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Here you can find out what events have taken place at Ticknall Garden Club.  We welcome your comments on these events.

By ticknallgc, Mar 23 2020 03:25PM

There was a packed audience in Ticknall Village Hall on March 10th when Steve Hickman came to talk about the Wonderful World Of Agapanthus. Regarded by many as the most beautiful of flowers, all were keen to find out the best way to care for them. Steve holds the national collection of agapanthus at his home at Hoyland Plant Centre, South Yorkshire. His interest has grown over the last twenty five years and he is now a leading expert on them with the status of RHS Master Grower. Not content with that, he also specialises in associated plants such as nerines, clivia and tulbaghia. His excellent website, www.somethingforthegarden.com is packed with useful information as well as tempting plants. With this background it was not surprising that Steve's talk turned out to be a thoroughly clear and concise guide to the care of agapanthus, with nerines, amarines and clivia thrown in for good measure.

Agapanthus are long lived perennials falling into three groups. They can be identified as evergreen or semi-evergreen; herbaceous, which die back in the autumn; and variegated evergreen and herbaceous.

Evergreen varieties are best grown in pots with winter protection. Even hardy herbaceous types benefit from a winter mulch and should not be planted out when still small. All types must be planted in free draining compost with two parts compost to one part sand, grit or perlite (very useful to make a pot lighter to manage). The common advice that restricting roots produces better flowering was exposed as a myth. Matching root size to a suitable size of pot is certainly necesary but when plants outgrow their space it is important to split or repot. Good flowering is more dependent on a regular feeding regime. They need a fertiliser with a high potash content. An ideal formulation would be a N.P.K or 12:12:32. Tomato food was not the best choice in Steve's opinion. Feed every one to two weeks and keep up a regular watering regime from mid March to late September. Potted plants can be left relatively dry throughout winter. Splitting of plants should be done in March or April. First tease out the fleshy roots and then with a sharp knife, spade or bow saw, slice inwards towards the crown from opposing sides. Leave for a day so the rhizomes can seal over before repotting or planting in the border.

Nerines and amarines (a cross between nerines and amaryllis belladonna), are also his speciality. They are bulbs which flower in late summer after their leaves have died down. They must be grown in full sun in well drained soil with the nose of the bulb exposed. The flower bud, once formed takes two years to reach flowering.

Steve now also has a fascination with clivia. They are indesrtuctable indoor pot plants which reward with striking flowers when given the right care. Most commonly forund with orange flowers but also yellow, Steve is breeding a range of shades from the seeds they produce. They prefer indirect sunlight and must have a cold spell outside to set thier flowers. With a good feed in spring the pot can be placed outside in shade from May onwards, and brought in before any frosts. They will then flower any time between January and June. if pollinated with a soft brush when in flower, they produce beautiful green and orange seed pods.

Steve Hickman had indeed provided a confident masterclass. It was no surprise that the tempting choice of his plants, bulbs and rhizomes for sale at the end of the evening, did a roaring trade!

By ticknallgc, Feb 17 2020 01:47PM

One might have thought that Sally Smith had come to Ticknall Garden Club on February 11th to convert the audience to love the weeds in their gardens, but this was not the case. With years of experience working at Ryton Organic Garden, she understandably had a forgiving attitude to them, but she showed that coping with weeds came down to knowledge, management and tolerance. Sir Edward Salisbury, one-time Director of Kew Gardens, defined a weed as "a plant growing where WE do not want it" in his authoritative book "Weeds and Aliens" published in 1961. Who can deny that grass is treated as a weed in a flower bed but not in a lawn?

The top ten troublesome weeds were listed as dock, dandelion, nettle, bramble, horsetail, chickweed, ground elder, creeping buttercup, bindweed, couch grass and cleavers. However, individual gardeners will have their own list of pesky problems. Many have nicknames that make them sound almost attractive and quaint such as yorkshire fog, bachelor's buttons, goosegrass, cat's ear and goutweed. Ever since man began to till the soil to grow crops it has provided the perfect environment for weeds to thrive. Exposing bare soil allows seed to settle and germinate.

