We provide a summary of all our meetings for inclusion in the local
newspaper - The Bognor Observer. For reference, a copy of these
articles is provided below. To go directly to a particular month,. please select from the list in the left hand column.
British Alstroemerias and the UK cut flower Industry
Ben Cross runs the Crosslands Flower Nursery is the third
generation of his family to grow Alstroemerias in a wholesale nursery
in Walberton where he tends more than thirty different varieties of
alstroemerias under 3 acres of glass all year round. On Tuesday
26th September Ben presented an illustrated talk to the meeting of the
Felpham and Middleton Horticultural Society.
He introduced the topic by speaking about the roots of his
business. In the 1930s following the Depression his great
grandparents, who had been miners, moved to Sussex from the north of
England to take up an opportunity under the Land Settlement
Association. This change of lifestyle wasn’t for everyone but
with hard work and application the family established a successful
small holding, selling produce through the cooperative to be sold at
the markets in London.
By the mid-50s the family elected to come out of the cooperative and
set up their own nursery in Walberton on land which had previously been
used to grow Christmas trees. Commercial pressures within the
horticultural industry caused the family to look for opportunities to
specialise, and found that the conditions required to grow
Alstroemerias offered many advantages. The plants are long
lasting, require only relatively cool growing conditions, require no
artificial lighting and have a long season of flower production.
Ben described in detail, the cycle of growing plants from bed
sterilization, through planting, plant care and maintenance to cutting
and preparing bunches to selling direct to various outlets. He gave us
a fascinating insight into the UK cut flower industry. Apparently
only 2.5% of the flowers that are sold in UK are produced here! Most of
the plants are grown much further away in South America, S E Asia etc.
where the ambient temperatures mean that a lot more water is used in
growing the plants. A huge amount of energy is wasted by the overseas
producers in transportation and in keeping the plants marketable by use
of chemicals and refrigeration. Consequently these overseas grown
flowers often only last a few days after purchase.
Ben is a passionate advocate of UK grown flowers and summed up their
benefits; Use a significantly lower carbon footprint low energy costs,
less water usage, reduced waste all of the plant material not sold is
composted and recycled), flowers are cut at the optimum time in their
development, are fresher giving longer lasting flowers (Ben guarantees
his flowers will last for at least 14 days if correctly cared
for). His business helps the local economy, provides
opportunities for horticultural apprentices, and importantly he sells
his flowers at the same price all year round. He encouraged the
audience to look for his flowers in local florists and other outlets.
How to grow Clematis successfully
Marcus Dancer is a nurseryman
that has been in horticulture for all of his working life. He has
his own nursery in Fordingbridge, Hampshire, specialising in the many
varieties of Clematis. On Tuesday 25th July Andy gave a talk to
over 90 members and visitors of the society at St Mary’s Centre
Marcus had brought over thirty different clematis with him and used
these to show the audience part of the range of clematis that is
available. He gave us an extremely informative talk illuminated
by large photographs of each of the plants he described which were
passed around the audience to study in detail.
There are many different groups of Clematis including but not limited
to; evergreen, alpina, Montana, cirrhosa, Large flowered hybrids, late
large flowered hybrids, texensis, and macropetala. Marcus
described each of these groups in detail with descriptions of many of
the individual varieties within each of the groups, the position and
type of soil they prefer and, crucially, how deep to plant. His
knowledge of his subject was remarkable, speaking without notes for the
whole of the meeting.
After describing the different groups he went on to explain how to
prune the different clematis. For pruning purposes it is
important to know which group the clematis belongs to since pruning at
the wrong time or by the wrong amount is likely to severely reduce the
flowering of the plant the following year.
Borde Hill Gardens
Andy Stevens is the Head Gardener at
Borde Hill Gardens. On Tuesday 27th June Andy gave this
illustrated talk to over 100 members and visitors of the society at St
Mary’s Centre Felpham. The turn-out for the meeting was even more
remarkable given the heavy rain that had persisted into the
evening. The audience was not disappointed; Andy’s talk was both
informative and entertaining, proving both a history of the gardens,
followed by a ‘virtual’ tour of the gardens in their current form.
