been a bit disappointing this year, with a smaller crop than usual but enough to make it worthwhile.

We always grow Sungold but this year added Sunchocola, a small reddish / chocolate brown tomato. It has a very good flavour and texture and we will grow it again.

As for our cucumber – not a success. We normally get at least 4 fruit but the lockdown plant from Waitrose (grafted and twice as expensive) only gave one cucumber. We will go back to Femspot from Laylocks !

The apple trees have been reasonably productive. We have 6 small trees, with a selection of varieties. Each year two seem to produce far more fruit than the others, but which two varies. Trying to get to the apples before the wasps and magpies is an annual battle. At least we are wildlife friendly.

We have grown gourds at the top of the garden for several years. They are great fun, as it is a mixed pack and you don’t know what you will get at the end. The vines grow up the fence and the fruits are hidden under the leaves, so it is always fun to see the result. Although we have slightly fewer gourds than last year there is a good mix.

When we lived in Maryland and Virginia it was common to see displays of pumpkins and Indian corn (like sweetcorn, but with multicoloured seeds) in many front yards as we come up to Halloween. We also grew some Indian corn this year. I particularly like the one with the red leaves.

Our last harvest job is the grape vine. We can get four or five large plastic trugs of grapes – they are not quite sweet enough to eat and never quite enough for a Château Rosebank !

I hope you have had success in your gardens this year, and enjoy planning for next year.


October Newsletter

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

What Have you Found when Digging in your Garden?

From David Baker

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

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

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

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

Changes in the Seasons
Autumn and Winter Colour by Fay Grist

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

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

Apparently not!

Propagation Notes

from Rachel Salisbury

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

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

Propagation tasks for October

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

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

Swedish Apple Cake
Recipe from Hilary

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

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


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

Changes at Link Nurseries

From Guest Contributor, Phil Woodhead

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

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

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

Phil Woodhead
Link Nurseries Horticultural Therapy Centre

By Anemone Mouse

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

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

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

We’re living in uncertain times.

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

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

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