Following our inaugural meeting on 16 February 2015, members discussed and agreed that swapping ideas on gardening would be at the heart of our group. We plan to meet monthly in members’ homes and explore each others gardens, sharing ideas and tips. In time we might arrange to visit other gardens and perhaps garden centres locally and further afield. Membership is limited to 10 people and is currently full.
Five members of the group met at leader Mary’s house for a wide-ranging discussion especially on taking cuttings.
We had the usual discussion about sharing plants, seeds and bulbs before Mary led a ‘master class’ in taking cuttings around her garden. Each member of the group was invited to take a cutting home – so generous of Mary. Fuschia cuttings were taken from a stem without flowers, about 4 inches in length, the bottom leaves were stripped off and Mary also cut out the top of the cutting. The stem was put into a pot of compost and the pot went into the greenhouse. Mary uses old plastic lemonade bottles with the bottom cut out as a cover over the pot to give added protection in Winter – providing a mini greenhouse. Cuttings from geraniums were demonstrated and also hydrangeas and pinks.
Our meeting this month was held in Trish’s Southminster home. In an afternoon of torrential rain we managed to find a dry spell in which to admire Trish’s garden, created from scratch in just four months. An immaculate lawn is framed by interesting seating areas and an impressive number of shrubs and perennials all growing away strongly.
The group’s discussions were wide ranging, as always. We shared tips on how best to nurture Camellias, bemoaned this year’s blackfly infestation, and over tea and Welsh cakes received invaluable advice on growing tomatoes and cucumbers. Carol told us how to keep our water butts sweet, and members offered other topical tips. Mary brought some of her tomato glut to share – another bonus of being a member of this group!
We were all amazed at the size of the allotments area and the talent, expertise and sheer hard work which clearly goes into growing vegetables, fruit and flowers there. Members had lots of questions as we viewed the plots discussing ways to improve the soil, recipes for ‘gluts’ of fruit and vegetables and so on.
The sheer volume of produce Clive has picked from his allotment is testament to the work he has put into it – 10 lbs of green gooseberries; 8 lbs of red gooseberries which were deliciously sweet; 10 carrier bags full of broad beans. He planted his broad beans last Autumn and they are now all harvested. He has plenty more delicious treats to come including new potatoes and a variety of large blackberries so plentiful on their bushes that we could only wonder who would get there first – Clive or the birds!
Annie’s allotment is a picture. It is divided into sections by grass paths with a shed and water butt in one corner and large compost bins at the edge. Everything is flourishing and crops included: tomatoes – Annie grows the variety called Ferline which is supposed to be blight-free (watch this space!), strawberries (she has picked around 14 lbs this year), dwarf beans, red and savoy cabbages, carrots, parsnips, Florence fennel, raspberries, potatoes, butternut squash, shallots, courgettes, runner beans, lettuce and plenty of flowers. Annie uses strawberry ‘mats’ available from horticultural companies instead of straw and finds them more satisfactory. She makes an annual plan for her allotment in the winter. Also she swaps produce and ideas with her allotment neighbour who has a large plum and greengage tree on her plot
Snippets of information on rules and services we gleaned from our visit included: no bonfires on Sundays or if the wind might blow smoke towards houses; must chop down plants which have seeded so that the seed does not blow onto other allotments; Water ‘for agricultural use’ is available for a small annual fee from taps placed among the allotments. It is apparently permissible to run a hose from tap to your own water butt but not to water your plot from the hose; plenty of plots had empty plastic bottles on sticks which make a noise in the wind to scare the birds away. There is a waiting list for allotments and members who had had allotments before gave advice about clearing and planting a plot bit by bit otherwise you risk disenchantment if you try to clear the whole plot before planting – it becomes an impossible and unrewarding task.
Members retired to Mary’s garden for tea after the allotment visit and were delighted to see her garden full of colour and the greenhouse full of ripening tomatoes. We were struck by a number of things not least a trachelospermum jasminoides with its lovely scent arching over a bench seat. The cake provided by Annie was delicious.
Members will next meet for a picnic at Hyde Hall Flower Show at the end of the month and the August meeting will be held in Trish’s garden in Southminster.
Chris has a lovely South facing garden which she describes as a ‘work in progress’! She is experimenting with the position of various shrubs and intends to develop the south-east corner as a vegetable plot. A pretty west-facing summer house and raised seating area add to the interest. Such a comfortable garden and one with plenty of scope.
Members discussed a range of topics which included Mary’s roses in the front garden – yellow and red and such bright colours.
