NEWSLETTER: JANUARY - MARCH 2007
Included with this newsletter you will find: Your 2007 Membership Renewal Form 2007 Calendar of Islington Gardeners Events A note about our Spring Lecture: Anthony Noel.on "Great Little Gardens" List of Islington Gardeners Contacts
Happy New Year
It must be just over a year since I wrote a seasonal note for the IG newsletter. The committee helped me enormously early in the year by taking away my stock of potted plants, which I was totally unable to look after during my recovery from my sub-arachnoid haemorrhage. This was an enormous relief, and in view of the dry summer, a double blessing! A friend from church who is a knowledgeable gardener has helped out frequently for the rest of the year, so I have been extraordinarily lucky. So what is in flower in the bleak midwinter? A winter-flowering clematis is all over the north-facing hedge, but its pale cream flowers do not show up much – I shall have to think about it. The Algerian irises under the south-facing wall have obviously enjoyed their baking followed by soaking – it’s a pity that slugs and snails also enjoy those conditions, but I have been able to rescue quite a few to have indoors, although they only last for 24 hours in the house. Mahonia with its lily-of the valley scent is always a welcome arrival, and there have been quite a few late roses, as well as the first alba simplex (single white) camellias. For some reason these face my kitchen window – I almost feel they shine in - whereas most shrubs have their flowers facing away. So despite the grey and cold conditions the garden still cheers me. TH Note: the committee feel that, rather than being thanked for taking way Tamsin's potted plants, they should thank her. The plants were in the Sale on 21 May and were some of the most interesting ones we had there.
Welcome to our new Membership Secretary
We are pleased to welcome Jo Murray to the Committee as our new membership secretary. She replaces Coral Goble who is now living in the Lake District. Jo has come on board just in time to deal with your membership renewals this month. Contact details on the renewals form and on the website.
What the Members Want – Results of our Questionnaire
Thank you to all the members who replied. Our comments in italics. Lectures: Most preferred a Spring lecture and the existing time and venue were popular. St. James’s rules OK.. Speakers & Topics: Good slides were a must for all respondents, with Pest Control, Small Town gardens, Global Warming, Wildlife Friendly Gardens, Historic Gardens & Gardeners, Internet Gardening, Low Maintenance/ Drought Gardening as topics to be considered. See our Spring lecture. Amateur GQT: The majority were in favour. Something for the future! Any volunteers for the Panel? Coach Trips: most of those who replied had been on them but, despite their being priced only to break even, one commented that they were too expensive. (Unlike some other local organisations, we have no subsidies for our events.) Joy is stepping down from organizing coach trips. She has been doing this for some years and the two coach trips in 2007 will be her last. Anybody wishing to take up this baton please call her on 7272 4589. See “Gardens to Visit by Bus and Train” in this newsletter.
Coach Trip Venues: Great Dixter, Hyde Hall and Sissinghurst were the most popular suggested venues. We will visit Great Dixter in June. IG Committee has decided to limit the venues of coach trips to nearer London and especially those to the north and east. The sheer volume of traffic to the south and west of London has proved to be very frustrating with delays the norm. Summer Garden Walk: the majority of respondents had been on them and commented how enjoyable they are. Thank you. These are very time consuming to organize and any help is gratefully received. Interested in helping? call Diane : 7359 9785 Forgotten Corners: Most of the respondents were not interested in being involved, but would the four who were please contact Sue on 7272 3646. Judging Flower Competitions: The majority of respondents were not interested in helping the committee judge Islington in Bloom but would the three members who said they were interested please call Joy: 7272 4589. We hope as many as possible of our other members will enter the competitions. Putting in an entry does not bar you from being a judge except in the category you have entered. Any Other Comments: Christmas Workshops we don't have capacity to organise this, but if anyone wants to do one informally at home for 2007 we would be glad to publicise it in the newsletter – info on the RHS workshop was in the last newsletter. Our talks clash with De Beauvoir and RHS. We can only have Tuesday evenings pm at St. James’. Book list in Newsletter – we’ll try, write to Alison (addresses at end of newsletter) with details of good new gardening books (and garden websites) you would like to recommend to fellow members. Annual Summer fete – we need more members on the committee to help organize such an event.