The current gardens were started and developed by Colonel
Stephenson Robert Clarke, who bought the Tudor property and estate in
1893. Although a military man, Colonel Clarke had attained a
double first in Agricultural sciences and was a keen sponsor and
supporter of plant hunters. The magnificent range of Magnolias,
Rhododendrons, Azaleas and the unusual trees, some unique, that are to
be seen at Borde Hill owe their presence to the work of the plant
hunters and the experimental work of Colonel Clarke who, with the
knowledge he had obtained from his studies was able to identify the
most likely suitable locations, within the estate, to place the plants
raised from seed and develop the 200 acres of parkland. The
estate boasts 83 ‘Champion’ trees and represents the largest private
collection of such trees in the UK. A champion tree is defined as
the largest known tree of a particular species, by height or girth.
For over 100 years the Garden has evolved with seasonal colour and
interest to complement the original plantings of rhododendrons,
azaleas, camellias and magnolias.
Andy’s photographs illustrated the diversity of styles and planting
that are to be seen at the gardens, from the formal rose garden to the
recent Italian Garden and midsummer border. He left us with
a desire to visit the gardens either for the first time, or for those
that have visited previously, to visit again, to see the recent
additions and changes at the gardens which are constantly
evolving, to see the gardens at a different season.
Alternatively, take a walk through the extensive woodlands and see some
of the magnificent trees.
On Tuesday 23rd May, Martin Jarvis, who runs the Culberry Nursery,
Angmerring, gave a practical talk on growing herbs to an audience of
over 70 members and visitors.
Culberry Nursery, which is family-owned, supplies herbs, both
culinary and medicinal, direct to the public via Farmers’ Markets,
Bairds and Manor Nursery. The nursery is also open to the public.
The nursery was started by his parents in 1948 as a market
garden. Martin’s career has included growing bedding plants at
Manor Nursery to supply local Councils.
This specialist nursey is an example of a local success story, having
increased its turnover year on year. Martin and his team
propagate most of the plants that they sell, only buying in a small
number of plants from other local producers when demand outstrips
Martin had brought with him a huge variety of herbs, both familiar and
unusual, which he described in some detail explaining some of the
history as well as the uses of each of the herbs. His knowledge
of herbs seems encyclopaedic. Many of the familiar herbs, mint,
thyme, sage, have a large number of less well known varieties each with
its own characteristics and horticultural needs. The audience was
captivated by the depth and diversity of knowledge that Martin had of
(No report available)
Tales from the Potting Shed
Jean Griffin was the guest speaker at the meeting of the Felpham and
Middleton Horticultural Society, held on Tuesday 28th March. Jean
is a regular guest on the BBC Sussex gardening programme, ‘Dig
It’. She has spent all her life working in both the Amenity
and Commercial sections of the horticultural industry, with the past 20
years working in Horticultural Education, and teaches people from all
age groups and varying abilities. Jean enjoys helping others by
passing on her gardening experiences and is a judge for the 'Britain in
The audience of 100 members and guests were treated to an
entertaining evening of gardening advice and amusing tales taken from
Jean’s experience in broadcasting and travels around the world. She
devoted the first part of the evening to advice around dealing with
problems that most gardeners encounter, from how to hold and use a
spade without putting too much strain on your back, to the perennial
issue of eliminating or at least reducing the damage caused by
slugs. One particularly useful tip was to use wool (available as
pellets) around susceptible plants in pots.
Later, Jean recounted a number of humorous stories relating to her
recent visit to New Zealand and Australia. One particular tale
involving open topped buses, hailstorms and a large lady from USA - too
long to retell here - had the audience in stitches!!
Beth Chatto’s Garden - Her Plants and Me
On Tuesday 28th, Steve Austin, gave an illustrated talk to members of
the Felpham & Middleton Horticultural Society drawing from the
experience that he gained as a summer seasonal worker at Beth Chatto’s
garden near Colchester, Essex.
Steve trained at Wittle College where he gained his National Diploma
and more recently obtained his 1st Class Masters with the Royal
Horticultural Society. It was during his training at Wittle College
that the opportunity arose to gain ‘hands-on’ experience working in
Beth Chatto’s gardens for the summer seasons. He worked for 8
years at Hilliers under Andy MacIndoe. He is now an international
Steve presented a brief history of the development of Beth Chatto’s
garden, explaining that the site presented many difficulties for
starting a garden including low annual rainfall. Beth, a keen plants
woman had married her husband Andrew in 1943. He had a lifelong
interest in the origins of plants, and when they built their house on
wasteland, part of the family fruit farm, it was a combination of
knowledge and his influence that lead to the development of the world
famous gardens that can be visited today.
