Romsey Garden Club

Speaker evenings and socials held at Ross Street Community Centre 7.15pm for 7.30pm start.
: £2.50 for members (annual membership £5) and £4 for non-members.

Dear Gardeners

Be wary of a beautiful little bug called a rosemary beetle. It's the size of a ladybird but a shiny bronze colour s
sometimes with green & red stripes. We found it on the rosemary and lavendar at the Romsey Rec site and it has completely eaten all of the leaves off the rosemary and was starting on the lavendar next. See the RHS website for more details but if you see this bug on your herbs, you must remove it or it will desecrate the plants.

***Put it in your calendar now***

DON'T FORGET - trip to Corpus Christi gardens on Tuesday 12th July at 6.00 pm.  Come along for a guided tour for only £2.50 for members and £5.00 for guests.

Gardens of China by George Thorpe                           12th April 2016

George Thorpe, previously a gardener at Trinity College gardens, has spoken at the Garden Club meetings before.  On this occasion he spoke of his trip to China and the tour of gardens in five areas there, including many plants which are now familiar in our own gardens.

In 2003, George joined the Professional Gardeners Guild who organise outings to gardens around the world as part of cultural tours.  The visit to China took in 5 locations which is a negligible area to cover within the huge land area of China.  The gardens seen are therefore just a glimpse of the vegetation and horticulture of the country.

Three of the areas visited, Beijing, the Scholars’ Gardens around Shanghai and around Kunming, are where many collectors visited in the past.  The last is watered by rivers flowing from the Himalayas and much of the vegetation is very distinct, differing even from one valley to the next.  As in other parts of the world, certain plants have gone in and out of fashion and the now revered tree peony was shunned for 500 years. 

The general trend in Chinese gardens is to have a small palate of plants that are repeated, giving a feeling of continuity and alluding to symbols & myths, such as ivy, pine and box.  A typical Chinese garden is enclosed by walls and includes one or more ponds, rock works, trees and flowers, and an assortment of tea houses, pagodas and pavilions within the garden, connected by paths.  Entrance gates are often very ornamental and have poems written on them to welcome guests in to the peace of the gardens.  Walls within the gardens often include carved friezes to provide partial views of other areas and to give an impression of the house and garden being intermingled. 

George’s trip was in early spring so many plants were not in flower then, it being the season between the magnolias and the camellias blooming.  China has a huge national Botanic Garden which covers 1000 hectares (compared to 20 hectares at the Cambridge Botanic Gardens).  Many gardens were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution but have been gradually restored since then, particularly those that have cultural, historic or religious significance or are the more intimate ‘scholars’ gardens’.   Many high-ranking officials in the communist party would build gardens at home once they retired from office and they were designed to be places of peace and restfulness.  The garden buildings often have roofs with dragons decorating them and the rank of the official is illustrated by the number of claws on the dragon.


Here is the site of the imperial palace in the Forbidden City and at the back of the palace is a small garden developed by the Empress Dowager, Princess Cixi in the late nineteenth century.  This was used as a summer palace by the royal family, outside the heat and pollution of the city.  It is said that the impressive lake at the palace was built by an Emperor using a budget that had been set aside for the navy.  The lake often has an atmospheric haze over it and also hosts a magnificent bridge.

Features of the garden include the use of salix trees, which have a dark bark and, like London planes, deal well with city pollution.  Guides show crowds round the garden with colour themed hats to keep the groups together.  The gardens contain many symbolic elements and it was believed this would attract mythical creatures such as griffins.  Cherry trees with intertwining branches are a favourite location for wedding photos for obvious, if twee, reasons and are grown in large pots – a common method in China.  Asparagus ferns are used for hedges and a must have for all Chinese gardens are ‘petromania’, strangely shaped rocks that are thought to have Zen properties.  One of the largest examples of these is in the Imperial Garden and is truly awe-inspiring, if not particularly beautiful to look at.

The bottom of the gardens lead to a view of the rolling hills beyond, where you can see the terracing on the slopes, introduced to stop soil erosion which has been caused by the mass felling of trees in the past for firewood, buildings, furniture etc.

Outside the Forbidden City, Beijing has an impressive Botanical Gardens site.  The gardens include a herb and medicinal plot where the plants used in traditional Chinese medicine are grown eg woad.  A large glass house has a collection of huge tropical trees with colourful bedding plants in red, orange & yellow beneath them.  The prunus trees flower after the frosts finish towards the end of March.

Something that George noticed in the Beijing streets is that large pots for bedding plants have very realistic artificial plants in them over winter.  When spring arrives, the ‘carpet’ of artificial plants is simply rolled up and replaced by soil and new bedding plants.


Famous for where the terracotta army was found, this was part of the tour but with little horticultural merit.

