Happy New Year!

We started our 2022 programme on January 11th with an excellent talk from Peter Thomas of Keele University on the “Internal Clock of Plants – Keeping Track of the Seasons”. It sounds a rather dry topic but he really made it come alive, like having our own David Attenborough in the room, with his easily understood explanations of how plants function and measure the length of the nights to determine when they should start to re-grow in spring. Temperature is a factor and also the reason behind the folklore “oak before ash we’re in for a splash, ash before oak we’re in for a soak” as oaks respond to warmer spring temperatures, which we are seeing more often as a result of climate change. He helped us to understand how the practical effect of global warming will impact the survival of so many things from food crops to bluebells. As gardeners we are aware of the practical results and it was fascinating to explore the science behind them in a very relatable way.

Peter chatting with Mandy & Roy after his talk

After his talk Peter drew the raffle then chatted with members and answered more questions. He gives talks on other subjects and we hope that he will be back in the future to share his knowledge with us. The opportunity for members to join Zoom meetings either directly or via YouTube continues and details are on our programme page. But we are really looking forward to seeing Hayley Dorrington of Staffordshire Wildlife Trust at the Village Hall next month talking to us about our very own Gentleshaw Common!

New Year’s Day Viburnum Tinus
New Year’s Day gorse on Hednesford Hills

Christmas Social Evening 2021

One of the beautiful table decorations

It was beginning to look touch and go but with some extra precautions we finally made it on Tuesday 14th December! Our members and guests enjoyed a delicious hot and cold buffet by John of Coach House Catering, with beautiful table decorations by Ann and Brenda. This was followed by festive entertainment from the Cherrywood Singing Duo with a selection of traditional and more unusual Christmas songs, some performed a capella, plus amusing poems and anecdotes. We drew the raffle during a short break with a good selection of prizes, several kindly donated by members, and concluded with season’s greetings.

We were delighted to have good feedback afterwards, with many saying they were so pleased that we went ahead and they had found it a relaxing antidote to all the stresses and strains since March 2020. We’re not sure what 2022 will bring but we wish everybody a safe peaceful hopefully Merry Christmas and a Happy Healthy New Year!  

A very small part of John’s cold buffet
Cherrywood Singing Duo

November meeting – Dahlias

Art Deco Dahlias from our 2016 annual show

To brighten a dark autumn evening, Jason Smith, a National Dahlia Society judge and champion, shared his knowledge of how best to grow the wide range of dahlias available which are often seen as a ‘marmite’ plant. His photos showed us that they’re not just bedding pompoms and included some of his prize-winning displays. He had some unusual tips on organic solutions to any pest and disease problems that might arise, such as treating mildew with a milk and water solution. He was passionate about his hobby which he started as a boy helping his father, and made us laugh when he explained that he’s usually asked to judge at an event after he’s won it several times. Looking at the pictures of his show entries, we weren’t surprised. Looking back through old photos afterwards, we found a selection of Dahlia ‘Art Deco’ that members grew for our annual show in 2016 – on our July blog there’s also a shot of the one that Judy has kept going for five years!

Jason chatting to Anita after his talk

Jason drew our raffle and Blodwen passed on the WI’s thanks for our members’ contributions to the village poppy displays. We also announced our 2022 programme with a good variety of speakers and topics; details are on the programme page. But before that we are very much looking forward to our members and guests Christmas Social evening with a buffet by Coach House Catering and entertainment by Cherrywood Singing Duo, something to celebrate after everybody’s long hard slog since March 2020!

Rhus typina with yucca spotted locally
Cornus stolonifera ‘Flaviramea’

October Meeting

This month we welcomed Justin Harrison who was last with us a couple of years ago. He brought a good supply of plants to show how we can achieve year-round colour in our gardens with different types of compact evergreen shrubs and perennials that work well together, very much a “hands-on” demonstration also explaining which conditions each plant preferred. Justin is an enthusiastic advocate of complementary foliage and flower colours, for example compact new variety of Phormium ‘Back to Black’ with Coprosma ‘Lemon and lime’, not forgetting Gaura ‘Butterfly white’ and a new compact wallflower ‘Sugar Rush’. Osmanthus, Nandina domestica and dwarf Myrtle were included amongst others. After his talk he drew our reinstated raffle then we were able to browse and make purchases – for anybody who missed the opportunity Justin can be found at Burton outdoor market every Thursday to Saturday

Phormium ‘Back in Black’, Coprosma ‘Lemon & lime’, Leucothoe Scarlettta
Justin with hesperantha, helenium, sarcococca and asters

Members also brought along poppies that they had made to contribute to the village collection for remembrance day, and we congratulated Anna on her excellent performance in the London Marathon raising funds for the Saxon Hill Academy School Pond Project. Ticket sales for our Christmas Social Evening continued apace too! The last two photos are of Judy’s Selinum wallichianum grown from seed given to her by Sylvia and one from Rosalie’s recent visit to RHS Bridgewater – perhaps a future coach trip?!?

Autumn border RHS Bridgewater
Selinum wallichianum (milk parsley)

Gardening for Butterflies

Comma on Rudbeckia

For our September meeting, the second of this new season, we were entranced by Christine Maughan’s photographs of butterflies and she has kindly given us two examples to include here. Her husband Max explained that they & moths are sensitive indicators of the health of our environment, and how we can all manage our gardens, patios and allotments to attract more of them. This includes trying to provide sources of nectar throughout the season, especially for butterflies coming out of hibernation, and creating breeding habitats. They gave their talk on behalf of https://butterfly-conservation.org/ which is full of useful information. 

