Christmas Social Evening

This year we were lucky with the weather & able to enjoy fabulous live jazz & blues with the excellent Nick Dewhurst Band. The music was a good mix of standards, originals & Christmas specials to keep everybody’s feet tapping. There were vocals too, including a stunning solo of In The Bleak Midwinter by Beth, and a very upbeat Fly Me to The Moon by Tom. Nick had included in the set list some vegetable & fruit related tunes suitable for a gardening club such as Tangerine and Roasted Chestnut Vendor (which was a combined reworking of the Peanut Vendor & the Nat King Cole Christmas Song)! Check out Nick’s website via our Links page. Anna & Shelley made us some lovely table decorations again and we had a festive raffle halfway through, with a buffet before the music started. So now it’s Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all our members & we look forward to meeting up again in January!     

General Principles of Garden Design

Well the title of the talk might look dry & stuffy but the evening was far from that! Joyce Bullock, a local garden designer, dispensed with a formal presentation & instead divided us into groups to consider the various problems that we come across in our gardens such as the need for more privacy, making them easier to deal with as we grow older, more suitable for children/grandchildren plus the more unusual - how to disguise a structure that looks like a grave! Then we had a general & lively discussion about how we might solve these challenges, with Joyce encouraging all our members to contribute, and adding ideas of her own. She also brought a selection of useful plants from Lichfield Garden Centre & talked us through their advantages, before she drew the raffle & judged our monthly competition of Christmas table decorations. This was well supported again with some good entries but sadly the pesky gremlins were at it so no photos. Well done though to the winner Pam Collins, 2nd Sylvia Nunn & 3rd Anita Harper. Our Christmas social evening for members & guests next month looks to be a sell-out - "Made with Love" buffet followed by live jazz & blues with the Nick Dewhurst Band. We're all keeping our fingers crossed for no snow!

The Pleasures of Autumn

David & Valerie Chant brought a generous supply of produce to our October meeting to demonstrate what we can make from fruit & vegetables that grow in our gardens - one of the pleasures of autumn. They talked briefly about how their original hobby was keeping & flying birds of prey then how they moved into growing food to eat, particularly preserving produce for the winter in the traditional ways. They invited everybody to sample the wide range of preserves accompanied by their delicious home-made soda bread & flatbread, plus a variety of wines, liqueurs & ciders in suitably thimble-sized tasting glasses! They are clearly both dab hands in the garden & kitchen, and make the most of any seasonal gluts (courgettes this year), experimenting with flavours & unusual recipes – one of our members was the lucky winner of a jar of sweet & sour pickled crab apples (some of their recipes are at the bottom of our Links page). They judged our monthly competition of a vase of autumn foliage which was won by Sylvia Nunn, with Judith Daniels 2nd & Pam Collins 3rd.

Hellebores – a passion or addiction?!?

At our regular meeting on the Tuesday after our show, our speaker was Mike Byford of Hazles Cross Farm Nursery whose original hobby of growing hellebores that started 30 years ago became a passion then a self-confessed addiction! He spent considerable time and money travelling Europe to see the dainty forms and stunning foliage of the species in their native habitats. This led to his collecting seed and growing the plants in the UK, and he now holds the National Collection of hellebores. He shared with us his extensive knowledge of growing & breeding different species & hybrids, and gave us an alternative perspective of the Balkans which are the native habitat of these beautiful plants. He sells plants from the nursery but hadn't brought any with him as he explained that it's not the best time of year to buy them, but he has invited us to visit the collection next spring - a number of members seemed very interested in this so it could be our first coach trip of 2019! There is a photo of Mike with our programme secretary Val Lewis on the left plus the winning entry of our monthly competition for a vase of cottage garden perennials, won by new member Debbie Robertson.

Annual Show 8th September

We held our annual Garden & Home Produce Show in the village hall on Saturday 8th September & were delighted that we had even more exhibits than last year (269!) despite rain all day after the summer drought which has been a challenge to all gardeners! The judges & the visitors who came along in the afternoon were impressed with the display & high standards so thank you to everybody who entered & helped. June Morris won the Tom Ethelstone Memorial Trophy for the highest number of points overall, which was presented by Sue Ethelstone who had travelled down from Yorkshire for the event (top photograph). Ivy Evans won the Lewis Cup, presented by Val Lewis, for the most points in the vegetable classes. Congratulations to them both & to all the individual class winners, & well done everybody for making it such a super day! We all enjoyed looking round in the afternoon & the opportunity to have some homemade cake with their cup of tea or coffee. Please check out all the photographs on our gallery page.

My Famous Women Gardeners

Not long after Sylvia’s open evening we had a beautifully illustrated talk from Howard Drury of Kings Heath on “My Famous Women Gardeners” at our regular August meeting. These were all women who had influenced his career, ranging from his mother in the early days when he started selling lettuces at age 6 to the local shops, through many well known horticulturalists such as Margery Fish & Vita Sackville West to the more contemporary such as Carol Klein & Christine Facer Hoffman (who had an eminent career in medical science before turning to garden design). Some of his photographs were accompanied by classical music & others by his anecdotes from his career, trips & shows. After drawing the raffle Howard had the unenviable task of judging the excellent entries for our competition which was a poem about women gardeners composed by members, eventually choosing Anne Wallbank’s “In Memory of Beth Chatto” as the winner.