Zhou Zhang

This area has a similar climate to Venice, with temperatures averaging between 15 - 25° and 10 hours daylight.  The garden visited there belonged to a senior civil servant and, as is common in Chinese gardens, has a wall surrounding it with a large gateway, flanked by large plant pots.  A feature of the garden is a large rock which has a poem inscribed in it which was written by the Minister of Culture when he opened the garden.

Some of the landscaping has a European feel, including gunneras and arun used as ground cover under the trees.  The garden includes muscella palms which are linked to the banana and very large Eucolyptus trees which are not native plants.  Near the garden can be seen allotments which are intensively productive, with densely packed vegetables such as carrots, cabbage & potatoes.

In the same region is a huge site from an Expo held five years ago.  It has massive dragon ornamented gates and grass lawns, which are very unusual in China.  There is bold ‘carpet’ planting of colourful bedding plants.  The province garden includes a ‘wild goose pagoda’ replica and is typical of the genre with water features, a gated wall and various buildings within the garden.  The Taiwan garden has a typical Ting style building with a curved roof.


Unlike Macau, which has a colonial look due to its’ Portuguese past, Shanghai is all stainless steel, glass and mirrors, a very clean look for a city that is so densely populated. The cloud-pruned look is popular for box and yew and garden buildings have dark roof tiles which on long structures make the top resemble a snaking dragon.  A stone forest that has been created by eroded limestone and snapdragons are used as bedding plants at the bottom of the ‘grikes’.  On top of the limestone are indigenous plants and there is a Buddhist temple surrounded by rubber trees which have cups attached to their trunks for the collection of the rubber. 

The Shanghai Botanical Gardens cover 1000 hectares and typically the entrance has a gate with two large carved Chinese lion statues either side.  The gardens include a huge number of bamboos, which are mostly indigenous plants and can reach huge heights.  Some of the bamboos are very slow growing and eventually become huge plants with very thick stems.  These are used for buildings, scaffolding etc.  Others can grow as much as a metre a day (or so their reputation says) but this quick growth leads to thin walled stems and are used mostly for decorative purposes.  The gardens also contain many varieties of ‘bird of paradise’ plants ‘Ravellina’ and the huge-leaved tapioca palm, one of which is reputed to be 800 years old.  There are also papayas, which are popular because they grow so quickly and helicania/frangipani.  Kung Ying is described as being like the Garden of Eden and in the spring the gardens are visited for the maple trees and azaleas.

The gardens are also home to a large collection of ‘pin jing’ trees (known as bonsai in Japan) and a famous photograph of President Nixon was taken in front of one of the best specimens.  Nurseries use wire to encourage the branches to grow in to the desired shape and white clover is planted under the trees for pest control.

Some of the buildings in the gardens, as in many gardens in China, look old but actually are rebuilds due to destruction during the Cultural Revolution.  There is a classic scholars’ garden which includes rocks, water, buildings and a few plants.

Ting-a-ling gardens

After Shanghai, George travelled through an area called ‘fish & rice’ where ducks and geese are farmed and herded like sheep through the padi fields.  George visited the Great West Lake Bridge which was built in the 1840s and nearby saw evidence of massive redevelopment, creating new houses for the increasing numbers of nouveau-riche.

The Ting-a-ling gardens surround a monastery which is famous for an incident during the Cultural Revolution where one of the monks put a picture of Mao-Tse-Tung’s face on the front of all the Buddha statues to discourage the red guards from destroying them. This area is called the Venice of the East.

March meeting
The last meeting was on 8th March  and was a hanging basket demonstration by Lamorna Thomas - if you couldn't make it, a short summary follows:

Lamorna Thomas, a garden designer and advisor at Scotsdales garden centre gave a talk and demonstration on planting a hanging basket, which was raffled at the end of the meeting.

Lamorna started the demonstration by discussing the wide range of baskets now available and the types of liners that suit them.  If coir is going to be used to line baskets, Lamorna recommended the plastic coated variety as this prevents birds stealing it for nest building (you can provide other nesting material for them if you wish!).  She used a multi-purpose compost with vermiculite added to keep the structure light but pointed out that now there are specialist container composts available which have the same qualities and which come in smaller bags for easier use.  These composts are designed to not require any extra fertiliser or water retaining gel although the large number of plants in a small area does mean that some feeding is a good idea.  Lamorna recommends a teaspoon of plant food after planting which will last for 4 weeks and then the addition of liquid feed weekly after that to ensure many flowers and a long flowering season.

Lamorna grows many perennials on her allotment which can be used in baskets but it can also be economical to buy small plug plants in multiple trays.  In order for these to flower in the summer, these can be planted now rather than May, which is the month traditionally associated with planting baskets.  Some of the plants may be tender though so the baskets may need to be kept in a greenhouse or cold frame until the frosts have ceased and then gradually hardened off before being brought completely outside around mid-May.  Lamorna advised that brackets for baskets should always be 2” larger than the basket itself to prevent blooms being damaged by hitting walls in windy conditions and that most baskets prefer to be in full sun.

