2023 Garden & Home Produce Show 16th September

Sue and Anita with the Tom Ethelstone Memorial Trophy

It was great to have our Show back, our first since Covid interrupted what used to be an annual event. We were delighted with the support from exhibitors which provided a wonderful display in the hall that was enjoyed by members and visitors alike. Despite the vagaries of this summer’s weather, there were over 200 exhibits of excellent quality across all the classes.

Deborah and Martin with the Lewis Cup

Scoring was very close and our chairman Deborah Jackson was honoured to present the Lewis Cup, on behalf of the Lewis family, to Martin Plater for the highest number of points in the vegetable classes. Sue Ethelstone was down from Yorkshire to award the Tom Ethelstone Memorial Trophy, this time to club member Anita Harper, for the highest number of points won across all sections and classes. To celebrate the return of the show, both trophies were accompanied by donated gardening gift tokens, and Brenda Brettell won the members-only class of Pelargoniums. Our judge had also commented on one outstanding individual exhibit so a special award of a donated gift token was given to Clive Hancock for his Eucomis.

Clive’s Eucomis

We were pleased that several first time exhibitors had a go and enjoyed it, as well as taking home some of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd places cards for all classes – well done to all entrants! After the presentations Sue drew our raffle which included some kindly donated prizes, and there were afternoon refreshments of hot and soft drinks with delicious homemade cake. There are some photos on our gallery page which give a flavour of the day.  Many thanks to all the committee, judges, helpers, exhibitors and visitors for putting this show back onto the calendar as a wonderful village event. Happy gardening!

“What have trees ever done for us?”

Pam’s winning competition entry

At our September meeting we welcomed back Dr Peter Thomas, Emeritus Reader in Plant Ecology at Keele University, to provide a surprisingly wide range of answers! He started with common words in our language (such as bachelor, Poet Laureate & baccalaureate all from the bay tree) then fruit including unusual tropical varieties, not just those we know and love. Next came nuts (we have new respect for cashews!) before he moved onto medicines such as aspirin and our general wellbeing, with hospital studies showing improved recovery rates in patients who can see trees and other fascinating medical facts, not forgetting poisons such as strychnine.

Then we had the benefits of how trees help combat climate change when they are mature – but being aware that planting them is not an instant fix – and not forgetting timber, with how forests are (or should be) managed to keep them carbon neutral. Peter is a very engaging speaker who shared his knowledge and passion for trees with a well-illustrated talk, and we discussed the possibility of a spring trip to see the Keele University collection of flowering cherries.  

Peter answering questions

Afterwards Peter drew the raffle and answered individual questions over refreshments. Recent weather affected the number of entries in the monthly competition for a vase of asters but Pam was a worthy winner as you can see from the photo. We’re now looking forward to our Garden and Home Produce Show on Saturday 16th which will have a post of its own, and we’re hoping for plenty of support for this which is our first one since 2019, normally an annual event until a certain pandemic intervened….

“Love and War”

1st place – Ros

An eye-catching title for our August meeting! This was a fascinating talk by Kevin Reynolds on how our relationship with garden birds has developed over the years, a very different perspective on something we all take for granted. We might remember singing “four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie” as children but been unaware that many years ago our main relationship with birds was eating them and using their plumage for decoration.

2nd place – Anita

Kevin took us on this changing journey through the ages, including the formation of what became the RSPB in the late 19th century by a little-known woman Emily Williamson, to our current understanding of how birds contribute to our ecosystem and bring delight to our gardens.

3rd place – Sarah

After his talk Kevin drew our raffle and judged our monthly competition “a display of sensory plants” with the winner Ros, 2nd place Anita and 3rd place Sarah, well done all. Members and guests enjoyed our usual refreshments, shared out free plant divisions donated by Sylvia and took home free magazines. We also gave out schedules for our Produce Show on Saturday 16th September which is free and open to all amateur gardeners, bakers and flower arrangers, more details on our annual show page.

Open Gardens & July meeting

It was a great pleasure to welcome over 300 visitors to the 13 gardens taking part – a wonderful result, many thanks to all our garden owners and helpers. We had mixed weather on the Saturday, then Sunday was mostly warm and sunny apart from the hailstorm finale! Several people said it was the best village Open Gardens they had been to this year with the variety of sizes, styles and settings, wonderful views, excellent refreshments and a warm welcome everywhere. “An absolute delight” was one of the many great comments. The net proceeds from programme sales will be divided between the Village Hall and the Gardening Club. Hopefully this will now return to being a biennial event in our calendar and if you have any photos, please do share them!

July monthly competition entries

Just two days after that busy weekend was our monthly meeting on July 11th, a very informative and amusing evening with Phillipa Cooper, an enthusiastic member of the Eckford Sweet Pea Society of Wem and an excellent speaker. First she explained the difference between “Spencers” and “Old Fashioned”, how they are grown and propagated, before moving on to the best way to prepare them for showing, with details of the upcoming Wem show.

She also gave us a spring pea Lathyrus vernus for our raffle that she drew afterwards, then judged our monthly competition which had some great entries. Members and guests chatted to Phillippa over refreshments and took home some of her information leaflets also our usual free gardening magazines.

3rd place Sarah (Spencers)
1st place Sue (Spencers)
2nd place Jean (Old fashioned)

June meeting

Silk wrapped glassware

At our June meeting we had an unusual topic for our talk: “The History of Silk” from Clive Garner of The Mulberry Worm explaining how it was first made in China followed by the development of the famous Silk Road and and the industry eventually reaching Britain via Italy and France, with reminiscences of Cash’s silk ribbon factory in Coventry.

