Calke Abbey Spring Trip

We had our first coach trip of the year on the 2nd May to Calke Abbey to see the beautifully tended walled gardens springing into life. They also have a rare auricula theatre and we were lucky to catch it before they put all the pots away for the summer. There are some immaculately pruned wisterias underplanted with forget-me-nots & tulips as you can see from the photos, as well as the herbs & vegetables coming through. The grassy banks round the house were full of cowslips and some of us opted for a longer walk up through the bluebell woods which were at their peak. There is so much to see spread over quite a wide area and there is a buggy service from the house to the gardens for anybody wanting to rest their weary legs! We all had a good day despite early morning rain which saw us all head straight into the tea room till it abated for delicious cakes & scones. The house itself was open for those who could tear themselves away from the garden and it is very unusual, being described as an "un-stately" home, preserved as it was when last lived in. There will be more photos on the gallery page shortly.

Primula & auricula

Our April meeting was heralded in by thick fog & seemed more like a November evening! Fortunately our stalwart members, now used to winter dragging its heels, were undeterred & we had good attendance for a hands-on talk from the renowned Primula specialist Bob Middleton to remind us that spring must be on its way. He used the plants that he brought with him to illustrate some of the many different groups within this plant genus from alpine auriculas to primroses. He demonstrated how he prepares them for showing, what the breed standards are and how best to care for them, answering varied questions from a keen audience.
He clearly sets very high standards for himself & laughingly referred to several lovely specimens as being "rubbish" from a showing perspective so it is easy to see how he wins! He also breeds new varieties, pollinating plants by hand to achieve the best results, and calls them after local pubs. He had brought with him a large primula in a terracotta bowl that had recently won several prizes at the recent National Auricual & Primula Society's show at Knowle although he was disappointed that it had started to "go over". Club members were happy to rehome many of his smaller specimens!
Unfortunately I forgot take any photos on the night so these are just boring old "Lemon & Lime" primulas in my own garden which flower most months of the year. Hopefully we'll be able to add some of Bob's pictures in due course. Also photo-less was our competition, this month's winner Brenda Brettell with her decorated Easter bonnet. Sorry folks!

A Passion for Heucheras

In March we welcomed Vicky Fox who gave a lively & entertaining talk on how a childhood reluctance to help in her family's nursery business was transformed into establishing with her husband Richard the highly successful Plantagogo business. They hold national collections of heuchera, tiarella & heucherella, breed beautiful new varieties and have entered Chelsea Flower Show 9 years, winning a gold medal every time. They brought with them a fine selection of their plants as you can see from the photos. Vicky also gave us tips on pest control & growing these versatile plants which come in more shapes sizes & colours than we'd ever imagined! We're probably all familiar with the traditional varieties, but Vicky showed us small, tall & trailing ones in a fabulous range of colours, also giving an insight into how they breed & hybridise to achieve this. The couple's enthusiasm & work ethic to achieve all this without any staff (roping in family help for special occasions) was quite amazing. Sylvia Nun's vase of mixed flowers won the monthly competition (below) & Rosalie Allden was second with her hellebores.

A garden for all seasons


At our February meeting we enjoyed a return visit from popular speaker Diane Clement, Director of the Seed Exchange for the Alpine Garden Society, who used wonderful photographs from her own garden to demonstrate how we can have flowers in bloom every day of the year, even in challenging areas such as heavy shade & steep slopes. She provided us with strategies to achieve this & gave examples of unusual varieties of plants that will extend their flowering season, after explaining initially what had influenced her approach to gardening & inspired her style. After her talk she judged our monthly competition "A photograph of your winter garden" which was won by Rosalie Allden (see bottom left). One of Diane's beautiful blue Meconopsis is below. 

A Master Thatcher shares all

We had an excellent start to 2018 when our first speaker, David Wood, shared with us how he followed through a childhood interest with a 7 year apprenticeship to become a Master Thatcher, illustrating his fascinating talk with the tools of his trade, a dovecote & a portable roof section! We also launched our new website and started arranging refunds following the unfortunate cancellation of our Christmas social evening due to the heavy snow.

The snow was beautiful!

It was a shame to finish such a good year for our club with the cancellation of our Christmas social evening but the conditions were treacherous & we couldn’t risk any injuries to our members! Here are some photos that give an idea of how beautiful it was, plus one of the lovely table decorations that 2 of our committee members had prepared.