Plants can now be bought in colour combinations ready prepared and Lamorna advised taking in to account the shape of the flowers as well as the colour eg mixing trailing verbenas with petunias, surfinas or nemesia.  The central plant in a basket can be quite large such as a fuschia but also more unusual shapes like spider plants.  Using plants in pairs on opposite sides of the basket can look good, such as two fuschias, even if they are different colours.  A 12” basket will take roughly seven plants and, when the plants are initially put in, the top shoots should be pinched out to encourage the plants to grow more branches.  Any flowers already on the plants should be removed to stimulate root growth first.

Once completed, the baskets can be kept flowering by dead-heading and in the case of lobelia by cutting off the tops in July and then feeding the plants so that they will flower again in August.

Lamorna planted a lovely basket including begonias which will have a pendulous habit once grown.  She recommended placing the plants away from the edge of the basket so that compost can be fitted all around their roots. 

Although the basket demonstrated was a summer flowering one, Lamorna also explained that there are alternatives, such as a herb basket and plants such as small leaved hostas for more shady conditions.  Also baskets can be planted with spring flowering bulbs in the winter, if the basket is in a position where plants such as snowdrops will be visible once flowering. 

Lamorna also discussed the fact that in sheltered spots, plants such as fuschias may survive the winter.  If they do this, they can be replanted but the soil should be completely replaced as it will have lost all of its nutrients over the previous season. 


Notes from the meeting on: Tuesday 9th Feb 16

Geoff Hales presents ‘Reginald Farrer, an eccentric Englishman hunts for alpines’.

Reginald Farrer, 1880 – 1920, was an author as well as a plantsman and could be considered the ‘Alan Titchmarsh’ of his day.  He is famous for his work on English rock gardens and he died alone in the Burmese jungle on one of his many plant collecting trips.

He was a big fan of Jane Austen and two of his most famous books are called ‘The Rainbow Bridge’ and ‘My Rock Garden’.  Reginald was educated at his home, near Ingleborough, due to having a cleft palate and hair lip and this gave him time to start gardening at a very early age.  Growing up near a quarry, Reginald experimented by throwing seeds at a rock face in order to grow plants on cliffs and gradually learnt that alpines were the best alternative for rock gardens.  He attended Balliol College, Oxford, where he apparently said he was ‘prospering like a pelargonium’ and where he learnt that the best rock gardens were in Japan. 

Following university, his father encouraged him to go in to politics and gave him £1000 to fund his campaign, money which Reginald promptly spent on orchid bulbs.  Reginald became a famous plant collector instead of a politician and went on to establish his own plant catalogue.  He would send specimens home from Europe by wrapping them in moss and sending via Parcelpost.  They did not always survive but some of his earliest successes were the alpine forget-me-not, gentians and saxiflora found in the Dolomites.  He famously did not like edelweiss, as its name means ‘noble white’ and he said it was neither noble nor white and wasn’t a true alpine plant anyway.

Reginald became seen as an expert in growing conditions for alpines and he was prepared to travel the world looking for new plants, not restricting himself to cooler climates but also exploring flora in deserts & mountain ranges.  On the day WWI broke out, Reginald was in the middle of a different type of storm in Tibet.  This was a dangerous country to visit at the time, where strangers were thought to be searching for gold rather than plants.  Reginald would spend as long as possible in the mountains looking for specimens and then over-winter in the nearest city.  On his return to Europe, he joined the armed forces and became a war reporter for the Ministry of Information.  Reginald met John Buchan during his service and was said to have been collecting cyclamen under shell-fire in Italy.

Reginald travelled to China, collecting viburnam, plum, apricot & quince trees there, plus gentians, harebell poppies and pasque flower, the last of which can now be seen on the Devil’s Dyke in Cambridgeshire, probably introduced by the Romans.

Reginald died on a plant collecting trip to Burma and is buried there.  It is said that his grave is still being maintained but nobody knows by whom.  An exceptional and somewhat mysterious plantsman.


‘Six of the best’ – a presentation by Andrew Sankey

Tuesday 12th January 2015


The third event of the year was a fascinating talk by Andrew Sankey on six of the best gardens he has visited.  The gardens selected were:

  1. Knightshayes Court, nr Tiverton
  2. Hestercombe Gardens, nr Taunton
  3. Powis Castle Gardens, nr Welshpool
  4. Hodnet Hall, nr Market Drayton
  5. The Dorothy Clive Garden, nr Market Drayton
  6. Chatsworth House Gardens, nr Bakewell.


