Elmcroft Garden – Glastonbury

This is a garden where colour, foliage and form take centre stage and areas are themed a bit like a mini film set.

Tetrapanax – large impressive leaves
Cornus contraversa ‘Variegata’ – commonly known as the wedding cake tree
Euphorbia mellifera
Digitalis ‘Pink Illumination’
Podopyllum versipelle -commonly known as Spotty Dotty – large spotted leaves, red flowers, for shade
Dianthus carthusianorum – tall dainty dianthus


A magical garden – Westbrook House

We were given a warm welcome on a damp evening by Keith and David, two very talented gardeners and designers.  We were shown around their 4 acres which is laid out as 3 distinct gardens:  a formal layout around the house, meadow and orchard with spring bulbs, species roses and lilacs.

There were many roses of note in this garden, these are a few I jotted down:

  • Rosa ‘Moonlight’
  • R. ‘Stanwell Perpetual’
  • R ‘Bromfield Abundance’
  • Rosa ‘Pearl d’Or’
  • Rosa mutabilis
  • Rosa ‘Buff Beauty’
  • Rosa ‘Mortimer Sackler’
  • Rosa ‘Jacqueline du Pre’
    Tip: a few of our members highly recommend Rosa ‘Gipsy Boy’ too
The garden was superbly planted with repetition, colour, scent, leaf textures and evergreen structure.


We were all wowed by this ivy leaf geranium (Pelargonium) that was trained up the greenhouse wall.
The transition between the house lawned garden and the meadow:  the entrance gates are flanked by two bold beds of Rose rugosa.
In the meadow areas, large once blooming roses were planted along with large shrubs such as Philadelphus.  Examples of the roses included:
  • Rosa ‘Dupontii’
  • Rosa ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’ (climbing up through an apple tree)
  • R. eglanteria
  • R. andesonii

The meadow is cut just once, usually at the end of July.  The entrance to the meadow was planted with Camassia.  There were wild flowers such as the Corky Seeded Water Dropwort, a poisonous native of damp grazed meadows.


Interesting fact
Danea racemosa to replace Sarcococca that died from box blight



If you missed this visit, Westbrook House opens under the NGS garden scheme again on 15th June – a must see garden!

Notes by Angela Morley


Miller’s House, Nunney

On the 1st May, 24 members of the Hort Soc visited the gardens of the Miller’s House in Nunney. The large, three-story Victorian house sits high on the edge of the tree-filled valley through which Nunney Brook flows. There is also a man-made mill leat, diverted from the brook, that powered the mills in the valley.

The Miller’s House gardens are split into three sections and were pleasant to explore for their historical context as well as their more contemporary plantings.

The gardens level with the house, on a terrace at the the top of the valley, were the most cultivated with lawns, flower beds, rockeries and vegetable patch, but the recent cold weather meant that they were not very floriferous for the time of year.

Perhaps of more interest were the gardens that sat below house, further down the valley. A large mill pond provided beautiful reflections of the property and valley, and no doubt were fantastic for wildlife.

Beyond that, stretching back up the valley between the leat and brook was semi-wild paddock, melting away into shady woodland, wild garlic, comfrey and abandoned industrial workings. Two very large and contorted apple trees were yet to blossom but added to the ancient air of the valley – a great place to walk and watch and soak up the atmosphere.

The garden is open again on 2nd June for the Nunney Open Gardens Day and no doubt the upper terrace will be in full bloom then, and so would be worth a repeat visit.


Notes by Dominic Weston

Shepton Mallet Hort Soc on trend 2019

These notes were taken during Naomi Slade’s talk – Delving into Dahlias – Naomi Slade

Interesting facts

  • Many Dahlias are from the mountainous regions of Central America and therefore they like good drainage and humidity
  • Known due to their hollow stems as the ‘water pipe plant’
  • Many Dahlia tubers are edible as are the petals
  • Dahlia pinnata was cultivated by the Aztecs and was introduced to Spain in 1798. Modern dahlias are often the product of hybridization between D. pinnata and Dahlia coccinea
  • Dahlias were brought to Europe in the 18th Century by plant collectors which sparked off hybridisation leading first to ‘Ball’ forms, then Anemone forms (e.g. D. ‘Totally Tangerine’)
    Until the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, Dahlias were only for the elite plant collectors, the exhibition was the first exposure to the public which led to even more hybridization leading to Collaretted types, Lilliput types, Cactus (e.g. ‘Willo Flecks’) and Peony types (e.g. D. ‘Bishop of Llandalff’)
  • Dahlias are octaploid which means they have 8 sets of chromosomes (we are diploid with only 2 sets), this makes for endless genetic diversity and hybridization options. Save your seeds and see what grows
  • Dahlias are related to Jerusalem artichoke, their carbohydrate storage food is the same – inulin
  • Dahlias fell from popularity in about 1940′s
  • Dahlia Renaissance in 2000 – new uses of Dahlias for containers and floristry rather than only showing them
  • New cultivars from New Zealand e.g. ‘Moonfire’, ‘Happy Single Party’ and the bronze foliaged ‘Mystic Dreamer’
  • The National Collection of Dahlias is near Penzance, free to visit and well worth it
  • Dead heading helps to enhance flowering

Check out

Dahlia ‘Hamari Gold’

Dahlia imperialis – grows to 6-8m although more usually 2-3 and rarely flowers in our climate

Dahlia merkii – single scrambling plant good to mix into borders, can take a while to establish


Editor’s note – Try

Orange Dahlia with Stipa tenuissima, pale yellow Achillea, and yellow Kniphofia


Notes by Angela Morley www.wildgardens.co.uk

A few snapshots from our third snowdrop festival

A few snapshots from our third Snowdrop Festival


Full details and photo gallery can be seen at https://www.sheptonsnowdropfestival.org.uk/

Lecture on Dahlias

Dive into Dahlias, a lecture by Noami Slade, Saturday 9th March at 11am.  Everything you want to know about Dahlias including a propagation demonstration.  Tickets £8

Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival 2019

Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival is fast approaching 16 & 17 February.  There will be specialist snowdrop stalls: Avon Bulbs & Triffids Nursery on both days. A lecture on Galanthophiles Sunday 3pm and a Gardener’s Question Time panel on Sunday 11am- 12 featuring 4 local horticulturists on the panel: Mickey Little from Avon Bulbs, Chris Inchley from Kilver Court, Christo Nicole from Wyld Wood Garden Services and designer Angela Morley.
Questions can be emailed in advance (admin@sheptonsnowdropfestival.org.uk) or taken from the floor.

Full programme at http://www.sheptonsnowdropfestival.org.uk/

Medicine Plants by Malcolm Mills from Castle Gardens

 A full house for Malcolm’s talk on Medicine Plants. Malcolm, from Castle Gardens in Sherborne, gave us a very comprehensive talk with many examples, below is a summary.

Many plants (including fungi) produce compounds that we use for medicinal uses, otherwise knows as alkaloids – powerful complex chemicals.

Why do plants produce alkaloids? Some reasons include:

  • To protect them from predators
  • To prevent rotting in damp growing conditions
  • May encourage healing after damage and stop infections…

Plants have been used for medicinal purposes for 5-6000 years, Otzi the frozen mummy found in the Alps, had a medicine kit with him containing birch fungus. Egyptians made the first pills using clay as a base medium then mixing in Opium or Myrrh.

All medicines ending in “ine” are derived from plants, for example morphine, caffeine, nicotine..

Only about 20% of all plants in the world have been tested for medicinal use therefore it is most important that biodiversity (including the rain forests) is preserved as it is highly likely that cures are held in the gene pool.

40-50% of plant medicines are derived from plants (although many are now synthesised).

80% of the world still relies on plant medicine for health and well-being.


Common names in folklore often refer to the plant’s medicinal uses, NOTE THAT THESE ARE OUTLINE NOTES AND YOU SHOULD NOT CONSUME ANY OF THESE PLANTS for example:

  • Pulmonaria officinalis – lungwort
  • Acmella oeracea – toothache plants (annual, will grow in UK)
  • Geranium sanguineum – bloody cranesbill, stops bleeding
  • Artemesia – wormwood – kills parasites
  • Symphytum officinalis – Comfrey, Knitbone or Bruisewort
  • Prunella vulgaris – Self heal


Other medicinal plants:

Taxus baccata – yew, cancer treatment
Digitalis purpurea – foxglove, cardiac stimulant

Galanthus – snowdrop – Galanthamine for memory impairment
Salix alba – willow, Salicylic acid for Aspirin

Atropa belladonna – deadly nightshade, muscle relaxant VERY POISONOUS
Papaver somnifera – opium poppy, sleep inducing used in Morphine & Codeine

Ficus elastica – rubber plant, stops infections

Galuthera procumbens – wintergreen, ericaceous low growing evergreen with red berries that smell of ‘Germalene’ and Euthymol toothpaste
Salvia officinalis – Sage, antiseptic and therefore hisotrically used in meat stuffings
Taraxicum officinalis – Dandelion, diuretic, blood purifier

Thymus officinalis – Thyme, Thymol which is a strong antiseptic, antimicorbial compound – used for Varroa control in bees and historically for stuffing meat
Lavandula angustifolia – Lavender, used before Penicillin as an antiseptic and anti inflamatory, insecticide and fungicide
Eupatorium purpureum – Joe-Pye-weed, from North America, cured fevers

Rubus idaeus – Raspberry, leaf infusions against sore throats & tonsellitus
Mentha – mint, Menthol, antibiotic & insecticide

Notes by Angela Morley www.wildgardens.co.uk





A merry time

There was a great turn out for our Christmas social last night – it was a bit of an alternative bash kicking off with ‘Pass the Sprout’ – one of the many prizes being a ‘slimy slug’

We then moved onto a festive multiple choice quiz based around Royston’s top ten tips on vegetable growing (with quite a complicated marking scheme!) – the winner of which was Alex. Alex and Jen were two of our three new members last night. Welcome Alex, Jen and Julie!

We finished off with decorating some fruit, vegetable and flower shaped lanterns which will form our first entry in the Shepton Lantern Festival which takes place on 22nd December.

Chips were our treat as an alternative to the usual mince pie (we are a garden club after all!).



New categories at Mid Somerset Show

Shepton Mallet Horticultural Society has worked with Mid Somerset Show to review the horticultural categories at next year’s show.  There will be new categories to encourage novices and we are also sponsoring two cash prizes for Dahlias – type of your choice (one prize in adult class and one prize in junior class).

Shepton Hort Soc are having a focus on Dahlias next year, kicking off the season with a masterclass lecture by Naomi Slade on 9th March (see below for details).   The aim is to get everyone excited about Dahlias and to enter the Mid Somerset Show with their blooms next August.

Saturday 9th March
“Dive into Dahlias” – A lecture and book signing by Naomi Slade plus Dahlia propagation demos
10.30 coffee, 11am Lecture, 12-12.30 Questions & book signing, 12.30-1 Propagation demonstration
St. Paul’s School hall, Shepton Mallet BA4 5LA   £10 (£7.50 to members)

Here is the complete new list of categories at MSS 2019:


Mr & Mrs Martyn and Valerie Davis, Nailsea (Judge)

Affiliated to the National Dahlia Society

Dahlia bloom sizes: Mediums – between 150mm & 200mm

Small – between 100mm & 150mm

Miniature – not exceeding 100mm

Class 1000 Dahlias, decorative and/or semi and/or cactus, medium, 2 vases, 3 blooms in each not less than 2 cultivars.

Class 1001 Dahlias, ball, miniature and/or small, 1 vase 3 blooms

Class 1002 Dahlias, cactus and/or semi cactus, miniature or small, 2 vases, 3 blooms in each not less than 2 cultivars.

Class 1003 Dahlias, cactus and/or semi cactus, small and/or miniature, 1 vase, 3 blooms

Class 1004 Dahlias, 1 vase, 1 bloom. Type of your choice (eg single or anemone) Sponsored by Shepton Mallet Hort Soc £10 Garden Voucher for winner

Class 1005 Roses – 3 blooms.

Class 1006 Sweet peas – 1 vase, 6 spikes with sweet pea foliage. Mixed colours.

Class 1007 Gladioli – 1 vase, 3 stems.

Class 1008 1 vase 3 spray chrysanthemum

Class 1009 Trailing Geranium (Pelargonium) of any colour – potted

Class 1010 Upright Geranium (Pelargonium) of any colour, not trailing – potted

Class 1011 ‘Sunset’ a vase of cottage flowers, at least 3 varieties.

Class 1012 Cooking apples, one dish of 3

Class 1013 Dessert apples, one dish of 3

Class 1014 Dish of soft fruit – one variety to be displayed attractively using plant foliage

Class 1015 3 potatoes – white named if possible

Class 1016 3 potatoes – coloured named if possible

Class 1017 3 carrots – long, 2.5″ foliage

Class 1018 3 carrots – stump root

Class 1019 3 onions not exceeding 250g each

Class 1020 3 onions over 250g each

Class 1022 3 round beetroot

Class 1024 6 runner beans

Class 1025 6 french beans

Class 1026 3 tomatoes – medium red

Class 1027 6 tomatoes – cherry of any colour of one type

Class 1028 3 tomatoes – any variety not mentioned above

Class 1029 3 parsnips

Class 1030 3 different herbs in bunches, not in flower

Class 1031 3 leeks

Class 1032 3 matching courgettes flowers optional, not exceeding 15 cms

Class 1033 1 pair mini cucumbers

Class 1034 1 pair long cucumbers

Class 1035 Basket or tray of salad. Maximum size: 46 cm x 30 cm

Class 1036 Vegetable collection – 5 kinds displayed attractively in maximum space92cm x 68cm. Not less than 2 of each kind.




Class 1037 Ugliest vegetable. Any variety, any size

Class 1038 Oversized vegetable. Any variety

Class 1023 Plate of 5 chillies

Class 1021 Fun-size vegetable or fruit. 3 matching types of small but perfectly formed fruit or veg

Class 1039 Flowers, any single variety, 1 vase of 3 blooms

Composting masterclass

An excerpt from Somerset Federation of Gardening Clubs Newsletter November 2018

A Basic Guide To Home Composting
Composting is important to the natural garden as it enables us to recycle organic matter that would otherwise be thrown away. Any organic matter, if left long enough will eventually rot away, but by composting, we can speed up the rate of decomposition, and be left with a good source of natural plant food.

Chicken Manure 7:1              Lucerne hay 13:1

Cow manure 15:1                  Food Waste 15:1

Weeds 19:1                             Lawn clippings 20:1

Seaweed 25:1                        Fruit waste 35:1

Leaves 60:1                            Straw 100:1

Paper 170:1                           Eucalypt bark 250:1

Sawdust 450:1                     Pine bark 500:1

The Carbon:Nitrogen ratio
Gardening books will frequently refer to an elusive C:N ratio, particularly when they are talking about composts. The most important requirement for effective decomposition in the home compost is the ratio of carbon (C) to Nitrogen (N) in the materials.

This is called the Carbon-Nitrogen (or C:N) ratio. C:N ratios are sometimes written as a ratio, such as ’20:1’. Other times they are written as a simple number, since the ratio always refers to the quantity of carbon for each one unit of nitrogen.

The C:N ratio of a freshly made compost should be about 30:1. The C:N ratio of a finished compost is usually more like 10 or 20:1, since the carbon is utilized by organisms as they compost the materials To get a suitable C:N ratio it is necessary to mix materials with a high C:N ratio such as sawdust, with materials such as manures that have a low C:N ratio. It is not necessary to get out the chemistry equipment and measure the C:N ratio of the compost as you make it, but you should think about the approximate quantities of carbon and nitrogen in the materials you use. The table provides some C:N ratios for common materials that might be added to home composts.

It is perfectly acceptable to make guesses about other materials, based on this table and what the material looks, smells, and feels like.

Compost Needs:
Plenty of organic matter.

Sufficient nutrients, particularly nitrogen – The bacteria that break down material in the compost need Nitrogen to survive. If the Nitrogen levels become too low then they will die out.

Sufficient, and well dispersed oxygen – to speed up the rates of decomposition. Oxygen can be added to a compost heap by using ventilated pipes running through the heap to introduce oxygen, or by turning the compost regularly.

Sufficient and well dispersed water – The compost should have the moisture content of a squeezed sponge, damp but not soggy. If the compost is too dry, water can be added to the compost when it is turned. If the compost is too wet, drainage pipes can be placed underneath,

or the compost can be turned more readily.

A source of cations – especially calcium, to stabilize the compost. The calcium will act as a buffer to stop pH levels from varying to much. Gypsum is sometimes added to compost heaps as a source of calcium at the rate of 1-3kg per cubic metre of compost. Gypsum also has the effect of reducing odours and reducing nitrogen losses.

Appropriate temperature – For the compost heap to decompose effectively, the heap needs to reach a heat of between 40 and 60 degrees C. This heat is generated by the ‘body’ heat given off by the microbes in the heap.

Appropriate pH – as plant sap is acidic, compost heaps will start off acidic and may even become more acidic in the early stages of decomposition, but this will return back to earlier levels later.

Moist or juicy material should be in thin layers (no more than 3cm thick) covered by dry organic material such as dry straw or shredded paper The layers of organic material should be between 5 and 10cm thick when first laid down (note that as the heap settles this will settle.)

If using a large amount of cooked food, or dry material such as straw, wood shavings or paper, add some manure to boost the levels of nitrogen in the composting material.

Compost bins
Compost bins are useful as a tidy way of making compost, and will fit well in many urban situations. In direct sun, the plastic can trap heat, speeding the decomposition process, but can sometimes get too hot. The plastic bin also holds in moisture well, but can sometimes get too moist.

Worm farms’
When earthworms feed, they work with raw materials and turn them into rich fine compost. This compost is rich in castings or manure of the earthworms which is superior to animal manures. Worm ‘farms’ can be purchased or made from just about any sort of container that will hold the worms and the material they are being fed on, but will allow drainage. Worms can be fed kitchen scraps, straw, manure, paper, etc. An example of the proportions of materials is: 70% weeds, leaves, grass clippings, 25% manure and or table wastes; 5% topsoil. It is advisable to use purchased worms as they thrive best under domestic conditions. Tiger worms or red wrigglers are two of the best varieties. The worm farm should be kept moist but not saturated, and ideally should be maintained at a standard temperature (not to hot and not too cold) with as little temperature fluctuation as possible. It is the combined action of the earthworms, bacteria and fungi that produces the best kind of compost.

The Finished Product
Compost is ready to use when:

It is crumbly and generally an even texture (Material such as straw, or flower stems might be intact still, but will frequently crumble when squeezed between the fingers).

It should drain well, but still have good moisture holding capacity.

It should be dark in colour

It should smell earthy, not rotten or mouldy.

The high temperatures that occurred in the centre of the heap during decomposition should have dropped.

Compost can be used either as a mulch, spread on the surface of the ground, or dug in (mixed with soil), to improve the structure of soil. Compost can be applied at almost any time of the year, but best results will frequently be had if it is applied in autumn or spring, and dug into the topsoil. Do not leave compost too long before using it, as nutrients can be lost over time – particularly in warm wet weather.


‘Make your own Garden Potions’ A talk by Stephanie Heffarty

Last night we had a very comprehensive talk on how to make different natural, eco-friendly potions using plants from the garden and hedgerows. For example potions for cleaning the house, rubbing on your sore feet, making liquid soap using Saponaria, how to dry herbs for teas and herby salts…

Many of the recipes are on Stephs blog  NoDigHom.com  below is a brief overview of the things covered:

Potions for the soil
Marestail liquid and use as foliar feed – this is also a valued natural fungicide
Comfrey juice using root or leaves
Yarrow leaves add to the compost bin

For the kitchen cupboard
Calendula vodka
Rose petals (including Calendula) to colour rice during cooking
Vodka & lemon peel
Elderflower sugar
Elderflower vodka
Rhubarb gin
Raspberry gin
Flower liqueur

For cleaning the house
Vinegar & lemon peel – for cleaning the house
Marestail is a natural scourer and can be used to clean mould

A good supplier of fruit trees Walcot nursery




notes by www.wildgardens.co.uk

Autumn 2018 snowdrop planting

This autumn we have planted another  28000 snowdrops in Shepton Mallet town centre in preparation for Snowdrop Festival 2019.


Autumn show 2018

What fun we had, with Ann scooping many prizes

 Winning pink rose and winning pearsSecond prize for beautiful basket of grapes

New stock for planters

October is the time for planting snowdrop bulbs, here we are planting 10 per pot for new stock to go into the planters for the High Street.  The compost was donated by Castle Gardens garden centre in Sherborne.

Thanks to Castle Gardens for providing the compost

College Barn – Nr Shepton Mallet

We were welcomed by Alex, Jen and Sam with a beautiful fold out planting plan for the garden, this promised to be something special.  Indeed we were all swept away with the garden design and planting, who says they don’t have any flowers in their garden during July and August?

This is a young garden (5 years old) with block planting of herbaceous perennials dotted with ornamental grasses.  It was created from rough ground using the ‘no dig’ method of spreading cardboard, newspaper and a thick layer of weed free mulch over the ground – planting directly into this.

I will let the photos speak for themselves ….


Plants that caught our attention:
Monarda ‘Prairie Night’
Molinia ‘Moorhexe’
Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’
Nepeta ‘Washfield’
Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’
Viola ‘Broughton Blue’
Dahlia ‘Honka White’
Euphorbia ‘Humpty Dumpty’ (does not like being moved)
Foxtail barley grass that ‘explodes’ it’s seed heads

Eucryphia glutinosa – tall evergreen shrub with white flowers August/ September.  Required ericaceous soil

College Barn opens under the NGS scheme

Notes by www.wildgardens.co.uk


Bake off 2018

We held our bake off event once again at the allotments courtesy of Lester Holly who organised the venue with a marquee and bar.  Lester is a key player at the allotments encouraging new members with mini plots, building raised beds for wheelchair users, helping with growing advice and watering as well as running the marquee and bar.  The allotments, bowling green and tennis courts form part of a lovely community encouraging local families to get involved.   There will be an Allotment Open Weekend and Art Trail on 18-19th August to coincide with the Mid Somerset Show.  Check it out!

So our bake off competition got underway once all the entries had arrived and people had had a chance to walk around the allotments with a drink in hand.  It was a very social and fun evening.






Collett Park plant sale

Another successful plant sale at Collett Park, all the plants are grown and then sold by our members to raise funds for our club.  It is a fun day, meeting new people and enthusing about plants.  We also attracted two new members.

The Snowdrop Festival had a stand next to us raising awareness, selling raffle tickets and poetry books from our previous festivals.


Carymoor Nature Reserve visit

We were met by Neil on a glorious sunny evening at Carymoor Environmental Centre. Neil manages the nature reserve, he was a wonderful host, patiently answering all our questions, pointing out wild flowers, shedding light on the details of landfill site problems and solutions.

It was a full evening and we only saw the tip of the iceberg, I am not just referring to the landfill face. We walked around the site (4000 steps according to Ann’s pedometer) taking in the newly restored pond, the old ammunition stores, wildflower meadows, Andrew’s dragon, methane gas & leachate treatment sites, the land fill face and the composting windrows, getting back to the centre for tea and cake as the light started to fade.

The site has many habitats to create as much biodiversity as possible:

  • rough grassland – good for moths, butterflies, voles & barn owls…
  • flowering meadows – insects including butterflies, reptiles, birds…
  • marsh wetlands and reedbeds – insects, flora, birds, amphibians…

Carymarsh (next door) is grazed by ponies in the winter and has bird hides


Flower rich meadow
At least 50 species including dyers green weed, fairy flax, spiny rest harrow.
The meadow is cut end of September using an Allen scythe although volunteers use scythes also.
The late cutting (due to the late flowering Devil’s bit Scabious) does allow some scrub to get established (hawthorn, bramble), this is could be treated with spot application of glyphosate or the meadow cut a bit earlier in the season on a rota of 1 in 5 years.

Global citizenship days
Schools are invited to spend a day at the ‘shanty town’ at Carymoor to appreciate how millions live across the world.


  • Garden waste arrives on site, is shredded and shaped into huge rows (windrows)
  • Huge windrows of garden waste are turned by huge machines every 7-10 days
  • Natural bacteria in the organic matter start to break down the material creating heat
  • The windrows heat up to 70oC (important to kill off an Ecoli bacteria)
  • The composting process takes 3 months from start to finished product
  • The finished product is used as a soil conditioner rather than a compost (high in carbon, low in nitrogen), it is great for clay soils


Landfill in a nutshell

  • Carymoor is a large site with 100 acres of capped landfill (dating from the 1970′s), this part is managed by Carymoor Environmental Trust as a nature reserve
  • The landfill and composting site is managed by Viridor
  • The landfill operations will cease in 2019/2020 (due to high landfill taxation and the cost of maintaining the landfill (e.g. monitoring for contamination…) instead it will become a waste transfer site, with all rubbish being taken to Avonmouth’s new incinerator
  • Modern incinerators burn plastics, they produce less pollution, provide more electricity, stone & metal are extracted from the ashes and then sold, carbon is captured from the chimneys and converted into building blocks
  • Tests are carried out every 7-10 days across the landfill site for methane escape and leachate escape / pollution
  • Methane capture from the old landfill is burnt on-site producing steam which is used to create electricity which is then sold to the National Grid, powering 1500 homes all year round. Carbon dioxide is less damaging to the atmosphere than methane. We could smell a sulphurous smell, this is sulphur released from the methane.
  • Leachates are mainly ammonium, they are pumped out of the old landfill and broken down by bacteria in a special plant, the liquid is then run through a 3 hectare willow bed (nitrogen feeds the willow). The willow will in time be used as bio-fuel.
  • It is a naturally clay site (blue lias clay), this is scraped off the site prior to the landfill and is then used to make a 1m deep cap over the landfill
  • Landfill sites are low mounds, their domed shape helps to shed water as well as merge with the landscape
  • Somerset Waste Partnership produce and end use register to show you where our recycling ends up



  • Searching for grass snakes and slow worms
  • Skylarks (heard for the first time on this site since 2013)
  • Wonderful compost heaps
  • The horror of the landfill face
  • Chrisi’s rhubarb cake and tea made by Ann (but provided by Carymoor)



  1. Reduce – ask yourself do you really need it?
  2. Recycle – local recycling centres now accept all plastic containers for recycling. Somerset recycles about 50% waste, this is short of the 75% target
  3. Reuse – plastic out-competes cardboard when it is re-used

Notes by Angela Morley www.wildgardens.co.uk


Carnival Bucket Collection

20th April 2018

Five of our members participated in the Shepton Mallet carnival bucket collection last November. With wheel barrows and buckets our team wore fancy dress inspired by Bill, Ben and Weed. On 20th April Shepton Mallet Carnival club presented Ray and Royston with a cheque for £200 to go towards the Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival.
 Photo by June MacFarlane

Kilver Court Gardens

Under a lovley evening light, the fresh spring leaf colours of trees, shrubs and herbaceous shone beautifully. We were guided by gardeners Matt Rees Warren and Chrisi Inchley around the pond, over the bridge, under the viaduct to the new borders and finally through the giant rockery with cascading stream.