Small tortoiseshell on dahlia

It was also lovely to see even more members returning and putting their names down for our newly announced Christmas Social Evening! After general discussions we agreed to continue bringing our own refreshments to the monthly meetings and as we will not collect annual subscriptions until next year’s usual renewal date, we have asked members who come along to pay £3 on arrival towards costs, which will include entry into our reinstated monthly raffle. And finally, as the seasons change, Sylvia has shared with us some lovely photographs of her autumn garden. 

Hot border
Hydrangea Annabelle

Dahlia Pipers Pink, Phlox Bright Eyes & Santolina

We’re back!!

We were thrilled to be able to restart our regular club meetings in the Village Hall on Tuesday 10th August and our first speaker was the ever-popular Jeff Bates whose subject this time was Vegetables for Small Gardens. His breadth of knowledge is always imparted in a relaxed and cheerful way which everybody enjoyed, including reminiscences from his early days working on a farm and photos of different veg gardening styles in allotments and potagers, as well as answering questions on specific veg problems. He reminded us how many chemicals (now banned) were used back in the 70s, and made us laugh with extracts from old allotment manuals referring to very high levels of brassica consumption! The photos are of him showing us his favourite courgette and white bean varieties (plus a couple of shots to continue our “in-the-pink” feeling…)    

It was so good to meet up again after such a long gap, and before we all left we had a discussion about format, with agreement that we should continue with our altered layout, bringing our own refreshments and no raffle or competition for the time being. As they say on gardeners’ question time – onwards and upwards!!

Rosa “Wild Eve”
Phalaenopsis orchid

COVID update

We hope that all our members are keeping safe and well. In line with current Government advice we are cancelling our 12th May AGM. The invitations and paperwork were ready for distribution but in view of the situation we will simply continue all memberships for the time being, and as garden centres are currently closed, it doesn’t matter that we can’t reissue membership cards.

Our treasurer Lesley prepared the year-end accounts which have now gone to the auditor as usual, and organised the labelling and distribution of the Bessera elegans corms which had already been purchased for our Produce Show ‘members only competition’ – many thanks too to Sophie Griffiths, Val Wroe and other kind helpers for popping those through members’ letterboxes when they were out on their essential journeys. The Show might not go ahead but we hope you enjoy them anyway.

Lesley has also contacted everybody who had paid for our first coach trip of the year which was due to take place this coming Sunday 26th April but now cancelled – thank you to her for all this hard work!!

 Our 9th June meeting is also cancelled and our Programme Secretary Val Lewis has been in touch with speakers to rearrange their talks. At present our July and August meetings are “on hold” although likely to be cancelled too. It is a shame but we must all “do our bit” and we appreciate that a number of our members may want (or have) to continue their self-isolation beyond any official lifting of social distancing.

We will post further updates on this blog and at some point contact all members by email,letter or telephone. In the meantime we hope that you can all continue to enjoythe health & wellbeing benefits of gardening at home, until we all can meet again.


April Meeting Cancelled

Following the recent Government announcements, we regret that our April meeting is cancelled. We will consider other pre-arranged future events and issue further updates. In the meantime, we hope that everybody stays safe and well to enjoy their gardening which we all know is so good for us!

Wines from my new garden

Ken chatting to Bob over a cup of tea
Barbara & Jean sharing a laugh!

Our March meeting was a bit different from normal when our speaker Ken Marshall brought samples of wines that he had made from produce in his new garden, sometimes with added hedgerow blackberries, dried fruit & the odd banana! He thought that his wine-making hobby was finished when he & his wife Barbara moved house a few years ago,but he came to see it as an opportunity which has clearly worked out well, judging by everybody’s enjoyment of the evening.

Ken guided us through how the experts taste wine (drinking it all was not compulsory & spittoons were provided!) and there were four different ones to sample – white, rose, red & a fortifiedsherry/dessert-type. We were encouraged to identify the source fruit and other ingredients, and it was apparent that his previous career as a science teacher had enabled him to become an expert winemaker. Recipes and advice were available!   

The winner of our monthly competition was Ros with her lovely vase of daffodils. All the spaces on our coach trip to Chomondeley Castle are now taken but things are changing rapidly and as the health & safety of our members and guests is very important to us, we will stay vigilant and follow government advice concerning Coronavirus. If our April meeting cannot go ahead we will post a notice on this blog, ditto the coach trip. Hoping everybody stays well! N.B. STOP PRESS – The SAGG Spring Show & AGM at Walton on Saturday 21st March is cancelled.  

Snowdrops and friends

Helen with Galanthus ‘Priscilla Bacon’

We had a very enjoyable evening on 11th February when our doughty speaker Helen Harrison from Stone fortunately persevered in finding us after somebody had turned round a signpost in the lanes, sending her in the wrong direction! She explained how her passion had transferred from dahlias & chrysanthemums originally to snowdrops, and that their accompanying “friends” tonight were an onion, a shallot & an amaryllis (artificial but looked real!) – all part of the same plant family. She had brought many delightful snowdrop specimens with her in pots & vases, which she passed round the hall as she chatted to us. This enabled us all to see closely the different flower types & markings, and to experience the wonderful honeyed perfume of many – although interestingly there was great variation within our audience as to who could smell which ones! She explained the particular botanical aspects of snowdrops in an easily understandable way and gave advice on how to grow them, where best to buy if not propagating our own, plus good gardens to visit for the best displays.

Artificial amaryllis!

After giving her talk and answering questions, Helen drew the raffle then judged our monthly competition – this time snowdrops! There were plenty of entries and she was impressed with the quality & selection, choosing Rosalie as her winner with Ros 2nd and Val 3rd. 

We also announced our first coach trip of the year on Sunday 26th April (see events page for details) to Cholmondeley Castle Gardens including entrance to their spring Plant Hunters’ Fair, with names quickly going onto the list, but spaces still available.