Richard Rickitt, Editor of ‘Bee Craft’ magazine, bee keeper at Westonbirt Arboretum, once kept hives at Buckingham Palace: he has a wealth of experience and passionately imparted many astonishing ‘bee facts’.
Did you know hairy footed bees like Pulmonaria, carder bees like hairy plants, cheap honey may not be pure and may contain a disease that can be passed to our bees or that Catalpa trees provide extrafloral nectar from the underside of their leaves?
Explaining their lifecycle Richard said queen bees, the ones that hibernate about October, emerge during February in search of nectar, pollen and nest sites; due to loss of habitats, hedgerows and hay meadows our countryside is in places, green deserts so our gardens are vital!
We can provide pollinators with yearlong food by planting drifts of simple, single flowers in blues (borage nectar is 60% sugar), purples (eg crocus), yellows (dandelions too) and whites (eg snowdrops). Avoid doubles and most hybrids and plant a range of shapes as bees’ tongues differ in length (some twice their body length). Richard suggested keeping some lawn long for clover and cowslips, leaving some areas a little untidy, letting some veg go to seed and creating a variety of nest sites (logs, stones, sand piles) and providing water.
A fascinating talk Richard.
Google how to make a bumble bee nest and how honey bees cool their hives.
Timothy Walker gave a talk entitled “Being a 21st Century Gardener”.
As well as giving talks to garden clubs Timothy is a lecturer on Plant Conservation, Biological Sciences and Plant Sciences. He is a 4 times Gold Medal winner at RHS Chelsea Flower Show and presented the TV shows ‘Botany – A Blooming History’.
If like me you didn’t attend the meeting, by all accounts we missed a great evening! Some comments from members and visitors below.
“Great meeting, a very good speaker, he made me laugh for an hour and a half!”
“A successful evening, I thoroughly enjoyed it, found the subject very interesting and the speaker really enjoyable”
“A brilliant speaker, very entertaining and informative”
The Garden Club Spring Plant Sale was well supported and a great success.
The atmosphere was buzzing with excitement as visitors perused the lovely stalls; on offer was a great range of plants and products.
Vegetables to ‘grow your own’, annuals to plant up your containers and perennials for your borders. You could purchase a wreath, a jar of jam or a jam jar of blooms, buy eco-friendly face cream, loo cleaner and washing up liquid, seek advice about recycling and how to keep our plant healthy and then enjoy a cuppa with delicious cake.
The eco businesses and environmental stalls attracted lots of interest, sold their products and recruited new members; Club members, Bloomers, Twigs and Page Green Flowers all made lots of sales and the Garden Club funds were increased.
Well done and thanks to all those who organised and helped to make this a most enjoyable event.
A talk by Jess Jones is like catching up with a friend, so we welcomed her and a lovely display back for an evening entitled’ ‘We need to talk bout Buxus’
Jess started with her favourite evergreen plants, stressing these were not replacements for box, rather she uses them with box to add structure, colour, shape and height to a garden.
First was yew, Taxus baccata, which she described as ‘not liking wet roots but otherwise bombproof and not as slow growing as people think’. She clips twice-yearly keeping them dense and uses fastigiate or Irish yew for its columnar habit.
Jess likes Pittosporum tenuifolium for its variety of colour, particularly ‘Golf Ball’ saying as well as taking a good clipping it’s great in Christmas wreaths adding a touch of roundness.
Osmanthus x burkwoodii with its small white, scented flowers was next which Jess uses neatly clipped against walls and in the open garden.
Jess then went onto box, Buxus sempervirens, explaining that box blight fungal infection arrived in London in in 1997/8 and is still spreading, box moth with its destructive caterpillar appeared in 2007. Jess took us through the moths lifecycle adding, although there is no natural predators, jackdaws have been seen eating caterpillars, a small ray of hope.