The new borders are planted in an array of foliage colour rather than flower colour this ‘colourist theory’ ‘focuses on harnessing the power of colour through design’. The border at one end starts with yellow foliage moving to mid green, red, purple, grey/green and finally to silver.


Artemisia ‘Valerie Finnis‘ has shown itself to be hardier than Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ in the cold, damp conditions in the shade of the Viaduct

Heucheras are very useful for offering a wide range of foliage colours

Salix udensis ‘Golden Sunshine’ – is an unusual willow with yellow foliage

Lithospermum ‘Heavenly Blue‘ – its early bright blue flowers caught many people’s eye

Tiarella – foam flower, good in shade


Notes by Angela Morley www.wildgardens.co.uk

Looking after your back demo and AGM

Gardening is not a cause of back pain”, this is how Dr Ben Gait of Mendip Chiropractic launched his presentation. To explain… a client came to him and said that ‘I was making a sandwich and suddenly my back went’ – it was not the sandwich that was bad for his back rather his posture in months leading up to making the sandwich.

Ben went on to say that spines are not designed for bending instead they are there to protect our spinal cord and nerves. We have knees and hips for bending. He demonstrated how to get to the ground without bending your back, useful when weeding in the garden:

a) Take a large stride and bend one knee without allowing your knee to go in front of your toes
b) Take other knee into kneeling position (use a kneeler for comfort)

c) bend forward, resting one hand on the soil to perform the task

An alternative way of bending, for example to load the dishwasher, is to bend the knees into a ‘squat’, again do not let the knees go over the toes.

It was suggested that we start every meeting with a practice of these two alternatives to bending.

And it is important to warm up before doing some gardening, for example with these daily exercises http://www.mendipchiropractic.net/straighten-up-uk/ . We had a practice all together before starting our AGM


Wildlife Gardening Tips

Penny Richards for Somerset Wildlife Trust spoke to us about wildlife gardening, here are some points to consider:


Research by Jenniver Owen (Leicester), BUGS project (Sheffield) and RHS Wisley have revealed how important gardens are for insects, this may be in part because gardeners aim to have a succession of flowering times. Not all garden plants have to be native although it is important that some are.

Gardens can act as a refuge, for example: Spottted flycatcher, song thrush, slow worm, dormouse, hedgehog. Consider providing habitat and food for these creatures.

Massive decline in insects species and numbers over the past 30 years. Today insects (including bees) tend to be underweight, infected (imported diseases) and stressed (loss of habitat) all at the same time.

Less than 1% of all 22,000 UK insects are pests. It is all about balance, the good (beneficial) and the bad (pests). For example the larvae of ladybird, hoverfly, lace wings, wasps are all voracious consumers of insects such as aphids.

Provide variety
Grow a variety of different shaped flowers, for example Buff tail bumble bees like lavender shaped flowers, Carder bee likes pin cushions of Scabious. The almost black Hairy Footed bee makes itself conspicuous by dancing around on Pulmonaria flowers (also likes the pea family). Hoverflies like flat daisy shaped flowers (hoverflies (short antennae) and bees (long antennae).

Provide native food
Alder Buckthorn – a great plant for mixed hedges – food for Brimstone larvae
Sorrel & docks – food for larvae of Small Copper butterfly
Blackthorn- food for larvae of Brown Hairstreak
Grasses, Cardamine pratensis (Lady’s smock), hedge garlic – larvae for Orange Tip butterfly.
Willow, birch, hawthorn, oak, honeysuckle… – great for moths of which there are 1000′s
long grass – grasshoppers & crickets

Provide habitat
a) A tree, native if possible, for example: crab apple, willow, Sorbus torminalis, silver birch, Rowan, apple, plum…

b) Early & late flowering plants, for example Mahonia, Sarcococca, Lonicera fragrantissima, Begenia, Pulmonaria, spindle berry, holly, Ribes sanguinea… Note that Hebe is better than Buddleia for insects since it has a longer flowering period.

c) Hedges provide food, habitat & shelter. Twiggy top as well as the leafy base beneath them.

d) Climbers especially single flowered roses & honeysuckle

Provide flowers over a very period of long time
Good examples include: Snowdrop, primrose, Pulmonaria, daisy types, tubular flowers, umbel flowers, low flowers such as Bugle in the lawn, pea family, foxglove, lavender*, sea holly*, marjoram*, Echium*, Monarda*, Scabious, Sedum*, Eupatorium, Echinops, heather.

Annuals include Phacelia, borage, cornflower, marigold.
* Very valuable plants

Other things you can do include:
Provide a pond, long grass (e.g. mown path through wild area), a log pile or a wildlife hotel, undisturbed parts of the garden.



Amphibians & reptiles
Toads, newts, slow worms, grass snake all benefit from rock piles, dry stone walls, leaf & log piles (e.g. keep your compost bin separate from these habitats)

Eat insects attracted and breeding in the garden but also some benefit from seeds and berries left on plants over the winter (e.g. Verbena bonariensis, ivy, Knautia, lavender. Sarcococca, holly, Cotoneaster...)

Water summer and winter (e.g. a pond)

Twiggy bushes, hedges and trees for nesting & nest boxes

Their numbers have dropped by 25% in the last 10 years in part due to: use of fences in gardens (hedgehogs have large roaming areas), use of pesticides, tidy gardens without hibernation sites, roads, badgers (compete for the same food).

Small mammals
Voles & wood mice are an important part of the food chain, they are very susceptible to poison.

They feed on insects (e.g. moths) as well as shelter (winter & summer roosts)


Wildlife gardening forum – signup for their newsletter
How to make a wildlife meadow
RSPB gardening for wildlife book
Chris Baines’ - How to make a wildlife garden
Charles Flower -Where have all the flowers gone
Field Studies Council – Identification charts
Pam Lewis - Sticky Wicket  (note this garden is no longer open to the public)


Top tips from snowdrop expert Naomi Slade

Guest speaker Noami Slade at Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival 2018

Here are some top tips

Choose large flowered, vigorous cultivars especially if growing through ivy and other ground cover plants,  such as:

Galanthus ‘Cedric’s Prolific’

Galanthus ‘Anglesey Abbey’

Galanthus ‘Percy Picton’

Galanthus ‘Tribbett’

Galanthus ‘Magnet’

Galanthus ‘Merlin’

Galanthus ‘Fly Fishing’ – expensive

Galanthus ‘Greatorex Double’

Galanthus ‘S Arnott’ which is also considered to have the best scent


When to plant bulbs?

Contrary to popular belief planting ‘in the green’ can produce very disappointing results because snowdrops are very susceptible to root damage. If roots are damaged they do not re-grow that season. Therefore transplant bulbs ‘in the green’ very carefully.

It is better to plant fresh good quality bulbs from August – October.

Snowdrops do better in the ground rather than in pots. When grown in pots they will be susceptible to drying out, getting to hot or too cold. In pots they should be treated like bedding, feeding them from emergence every 2 weeks until the foliage starts to fade.

Plant snowdrops with aconintes, crocus, cyclamen, hellebores…

The doubles snowdrop Galanthus nivalis ‘Flore Pleno’ is great for mass effect in the garden due to its large flower and it naturalises very well.


Interesting fact

Snowdrop flowers open at 10 degrees Centrigrade to coincide with pollinating insects that is why flowers open like ballerina’s when brought indoors as cut flowers.


Welford Park near Newbury has a fantastic beech woodland full of snowdrops



Inspiration for patio gardening

Adam from Brimsmore gardens of the Gardens Group delivered an enthusiastic and comprehensive talk on patio gardening to us last night, here is a summary to help you get the most out of your garden.


The principles for patio gardening can be applied to:

  • a balcony
  • a roof garden
  • an underused corner of a garden

it is about choosing the right plant for the right place


Aims of patio gardening:

  • to get maximum impact (shape, colour)
  • maximum productivity (e.g. cordon fruit trees)
  • good structure and interest (e.g. shapes, colours, evergreens)


Types of containers, for example:

  • we were all fooled by a plastic pot that passed for a glazed earthenware one. Plastic pots do not last as long as clay ones (UV degradation) but have other advantages (e.g. they are lighter to move), remember to drill holes in the base
  • terracotta pots
  • fibre clay pots look like lead planters, are long lasting but can UV degrade
  • oak barrels
  • stone
  • hanging baskets & wall planters
  • bonzai


Growing media
peat & peat based composts will be phased out over in the future. A good peat free compost is Melcourt’s Sylvagrow (coir & composted bark)



  • Seasonal bedding a) autumn /winter (e.g. Primula, Iris reticulata, Narcissus ‘Jet Fire’). b) spring / summer (so much to choose from, tiny plug plants of Petunia are in the garden centre now).
  • Alpines offer a wide range of interest throughout the year, for example mossy saxifrages, variegated Arabis, Sempervivum (houseleek)…
  • Dwarf conifers such as Chamaecyparis ‘Rubicon,or ‘Teddy’. Podocarpus
  • Shrubs, for example Phormium ‘Black Velvet’, Astelia, Lavender, Convolvulus cneorum, Sarcococca ‘Winter Gem’, Nandina ‘Obsessed’, Pittosporum ‘Tom Thumb’, Hebe
  • Grasses such as Stipa tenuissima
  • Fruit – Raspberry ‘Ruby Beauty’ is a compact, self supporting and productive plant. Blueberries are perfect for containers since they need ericaceous compost. Morello cherry on a gisella rootstock or The bride pato cherry tree.
  • Climbers – choose dwarf clematis and an obelisk to use in the containers. Annual climbers such as Morning Glory produce non stop flowers through the summer
  • Vegetables – runner beans on a bamboo cane frame. Potatoes can grow well in 50litre pots, special potatoe bags or just a simple old compost sack


It is useful to think of pots and containers as a colander, everytime we water so nutrients get washed out of the pot, regular feeding is essential for healthy growth.

  • Vitax Q4 is a slow release fertilizer added to the compost at potting
  • slow release fertilizers often come as a ‘plug’ and can be pushed into established pots for summer food
  • instant feed (pick me ups) are done by watering on liquid feeds. They don’t last and have to be done through the growing season
  • mychorrhizal fungi come in formulation for ericaceous plants now also. They are either added to the soil around the plant roots at planting or can be watered on afterwards. These special fungi help plants to expand their root systems and to absorb more nutrients than usual.



In containers this is key as they tend to dry out rapidly in the summer or windy weather.

  • Water retaining granules can be added to the compost
  • a simple irrigation system set up and connected to a tap with a timer on it (bring timer in in the winter and remove the battery)
notes by Angela Morley  www.wildgardens.co.uk



Rose Pruning

A small group of us had a master class in rose pruning from Angela Morley on this chilly Saturday morning.

Key points

  • Remove the dead / diseased / damaged wood
  • Start at the bottom of the plant and thin out oldest shoots to create an open framework of branches
  • Then trim back shoots by approximately 1/3
  • Cut to an outward facing bud leaving a stump no more than 5mm (1/4″)
Full information on rose pruning at RHS


Christmas stars

Last night we met up to make willow stars, these were infilled with Phormium from the garden and reed mace from the pond.



by www.wildgardens.co.uk


21st Century Cottage Gardens

Sally Gregson spoke to us about ’21st Century Cottage Gardens’. She examined how our concept of cottage gardening has changed over the centuries and how it seems to be developing in the 21st century.

Challenging our vision

15th and 16th Century

The poor were living in abject poverty, gardens were for the wealthy.

Gardens tended to be planted with herbs, dye plants, plants for strewing on the floor… in formal layouts.
New plants were arriving from the Americas… the rich swapped plants amongst themselves.

 End 18th Century

Cottage gardens became more popular and more affordable to the middle classes. Fruit and vegetables were being grown alongside each other, garden produce shows emerged and displays such as ‘Auricula theatres’.

Formal carpet bedding displays were popular amongst the rich. These were very labour intensive and exploited the new tender plants being brought in by plant hunters.

 19th Century

Gardening continued to gain popularity, in part through the writings of William Robinson (his book ‘The Wild Garden’)

William challenged the fashion of carpet bedding, proposing a more naturalistic style – a style we tend to think of as the ‘cottage garden’. He proposed no colour scheme, just loose groups of plants with an element of self seeding.

Gertrude Jekyl, an artist who came to gardening in her 50′s. She understood colour and built on William’s ideas introducing colour schemes (her book ‘Colour in the Flower Garden’), Ref: Hestercombe gardens.

Vegetables were no longer grown alongside flowers since there was more mass production of food.

Vita Sackville West, another influential gardener whose garden at Sissinghurst is preserved. She was not a gardener but developed some of her own principles: “To be ruthlessness; if some thing is displeasing then change it. Not to be too tidy in a garden, allow some self-seeding, allow some wild flowers mixing with cultivated plants. Have an architectural plan, a colour plan and a seasonal plan”.

She created ‘Persian carpet’ effects of spring bulbs, planting large groups of different varieties to ensure successional flowering.

She favoured old roses (e.g. ‘Mme Alfred Carriere’) but also used new roses which looked interestingly old (e.g. Rosa ‘White Wings’)

Rosemary Very wrote many books promoting ‘cottage garden’ plants.

21st Century

Christopher Lloyd, garden writer and TV personality, made the garden at Great Dixter his own by experimenting with profuse yet structured plantings, he featured many bold experiments of form, colour and combination.

Keith Wiley (www.wileyatwildside.com) is challenging the ‘cottage garden’ style by “looking at the treasure trove of gardening ideas to be found in nature, from under our noses to far-flung corners of the globe. By allowing our observations of natural landscapes to inform our plantings, he believes that we can loosen the strait-jacket that long-established horticultural practices impose allowing the enormous creative potential, latent within most of us, the freedom to express itself.”

Julian & Isabel Bannerman developed the garden at Hanham Court near Bristol, they have a very romantic approach to gardening, lots of roses & scent and also sometimes use pictorial meadow seed mixes for special occasion impact www.pictorialmeadows.co.uk


Mary Payne promotes ‘prairie gardening’ as a way of reducing maintenance, this can be done on a small scale as in her own garden in Bristol.


 Sally Gregson runs a nursery at Wookey specialising in Hydrangea & Epimediummillcottageplants.co.uk


lupins need acid soil to thrive

Epimediums are good for dry shade


Ed Angela Morley www.wildgardens.co.uk

300 more planted

One of our members with the help of her sister, took it upon themselves to plant 300 snowdrops on one of Shepton’s grassy verges.  Thank you !

From Seed to Fork – Greg Morter

Greg’s talk was fascinating although very big numbers we are not used to dealing with.




In a nutshell:
Life in the sea evolved to live on land (about 700 million years ago)
Plants had to evolve to live on land before animals could
Early plants were similar to today’s liverworts and club mosses relying on water for survival
It took about 400 million years for plants to evolve sufficiently to live happily on land and produce seeds leading to the first herbivores
Humans diverge from their closest relatives about 6 million years ago
Agriculture only dates back about 15000 years

A bit more detail:

Plants emerged from the sea about 700 million years ago and the problems they had to solve in order to survive on land were:

  • nutrition (in the sea they just absorbed this direct from the water)
  • drying out
  • gravity
  • reproduction (done in the sea by releasing male and female spores into the water)

To overcome these problems early plants had to develop:

  • waxy cuticles to reduce water loss
  • stomata to breath whilst reducing water loss
  • rhizome (early roots)
  • vascular systems to transport fluids around the plant

It wasn’t until plants evolved to produce seeds (about 300 million years ago) that the first herbivores emerged. The first seed producing plants were Ginkgo & Monkey Puzzle trees (both primitive conifers). It was about this time also (Carboniferous era 359-299million years ago) that our coal supplies were laid down in tropical forests (all still close to water), dragonflies had up to 1m wing spans and millipedes up to 2m long.

130 million years ago, conifers got marginalised as flowering plants started to emerge, the earliest of which include Magnolias. This is a significant point of evolution since most of the plants we eat are flowering / seed bearing plants. Bees, butterflies & ants emerged at this time also therefore solving the pollination issues.

Early plants protected themselves from grazing animals by producing:

  • spines
  • toxins (e.g. caffeine in coffee, cannabis, quinine)
  • nut shells

70 million years ago grasses evolved however it takes several million years for grassland became more dominant. Man has built his civilization on grasses.  Humans diverge from their closest relatives about 6 million years ago.

15000 years ago agriculture emerged (from the former hunter gathering)

Greg described ‘Agriculture as evolution going backwards’. For example:

  • Plants protect themselves by being ‘bitter’ whilst man selects less bitter plants.
  • Man selects plants that do not shed their seed easily / over a period of time
  • Man wants plants that germinate easily whereas plants tend to have complicated germination requirements to help protect them from germinating at the wrong time of year
  • Man selects for large seeds (as big as possible where as a plant is best producing the smallest seeds possible)

It has been discovered that ancient civilizations tended to be less healthy after the shift from hunter / gathering life styles to agriculture. On average the former diet contains approximately 360 species whilst the later only 10 species.

Greg also runs ‘universe walks’, 2 day walks ‘walking the story of the universe’


A summary of the evolution of plants over the last 450million years and how we have adapted them in the last 100 years since the agricultural revolution. I found a link online which lists the evolution of life on Earth which will save me millions of years of typing and less risk of errors on my part:



Planting 1000′s of snowdrops

The Shepton Mallet Horticultural Society have organised the planting of more than 130,000 snowdrops this autumn.

On Saturday, volunteers planted the orchard at Showering’s Cider Mill with 10,000 bulbs.  The 1st Shepton Mallet Beaver Group lent a hand despite the drizzle.  We are grateful to Showerings Cider Mill for sponsoring this.

Also this week , 7000 snowdrops have been planted in a 700 square foot drift in Collett Park to commemorate next year’s 700th year of the granting of the market charter for Shepton Mallet.



Harvest Show Extravaganza

Fabulous entries at last night’s harvest show.  We are a very relaxed group and use the ‘people’s choice judging’ system however the level of care shown in all of the entries reveals the strong competitive streak in our members.  Here is a taste of Shepton Mallet Horticultural Society’s 2017 produce show


Beautiful baskets

Vegetable animals

Bishops Palace Wells

The appalling weather abated a little allowing us a very enjoyable visit. Our guide was very entertaining and full of interesting facts and stories, far too many to jot down here.

The Palace dates from 1206 and the grounds ‘enjoy’  a very high water table due to all the springs it contains. However this is not ideal for a garden and it was Bishop Law (1761-1845 ) who decided to transform the ruins into a garden. To overcome the high water table problem, he imported tons of soil from the Mendips  to raise the whole garden area by 1 metre.

A formidable black walnut tree  (Juglans nigra) stands on the croquet lawn (outside the cafe), this was planted in 1855 and has survived a lightening strike. These walnuts are so hard that squirrels leave them alone and they are highly prized in America.

James Cross, the head gardener, had a blank canvas when he arrived at the Palace and he has created magnificent new borders during recent years. He is assisted by two other gardeners and between 15-20 volunteers, the grounds are immaculate.





A very warm welcome from Rugg Farm

Last night’s glorious balmy weather was perfect for this garden visit where we were wowed by the organic metal work of Andy Stevenson (http://www.andystevensongardensculpture.co.uk/) and a beds full of splendid plants (complete with labelled planting plans).

Some plants that caught my attention included:

Melica uniflora ‘Albida’ – dainty ornamental grass
Clematis ‘Betty Corning’
Nepeta ‘Blue Dragon’ – very upright with large dark blue flowers
Verbena ‘Bampton’
Cenolophium denudatum – a white umberlifera for shady beds
Deschampsia ‘Northern Lights’ – another dainty ornamental grass (medium height)
Penisetum virdescens – dainty ornamental grass
Albizia julibrissin – dainty exotic looking small tree
Clematis ‘Alionushka’ / ‘Polish Spirit’ / ‘Margot Koster’ / ‘Countess of Albemarle’
Teucrium hircanicum ‘Purple Tails’



Notes by Angela Morley www.wildgardens.co.uk

Snowdrop chipping



It is that time of year again, time to ‘chip’ or ‘twin scale’ Galanthus ‘Magnet’ bulbs whilst they are dormant.  Phillipa and I cut up approximately 20 bulbs creating about 400 chips, these are now in a sealed plastic bag filled with slightly moist compost/vermiculite mix stored at 20 oC for 12 weeks.

Collett Park 2017

We had a fantastic day at Collett Park, with a huge number of superb plants to sell, all grown by our members.  The quality of our plants was better than ever and we even had comments asking us which garden centre we were from!  Colour plant labelling continues to be very important and Denise produced some lovely labels for her donated plants.  Even more important I noticed that members confidence in actively selling and helping customers has grown too.

We sold most of the plants and those few that did not sell were donated to Field House in Shepton Mallet for the residents’ gardening group.  Our plant stall is one of the highlights of the year in our calender and money raised goes towards running our club and subsidising the cost of visits and speakers for our members.

We also had a separate Snowdrop Festival gazebo selling our lovely personalised bags, post cards, poetry books and a raffle, the raffle prize was a gardening hamper donated by Dobbies garden centre.  Money raised here goes towards buying snowdrop bulbs to plant in Shepton Mallet.  http://www.sheptonsnowdropfestival.org.uk


Tintinhull gardens

We were shown around the gardens by Clare the tour guide and Megan, new head gardener of 8 months.

Tintinhull garden is a small arts and crafts garden set out around a beautiful 17th century house.

The garden was first laid out by Dr. Salisbury Murray Price in the early 1900′s, he created the stone flagstone paths and topiary, linking the garden paths and vistas to the house.

Phyllis Reiss (1933-1962) developed the garden structure and planting. Inspired by Hidcote Manor, she created of a series of ‘garden rooms’ using vistas and focal points. Phyllis aimed to create a space of peace and tranquility.

The garden was further developed by Penelope Hobhouse who was a tenant during the 1980′s.

Today, new head gardener Megan, is leading a major restoration of the garden borders, replanting more in the style of Phyllis than Penelope.

Eagle garden – blues & creams. Big tubs of Lilium regale beneath bedroom windows (despite the bane of lily beetle which is controlled by hand rather than chemical).

Middle garden – mixed shrubs for foliage and texture. Scilla planted underneath the huge holm oaks (dry shade & honey fungus problem). Key plants that caught our eye here were beautiful double pink and double purple forms of Rosa spinosissma, Spirea thunbergii ‘Aurea’, which contrasted well with Cotinus ‘Royal Purple’.

Fountain garden – a white garden which is believed to have been the inspiration for Rita Sackville West’s infamous white garden at Sissinghurt (Rita & Phyllis being friends). Phyllis’ was not a trained horticulturist, she planted for ‘decoration’ and ‘emotional effect’ and would use swathes of white forget-me-not which were considered a weed.

Examples of plants in this garden included: Digitalis, Campanula, Astrantia, Anenome japonica, Geranium, Penstemon, Aconitum, Hosta, Rosa ‘Iceberg’

Kitchen garden – this was a key part of the garden which was developed by Penelope Hobhouse, making it beautiful and something that wasn’t to be hidden away. This is a no dig, organic garden with 4 tons of compost added this year (alternate years mushroom compost is added).  https://www.charlesdowding.co.uk/

A lovely golden herb planting of golden marjoram, green sage, rosemary, thyme, chives & chamomile.

Walk through / vista lined with Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’, Penstemon ‘Garnet’ and roses

Pool garden & summerhouse – Purple elders, white peonies, foxgloves, roses, Stachyls lanata, Dahlia merkii

Cedar court – a combination of honey fungus and dry shade create a challenge for planting beneath the Magnolia trees, Megan recommends Dryopteris erythrosa, Omphalodes, Disporum,Epimedium. However there were several other plants in these borders which were being trialled as they are not normally grown in dry shade (e.g. Gillenia, Tricyrtis, Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’)

A stunning border of Iris siberica ‘Flight of the Butterfly’ & Allium christophii lined a path. Once the Iris foliage dies back Stipa tenuissima will be added.

In this garden the herbaceous borders have been newly replanted with Allium atropurpureum, Alllium ‘Purple Sensation’, Stipa gigantea, blue Iris, Salvia nemorosa, Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’, Miscanthus, Aconitum, puple Sedum, around existing shrubs of Physocarpus ‘Diabolo’, Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’, Cotinus ‘Royal Purple’, golden hop,

Other plants that caught our eye:
Allium ‘Atropurpureum’
Voodoo lily – Dracunculus vulgaris
Cornus alternifolia ‘Argentea’


Notes by Angela Morley   www.wildgardens.co.uk

Snowdrop seeds

The big fat green seed pods have quickly ripened to paper-thin brown shells which easily burst open revealing 3-6 fresh seeds some of which seem to be germinating.

Pot up seeds, keep moist but do not over water.  It will take 3-4 years to achieve a flowering plant.


AGM 2017

We met at Chrisi’s house for the AGM and were treated to a tour of her wonderful garden.  Note the ‘dead hedging’  in the background, a great way to make use of woody prunings whilst creating wildlife habitat (this is the wildlife garden).