Andrew is a garden designer, landscaper, nurseryman and lecturer and as an ex-teacher has a very interesting, confident and amusing style of presenting.  The talk was illustrated by some fabulous slides showing the garden features that Andrew described.


Andrew explained that as he has mostly lived in the eastern parts of Britain, he has tended to travel and holiday in the western parts – hence the western nature of the locations for the favoured six.  This means that the gardens he has picked have very different characteristics to those in Cambridge, namely that they are wetter, warmer and generally lime-free.  This obviously has an effect on the type of plants grown and therefore the general style of the gardens.


  1. Knightshayes Court


    This garden is run by the National Trust and is known for its ‘garden-in-the-woods’.  There are large walled gardens near the house with exotic borders leading to extensive areas of woodland and within that, a wildflower garden. 

    The house was built by a merchant from the Midlands who moved to Tiverton and built houses there for his workforce as well as Knightshayes Court for himself.  The workers walked from the Midlands all the way to Tiverton to take advantage of his generosity! 

    The borders are full of exotic plants because the climate is so mild and a famous 20th century gardener, Graham Stuart Thomas, designed two gardens to replace the bowling green, once the decision had been made to open the garden to visitors.  The famous 1920s topiary is on three sides of the gardens and the borders show a mixture of silver, grey and purple flowers and leaves that lead the eye towards the seat at the back of the area.  The front of the border has scree type beds with alpine planting.  There is also a hedged pool garden with a weeping silver pear, a circular pool and a stone statue in the recess of the hedge. 


    The large woodland gardens were managed in the 1950s/60s by having 150 trees taken out to create a semi-shaded woodland and this created an all-year-round garden, including spring and summer bulbs, azaleas etc.


  2. Hestercombe Gardens


    This is a famous garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll (planting) and Edwin Lutyens (structure & hard landscaping).  There is an 18th century landscape garden at the back of the house and Lutyens was commissioned to redesign the front garden.  His design includes a square sunken garden, an orangery and a Dutch garden.  Lutyens and Jekyll were involved in this project at the peak of their powers and influence, between 1904 – 1908.  Amazingly, although Jekyll produced the planting scheme from studying Lutyen’s designs, she never actually visited the site. 


    Although the garden is a relatively small one compared to their other projects, it is world-renowned because of being still in its original state.  The garden has diagonal paths which make the garden seem bigger, as do the resultant triangular beds which have a small variety of plants in repeating patterns, for example elephants’ ears, rosemary, lavenders and delphiniums.  These plants thrive in the south-facing aspect and the limited rainfall here.  There are steps in the corners of the garden and a pagoda which attracts the eye. 

    There is a small, symmetrical rose garden with a rill down the middle and a seat at its far end.  Down either side of the rill are two levels of roses and the walls supporting the upper layer cascade with flowers in a very naturalistic way.  This was achieved by mixing flower seeds with the mortar before the wall was built.  The pressure from the water coming down from the higher level to the lower powers a water feature in the centre of the garden. 

    The Dutch-inspired Orangery has a terrace which is there to enhance the building rather than being for horticulture.  Similarly the Orangery is not for cultivation but for use as a summerhouse.  The terrace leads to the Dutch garden where huge Scots thistles provide support for climbers such as flowering peas and clematis.  Dutch gardens often have a ‘hot’ theme and fittingly there are plants here such as yuccas and lavenders.  Pergolas help to provide some definition to the gardens without blocking out light and offer options for more climbers and there are six very large pots in a symmetrical pattern which provide height and focus for the eye.


    Around the edges of the gardens, gates and windows or holes in the walls are used to make the gardens seem bigger.  The site is now the site of the Somerset Fire Brigade’s HQ (complete with training tower behind the house!).


  3. Powis Castle


    These gardens are affected by the gulf stream, which means warmth, a lot of rain and limited frosts.  The upper terraced gardens can support plants like cannas, as any frosty air that arrives sinks to the lower gardens.  The gardens were designed in the 1700s and therefore also follow a Dutch theme, including an Orangery and extensive topiary.  The second terrace wall includes niches that would originally have held statues but which now have vases containing all-season planting.  There is a huge wisteria grandiflora on which the racines can be up to 2 foot long and an aviary terrace which would originally have contained caged birds, whose songs would have graced those walking there.  The Orangery was heated by a stove and citrus trees would have been moved in and out of it depending on the weather and time of day.  There are ‘hot’ borders which are colour co-ordinated, with bright colours on one side of the Orangery and pastel on the other.  There is also a huge yew hedge which would have hidden the kitchen garden from the house and terraces and an ‘apple slope’ where apple trees are planted in the grassy slope leading to the lower gardens.  Here the terrace used to be a water garden with three pools but these were taken out during the time of the landscape-garden movement and there is now just one lake towards the bottom.  The kitchen gardens used to provide food for the house but Lady Powys had them removed, because she did not want to see ground that was being used for vegetable growing, and replaced with informal lawns with huge box hedges, terracing and a fountain.