Steve took us on a ‘virtual tour’ of the gardens, starting with the
renowned Gravel Garden, explaining the use of structural elements like
Choisya Aztec Pearl, Cistus Silver Pink Artemesia Valerie
Finnis and Genista Porlock which Beth calls her ‘old men’
and punctuates the beds with ‘full-stops’ using plants like
Cistus Little miss Sunshine. All of these plants are ideally
suited to the hot, dry conditions. Steve explained that this area
was formerly used as a carpark and is never watered. The ‘tour ‘
continued in similar vein with illustrations of the Water garden, where
extensive planting of slug-resistant Hostas, Pimpinella, Astrantia
major and Primula bulleyana have been used. In the Woodland
garden the natural feel of the garden has been enhance by careful use
of informal paths and use of damp shade loving plants like Brunnera and
Tiarella. The well-illustrated talk was followed by a short Q and A
Over 100 members and guests enjoyed this lively and informative first meeting of the 2017 season.
October Meeting - Orchids
Orchids was the subject for the meeting held 25th October, when the
speaker, Laurence Hobbs gave an entertaining talk and practical
demonstration on the care of these popular plants.
Laurence is a commercial grower of orchids, which have held his
fascination for over 35 years, he has a nursery near East Grinstead
which he has run for over 25 years, the nursery is now one of only two
in this country.
The packed audience was treated to a detailed talk on the history of
Orchids in this country, the wide distribution of the species
throughout the world – there are over 20,000 known species with plants
native in virtually every country, including the Arctic Circle! The
most exotic species come from the area between the tropics of Capricorn
and Cancer. They have been cultivated in the UK since the early
19th century. At its peak, in the first half of 20th century
there were nearly 30 specialist nurseries in the UK but this declined
in the 70’s and 80’s following huge investment by some EU countries.
The most popular orchids, with which people are familiar are
Phalaenopsis (the moth orchid) and Laurence went into detail about the
care of these plants giving practical demonstrations of re-potting
(including the growing medium to be used), dealing with aerial roots,
position (light), temperature, watering and feeding regime that provide
optimum conditions for plants which may flower continuously for up to
six months or longer.
After the interval Laurence gave demonstrations on the care of other
popular orchid species, including Dendrobium, Odontoglossum/Cambria
hybrids, Cattleyas and finally Vandas. Each of these requires
different conditions of light and temperature to make the most of their
beautiful and exotic flowers but common to nearly all is the watering
regime. Back to top
September Meeting - Growing Sweet Peas for Pleasure and Exhibition
On Tuesday 27th September over 80 members,
visitors and guests of the Felpham and Middleton Horticultural Society
were treated to a comprehensive talk by Jim MacDonald on Growing Sweet
Peas for Pleasure and Exhibition. Jim has been growing Sweet Peas
for over 50 years. He is a member of The National Sweet Pea Society and
was a member of the RHS Trials team for Sweet Peas at Wisley.
Trials at Wisley have now finished and Jim is now heading up the
National Sweet Pea Society trials that are currently undertaken at
Sparsholt College (Hampshire) and Askham Bryan (Yorkshire).
Jim’s talk, which was illustrated by lots of excellent photographs,
covered all aspects of cultivation of sweet peas from ground
preparation, germination of seed, planting, staking and tying and
continuing care throughout the growing season. He then went on to
describe how to select and present the blooms for exhibition with
photographs showing magnificent displays at various national shows
where he has won many prizes. Jim’s wife, Mary, has a
particular interest in using sweet peas in flower arrangements and we
were treated to several pictures of magnificent arrangements in which
sweet peas were the principal component. Jim is also accomplished
in floral arrangement and he showed us the beautiful arrangement he had
produced to give to his wife on their Ruby Wedding anniversary.
One of the highlights of Jim’s career was at a national show at
Windsor, when he was privileged to accompany the Queen Mother, who was
well into her 90’s, around the show. He was struck by her stamina
and interest which was demonstrated by the number and range of
questions she asked, some of which Jim struggled to answer!