Snowdrop planting in Shepton Mallet

Saturday 8th April saw two teams from Shepton Mallet Horticultural Society head out into the town centre to plant 1000′s of snowdrops ‘in the green’.

The church yard team were joined by the church volunteers as part of their annual ‘spring cleaning’ day.

A range of different varieties were planted whilst the common bulbs were donated by local residents and supporters of the festival.

We are holding a second planting morning on Saturday 22nd April, meet  10am in Tesco car park opposite Screwfix.


Walk – Boden

A long walk in the beautiful woods, courtesy of Lindsey and Christopher Bond

Snowdrop drop off point for the Snowdrop Festival

A couple of people turned up today to drop off some of their donated snowdrops for the planting that Shepton Horticultural Society are undertaking on Saturday 8th April.

It is not too late to donate snowdrops from your garden to the project – there will be a drop off point at Tesco (Shepton Mallet) Saturday 25th & Sunday 26th March.  Please do bring us some snowdrops if you can spare them or even help with the planting on Saturday 8th April (meet in the Market Place 10.30am).

End of Festival ’17- start of planning Festival ’18

Taking in the planters, great team work by our members and – so many of the public came up to us to express their delight in the planters and how they wish they could be out all year round, the comments made all the hard work worth while.

Propagation – a talk by Adam from the Gardens group

Adam’s illustrated talk attracted a record crowd and he did not disappoint. Adam has worked with the Gardens Group for the last 12 years however prior to that he worked on his family wholesale nursery where he learnt everything there was to know about raising hardy shrubs from cuttings for the garden centre industry. He illustrated his talk with a flip chart of A1 colour photographs of the nursery and different stages in the propagation process plus real life plants and demonstrations of how to take cuttings and formative pruning.


Advantages – cheap, most annuals are easy, F1 hybrids produce identical plants
Disadvantages – slow to produce a plant of a good size, many trees and shrubs have complicated germination requirements, can get variation in plants (this may be desirable or not) from risk of cross pollination.
Examples:   Holly seed requires 20oC to germinate whilst Ash seed requires 2oC

Vegetative propagation
(i.e. cuttings)

This is a vast subject and ranges from simple methods to more elaborate ones! Generally propagation from cuttings produces larger plants faster than from seed, all plants are identical however a little more skill may be involved.
All stock plant (mother plant) material must be:

a) pest & disease free
b) non flowering
c) cuttings are best taken in early morning (more water in the plant – plants are more turgid)

d) all tools and propagation equipment must be clean (e.g. use Jeyes Fluid)

1 Soft wood cuttings

These are taken during the growing season (April – June/ July), soft shoots approximately 5cm long. These root fast but require a plastic bag over them to help reduce excessive water loss.

2 Semi ripe wood cuttings

Adam takes these all year round in preference to soft wood cuttings (however you will find that the text books say that these are taken from about late July – September once the base of the new shoots starts to get a bit woody). Adam’s test for selecting the right shoots for is:

Soft tip that has grown during the summer with a slightly hardened base of the shoot (test by bending the cutting 180 degrees back on itself, if it springs back nicely then this is perfect)

a) Cuttings are approximately 8cm long (1.5 inches)

b) Remove the lower leaves from the stem

c) Trim base of cutting diagonally just below a node (all tools must be clean)

d) Remove the very tip of the cutting (the top 2 soft leaves would probably wilt otherwise)

e) Fill a multi-cell tray with seed & cutting compost (has a higher peat content and sand content than multi-purpose compost which is much coarser). Cuttings (and seeds) do not require any fertiliser for rooting (germinating) as they use their own energy supplies for this.

f) Insert small leaved cuttings (e.g. Hebe, Buxus) into the side of the cells in the tray as you will be able to get another cutting on the other side. For large leaved cuttings (e.g. Laurel, also known as Prunus laurocerassus or spotted laurel, Aucuba japonica) place cutting in the centre of the cell. Push cuttings in so that the two remaining leaves are just above the compost level.

g) Large leaved species have their leaves cut in half to reduce water loss from the cutting which has no roots to support big leaves anymore

h) Rooting hormone is only used on difficult species such as Daphne and Viburnum

i) Place tray in propagator although Adam’s nursery have large custom made propagation benches (thick polystyrene sheets or sand beds with heating cables laid (easy to make at home!)). Water trays. Cover trays with thin clear plastic sheeting (winter) or milky plastic (summer as it provides a bit of shading) ensuring that the plastic sheet is not touching the cuttings. Label the trays

j) Rooting should take place within 10-12 weeks depending on the season and whether it is a heated propagation bench. The plastic sheeting can be removed during the daytime after about 2 weeks

k) Harden off cuttings for 4-6 weeks, this means removing the plastic sheeting completely and removing all sources of heat

l) The young plants will now be ready to be potted up (e.g. into a 10cm pot) and they should be trimmed to encourage branching to create a nice bushy plant. Use a fertilizer in the compost as now we want the cuttings to grow fast, Rootgrow (mycorrhiza) is also recommended. Place under cover in an unheated polytunnel or cold frame allowing plenty of air flow during the day to reduce diseases (e.g. Botrytis / grey mould).

m) Once the 10cm pot is full of root (about 8 weeks) these can be potted up into 2 or 3 litre pots, which when rooted through, will be ready for sale to garden centres.

3 Hardwood cuttings

These are taken during the winter months (November – February) from 1 or 2 year old wood.

They root slower than soft or semi ripe wood cuttings and are therefore bigger cuttings (e.g. about pencil thickness and size).

Straight cut at base below a node, slanting cut at top just above a node (this helps you to remember which is the top and bottom of your cutting!)

Most deciduous shrubs (e.g. dogwoods (Cornus), willow (Salix), Hydrangea, Ribes, Forsythia and hedging plants (e.g. privet (Ligustrum) are propagated in this way

Plant the cuttings either individually or in bundles outside in pots, in a sand bed or directly into the soil. Plant ½ to 2/3 deep so that the cuttings do not dry out. Label the cuttings

If rooting in bundles, pot up as soon as roots appear.

4 Division

Suitable for most herbaceous perennials (e.g. Aster, Iris, Geranium, Agapanthus…), all new clumps of roots must have some shoots.
Usually done in the spring or the autumn after flowering

Cut up like a cake with an old bread knife every 3-4 years (or use two forks to split clump apart) this keeps the plants young and vigorous, keeps your borders in balance with out some plants taking over, also gives you the opportunity to do some serious weeding!

5 Layering

This will produce only one of two plants depending upon the technique you use (e.g. tip layering (this is what brambles do) or serpentine layering). In this technique the plant’s root system provides energy for the cutting to grow roots, once rooting has taken place then the ‘rooted sections’ are cut away and planted in their new position (or potted up).

Suitable for plants with long bendy stems (e.g. dogwood, gooseberry, blackcurrant, Forsythia, Cotoneaster), many shrubs do this in the garden on their own (e.g. Cotoneaster)

Bend down a shoot to ground level and make a nick in the bark just below a bud, pin down into the soil (there must be good contact with the soil) or place a rock on the stem to weigh it down. You can also pin into a pot but this is a bit trickier and the soil in the pot will need to be kept moist.

Serpentine layering is where every alternate bud is ‘nicked’ and pinned to the ground.

a) Aerial roots – Hydrangea seemanii, Hydrangea petiolaris & Ivy produce aerial roots as they climb, these can be bend over into a pot or the soil where they will root and create new plants that can be detached

b) Air layering – This is used on plants that are difficult to propagate by other means (e.g. Rhododendron, Azalea, Camelia (I have used it on house plants e.g. Scheflera and rubber plants). It is also a good technique if you are moving house and want to take a bit of an established plant from the garden with you – or for very tall growing house plants.

In Spring or Autumn (when plant is not in flower), select a 1 or 2 year old stem, make a small cut to create a ‘flap’ immediately below / just touching a bud. Choose a position close to the top of the branch / stem so that the new plant will have enough roots to support the top of the plant.

Prise open this flap, apply some rooting hormone and insert some moss into the gap, then wrap small amounts of moss around this wounded area until you have created a ball the size of a golf or tennis ball. Wrap it all up with some clear (or black) polythene using all weather tape. The aim is to keep the air in there but to keep the weather out.

Potting should take place after about 8-12 weeks. Never remove the moss. Once rooted, cut away from the mother plant and pot up.

6 Grafting

This is a big subject and requiring skill. Reasons for grafting include:
a) Plants that do not grow vigorously on their own roots (e.g. Magnolia ‘Yellow Bird’)
b) To control the vigour of plants (e.g. MM106, M9, M26, M25 apple rootstocks)

c) to control the shape of plants (e.g. top grafting of a prostrate plant onto a straight stem creates a weeping tree (e.g. Kilmarnock willow or weeping rose).
d) combine a nice bark with a pretty flowering top (e.g. a red cherry bark with pretty flowering top)


 talk by Adam, manager at Brimsmore Gardens

notes by Angela Morley www.wildgardens.co.uk

Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival 2017

We have had a very exciting and successful first snowdrop festival celebrating the life and work of James Allen.   We would like to thank everyone who has supported us in so ​many ways, with their time, goodwill & deep pockets.

Our sincere thanks go to them and everyone involved. We are proud to be part of this great community


Here are some snap shots from the festival.

Snowdrop Poetry Competition Shortlist

We have great pleasure in announcing the winners of the two junior age categories and the shortlist of poems for the adult category.
All the people listed have been invited to read their poems at the Poetry and Photographic Competitions Prize Giving on Saturday 18th February at No. 10 Town St, Shepton Mallet at 15:30.

Come along and hear some fantastic work and see the photographic display and all the other poetry entries.

WINNER – Up to 11
Spring is Coming – Harry Gregory

WINNER – 12 to 16
Winter Flower – Grace Foy

A New Year – Jim Bennet
A Patch of Earth Has Been Prepared – Estelle Goodwin
A Warm Coming – Mantze York
Candlemas February 1842 – Melanie Greenwood
Galanthamine – Felicity Powell
How To Plant Snowdrops – Athol Williams
Snowdrops – Matt Lovegrove
Sonnet Snow Sense – Julian Bishop
Tell Her That Happiness – Dana Littlepage-Smith
The Flower Preserver – Phil Vernon
The Snowdrop – Rosalind Teesdale-Ives
The Snowdrop Wood – Irene Benson
The Wall – Phil Vernon
Triptych: Snowdrops – Anthony Watts
Winter’s Good-bye – James Padden

Our warmest thanks go out to all the entrants of this inaugural competition – we have had a tremendous response, and a very high standard of work, which has been a joy to share.

If you would like to attend the event please let us know.

Best wishes,

Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival

Snowdrop Festival preparations

Are you ready for the first Shepton Snowdrop Festival?  We are!

Friday 17th, Saturday 18th & Sunday 19th February , for full details visit:      http://www.sheptonsnowdropfestival.org.uk/


Plants for winter interest

1 Edgeworthia chrysantha

Native to woodlands in the Himalayas and China
Closely related to Daphne
Strong clove scented flowers on bare stems in late winter
Used in the far-east for production of high quality paper for many centuries
Plant in a sheltered spot

2 Lonicera fragrantissima

Flowers November – March, scented, easy, 5-6 foot shrub. Sun or semi shade

3 Mahonia ‘Charity’

Yellow scented flowers late winter. Sun or semi shade. 6 foot + evergreen

4 Sarcococca confusa

Small white scented flowers February . Sun or semi shade. 4-5 foot evergreen shrub

5 Iris unguicularis

Low growing perennial, evergreen leaves, large blue flowers all winter – sun

6 Hepatica nobilis

Very low growing, evergreen attractive foliage, bright blue flowers late winter/ early spring – shade
The woodland floor in the Pyrenees is covered in these lovely plants.

7 Cyclamen coum

Very low growing, attractive foliage, fink flowers late winter/ early spring – shade / semi shade

8 Arabis

9 Begenia cordifolia

10 Pulmonaria

11 Helleborus



Festival radio interview

Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival on the radio
You can hear the programme on Fri 3 Feb at 9.00 am with repeats on Sun 5 & Mon 6 at the same time.
Fm 107.1 or www.glastonburyfm.co.uk

Eat your garden plants – talk by Chris from Pennard Plants

Chris Smith of Pennard Plants spent an evening telling us about all sorts of new and overlooked common edible plants that we can grow in our gardens. This was an interesting evening which left us all inspired to try something new…

Grow perennial plants, particularly edible ones – this saves time

Chris recommends some unusual plants that we might not think of eating BUT DO NOT EAT IF YOU ARE NOT SURE OF THE IDENTIFICATION


Berberis darwinii – blue berries early in the season. In fact all Berberis berries are edible

Mahonia aquifolium – related to the Berberis, the blue berries are eaten widely in USA, good in jam

Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata) – herbaceous perennial, very easy to confuse with poisonous hedgerow plants. Leaves and stems (but all parts edible) can be added to rhubarb it is not a sweetener but removes the tartness of the rhubarb requiring 1/3 less sugar to be added.

Many Alliums – Wild garlic, 3 cornered leek (invasive), chives (chive leaf tea is a good fungicide as it is high in sulphur), Egyptian ‘walking onion’ (bulbils grow atop long stem), Allium wallichi (good in shade), everlasting onion (doesn’t die back in the winter like Welsh onion)

Perennial kales
a) Dorbentons – low growing
b) Taunton – big plant, less prone to slugs, snails & butterfly, mulch annually, good all year round

Jerusalem artichoke

Try parsnip cake, beetroot brownies, courgette cake..

The young shoots of Soloman’s seal taste a bit like asparagus

Daylily flowers or steam the young shoots

Fuchsia fruit when fully ripe can taste like morello cherry

Magnolia petals can be used to infuse vinegar or oil with sweet fragrance

Chinese artichokes – members of the mint family, easy to grow, will spread, fry with butter,hardy

Oca – Oxalis family, only just hardy, dig up and eat the largest tubers, replant the smaller ones chit in March / April, plant out May. Can eat the leaves also but don’t eat too many. Widely eaten in New Zealand and Asia: boil or roast

Mashua – relative of the Nasturtium. Different colours, spicy flavour, can eat leaves & flowers also. Climbs to 5-6 foot, quite hardy,easy, very productive

Yacon – 5-6 foot high, very very productive, like a dahlia dig up after the frost. Again like a dahlia you cannot grow it from the tuber rather a stem base where the buds are. Tubers are crisp & crunchy and keep til May. Can eat raw, tastes of pears, good infruit salad or roast, or make a syrup (very expensive to buy this syrup). Contains Inulin, a sweetness that the body cannot absorb therefore it is low calorie.

Szechuan pepper – very spicy (the flavour is in the pink coating rather than the black seed) very hardy shrub 5-6 foot high. Very productive, eat fresh or dry, difficult to propagate

Raspberry, wine berry…

Blue berry ‘Sunshine Blue’ – fruits over a long period (until November), ericaceous, productive

Honey berry- a member of the shrubby honeysuckle family (Lonicera caerulea var. Kamtschatica) flowering all winter, fruits in June, very hardy as it is from Siberia. You need two plants to ensure pollination and fruit set.

Ugni – last crop can be picked in September and kept several months in the fridge. Tastes of strawberry, makes good jam, very easy, can get a bit damaged by the cold so grow in warm sheltered spot.

Arona (choke berry) – very hardy, lots of white foamy flowers, black berries, high in vitamins & anit oxidants, a bit tart so good mixed in with other berries

Eleagnus – Shrub. all produce edible berries in the autumn. Eleagnus umbelatus has the largest fruit. This is also a nitrogen fixing plant so good for the garden fertility

Amelanchier – small tree with attractive flowers, spring & autumn colour. In Canada Amelanchier alnifolia is grown for its larger berries – taste like green apples


Medlar – eat when ripe not rotten. Makes good jelly, add to puddings instead of dates, very productive

Chaenomeles – the garden ornamental quince – hard fruit make good jelly

Crab apples – ‘Wisley crab’ produces fruit the size of an apple, dark red with red flesh

Some interesting potato varieties to try:
Violetta – purple flesh
Pink Gypsy – pink & white markings
Inca Belle – cooks in 1/3 of the time of a ‘normal’ potato, roasts in 20 mins

For full details of these plants and their availability are on www.pennardplants.com  They will also be available at the
Pennard plants Potato day 22nd January Caryford Community Hall, Castle Cary 10.30-1.30 for over 90 different potato varieties! 

Further reading 
‘Taste of the unexpected’ by Mark Diacono


notes by Angela Morley   www.wildgardens.co.uk


Christmas quiz – a cracking evening

If you didn’t make it to the Shepton Mallet Hort Soc quiz last night, have a go…

Christmas Quiz 2016

 ROUND 1 – On Dowding (multi-choice)

  • Always plant on… a waxing moon, a waning moon, a full moon, a new moon, doesn’t matter

  • When sowing salad crops, plant… only one seed in each module, several seeds in each module, one seed in a toilet roll, several seeds in a toilet roll, always sow direct into the soil

  • Always water… in the night, water in the evening, water at midday, water in the morning, water when they’re slightly wilting

 ROUND 2 – The Wrong Talk by John Negus (multi-choice)

  • Which of the following does John use on his Hostas to keep slugs at bay?
    Garlic, nematode treatment, copper filings, bran mulch, WD40

  • Which vegetable has a cultivar named ‘Red Rum’?
    Bush Tomato, Capsicum Pepper, Carrot, Winter Squash, Runner Bean

  • What is ‘Pitmaster Duchess’?
    A pox-ridden dowager, a propagation tool, a lawnmower, a species of snail, an edible pear

 ROUND 3 – Who You Calling A Burke? Mike Burke of Castle Gardens

  • Skimmia, Camelias and Pieris all like… a little cuddle, alkaline soil, acidic soil, hard pruning in spring, manual fertilization

  • Campanula, clematis and lavender all like… full sun on their roots, acidic soil, cutting back hard in summer, alkaline soil, Monty Don

  • Mike loves a super-evergreen, a plant that not only has year-round foliage but flowers too. Which of these is a super-evergreen?
    Mahonia japonica, Viburnum tinus, Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Variegatus’, Sarcococca hookeriana, Nandina domestica 

 ROUND 4 – Greengrocer Knowledge

  • What is pomology the study of?

  • What fruit comes in varieties Oro Blanco, Ruby Red, Thompson and Pink?

  • Which fruit has main varieties slicing, burpless, and pickling?

  • Apples, pears, plums, apricots, and peaches are members of what family of flowering plants?

  • Often used in salads, what has the botanical name nasturtium officinale?

ROUND 5 – Dead Common

  • What are these plants’ common names and what links them?

    • Ilex aquifolium

    • Picea abies

    • Hedera helix

    • Helleborus niger

 ROUND 6 – General Knowledge

  • Containing the temples of Apollo and Flora, which garden is sited at the source of a 61-mile river and was created by Henry Hoare II “the Magnificent” in the 1740s?

  • Which flower is also the goddess of the rainbow in Greek Mythology?

  • Most species of eucalyptus are native to which country?

  • Who is the patron saint of gardeners, horticulture, florists, brides and brewers?

  • What is a whip?


  • Name the cynical snail in The Magic Roundabout?

  • Who popped her head over the garden wall in Hector’s House?

  • Parsley the Lion starred in which children’s TV programme?

  • Who was the first lead presenter of Gardeners’ World?

  • Bill and Ben were flower pot men, but who was their herbaceous friend?

  • Who was Diarmuid Gavin’s co-presenter on Home Front?

  • In which series did gardening sleuths Felicity Kendall and Pam Ferris star?

ROUND 8 – Who’s Wearing What?

  • What colour top was Ian wearing as he pointed at the Clematis rectus in Mells? Red, blue or green?

  • Sally wore a jumper the colour of which vegetable at the snowdrop propagation evening? Beetroot, Lettuce or Potato?

  • Lucy won Wendy’s Snowdrop cake from the Collett Festival Raffle – was her top the colour of a snowdrop’s leaves, stamens or petals?

  • At the AGM Zena’s scarf was the colour of which of these roses? Munstead Wood (Crimson), Lady Emma Hamilton (Peach) or Graham Thomas (Yellow)

  • Were Charles Dowding’s trousers the colour of summer morning sunbeams, a wintery white landscape or autumn storm clouds?

Quiz by Simon & Dominic

Snowdrop project – new website

The Snowdrop festival now has its own website along with full details of the poetry competition and the photographic competition and entry details. www.sheptonsnowdropfestival.org.uk


Another mass planting in Shepton Mallet

Shepton Mallet Horticultural Society braved the fog to plant 10,000 snowdrop bulbs on the roundabout at Tesco’s Townsend store. “We are so grateful to everyone who braved the weather to come and help with the planting, and to Tesco for their generous help and support (great coffee and cookies). The snowdrops will be the first flowers to bloom at the end of winter and in the years to come they will multiply to cover the ground. This will become a great community asset for the town”.

The Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival will take place in February 2017.

 Photo by June MacFarlane

Snowdrops at Whitstone School

Ann and Angela planted 1000 snowdrops on the roundabout at Whitstone school this morning.  Despite the slightly damp weather and drips from the cedar tree, the soil was surprisingly dry.  They lifted turves of grass with a spade, placed  the bulbs beneath then flipped back each turf, it will be interesting to see how the bulbs grow.  Sheets of plastic were used when lifting the turves so as to make it a clean and tidy job.

Team work

Potting the last 5000 snowdrops for the High Street display next February.

This weekend two of our members planted 2000 bulbs of Galanthus nivalis around the Allen Memorial

Snowdrop awareness day

Last Saturday we held an Awareness Day at Tesco in Shepton Mallet to explain our Snowdrop project to the public and we sold 100′s of Snowdrop bulbs  as part of the drive to plant snowdrops all over the town.

It was a great day, we felt we were able to raise awareness of the project before the Bags of Help vote and it was great to see how interested people were. We are very grateful to Tesco for their support.  The Shepton Snowdrops will be a real asset to the town and as they multiply each year they will become a huge attraction in February.

Snowdrop ‘Magnet’ chips



We propagated Galanthus ‘Magnet’ last June and kept the chips in a sealed plastic bag of very slightly moist compost / vermiculite mix, in the dark at about 20 degrees Centigrade (I kept my bag in my office wrapped in bubble wrap in a closed cardboard box).


Now is the time to pot up the propagules, the new bulbils are clearly visible between the ‘onion like’ fleshy leaves of the original bulb.


Pot up in a tray of compost / vermiculite mix,  bulbs can be placed close but not touching.  Insert so that the bulbil is just covered by compost and the fleshy leaf is protruding above the surface (this fleshy leaf will help to sustain the bulbil until the first leaf grows).  So be careful not to detatch the bulbil from the leaf segment.

Label and cover with a very thin layer of vermiculite or perlite of horticultural sand.  Water once and leave in a cold frame or cold greenhouse or an unheated porch.  It will not need watering again until the green shoots grow, at which point you could put the tray outside in a sheltered area.

Be careful to not let the bulbils dry out  nor to overwater them.


Mass snowdrop planting

Yesterday Shepton Mallet Horticultural Society undertook their first mass planting of snowdrops on the  Rock Flock (Sheep) Roundabout with the support of Peter and Jo from The Landscape Group.

We planted about 30,000 snowdrop bulbs and we have plans to plant another 30,000 around the town this autumn. It goes without saying that many of us are suffering from a few aches and pains today.

Bristol botanic gardens


We were welcomed by volunteer guide Charmaine on a sunny autumn morning outside one of the University’s halls of residence. The botanic gardens are this year celebrating their 10th year on this splendid site which has a strong backbone of mature trees but otherwise the garden had to be created from scratch.

The garden serves as a world wide educational resource, conserves rare species; it is laid out by category (e.g. Pollination / Chinese herbal medicine / Evolution / Habitat: e.g. garigue, maquis / Phrenology…) rather than design.

Indeed this was an educational visit and our vocabulary was expanded with beautiful botanical words.

  meeting Charmaine our guide

Evolutionary dell

Pre-angiosperm* plants such as ferns, mosses and lichens are the focus of this area – plants that reproduce with spores rather than seeds. The oldest angiosperm is the Magnolia.

This area was also planted with Wollemia nobilis, a coniferous tree that was thought to be extinct until it was discovered in an isolated ravine in Australia about 15 years ago. Through modern micropropagation methods this is now widely available across the globe.


Willow sculptures adorn the garden.

Garigue & Maquis – Stone pines, think of stony soil in Greece – lots of grey green foliage plants, the colour protects them from photosynthesizing too much and therefore more resistant to drought. Also the oils in their leaves help to retain moisture (e.g lavender, rosemary, sage, thymes, Cistus, Phlomis, globe artichoke, hellebores).

Our visit was rounded off with a visit to the greenhouses: warm temperate (unheated) (e.g. xerophytes such as cacti), sub tropical and tropical with many epiphytes (plants that grow on others e.g. orchids).


Angiosperm – flowering plants

Phrenology – study of plant plant families. DNA identification accounts for recent changes in plant names as scientists discover true DNA links between plant families

Phototropism – plants behaviour when it grows towards the light

notes by Angela Morley www.wildgardens.co.uk


Funding secured – Tesco Bags of Help

Shepton Mallet Horticultural Society are delighted to have secured funding from Tesco’s Bags of Help initiative for the Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Project (see our snowdrop page Snowdrop Project)

Tesco has teamed up with Groundwork on its Bags of Help initiative in hundreds of regions across England and Wales. Bags of Help offers community groups and projects in each of Tesco’s 416 regions across the UK a share of revenue generated from the 5p charge levied on single-use carrier bags. The public will now vote in store from 26 September to 9 October on who should receive the £12,000, £10,000 and £8,000 awards. In total, there is over £12.5 million up for grabs.

Vote in Tesco stores from 26 Sept – 9 Oct to help us secure a Tesco #BagsofHelp grant

“We are extremely excited about our nomination for this award and very grateful to Tesco for this generous initiative. This funding will allow us to get off to a flying start with the Snowdrop Project which will be a community asset for years to come. By early February, the first snowdrops will emerge and we will be well underway. We look forward to a great display to honour the memory of Shepton resident James Allen”.

