The society meets monthly at Charlton House. The meetings are friendly gatherings, with refreshments and a raffle. Normally there is either a Talk, a Show or a Members evening (see Programme of events). Members can bring in plants and flowers that are performing well in their own gardens to be displayed on the informal Show Table.
Our Autumn Show was held on Monday September 26th in the Old Library of Charlton House, having been delayed a week for the Queen’s funeral. We counted 56 attendees and there were nearly 100 entries across all the classes, a marvellous effort!
Our guest judge, Joe Woodcock, had agreed to undertake this onerous task again this year. He made it clear how impressed he was with all the entries, providing an encouraging commentary on the horticultural skills demonstrated, and explained why he selected the winning entry in each class.
The classes and winners were as follows: 1. Vase of flowers, 3 stems – Nicholas B 2. Bowl of mixed flowers – Georgina P 3. Vase of shrubs or foliage, 3 stems – Liz K 4. Display of ornamental seed heads – Viv P 5. Five Fuchsia blooms – Viv P 6. Ornamental pot plant – Pat K 7. Display of fruit, mixed – Lynda F 8. Display of vegetables, mixed – Annie H 9. Tomatoes (dish of 5) – Karen S 10. A display of herbs – Maggie T 11. Preserves – Maggie T 12. Baking – Coconut cake – Kathy A 13. Floral arrangement in a teacup – Debbie W 14. Largest Sunflower – Ruth Y 15. Highest yield, Potato – Ann F
Joe presented trophies to Annie H for Class 8, to Viv P for Class 5 and to Georgina P for Best in Show for her bowl of mixed flowers in Class 2.
As always, we didn’t get around to answering all your questions at our August GQT meeting (I’m very sure they don’t manage to on the radio programme either!). But you may remember that Annie H brought in her strange distorted tomatoes to show everyone. If it had not been for the biblical deluge, I expect we would have had a good discussion about them.
Annie was undaunted by getting no answers at the meeting, and contacted the RHS directly. She says, “I was informed that the most likely cause was a too high concentration of a contaminated farmyard manure compost in the pots. The farmers spread weedkiller/ pesticide on the field, the grass grows and the cattle dump cowpats which are composted and then bagged up for sale but still contains residues of weedkiller/ pesticide.”
Thank you for this Annie, something for us all to watch out for. It would be interesting to hear from other members if they have had a similar experience.
Our annual amateur Gardeners Question Time meeting was once again held in the Peace Garden at Charlton House. Some members will remember last year, when everyone was in thermals and anoraks and it was the coldest August evening for years – ah, not this year we thought, it has been so warm and dry for weeks! Well, best laid plans as they say. Everyone was settled and happily getting in to the swing of questions about the drought. And so of course, the heavens opened!
True to type, we gardeners just picked up our things and decamped to Frilly’s Tea Room for a little break. Thank you to our stalwart committee and helpers who covered things up in the garden (do you know what Doritos and Pringles look like when they are soaked? ugh!). As the thunderstorm carried on, so too did we and the questions continued in the Tea rooms.
Thank you to our panel, especially guest panellist Joe Woodcock, for cheerfully answering our questions, and to Charlton House for letting us drip all over their cafe. It was still a very enjoyable evening, but sad that not many members saw the old Pond Garden in the dusk, lit up with solar lights and looking magical.
The committee will be having a think about whether to have next years GQT meeting in the safety of the Old Library!
We were back in the Old Library for an interesting and entertaining talk given by Steve Edney on his work as head gardener at Salutation and subsequent development of his own private garden and nursery. He is also a RHS volunteer trial judge involved in the Nepeta AGM.
Salutation House and garden is located in Sandwich by the River Stour. Designed by Edward Lutyens in 1912 as a weekend retreat for the three London-based Farrer brothers. Noted for the outstanding design symmetry between house and garden. Sold in 1945 when the brothers died, the magnificent gardens became somewhat overgrown and neglected over time. In the 1970’s Portland Stone was smashed up and laid as crazy paving!
Steve was appointed head gardener in 2005 to oversee the restoration. The owners by then were Steph and Dom of Gogglebox fame. With little interest in the garden apart from being a party space, they allowed him a somewhat free hand.
An initial task was stripping back an avenue of 50’ Holm trees to almost sticks. Our own Old Pond Garden volunteers were very interested in his idea of topiary using Holm Oaks, given how many we have at Charlton House!