  4. Hodnet Hall


    This Hall is famous for its water garden, designed by Brigadier Hearer Percy in 1922 (the hall dating from 1870).  The Brigadier utilised the natural bog-garden to make the pools in the water garden.  The acid soil is reflected by the multiple camellias, magnolias and rhodedendrons, through which walkways have been constructed.  The high rainfall produces abundant growth and drifts of flowering bushes lead the walker down to the water’s edge.  A dovecote on a distant ridge provides a feature point and a walk past the 15th century tithebarn leads to the kitchen garden.  This garden peaks in late spring and early summer when the abundance of blooms on the bushes create an almost magical sea of colour.


  5. Dorothy Clive Garden


    This 7 acre garden was built for Dorothy by her husband when she became ill as a place for her to walk near the house.  It was a disused quarry and the acid nature of the soil has led to beds of azaleas & rhodedendrons.  After her death, Dorothy’s husband continued the work in her memory and moved out of the main house, building a bungalow in the garden itself.  Just above the round pool is a scree garden and the azaleas are planted to provide a tapestry of colour and scent for those walking near the pool.  Spring is the best time to visit this garden as the luxurious growth and flowering of the shrubs is then at its height.  Notable is the presence of giant oats, as this was one of the first gardens to use these beautiful plants to add height and movement to borders.


  6. Chatsworth House


    Andrew picked out some of his favourite elements of this famous house and gardens. 

    The famous waterworks include the 300 year old Cascade, the Squirting Willow Tree Fountain and the Sea-Horse Fountain. 


    The Cascade is a waterway that flows down stone steps with a small house at its peak that is an original building from the seventeenth century.  The waterway was designed by a French engineer who had previously worked on Louis XIV’s gardens. 


    The original seventeenth century Willow Tree Fountain used to be in the middle of the large Ring Pond and had brass branches from which water trickled down.  The fountain had to be copied in the nineteenth century due to erosion and the copy was then re-sited in a rockery, where visitors can sometimes be surprised by standing too close to it when the sluice gates are opened and the water suddenly starts to flow off the branches above them!


    Andrew also talked about the maze which stands on the site of the famous glasshouse.  The glasshouse (or ‘great conservatory’) was designed and built by Paxton around 1840.  It took four years to build and was the largest glass building in England until Paxton went on to build Crystal Palace.  It was so large that visitors could drive through it in a carriage marvelling at the exotic plants that were made possible by the underground boilers.  In order to hide the coal being transported from the Duke & Duchess and their visitors, an underground railway line was built to service the boilers.  The conservatory fell in to disrepair during the First World War, when coal and other resources were diverted to the war effort and many of the plants died.  It was finally demolished in 1920 and only some of the walls and an original coal-hole leading to the underground railway now exist.  One can only imagine how breathtaking it must have been.


    Thanks to Andrew for a fascinating talk and beautiful slides.  We hope he will come back next year to share more of his extensive collection of gardening pictures and experiences with us.




Mill Road History Society Launch – Cambridge Festival of Ideas

Thursday 15th October 2015

The first event of the year involving the Garden Club was, as usual, also the first event of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas. 

This year the event was an opportunity for the Mill Road History Society to hold an official launch and the evening was an interesting introduction to their projects.

There was a brief introduction by the chair of the steering group and then three speakers with very different subjects to present.

Speaker 1

The first speaker presented on a house in Gwydir Street, now called David Parr house, after a previous resident.  Elsie Palmer who lived there until she was 96 years old was interviewed whilst she was still living in the house and the slides of the interior were spectacular. 

David Parr was a painter and decorator who worked for a local company owned by Frederic R Leach, who in turn worked under contract to George Bodley and William Morris.  These contracts included decorating a stairwell at St James’ Palace, London, and the interior of many religious buildings nationwide.  David Parr’s contribution was the hand-painting of designs on walls, which appear like patterned wallpaper from a distance but which are actually intricately painted. 

David Parr continued this passion for design and hand painting at home and painted the Gwydir Street house in similar style, showing many ecclesiastical and royal influences.  The highly decorative paint work on walls and woodwork includes quotes from Shakespeare, hymns and poetry plus many symbols taken from nature – clearly influenced by his work for William Morris.

