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WRITE-UPS

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.

2018

JULY
At the meeting held Tuesday 24th July Thomas Stone presented an illustrated talk entitled ‘The Roses of Mottisfont’.  Thomas was raised at Mottisfont, Hampshire, home of the world famous Mottisfont Abbey with its’ magnificent and horticulturally important rose gardens.
Moving on after a period of twelve years, he started work at the equally famous Sir Harold Hillier Arboretum and Gardens in Hampshire, where he extended his knowledge into the world of trees, shrubs and wild flower meadows.  He now has his own horticultural consultancy, offering Bespoke, Personal, Professional Advice & Practical Solutions, Specialising in Domestic Gardens and Private Estates.
His talk was in three parts, providing an introduction and history of the Mottisfont Gardens and the importance of two men in the creation of the garden in its current form.  Firstly, Graham Stuart Thomas, sometimes described as the ‘Grand Old Man’ of English horticulture.  In 1971 the opportunity came to create a new garden at Mottisfont Abbey, the National Trust’s property in Hampshire whose tenant had just relinquished possession of a handsome walled kitchen garden. This was an ideal location for the collection of Old fashioned roses that had been his passion for much of his career.  Secondly, Thomas’ own father, David had been head gardener at Mottisfont during the period of transformation.
Thomas then described how each of the gardens at Mottisfont had been transformed from their previous use as gardens of a private house to the internationally recognized rose gardens they are now.  Each of the gardens of the house presented challenges due to the nature of the ground conditions which included areas that had been used for many years as a car park, an area which required deep cultivation because of compaction and could only be worked using a solid metal fork .  Thomas showed us many beautiful photographs of the gardens and explained that the unique blend of roses and herbaceous plants and annuals shows the true beauty of the roses rather than the traditional rose garden which can look rather jaded once the initial flush of rose blooms has passed.
Finally Thomas described in detail, with corresponding images, the characteristics of the old fashioned roses that are contained in the gardens and from which many of the modern roses have been bred including;  Gallica, the original single flowering single rose,  Alba, the wild, white rose Centifolia, whose name means 100 petals, the fragrant Moss varieties and the heady Damask rose. 
After a short question and answer session Thomas was thanked for giving the society an extremely interesting, educational and well-illustrated talk which will inspire many of us to visit the gardens  at the earliest opportunity.


MAY

On Tuesday 25th May, in a change to he published programme, Sarah Hughes gave a presentation entitled ‘Wildlife Matters’ to an audience of over 80 members and guests.  Sarah is the Community Wildlife Officer of Chichester District Council, a post she has held for over ten years and which came about following her involvement in the Local Biodiversity Action Plan for Chichester ( the first such plan in the  UK) whilst  working as Selsey Wildlife Officer.
Sarah painted a rather sombre and depressing picture of the threats and challenges currently faced by the natural world.  She describes this as threats to the ‘web of life’ which will ultimately has a negative effect on our own wellbeing and quality of life.
These threats include loss of habitat, disturbance, pollution and invasive species.
Loss of Habitat - Annually we an area of Forest the size of Belgium is cut down to clear land for agriculture and particularly palm oil. Other loss of habitat is caused by development for roads, homes and business.
Disturbance - whilst we enjoy greater leisure time and access to green spaces, this can lead to disturbance of wildlife and disrupt their breeding.  She highlighted that there are 15million dogs in UK; if dogs are allowed to run free they have a natural instinct to chase other creatures.  We all need to be aware of the impact that our leisure activities can have in disturbing wildlife.
Pollution – the effect of micro plastics on marine life has recently been highlighted by David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2, in recent local studies very high levels of micro plastics have been found in our estuaries.
Sarah then turned her attention to identifying some of the wildlife that is under threat.  Many birds that were common until quite recently are now considered to be  at risk and appear on ‘Red lists’ Amphibians at risk include Common Toad; Common Frog; Great Crested Newt; Palmate Newt and Smooth Newt.  All of our native snakes are at risk, as are all of our native lizards.  We are also fortunate to have all 18 species bat in the county.  Other mammals at risk include European badger, Hazel Dormouse, Hedgehog (which are particularly vulnerable to secondary poisoning through the use of slug pellets), European Otter and Water Vole.  Insects are also in decline and these are important in the ‘web of life’ reduced insects means less food for birds and mammals and the decline of pollinating insects and bees threatens the food chain
Sarah emphasised the importance of Chichester harbour as a feeding ground for over 56000 birds, the importance of maintaining wildlife corridors between the National Park and the harbour and ensuring that these are built into all Local Plans.  She is keen to educate dog walkers and to encourage changing behaviours, exercising dogs in different areas, stimulating the dogs in different ways.  She is also keen to educate landowners in effective ways to encourage wildlife and to make us all aware of and have respect for the wildlife around us e.g. the impact of litter.