Please visit us our stand on Saturday 22nd October 10am – 4pm at Tesco (Shepton Mallet) to learn more, to purchase snowdrop bulbs and to get involved.



Harvest show 2016

Our annual harvest show once again attracted some fine entries, with easy and fun categories.  The event was well attended however many people did not submit anything into the show.  Entries are free to members but despite this entries were down on previous years which meant that we had some embarrassed faces winning more than one category.   Each winner received a small bag of tulip bulbs.

Best bunch of flowers 
 the worst 
best apples
best tomatoes 
best bunch of herbs 
best plums
best squash

best dahlias

best onions

We aim to be an all inclusive and encouraging group with a light hearted approach to categories and people’s choice voting, so do join in and start planning for next year.  Let us know which categories you would like, for 2017 we are currently considering:

5 fine tomatoes (can be mixed)
1 beautiful beetroot
2 best beans (any type)
2 splendid carrots
1 beautiful flower in a vase
3 gorgeous dahlias in a vase (all the same)
3 hens eggs
1 best squash
beautiful bunch of herbs
4 plump raspberries

…  and maybe more to be decided


Summer garden produce ‘Bakeoff’

This year’s bake-off was as much about the food as the growing of it.  Lester, our newest member, hosted the event on his allotment where we were treated to a fine lesson in creative gardening without breaking your back.

As the table filled up with culinary delights from our own gardens, Lester gave a quick background to his allotment.  He took on the overgrown, bindweed infested plot in May 2015 as a project for him and his son. First job was to build a shelter (a) to block the prevailing winds (b) to provide a cosy place for drinking tea.  The shelter is insulated with books which double up as insulation both in the winter and summer as well as providing reading material once all the weeding is done (actually Lester doesn’t do weeding – he is a no dig gardener).

To deal with the bindweed the ‘no dig way’, it takes 2 years of excluding the light by use of mulches… On Lester’s allotment everything was built up and nothing grown in the soil (ref: Charles Dowding method) – paths are ‘paved’, mulched or decked, beds are raised, plants are grown in chimney pots, suspended, grown on the roof…  vertical spaces (including shed walls) are used which makes perfect sense for a small plot.


The green house has been extended and it is now a ‘passive solar greenhouse’ which can be used all year round without any electricity.  Light and heat are absorbed through the windows in the normal way however in addition to this rainwater is collected and stored in black plastic tanks throughout the greenhouse.  This water serves for irrigation but also absorbs daytime heat, re-releasing it at night (like storage heaters & the  walls of a Victorian walled garden), the process also works throughout the winter months.  The water tanks also serve to keep the glasshouse from overheating in the summer months by the same process.

All planting is mixed up with lots of companion plants (e.g. Nasturtium & Limnanthes).  Everything is build from reclaimed materials, all used in creative and fun ways.

So the food…. It started to arrive and we all started the very difficult task of judging (‘People’s choice judging’). We keep the judging simple: (a) best presented sweet category (b) best presented savoury (c) best tasting sweet (d) best tasting savoury

(there were many more entries than this, omitted to photograph)

And the winners are…
(a) Simon for best looking savoury

  dish (beetroot & feta tart)
b) Angela for best looking sweet dish – courgette cake (using own grown courgette, eggs & honey)

c) Lizzie for best tasting savoury dish – cheesy tortilla tart

d)  Chrisi for best tasting sweet dish – red currant ice cream

 winners: Chrisi, Angela & Lizzie

 The score sheet showed that there were clear winners this year!


notes by Angela Morley www.wildgardens.co.uk




Shaftesbury Snowdrop Project – Its a Knock Out

Two of our members, Chrisi and Angela, visited the Shaftesbury Snowdrop Group on Saturday to help with their ‘Its a Knock Out’ event.  This involved the un-potting of Shaftesbury’s National Collection snowdrops, counting them and counting any offsets that may have grown, then potting up the parent bulbs and the offsets separately.

Detailed records are kept: Name, donor, location, no of bulbs, health.  A label is immersed in amongst the bulbs as well as a stick in label put in the top of the pot for easy reference (i.e. double labelling).

Knocking out - The Aquatic pots that the snowdrops are grown in were immersed in plain black pots for display purposes only for the snowdrop festival in February.

Pots are carefully emptied and sorted through in a container, parent bulbs are kept separate from off sets (bulbils that easily separate from the parent bulb).  Vigilance for pest and disease is very important and any bulbs that are slightly discoloured (e.g. yellow, rot…) or soft, any doubts and the batch is put in isolation and pots are disinfected.

Bulbs are potted up quite close to each other as long as they are not touching (this saves space, pots & compost  but also creates a better display when in flower).

Spent compost is disposed of in a dedicated site just in case any bulbils escaped notice and they will then be able to grow on happily in a mixed planting.


There was a lot of root growth on some of the bulbs suggesting they are coming out  of dormancy, ‘knocking out’ could take place in July to make the potting easier.

The mix - there is no one mix recommended, everyone suggests something different but this is what the Shaftesbury group use and they find it works well for them.
5 parts Canna Terra : 1 part vermiculite (or perlite) : 1/2 part John Innes No. 2 compost : 1/4 part cat litter (for water retention)

13cm aquatic plant pots were approximately 1/3 filled with the above mix topped with a 2cm layer of hortcultural grit .  Smaller square 11cm aquatic plant pots were used for off set bulbs

Bulbs were sat on this layer of sand then topped up with the special compost mix and labelled


Gloves - own gardening gloves or disposable gloves (cheap gloves for use when working with the public (e.g. Spontex, 100 multi-purpose disposable gloves)

  Chrisi mixing and potting up

We would like to thank the Shaftesbury group for giving us such a warm welcome and for sharing their experiences and information with us.  We look forward to working closer with you in the future.



Ideas for Harvest Show 2017

Whilst in Ireland this summer, I visited the Glencolmcille Agricultural show, this has given me  ideas for some new categories at our Shepton Mallet Harvest show next year.



And some fine entries at the ‘Flower Show’ Holne (Devon)

Snowdrop awareness day

Tesco, Shepton Mallet, kindly invited us to have a stand in the foyer of their store to promote our Snowdrop Festival & project.  This was a very successful day, giving us the opportunity to spread the word about our project to plant  the green spaces of Shepton Mallet with snowdrops in celebration of 19th century Sheptonian, James Allen, the first person to  hybridise snowdrops.

We spoke to 100′s of people, sold bags, raffle tickets and Galanthus ‘Magnet’ postcards.


T he raffle was drawn by one of the Tesco security staff and was won by our member Sandra Morris.



  • Join the Horticultural Society
  • Plant snowdrops in your front garden this autumn for everyone to see
  • Volunteer
    • to plant snowdrops in SMHS planting sessions
    • to set up your own work or social group to plant snowdrops
    • to spread awareness of the project among other groups and organisations
  • Donate
    • funds for buying bulbs and to publicise the project and to go towards repairing and restoring the Allen family memorial
    • snowdrop bulbs from your garden
  • Grant permission
    • for planting on your land in visible places (this is more in connection with businesses owning land on the public highway rather than front gardens)



  • Date – Friday 17th, Saturday 18th & Sunday 19th February 2017
  • A winter event for the whole community:
    • Snowdrops for sale in the Market Place
    • Snowdrop Displays in local shops
    • Snowdrop Art Exhibition
    • Snowdrop Planting in town
    • Snowdrop Rambles in the countryside



  • When snowdrops were first cultivated it was only from species that could be found in the wild.
  • In the late 1800s James Allen of Shepton Mallet began to cross-breed different wild snowdrop species to create new cultivars – he was the first person in the world to do this.
  • He did this work at Park House and then, after his brother died, in Highfield House in Shepton Mallet.
  • He bred hundreds of new varieties and addressed the Royal Horticultural Society.
  • Unfortunately many of his varieties were wiped out by a fungal infection called Botrytis, but some survived.
  • Magnet and Merlin are both varieties that we know were bred by James Allen and the plants we have today would originally have come from his.
  • James Allen is buried in Shepton Mallet Cemetery in a family plot in front of the chapel.



Common Snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis = 8p each, £1 buys 12 (ish)

Shepton Snowdrops

Magnet = £2.50 each

Merlin = £8 each

Raising funds to repair and restore the Allen family memorial in Shepton Mallet Cemetery will cost several thousands of pounds.

Mells garden visit

A good turn out for a lovely naturalistic and established garden.

Primrose yellow Potentilla, Salvia ‘Mainacht’ & Alchemilla mollis.  Another soft yellow to note was : Euphorbia ‘Golden Foam’

Purple Knautia, (Molinia caerulea?) & Perovskia

Dark red Potentilla (Monarch’s Velvet?) & Alchemilla mollis

My favourite!  Apple trees underplanted with Matteucia struthiopteris (& Scuttelaria?)

Iron artwork in the garden by John Collins

Ian pointing to a fine specimen of the scented Clematis recta

The evening was rounded off with a cup of tea and some plant purchasing


notes by Angela Morley www.wildgardens.co.uk

Chipping snowdrops


Wedneday 15th June 2016
Our fourth propagation event, we used the chipping method on smaller bulbs and a mix of chipping and twin scaling on larger bulbs.  This year we only managed to source  Galanthus ‘Magnet’ although we had hoped to start propagating the other of John Allen’s varieties Galanthusi ‘Merlin’.


Colllett park Day 2016

One of our members, Wendy, made a beautiful cake decorated with snowdrops to raffle off at Collett park Day 2016.  The raffle raised £75 towards the purchase of snowdrops to plant in Shepton Mallet in November

This year we had a record number of plants to sell, in part due to the propagation day we held in Angela’s polytunnel last November.  Our record takings from our plant sale this year will also go towards buying snowdrops for our Snowdrop Project

   Lucy, one of our members, won the raffle!


AGM at member’s garden

A fine sunny evening and a very interesting garden to visit, followed by tea, cakes and AGM in the conservatory.


Visit to Charles Dowding’s garden

The first thing we were shown was the compost loo and instructed that pee loo was on the right (pee onto straw bales) and the poo loo was on the left. I don’t think any of us explored this further.

An overview of Charles’ garden this time of year

Over half of his neat weed free beds were covered with fleece weighted down with rocks, beneath these young plants were growing: carrots, radish, pea (harvested for pea shoots rather than peas), beetroot, leaf radish and an array of lettuces & mustards. The greenhouse and polytunnel were bursting with crops of salad and seedlings.

Charles’ garden soil is loam over clay which is very good for growing particularly when enormous volumes of organic matter are added annually (12 tons / year on ¼ acre)


Cover up the weeds with some cardboard and 20cm of well rotted organic matter and you are away (maybe retain this bed temporarily using some wooden sides for the first season). Start now and you can have beautiful productive vegetable beds this summer. A few perennial weeds may / will poke through but consistently dig them out using a (copper) trowel.


 Covered mushroom compost to keep the weed seeds off

 Cardboard is laid along the edges, 20cm of well rotted organic matter is laid on the soil, retained temporarily with timber.  Raspberries are planted.  This was made a couple of months ago.  Some dandelions are starting to poke through and will be removed with a copper trowel

Much of Charles’ garden is already planted up with summer crops

Inorganic mulches – used to kill weeds
Landscape fabric – tidy looking black fabric, it lets some light through so use a cardboard beneath it.

Black polythene – put over coarse weeds (e.g. couch grass, dandelion) for 2 months (or longer) before removed and built up into a bed (see Summary above)
Mypex – this shreds annoyingly when it is cut

Organic mulches – used to discourage weeds and improve the soil
Viridor green waste compost – very weed free
Mushroom compost – weed free
Well rotted cow manure – not weed free
Home made compost – not weedfree
Use less well rotted manure on perennials rather than seedlings

How long to leave mulch on for
1- 1.5 years depending on your weeds

Plant protection
Enviromesh was laid over emerging sea kale to keep off rabbits, pigeon

Beds do not have sides so as to reduce slug habitat

Beds are weedfree to reduce slug habitat

Fleece is used over newly planted out seedlings at this time of year to protect against the cold wind, reduce water stress, protect against rabbits & pigeons. This is left on for 4 weeks.

Regular weeding to remove habitat for slugs. ‘Weed before you see them’

Grow garlic in a polytunnel to avoid getting rust

The outers salads leaves are picked every week for approximately 10 weeks

Mustard ‘Green in the snow’ – very hardy can be grown through the winter outside or in a polytunnel
Lettuce ‘Grenoble Red’ – not very common but Franchi seeds supply it

Spinach ‘Butterfly’
Beetroot ‘Bolthardy’ for early sowings
Perennial Kale ‘Taunton Dene’ (this is only propagated by cuttings as it does not flower)

Potato ‘Charlotte’ – tasty and stores well
Potato ‘Sarpo’ – harvest before the end of August for better flavour (it will grow on but flavour deteriorates)

Raising plants
All salad plants are raised as multi seeded modules (5-6 onions seeds or 4 seeds for beetroot / module) except carrots & parsnips that are sown direct

Sow a few radish seed into your rows of carrot & parsnip, it helps you see your rows

Rather than using an electric heated mat for propagating seeds, Charles’ makes a ‘Hot Bed’. A 4 foot square box / strawbales filled with fresh horse manure and a propagation bench on top. After a couple of weeks the temperature will reach 50oC. This will need to be replenished with fresh manure after about 1 month to keep the temperature up.

When planting out, do not be afraid to plant your seedlings deep, this reduces rock and water evaporation.

Charles favours ‘West Riding Multi purpose compost’ for seed sowing, this is Soil Association Approved and is a waste product of the water industry (although does contain some peat).

When to sow seeds

Sow salads in September for harvesting all winter long – do not over-water

Valentines day is a good time to start sowing (e.g. tomatoes, celeriac, salad, spinach, dill, coriander, onion, beetroot…)


Charles double crops his beds to increase productivity, for example: onions will have beetroot seeded between them before the onions are ready to harvest. Rocket will be seeded beneath lettuce before the lettuce stop producing.

Charles is a firm believer in no-dig gardening and planting on a waxing moon (plant all your seeds 2 days before the full moon) however he doesn’t want you to take his word for it and has 2 permanent beds testing these theories with all produce being weighed and recorded.

There are other beds testing ‘mushroom compost’ and ‘cow manure’ again in dig, no-dig permutations.

Breaking the rules
Charles’ asparagus beds were not dug prior to planting the crowns. The plants got off to a slow start but are doing well. (This is a greedy plant so add lots of cow manure).

You can walk on beds made of organic matter ‘a la Charles’ without damaging soil structure below
You don’t necessarily have to rotate your crops just try and grow things in a different bed each year.

You only need to buy fleece & organic matter

You only need to let one lettuce, pea, tomato plant go to seed to give you enough seed for the following year. See also ‘The Seed Saver’s Handbook’ by Chaffers & Fanton.

Water seedlings / salads in the morning so they are drier by the evening, this helps reduce slug damage


notes by Angela Morley www.wildgardens.co.uk




Planting our ‘babies’

2nd April 2016
Today marked the first phase of planting snowdrops in Shepton Mallet.  We planted our three year old own propagated Galanthus ‘Magnet’ around a tree outside of Highfield House where Jame’s Allen used to live.  It was a very special moment planting out these young plants that each of us had been nurturing over the past 3 years.


After planting our special bulbs we walked to Rectory Road where we planted approximately 4000 common snowdrops which were donated by members of our group and dug up from our gardens (special thanks to Irene Minty who supplied us with a massive tray of plants).  Our thanks go out to two members of the public, Peter Hillman and Eleanor Norman, also donated plants.  We also thank Sue Church from Mendip District Council who joined the planting party and gave support to the project.

Perennial Pleasures – a talk by John Negus

John Negus gave us a fantastic canter through his favourite perennials, it was an animated evening where John split the room into teams and offered many prizes for correct answers (and even not quite correct answers). It was very revealing as to the knowledge of our members and also highlighted the more competitive amongst us!


Here are some of John’s favourite plants (in the order presented):

Edgeworthia chrysantha – a difficult plant to grow which is flowering now. One of our members is already growing this plant and John suggested taking semi-ripe wood cuttings (July time) and rooting them in a gritty medium with some bottom heat.

Salvia superba

Phlox maculata

Scrophularia variegata

Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’ (golden marjoram – low growing)

Kniphophia erecta – a rare plant with upright flower tubes (normally flowerlets droop downwards)

Iris unguicularis (syn. Iris stylosa) – flowering from November – March, evergreen foliage

Cardamine quinqefolia – spreads a bit but very early flowering

Primula denticulata

Dicentra spectabilis ‘Hadspen Gold’

Helleborus orientalis choose the ‘Ashwood Hybrids’– to avoid the leaf blotch disease, cut away old foliage in November

Helleborus argutifolius – pale green, coarse foliage which is a bit more resistant to leaf blotch disease

Anemone ranunculoides

Euphorbia mellifera – choose a sunny sheltered spot with good drainage

Bergenia ‘Bressingham White’ – John recommends using this en masse around a golden conifer

Hesperis matrionalis

Paeonia ‘Bowl of Beauty’

Paeonia mlokosewitschii – known as ‘Molly the Witch’ – the first to flower and an expensive plant

Paeonia chromotella – a large tree paeony with big double flowers, needs regular feeding with a balanced fertilizer from April – September

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Raphael’ – a huge pink fringed white paeony

Digitalis ferruginea – evergreen perennial foxglove, the tall spires create a focal point in the border

Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ – rabbit, slug and deer resistant!

Papaver orientale ‘Cedric Morris’

Papaver orientale ‘Patty’s Plum’ – buy when it is in flower as some of the selections have a ‘muddy’ colour

Mecanopsis betonicifolia – tall clear blue ‘poppy’ that thrives in moist acid soil (grows well in Scotland and Ireland). This plant is monocarpic which means that it dies after flowering. John suggests that if you deadhead it immediately after flowering you can trick the plant into becoming a perennial.

Anthriscus ‘Raven’s Wing’ – purple leaved cow parsley

Corydalis flexuosa – spring flowering, low growing, looks good in a terracotta urn. The foliage dies completely back in the summer

Aquilegia ‘Magpie’, A. ‘Nora Barlow’ – a couple of good selections although there are many to choose from

Asphodeline lutea – a signature plant of Gertrude Jekyl

Helianthemum ‘ Henfield Brilliant’ – orange red low growing evergreen rockery plant

Anaphalis – pearly everlasting, good in dry soil beware it spreads a bit

Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’

Erodium manescavii – very long flowering season, flowers are a bit like Geranium

Sisyrinchium – not liked by everyone due to the leaves turning black in the winter (Ed’s note: I make black string from these and therefore find extra value in the plant)

Hosta sieboldiana, Hosta ‘Hadspen Blue’

Artemesia ‘Powis Castle’ – this plant does not regenerate from older wood but takes well from insitu cuttings of woody shoots.

Bearded iris, try the new french ‘Cayeux’ varieties e.g. ‘Titan’s Glory’

Achillea ‘Cerise Queen’ / ‘Cloth of Gold’ / ‘Coronation Gold’ / ‘Walter Funke’

Anthemis ‘EC Buxton’

Melianthus major – not fully hardy but normally regenerates from the base in spring. Choose a warm sheltered free draining site


Eryngium ‘Miss Wilmott’s Ghost’ (syn Eryngium giganteum) – named after Miss Wilmott who would surreptitiously spread seeds of this in friend’s gardens

Hemerocallis – although beware of the slugs

Selinum wallichianum – a bold perennial with ferny foliage and showing white umbels followed by impressive seed heads

Echinacea purpurea

Alcea (hollyhocks)

Penstemon ‘Sour Grapes’ / ‘Raven’ / ‘White Bedder’

Rosa ‘Ballerina’

Heuchera ‘Purple Palace’

Dianthus ‘Becky Robinson’ – a scented border carnation

Liatris spicata – flowers from the top of the spike to lower on the spike, best planted en masse

Agapanthus – Good flowers and reliable


Hostas – some ideas on how to keep slugs at bay: garlic, nematode treatment, grit / egg shell / bran mulch. Spray a very fine mist of WD40 on the plant (to do this you will need to stand 2-3 feet away)


Design tips

To sum up John recommends graduating heights and occuasionally bringing height forward in a border to create more interest.

Avoid using too many colours, don’t overlook the value of ‘green’ in the garden, choose ferns, hostas…

A paved mowing strip to a lawn is both practical and visually appealing (allows perennials to flop over without damaging the grass)


John rounded the evening off with a quiz for the teams –

  1. Name three climbing perpetual flowering roses:
  2. Rosie, Breath of Life, Compassion, Golden showers, Climbing Iceberg, New Dawn were among the answers from the audience.
  3. What is ’tillering’? (sprouting of shoots from the base of plants, particularly grass)
  4. Which vegetable has a cultivar named ‘Red Rum’? (runner bean)
  5. What colour skin has Scorzonera? (black)
  6. What is ‘Pitmaster Duchess’? (pear)
  7. What is a Japanese wineberry? (Asian species of raspberry)
  8. Name 3 winter flowering clematis (C. cirrhoas ‘Freckles’, C. napalenisis (rare), C. ‘Wisley Cream’)
  9. Akebia quinata – what does quinata mean? (5 leaflets)
  10. Leontopodium alpinum what is the common name? (Eidelweis plant)
  11. Butomis umbelatus what is the common name? Flowering rush)
  12. Monstera deliciosa? (cheese plant)
    What is the latin for ‘Mother in Law’s tongue’? (Sanseveria trifasciata)
  13. Name 3 deciduous conifers (Taxodium distichum, Ginkgo, larch, Metasequoia glyptostroboides)



Plants for damp places – Echinops, Lythrum, Salicaria, Ferns, Caltha, Astilbe…

Scotts sell Glyphosate with a hypodermic syringe for knotweed treatment




notes by Angela www.wildgardens.co.uk

Planning a border – speaker Mike Burks


‘Planning A Border’ by Mike Burks of Castle Gardens, Sherborne, Dorset

3rd February 2016


First principle – you can do whatever you like, it’s your garden, but there are some general guiding principles, which may help.


  1. Get it down on paper. Especially in winter, when it’s often too cold, wet or dark to get out in the garden, it’s a good time to plot your plans on paper – it makes it easier to evaluate and execute later.


  1. Orientation. Which way does the garden face? It will have a significant impact on what plants can be grown where.
    1. South – more daylight and sunshine, quicker to warm up in spring, slower to cool down in autumn.
    2. North – less daylight, more shade, slower to warm up in spring, quicker to cool down in autumn.
    3. East – benefits from morning sunshine, but can be shady later.
    4. West – can be shady in the morning but benefits from afternoon sunshine.
    5. Prevailing winds – south-westerlies bring warm, wet air. Northerly and easterly winds can be very cold.


  1. Soil Type. Again this will affect the success of different plants
    1. pH – acidity and alkalinity. Best tested with a pH soil testing kit and distilled water. Don’t be tempted to use tap water or else you are testing the pH of that. You will need to test soil samples from all over your garden for an accurate picture. Ask your neighbours if they know the pH of the soil.


Acidic soil is good for Pieris, Rhododendrons, Camelias, Azaleas and Skimmia

Alkaline soil is good for Lavender, Clematis, Geranium, Ceanothus and Campanula


    1. Texture – clay, sandy, silty. Dig some up, wet it and roll it in your hand – if you can make a ball from it it’s probably clay, if it feels gritty then it is sandy and if it feels silky then it is probably silty.


Heavy clay soils can be waterlogged in winter and baked hard in summer, but they hold a lot of nutrients.


Sandy soils are free-draining, can be very dry in summer and don’t hold on to nutrients.


The best way to deal with both is to add organic matter, hummus, to break up the clay or knit together the sand – manure, compost, a bark mulch.


You can have a combination of different soils in your garden, so can place plants accordingly.


Thing of the soil type and aspect of your garden when planting. Convolvulus cneorum is a silver-leafed plant that likes sun on a free-draining (ie sandy) soil. If you plant it in clay in a north facing corner in shade it will not succeed.


  1. Local Factors – other features that may influence your garden.
    1. Trees – cast shade, drop leaves, roots take moisture from the soil.
    2. Top of a hill – much more exposed to winds.
    3. Bottom of a valley – can be caught in a frost pocket.


  1. Border Shape – this not only affects the style and appearance of the garden but also the ease of maintenance. Some things to consider:
    1. Urban smaller gardens are often geometrical in layout.
    2. Rural larger gardens often have more curves.
    3. The more gentle you make any curves the better and easier they are to maintain.
    4. Walk the person who will be maintaining the garden around to show them your proposed design and listen to their input.
    5. Beware of over intricate or over complex designs that are hard to maintain, eg steeply tapering points in lawns where borders start or finish that cannot easily be mown.


  1. Drawing Up Your Plan. If you get it down on paper you can visualise it more easily and work out the plantings.
    1. For an overall garden plan a scale of 1:100 in metric (1cm = 1m), or 1:96 in imperial (1” = 8’) works well.
    2. For a planting plan of an individual bed use 1:50 (2cm = 1m) or 1:48 (1” = 4’).
    3. Graph paper may help you.
  2. Plant Positions. Generally it is advisable to plant taller plants at the back of the border and the shortest at the front so that you get a clear view of them all. If you have an island border you will not want a steep drop off on the far side, so you need to plant your tallest plants about 2/3rds into the bed away from the primary viewing direction and grade down in height from there to all sides.


  1. Plant Choice. Some plants perform well for a long season through foliage, stems, colour change, flowers, perfume or a combination of all of them. Others have a shorter season but can be spectacular. In general:
    1. For distant parts of the garden that you are unlikely to venture out to in the cold, wet, dark winter months, these are good places for shorter season plants, as you won’t notice them when they are past their best. Examples include:
      1. Potentillas – fantastic flowers but scrappy when over.