Not a fan of ripping out box Jess encouraged us to be vigilant, look inside our plants, break off any brown bits, burn or bag for the tip, not to clip when raining as this leaves cut ends open to spores that need moisture to travel, also clip and open up centres allowing air flow. Mulching to lessen splash back and feeding to strengthen plants were also advised.
Such was the friendly mood of the meeting that a member told us of a fungal foot infection, saying that cider vinegar had been recommended as treatment and wondered if it would work on box? If you try it do get in touch, we would all love to know the outcome!
Paul Green from Green Leaves Nursery gave us a talk on ‘Sensory Sensations’ and what an informative and amusing talk it was!
Encouraging us to contribute, Paul took us through a range of plants he brought with him, explaining their size, position and condition preferences. It was liberally sprinkled with anecdotal information, thoughts and opinions, tips and humorous insights such as whilst on a committee for plant naming, he learnt that girls’ names, alcohol and those a little rude, sell well!
Explaining that breeding improves what you may think of as a boring plant, Paul showed us new introductions such as Polemonium ‘Heaven Scent’ with dark foliage and purple flowers adding that if you cut it down after flowering you will get a second flush and maybe a third. Also, the gorgeous Phormium ‘Platt’s Black’ that he commented would look equally good in the border alongside oranges and yellows or in a large pot – but don’t over firm the compost or you will ruin the soil structure he advised.
The hour sped by as we learnt and giggled our way to the burgeoning sales table.
Freelance journalist, Mandy Bradshaw, kicked off Cricklade Garden Club’s 2022 programme with some interesting insight behind the scenes on Press Day at the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show.
Mandy, a writer for newspapers and magazines is a regular at Chelsea, where, laden with camera, notebook and guide book and dressed in full length waterproof and stout boots, she says it’s crucial to decide beforehand what to cover. With over 60 photocalls approximately 10 minutes apart organised throughout the day and across the showground it’s impossible to cover them all.
With background pieces prepared in advance Mandy looks for something unusual to provide the newsworthy angle. With 20 years’ experience as a Cotswold- based garden journalist with a regular monthly feature for Cotswold Life, her focus is with anything linked to that area.
Sometimes it’s the garden that’s important, such as the Yeo Valley show garden designed by Tom Massey which was the first organic and peat-free garden at Chelsea; sometimes the designer, such as Chris Beardshaw, Paul Hervey-
Brooks or herb queen Jekka McVicar. Sometimes a celebrity is doing something interesting such as when Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen launched a rose appropriately named ‘Frilly Cuffs”, on other occasions a sponsor, constructor or sculptor may be in the spotlight. Mandy says it’s important to think laterally to get the local link such as writing about a new rose called ‘Highgrove’.
A September Chelsea with its different range of plants meant Mandy was able to highlight growers such as specialist Penstemon nursery GreenJJam.
The overriding benefit of attending Chelsea on Press Day is that it’s largely empty, making it possible to walk onto gardens, look at the details and chat with people; Mandy says the Chelsea pensioners along with models and celebrities, love to pose for a photograph!
We finished the year on a light note with Adrian James whose talk entitled ‘Folklore and More! was packed with information, history, mystery and humour.
Adrian took us through the year by plants starting with the changing symbolism of snowdrops for rebirth to meaning death or bad luck to the Victorians; touching on Wassailing, the twice flowering Crataegus monogyna ‘Biflora’ and Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury, the Green Man, disgorging, foliate or with leafy head and beard, to why Lonicera blooms for so long and when brought into the house the differing effects it has on your dreams depending on your age!
Adrian advised us against picking blackberries after 29th September in view of what Satan did to them after being expelled from Heaven and landing on their prickles and ended his talk with Viscus album and evergreens.
If you have bought and wrapped presents, written cards and prepared the veg and are looking forward to a rest and a little tipple on Christmas eve then think again, Adrian told us this is traditionally the time to deck the house with foliage and berries – to do so before then will result in quarrels. You have been warned!