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.
Dr John Hughes, an RHS judge and a long term friend of CABAHS, gave an entertaining and informative talk on Tresco Abbey Gardens in the Isles of Scilly, situated just 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall. Benefiting from the Gulf Stream and Atlantic Drift, it has a mild climate and the magnificent garden is full of exotic and glorious plants from every Mediterranean garden zone, including South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Chile. It has been called a ‘Kew without the glass’. It is also home to a range of fauna including the red squirrel.
Augustus Smith, the founder of the garden, bought the island from the Duchy of Cornwall in 1830 and it has been in his family, who have remained keen horticulturalists, ever since – though all the land, except the garden and house which he had built on it, was given back to the Duchy in 1922. The seventeen acre garden has been designed around a ruined Benedictine Abbey and within a sympathetic hard core of paths and arches, including statues supplied by the latest owner.
Our February meeting on Monday 20th, comprised our AGM, with the usual election of officers and presentation of the Annual Report, followed by a talk by Ruth Cornett on the work she has done on her Eltham Palace Gatehouse garden and her passion for roses.
Show Table Winners 2022 The Show Table cup is presented to the member who has garnered the most points on the monthly Show Table, over the past year. We have not been able to present the cup for the previous two years due to Covid, so we are delighted to be able to revive this tradition that has been running since 1955! This year, we had Joint Winners, namely Annie and Terry. Second place went to Pat K and Third to Anastasia. Well done all.
For the coming year, we have introduced an additional award, “Best on the Table” given to the best display each month. This time it was Sian’s turn, with her wonderful aromatic display of Mimosa.
Anne Barnard from Rose Cottage Plants, a nursery that has won several RHS medals, following on from her successful talk last year on dahlias, gave an informative and useful talk on some of her favourite perennials. She also brought some bulbs for sale which were snapped up.
Although the nursery is known nowadays for specialising in dahlias, when it first started some 25 years ago, they specialised in perennials. Starting her nursery came from her involvement in the National Gardens Scheme.
In her presentation, Anne referred to and described a large number and wide range of perennials and the conditions they need to grow well, as well as showing a range of perennials that partner well together. Some of the perennials she mentioned are listed here and some of them her nursery sells. They also sell bulbs.
Simon White is the President of Norwich Horticultural Society and Sales Manager for the RHS award winning Peter Beales Garden Centre in Attleborough, Norfolk, where he has worked for 41 years.
He gave an entertaining and informative talk on growing roses. He said, if provided with the right conditions, it was not true that roses were difficult to grow. Simon said Beales had the largest collection of roses in the world. They primarily sell bare root roses and many old traditional classic roses. They grow from seed some 250,000 a year in fields rented from a local farmer and he described how they grew them.
He then went on to show how we at home could grow bare root roses:
1.THEY NEED GOOD SOIL PREPARATION: Ideally bare root roses should be planted from November to March. Good quality fertiliser, including horse manure which is at least six month old, should be used. Do not use mushroom manure.
Our October members meeting was held on 17th October in the magnificent Old Library at Charlton House. A well attended meeting, we were treated to a great talk from Peter of Thorncroft Clematis, a wonderful Show Table, bulbs for sale and an amazing Autumn mandala from members gardens, which covered the entire grand piano!
It was clear that we were in for a treat of a talk. As well as a box of Thorncroft Clematis Catalogues, Peter Skeggs-Gooch laid out the nursery’s impressive collection of Flower Show medals: several Chelsea golds as well as a smattering of Silver-Gilts. Peter’s slide show took us from evergreen winter varieties such as the familiar ‘Freckles’ and the lovely, if large, armandii ‘Apple Blossom’; through Spring, with much-loved montanas now smaller and more manageable; into Summer with several scented varieties including the coconut-perfumed ‘Lambton Park’; and finally finishing with the viticellas of Autumn such as ‘Prince William’ and super easy ‘Alba Luxurians’. His nursery produces over three hundred varieties, so we were being given only a glimpse of what is on offer. For more information or to order head to their website.
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: