July Meeting – Starting a Cut Flower Patch from Scratch

Sally Oates, artisan grower and florist, loves providing flowers for family occasions from Dillycot Farm, Culkerton, but it was the taking on of part of a fellow grower’s allotment in February 2023 that she spoke about.

Sally explained how she dug over, fed with seaweed feed and Alfalfa (Sally grows organically) then enclosed it with a chicken wire fence (buried a foot to keep out rabbits) and a simple gate.

By the end of March she sowed seed under glass and started Dahlia tubers in pots due to the cold. Once planted Sally installed mesh tunnels over her seedlings to keep of pigeons and for warmth.

During June and July Sally was picking clary sage, snapdragons and florists dill with other flowers and reseeding into gaps: cutting mornings and evenings, clearing foliage from stems and plunging in deep water immediately.

Sally picks until the first frost, composts effected growth and keeps Dahlia tubers dry in situ over winter with hoops and plastic, ensuring airflow.

Sally’s talk was peppered with hints, tips (such as removing central stems from Antirrhinums to encourage branching) and information on which flowers she grows and brought along some seeds and beautiful hand tied bouquets for sale.

June Meeting. Anita Barratt, Community Gardening

Anita founded the Garden Club 34 years ago; she is also founder of Cricklade Bloomers which celebrates it’s 20th anniversary this year!

Anita told us that gardening is in her blood, aged 3 she was digging her parents garden, by 9 looking after the whole plot!

Bloomers volunteers meet most weeks, planting and maintaining borders, tubs, baskets and planters in Cricklade but they do so much more.

Anita explained that community gardening is not just about gardening; forging friendships and improving your surroundings whilst helping others promotes wellbeing and health and gives a sense of pride. It’s also good for the environment, boosting biodiversity, lessening pollution and makes for safer streets.

Bloomers began with 3 people but quickly flourished attracting helpers, sponsors and funding.¬†They entered the RHS Britain in Bloom competition and won a Silver-gilt medal in their first year, followed by a string of Gold’s and Best Small Town in the West awards. In 2011 they won the National Champion of Champions award for Cricklade.

From a base on Anita’s driveway, they now work from the Walled Garden behind Tesco – they have organized tree plantings, given away 7500 bulbs, held a worm charming event, swept and weeded streets, painted lamp posts, hosted pop-up tearooms, sold 1000’s of plants and raised 1000’s of pounds!

Anita pointed out that although there is core group, 64 organizations and businesses have been involved or supported them, providing tools, help or donations.

Anita spoke with pride throughout and we should all be grateful to this small group of volunteers who do so much on our behalf.

If you have a few hours and would like to become a Bloomer go to crickladeinbloom.co.uk

May Meeting

Our talk this month was given by Jo Homan of The Orchard Project.

Jo’s talk covered the great benefits of community orchards. We learnt how orchards generate biodiversity by planting them as “forests gardens”. This involves layer planting to attract birds, insects, fungi and under planting with nitrogen ‘fixers’ such as Elaeagnus and buckthorn.

We also learnt that Jo’s organisation provides accredited courses on orchard management and how it encourages and supports communities throughout the U.K.

For more information visit www.theorchardproject.org.uk


April Meeting

Margie Hoffnung’s excellent talk, The Threats to Historic Parks and Garden, was both informative and concerning.

Margie explained that gardens and parks are listed, as houses are, but Historic England suspects as many as 30% are not, including areas of ancient agricultural systems and orchards.

From her photos there seems to be so many ways that we are destroying the history of and changing the look and feel of historic gardens, parks and there buildings and structures.

Margie took us through some of these threats such as, roads and traffic, finance, demolition, overgrowth  and misguided intervention. She pointed out that whilst there was lots of demolition after the war, it sometimes still happens and neglect is common, saying that overgrowth may be cheep to resolve but vandalism, poor management and change of use can be irreparable. As well as threats from climate change including flooding and conditions legislation imposes, Margie said that renewable energy, tourism, public events and diseases like box blight all play a part.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom, Margie as the Conservation Officer for the Gardens Trust, a UK charity dedicated to protecting and conserving historic parks, gardens and designed landscapes is fighting on our behalf. This trust supports the 36 County Gardens Trust which help protect and promote historic designed landscapes. Volunteers in the CGT help the GT by researching local landscapes, recording site surveys, checking historic environment records, working with schools, helping with media, fundraising events and garden visits.

This is a way we could all help, visit wiltshiregt.org.uk, Margie said these meeting often involve great cake!

Margie also said that the ‘Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023’ includes parks and gardens, which help. Let’s hope so as she and our landscape needs it.

March Meeting

At the AGM the outgoing Chair,  Anne West, was thanked for all her hard work over the last 7 years and Elizabeth (Bizzie) White was welcomed as new Chair.

During his talk, David Cropp shook soil from the base then prised, pulled, tugged and cut apart 2 full pots of Hemerocallis. He told us not to be afraid of doing the same, saying that plants are tough and can take some rough handling, but to clean equipment between dividing each plant so as not to transfer diseases.

As a rule of thumb he suggested there should be no more than twice the height of plant above ground as roots below and to trim if necessary.

He encouraged us to make our own compost by adding lots of grit to bought compost and soil so it’s not too rich and has an open texture to aid drainage, he also said that it is a good idea to mix our own garden soil with that from the pot of a new plant.

David also advised that, if having a problem growing a plant in a certain spot to dig deeper and investigate what is below the roots.

Those who wanted, went home with a bagged and labelled, potted division of Hemerocallis ‘Chicago Sunrise’; a day lily with large sunshine yellow flowers – now that’s something we could all do with right now!