As the competition entries didn’t lend themselves well to photography, the snaps shown are Howard with our programme secretary Val Lewis (who finds us all these marvellous speakers) plus Stan Griffin & Vicki Newman from Craig House Cactus who gave a presentation to us November 2013. They won Gold at this year’s Chelsea then Gardeners World in June. There’s also one of the acidanthera bulbs that we gave out earlier this year to be grown for the members’ only class in the produce show in September. The very warm weather appears to have brought them into bloom sooner than anticipated but all members were asked still to enter them even if they’ve finished – and of course enjoy the beautiful display & perfume in the meantime! The last photo is the start of the second flush of roses which has been delayed due to the weather (works both ways) but hopefully bodes well for the show. Full schedules were available at the meeting & can also be collected from our secretary & on the day – the list of classes is on the show page.


Lilac Cottage Open Garden Evening

We’ve all been desperate for rain but hoped it wouldn't arrive on Friday 3rd August so we considered ourselves lucky that it held off for our members & guests to enjoy Sylvia Nunn’s beautiful garden, especially when she’d been working so hard to keep it looking good during the summer drought. She is a keen plantswoman & strong advocate of “right plant, right place” with her skills really showing through in this year’s challenging weather. Her one-acre garden is divided into several different areas with an emphasis on form, foliage and colour. The hot border is particularly stunning at this time of year, and there was seating dotted around for people to pause awhile & enjoy the various views whilst sipping their strawberry & mint punch. There is some exciting newer planting & statuary so please do have a look at the extra photographs on our gallery page (with thanks to Chris for taking all the photos).
Jean & John Greenfield won the raffle and were delighted with their prize of a large selection of gorgeous plants kindly donated by Sylvia. Other prizes of Pimms, shortbread biscuits & secateurs were won by Sophie Griffiths, Gordon Tuckley & Mrs. Parsons (head teacher of Gentleshaw Primary Academy who had arranged for us to use the school car park at the top of the lane). Nearly £300 was raised for the club and we are very grateful to Sylvia for letting us share her garden for a wonderful evening, also to everybody who helped her.

A Survival Guide for House Plants

As the sweltering summer continues we held our July meeting with windows & doors wide open, which had amusing consequences when a passing dog came in to see what was happening. Our speaker Philip Aubury gamely continued whilst the charming intruder was safely returned to his owner! Philip gave a very informative talk on a survival guide for conservatory & house plants including the best situations for different types of plants, watering, suitable composts, feeds and pest controls. It was interesting that whilst he much prefers organic pest controls, he finds peat-free composts more of a challenge and uses more traditional peat-based ones instead (except for orchids of course!), adding vermiculite or washed sand instead depending on the plant's requirements. He then went on to a practical demonstration of how to increase our stocks with the best propagation methods for various species, and how to pot on plants that outgrow their space. He brought a good selection of plants that we could browse whilst having our refreshments. He judged our monthly competition "Plant in an unusual pot" & the winner was Rosalie Allden's orchid in a Head Gardener mug with Shelley Tunnicliffe 2nd & Sylvia Nunn 3rd. Now we are looking forward to an open garden evening for members & their guests at Lilac Cottage on Friday 3rd August with Sylvia's kind permission (and very hard work!), fingers crossed for the weather. Also if you check out the Annual Show page on this website you'll find the list of this year's classes and full paper schedules for the event will be available at our August meeting. In the meantime if you'd like a word version of the schedule or separate entry form please email me at I hope they'll both be available to download from here soon. 

Confessions of a Plant Manager

At our June meeting we enjoyed a lively talk from Mark Smith with a combination of anecdotes from his 30 plus years working in horticulture and useful advice on growing plants. His suggestion of chopping back all deciduous clematis hard in the autumn then several times the following year, regardless of type, to keep producing successive flushes drew gasps from the audience but his photos demonstrated the results of the tactic. He regaled us with tales of what goes on behind the scenes at garden centres, nurseries & flower shows, and how things have changed over the years. Not just an amusing speaker though as he volunteers in schools & clearly cares passionately about inspiring the gardeners of the future. His column in the Derby Telegraph resulted in him appearing regularly on BBC Radio Derby doing live question & answer sessions plus live coverage of Chelsea Flower Show, where he was nearly thrown out for taking a photo on press day! He also had some very interesting photos of all his activities shall we say from the sublime to the ridiculous - clearly a good sport.

After his talk he judged our monthly competition (a vase of 5 stems of a variety of roses) which was very well supported. As you can see from the photos (thank you to Anna) there were some beautiful colours and types. Mark found it a difficult to choose but eventually went for 1st Deborah Jackson, 2nd Sylvia Nunn and 3rd Maureen Brearley. Deborah & Sylvia had both included Munstead Wood in their entries which is the fabulous deep wine colour with a wonderful scent, although there were several other lovely fragrances & types too.   




AGM 8th May

We held our AGM the week after our trip to Calke Abbey so the photo on the left is of the gardener's shed there! All our committee were re-elected after reports given by the chairman, treasurer & secretary. There was also agreement to increasing our membership subscription to £12.50 for the coming year. After this official business was completed, complimentary cheese & wine was served to everybody whilst Phil Colclough & chum Colin were setting up their "sound & vision" presentation for us. This was a popular return visit for them and this time they showed us their stunning photographs of “The Four Seasons” accompanied by beautiful classical music as the rest of the evening drifted happily away. We also held our usual raffle and handed out Acidanthera mureliae bulbs to everybody for the annual members' competition at our show to be held on the 8th September.