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. 

“Genus Lavandula”

Lavender bags
Robin with members buying products

Our first meeting of 2020 was well supported by members & visitors even though the weather was rather inclement again, to say the least! Robin Spencer of Shropshire Lavender near Newport explained how he & his wife Joanna’s farm began in 2002 with a trial plot of 200 lavender plug plants, and despite some setbacks became a thriving enterprise based on their sunny & (mostly) sandy slopes. They have been selling fresh & dried lavender with an extensive range of products & gifts such as essential oils, bags & sachets, hand cream & shower gel, complete with tearoom and of course lavender scones. He also gave some very useful advice on the most suitable varieties to grow in this part of the country, and which ones are best for colour, fragrance or oil, also how to care for them. He brought some products along for us to buy, and the colour of his dried lavender bunches was stunning (down to choosing the right variety & picking at the correct time!). 

Oils, lotions & potions!

We were fortunate to have this talk as he & Joanna are now selling up & moving to Scotland, so we wished him well for their future. He hopes that the new owners will keep opening the farm to the public so maybe one for a future coach trip! After his presentation Robin drew our raffle and judged the monthly competition of “A vase of winter-flowering shrubs from your garden”, won this time by Sylvia, with Blodwen second.

Christmas Social Evening

Nicky and Cliff – “Eternity Duo” 

We held our Christmas social evening on a very wet & windy Tuesday 10th December, and despite the weather it was a well-attended event with only a few unfortunate absences due to illness. There was a welcoming atmosphere as all the tables were decorated with beautiful wine bottle lights & evergreen sprays made by committee members Ann & Brenda with help from Judith (the photo doesn’t do them justice – they looked particularly effective when the lights were dimmed), plus colourful reindeer napkins and salads.

First our members & guests were reinvigorated with piping hot jacket potatoes & fillings. Then after our desserts we were entertained by the popular duo Eternity, with a good selection of songs from several different decades plus Christmas tunes. Nicky & Cliff encouraged everybody to join in with the singing – how did we know the all the words to such old songs?!?

In the break we drew the raffle, which included a number of generously donated prizes, then enjoyed a second set from Eternity and tapped our glasses & bottles for the grand finale of Jingle Bells. Thank you to everybody who helped us tidy up at the end of the evening, and we also wish members who couldn’t attend and all visitors to this site a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

Visions and Music

Colin & Phil 

Our November meeting saw the welcome return of Phil Colclough & Colin Henshall who were last with us in May 2018. These cheerful & talented chaps take beautiful photographs on their travels around the country then add a musical soundtrack to suit. They started with a fireworks display set to Vivaldi Four Seasons followed by gardens such as Consall, Hopton, Kiftsgate, Ness & Lea, then equally stunning landscape views from all around the UK, with a bonus of Picton’s national collection of Michaelmas Daisies. Next was a glorious display of autumn colours and finally a winter wonderland, all showing the best that our country has to offer.

Pam’s competition winner

Everybody had their personal favourites with some of the autumn shots being particularly breathtaking. The music was very varied and included pieces by Birmingham-born Stephen Rhodes and Mexican composer Pablo Arellano, plus a touching vignette of American poet George Cooper’s “Come little leaves”.

After the presentation they drew both the usual monthly raffle plus the special one for a timber garden storage box, which was won by Wendy Skelding. Pam Collins took first place in the monthly competition for a table decoration with a fireworks theme, the only entry but a well-deserved winner nevertheless. Tickets for our Christmas social evening were all sold and our paper 2020 speaker programmes were available, so we’re raring to go for next month & year!  

The Women’s Land Army

Our October speaker Cherish Watton took us on a fascinating exploration of the history of Women’s Land Army through both World Wars, with screenshots of original photographs, cartoons & news cuttings, plus audio clips of interviews & even songs. She showed us how Land Girls & Lumber Jills challenged stereotypes & proved through their hard work & determination that they could succeed, despite (for many) their initial lack of knowledge, plus discrimination in some local communities. Some members & visitors also shared their experiences of knowing, or being related to, Land Girls (& possibly Lumber Jills) and we were all impressed with Cherish’s research & enthusiasm for this topic, which focussed on individuals whom she had met & talked to.

