My husband ( a beekeeper) recently treated me to a visit to the National Honey Show, which is sort of like going to RHS Chelsea if you are a beekeeper. Apart from an enormous number of jars of honey, there were talks available, and we attended one from Dr Nick Tew on “The role of gardens in supporting Insect Pollinators”. It was a really good talk, with scientific research explained in easy terms.
A few slides stood out for me – for instance, the time period for flowering plants in a garden, compared with a hedgerow or pasture. Most gardeners love to have something in flower all through the year, so although the volume of nectar/pollen in a garden might not be as high as in a meadow or hedgerow in full swing, it is available for a much longer time span. So in fact such a garden is more useful to insects.
There are some downsides to a garden – Nick calls it “horticultural bling”, a lovely phrase which unfortunately can be applied to a few parts of my garden (but luckily not many!)
A version of the talk is on Youtube, the link is below, it’s a good watch.
The Show was held at Sandown Park racecourse, and it was huge. It reminded me of a Horticultural Show in that it not only had classes for honey, but also eg craft and baking classes. The sunflowers shown here are made of wax!
I bought some sparkling mead from one of the stalls, took down a recipe for “Gin & Tonic Honey cake” and bought a couple of seed packets to convert my lawn into a meadow at some point in my dreams. The final stall we visited worried me a little, as it is giving my husband ideas!
September started off with the tail end of The Drought and as it became wetter the Volunteers were very grateful to get back to some proper gardening. The great news is that we hardly lost any plants at all.
The Peace Garden has benefited from our attention, with the last of the annoying stones on the path edges being removed, and work on the shrubs and climbers along the walls making them look much more defined and trim.
In the Old Pond Garden, many perennials went to seed earlier than usual, due to the drought, but the seedheads are quite spectacular.
The Volunteers were thrilled to receive a donation of jars of honey from the Charlton House Beekeepers. The bees had a bumper year, partly due to our lovely gardens. To stop any squabbling, we held a raffle to decide who got a jar and the happy winners are shown here:
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.
CABAHS member Melanie told us about an unusual collection: Exbury Gardens in Hampshire, perhaps best known for the springtime magnificence of its rhododendrons, is also home to a special collection of Nerines.
As it’s quite a long way to travel, you might instead like to see photographer Lisa Creagh’s website, where she has captured the extraordinary quality of this South African native ‘Jewel lily’ in some stunning images: The Rothschild Nerines. Lisa gives a super description of the collection’s history as well as describing the drama of the Nerines’ lifecycle.
A rainy start to October! Autumnal tones everywhere now. The bees are still out in force though.
Our Halloween Spooky Spiders Trail went down well with Charlton House Explorers this half term. There were 10 spooks to find around the garden, and it kept them all busy after their Ghosts and Gargoyles session in the Long Gallery. We had 140 children through the gardens over the two days, phew. Great fun, although we didn’t do much gardening this week!
13 October Heroic (and very wet) volunteers in the garden today. A lot of the plants from our shopping trip to Provender Nurseries are now in place. We really appreciated extra help from students from the University of Greenwich, who sportingly also got very wet. Donations of cinnamon buns from Charlton Bakehouse went down well. Thank you everyone. The picture below will be used as a ‘Before’ picture – so looking forward to taking some ‘After’ pictures next year!
20 October Another glorious Autumn day! Lots of volunteers and a bit of sun, what more do you want? We discovered the friendly Greenwich Carers café in the Stables next door. Bring your own cup/mug.
22 October Our Oak-leaved Hydrangea is turning a lovely colour. Look what has taken up residence in it – a crab spider. Apparently they camouflage themselves but it takes a few days to change colour – this one must have been in a white flower recently!
Before I turn to the second week in October, I should explain that the first week in October saw me, by and large, cowering indoors, hoping to avoid the rain. I felt shamed into turning my attention to several ‘projects’ that I had earmarked for myself when lockdown began, err, just over six months ago.
One of these projects was to put some order into several piles of books that I have been accumulating and I saved that one till last, as a sort of reward to myself. It’s possible to do a fair amount of sitting down and indulge in a little light reading to help the project along. When I was almost done I unearthed (no pun intended) a great little collection of old and new books about gardening that a friend had presented to me when I took on my allotment.
One was a charming reprint of a book containing sensible advice for the novice WWII allotment-holder, including how to dig efficiently without straining your back – why didn’t I pay more attention?! – and a list of necessary tools to see you through:
Adam the Gardener, a Sunday Express publication from around 1954, presents the gardener’s year, what to do and when, with illustrations of Adam in action. He never looks very happy and I fear he hadn’t got the advice about digging techniques. I thought I would see what Adam had to say about jobs to be done in the garden in the second week in October. Here’s what I found!