The house is now protected and a fund has been set up for its preservation.  Further details can be found at:

Speaker 2

The second speaker was a project manager from the History Society.  She presented a short overview of some of the work that has already been done into investigating the gradual development of the Mill Road area and the history of its current and previous residents.  There were taped interviews with some of the older residents in the community and it was interesting to hear their views of how the area has changed.  There was a slide including a map showing Covent Garden as the first side street to be constructed off Mill Road and a resident confirmed that some of the residents of Covent Garden and Tenison Road have been researching the history of their houses and have posted blue plaque style notices in their windows with details of some of the past residents.  The map also showed Pole Cat Farm which was sited where Cutlacks store is now and preceded all of the housing development.  The speaker went on to discuss the railway arriving in 1845 and the subsequent nicknaming of the area as ‘Red Romsey’ due to the railway workers having a reputation for being a very well organised labour force.  However, a review in 1910 of the residents of Cavendish Road showed that only 27% of the workforce was employed by the railway and that other employment included the building trade, decorators, food related businesses, service (ie household servants employed in the larger houses in Petersfield) etc.  The varied nature of the residents’ jobs and the small number of labourer type employees suggests that the area was not amongst the poorest in Cambridge and that it was mostly slightly better paid, skilled or semi-skilled workers living there.  More details and a chance to listen to the interviews can be found at:

Speaker 3

The third speaker was the History Society’s ‘poet in residence’ who has written a poem on Mill Road and used it as a sound track to a film of Mill Road events and places.  This will be shown on the History Society website and at the Winter Fair.   It was very well presented and is well worth a look.

There was a discussion during the Q&A session at the end of the meeting about how poppy plaques could be put in the windows of houses where past residents had fought and possibly died in WWI or WWII and also white poppies for conscientious objectors.  Individuals can contact the Friends of Mill Road Cemetery through their website if they would like advice on how to find out this information.

If you weren’t able to attend the meeting, I hope you have found this report interesting.  However, please note that this is an unofficial report on the event, written by me, and is intended for garden club members’ interest only.  Any inaccuracies are purely unintentional.


Petersfield Walk – July 22nd 2015


Keith, our chairman, led a very interesting walk in Petersfield on a warm sunny evening that followed a very rainy day.


We started at St Barnabas Church where the new gardens have been planted with plants that relish dry conditions, such as herbs, grasses and alliums, the latter being left after flowering to provide structural interest.  The large silver maple, a tree originating in North America, that used to be outside the church was struck by lightning in the recent storms and had to be cut down, leaving a large stump.  There is another silver maple outside Hot Numbers café and they are known, like many maples, for their autumn colour. 


We looked over to the Bathhouse where there is a large lime and a Judas Tree, which flowers on bare stems earlier in the year and which is now in leaf.  As we stood in the churchyard a group of swifts circled above us and Keith pointed out that they are one of the last migratory birds to come to the UK and also one of the first to leave, usually in the first week of August.  As we walked down St Barnabas’ Road, we looked at a beautiful Tamarisk tree, which has wispy foliage that turns an unusual pink colour in the spring.  Common in Eurasia & Africa, the tree’s resistance to high winds makes it a popular choice in coastal areas of Britain.  Moving on we looked at an amazing weeping birch which has been allowed to ‘weep’ all over the pavement creating a tunnel-shaped bower under which pedestrians can walk.


Further on were some lime trees which used to be planted in communal areas such as car-parks until it was realised the ‘dew’ that the trees produce in autumn makes cars sticky and difficult to wash.  However, the insects and birds love it, so a car-wash seems a small price to pay.  Next were some plane trees, commonly planted in cities due to their ability to shed bark and therefore resist the effects of exhaust fumes.  These trees are however poor for wildlife, other than providing perches for birds.  Keith informed us that there is a very famous Oriental plane in the gardens at Emmanuel College which is rumoured to be one of the oldest in the country and has a cathedral-like presence.


Passing some hornbeam hedging, next was a strawberry tree, sometimes called the ‘Irish strawberry tree’ as it is a native plant there.  It has fruits vaguely reminiscent of strawberries but yellow rather than red, and in Portugal a liqueur called medronho, is made from them.  We then passed a garden that had three large fig trees in front of its house and in fact, fig and pear trees appear to be a popular choice in this area. 


The other common tree in the front gardens seems to be the Laburnum, a strange choice as, although it is very ornamental when full of yellow flowers, every part of it is poisonous including the leguminous seed pods. 

Wildflowers were everywhere too, growing in pavement and wall cracks.  Hollyhocks, ivy-leaved toadflax, tree of heaven and buddleias to name but four.  Buddleias are famous for being attractive to butterflies but they also attract other insects – the wood though is very soft and therefore not grown commercially.  We also saw a senecio, a member of the daisy family originally from Sicily and one that prefers volcanic or rocky sites - so well suited to city life with bricks and pavements replacing its natural habitat.


Next was a whitebeam tree, not native to our region but to the wider UK, named after the colour of the underside of its leaves and related to the rowan.  We walked on to see a Turkish hazel, different to other hazels because they have a single stem and have nuts inside a very prickly case.  It takes several years for them to bear fruit, so they are a long-term commitment for a garden.  We noted a magnolia that was in flower and Keith explained that they can flower twice and of course at this time of year the flowers are amongst the leaves.


