Here is an update on what Jason and the Gardenauts have been getting up to in the gardens since my last post. Apologies it’s rather long, we’ve been doing lots!
December turned the gardens into a winter wonderland, and caused us to miss a few days volunteering, but gave some great photo opportunities. The prolonged cold period hit a few of the more tender shrubs quite hard and we lost some big favourites like the Teucrium.
January was about cutting back, the ivy in particular. The old walls cannot take the weight of the ivy so we are taking it off in stages and being careful of wildlife. Our efforts revealed the top of the doorway for the first time in some years!
We have removed the palms from the front lawn beds and the beds will be re-designed this summer. The Palms were planted as part of an annual bedding scheme years ago and never envisaged to get as tall as they have. The Tete-a Tete daffodils have all been lifted and will go in the woodland glade next year. The Summerhouse has had a good weed and tidy-up, as has the Mulberry. Snowdrops and Hellebores popped up in the OPG woodland side.
In February, we discovered our regular feline visitor is called Casper and he lives in Canberra Road but clearly considers the gardens his playground.
For those who haven’t visited, Beth Chatto’s Garden is a horticultural paradise located in Essex, England. In March, visitors can expect to see a range of unique features and highlights that make Beth Chatto’s Garden a must-see destination for anyone with an interest in gardening or nature.
One of the most striking things about Beth Chatto’s Garden in March is the abundance of early spring blooms. As winter fades and the weather begins to warm up, the garden comes alive with an array of colourful flowers and blossoms. The famous Gravel Garden is a great place to start exploring the garden. This innovative garden was created in the 1990s, and features plants that are adapted to dry conditions, making it an ideal spot for early bloomers like crocuses, daffodils, and tulips. Visitors can expect to see bright pops of colour as they stroll along the winding paths that wind through the garden.
In addition to the early spring blooms, March is also a great time to explore the woodland areas of Beth Chatto’s Garden. The woodland gardens are home to a wide range of plant species, including ferns, shrubs, and trees. Another highlight of Beth Chatto’s Garden in March is the chance to see the garden’s many rare and unusual plant species. Beth Chatto was a pioneer of ecological gardening and her garden is a testament to her commitment to sustainable practices. Visitors can expect to see a range of native and non-native plants that are perfectly suited to the local climate and soil conditions.
Late April is a great time to remind yourself that spring happens outside of London, and I had the joy of meeting a group of friends in Yorkshire for the Harrogate Flower Show. This is quite a major show, running over 4 days, but it’s not run by the RHS and it has quite different emphases. It does, though, have lots of exhibitors and we enjoyed a full day there, in brilliant sunshine.
First off, we looked at the flower arranging, clearly a major component with several training colleges nearby. There were lots of competition categories, from big set pieces to carefully chosen themes. We admired long-horned cows fashioned from garlands of flowers, and saw a heavy emphasis on arum lilies, which featured on the Best In Show winner, for instance.
By contrast, the show gardens were a very minor element of the event. They were small, commercially-sponsored but not carefully themed, and quite underwhelming. And they had very few people looking at them.
The area for various Societies was dominated by the Daffodil Society Northern Group, where competitors were vying for prizes in nearly 100 categories. The variety of blooms was extraordinary, with a strong emphasis on precision and newly-developed cultivars. Among others, the Yorkshire Bonsai Society was also showing beautiful specimens, as were the National Auricula and Primula Society, the National Dahlia Society, and the West Yorkshire Hardy Plant Society, which won a Premier Gold award for its spectacular display.
The gardens at Keukenhof in April are quite remarkable. Great rivers of tulips are everywhere. Small exhibitions in the Juliana house give background information to the history and also to the planting practices of this huge venture: 7 million tulips (and other flowering bulbs) are planted each year and each year, at the end of flowering, these are all taken up and crushed to be used as compost around the trees in the garden and made into pulp for the paper which covers the guides to the estate.
As a not-for-profit organisation, in addition to the garden architects, the gardens rely on an army of volunteers. From May onwards the gardens are closed to allow time for the essential work of taking up the tulips and replanting, until reopening for the spring display. The bulbs in each garden area are given to Keukenhof by growers in the Netherlands and the name of the company appears as signage on the beds. For those wishing to make a note of their favourites, tulips are also discretely labelled, although it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormous range on display!
We’re always pleased to receive reports from our members’ gardens, particularly when accompanied by photos. This month Annie H wanted us to share her delight with the Rose Cottage ‘Garden Party’ tulips in her front garden.
Nicolas shared this photo with us showing his Daphne bholua in February.
I know we have had posts on euphorbias already, but these plants are such a delight in the month of April that I am adding yet more. The little Euphorbia Chameleon, below, self -seeds happily, but in such a delicate and restrained way that it is welcome everywhere I find it. In addition to this, it politely dies back and allows summer flowering plants to take over.
The Euphorbia below (amygdaloides purpurea) is a stunning contrast with the lime green flower head and the stems which are an intense dark red. It has seeded itself in the gravel path and I’m not entirely sure where it comes from.
In Euphorbia, flowers occur in a head, called the cyathium. Each male or female flower in the cyathium head has only its essential sexual part, in males the stamen and in females the pistil. The flowers do not have sepals, petals or nectar to attract pollinators, although other nonflower parts of the plant have an appearance and nectar glands with similar roles. Euphorbias are the only plants known to have this kind of flower head. It should also be noted that, when the stems are cut, they exude a thick white substance which is extremely irritating to skin.
And, of course, there is the magnificent Euphorbia Mellifera (Honey Spurge) which rightfully deserves its common name and is a delight to be near at this time of year when the scent fills the air. Every garden should have one – it keeps its shape well or can be cut back. Mine originally came from the garden of Jillian Smith, CABAHS ex-Chair, who many remember fondly. Jillian, if you are reading this – thank you!
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.
Our next Meeting is early (due to Easter) on April 11th and will be our Spring Show. Come and join in the fun.
Classes are as follows: Class 1 Daffodils/Narcissi – 3 stems Class 2 Tulips – 3 stems Class 3 Flowering shrubs – 3 stems Class 4 Camellias, Rhododendrons, Azaleas or Magnolia – 1 stem of any Class 5 Small vase of mixed Spring Flowers Class 6 Any pot-grown plant (indoor or outdoor) Class 7 A pot of Spring bulbs Class 8 Hellebores – 3 stems Class 9 Tea cup floral display