2018
APRIL

On Tuesday 24th April, Andrew Elms gave his presentation on Lordington Lavender to an audience of   members and guests.  Andrew is the owner of the lavender farm which he established in 2002 when he was looking for an alternative to dairy farming because milk production was no longer financially viable.  His herd comprised 180 cows, and the business of milking was all consuming, leaving him with little time with his family and having to rise at 3am to milk the cows no matter what the weather and with no holidays, even at Christmas!!
After researching various options, Andrew decided that he would give lavender a try, the selling price of lavender oil was 78/litre and the venture appeared to offer good returns.  He set 5 acres of his land aside for production of lavender.  This required 25,600 Mailette lavender plants (the same lavender as grown in Provence) which duly arrived on an enourmous articulated lorry leaving him with the headache of having to plant them.  This was achieved by enlisting the help of his wife and children to operate a cabbage planting machine that he borrowed from a neighbour.
The crop is grown with conservation of habitat and the environment very much in mind. No fertilizers or pesticides are used and it has become haven for wildlife with at least 12 red listed species of birds including skylarks and barn owls found on the farm.  The lavender has to be hand-weeded and Andrew is always looking for volunteers!
Unfortunately because of competition from Eastern Europe, the price that he was able to get for his first year of production was only 35/litre, subsequently more competition from China led to the price dropping further to 19/litre.  Faced with this loss of return, Andrew turned his attention to producing other lavender based products which he now sells directly online and through farmers markets.
Andrew described all of the various lavender based products, their uses and benefits.  Ranging from essential oil used for treating cuts and burns, to room sprays for removing flies and midges, dog shampoo eliminating fleas and ticks and lavender extract for use in flavouring food. 
Andrew used only part of the available land for lavender, using the remainder to grow conservation grade arable crops of oats, spring barley, wheat and rape.  (rape seed oil has big potential as biofuel since EU legislation requires 2% replacement in fossil fuels – increasing to 10% shortly and a UK plant producing biofuel has recently opened.  This will save importing the fuel with the environmental damage that is caused in other parts of the world by the clearing of rain forest to grow crops for biofuel).  Conservation grade cereals are not organic; he uses fertilizers and herbicides but NOT insecticides.  To achieve conservation grade status, 10% of the area has to be used for attracting birds and bees.  This is achieved by planting the wide field borders with a mixture of wild flowers.

MARCH

On Tuesday 27th March Geoff Stonebanks gave a talk about his garden, 'Driftwood' which has been the subject of many newspaper and magazine articles and has featured on television programmes, including Gardner's World.
Geoff does not have a background in horticulture, which makes his achievements even more remarkable.  After 30+ years working for the Post Office, he took early retirement at the age of 51 and moved from Barnett to a bungalow at Seaford in 2004.  Three years later he started work transforming what had been a rather neglected and boring back garden into a space, filled with interest and colour.  He showed us a series of ‘before and after’ photographs of the garden which illustrated his achievements.  The garden is arranged to give several different 'rooms' and with the clever use of plants in pots and plant combinations gives an illusion of more space.  Many ornaments and other artefacts add to the interest.
He was encouraged to open his garden to the public and in 2009 the first visitors arrived!  The garden is quite small, smaller than the size normally considered worthy of The National Garden Scheme, however, because of the variety and interest that the garden offers, it was accepted by NGS in 2011.   From the outset, all visitors have been able to enjoy not only the garden, but also a cup of tea and a selection of homemade cakes whilst seated at one of the tables that are interspersed around the garden.
From those early days the garden has gone from strength to strength.  The NGS suggested he ‘did   something' with his front garden. In 2012 he created the front garden which enhances the uninterrupted views of the coast some half-a-mile distant.
Driftwood has won many awards and has been a finalist in several national competitions including 2012, Best Small Garden for Gardening News and a finalist in the Daily Mail National Garden Competition. The garden has attracted much media interest both locally and nationally, which in turn attracted television and was featured on Good Morning Britain in 2014 and BBC Gardeners World in 2016.
Favourite plants in his garden include various Fuchsias, Verbascum Olympicum, Salvia Amistad, Buddleia Buzz, White Bottlebrush, Limonium latifolium (sea lavender), Cordyline, Verbena Polaris and a Gunnera that is grown in a pot to keep in proportion with the garden.
The main motivation for Geoff is the fund raising opportunity that the garden offers.  In addition to the NGS he raises money for Macmillan Cancer Support and locally for the Seafood Lord Mayor's charity.  Since opening, he has raised a total of over 95000! In recognition of his efforts for Macmillan, he was one of their volunteers invited to attend a reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by HRH The Prince of Wales In January 2018, and in June he will be taking his 91 year old mother with him to meet the Queen at her garden party in recognition of his community fund raising.

2018
FEBRUARY

Our 2018 season started well with a most interesting talk by Steve Austin.  On a bitterly cold evening over 60 members and guests braved the arctic conditions and turned out and were motivated by Steve's enthusiasm and passion to start thinking about planning those parts of our gardens that may be in need of a facelift. 
Steve has been involved in horticulture for over 12 years.  He trained at Wittle College and obtained his Masters with the RHS.  He worked for 8 years at Hilliers under Andy MacIndoe and was involved in preparing Beth Chatto’s garden for the summer seasons.  Since achieving his M.Hort.(RHS) he spent 3 years sourcing and selling plants across the globe.  He now manages a nursery in the New Forest which produces over 1.2 million perennials a year supplying major garden centres and supermarkets.
Steve described some basic principles of garden design, and the use of planting to give continuous interest throughout the year.  He encouraged us to keep records of what we have, and to take monthly photographs of our garden so that we can consider where changes are needed to give interest throughout the year.  Steve suggested that we should consider the landscape beyond our own borders and how our own gardens can link with the wider picture. He went on to show us beautiful photographs of a huge variety of different plants with suggestions on the seasons in which they are at their best. 
Steve also gave members some tips on growing Dianthus which is the member’s competition plant for this year.  Plants will be available at the March meeting, and by following Steve’s advice we anticipate some beautiful plants to judge at the July meeting.

2017
OCTOBER
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.


JULY
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 Felpham. 
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.



JUNE

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.



MAY

Growing Herbs

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 supply.

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 his subject.


APRIL
(No report available)

MARCH
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 Bloom' Campaign.
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!!



FEBRUARY
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 horticulture consultant.

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 session.

Over 100 members and guests enjoyed this lively and informative first meeting of the 2017 season. 



2016

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 evening.
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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.
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May Meeting - Growing and Showing Fuchsias

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 competition.
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 attractive plantings.
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