    1. For closer parts of the garden that you regularly see, like the front garden, or close to the back door or windows, then think of a combination of longer season plants. Examples include:
      1. evergreen Abelias with gold foliage, colour-changing stems and flowers,
      2. Spirea with early bright foliage, pink flowers in the summer and autumn leaf colour


    1. Foliage. When you select your plants think of their foliage first, as this is what you will see for 8-9 months of the year if it is deciduous, or all year if it’s evergreen. These are particularly important at the back of the border. Examples of good foliage plants include:
      1. Elaeagnus ebbingei ‘Gilt Edge’, lots of gold around the leaf, if it produces its small flowers then it is also highly fragrant.
      2. Pittosporum tennuifolium ‘Tom Thumb’, purple low-growing sphere, lovely lime green contrasting new foliage.
      3. Choisya dewitteana ‘Aztec Gold’, fine-leaved, short, tougher than normal choisya, lots of fragrant white flowers from spring into summer, flowers after a cold spell.
      4. Euonymous fortune ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’, ‘Emerald Gaiety’, very good evergreen for north facing border, will climb a bit when planted against a wall or fence. In a tough winter it takes on a pinkish hue.
      5. Conifers – much maligned from overplanting in the 1970s and a tendency for some varieties to outgrow the garden, but very useful to give variety in colour, texture and shape. Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Filifera Aurea’, low growing, loose and shaggy yellow-green, Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Chip’, ground cover with lovely blue hue, Thuja occidentalis ‘Rheingold’, it’s large for a dwarf conifer but has great colour change from green to bronze. Taxus baccata ‘Icicle’, slow and low growing (2 feet in 10 years) but columnar and leaves edged in yellow, so a lovely contrast to other plants. There is a tall growing one – Taxus baccata ‘Standishii’. Conifers will cope with clay soils but they don’t want to be sat in water over winter. They are OK in shade and low light but their colours won’t be so strong.


    1. Super Evergreens – they have great flowers. Examples include:
      1. Mahonia japonica, cut them low early on to get multiple stems as it’s the stem tips that sprout the fragrant yellow flowers in winter.
      2. Viburnum tinus, very reliable, scented flowers from September to March.
      3. Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Variegatus’, looks like a holly, highly scented flowers in autumn, will do OK in shade.
      4. Sarcococca hookeriana – Christmas Box. No good at the end of the garden – doesn’t look like anything, keep it near the front or back door for its strong winter scent. ‘Winter Gem’ has larger flowers.
      5. Nandina domestica – Chinese Sacred Bamboo. Grows to around 4’ and has ‘autumn colour’ through the winter. Good shape and texture. It prefers acid soil but will cope in alkaline with a bit more food.


    1. Stem Colour and Shape – the stems of deciduous plants can bring texture and variety to the border, especially in winter after the leaves have fallen. Examples include:
      1. Cornus – Dogwoods. Best pruned hard in the spring to promote new growth, which is what colours up the strongest in winter. Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ – lovely red stems, some with variegated leaves. Cornus alba ‘Kesselringii’ is vigorous with black stems. Especially good is Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’, which is not so vigorous (so shouldn’t be pruned so hard) but whose leaves fade to white in autumn and stems are shades of gold, salmon and red.
      2. Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ – contorted hazel. Best in the winter after leaf fall as the leaves, as well as the stems, are contorted and so look diseased. Lovely catkins in winter as well as nuts in autumn.


    1. Berries. Pyracantha ‘Teton’, red berries after small white flowers, Cotoneaster also vert useful.


    1. Flowers. Plot individual plants on paper. Think about the combination of plant colours and shapes next to each other and after you have the structure, backbone and foliage sorted use flowers for added impact. Good examples include:
      1. Potentialla – profusion of bright flowers
      2. Euphorbia – Efanthia & Glitter Blue – good foliage and flowers
      3. Nepeta racemose/mussini – silver foliage (wants hot, dry, sunny)
      4. Lamium maculatum ‘Beacon Silver’ – a very good dead nettle for winter containers
      5. Stachys byzantina – Lamb’s Tongues
      6. Pulmonaria – Lungwort. Late winter/early spring, spotted leaves and flowers from blues through pinks. ‘Opal’ and ‘Trevi Fountain’
      7. Heuchera – more or less evergreen and clump forming – loads of colours – ‘Peach Crisp’ and ‘Liquorice’
      8. Bergenia ‘Overture’ – evergreen with leathery round leaves, erect cluster of pink flowers in spring


    1. Numbers and Spacing – too many small single plants can look patchy, so plant in groups, odd numbers can look more natural, eg 3, 5 or 7. When thinking of distances between plants you need to be pragmatic – official planting distances may be good in five year’s time but that’s a long time to wait – compromise by planting a little closer but be prepared for extra maintenance – dividing, thinning, pruning or moving down the line.Notes by Dominic Weston

      Many thanks to Mike Burks of Castle Gardens http://www.thegardeneronline.co.uk/ 


Quiz night

Brian from Castle Gardens garden centre in Sherborne organised a great horticultural quiz for us last night.  There were some nerves amidst the audience to start with but after the first round we realised we were not going to be out of our depth, with each team scoring well.

The secretary forgot to take any photographs however ‘The Pansies’ took first prize, ‘The Young Ones’ came second and despite their excellent start ‘The Flower Girls’ slipped into 3rd place.   Congratulations to Chrisi for her guess the number of peas in the jar!

We thank The Gardens Group for the prizes that they supplied – bright and cheerful Polyanthus plants.


Don’t miss their award winning Christmas displays this month!

Propagation workshop

We have just spent an industrious morning dividing and potting plants for our plant stall at Collett Park 2016.

It takes time and planning to produce a good quality 2 or 3 litre plant and  autumn is the traditional time for lifting, dividing and potting.  The polytunnel was a hive of activity as deafening rain pounded the tunnel roof and after an hour and a half we had over 100 pots neatly lined up and labelled.

Some of our members have taken boot-loads of plants home to nurture until next June, the rest will remain in the polytunnel until spring when they will be moved outside and watered as necessary.

Great team work everyone!

These are amongst some of the plants that we will be selling at Collett Park day 2016:

Heuchera ‘Bressingham Hybrids’
Heliopsis helianthoides var ‘Scabra
Pulmonaria officinalis
Cephalaria gigantea
Corydalis ‘Pere David’
Iris unguicularis
Aster frikartii ‘Monch’
Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’
Epimedium sulphureum
Brunnera macrophylla
Pachysandra terminalis
Digitalis lutea
Borago pygmea
Buckler’s sorrel
Erigeron karvinskianus
Veronica ‘Baden Blue’
Euphorbia wulphenii
Teucrium lucydris

Notes by Angela Morley  www.wildgardens.co.uk


This year’s snowdrop bulbils

In July our group propagated a fresh batch of Galanthus ‘Magnet’ by chipping and twin scaling (see July post).  The bulb slices (chips) have spent 12 weeks  in a mixture of peat and perlite in sealed plastic bags, kept in the dark at around 20 degrees Centigrade, now small white bulbils (or bulbels or bulblets) are visible between the leaf scales and it is time to pot them up.  The RHS recommends “potting up  the ‘chips’  individually in 8cm (3in) pots of free-draining loam based compost such as John Innes No.2.  Inserting the chips with the basal plate downwards and the bulblets covered by about 1cm (½in) of compost. Leave the scales exposed – they will slowly rot away as the bulblets develop”.

One of our members has over 100 bulbils from her efforts and has provided the following photograph and comments “Really excited today as I looked at the snowdrop scalings. They have all but a few, created new bulblets so I’ve potted them up into seed trays and pots and have 100 potential new bulbs.  They are outside in the cold frame now, looking forward to seeing how many develop.”



Looking after your bulbils 

  1. Do not over water.  Water them in when you pot them up and thereafter keep the soil only very slightly moist.  Snowdrop bulbs put on a lot of root growth in the autumn so do not let them dry out completely.
  2. Provide some shelter from the elements, ideally a cold greenhouse or cold frame.
  3. Label them!

Good luck!



Piet Oudolf Garden – Bruton

A leisurely start to the weekend with a garden stroll taking in the late summer colour and architectural seed heads.

Aster macrophyllus ‘Twilight’, Thalictrum ‘Elin’stems & Deschampsia grass

 “Keep off the grass”

Stachys ‘Hummelo’ seed heads in front of the grass, Bouteloua curtipendula and seed heads of Nectaroscordum siculum behind

 Basking on a rock in the sun

Other plants that caught our eye included:

Aster lateriflorus ‘Horizontalis’ – low growing very dense aster with masses of tiny pale pink flowers October
Eryngium yuccifolium – architectural sea holly with round flowers
Penstemon ‘Husker’s Red’ – dark red foliage early in year with pink / white flowers. Red foliage in autumn
Sanguisorba ‘Red Button’ – tall growing, small red drumstick flowers October
Molinia ‘Transparent’ – attractive grass
Eryngium bracteatum – flowers look rather like a Sanguisorba
Dianthus carthusianorum – tall dianthus
Serratula seoanei – low growing, dense habit, masses of tiny ‘knapweed like’ flowers October
Selinum wallichianum – soft umbels all summer long

Plants with good seed heads adding depth to the planting design include:
Echinacea purpurea
Eryngium alpinum
Origanum ‘Hopleys’
Papaver orientale ‘Karine’
Phlomis russeliana
Stachys ‘Hummelo’
Aruncus ‘Horatio’

Notes by Angela Morley   www.wildgardens.co.uk


Autumn Produce show

The summer ends with a fun competition and autumn produce show… voting as usual is by ‘people’s choice’

And the winners are…

5 Best Raspberry category -


4 Best Tomatoes -

The most unusual -

Longest bean -
 for a long runnerbean

3 Dahlias in a vase -

A mixed bunch of flowers -
 Connor also wins best ugly vegetable

3 prize apples -

Baby veg -





Garden produce ‘bake-off’

What a night!  This was our first ‘bake-off’ event which proved to be a huge success – the rain held off and the edible entries made for a truly delicious feast.

Lizzie and James were wonderful hosts giving us a very warm welcome.  The garden was looking beautiful, the ‘croquet’ lawn although slightly sloping was perfect in every other way!  In this walled garden, the borders were packed with flowers and neat rows vegetables nestled there too, a bug hotel and  coop with two white hens complete the garden scene.

Entrants were given leeway when choosing what to bake and therefore the judging was simply: a) best savoury on appearance b) best sweet entry on appearance then we were allowed to taste (feast) and judge again a) & b) on taste.  We use ‘people’s choice’ judging so as to involve everyone - it was not an easy task…

In the savoury category we had scones, goats cheese & beetroot tarts, many quiches, several Spanish omelettes, garlic & onion flat bread…

Wendy wins 1st prize in first round of voting for her ‘rustic scone’

Connor and Sue win joint 2nd prize in the 1st round of voting for their quiche and flat bread respectively (sorry there is no photograph of Conor’s (our youngest member) quiche)

2nd prize in first round of voting for Chrisi’s goats cheese & beetroot tarts and 1st prize in second round of voting for the her blackcurrant summer meringue roulade.

Alessandra wins 1st prize in first round of voting for her kumquat and almond cake

Ruth wins 1st prize for her quiche in second round of voting (tasting)

Ellie wins 2nd prize in first round of voting for her gooseberry tart (top left). (& a proud mother in the background!)

A late entry that caused a stir and unfortunately missed judging – Simon and Dominic’s blackcurrant ice cream with rosemary meringues – both delicious and beautifully presented – a perfect end to the evening feast

Thank you Lizzie and James for helping to make this such a successful evening and for doing all the washing up.

Propagating snowdrops 2015

Wednesday 22nd July 2015
We held our third snowdrop propagation evening, twin scaling snowdrop ‘Magnet’

Bulbs are supposed to be fully dormant when chipping or twin scaling, I noticed that the flower bud had started to grow and therefore the bulbs were not fully dormant.  I did not attend last year’s propagation session so did not spot this.  I think propagating in late July is too late.  Many of our members report failure from last year’s propagation.  In 2016 we should set a date for late June.

Chipping appears to raise more new plants than twin scaling when using snowdrop bulbs or at least it is easier to cut chips with a piece of basal plate.  We found that we were only getting about 8 twin scales from a bulb compared to about 10-12 chips using the chipping method.  In 2016 we will probably go back to chipping rather than twin scaling.

The large bulb on the left is at least 5 or 6 years old whilst the small bulbs are from our 2013 propagation workshop – raised in a seed tray outdoors.


Lift the Latch – Chard

One of the hottest days of the summer and a glorious cool evening to visit this garden. This is a garden, 31 years in the making, crammed with plants grown mainly for their foliage and to provide year round colour, including autumn colour. Get inspired!


Maroon / red foliage

a) Herbaceous -
Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’
Lysimachia ciliata ‘Firecracker’
Geranium pratense ‘Midnight Reiter’
Sedum telephium

b) Evergreen shrub -

Photinia ‘Red Robin’
Pittosporum ‘Tom Thumb’
Vitis vinifera

c) Deciduous shrub -

Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’
Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’
Vitis vinifera ‘Purpurea’
Many Acers
Weigelia florida ‘Purpurea’
Physocarpus ‘Diabolo’
Berberis thunbergii ‘Atropurpurea’ / Berberis ottawensis ‘Superba’ and others

White variegated foliage

a) Herbaceous -

Euphorbia characias ‘White Swan’

b) Evergreen shrub -

Buxus sempervirens ‘Variegata’
Prunus lusitanica ‘Variegata’
Stransvaesia / Photinia variegata
Ilex aquifolium ‘Ferrox Argentea’
Pieris ‘Flaming Silver’
Trachelospernum jasminoides ‘Variegatum’
Euonymus ‘Silver Queen’, E. ‘Emerald Gaiety’, E. ‘Harlequin’…

c) Deciduous shrub -

Weigelia florida ‘Variegata’
Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’

Golden / yellow foliage

a) Herbaceous -

Hosta sieboldiana ‘Francis Williams’
Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon

b) Evergreen shrub -

Eleagnus ‘Maculata’
‘Golden King’
Taxus baccata ‘Aurea’
Buxus sempervirens ‘Aureovariegata’
Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Tricolor’
Variegated Rhododendron
Thuya aurea and others
Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’
Euonymus ‘Emerald n Gold’ and others

c) Deciduous shrub & tree-

Weigelia florida ‘Variegata’
Acer ‘Autumn Moon’ and other Acers
Cornus alba ‘Aurea’
Spirea ‘Gold Mound’ and others
Leycesteria formosa ‘Golden Lanterns’

Silver foliage

a) Herbaceous -
Stachys lanata
Euphorbia wulphenii
Phlomis russelliana
Phlox variegata

b) Evergreen shrub -

Cytissus battandieri
Phlomis fruticosa

‘Pink’ foliage

a) Deciduous shrub and trees -
Salix ‘Hakuro Nishiki’
Acer negundo ‘Flamingo’
Fuchsia magalenica ‘Tricolor’


Notes by Angela Morley  www.wildgardens.co.uk

Collett Park Plant Stall

Our Stand at Collett Park Day was once again a great success and a superb group effort.  Along with our Snowdrop Project, growing plants for the Collett Park plant sale remains one of the main focuses in our year.  We aim to grow an interesting range of quality plants as well as reach out to the community through our ‘Plant a Basket’ competition.   This year we attracted 8 new members and plant sales boosted our club funds.  Thank you to everyone who got involved in the growing, putting up the gazebo, manning the stand, judging the competition…  Good team work!


Corton Denham House


Charles Dowding’s approach to growing

A full house for an evening full of labour saving growing tips



No dig gardening is a fine way of reducing the number of annual weeds in your garden however you will need to tackle the perennial weeds.

Suppress light until the weeds die, different weeds take different amounts of time to die, for example: dandelion about 4 months, buttercup about 3 months, couch grass 9 months and field bindweed about 10 years! Old black plastic is good for excluding light in the early stages of clearing ground / killing weeds, but you can use ‘landscape fabric, cardboard and biodegradeable membrane (which doesn’t exclude enough light on its own) – experiment with what you have. Note: cardboard with mulch ontop – the cardboard rots too fast and couch grass grows up through.

Loosen and lift out regularly any weeds that come back

Beds are approximately 4 feet apart, paths are 15-18inches wide

Create a raised bed (e.g. using timber), place a layer of cardboard over the ground then fill bed with well rotted organic matter (18 months old). Use cardboard on the paths and cover with sawdust (or other organic matter) (cardboard alone will break up under your weight)

By not digging annual weed seeds are not brought to the surface to germinate. Only 2 hoeings a year will be necessary, the first hoeing is usually at the end of winter

Top up each bed with well rotted organic matter little and often to keep the surface clean and dark brown which helps the beds warm up quickly

The wooden sides can be removed once after a few months as they tend to harbour slugs and woodlice (Charles only uses them to form new beds)

Do not dig woodchip nor sawdust into the soil, leave it ontop


It is probably better to crop intensively a small area rather than less intensively a larger area (saves time and effort), therefore after onions plant your second crop (e.g. endive for autumn), after early potatoes plant carrots, leek, salads, celeriac or cucumber.

Space salad plants generously, pick outer leaves of salads only, each plant will crop for 10 weeks, you will only have to do 2 repeat sowings (+1 for the winter) instead of 4 (+1). Towards the end of the 10 weeks underplant with rocket, endive, white mustard…

Charles does not harden off plants but plants plug raised seedlings directly outside then covers them with horticultural fleece.

Have a ready supply of seedlings in the green house growing in plugs ready for planting out. Charles only sows carrots and parsnips directly into the ground

Green manure – white mustard is killed by the frost – a very easy green manure


Don’t start sowing too early. “If you sow carrots now (February) then you won’t have to eat carrots”

February – sow onions (4-6 seeds per module), Bolthard beetroot (4-6 seeds per module) , broad beans, peas (2-3 seeds per module)

Apply well rotted organic matter to beds ideally before Christmas (late February is OK) – the idea is that you are feeding the soil not the plants (winter application gives time for the organic matter to break down).

Salads for the winter in a polytunnel – sow September, plant out in polytunnel October

February – plant out seed grown onions under fleece (sow 4 or 5 seeds per module), approx 15cm apart, in a 1.2m (4”row) you can crop approx 30 onions

You can bend the rules a bit, for example sow sprouts in May, plant out in July after salads…

Sow Florence fennel in June so it doesn’t bolt

Runner beans – you can let them go to seed, harvest the dry seeds and store dry, soak prior to cooking…

Strawberries – Cut back all foliage on strawberry plants after cropping in July to stop them spreading – keeps the orignial plant

Tomatoes – remove all foliage up to first truss. Tip the plants on 10th August. Underplant with salads

Celeriac likes good spacing (15” 35cm) and lots of well rotted organic matter

Sow seeds 2 days before the full moon


Use horticultural fleece or Enviromesh on leeks against leek moth

Horticultural fleece, Enviromesh or bird netting on vegetables against rabbits, pigeons and deer



Taunton Dene kale – crops all winter

Basil Sweet Genovese

Sungold tomatoes – early and prolific

Melon Sweet Heart (for polytunnel)

Crown Prince squash

Charlotte potatoes

Lettuces – Winter Density, Freckles, Green oakleaf Appleby (Avoid red and green saladbowl as tend go to seed fast)

www.charlesdowding.co.uk A website worth checking regularly as it is full of tips and informations

6 September 2015 2pm -5pm open day at Homeacres, Alhampton, Shepton Mallet BA4 6PZ



Bulk supplier well rotted organic matter – Viridor compost from the recycling centre at Dimmer near Castle Cary 

Snowdrop mania – a brief history

This is a brief summary of a very detailed talk given by Jennifer Harmer at the Shepton Mallet History Society on Thursday 11th December 2014

Jennifer Harmer has compiled a database of gardeners who in their day were galanthophiles. In the 19th century there was a huge mania for snowdrops just as there is today. She is co writing a book on the stories of the galanthophiles with Jane Kilpatrick whose latest book, The Fathers of Botany, has recently been published by The Royal Botanic Garden Kew.

The snowdrop is not indigenous to the UK and no one is sure when or how it came here, there is some speculation that the Romans brought them but this is not proved. Galanthus plicatus being amongst the first new species to arrive in the early 19thcentury.

The Galanthus nivalis, the common snowdrop which is often found naturalised in churchyards has religious significance due to it being white and flowering at Candlemas.

The 19th century galanthophiles either collected, bred and / or selected snowdrops. The good cultivars of snowdrops could not be bought, they were swapped or given amongst each other.

In chronological order:

James Atkins (1804–1884) a nurseryman, who had a brief partnership with John Jeyes (a chemist who invented Jeyes Fluid), collected many plants but the snowdrop for which he is remembered for is Galanthus ‘Atkensii’.

Peter Barr (1826-1909) was interested in species rather than the specialist cultivars and his G. ‘Atkinesii’ stock did not survive.

George Wheeler (1791-1878), however, was the only commercial nurseryman to buy stock of G. ‘Atkensii’ from Barr and his plants thrived.

Reverend Harpur Crewe (1828–1883) is considered to be the one of the earliest galanthophile writers.

James Sanders
 found the first yellow snowdrop Galanthus nivalis Sandsersii Group growing in Northumberland. Last year one bulb of a yellow snowdrop fetched over £700.

James Allen (1832–1906) was a very influential snowdrop breeder writing in the Gardeners Chronicle for many years on a variety of plants and was one of three who presented a paper at the Snowdrop Conference in 1891. He is most notable for introducing Galanthus ‘Magnet’, Galanthus ‘Robin Hood’ (fetching today about £8 bulb) but not a very strong growing
variety), Galanthus ‘Merlin’ and Galanthus ‘Galatea’ (similar to  Magnet). There is also a Galanthus ‘Allenii’.

Henry Elwes (1845-1922) after whom Galanthus elwesii is named (easy to identify for its lovely wide leaf and glaucous foliage colour).

John Gilbert Baker (1834 – 1920) was very important in his time working at Kew verifying new species of snowdrop.

Frederick Burbidge (1847-1905) was a collector rather than a breeder of snowdrops but he had huge knowledge of their history and was one of the three who presented a paper at the 1891 Snowdrop conference.

David Melville (1870–1924) introduced Galanthus nivalis ‘Melvileii’ which James Allen used as a seed parent in his breeding programmes. David was one of the three who presented a paper at the 1891 Snowdrop conference and therefore very influential.

Maximilian Leichtlin (1831-1910) had a botanical garden in Baden Baden in Germany was a friend of James Allen swapping both information and bulbs.

Theodoros Orphanides was a Greek poet and botanist who found and introduced Galanthus reginae olgae which flowers in the autumn.

A E Bowles (1865–1954) renowned horticulturist and important in the world of snowdrops. He was friends with both the Victorian galanthophiles and later gardeners such as Amy Doncaster, therefore acting as a link between James Allen and the younger generation of galanthophiles.

Amy Doncaster was a one of the best of the 20th century plantswomen and a link ensuring the survival of snowdrop into the mid 20th century. She created a large woodland garden in the Chandlers Ford and lived to over 100 years old. She is known for many snowdrops including Galanthus ‘Doncaster’s Double Charmer’ which she thought to be derived from one of James Allen’s although modern galanthophiles believe it is not the true Allen plant.

Samuel Arnott (1852-1930) bred in the 1920′s Galanthus ‘S Arnott’, an excellent snowdrop with some scent (but no James Allen connection!).

Winifrede Mathias and her galanthophile gardener (Herbert Ransom) were responsible for introducing snowdrops to a much wider range of people through their nursery The Giant Snowdrop Company during the 1950′sand 60′s. Up until then snowdrops had nearly always been swapped or given away amongst collectors.

Ruby Baker – a great modern galanthophile historian who has recently died and will be a great loss to the snowdrop world.

James Allen (1832–1906)

Born at Windsor Hill Mill (family milled corn for bread and animal feed) just outside Shepton Mallet where he lived until the 1850′s helping his mother and brother John run the mill. During the bread riots of 1842 the mill came under attack, but John, then aged 18 persuaded the rioters to leave on the written promise that if they returned in the morning they would give flour to those who came from of Shepton Mallet. After the death of their mother the 3 brothers, John, James and Joseph moved into Shepton Mallet. They purchased Old Mill in Park Road, John lived in Highfield House next door and James was opposite at Park House. James moved into Highfield House in the 1890’s after John’s death.
Botrytis eventually destroyed his snowdrop collection but in an effort to save his plants he sent some to Henry Ewbank (1828-1906) on the Isle of Wight however there is no evidence that the bulbs survived and therefore (the Botrytis probably went with the bulbs).He suffered ill health from the 1880′s, dying in 1906. He is burred justoutside the chapel at Shepton Mallet cemetery with his family. A tall ornate stone obelisk formed part of his grave stone however it was dismantled by Mendip Council in 2002 on the grounds that it was not safe. James Allen’s correspondence is held at the RHS.

James Allen also bred Anemone nemorosa ‘Allenii’ (and there reports that blue anemones still grow at Highfield house however they need to be formally ifentified) and Chionoscilla allenii which is also commercially available.



Celebrating autumn from the garden

A wonderfully creative evening using harvested foliage, willow, seedheads and flower heads from the garden.

updated by Angela Morley www.wildgardens.co.uk





Low maintenance gardening

Our guest speaker last night was Steve Fry from Castle Gardens, he kicked off his talk with the statement “Low maintenance does not mean no maintenance” I like that!

A low maintenance garden does not happen overnight, it needs to be designed and should be considered a long term project (e.g. a 5 year plan). Some things to consider include:

1 Shape of the lawn – avoid awkward corners and steep slopes which will make mowing tricky

2 Do you need a lawn? – lawn mowing is a very time consuming task. Can you have longer areas of grass which are cut less frequently. Maybe consider putting an area down to an annual or perennial wildflower meadow

3 Height in the garden – a) Climbers on fences, sheds… quickly and easily give interesting cover as well as being attractive to wildlife (e.g. evergreen Hydrangea seemanii, Hydrangea petiolaris ‘Miranda’, Pyracantha saphyr orange ‘Cadange’. Gaps can be infilled during the early years using annual climbers of which there are many interesting ones (e.g. Climbing Fuchsia ‘Lady Boothby’).

b) Trees are low maintenance, great for wildlife and can add a lot of interest to the garden (plant early in your 5 year plan).

c) Raised beds – both for vegetables and borders are a consideration.