We then walked past a ceratostigma, which had the most beautiful bright blue flowers and (as I found to my cost!) quite sharp thorns.  Keith informed us that these bushes flower for at least four months, so worth considering as an addition to anyone’s garden.


Next was a broom with red seed pods, indicating that this is part of the legume family and good for gardens due to its nitrogen-fixing properties.   Then we looked at a deodar pine tree which was planted perilously close to a building.  These are a type of cedar and can grow up to 80m tall, originating in the western Himalayas (where presumably there is more room for them...)


We moved on to see another tree originating in North America, a ‘false acacia’ also known as the ‘black locust’ tree due to its black pods and also a leguminous plant.  This tree arrived here c. 1630 and is usually seen in its yellow form, with bright lime-green colour leaves. 


Next was some Canadian fleabane, so called due to its use as an insect repellent and then some hoary cress, which was brought to the UK in mattresses carrying the injured soldiers from the Napoleonic wars.  Farmers dug the straw from the mattresses in to their fields as a soil improver and inadvertently sowed the hoary cress seeds at the same time. 


Lastly we looked at wiry jack plants growing in the gap between a pavement and wall.  This is also known as the ‘barbed wire plant’ as it produces long threads that form tumbleweed-like balls.

A very enjoyable evening was had by all - thanks Keith!

Three dates for your diary coming up - read on for the exciting details:


 1.    Come & help out at the Romsey Garden Club stall at the Hemingford Street party on the afternoon of Saturday 4th July.  Keith, our chairman, will be there from 3.00 – 5.00 pm and would welcome some help looking after the stall.  There will be leaflets to hand out and plants to sell to raise money for the club, plus the chance to encourage new members to join us.  If you can spare 30 minutes during that period to help Keith, there is the added bonus of free food from the street party barbeque and the chance to listen to the live band!.  If you would like to volunteer for this, please e-mail the club e-mail address: or let me, Carol, Caroline or Keith know directly.

 2.    Another chance to help if you’re not free on the 4th is to perform a similar role at the Midsummer Night Market in Mill Road, which is scheduled to be on Saturday 18th July from 6.00 – 10.00 pm.  Again, if you would like to volunteer, please let us know.

 3.    And what you've all been waiting for - the next club walk!




Come & join the ROMSEY GARDEN CLUB members on the next garden club outing to:


Petersfield district walk

Wednesday 22nd July 2015

Meet at St Barnabas Church from 7.15 for 7.30pm start

Join us for a walk looking at Petersfield in bloom led by chairman, Keith Jordan.

The walk will last for about one & a half hours and is accessible for motorised scooters.

Cost: as normal evenings at Ross St Community Centre

                                                                                                         We hope to see you there.


                                                                                                                   Inline images 1

The last walk was very enjoyable and informative - read on!

Coleridge Recreation Ground Walk - Wednesday 13th March 2015

Keith Jordan led a group of enthusiastic club members on a fascinating walk through the Coleridge Rec a week last Wednesday.  The park has a multitude of native trees which were all in new, bright green leaf including ash, silver birch & sycamore, some of which were also in flower.  There were also many bird-cherry trees in full bloom, covered with masses of white tapering flower heads.  A highlight of the walk was the vision of the bright purple 'Judas' trees - the origin of its name is uncertain but theories include the trees originating in Judea and/or Judas hanging himself from such a tree following his act of betrayal.  This leguminous tree has pea-like flowers followed by pods and is loved by the leaf-cutter bees and therefore great for wildlife.

Also in flower were the hawthorns and the native viburnams, also known as the 'Wayfaring tree'.  Hornbeams were in tree form rather than the more common hedging and Keith explained that the very hard and strong wood from this tree was historically used in the construction of mills, milkmaid yokes etc that required extra strength. 

A patch of trees with undergrowth revealed a burdock bush, from which the root is used to combine with dandelion to make the famous pop, sadly missing on this occasion.  Keith explained that the leaves from the bush were also traditionally used to wrap butter pats.  Also, the 'burrs' which form on the bush after flowering are said to have been the inspiration for Velcro - very believable if you've ever tried to pull one off your jumper.

The walk went on past some elder trees, traditionally planted outside houses for good luck (and very bad luck to cut down) and then on to some fantastic yellow roses clambering 30 feet through trees and bushes.  These are 'Canary Bird' roses and were originally wild roses from China.  Next were some non-native Horse Chestnuts, so called because in the past they were used to produce horse medicine, and the conkers were also used as a form of soap.