Silk scarves

It wasn’t one of our normal gardening-related topics and there are ethical issues in the production but it was fascinating nonetheless. Clive was a captivating speaker and brought a wide selection of his own scarves, glassware, necklaces and other artefacts made using silk which members and guests could buy whilst enjoying their refreshments.

Selection of silk gifts

After drawing the raffle Clive judged our monthly competition “a single stem of any flowering plant from your garden” which was won by Rosalie’s Allium christophii, with Sue’s Cerinthe second and Joan’s yellow rose 3rd. The photo doesn’t do them justice sorry folks!

We sold the first programmes for our Village Open Gardens Weekend on 8th/9th July and they will also be for sale on our plant stall at the Village Fete 24th June then on the weekend itself at the village hall, 11am to 5pm both days, £5 adults for entry into 13 gardens with refreshments at several, a big thank you to all the generous garden owners and their helpers. 

Competition entries

AGM 2023

Pelargonium plug plants for collection

At our AGM on May 9th the usual reports were received then all the committee who were standing for one more year were re-elected and members endorsed a proposed annual membership fee of £20 for the 2023/24 year. The official business was followed by a raffle then an amusing multiple-choice gardening quiz with some very close scores and the winning table received their prizes. Members brought their own drinks and nibbles to enjoy whilst participating and collected their free plug plants to grow on for the members’ only class at our Produce Show in September.

The prize-winning photos and SAGG silver salver

Anita had also mounted all the photos from the SAGG competition on a board for everybody to look at and these were displayed alongside the trophy that our club won for gaining the the most points in the show – see previous post below – members were very impressed, and hopefully inspired!

SAGG Trophy Winners!

Pets – 1st Place

Hot on the heels of our coach trip was the SAGG (Staffordshire Association of Garden Guilds) AGM on Saturday 22nd April and for the first time ever we had entered the Photographic Competition. Much to our delight we won the trophy for the most points in show, with three first and two second places in the different categories. Very well done to Anita, Pam and Rosalie for their wonderful photographs which will be on display at our own AGM this month together with the trophy, and apologies in the meantime to Pam that the reproduction here of the storyboard hasn’t done it justice!

Storyboard Lifecycle 1st place
Storyboard Lifecycle 1st place Image 4
Churchyard – 2nd place
Cactus – 1st Place
Scarecrow – 2nd place
The trophy received on behalf of the club!

Spring Coach Trip

Starting our tour
Bulb display on the patio

We finally made it back on the road for our first trip of the year to John’s Garden Ashwood Nurseries on Wednesday 19th April. Our club members and guests were whisked by coach to Kingswinford with time for a coffee before our personal guided tour with Head Gardener Nigel Hopes. The garden is an absolute delight at any time of year and Nigel gave us an insight into its background as well as many useful tips on growing the various plants for the best display.

Striking trilliums

It was dry if rather chilly but we’re all hardy perennials and it gave us an appetite for lunch afterwards in the excellent tearoom. Then everybody had an opportunity to browse the garden again at their leisure or explore the rest of the nursery including plant sales, gift shop and orchid/houseplant displays before our coach was loaded with the various purchases and returned us to the village hall after a very full day that was enjoyed by all. Please do have a look at more lovely photos taken by members on our gallery page.

Growing Herbs through the Seasons

Mountain Cranberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea!)

We were pleased to welcome Malcolm Dickson of Hooksgreen Herbs to our April meeting on a very wet and windy evening. He gave an interesting presentation about their herb nursery and how they prepare for plant fairs and flower shows, where they have won several prestigious gold and silver-gilt medals with their displays. He talked about many different types of herbs with both culinary and medicinal uses, including some that we might not have considered as herbs, giving us tips on growing them and their general dislike of wet winters! Their website also gives advice on uses and preferred conditions for every plant they sell.

A selection of Malcom’s herbs

After his talk, Malcolm drew our raffle then we all enjoyed refreshments whilst browsing the plants that he had brought along, some are pictured here, as well as our usual free magazines. There weren’t any tulip entries in this month’s competition due to the weather we’ve been experiencing recently.

We are all looking forward to our visit to John’s Garden at Ashwood Nurseries on 19th April with a full coach including guests from other clubs. Then at the end of that week it’s the Staffordshire Association of Garden Guilds AGM at Walton near Stone and we’re hoping that our entries into the photographic competition will be successful!

Primula veris (cowslip) generally thought of as ornamental but with many uses
And some smaller pots…

The Secret Lives of Solitary Bees….

Wool carder bee

After day of snow, sunshine and hailstorms, at our March meeting a good number of members and guests were enthralled by a beautifully illustrated talk from Ron Rock, an enthusiastic volunteer for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, on some of the many different species of solitary bees, which number over 200 in total. These very effective pollinators vary in their appearance, nesting habits and methods of pollination which Ron shared with us in a really understandable way, and finished his talk with a quote from a sign at his favourite football club Forest Green Rovers “when nature wins, we all win”. The two photos here, given to us by Ron, are a snippet from this fascinating evening.

Leaf cutter bee

After his presentation Ron answered more questions from members, drew our raffle and judged our monthly competition which was won this time by Ivy, with Sue W 2nd and Joan 3rd. Members also took home several different varieties of spare plants kindly donated by Sylvia to grow on ready for our stall at the Village Fete, and for their own gardens too. Our coach bookings for next month’s visit to John’s Garden at Ashwood Nurseries have gone so well that we’ve been able to hire a larger coach and invite other clubs to come along with us.


Ron answering questions
Our monthly competition winners