4 Low maintenance plants – consider selecting interesting cultivars of common ‘tough’ plants such as Spirea, Japanese anenome, Eleagnus and narrow leaved Hebe. Examples: Eleagnus ‘Quicksilver’, Anenome japonica Disney Princess series, Kniphofia ‘Little Maid’, Hebe stricta.

5 Groundcover – help suppress annual weeds. Examples: Pachysandra terminalis, Adjuga, Heuchera, Helleborus

6 Disease resistance – grow plants which have inbred resistance to problems, for example Carrot ‘Resistafly’ seed or Pyracantha saphyr orange ‘Cadange’ which is resistant to fireblight.

7 Pruning – Grow plants which do not require regular pruning, ‘generally speaking’ evergreens fall into this category. e.g. Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Tricolor’

Euonymus ‘Green Rocket’ is a well behaved, smart plant and may be used as a low hedge.

8 Right plant, right place – Do not make life difficult for yourself, if you do not have acid soil avoid ericaceous plants. At Castle Gardens they have a little hand book “Right Plant, Right Place” they can lend you to help you during your visit. (Steve’s prop on this subject was an unusual ericaceous plant named Calocephalus brownii). Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Tricolor’ is a good tough plant with lots of interest (e.g. in tubs)

9 Rootgrow – although expensive it helps newly planted plants to establish quickly. Particularly worthwhile if planting in less than ideal conditions.

10 Hanging baskets – these are a lot of work requiring much feeding and watering. Consider using are range of sedums

11 Reduce watering requirements – Grow plants which do not require too much watering, shrubs are a good example of this as is sedum matting which can be used on the roofs of compost bins, dog kennels, sheds…

Water retention granules are useful in containers

Irrigation connected to a timer on a tap is particularly useful in greenhouses and on new hedges.

12 Weedcontrol – consider using a solid or woven mulch where beds are not in use or plant trees and shrubs through such a mulch a) black plastic b) Mypex

Chemical weedcontrol is a big subject but Steve brought in a new product (Neudorff) which claims to be Biodegradable and effective on annuals, perennials, moss, algae & mares tail. The active ingredients being Pelargaic acid & Maleic hydrazide.

Steve mentioned the patio weedkiller ‘Algol’ which is a ‘spray and walkway patio cleaner’ (no scrubbing required!)

Bark mulches are another option for reducing weeds, Steve’s preferred material is composte bark over chipped bark, it does not last so long on the surface and will need replenishing more frequently however it acts as a soil improver and therefore increases the soil’s water retaining capacity and health. For example: New Horizon’s ‘Mulch n Mix’ is a good general purpose product that can be used either as a mulch or for potting.

13 Feeding – keep your plants healthy which will avoid other problems. Pelleted Vitax Q4 is a good product

14 Tools – Long armed tools (e.g. Wolf tools with extendable handles and interchangeable tool attachments).

Select a pair of secateurs that fit your hand, consider secateurs with a rotating handle to reduce the strain on your hand.

15 Bulbs – ‘Plant and walk away’. ‘Lasagne planting’: plant in layers. There is even a ‘cake mix’ this year, for example: Carrot cake mix which offers you a selection of orange bulbs to be planted in layers.

16 No dig gardening – this is a big subject and therefore we have Charles Dowding coming to talk to us on this on 4th February 2015


notes by Angela www.wildgardens.co.uk

Harvest show

What a riot of colourful produce from our members’ gardens.  ‘People’s Choice voting’ was done by everyone present, one winner per category – voting was such a difficult task! The evening passed with  much fun and laughter.

Thank you to everyone for making it such a celebration, for sharing  the wonderful things you have grown,  for taking time to do baking and to Denise for donating plum jam to sell.


Esotera Gardens – Foddington

Nestled amid quiet lanes, this is a garden packed with  inspirational ideas and irresistible plants.  Built and designed by Shirley and Andrew who are not only gardeners designers, plants people, metal workers, carpenters but also superb hosts and delicious cake makers.


Plants that caught our attention included:

Clematis viticella ‘Little Bas’ – lovely deep blue bells most of the summer
Geranium ‘Summer Skies’ – Medium tall, double mauve pink flowers most of the summer
Pictoral Meadows seed mix ‘Golden Girl Mixed’ – cornflowers, Eschscholzia californica, Coreopsis
Geranium ‘Sherwood’ – pink long narrow petals
Galega ‘Lady Wilson’  - tall legume for mid summer
Eryngium ‘Donard’ – large soft deep blue flowers
Penesetum ‘Hameln’ – glorious evergreen grass in autumn
Sanguisorba ‘Tanna’ – tiny red pompom flowers
Lysimachia  atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais’ – burgundy flower spikes most of the summer
Molinia ‘Skyracer’  - upright narrow grass, excellent in winter.  Similar in habit to Calamagrostis ‘Carl Foerster’
Briza maxima or Briza minima types – delicate  quaking grass – annuals or perennials
Eryngium ‘Miss Wilmott’s Ghost’  - shines out in evening light, seeds around the garden
Athyrium filix femina’ Frizelliae’ – attractive and dainty fern
Digitalis parviflora – tall elegant evergreen foxglove with dainty rust orange flowers
Verbena hastata – tall for mid to late summer colour
Dahlia ‘Chat Noir’
Sweet pea Matacuna – very fragrant and pretty, Monty Don’s favourite!
Chenopodium giganteum – Tree spinach, ornamental and edible


Collett Park Day

Collett Park day was once again a huge success with blazing sunshine, lots of home grown plants and a very healthy boost to our coffers – Thank you very much to all of you who got involved, bought plants, came to say hello, planted buckets for our competition and grew plants for the Flood Victims.  A couple of our members even found time to enter the ‘British beard and moustache championship’


Midney Gardens

We were wet before we even set foot in the garden but as we did and the drenching rain continued to fall so the performance began – this is a theatrical garden.

The puddling rain added realism to the seaside garden but above its hammering on our umbrellas you could hear gasps of surprise and wonder from the brave few who turned up for this visit.  I liked the symbolism of the clock in the first garden, made up with old springs and rusting metal found on site during the site clearance.   Planted with thymes representing the ticking away of endless minutes, the days of our lives, how time stops when we are enjoying ourselves (in the garden), the incessant growth activity (plant and animal) in the garden, the steady turn of the seasons – time and life inseparable.

Our gasps continued as our trail of multicoloured umbrellas wove their way around the garden and the rain seeped in through our waterproof jackets and jeans.  The ‘ripples on a pond’ lawn were very appropriate that evening.

This is a new garden, started in 2009 and opened in 2012, its long, narrow shape cleverly disguised into a series of subtly themed areas seamlessly flowing from one into another. David and Alison have created a unique garden infused with a sense of theatre, humour, edibles and beautiful planting. This is as much a plantsman’s garden as a garden for wildlife and I defy you not to come away uninspired.

The cold got into our fingers towards the end of the visit so tea, cake and plant purchases will have to be for another visit. The garden is open 11am-5pm Thursday-Sunday, lots more information at:   www.midneygardens.co.uk


Tips & Ideas

  • The creation of the ‘yellow’ garden was determined by the position of an existing large golden leylandii
  • Parnips are allowed to seed, the flowers are good for wildlife and the seed is collected to be sown the following year
  • Radish are allowed to seed, the young pods are  eaten instead of the root, as done in many parts of the world
  • Chop suey greens (Chrysanthemum coronarium) is an attractive plant, seed readily available from seed companies, rich in minerals, anti oxidants and vitamins.  Eat the leaves raw in salads or in stir fry.
  • Tree stakes were painted in places to complement a particular theme  or stem colour
  • Orlaya grandiflora – a lovely hardy annual rather like cow parsley but shorter and showier flowers.
  • Caper spurge (the weed) looks good planted with red orach (edible)


notes by Angela Morley www.wildgardens.co.uk

Growing seeds for the flood victims

Shepton Horticultural Society (rather a grand name for  a group of people interested in plants and gardening) are growing seeds for the flood victims, they also welcome any other gardeners to join in the effort.  The group have lots of packets of flower seeds which have been donated so if you have a bit of space in your greenhouse then contact the group.

The idea is to grow on the seeds, pot them up and bring them to the Shepton Horticultural stand at Collett Park Festival on 14th June.  They will then be distributed to flood victims on the Levels.   It is a well know fact that plants  lift spirits as well as  brighten  gardens, this is the aim of this incentive launched by Zena Pollard.

Spring flowers – visit

Making the most of the clock change we spent a perfect evening at Long Acre Plants nursery amidst an array of unusual and beautiful spring flowering plants.  Nursery owner Nigel Rowland showed us around including the enchanting little copse planted with many of the specimens on sale – if anyone is planning to create a woodland garden then you need to see this little copse in springtime.

The plants were impeccably presented with so many unusual species of the ones we are more familiar with, for example may of us succumbed to different Pulmonaria and Begenia.  We were all Wowed by Trillium cuneatum and the  Erythronium and those of us who spied the pots of moss on sale were equally impressed – pots of Selaginella moss, I have never seen that before – perfect for the stumpery garden!


www.plantsforshade.couk  open to the public Thursdays and Fridays    www.longacreplants.co.uk

Notes by Angela  www.wildgardens.co.uk

Exciting hardwood cuttings

Last night we had fun with willow, plaiting it into interesting shapes, these plaited wigwams will be  rooted and form part of our display at Collet Park on Saturday 14th June.

 The picture rights itself when clicked on… !

Bulbils produce shoots

It is 6 months to the day since we chipped our dormant bulbs of Snowdrop ‘Magnet’ and the bulbils have grown shoots!

Each bulb was cut up into approximately 8-10 slithers, each slither  used its food reserves from the fleshy leaves (think onions) to feed tiny dormant buds on the hard basal plate.  Now those buds have swollen producing roots (in October / November) and now shoots.  We are tending our bulbils by keeping them in seed trays with protection from the winter weather.

Shepton Mallet Horticultural Society putting their hands to specialist propagation techniques in order to put Shepton Mallet back on the map as home to  Glanthus ‘Magnet’.

Festive preparations

The Dusthole pub in Shepton Mallet kindly hosted our December meeting, little did they know the pub was going to be filled with sacks of greenery and berries.   We spent a productive evening making festive garlands using fresh greenery including Euonymus, holly, ivy, rosemary, sage, bay, Cotoneaster, Aucuba, Eleagnus as well as dried flower heads from Hydrangea, Miscanthus, Astilbe, Sedum, Crocosmia, Clematis, Verbena bonariensis.  

It was a great evening, Wendy provided delicious shortbread and ‘Christmas whorls’  and everyone who came along used the resources of their gardens to make armfuls of  home grown, home made, natural decorations for Christmas.


Snowdrop project update

At our November meeting we all brought in our chipped snowdrop cuttings to compare bulbil and root growth.  It is such an exciting project, we have already potentially propagated about 400 new plants from our chip cuttings in June.  They will probably take 3 years before they flower, each year slowly becoming bigger and fatter bulbs.

Shepton Mallet is going to be famous once again for John Allen’s Snowdrop ‘Magnet’


This is the method we have used (from the RHS web site), it also works well for daffodils, Hippeastrum, Allium, Fritillaria, Iris and hyacinths.

  • Lift and clean a mature, virus-free bulb while it is leafless and dormant
  • Remove any papery outer skin and trim back the roots with a sharp knife
  • Remove the growing tip and ‘nose’ of the bulb
  • Hold the bulb with the basal plate uppermost and cut it into 8-16 sections (chips), each of a similar size, depending upon the size of the bulb. Make sure each chip has a portion of basal plate
  • Leave the chips to drain on a rack for 12 hours
  • Place the chips in a clear plastic bag containing ten parts fine vermiculite to one part water. Blow up the bag with air and then seal and label it
  • Keep the bag in a dark place at 20ºC (68ºF) for about 12 weeks, checking occasionally to remove any rotting chips
  • During storage, the scales (layers) of each chip will separate out and bulblets should form between the scales, just above the basal plate
  • Pot the chips up individually in 8cm (3in) pots of free-drainng loam based compost such as John Innes No.2. Insert the chips with the basal plate downwards and the bulblets covered by about 1cm (½in) of compost. Leave the scales exposed – they will slowly rot away as the bulblets develop
  • Grow on the developing bulbs in conditions appropriate to the specific variety

An integrated approach to Pests & Diseases


James from The Gardens Group introduced himself and provided a brief background on the Group, including identifying the bases at Castle (Sherborne), Brimsmore (Yeovil) and Poundbury.   All attendees were handed vouchers and advised that all communications from the Group were now done electronically (newsletter plus Facebook).

Choose the right plant, which will make life easier – one that is

  • easy to grow
  • suitable for the location and purpose
  • one that has good disease resistance.

1.           Recommended Plants

James brought in a selection of his recommended plants and asked the Hortsoc members to identify each one

Cotoneaster ‘Cornubia’’ (AGM) – large leaved, shrub form, good shape with clusters of large red berries and good disease resistance.  It responds well to pruning.

Hypericums are a great choice, but select wisely e.g. Hidcote (AGM) is highly recommended although James suggested Hypericum ‘Miracle Summer’, which is more compact form.  It has yellow flowers and lovely autumn orange-red berries that are useful for floral decoration (Don confirmed his point!)

Caryopteris – ‘the blue spirea’,  relatively disease resistant. C. ‘Worcseter Gold’ (AGM) http://apps.rhs.org.uk/plantselector/plant?plantid=337.  has yellow foliage and blue flowers, requiring a sunny position.  He suggested a hard prune in the Spring to keep it in shape – twice the shoots, twice the flowers.

Osmanthus ‘Goshiki’ (AGM) – means five colours and looks similar to holly.  http://apps.rhs.org.uk/plantselector/plant?plantid=5024.  It is a good container plant and slow growing.

Sarcococca confusa (AGM) –  This is a lovely evergreen with tiny scented creamy white flowers that appear in winter and black berries follow these.

Abelia’ Kaleidiscope’ –  Pink summer flowering shrub with yellow / green variegated leaves and autumn colour. http://apps.rhs.org.uk/plantselector/plant?plantid=2071

Lavender  - James advised that it was robust apart from its physical needs.  Avoid poor drainage and lack of sun.  Prune twice-yearly – once after flowering (just below flower and in spring and down as far as the start of the shoots.  This will ensure good shape and will stop it becoming leggy.  Lavandula augustifolia  ‘Hidcote’ has one of the best blues.  http://www.rhs.org.uk/Gardens/Harlow-Carr/About-Harlow-Carr/Plant-of-the-month/July/Lavandula-angustifolia–Hidcote-  ‘Munstead’ is also good for a softer blue.   French lavenders need more protection.

Skimmia’ Rubella’ (AGM) (male) needs acid soil.  http://apps.rhs.org.uk/plantselector/plant?plantid=5471 If in the wrong soil it will show as yellow veining in the leaf.  Grow it in a container if the soil is limey soil and provide an ericaceous feed.

Pieris japonica ‘Carnival’ – a good container plant with variegated leaves with red flush in the spring and long lasting white flowers.

2.           Recommended Seeds

James advised that seed producers were now producing ranges of seed that focused on disease and pest resistance and were worth checking out.

He gave Unwin’s Gro-Sure range of black packets as an example.  These were also coated and so were easier to handle.  http://www.unwins.co.uk/gro-sure-vegetable-seeds-page2-cid585.html

3.      Plant Husbandry

Once you have selected your plants then it is all about treating them well.  This included:

  • Watering
  • Feeding
  • Mulching
  • Pruning
  • Hygiene, including after pruning
  • Crop rotation


This is particularly important after there has been lots of rain and nutrients have been washed away

Products such as Miracle Gro are often used but this tends to be high maintenance since it requires regular feeds (often weekly).   Consider instead a general-purpose fertiliser such as Vitax Q4 (based on chicken poo), which is an extended release and includes lots of trace elements.  Place round the base of the plant every few weeks.  The range includes one for conifers and shrubs.

Blood and Bone meal was also slow release, but had a less immediate impact- more background / more natural way of fertilizing

Miracle Gro Ericaceous Soluble Plant could be used for plants that required an acid soil – if they have started to turn yellow then an application of a course of feed will begin to have an impact within 2-3 weeks.


Now is the time to do it, or in the spring.  James suggested that even bark would help reduce water loss by up to 70% during the summer.

Before mulching always clear the ground of infected leaves, for example, where there has been black spot on roses.  This will help avoid fungal spores re-infecting the soil.


Pruning is a good way of managing a range of problems.  Removal of the affected growth can be important.   Use a product such as Arbrex Seal and Heal for cut limbs.  This will help protect against the ingress of disease and harmful pests.

A general clematis pruning tip

Any clematis that flowers between midsummer’s day and September should be cut back hard in early spring. Those that flower before midsummer’s day only need a gentle tidying if it’s needed.

Crop rotation

Ensure move around each year.  Remember the four 4 groups that need to be rotated:

  • Alliums (onions, garlic, etc)
  • Brassicas (cabbages, broccoli, etc)
  • Root vegetables
  • Legumes (peas and beans)

4.      Cures – How to solve problems

 The market is moving increasingly away from chemicals – particularly as certain products are being proved unsafe and removed from the market.  There has been a corresponding increased interest in traditional and ‘friendly’ gardening (including plant choice, rotation, barriers and biological control).  The last resource in the portfolio is use of off the shelf products (organic and non-organic).

James considered other ways of dealing with pests without using blanket controls such as Pyrethrum Spray

leaving wild areas in or around your garden will encourage natural predators, including frogs, slow worms, etc. James advised that Dorset Wildlife Trust had been placing hedgehog boxes under compost bins, etc

  • diverse planting schemes
  • companion planting
  • introduction of predators and parasites
  • pheromone traps

Slugs & Snails – a range of options

Use organic slug pellets where possible.  These are based on ferric phosphate, which cause the slugs to go back underground and starve. The iron and phosphate they contain go back into the soil, both beneficial for plant growth.  Non-organic products rely on metaldehyde, which is toxic to wildlife and goes back into the food chain, affecting birds and hedgehogs.

Copper tape is also effective for pots or copper piping on raised beds creates an electrical barrier that slugs don’t like.

Slug Gone – pellets made of wool.  Okay for dressing of pots but not recommended for large areas.

Slug & Snail Traps – These can be effective and are usually alcohol (often beer) based.


5.      Biological Controls

Natural Predators

- Some pests are notoriously hard to control with chemicals. Consider use of natural predators for specific pests, such as vine weevils.  Nematodes may be used from April.  They work by swimming through soil and then burrow into grubs and die.   They are more effective with container grown plants of for confined spaces, for example for white fly or red spider mite in greenhouses.

Pheromone Traps

-       Fruit trees where the maggots cause damage to apples / plums.  The trap works by imitating the scent of female moths.  The male is drawn to it and gets caught on sticky trap.  Use these from late May to end of July.

-       Leek moths – The small yellow green caterpillars damage foliage and tunnel into stems. Control is either phermomone using the same principle as above or use of physical barriers (such as fleece on cloche frames, which may also be used against cabbage white and carrot fly.

Companion Planting

– Use to discourage pests, for example, herbs in amongst plants.   Examples suggested included use of chervil and lettuce; garlic generally, tagetes (Mexican marigold) and tomatoes.

Physical controls

-       Winter moths – apples and fruit trees – to be applied now (October)!  On old trees with fissures can use Vitax Fruit Tree Grease

-       Whitefly and other insects – In greenhouse use Yellow Sticky Traps.

-       Cabbage root fly – consider use of Cabbage Collars for your brassicas.  Place at base of stems.

-       Strawberry – use of straw or straw mats (can also be used for hostas) to prevent slug damage.  Broken eggshells and gravel are useful alternatives.

-       Slugs – melon rind or upside down grapefruit.

Mildew in greenhouses

- Ventilation and spacing is key.  Allow airflow.  Avoid watering foliage and water the ground only.

Chemical Barrage

-       ‘Friendly’ Treatments

Products containing plant (for example seaweed) or fish oils attack some pests and diseases by physical rather than chemical action.  On insects they work by blocking the pores; however their effectiveness is limited by the need for direct contact on the insect (scale insects, aphids, thrips whiteflies and spider mites).  For use on powdery mildews, black spot.  Suggest: Nature’s Answer Natural Fungus and Bug Killer

-       Tar Oil

Used to be something called tar oil that used to paint on trees but these products are no longer available for pesticide use, but are available for the sterilisation of greenhouse structures, seed trays and pots.   The organic version is based on fish oils and plant oils.  Suggest: Winter Tree Wash (Just Green), which is based on plant oils and prevents insect eggs.

-       Greenhouse sterilisers

Jeyes Fluid is best known but quite harsh.  Suggested alternative is Citrox Garden & Greenhouse Disinfectant.  It is citrus based and nicer to use.

Sulphur can be used to fumigate.  Leave for a day and ventilate well.

-       Chemical Products


Best selling brands often include Neonicotinoids, which work systemically by going through the plant.  There is increasing evidence that they get into the pollen and are having a devastating effect on bees.  If you need to use them then limit them to use of houseplants, where bees cannot be affected.

The Gardens Group, like many other retailers, has now removed a number of these products from its shelves because of the harmful impact.

Cat repellants –  Cats – Suggest: Pepper Dust (Bayer) but only good until it rains.  An alternative is Silent Roar, which is based on lion dung and works on territorial instincts of cats to avoid area.

Plant & Soil Treatment.  When planting anything new then suggest Rootgrow Mycorrhizal Fungi Rootgrow.  It is highly effective in encouraging secondary root growth and helping the plant to get established.  Note: not for use with acid-loving plants or brassicas.

6.      Shepton Horticultural Society Question Time

Q.        What can be done about mildew on trees?

A.        Very little!  Suggest consider pruning to assist air flow


Q.        Cherry tree has shriveled leaves and no fruit.  What is it?

A.        Not sure.  It could be bacterial canker that is entering via the blossom.


Q.        Wilting violas.  Many are fine; others are dying in small groups.  What is happening?

A.        Unable to identify without further information.


Q.        A 15-year-old viburnum appears to be dying.  What is wrong?

A.        All plants have natural lifespans.  This could be the case of reaching the end of this ones.  Suggested pruning out some of older wood.  Viburnums are good at regenerating from base.  They don’t tend to suffer much from pests.  Take out some of the older stems – about 1/3.  Another test of vigour is to scrape along the bark with your nail.  It should reveal green.  If brown instead then it is probably dead!


Notes by Simon Edwards


Trip to Malvern

It was a pleasure to welcome Mary and Jason on our ‘grand day out’ to the Malvern Autumn Show.  I knew our day out would be a good bonding experience but it turned out to be a bit more than I bargained for with an extended visit to Michaelwood services on the M5!   At the show, the displays and nurseries that impressed us most turned out to be from the Shepton Mallet area – so it was interesting and made us appreciate even more our locality.

Nurseries we bought from / visited at the show included:

Hardy and Unsual Plants, Kilver Court, Shepton Mallet     www.hardyandunusualplants.co.uk
East Pennard Plants   www.pennardplants.com
Mendip Bonsai, Shepton Mallet www.mendipbonsai.co.uk
Tor Stone, Glastonbury

The show made me think it would be fun to have our own club ‘ Harvest / Harvest Moon ‘ show next year so I am open for suggestions, Connor – our youngest member – has already requested that we have an “Exotic fruit ” category in the show.

Our thanks to Henk for driving us, to Ann and Emma for the bags of sweets that were passed around the min bus


Mill Cottage Plants

Sally Gregson and her husband laid their garden out 25 years ago, it is set around the old mill chase in Wookey.  Hedges, clipped hornbeam  pillars, a densely planted pergola, pleached hornbeam, bamboos and bridges divide up the area into a series of small and often ‘secret’ gardens.  It is a plantswoman’s garden showing how rare and interesting Hydrangea and Epimedium can be successfully grown in our own gardens.

Plants that caught our eye on this lovely warm August evening included:

Succisella inflexa ‘Frosted Pearls’ growing amidst Molina ‘Transparent’
Hydrangea aspera ‘Peter Chapel’
Hydrangea ‘Fuji’ (dwarf and perfect for growing in pots)
Hydrangea serrata
Heuchera ‘Bronze Beauty’ (huge choc olate brown leaves)
Hydrangea ‘Hot Chocolate’
Digitalis ferruginea (perennial foxglove)
Eupatorium rugosum ‘ Chocolate’ (dark foliage perfect in a border with reds)
Veronocastrum virginicum
‘ Jade’ (dainty, white and scented)
Oenothera ‘Moonlight’ (delicate evening primrose)

Croquet lawn, Succisella inflex ‘Frosted Pearls’ growing amidst Molina ‘Transparent’


For more information (including an apartment to let in the Alps!)



Yews Farm – Fabulous garden

This ‘my’ perfect garden,  not only does it look stunning in the summer with its romantic planting, carefully chosen colour schemes and its embracing of productive vegetable beds and trained fruit but this is a garden that will keep its dignity throughout the winter months as well, with its gnarled apple trees,  clipped bay and box shapes and crisply edged lawn.  (is that sentence too long?)  Elements of this garden remind me of Hanham Court garden near Keynsham, for example it is a garden enclosed by walls and not allowed to spread beyond these, the topiary, the timber detailing of the r0se clad ‘arbour’ and the romantic planting.

The garden at Yews Farm was started in 1997 by Louise and Fergus Dowding , they started with a blank canvas only retaining the existing apple trees in this beautiful walled space. Beds are block planted as they believe this makes maintenance easier, it is one of the best approaches in our gardens at home which so few of us fail to achieve because buying 9 plants at a time of only one sort feels rather too extravagant.

Keeping maintenance low is key to Fergus and Louise; beds are not dug and well rotted manure is added to all beds annually. By maintaining a  healthy soil you improve the health of your plants “for a plant to thrive, the soil must be alive”.

Plants are not only chosen for their colour but also for their form, for example clipped shapes, Hydrangea quercifolia, Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’, ferns, Dracunculus, Paulonia, Yucca, Globe artichoke, Helleborus corsicus, Eryngium, Euphorbia mellifera, Eucomis (most of these were in the gravel ‘jungle’ garden), whilst white flowering plants are used along a shady path.