2013 saw the garden devastated by salt water flooding and 1,500 plants, 9 mature trees and hedging were lost. 5 million litres of water became trapped in the lower third of the garden and had to be pumped out. Steve and his team overcame this and in 2019 they went on to win Gold at Chelsea for a winter border, which only cost £157! He followed with his Plant Hunter’s Jungle Camp taking best exhibit in the Floral Marquee at Hampton Court.
CABAHS welcomed Val Bourne to speak at our May meeting, sharing her photographs, experience and knowledge of butterflies in the garden. She emphasised that she is not a butterfly expert (but she knows one!), she’s an organic gardener who has spent a lot of time observing butterflies, their habits and preferences – and, sadly, their decline in recent years.
Val explained how useful even a small meadow area is for many species, how some species rely on quite a narrow range of plants for nectar, and how the timing of a butterfly lifecycle is intrinsically linked to the lifecycle of their food plants. She stated that climate change – causing plants to flower at different times – is demonstrably messing up this synchronisation, so as gardeners it’s important to grow a wide range of butterfly-friendly plants to try to mitigate that situation.
Some examples of butterfly-friendly plants, and the butterflies that particularly need or enjoy them:
We held our first actual Spring Show on Monday 11th April in Charlton House Long Gallery, after two years of Online Shows. Everyone seemed pleased to be back but there was clearly a shortage of suitable material in some classes, with no entries in the Hellebore Class and only one in the Flowering Shrub Class. This seems to have been caused by recent weather conditions and their effect on flowering.
Vija and Pat judged the entries and because Vija’s was the only entry in Class 3, that class wasn’t judged! Vija announced the winners as: Class 1 Daffodils/Narcissi – 3 stems: Maria B Class 2 Tulips – 3 stems: Margaret M Class 3 Flowering shrubs – 3 stems: (insufficient entries) Class 4 Camellias, Rhododendrons, Azaleas or Magnolia – 1 stem of any: Maggie T Class 5 Small vase of mixed Spring Flowers: Anna L Class 6 Any pot-grown plant (indoor or outdoor): Kathy A Class 7 A pot of Spring bulbs: Nicholas B Class 8 Hellebores – 3 stems: (no entries) Class 9 Tea cup floral display: Kay P
The Best in Show was selected by John King, a guest from Eltham & Avery Hill Gardens Society. He chose Sian T’s entry for the Tea Cup Floral display which she called “Teacup Fantasy”.
Vija reminded everyone of upcoming Events and Outings and encouraged everyone to check out our updated Website, Subscribe to receive an email whenever any new post is added and email CABAHS any feedback the website. Subscribing costs you nothing, keeps you up-to-date and you can Unsubscribe when you wish.
The talk was given by Melanie Aspey, a CABAHS member who has been the Rothschild archivist for 28 years. Providing photographs and documentation from the Rothschild archives, she said the Rothschilds are best known for banking, their art collections, philanthropy and wine, but many of them have also had a keen interest in horticulture reaching back to Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812), the founder of the dynasty, who lived in the Frankfurt Jewish Ghetto.
After the defeat of Napoleon, thanks to their support for the allies, the Rothschild family was able to lobby for the retention of the right for the Jewish Community to buy real estate outside the ghetto. Mayer Amschel’s son, Amschel, considered that building a house would be too ostentatious, but a garden would better serve their needs. Instead he established a garden which he subsequently opened to visitors and for charitable purposes. He spent vast sums on plants, some of which (and Melanie showed one of the plant sale receipts from the archives) he imported from England. Later taken over by the Nazis and bombed by the allies, the garden fell into disrepair but parts have recently been renovated.
Anne Barnard from Rose Cottage Plants nursery in Essex has many years experience of and is a specialist in growing dahlias, as well as exhibiting widely including at RHS shows. Dahlias, which originate in Mexico and Central America, come in a wide variety of colours from pastel to rich reds and mahogany.
Anne described how planting dahlias in summer beds can transform them and suggested how to choose and use them to best effect. Anne said they provide an outlet for personal creativity, style and artistic expression. She used her own garden, field displays in Holland and Chenies Manor as illustrations.
Dahlias had gone out of fashion, but in recent years there had been a revival of interest in them. Their rich colours were particularly attractive and ‘jewel’ gardens had become common. Many new and more popular and often exotic looking varieties had been developed. Many originate in Holland and she visited several important and influential growers. She said after bulbs, tulips and alliums have flowered by June/July, gardens begin to look tired and dahlias wide variety and rich colours give life to the garden and make a good display right up to the first frosts.
Anne went on to describe a wide variety of dahlias: