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.  

Hellebores Spring Trip

After an unseasonably warm February we set off on our first coach trip of the year on Wednesday 6th March in pouring rain! Our destination was the Staffordshire Moorlands home of Mike Byford, our speaker from last September, to see his National Collection of Hellebores at Hazles Cross Farm Nursery. Our coach driver negotiated narrow lanes & stray peacocks (!) to deposit us safely then we split into two groups to view the amazing collection, enjoy warming hot drinks & cakes then during a brief gap in the relentless rain look at the views across the countryside.

As was clear from his previous talk, Mike is passionate about growing, selecting & breeding hellebores, & he is internationally renowned for his skill.  The collection is mainly housed in a large polytunnel so luckily we didn’t get wet, & the plants are on staging which makes viewing the flowers easy.  The species are in one area and hybrids in another with posters describing the biology of hellebores, their habitats, geology, climate, forms and distribution. The photo below is of Mike explaining the set-up to one group in between tours with his tea & cake on the hoof!

There was such a wide range of colours and forms, and there should shortly be more photos on our gallery page (gremlins willing). Some crosses are still in the early stages of breeding so not officially named yet. After we’d all looked round & had refreshments there was an opportunity to buy a variety of plants including Mike’s favourite semi-doubles, before we set off home after a very enjoyable – and different – afternoon. Many thanks to Mike & Tricia for their warm welcome. 

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 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.