Several members commented on the marvellous colours of flowers this year; the recent open gardens at Mill End, Bradwell in aid of Farleigh Hospice – well worth a visit next year; Bev’s picture of her Kiftsgate rose, transplanted from her Devon garden and doing very well in Burnham – full of flowers; discussions on successful cuttings; the amount of wind damage in our gardens recently especially with the NE winds; plant-swapping ideas; how good the gooseberries are this year in at least two members’ gardens/allotments; why some members’ potatoes don’t seem to be flowering and how important it is to water them thoroughly; how important it is to remove flower buds if they develop on onions; ideas on spinach recipes which for some members is growing in abundance; the pleasure of taking cuttings from family and friends’ gardens so that you remember them when wandering round your own garden; how to stop dogwoods suckering and/or agreeing that sometimes gardeners just have to cut their losses and get rid of a troublesome plant/shrub; how best to grow broad beans – Clive planted seeds in his allotment in November and since early June has been picking beans. He generously provided an enormous bag full of beans for members to take home. There was also much discussion about birds and what attracts them to gardens and how to attract bees – plenty of mauve/purple coloured flowers was one suggestion.
Dates to remember:
- Saturday 27 June at 2 p.m. – Open Gardens in Burnham in aid of St Mary’s Church
- The Group meets for its next monthly meeting on Monday 20 July at the allotments where two members each have a plot
- On Thursday 24 September Maplin WI are organising a coach outing to Beth Chatto’s garden and Perrywoods Gerden Centre. Pick-up will be in Burnham only. Cost £13 each. Phone Chris on 783414 if you are interested in going as there will be a few spare seats available.
Eight members of the group met at member Margaret’s house on Burnham High Street on 21 May.
Everyone was fascinated to see Margaret’s South-facing courtyard garden hidden away between the High Street and the River. A marvelous wisteria in full flower has draped itself all over the back wall of the house and the small garden is full of ideas and interesting plants many of which are growing up the courtyard walls.
A lovely clematis was coming into bloom, a prolific camellia was coming to the end of blooming, deep pink roses, just starting to come out, grew on a wall around a stylish ‘window’ which everyone quickly realised was a mirror – such a clever idea. A small raised pond adds to the interest but may in time be redeveloped as a seating area as it gets the last of the sun from the West. ‘A gem of a courtyard garden’ was the view of the group.
As usual the group discussed ideas, results of their own attempts to germinate/propagate seeds and plants and observations, for example the blossom this year – long lasting and plentiful and the lovely display of aquilegias in many gardens at the moment. Some tips included: growing calundula to attract hover flies which eat greenfly; adding a little cooking oil to washing up liquid in water to spray blackfly. Some members offered others results of self-seeded lavender and also of hellebores. Everyone agreed that with the sun and recent rain, weeds are currently ‘going mad’!
A lot of the group’s discussion was about ideas for possible future trips. We had a look at the NGS (National Garden Scheme) brochure for Essex and agreed to visit Woodpeckers in Burnham when it opens in September. Bev mentioned her recent visit to the Essex Young Farmers’ show at Roxwell which included various local crafts and food stalls and a herb stall selling, at reasonable prices, an exceptionally wide range of herbs. Bradwell open gardens is on Sunday 31 May from 10am. We plan to attend the Hyde Hall garden show at the end of July and probably have a group picnic there. Beeleigh Abbey is another venue the group plans to visit, probably in June to see the roses and to enjoy tea together. In the Autumn we plan to visit Marks Hall (near Coggeshall). Another visit is likely to be made to the Friary Garden in Maldon later in the year. Members also discussed the pros and cons of attending the RHS shows at Chelsea (next year) and Hampton Court. Clive mentioned the possibility of attending the Hampton Court show with Fords coach company and this is something we will look at for next year.
Six members of the group met at member Bev’s house in Ramblers Way on 20 April. Many topics were touched on before we explored the interesting, pretty, north-facing garden. Bev and her husband moved into the property two years ago and have put a huge amount of effort into transforming the garden.
Members spent some time identifying the many and various plants in the main bed, admiring the pond – built in the last two years – and large display of flowering marsh marigolds, studying the vegetable section which is fenced off from the dog! and contains 5 raised beds of approximately 6’ x 4’ planted up with a variety of seeds in top soil bought in for the purpose, looking closely at the Kiftsgate rose cutting, brought from Bev’s former home in Devon, planted and now being trailed over a structure and admiring the beautiful flowering cherry in the middle of the garden – a gem. It is worth mentioning that local tree expert, Ross Fowler, has done a lot of work in the garden as part of the transformation.
Our discussions ranged over gardening and also other topics. Bev showed the group pictures on her tablet of her Dracunculus Vulgaris in full flower; sometimes called a dragon arum or black dragon. We discussed various problem plants and passed tips to each other on how best to deal with them; Bev is trying nematose in powder form to discourage slugs which are a big problem for us all.
Chris mentioned that the Co-op were selling 60L bags of compost (3 bags for £10) and that the Co-op would deliver them provided that the total spend was £25 or more. It was mentioned that U3A members could apply for tickets to talks at the Royal Institution in London and that they could be fascinating, even for non-scientists – The U3A website would have details of the next talks in September. We talked about propagating roses and took tips from each other on this. Some members love propagating plants and it was suggested that any left-over plants could be offered to members at a U3A meeting with the proceeds going to charity. We talked about books (not just those devoted to gardening) and noted that the St Mary’s Church book sale will take place on 4 May and also that Abe Books is an excellent on-line second hand book site for acquiring but also for valuing books.
The Group plans to meeting in another member’s house and garden in May.