Self seeding is allowed in this garden as this does reduce maintenance however Louise is ruthless, if a plant fails it will not be replaced similarly if a plant is not quite right, it will not be kept either. A hidden away cutting garden might be a place for those outcasts! Good plants for self seeding include Eryngium ‘Miss Willmott’s Ghost’, Allium Christophii and Hellebores.

Other plants that impressed were:
Ligusticum lucidum Rosa ‘Eden’ (cream, pink, green) – a recent French bred climbing rose
Iris ‘Kent Pride’ (lovely blue tinge to base of leaves)
Rosa ‘Hot Chocolate’ (dark rusty orange / red with different interesting tones)
Dryopteris erythrosora (the Autumn fern)
Nicotiana langsdorffii

Tips (and cider tipples) shared with us by Fergus:
1. Hostas tend to stay slug free if grown on gravel but where their leaves are not touching other plants (which creates a slug bridge).
2. Manure from silage fed cows tends to be less weedy than field grazing cows
3. Louise is using horticultural grade Neam oil insecticide / soap against box blight

notes and photos by Angela Morley (www.wildgardens.co.uk)



Stoberry Park

We enjoyed a glorious summers evening at Stoberry Park garden which is perched above the city of Wells.

This is a garden that has been developed by Tim and Frances Young who started with a bare field in 1986.  27 years on and they have a semi established garden with a good framework of trees and shrubs (and tons of interesting herbaceous plants in between!).  That is what is special about gardening, it is a process during which we tend to live with the image of what our garden is going to look like rather than the ‘mature end product’ .  We focus on all the small herbaceous plants whilst the trees and shrubs are slowly growing in the background overlooked yet critical to the outcome.

What struck me about this garden was the wide use of dark leaved plants (e.g. Pittosporum ‘Tom Thumb’, Berberis atropurpurea, Aeonium, Phormium purpureum, copper beech, dark leaved sycamore, Sambucus nigra ‘Black Beauty’ /S. ‘Black Lace’) which created strong contrast with the softer greens.  There were black tulips (which looked great in the shade) and most of the sculpture was painted black too.

notes by Angela Morley



Snowdrop project kicks off

Press release launching  the beginning of the Shepton Horticultural Society Snowdrop project

“The middle of the summer – the best time to propagate new plants from bulbs – is not the best time to find snowdrop bulbs.

Workshop leader Angela Morley found Simon Bagnall, head of garden and grounds at Worcester College, Oxford.

He was about to lift and split clumps of Magnet snowdrops, one of the few surviving varieties bred in Shepton by Allen. It carries an award of garden merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Simon Edwards collected the bulbs from the Oxford college and together with Dominic Weston hosted the workshop last week, which saw members learning how to cut the bulbs, before bagging them and stashing them in the airing cupboard, ready to pot on when they show signs of growth later in the year.

The new snowdrop plants will ultimately be planted out in Shepton gardens, but don’t hold your breath – it will take three years for them to get to flowering size.

The society will be planting up some full size bulbs to display next spring, so people in the town can get familiar with this beautiful little plant, which is part of the town’s proud heritage.


Somerfloss Garden

Part of the original Ashwick Grove Estate, Somerfloss is a garden nestled at the end of a long narrow valley with spectacular rock formations just off the A367 north of Oakhill.  The garden, with its open layout included woodland, rockery, meadow and traditional border plantings and although distinct from each other, the spring flowers linked each area seamlessly.

Plants that were of note during our evening visit included:

  • Bowles golden grass – Milium effusum ‘Aureum’ which self seeds around the garden gently
  • Aster divaricatus – useful ground cover perennial with masses of tiny white daisy flowers late summer and into the autumn
  • Jeffersonia – Flowers March/ April with small blue or white saucer shaped flowers, best grown in moist, humus rich, well-drained, limestone soils in part shade, it also
    tolerates full shade
  • The ferny purple new shoots of Actaea simplex ‘James Compton’
  • Rubus cockburnianus ‘Goldenvale’ – related to the bramble with a waxy bloom on its arching stems and sometimes evergreen golden foliage, makes a stunning plant for the winter garden but needs cutting down every spring
  • Ramonda – an evergreen rockery plant for shady wall, blue flowers in spring

The garden, created over the past 20 years by its current owners, Rosemary and Ewan, is dominated by a very interesting 1970’s house perched half way down the side of the valley against a backdrop of natural rock.  Native semi mature trees provide shelter and frame every view; on the exposed rocks, their grey roots cling to the hillside adding to the drama of this huge rockery.  There is an overriding naturalistic approach to the planting and layout of this garden, particularly in spring, it is a garden that sits well in its landscape.

Notes by Angela Morley



Garden Visit to Kapunda Plants, Bath

Kapunda Plants can be found on the edge of Bath in the grounds of Kapunda House, the home of Juliet Davis and her husband.  On a recent visit to the gardens Juliet told the assembled Shepton Horties that no one is absolutely sure where the name Kapunda came from, but it could derive either from the Barossa Valley in Australia or from South Africa.  What she did know about the mock castle house is that it was built in 1906 with two acres of gardens surrounding it.

In 1988 Juliet and her husband undertook a house-swap with her in-laws, and she found herself with a garden on her hands.   Enrolling on a gardening course Juliet began by redesigning the south terrace of the property and her enthusiasm for gardening grew.

Somewhere along the way she found herself increasingly mesmerised by Lenten Hellebores; one of the most-named for the time of year when they flower.  These plants originated in Turkey and the former Yugoslavia – there they are found in mountainous regions under the canopy of trees.  Their propagation as garden plants was slow – but various British breeders started hybridising them in the 20th century including Helen Ballard in the 1950s and Elizabeth Strangman of the Washfield Nursery in Kent in the 1970s and 80s.

Singles were hybridised into doubles, and the colour palette was extended from the original white and purple.

Juliet’s own interest in hybridising eventually turned into obsession, and by 2003 she had started specialising in Hellebores and Kapunda Plants was born.

On the visit to the garden the Horties got to see established plants in flower, from the purest white, through greens, pinks and purples to a slate-like black.

We also quickly learnt that to breed these beautiful spring flowers you need incredible levels of patience and dedication.  Juliet hand-pollinates her plants, which involves waiting for the perfect time to extract pollen from one plant, using tweezers, and then transferring it to the sticky stigma in another, just as the bud is opening.  This is difficult enough with the single-flowering varieties, but with the more ruffled doubles, it is even more tricky.

Between February and March the plants will drop their seed, which Juliet has to catch, sow, and keep in a cool part of the garden until December.  Then the pots come into the greenhouse and hopefully start sprouting seedlings (they will often need a warm followed by a cold cycle to germinate).  Then they are potted on, and next spring go outside into nursery beds for their first two years.  After that they’re moved onto another bed but may only flower after 3-4 years.  It’s only then that Juliet will finally see what kind of flower and plant the cross has resulted in.

Lenten Hellebores do not divide well so if, after four years, she has come up with a stunning slaty-black flower then there is often no way to repeat the successful cross – it’s all a bit pot luck!

Here are Juliet’s tips for growing Lenten Hellebores:

  • They don’t like full sun – in the wild they grow under the canopy of trees.
  • Feed them well, they are very hungry plants, with big, fleshy roots. If you don’t feed them every year they will remain as a small clump. If you do feed them then you get wonderful flowers.
  • Juliet uses home made compost and Blood, Fish and Bone and feeds in February and September.
  • Take the flowers off after they fade.
  • Remove old leaves at the end of January, just before they are about to flower again.
  • They are hard to dig up – the fleshy roots go down a long way – and they don’t divide well, but you can transplant them. If you want to transplant them then do this in September.
  • Keep an eye out for aphids, they can he a problem, especially on H. corsicus.

NB Some snowdrops were also out during the visit and two of the most impressive at that time of year were Sam Arnott and Magnet (the latter hybridized by James Allen in Shepton Mallet).

link to photo album:


Photographs and notes by Dominic Weston

Hellebore Heaven

Saturday 16th March
Photographs by Wendy and Mike Biggs 









Root cuttings versus root tubers

It isn’t often that a ‘good night out’ involves: a hand saw, seeds and plenty of bags. Last night the Dusthole pub in Shepton Mallet was turned into a productive potting shed.   

The evening kicked off with drinks, renewal of our year’s membership fees, and a free seed swap.  Seeds were mainly vegetable seeds and included organic heritage varieties, yellow pak choi, multi coloured beetroot, yellow carrots and giant pumpkins.  Then we turned to the serious business of root cuttings and root tubers.

Angela Morley brought in a freshly dug up Papaver ‘Perry’s White’ for root cuttings and stored dahlia tubers for root tuber divisions.

So what is the difference?

Root cuttings are roots which have the capacity to regenerate themselves, think ‘dandelion!’ or think of those garden plants you thought you had dug up and moved but the bits that stayed behind grew into new plants (e.g. Acanthus, Anenome japonica, Phlox, Echinops, suckering shrubs…).

Dig up your plant and remove up to a 1/3 of the thickest roots about 5cm long, you must remember which way up they go (if not lay them on their side), pot up with the top of the cutting just below the surface of the compost.  Water a bit, put in a heated  propagator if you have one.  Do not overwater, they will rot, start watering only once leaves appear.  Replant your parent plant (or you can split it and replant 2 ‘parent’ plants).

Root tubers do not have any buds on them so you must ensure you have a bit of the original (dead) stem attached to any tuber (or bunch of tubers) you split.  This is where the saw came in!  The clumps of tubers were washed but they were large, Lizzie volunteered to saw the clump in half, smaller clumps were more delicately divided with a knife.

All the new plants were potted up and members have taken them home to grow on for our plant sale at Collet Park on 13th June.   It is a competition to see who will grow on the best plant!

notes by Angela Morley www.wildgardens.co.uk

Garden Centre Outing

Saturday we started our gardening year by visiting Castle Gardens in Sherborne.  Too cold and wet to get into our own gardens but perfect for planning, shopping and socialising over tea and cake!

Some of us went armed with long lists of seeds, onion sets, seed potatoes… whilst others allowed themselves to be tempted by splendid standard roses, showy winter flowering cyclamen, stunning new Hellebores…   We returned home with more than our purchases, we returned with hope, excitement and enthusiasm for the season ahead.

As part of our group’s Gold Club membership with the garden centre we qualified for a 25% discount on most of our purchases but upon arrival we were presented with a further 50% discount on one outdoor plant too!  It was a great day out, I think the photograph shows this although we look like we are a group of skiers rather than gardeners (and we were not ‘blue’ as the photo suggests – just the wrong setting on the camera!)



  1. www.thegardeneronline.co.uk

Spring jobs in the garden

During this eerily mild spell of January weather I am getting ahead of myself in the garden.  Firstly I have walked around the garden making a list – it is a long list but I think it looks worse than it is.  I think if you don’t already have a ‘garden notepad’ January is a nice time to begin one.   It will be an important long term resource recording information such as which species of plants you have planted (instead of having unsightly labels on your plants and for when the plant tags get lost), seeds you have previously ordered, potato varieties you have had success (and failures with), crop rotational plans, clippings from gardening magazines…

You can’t plant a garden and then turn your back on it, there will always be plants to move, weeds to get on top of, pruning, tidying…   However, as gardeners, we do need to protect our soil by not walking and digging it when it is very wet like it is now.  I have made the most of the paths and hard surfaces around my garden to access beds, one benefit of not having lawn everywhere!

Don’t aim to be too tidy either, dead leaves covering the soil (including flopped dead leaves and stems of Geranium, Iris siberica…) are all doing good in protecting the soil structure and providing shelter for invertebrates and amphibians which also means rich hunting ground for blackbirds…


The jobs on my list this month fall into the following categories:

Moving plants – sometimes I get things wrong, for example planting a Geranium ‘Rozanne’ too close to the edge of the bed so it gets in the way of mowing in the summer or the pink phlox which I have decided I don’t like.  Tree seedlings such as hazel will be moved to the hedgerow.

My hellebores have seeded everywhere as have Myosotis (forget- me-nots), Lunaria (Honesty) and Lychnis flos cuculi (ragged robin); primulas, Anenome and Digitalis purpurea (foxgloves) have wandered too.  I weed out most of the Myosotis (but not all), move, thin and pot up the rest for the Shepton Horticultural Society summer plant sale.

Seed heads – my secateurs hover over the untidy Verbena bonariensis however I resist because I have seen the greenfinches enjoying a valuable feast of its seeds.  The Delphinium stems do get a rough tidy but I am wary because these hollow stems will be providing habitat to some tiny insect species I am sure.  Most of the seed heads are safe for a while longer with species like Hydrangea, Primula florindae, Sedum, Actaea and Iris foetidissima all providing interest.  I do admit though that Iris foretidissima tends to seed a bit too happily in my garden so I have harvested its bright orange seed heads to bring into the house as decoration, its evergreen, strong, strappy leaves are a great asset to form in the borders.

Being ruthless – take a critical look at the garden, is anything underperforming?  For example Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’ is a large plant and only flowers once, I have decided I only have space for one of these.   The Phlomis fruticosa I grew from a cutting doesn’t really fit with my garden (and it wants to grow big!), it will have to go to the plant sale.

Weeds – We don’t want to damage our soil by trampling and digging this month, so any patches of bind weed and ground elder will have to wait, in the meantime that ephemeral little weed Cardamine hirsuta (hairy bitter cress) can be pulled up (it has an 8 week life cycle so your job will never be done!) and maybe make a start on any Ranunculus repens (creeping buttercup) using a hand fork.

 Dividing plants – When the soil dries out a bit more I shall be dividing my herbaceous plants that need it, for example Aster frikartii ‘Monch’, Persicaria amplexicaulis’Firetail’, Geranium, Hemerocallis, Alchemilla mollis.  These perform better if you divide them every few years, it creates more space in the border and it also gives you the opportunity to pass some onto your friends (I think it is best to resist the temptation to replant all divisions into your own garden which will lead to a very restricted palette as well as potentially a garden full of ‘vigorous’ plants that frequently need dividing).


Critical overview - In January it is easy to see the bones of the garden: which parts of the garden / beds are working and which aren’t.  Taking a critical look in our own garden isn’t very easy but if you can I am sure you will be able to make improvements.   As a starting point do you have enough evergreens for winter interest?  I use Sarcococca, clipped lavender, clipped box for structure with other evergreens such as Begenia, Choisya, Penstemon, evergreen ferns, Iris foetidissima and Penstemon playing a role too.

It is a good time to plan plant supports, make a note in your garden book: which ones need it, which ones got forgotten last year or ‘under staked’ …  hmm…  there is always more needed than you think!

It is all beginning to sound over whelming, hence my tackling the list early and as for most things ‘little and often’.   So to finish on a positive note, the star plants in my garden right now include: Euphorbia wulphenii, the seed heads of Sedum and Primula florindae, vibrant stems of dogwoods, Sarcococca, snowdrops, primroses and Begenia  (not everyone likes Begenia but it is looking very smart and budding up to offer early nectar to insects), the hellebores and Pulmonaria are not quite in full bloom yet but looking promising!


 by Angela Morley


Understanding families

Sea spring seeds offer a simple explanation to vegetable rotations:

“January is a good a time to start ordering your seeds. But before you do you need to plan the garden, deciding not only where each vegetable will go, but also how much of each one to grow. As you perform the annual ritual, don’t forget the need to rotate the vegetables around the garden.

Rotating is an important natural control that will prevent pest and disease build-up in the soil, and there is nothing mysterious about setting up an effective system. All you need is an understanding of plant families and the organisational skills to grow plants from the same family only one year in four on the same patch of ground. Given the large number of vegetable families, rotating can get overly complicated, so to keep it simple, put the main emphasis on the Alliaceae (onions, leeks and garlic), Brassicaceae (cabbages, calabrese and kales) and Solanaceae (tomatoes, potatoes and peppers) families. Then you can fine tune the rotations with other families such as the carrots, legumes and cucurbits. (For more information on rotations and plant families click here.)

Whatever plan you come up with, don’t ever (and we mean it) trust your memory – draw maps every year and keep them where they can be easily found. Four years are a long time to remember. Trust us, we’ve learned the hard way.”

Alliaceae Amaryllidaceae Leek, Onion, Shallot  Chives 
Apiaceae Umbelliferae Carrot, Coriander, Parsley, Parsnip  Celeriac, Celery, Fennel 
Asteraceae Compositae Lettuce  Chicory/Endive, Globe artichoke, Jerusalem artichoke, Salsify, Scorzonera  
Brassicaceae Cruciferae Broccoli/Calabrese, Brussel sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Chinese cabbage, Pak choi, Radish, Swede, Turnip  Kohlrabi, Texsel greens, Mizuna, Tatsoi   
Chenopodiaceae Beetroot, Perpetual spinach, Spinach


New Zealand spinach 
Cucurbitaceae Cucumber, Courgette Pumpkin, Squash 
Fabaceae Leguminosae Broad Bean, French Bean, Runner Bean, Pea


Lamiaceae Labiatae Basil, Marjoram, Mint, Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme, Sage 
Liliaceae Asparagus 
Poaceae Gramineae Sweet corn  Lemon grass 
Solanaceae Pepper, Potato, Tomato  Aubergine, Tomatillo 

For more information visit:


Christmas Quiz

Simon and Dominic prepared a brilliant Christmas quiz for us last night at the Dusthole, Shepton Mallet.  John and Audrey prepared the best mince pies in the world!

We were all a bit nervous and worried we hadn’t done enough homework since the quiz was based on information on our web site.  We had reason to be worried!

The quiz was fantastically organised, it was fun and tested our horticultural knowledge at the same time.  It began with a seed identification, then we had two ‘mystery objects’ followed by questions relating to bonsai, soil enrichers, pruning, plant identification, mystery music (with horticultural links) and a scary ‘blind identification’ where members of teams had to put their hands into a bin liner to identify something that turned out to not be too pleasant!

Simon and Dominic, I think you are in danger of being asked to do the job again next year too!  Thank you


Pruning fruit trees

Muddy lanes, wellies and lovely autumn sunshine at Pylle this morning – perfect for a pruning workshop.  We had a hands on session in Angela’s garden and then in Wendy’s garden, pruning both young and older apple trees.

Prune in this order:
First – remove the 3 D’s (dead, diseased and damaged wood) (i.e. the wood that must be removed for the health of the tree)
Second – remove crossing branches as these will become damaged and diseased with time
Third- prune young trees to encourage a good, strong shape AND prune to encourage fruiting, this means prune to encourage spurs on spur bearing trees, do this by removing all new vertical growth to 3 bud (about 1 cm).   The best way to learn and to build up your confidence is to attend a hands on workshop rather than read about it!   I am sure we will do some more pruning next winter!

1. D0 not remove more than 25% of the tree at any one time

2. Prune little and often, the tree will respond to your annual pruning and you can respond again next winter

3. You shouldn’t need to prune for size as you should be growing a tree on the correct rootstock for your site

Prune between  November and February although some growers prefer to leave their pruning until February as they feel the wounds heal over faster.  If  you have a very vigorous tree (e.g. some cookers) or espaliers and cordons, you can do some summer pruning (July) which helps to reduce their vigour a bit.



Interesting small seed companies

There are many smaller seed companies offering interesting vegetable varieties, we don’t have to rely only on the big names.

The summer before last I visited Sea Spring Seeds a very small horticultural seed business right by the sea in Dorset.  It was a fascinating visit: many small greenhouses each filled with special seed crops most being grown for commercial seed but others grown as trial crops testing their ‘worthiness’ to get into the Sea Spring catalogue.

Sea Spring Seeds grow a wide range of  chillis in fact they bred the Dorset Naga, said to be the hottest chilli in the world!

Friends have just sent me details of the Real Seed Catalogue, another small seed producer which looks very interesting too.

Last year our horticultural group visited Simpsons Seeds on part of the Longleat estate, yet another company offering seeds (and plants) for the kitchen garden with a particular interest in chillis and tomatoes.





Tips on vegetable growing

Chris from East Pennard Nursery has come to talk to us about growing vegetables – all you ever needed to know

Rule number One. Do not despair

Rule number two. To grow good vegetables you must look after your ground. The Victorians used 20/30 different fertilizers for different crops, mixing them to suit the crops requirements.

Beware general man made fertilizers like Phostrogen and Growmore they are very strong and leach out of the soil very fast.  The slowly slowly approach is far better suited to growing plants, that means using plant and animal based fertilizers and soil improvers.

Dig and top up your beds with compost, kitchen waste etc. Compost mainly improves the soil structure rather than adding great fertility.  Use nettles, comfrey and / or borage (grow as green manure, they lock up nutrients from the soil) in your compost and cover the compost bin to reduce leaching of nutrients.

Organic matter encourages worm action, worms degrade compost mixing them into the soil to create a lovely ‘crumb structure’ which is great for plant roots to grow through. In the autumn add fallen leaves to the top of empty beds, worms will do the rest for you, drawing them down into the soil.  The leaves will also act like a mulch, warming the soil.

Do not use manure on root crops. Needs to be in for 3 years before you grow roots.


Rule number three. 3 types of nutrients groups. Nitrogen (N) , Phosphorus (phosphate) (P) and Potassium (potash) (K).

a)    Nitrogen is used by plants for leafy growth (e.g. cabbage, lettuce, spinach…)

b)    Potash for fruit and flowers

c)    Phosphates for root growth (e.g. carrots, parsnips…)

Buy organic fertilizers, for example bone meal, chicken pelleted manure, liquid seaweed, fish blood and bone…and wood ash.  These are lower in nutrients than man made fertilizers so use them when needed or nutrients will leach away with rain.

Growmore was developed in the 1940’s to help with the War effort, to help make food growing easier for everyone, it took the science out of mixing fertilizers.  Growmore is man made, quick release and contains equal N, P and K.  On the other hand Bonemeal is slow release, contains mainly K and when used in the autumn (all autumn plantings: e.g. when planting trees, shrubs, onion sets, garlic…), it releases its phosphates over a long period.

Crops will grow better with the right help.

Grow what you like to eat and / or grow what you can’t buy. Grow crops that benefit from pull and cook, for example cut and come again salad all year round. Grow different varieties than those that are available in the shops (e.g. try a different potato and / or tomato variety).

Don’t leave empty vegetable beds, grow green manures, these will prevent nutrients from being washed out of your soil in the winter.  Cut the green manure in spring and dig straight into the ground. Mustard helps to sterilize the soil.

Rotate your crops to stop diseases building up in the soil.  Divide plot into 3 areas one area each for: leafy crops, one for root crops and one for onion crops.

Sowing your vegetable seed:
For good germination, don’t sow too early, seeds need warmth. You can germinate seeds on damp kitchen paper then transfer them outside. Use guttering for sowing peas into but beware of mice!

Beans need warmth, delay sowing until Apr/May. Cover with chopped off lemonade bottles as cloches if ground not warm enough. Sow thinly, sow until July. Plan early crop carrot.

Greenhouses can get too hot during the day and then too cold at nights – not good for seeds and delicate seedlings.

Sow root crops directly into the ground rather than modules, sow seed when the soil is not too wet and has warmed (use cloches).

Protecting plants outside (e.g. to keep cabbage white butterfly off brassicas): use metal pig iron stakes on 4 corners of bed, put canes between these cane then drape netting/fleece.

Ensure continuity of supply of your vegetables by marking on the calendar when (& what) you have sown then repeat sow every two weeks. Shady gardens work well.

Try perennial crops, for example: artichokes, asparagus, kale, onions. Beware of Jerusalem Artichokes as they will take over.  Try Oca (oxalis tuberosa) for something unusual.

Don’t forget herbs, they keep pests away. Grow garlic, it needs to be well drained, plant now (or as early as September).

Liming kills slugs, 4oz/meter sq in autumn, 2oz/meter sq in the spring. Do not over lime

RHS The Vegetable Gardener is the best book Chris has seen on vegetable growing, it is out of print but may still be available on Amazon.

Look out for Pennard Plants’ Potato Day in Castle Cary in Feb 2013 (see ‘whats on’)

Notes by Zena




Feed the soil

Spurred with enthusiasm after Chris Smith’s talk on vegetable growing last Wednesday evening, members of our group were eager to get feeding their soil.

Key points of Chris’ talk:

  • Feed the soil often
  • Use organic fertilizers for slow release of nutrients over a long period of time (avoid man made fertilizers)
  • Bonemeal is high in potash, use at planting with all root crops (e.g. shallots, onions, carrots…)
  • Dried blood is high in nitrogen, use around strawberry plants
  • Wood ash is high in potash, use it fresh but not in too high quantities
  • Organic matter tends to be low in nutrients but is excellent for improving the soil structure
  • Add nettles (not flowering) and comfrey to the compost heap
  • Cover your compost heap to avoid nutrients from being washed out
  • Do not use manure  on root crops
  • Plant green manures
  • Cover soil with autumn leaves and let the worms take it down into soil
  • Cover your beds with black plastic to avoid nutrients being washed out
  • Alternate your vegetable crops on a 3 year cycle


Harvest Vegetables

Harvest time in the garden, look at all the exciting varieties there are out there!




Winter Hanging Baskets

Winter Hanging Baskets with Louise Burks, from Castle Gardens, Sherbone

• This was a talk on how to prepare and plant winter-flowering hanging baskets, balls and tubs.
 • Louise feels these are a bit more horticultural than summer baskets and provide a lot of ongoing interest through a very long season.
• Louise started by showing how to plant up hanging baskets but most of the principles apply to all three forms of planting.


• Choose the biggest basket you can – the more compost it can hold, the more water it will retain and the better the plants will do. 10” diameter baskets are too small, try and go for 14” upwards.
• Castle Gardens use wire baskets, which they line, but wicker baskets are often nicely deep and they tend to look ‘finished’ as soon as they are planted.
• Choose nice deep baskets too, but don’t forget to check that any plastic linings (if present) are pierced to allow for drainage – if not the plants could become waterlogged.  Tip – don’t pierce the very bottom as a small reservoir can be beneficial.

