Speaker evenings and socials held at Ross Street Community Centre 7.15pm for 7.30pm start.
Admission: £2.50 for members (annual membership £5) and £4 for non-members. www.cambridge.gov.uk/ross-street-community-centre
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
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
Famous for where the terracotta army was found, this was
part of the tour but with little horticultural merit.
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 &
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
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.
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
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
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
Notes from the meeting on: Tuesday 9th Feb 16
presents ‘Reginald Farrer, an eccentric Englishman hunts for
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
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
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
‘Six of the
best’ – a presentation by Andrew Sankey
Tuesday 12th January
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:
- Knightshayes Court, nr Tiverton
- Hestercombe Gardens, nr Taunton
- Powis Castle Gardens, nr Welshpool
- Hodnet Hall, nr Market Drayton
- The Dorothy Clive Garden, nr Market Drayton
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Dorothy Clive Garden
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.
picked out some of his favourite elements of this famous house and
famous waterworks include the 300 year old Cascade, the Squirting Willow Tree
Fountain and the Sea-Horse Fountain.
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.
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
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
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.
History Society Launch – Cambridge Festival of Ideas
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.
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
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
The house is now
protected and a fund has been set up for its preservation. Further details can be found at: www.davidparrhouse.org.
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: www.capturingcambridge.org.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
‘THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING!’
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.
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.
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:
***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.
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.
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.