Weeds have strong survival mechanisms so knowledge of their growth habit and life cycle is key to treatment. Annuals such as chickweed and groundsel grow quickly and some produce several generations in a single year. They can produce thousands of seeds which can spread many metres. It is true that one year's seed can lead to seven years weed. The seeds of some, like poppies, can remain dormant in the soil for many years, until disturbed and exposed to light.

Perennial weeds such as dock and dandelion have stubborn deep tap roots. Some, like couch grass and bindweed reproduce by speading underground. They resist removal as the smallest piece of root left in the ground will grow again.

Management of annuals is best done by removing them before their flowers set seed. Perennial weeds can be dug out with a lot of patience and care. Close planting in flower beds limits the opportunity for weeds to grow. A no dig routine inhibits the growth of weeds as does mulching thickly with a suitable material. The vegetable garden can benefit from a covering of cardboard or a crop of green manure which can be dug in to provide nitrogen. Poached egg plant grown around fruit bushes demonstrates the benefit of companion planting. If all else fails then the use of herbicides is not ruled out although not encouraged by the speaker herself.

A more tolerant attitude to weeds can be developed when we understand more about them. Thistles and teasels provide food for birds. Nettles host aphids which provide food for ladybirds and also provide a home for the eggs and larva of several butterflies. Ragwort is home to the Cinnabar moth. Clover can be a positive advantage in a lawn being so green and locking in nitrogen. Bindweed has the most attractive pink or white flowers, so perhaps let them grow more freely. The flowers of borage can be eaten and the seeds of poppies used in baking bread. The leaves of bittercress and fat hen (a forerunner of spinach), can also be eaten. There is a fine line between garden nuisance and charming wild flower. Wild pansy, dog violet, rose bay willow herb and scarlet pimpernel have attractive flowers but can take over a whole bed given the chance, but they can be given a home in a suitable position in the garden.

Sally Smith gave an attentive audience a balanced look at the problem of weeds and proved that with some thought they can be managed and even tolerated.

Sally Smith assisitng with the raffle!
Sally Smith assisitng with the raffle!

By ticknallgc, Feb 3 2020 10:06AM

Plants, but not as we know them! Don Billington came to Ticknall Garden Club's January meeting and opened our eyes to a group of plants that thrive with little or no root system. Called Bromeliads, they derive their food from the sun and moisture. They are popular houseplants, but in the wilds of places like Costa Rica and Equador they can be seen in profusion clinging to trees and rocks. They are epiphytes, not parasites and only use their host as a perch.

Don's lifelong fascination with this unique family of plants began early in his career in Liverpool, where he worked in the glasshouses at Croxteth Country Park. He was given responsibility for the collection of Bromeliads there. Soon after, and branching out on his own, he entered a display of Bromeliads at the Malvern Show and was amazed to be awarded a gold medal. On his first attempt at Chelsea he also got a gold medal and for the next eight years has continued his success. He now holds three national collections of Bromeliads in his own right. He has become an expert on them and advises the RHS and Kew Gardens and has close links with Holland where these plants are grown on a commercial scale. In fact, he described how one man sitting at a computor is in charge of the growth of several thousands of plants. They move in bulk on a conveyer system and every step is automated to the finest detail.

The Neoregelia group of bromeliads generally grow in a funnel shaped rosette of leaves and water is stored in their 'well'. Some leaves are brightly coloured or variegated but their flowers are insignifiicant. The Billbergia group tend to have more strap-like leaves or a wider funnel shape. Their flowers grow tall from the centre of the plant and can be quite striking. They tolerate cooler conditions so are easier to grow. Aechmea are mainly funnel shaped with an upright flower, some having spines. They make good houseplants. All Bromeliads are best watered sparingly with rainwater where possible.