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July Meeting - A Head Gardeners' Year at Fittleworth House
There was a different format for the July meeting not only
because there was a fuchsia competition to be judged but also due to unforeseen
circumstances the speaker for that evening was unable to attend and, truly, at
the eleventh hour Mark Saunders, Head Gardener at Fittleworth House, stepped into
the breach. He started the evening by
relating how at around 6 pm he was in a queue at Sainsbury having shopped to
cook dinner for his wife who was working late when our Chairman rang to ask if
he could get to our meeting for 7.30
pm! Of course he had once said that if
the Society was ever in need of a speaker due to a cancellation to just call
but he surely expected more notice than an hour and a half!
Mark went on to give us a very interesting talk on “A Head
Gardeners’ Year at Fittleworth House’.
Each month was covered giving details of how the garden changed, the
jobs that had to be done and how to do
them. Members learned how the two long
herbaceous borders had been cleared to allow the removal of that insidious weed,
convolvulus, and with the help of excellent slides how each stage of the new
borders had emerged, from perennials grown on site, to the final glorious
effect of the borders alive with colour.
Fittleworth House also raises vegetables and what vegetables
they were, specially the onions almost too big for their pots.
At the end of his talk and before a lively question and
answer session, the fuchsia competition results were announced and of the 36
plug plants provided by the Society and purchased by members wishing to take part on a first
come first served basis, 24 returned to the judging table. It was no surprise to the Committee to see
how interested our members were in the differences in growth and who was gong
to be the winner. Sue Abbot took first
place and received a large and beautiful specialist fuchsia and second and
third prizes went to Sue Moon and Yvonne Coleman.
Despite the change in subject it was evident from the
applause given at the end how much members and visitors had enjoyed the
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June - Gardens Open
It had been decided to make the opening time for the gardens earlier this year and a
good thing too as the afternoon started well but by 4 pm it was raining cats
and dogs! This did not stop the intrepid
and a visit to some of the stunning gardens made by members was a treat. From small to large and everything in between
it was clear that Felpham & Middleton Horticultural Society members love
their gardens. The get-together at the
end of the afternoon was spent inside avoiding the still pouring rain but was a
great time to chat and for members to get to know one another over some nibbles
and a welcome drink. This is a bi-annual
event in June and we are already looking forward to the next one in 2018.
May Meeting - Growing and Showing Fuchsias
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On Tuesday 24th May Derek Dexter visited Felpham and Middleton
Horticultural Society to give a talk on growing and showing
fuchsias. Derek is almost self-taught having caught the fuchsia
bug by accident. He maintains a full-time job yet still manages
to fit in growing fuchsias and as a member of the Woking Horticultural
Society enters competitions at local and national level. He has
won many trophies including a silver-gilt medal at The Hampton Court
Flower Show and the London Show lists him as 23rd in the top 70 growers
in the country.
The evening was sprinkled with fun whilst he imparted his knowledge and
experiences from taking cuttings to producing a prolifically
flower-covered plant. He passed around examples of how small a
cutting can be and still produce a great plant and in his local club
the record is over 60 healthy cuttings in one 5 inch pot, a seemingly
unbelievable achievement until you see the size of the cuttings, which
are minute. After his demonstrations and with the help of slides
he showed how he kept his cuttings alive during winter with the help of
a poly tunnel and fleece inside his large greenhouse thereby cutting
down the need for heating. There was advice on the fuchsia gall
mite and how to save the plant and also combat other problems. He
had advice on when and how best to cut back and treat both indoor and
hardy fuchsias for overwintering and how to promote growth potting
on. Some of his tips included cutting off the bottom third of
roots when repotting, growing cuttings in plastic bottles, using
spaghnum moss as water retaining material in compost and even using
tomato sauce to remove sticky residue from secateurs!
Perhaps one of his more unusual tips was his method of training plants
to trail by attaching pegs to a leaf to bend the branch. Turning
a fuchsia into a standard plant was covered also how to produce a large
rounded plant by selective pruning.
Derek kindly also donated cuttings in a bottle and a hanging basket for
the raffle and the plants he bought for sale were quickly snapped
up. Derek’s knowledge was impressive and his enthusiasm
contagious and members had a most enjoyable evening.