There was some new planting to be seen, notably hornbeam and some lovely purple berberis with yellow flowers.  Also of interest was an Italian alder which has small cone-like seed shells which siskins and redpoles like to eat in winter.  Near this section, a summer warbler was heard, clearly wanting to join in the walk.

These are just a few highlights of the walk and there were many more trees and shrubs to be seen.  Another local walk is planned for June so we hope that as many outdoor and plant lovers as possible will be able to join us.

                                                                                                        Inline images 1 

Romsey Garden Club is the local garden club for Romsey residents, in the city of Cambridge, but you do not have to live in Romsey to become a member.   We are open to everyone.

We meet at 7.30pm on the second Tuesday in the month, every month from November to April, at the Community Centre in Ross Street, Cambridge  CB1 3UZ. There are other events that the Club is involved with such as guided walks in places of local interest and Cambridge colleges.

Dates for the next season are:
10th November
8th December
12th January
9th February
8th March
12th April
***Put them in your calendar now***

At the meetings we have a speaker on a gardening related topic, and exchange information, seeds and plants.  We involve ourselves in events and plant sales around the Romsey area, and visit gardens both in Cambridge and further afield.   Some of our members work on the community gardens at the junction of Mill Road and Coleridge Road, and further down Mill Road in front of the old warehouse site, where the Mosque will be built.  We want to expand this activity, and are always looking for other members who are willing to take part.

Our members own gardens and allotments are varied in type and style, some concentrate on vegetables, others on formal flower beds, and many have an area of managed wildness for birds, insects, frogs and small mammals.   We want to include pictures and a description of members' gardens, so please get in touch if you want to take part.

All the evening meetings are held on the second Tuesday in the month from October through to May at the Ross Street Community Centre.  The doors are open at 7pm for a 7.30pm start.  Admission fees are £2.50 for members and £4 for guests.  Annual membership of the club costs £5, and you can pay at the meeting or in advance at Cutlacks.  The club invites members of other garden clubs and allotment societies to attend our meetings and join our trips out, and the charge for them will be the same as for our own members.


Speaker evenings and socials held at Ross Street Community Centre 7.15pm for 7.30pm start.
: £2.50 for members (annual membership £5) and £4 for non-members.



Community Garden updates
Some of our members have been busy tidying up one of the gardens - on Romsey Rec (the raised bed).  Do join us for other work parties. There will be more work needed
at the 'bus-stop' garden on Mill Road, near to Spar and opposite Madras Road, where we will be  cutting back and carrying out other seasonal work.   If you are thinking of dividing plants or taking cuttings from your garden and have any to spare or if you have unwanted plants please bring these along to the next working group day - edging plants would be particularly useful (and low maintenance perennials if possible).

World War II Garden Project Railway House, Mill Road – a joint project with CHS who run the residential project supporting young people in the area, Mill Road History Project and the Romsey Garden Club. 

The WW2 ‘Dig for Victory’ garden that Caro Wilson talked about at a previous meeting has now ‘got off the ground’ with receipt of a County Council grant and the first work part to dig over the ground. In time there may be a visit and plants may be needed for the garden.  Any old family stories about gardening/ self sufficiency and growing veg, fruit and flowers during the wartime years would be most interesting. 

Pat, one of our club members who also works in the RSPCA Bookshop on Mill Road, kindly put aside a reprint of a 1940s book on gardening in the war years.....called 'Make Your Garden Feed You' all about starting a garden in the war years.  Keith Jordan is now using the book to plan a typical 3 course rotation as was the advice in those days:  1. Green crops (cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, etc).   2. Peas & Beans and   3. Root crops (carrots, beetroot, onions& potatoes).  Flowers and window boxes were also encouraged.  

Romsey Garden Club members have a chance to involved in this project to transform a neglected patch of ground - a great way of celebrating this important anniversary. It could involve advice and practical volunteer help. You might even have some family memories/memorabilia about gardening in the war time years.   It could also encourage young people develop an interest in gardening which might well help their career prospects as well as providing them with a hobby for life. 


Tue. 7th April  Keith Jordan    ‘Plant Symbolism and Folklore’ – looking at the many symbolic uses for plants and plant material ranging from poppies, oak, hawthorn (May blossom), houseleeks, Burdock burrs, to willow, wheat straw (Whittlesea Straw Bear festival),  hops and many more.

Tues 10th March    Nigel Start    ‘A History of English Gardening’ – a general interest talk which takes the audience from the earliest beginnings to modern times. Nigel gave a recent talk on self-sufficiency.

Sat. 7 March 12 noon – 4pm.  Ross Street Community Centre is having a Grand Opening Event (after recent refurbishment) with the Mayor.  We have been asked to have a stall there so if you feel like doing a shift on the stall or bring plants or produce that will be great!   12 – 3 Children’s games, crafts, sta;;s, singing, local history.  3 – 4pm Mad Hatters Tea Party.