Another interesting group are Tillandsia. Commonly called air plants, they create a sticky substance enabling them to 'glue' themselves to surfaces. They have tiny scale-like leaves covered in special cells which absorb water. They have a silver-grey appearance in a wide variety of forms which make them popular as indoor plants. They can be used to create striking displays. They are best watered by dunking them upside down in rain or soft water or misted with a fine spray. When Bromeliads flower they die but have usually already developed offsets or 'pups' to make a new plant.

Don Billington has a particular affection for air plants. It has led to considerable expertise in creating interior displays and he has fulfilled commisions for celebrities. He demonstrated how easy it was to make an interior decoration by wiring a variety of plants to either driftwood, a mesh frame or bamboo structure. Reindeer moss, which stays green and does not require watering, is useful for additional effect. It was no surprise that Don has also made a name for himself as a flower arranger.

Don entertained with a typical Liverpudlian sense of humour, while revealing surprising artistic talents and a depth of knowledge about the strange world of Bromeliads.

More information at every-picture.com.

Don Billington with programme secretary, Min Bell and our Chair, Pam Adams
Don Billington with programme secretary, Min Bell and our Chair, Pam Adams

By ticknallgc, Jan 9 2020 11:41AM

A perennial is a plant that grows continuously throughout its life. Therefore grass, ferns, bamboo and even shrubs and trees are technically perennials. Steve Lovell, who came to talk to us at Ticknall Garden club in November, concentrated mainly on what would be classed as herbaceous perennials. Steve travelled from Lincolnshire to pay his return visit to Ticknall. With considerable experience as a landscape gardener a one time president of the Lincolnshire Hardy Plant Society, he is always full of practical advice and illustrates with superb photographs. His inspiration as a young boy were the magnificent twin perennial borders at Arley Hall in Cheshire which have been in continuous cultivation since 1867 and are the oldest in Britain. Also, a big influence were the well known gardeners Geoff Smith and Geoff Hamilton. He admired their practical, down to earth approach to gardening which is very much reflected in his own philosophy.

In planting herbaceous perennials, he advised starting with thorough preparation of the soil and allowing plenty of time to make sure no troublesome weeds remained in the ground. He makes copious use of recycled waste local authority compost by digging it in, for aeration and for mulching. Plants need to be chosen to suit their location. He quoted Essex as having on average 18cms of rain annually compared to Snowdonia experiencing as much as 64cms each year. Dry, sunny conditions suit plants with grey, silver and felted leaves. But Rodgersia, Aruncus and Ligularia need wet ground. Bear in mind that generous spacing needs to be taken in account, whilst close planting for instant results was not recommended. Supports need to be in place early in the season whether it be chicken wire, canes, twiggy branches or commercial supports. Steve loves to grow plants to attract wildlife. Allium, Phlox, Veronicastrum, Eryngium and Achillea for bees and butterflies were all suggested.

Steve reviewed some of his favourite perennials that can be planted throughout the year; all illustrated with his own beautiful photographs. Epimediums and Hellbores need an early cutting back of leaves to show off their flowers in Spring. Erysium 'Bowles Mauve' gives a continuous display of flowers for months. Dicentra is a very early flowerer in the year but needs marking as the leaves die back in the summer. Lungworts attract bees and if you cut back after first flowereing, it will reward with a second flowering. Peony, Astrantia, Lupins, Delphinium and Scabious are all summer favourites. The vast range of colours found in Heucheras, made possible by advances in tissue culture in America, give their foliage the chance to shine at the front of the border. Late season plant suggestions included Echinacea, Rudbekia, Helenium and the Kaffir Lily. They will all attract insects and the seed heads, and if left over the winter, will also provide shelter for them. Thyme, Oregano and Thermopsis are also indispensible as ground cover to attract insects and butterflies.

Steve Lovell's love of plants and wildlife was infectious. To add to his talents, he now leads mini-breaks which would appeal to anyone with a love of nature and bird watching.

Find out more at www.stevelovellgreenspaces.co.uk

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