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April Meeting - Better Garden Composition
On the evening of Tuesday 26 April Patricia
Elkington came to speak to the Felpham and Middleton Horticultural
Society about Better Garden Composition involving the placement of
colours within the garden to promote a harmonious result. She
started with the colour wheel showing the combinations that work best
together and produced slides giving both sides of the argument; that is
not only the gardens that got it right but also some that did not.
Along the way she gave us the names of the plants that placed together
gave a relaxing and delightful combination and gave examples of the way
ornaments and focal points within the garden could also enhance the end
result. Among the gardens that got it right of course were many
of the great gardens such as Sissinghurst, The Vyne and Beth Chatto’s
but being discreet she declined to name the ones that got it
wrong! Among the slides were some of her own garden which has
been opened for the National Garden Scheme for many years which included
some where even there things had gone wrong but she had an amazing
solution – if you don’t like it ….. take it out! However, she
also showed us those ‘happy’ combinations where nature does it all
buy itself. To round off the evening she had a great many
plants with her that the Society members were able to buy and we almost
cleaned her out. Altogether an informative and entertaining
evening for us all.
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March Meeting - A-Z of Garden Tips
On Tuesday 22nd March, Mark Saunders, head gardener at
Fittleworth House gave an illustrated talk to members of the Felpham
& Middleton Horticultural Society. Mark has been a
Professional gardener since 1982, having managed gardens in Surrey,
Sussex, Hampshire and Hertfordshire. He is also a keen
photographer with success in both the Royal Horticultural Society's
Photographic competition and the International Photographer of the Year
Over 100 members and guests were entertained by Mark who gave us
informative but light-hearted tips for the gardener for each letter of
the alphabet from A(annuals) even managing appropriate tips for
the tricky letters e.g. J(Jekyll – Gertrude the famous garden designer
who left her mark on over 400 gardens in UK) X (xerophytes – plants
that need very little water) and Y(yoga – the exercises are very good
to strengthen the core muscles and prevent back pain.
Mark was very keen to share S(sharp tools, particularly secateurs,
important to avoid bruising the plant when cutting and reducing
die-back), I(insects – very important for pollination and he encouraged
us to grow nectar rich plants to attract the pollinating insects)
In a similar vein, U (Urtica dioica) or stinging nettles not to
everyone’s taste but which Mark would like us to try to find some space
for since they provide the habitat for many butterflies.
Finally we reached Z and Mark considered that following some of his
tips would encourage us to have better gardens and a Zest for
life!! The talk was illustrated by many of Mark’s own, stunning
photographs and was followed by a lively question and answer session.
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February Meeting - Ground Cover
On Tuesday 23rd February, Geoff Hawkins gave an
illustrated talk to members of the Felpham & Middleton
Horticultural Society. Geoff is a Gardening Consultant,
Horticultural Speaker and Broadcaster.
In January 2012 he retired as head gardener from the private estate of
Mill Court near Alton, Hampshire where he had worked since 1977 as head
gardener running a small estate of 30 acres. working in greenhouses,
vegetable and fruit gardens, herbaceous and shrub borders as well as
looking after the trees, ponds and natural features on the estate.
Over 100 members attended this first meeting of the 2016 programme and
were rewarded with an extremely interesting and enthusiastic
talk. Initially Geoff discussed the purpose of ground cover ( to
suppress weeds), and went on to describe different options, from bark
chippings to plastic sheeting, leafmould and lawn clippings to stone
chippings and commenting on the pros and cons of each.
Of course, the principle ground cover that members wanted to learn
about was the use of different plants and planting combinations and
here Geoff excelled, providing illustrations of over seventy different
plants that might be considered to provide ground cover. Some
were familiar, and as Geoff said these are often accompanied by their
own problems – ground cover plants may themselves be a bit thuggish and
need to be managed. Vinca, Viola and Soleirolia soleirolii
(mind-your-own-business) might fall into this category.
Illustrations of many other plants and plantings were shown, too many
to describe here. The main message was to look for and identify
plants that provide sufficient density of foliage to suppress
weeds. Geraniums, Bergenia, Hellebores, Origanum some ferns, and
several Junipers were amongst the many plants that were suggested.
Overall the talk provided some really useful pointers and some unusual
suggestions on the perennial problem of natural weed suppression with
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