Cherish chatting after her presentation
A Land Girl model made for Cherish by an ex-WLA member

Even more remarkable was that she had started all this work for a project qualification whilst at Sixth Form College in 2010, before building the website herself! Here is a link to it where you can find much more information: https://www.womenslandarmy.co.uk/ including the WLA memorial at Alrewas & applications for veterans badges.

We also handed out invitations to members for our Christmas Social evening in December and we continued to sell raffle tickets for our special garden storage box prize (please see links page) which will be drawn at the end of our November meeting. 

The Colours of Autumn

Justin with a grin!

Justin Harrison our September speaker arrived early & set up a beautiful plant display for his presentation and to welcome us into the village hall, laid out a different way to keep us all on our toes! With his usual energy, he kept us all captivated as he showed how contrasting leaf colours & plant structures are as important as flowers in achieving a vibrant picture. He had brought a wide variety of plants, from autumn stalwarts such as Rudbeckia through striking evergreens to salvias, grasses, unusual irises & rosemary ginger. His display was all for sale after his talk concluded, with many snapped up quickly.  

There weren’t any entries for this month’s competition of a pot of autumn bulbs, which is a shame, but it meant that Justin only had to draw the raffle after answering questions before his well-earned cup of tea. Now we’re looking forward to our Autumn coach trip to Shropshire on Friday 13th (we’re not superstitious!), with Wildegoose nursery/garden/tea room in the morning then on to Morville Hall for a choice of gardens in the afternoon. 

Dianthus
Members browsing the plants

Leucothoe Curly Red

Everything you need to know about bulbs..

Jeff Bates is most definitely your man for this topic – he can even make basic bulb botany sound interesting! A freelance lecturer, consultant and RHS examiner, his amusing delivery captures everybody’s attention & we all listened closely whilst he explained how to choose a range of bulbous plants to provide flower all year round. His talk was beautifully illustrated too, & he helped us to understand how “bulbs” (including of course corms, rhizomes & tubers) will thrive best when grown in similar conditions to their natural habitat. The fact we haven’t a photo of him is due to pesky gremlins & not related to his comment that he has a good face for radio! So instead we have a poor substitute of stored hyacinth bulbs instead.   

Our meeting on 13th August came shortly after our wonderful annual show (see blog entry below) but despite that we only had 2 entries in our monthly competition for a tray of 5 vegetables, which Jeff judged after his talk & drawing the raffle (winner Robin Wainwright, 2nd Rosalie Allden). We also announced our  autumn coach trip on 13th September, please see our events page for further details. What a busy year this is turning out to be! 

Salvias & ornamental grasses

Gordon Malt from Shropshire gave an illustrated presentation to our July meeting on these two types of plant which go so well together. Salvias flower over a long period and there are many to choose from with a wide range of colours from the unusual peachy-orange Salvia x jamensis  ‘California Sunset’, through the deep blues such as S. patens ‘Guanajuato’, to the intensely red S. ‘blepharophylla.’ Gordon explained how the coloured calyces that protect the buds are retained after the flower petals have fallen, giving an extended display, and all aspects of the plant contrasting with the fluffy flower heads of the grasses. He had brought varieties of both for us to browse & buy, & several were sold before the meeting started – Anna was the lucky purchaser of the one in the photo, a really electric blue!     

Gordon with Salvia cacaliaefolia

After drawing the raffle, Gordon judged  the competition which was won by Ivy Evans with Pam Collins second, both beautiful arrangements in wine glasses as you can see. Members & visitors collected schedules for our annual show which has been brought forward to Saturday 10th August & we announced a special prize for the members-only class, definitely worth mollycoddling those fuchsias! There will be new entries for discounts & growing advice on our links page shortly, and we’re all looking forward to our summer evening trip to The Garth next week too.