If you have an open sided basket, for example wire frame, various linings are available:
o Papier mache – this can be hard to fit exactly to the basket’s shape o Coir – this will last for several years, but the brown colour can look like dead moss
o Fibre – this can be more flexible to fit a variety of shapes and has the benefit of being green
o Flat moss – this should be sourced sustainably. Castle Gardens source theirs from a man who collects it from Forestry Commission plantations. Lawn moss can be used too, but can be a bit bitty and is not ideal for all applications. • For the purposes of this demonstration flat moss was used.

• If you are using bitty moss or planting a manger with very wide spaced struts then line the basket with green garden netting to hold it all in. Tip – if you’re planting up a manger then don’t waste your moss on the back, use plastic on the unseen side.
• Fit your moss into your basket like a jigsaw puzzle and avoid overlapping the pieces too much – you want a basket full of compost, not moss.
• If you are making a summer basket then put a disc of plastic in the bottom to help retain some water.
• Put a little bit of compost in the bottom, then start planting up the sides of the basket.
• Castle Gardens use their own reduced peat compost with expanded fibre, which the plants love. Planting up the sides
• Work out which side will be facing the wall from the way the basket hangs from its ring – only plant up the front and sides.
• Winter-flowering pansies and violas (which have a longer season) are the mainstay of their plantings.
• Yellows and whites show up better on dull January days than reds and oranges.
• Although actively flowering and growing in the autumn and spring they will stop flowering in December and January. Tip – for the best performance make sure you buy plants that are in full flower and bud in the autumn, so they don’t go into dormancy before flowering.
• Feeding with dilute Tomorite (or other high potash feed) once a week in January will stimulate them into flower again.
• Always plant from the inside out, pushing the leaves through to the outside while leaving the roots on the inside – roots take longer to recover from damage than leaves. If you feel the need you can protect the leaves and shoots with a wrap of newspaper as you push them through.
• Close in the moss around the plants to fix them in place.
• Ivies are very effective in baskets especially as ‘tails’ growing out from the bottom. Tip – split up the plants you buy – you make get three, four or more individual plants from them. But don’t plant them too sparsely – group them in clumps.
• You can also raid your rockery for suitable plants – dig up roots of Lamiums, Vincas, Sedums, Thymes and Ajugas.
• They always put a couple of Aubretias in the sides of their baskets – they grow throughout the season and provide a great show of flowers in the spring.
• Primroses can also look spectacular in the sides of spring baskets. • After planting the sides add more compost to the basket and move on to the rim. Planting up the rim
• Lamiums are good around the rim – they give good foliage and don’t go scrappy as they can in the garden.
• Prostrate thymes also look good up here.
• Now add some slow release fertiliser like Osmocote – either a small handful of loose or three of the tablets about 2” down. This will provide a background feed the basket for six months. The compost itself will only provide food for the first seven weeks. Planting above the rim
• To maximise the flowering potential and water retention of the basket Castle Gardens ‘mound’ theirs up above the rim, but still keep this additional collar of moss and planting within the hanging chains.
• Here the plants are actually planted on their sides into the collar but will sort their orientation out after a few days.
• White Arabis, Veronica ‘Georgia Blue’, Ajuga (try ‘Chocolate Chip’), Vinca, Pansies and Violas all work well here.
• Trap them in position with more moss as you work this collar up from the rim, tapering in as you go.
• Then fill in with compost. Planting up the top
• Plant the centrepiece with bulbs – dwarf narcissi are a favourite. Tip – bulbs will grow taller in these conditions than the official height, so don’t go for anything over 10”. Favourites are ‘Tete a Tete’, ‘February Gold’ and ‘Topolino’. Use just one variety, or else the flowering and cutting back gets out of sync. Plant 5 or 6 bulbs 3-4” down, a couple of inches apart.
• Tulips could also be used for a later flowering display.
• Chinodoxas also work well but aren’t as tall.
• The bulbs can be overplanted with more pansies and violas.
• Try a Heuchera for a centrepiece, though these may work better in pots.
• Dwarf conifers can work in a sheltered position.
• Cyclamen also can work in a sheltered position – down to -3 degrees. Finishing off
• Dot in some more ivies.
• Push groups of five crocus in the side (they can’t be seen in the top). • Overall you will probably be using around 24 plants – this builds into a great show of flower and interest.
• Water gently and generously and allow to settle. Hanging and maintenance
• Ideally leave it to sit for ten days before hanging.
• If you can hang it in a place where it will get some sun – it makes all the difference to the flowering of the plants.
• Hang at eye level so you can see what’s going on – there is always something of interest in a winter basket, more so than a summer one. • Initially water once or twice a week, after October only once a week.
• Watch out in very cold weather as the compost may be frozen and the plants aren’t getting any water.
• As mentioned above, give a weekly feed of dilute Tomorite (or other high potash feed) in January to stimulate spring flowering.
• If any foliage is going pale/yellow then alternate this with a regular feed like Miracle Gro.
• At the end of the season all these plants can be reused in the garden – the pansies and violas will love a shady spot. They might flop over at the start but they will recover with watering.

• These are built from wire baskets in exactly the same way as above except that the collar mound is built up and over until it creates a ball. • Ivy balls can look spectacular, especially with long ‘tails’.
• Work the moss into the wire basket as before and plant up every section with ivy cuttings.
• Stick with one variety per ball but you can use different varieties for different effects – variegated, gold etc.
• To keep the ball shape tidy pin in the ivy strands with ‘hairpins’ made of garden wire. Where the stems touch the moss they will root in. POTS Choosing a pot
• Any glazed pot is frost-proof, but ‘Frost Resistant’ terracotta can still crack.
• Use Yorkshire Flowerpots http://www.yorkshireflowerpots.co.uk if you want to use terracotta as it has a concrete middle and is completely frost proof.
• Fibre clay also works well for winter plantings. Planting up the pot
• Put some crocks in the bottom for drainage.
• Use reduced peat compost for a temporary/seasonal display or John Innes No. 3 if you have a permanent planting in the feature.
• If you are using a huge pot only the top 10-12” needs to be replaced each year, as the plants’ roots won’t get down below this.
• As with the hanging baskets do not waste your plants around the back of the pot if it is against a wall.
• Start with trailing plants around the front.
• For the centrepiece add bulbs in clumps.
• Plant pansies and violas for colour.
• For height you can use dwarf conifers like Cupressus ‘Goldcrest’, which has good colour, or ‘Summer Snow’, which is very fluffy and soft. • In an exposed position try Junipers.
• Other evergreen plants that work well are Pittisporums, Euonymous, Osmanthus.
• Heucheras also give a good splash of colour and height.
• Plant these centrepieces towards the back of the pot, not in the middle – it will leave more space for the other plants.
• Other flowering plants that work well are compact Wallflowers ‘Sugar Rush’, which will flower from autumn to spring, and dwarf Stocks, scented though they not fully hardy. The same goes for Cyclamen.
• Chrysanthemums give fantastic colour in the autumn but will not flower through the winter into the spring. However they can be planted in the garden and will come back next year as a compact plant.

Notes by Dominic Weston

Mendip Lavender

After a good drive around the lanes trying to find the location of our visit, Shepton Horticultural Society met in a field on the outskirts of Shepton Mallet.  As the group assembled we were treated to panoramic views of the countryside and a sky of black stormy clouds.  

We were welcomed by Jenny who explained how she and her husband moved out of Bristol two years ago to become lavender ‘farmers’.   It was clear from Jenny’s enthusiasm that they had reached out for their dream: living close to the land with an organic and environmentally friendly approach however you could hear that there was a lot of back breaking work involved too! 

Jenny says “Lavender oil is good for everything: it has anti-bacterial, anti-septic and anti-microbial properties.  It is good for burns, scratches, bites, helps the nerves and helps you sleep…  it’s properties are far reaching and much overlooked these days.” 

We stepped carefully over newly planted beds of Lavandula angustifolia ‘Maillette’ and L. angustifolia ‘No.9’ and brushed our legs along scented rows of established L. x intermedia ‘Grosso’(a vigorous variety), L. angustifolia ‘Imperial Gem’, L. angustifolia ‘Folgate’ and L. angustifolia ‘Hidcote’(still the best for a neat garden hedge).  The differences in size, colour, habit (and smell) were obvious as we were introduced to the world of ‘lavender’.  

Jenny explained that the season was approximately 3 weeks late this year and that the lavender flower spikes (with a bit of stem) are harvested when 1/3 of the flowers are open, 1/3 are over and 1/3 are still in bud.  The flowers are then put into the still and the oil is extracted by steam.  The plants are then pruned hard in August. 

The evening was rounded off with a display of Mendip Lavender products accompanied by beautiful (and delicious) ‘high’ tea with lavender biscuits and lemon drizzle cake. 

For more information visit www.mendiplavender.com

Speciality lavender plants are available from:

Mendip Lavender farm is on Bristol Sandstone, which is a free draining brash.  Simon from our group sent me a link to an informative document all about Mendip soils, take a look!http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/images/jca141_tcm6-5522.pdf  or

What the RHS says about growing conditions for lavender:

Lavender is best planted between April and May.
It thrives in poor or moderately fertile, free-draining alkaline soils in full sun. 

On heavier soils, like clay and clay loam, lavender tends to be fairly short-lived, becoming woody at the base. To prolong the life of your lavender on heavier soil, add organic matter and gravel to improve the drainage and plant on a mound. If growing as a hedge, plant on a ridge to keep the base of the plants out of wet soil.

Space plants 90cm (3ft) apart, or if growing a hedge, 30cm (1ft) apart or, 45cm (18in) for larger cultivars.

Once established, lavender is fairly drought-tolerant.   Ref: http://apps.rhs.org.uk/advicesearch/profile.aspx?pid=127

Notes compiled by Angela Morley

Plant sale at Collett Park

We had a very successful (and sunny) day at Collett Park on Saturday.  The rota worked and lovely looking plants were delivered between 9 and 9.30am, all perfectly labelled with coloured pictures and Latin names!  I know that some of our members were a bit worried about their labels and the Latin names but they rose to the challenge, we are a ‘horticultural’ society after all!

Our takings on the day were more than twice of last year’s, a fantastic boost to our very modest club funds!  I am sure the glorious weather helped but so did our range of interesting plants, excellent labelling and good team work.


Now we can start growing for next year’s event!

AGM on the patio

Last night was our AGM, we sat outside under a clear sky framed by a magnificent Magnolia and a specimen yew.  The chiminea kept us warm,  the  babbling brook chattered behind us and bats flew over head as dusk descended.

We began with an informal walk around Denise’s garden, a most charming and well planted garden with views over meadows to one side and high old stone walls on the other.   Denise and her husband have, over the last two years, redeveloped part of the garden with the help of local garden designer, Angela Morley.  New elements in the garden include six prairie style borders, some new hedging, a secret ‘white’ garden and a wildflower meadow. 

Once all gathered back around the chiminea, cups of tea in hand, so the formal part of the evening began, led by Zena our chairperson.  Wendy presented the groups accounts followed by Angela and her secretary’s report.  All committee members were unanimously voted in again!  (A full report of the meeting can be seen upon request).


Maples for year round interest

Last night, John Trott, of Mendip Bonsai filled the room with a fantastic array of maples.  Dressed in their very first leaves we were introduced to varieties with tiny leaves,  large leaves, variegated, fringed, deeply cut and all in a choice from lime green, to oranges and scarlet.  I am afraid the names were beyond me, mostly Japanese so I will refer you to John’s website below as he grows between 150-200 varieties!

John’s tips on succeeding with maples:
1. Plant in a sheltered position (acers hate strong winds), full sun all day is fine for older specimens (trunk at least thumb thick) otherwise morning sun or dappled shade is adviseable (e.g. container grown plants, plant out when thumb thick trunk to final position).

2. Water young plants once a day when the weather is hot.  Japanese maples in this country do not do best when planted as an understory to larger trees

3. Autumn colour varies greatly with light levels, the hotter the summer the brighter the autumn colour.

4. Pot up container grown plants bit by bit, never pot up into an overly big pot, your plant will die!

5. They do not like chalk in the soil but will tolerate a pH neutral soil

6. Do not plant out in the autumn, wait until spring

7.  When protecting precious acers during a cold snap in the winter use fleece but it is much better to wrap the plant, as they do in Japan, with straw. 

8. Never leave bubble wrap on the plant for long due to build up of condensation which will lead to rot…  It is best if you can bring your plants into a frost free shed or garage during a cold spell of weather.

9 .The most delicate varieties tend to have the smallest and / or cut leaves, Acer palamatum is the hardiest for our gardens.

10.  Feeding: avoid any fertilizers that are too strong otherwise you will encourage ‘leggy’ growth, never use mushroom compost (as this is both rich and contains chalk).  A bonsai liquid feed which contains trace elements is good

11.  Pruning: prune  at the end of April or early May (i.e. prune when in leaf to encourage speedy healing of the wound).    Always prune out dead wood.
(Container specimens may have their roots trimmed at bud burst).

12. Pests: aphids can be a problem as can sparrows (eat the young buds as they open).  Scale insect.

13.  Growing media: plant out with ericaceous compost or for container grown specimens John mixes his own mix to ensure plenty of drainage, approximately:
20% Melcourt wood bark
20% grit (e.g. Bowlands decorative sharp grit)
20% compost
20% Cornish fine grit (lots of grit deters vine weevil)
20% Composted bracken 

Shapes & sizes
There are shapes and heights to suit most positions in a garden, from the prostrate to the upright.  Acer palmatum seedlings are vigorous and produce an attractive shaped small tree up to 15-20 feet. 

The ‘dissectum’ types tend to be low and cascading.  Acer linearifolia has attractive strap like leaves and a stiff upright habit  to 2 meters whilst A. shirasawanum ‘Aureum’ has large roundish golden leaves (known as the full moon acer) and will grow up to 6 meters.

Varieties for colour
1.Acer corallinum has the brightest red leaves in spring, this lasts 8-10 weeks then fades to green, scarlet autumn colour in autumn.
2. Acer ‘Osakazuki’ bright red in autumn but not red in spring and summer
3. Acer ‘Ukon’ is the best / brightest green most of the summer with golden yellow autumn colour in the winter
4. Acer ‘Orange Dream’ is an improved form of A. Katsura: spring orange folliage fades to green in summer, superb orange / red autumn colour.

This hands on talk followed on beautifully from Stephen’s talk last month on Japanese horticulture and if anyone wants a maple then I can whole heartedly recommend a visit to John’s nursery or one of his many show stands this summer.

On Sunday 27th May John will be at Failand Village Hall, Nr Bristol as part of a large plant and bonsai exhibition

 The evening wasn’t all about maples, Audrey and John took over the kitchen and supplied not only one delicious home baked cake but two!  No one left the hall without an overwhelming enthusiasm for maples and a few extra slices of cake in their pockets! 

 summary by Angela Morley

Kyoto gardening

Surrounded by mountains with a freezing climate in the winter and hot in the summer, Kyoto,  formerly the imperial capital of Japan, is home to some of Japan’s greatest gardens. 

We were treated to an evening of beatifully composed pictures which told the story of Stephen’s experience as an apprentice with the renouned traditional landscape firm Sone Zoen in Haradari.

Stephen described a different world, a world where gardeners wore two toed turtle boots to reduce damage underfoot to moss gardens, where pine plucking was an annual task (Japanese red pines were plucked of the previous year’s needles), where gardens (including courtyards) served to remind one of the landscape rather than be ‘used’ and where every task was completed with patience and reverence. 

It was a fascinating evening which gave us an insight to another approach to ‘gardening’

Stephen Tate is based in Langport, he is a gardener and writer

Bulbs for all seasons

Chris Ireland-Jones of Avon Bulbs arrived with trays of snowdrops like I have never seen before and beautiful Cyclamen coum in full flower. The room filled with members and newcomers whilst Wendy did a roaring trade in the kitchen with hot drinks and Sandra’s delicious home baked biscuits. Eventually we were all settled, the lights went off and we were led into the exciting world of bulbs!

First lesson “a gardener in a hurry should always buy big bulbs”. Then Chris gave us plenty of examples we can plant for year round colour, for example:

Nerine bowdenii. This can be slow to flower in its early years in a garden but given a couple of years, once the bulbs become congested, it will produce a mass of bright flowers. Books say it likes a dry border but actually it will need a warm spot with well drained but moisture retentive soil.
N. ‘Pink Surpise’ – white with a soft pink hue
N. ‘Zeal Giant’ – sturdy tall stem, cerise pink flowers

Sternbergia lutea

Cyclamen coum

Iris unguicularis, also know as Iris stylosa.  Flowers in 3’s, do not cut the foliage back hard in the summer, try: Marondera; I. ‘Walter Buff’ (which is scented); I. stylosa Alba; I. ‘Mary Barnard’; I. ‘Bob Thompson’ ; I. ‘Abbingdon Purple’.

Aconites (Eranthus Hyemalis)which are good in grass, try: E. ‘Schwefelglanz’ (a very soft yellow); E. ‘Guinea Gold’

Snowdrops (Galanthus): there are 100’s of varieties and Chris suggests that G. ‘S Arnott’ is probably a very good one if you are overwhelmed by the choice! If you regularly split and replant it you can achieve a large carpet.

Otherwise you can try: G.’Armine’; G. elwesii ‘Monostictus’ (a nice broad leaf); G. ‘George Elwes’; G. ‘Highdown’; G. ‘Benhall Beauty’ OR

Unusual types of snowdrops: G. ‘Art Nouveau’; G. ‘Comet’; G. ‘Trym’ Doubles: G. ‘Mrs Thompson’, G. ‘Lady Beatrix’; G. ‘Stanley’; G. ‘Hippolyta’

Yellow snowdrops are slower to bulk up and do better on acid soils, try: G. Sandersii; G. ‘Primrose ‘Walburg’

I think I am becoming a galanthophile!

Crocus are always great early in the year

Narcissus are another huge range of plants which can flower from Christmas until May starting with the very early flowering daffodil (as in Yeovil): Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ and finishing with the dainty N. poeticus.

The muscari family provide some lovely low blue flowered bulbs which are great for setting off larger or brighter bulbs (e.g. Erythronium dens canis, Narcissus, Crocus…). They are relatively cheap and are good for block planting / infill.

Look out for varieties that have an Award of Garden Merit (AGM) such as Muscari ‘Jenny Robinson’, Muscari latifolia and Scilla bithynica. (some Muscari are scented)

April / May
Tulips, there are 100’s to choose from but remember that they don’t like heavy soil nor wet summers and are difficult to keep going for more than 2-3 years. A good alternative is Camassia leichtlinii which is happy with heavy soil, sun or semi shade.

Allium ‘Globemaster’ which has sterile flowers and therefore the flower lasts 3 times as long as its shorter relative Allium ’Christophii’.

Summer flowering bulbs
These tend to come from the southern hemisphere for example:
From Africa: Galtonia; Crocosmia; Eucomis (very hardy pineapple lily); Gladeolus bizantanus; Dierama; Agapanthus

From America: Dichelostema; Alstroemeria; Dahlia (nice varieties D. ‘Nuit d’Ete’, D. ‘Magenta Star’; D. ‘Twinings After’)

From Asia: Canna, Lilies, Roscoea.
We were given a tip on how to treat lily beetle: apply the systemic insecticide Provado twice in a season, this will reduce the pest particularly in the second year.

For more informations visit

Visit to Castle Gardens, Sherborne

A bright and dry day, hurrah! 

Indeed a perfect day for a group outing to Castle Gardens garden centre in Sherborne.   Unfortunately I forgot my camera so no photo of our jolly group none the less we had a super couple of hours making the most of our Gold Club Membership which entitled us to 25% discount on all our purchases.

Upon arrival we wound our way up through the garden centre towards the coffee shop not only to get our bearings but we thought it a good idea to warm our fingers around mugs of hot chocolate before we got started on the serious business of shopping. 

Suitably warmed, we split up into smaller groups meeting back in the car park with trolleys loaded with compost, roses, seed potatoes, seeds, fertilizer, bird feeders, etc… 

Castle Gardens is a beautiful garden centre set in the old walled kitchen gardens of Sherborne Castle, their stock is top quality, their staff knowledgable and helpful and at this time of year their fruit trees and roses deserve a visit.

Once home I got round to doing some weeding in my own garden so all in all a very satisfactory day!

(Gold Club discount continues on seeds and composts through February also (not plants though, that was a special for us today)).

Celebrating our gardens

Last night we met to learn from Wendy Biggs, one of our members, how to make natural Christmas wreaths.

Everyone brought armfuls of greenery (Pittosporum, conifers, rosemary, bay, laurel…), berries (crab apple, cotoneaster, holly) and coloured twigs (see below); the shared harvest was a true end of year celebration of our gardens.  But that was not all… home made mince pies, samosas and a fantastic chocolate cake really showed off everyone’s skills and made it a most enjoyable evening!


Coloured winter stems we used:

Salix alba britzensis  (orange red)
Salix purpurea (green stems with orange tips)
Salix viminalis  (brown, green stems)

Cornus alba (red stems)
Cornus stolonifera ‘Flaviramea’ (yellow stems)

Fraxinus excelsior (grey stems with black buds)

Corylus avellana

Gold for Club

Gold Club for members of Shepton Horticultural Society. 

What does this mean?  Our members, upon presentation of their card during January and February 2012, will receive 25% discounts on all garden composts, garden chemicals, fertilizers, bark chips, garden tools, bird food and feeders, watering equipment, gloves, footwear, SEEDS, onion sets, seed potatoes, seedlings and summer flowering bulbs. 

This offer is available at either of the following garden centres:
Castle Gardens garden centre in Sherborne
Brimsmore Gardens, Nr. Yeovil
Pounbury Gardens, Dorchester


Are you a member of Shepton Horticultural Society?  Our membership costs £6, renewable in January.

Come along, Join in

Hardwood Cuttings

Last night we rolled up our sleeves last night and set about the task of preparing cuttings.  We are looking ahead to next year’s Collett park day where we are going to sell a limited but exciting range of plants to raise funds for our club.  

The room was transformed into a true propagation house with rows of potted evergreen cuttings.  Everyone took home trays of the propagules to grow on for next June and there was a competitive spirit in the air too as to who was going to grow the biggest and best plants. “It was a fun evening and certainly the best way of practising a new skill” said Wendy Biggs. 

Plants we propagated were Penstemon ‘Heavenly Blue’, Penstemon ‘Garnet’ and Salvia purpurea.

Soil talk

“For a plant to thrive the soil must be alive”

Mike Burks, of Castle Gardens (garden centre) came to talk to us about the soil.  The talk didn’t involve many pretty flowers (although there were some!) however he did help us to understand the importance of soil, the raw ingredient for us gardeners.

From the soil microflora (bacteria, fungi), micro-organisms and minerals through to pH, humus, charcoal, rock dust and mulches, Mike tackled the subject with humour and brought plenty of samples for us to examime, smell and feel.

Key points to remember about the soil:
1.  Do not work nor walk on it when it is wet, use mulches to protect the soil structure

2. You can not add too much organic matter, organic matter is GOOD for your soil whether it is a sandy or a clay soil

3. Use peat free composts, composts with expanded wood pulp are amongst the better ones of these

After the talk there were some of  Angela’s beautiful sunflowers to sell (towards the club funds), Ann produced the refreshments whist Wendy brought home made biscuits.


The gardens of Kyoto

Our speaker, Stephen Tate, gave an illustrated talk about his experiences working as a gardener in Japan.  This was a well attended talk and there have been requests for a ‘Part II’ to this lecture.

Cothay Manor gardens

The rain poured down and as we wound our way nearer to the gardens, the maze of country lanes became like rivers.  Undeterred we pressed on only to be told upon arrival that we should come back another day!  After a difficult 90 minute drive we would not hear of it!

It turned into a most enchanting evening… the rain clouds parted, the sun shone weakly and the gardens delighted.  Such strong design and succesional planting design, this is a garden to be visited at any time of the year.

The lovely single red rose at the front of the house was Rosa altissimo

Collett Park Day

Peony Valley

A summers evening discovering peony valley, the original stock beds at Kelways in Langport.  We had the valley to ourselves seeking out  labels of our favourite plants and comparing the merits of each.  The evening was rounded off in the garden centre where we stocked up on our peony collections!

Celebrating our gardens

Our December meeting was spent sharing the successes of the garden year.  We brough stories, fruit, photographs and flowers demonstrating what we achieved and were most proud of . 

Simon Edwards shared his delight in the success of his Solanum laciniatum which fruited in his garden this year.  Wendy Biggs brought a splendid wreath using a range of greenery, berries, dried seed heads and fruits from her garden.  Angela Morley brought photos of some of the trugs of produce she harvested from her garden.   Denise Bynoe made some delicious fig confit for the first time.  Wendy was presented with a prize for her wreath!


Westonbirt arboretum

A lovely day exploring the arboretum, swapping stories and knowledge.

Dynamic border design

Angela Morley, local garden designer, gave an illustrated talk showing how to use flower form rather than solely flower colour to create dynamic borders.



Looking after bonsai

John Trott from Mendip Bonsai (Shepton Mallet) filled the room with valuable bonsai, as one of the leading bonsai growers in the country it was a treat to welcome him. 

John explained that bonsai is simply a plant in a pot and almost any plant can be bonsai’d.   There is no size limit, a bonsai can weigh 6 tons or just be 6 inches toall, it is the method of keeping them that makes them a bonsai.

So many points were covered but here are some of the ones I remember: 1. A small container will mean a small leaf size. 

2. There are different processes used to produce different results.  

 3. Wire is used to shape the branches. 

 4. Most of John’s plants are grown from seed, he cuts and grafts. 

5. Taper into a pot by growing on in the field and then cutting back the roots.  A plant may be grown on and dug up, having the roots cut back twice and then put in its pot.

6. It is important to seal the roots after pruning as rot will travel quickly

7. keep and grow outside

8. We were told to never purchase bonsai in the winter

http://www.mendipbonsai.co.uk/ for a list of workshops

Ston Easton Park

A glorious summer evening spent in a beautiful garden fullof exciting plants.  We had the garden to ourselves to explore secret enclosed gardens, shady streams, pumpkins, glasshouses of unusual tomatoes, lemon scented magnolias and spectacular agapanthus.