Remains of the Summer : Islington Gardeners Visit to Oxfordshire on 21 September
Write about a coach trip, mention the weather! So I make no apology for doing it again for our Oxfordshire trip on 21 September. But what stands out in my recollections is not the pleasant weather on the day. It is the very visible effect on the visited gardens of the preceding months' heat and lack of rain. We went at that time between midsummer splendour and Indian summer regrowth when the parched beds and borders were not looking anything like their best. It needed imagination and guidance to picture them as they must have been a few weeks earlier. At "Stansfield", our first stop, that guidance, along with tea, homemade cake and a warm welcome, was provided by Mr & Mrs Keebles owners and loving cultivators of a very long narrow plot of about an acre around and behind their house. This is no antique mansion requiring hordes of servants, nor is the garden designed or maintained by professional gardeners. They designed and care for it all themselves and clearly take great pleasure in so doing. The area around the house is a flower garden where a simple arrangement of lawn and broad border is kept very spruce and, in a collection of around 2000 varieties, includes some very interesting and unusual plants. Quite a number of them had set seed at the time we went and the Keebles were very generous in allowing us to collect ripe seeds and even provided us with foil to wrap them. I am hoping that a blue flowered physalis and clematis "Durandii" will grow well for me as a long term reminder of our visit. But the main attractions for me (born of the restrictions of a town garden where every square metre is pressured to perform) were the semi wild areas further from the house. Vegetables (along with a few weeds) flourished in what felt like a little woodland clearing – a truly quiet and private retreat complete with garden shed. A haven for people, and surely for wildlife too. What a place to grow thickets of raspberries and eat them red handed straight from the canes! Kingston Bagpuize was, by contrast, much more predictable and, possibly for that reason, rather disappointing at the time. On reflection, this feels unjust. The formula is a classic one of a pretty Queen Anne gentleman's house with extensive lawns and a long(ish) mixed shrub and perennial border. There is nothing wrong with this. It is a very desirable combination and Kingston Bagpuize is a good example in a very pleasant location. The problem was that write ups had led us to expect something more than what comes out of the usual mould, and we did not find it. Perhaps we went at the wrong time in the wrong year. We certainly missed the summer glories of the border and had to imagine it from the planting plan supplied for our guidance. On the basis of our experience, it is doubtful that Kingston Bagpuize is worth a special visit from London, especially with the problems of roadworks and traffic congestion which plagued our journey, but if you happen to be in the area between May and July and drop in on an open day, there is a good chance you will get a better view and a better impression than we did. AB
Gardens to visit by Bus and Train
This is the first of a new occasional series of articles by Mary Rutter who does not let lack of a car prevent her getting to lots of interesting gardens in the Home Counties. Mary writes: When cars and coach trips are available, it is easy to forget that there are many gardens in and around London which can be readily reached by public transport, making this a very economic option for those with a Freedom Pass. One of my great pleasures is to take the train to a starting point for a country ramble built round a visit to a special garden. A favourite is Benington Lordship, a few miles from Stevenage. It is famous for broad, superbly planted herbaceous borders. But late winter is almost as rewarding with swathes of snowdrops in the curves of an ancient moat, and glorious bright red and yellow dogwood stems reflected in the lakes, plus drifts of crocus and hellebores leading the eye to the lovely views beyond the garden. For winter 2007, it will be open from 3rd to 25th February, and refreshments such as soup and rolls will be on sale, as well as some plants eg hellebores. Charge is £3.50 weekdays, £4.50 Sundays, free for RHS members up to 19th February. Further information at www.beningtonlordship.co.uk and 01438 869228. Here is a short ramble which will get you there: Take the train to Watton at Stone station (from Essex Road, Highbury or Drayton Park stations on weekdays, Kings Cross at weekends, Finsbury Park all week) and walk from there to Benington village, approx. 3.5 miles. Map: OS Landranger 166 Luton/Hertford, or download pages from www.streetmap.co.uk. Turn left from station and continue to Watton’s main street. Left again and shortly right into Mill Lane. This soon crosses a small brook. Then go left along a bridleway signposted Blue Hill. Follow this as it curves north to meet A602. Go left into bushes, then right to cross A602 – very carefully. There pick up another bridleway. Eventually cross a farm track. 300 yards further on, at a blue arrow, go left across a field and reach a road. Turn right and follow to a bend. There take track (Cotton Lane) on left which leads to road, and go right for Benington where you will see the signs for Benington Lordship Gardens next to the church. After visiting the gardens, you can catch bus No. 384 to return to London from Stevenage or Ware stations. It runs from the Green Mondays to Saturdays. (same side as church for Stevenage station, departs 12.52, 16.52,18.28, opposite church for Ware, departs 13.52, 16.12, 18.04. Enquiries: Arriva 08701 201088) If anyone wants more walk details, they can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org after 30 January.
I have seven roses in my garden. I don't need to go out there to count them, and I can name them all from memory except for a mystery specimen from Columbia Road. Clematis is a different matter. I have lost count. I have been a clematis addict ever since a friend from Suffolk thrust a copy of Fisk's catalogue into my hand and persuaded me into my first purchase – deep velvet red Madame Edward Andre. I still regret leaving her behind on moving from Stoke Newington to Islington and mourn the death of the rooted layer I brought with me in the coldest London winter I can remember. A dozen or so of my clematis were bought in shops or received as gifts. And I know I haven’t stopped buying yet as viticella "Purpurea Plena Elegans" is on my wish list as are some of the macropetallas. But the exponential multiplication of clematis in my garden began when I found I could propagate them. Sadly, not from cuttings. Although I boast that I can get most things going, I have had no luck with clematis cuttings other than from montanas. One day I will get the trick. Meantime, I have been growing them from seed. Nothing scientific about it. I have not been aiming for specific colours or qualities by transferring pollen from chosen groom to chosen bride. I have just collected and sown ripened seed from the plants around my garden or begged seed when I have seen it on other people's plants (see the report on the Oxfordshire trip). This is a fascinating but more than slightly hit and miss process. Some clematis set lots of seed, some, like the viticellas, only a few. And, as the seed needs to ripen, there is more ripe seed from the spring flowering varieties than the later flowering ones. My first successful efforts were with a tangutica (vigorous late summer and autumn flowering with yellow lantern shaped flowers). As this is effectively a species plant and the named varieties sold
are cuttings from particularly good selected seedlings, the chances of a good germination rate are high. Conversely, although the seeds came from one of the most popular "good" selections "Bill Mackenzie", the chances of reproducing all the best qualities of the parent were low and the two I have kept and grown on are nothing special. Tangutica is almost too easy to grow from seed so there are plenty of indifferent specimens like mine around and the experts are rightly sniffy about them, especially if they get sold under names they have no right to. The next successful attempt was alpina. I have only one, "Pamela Jackman", which is a fairly old, late 19th century, blue cultivar and I do not know whether this is a hybrid or a selection of the species. My seedlings from this have proved very vigorous, have started flowering in their first full year and look to be very much true to the parent. I have brought a few along to Islington Gardeners' sales, so, if you bought something labeled "seedling of Pamela Jackman", this is its origin. But the most entertaining experiment has been with large flowered hybrids. Generally, I have gone for those which flower in spring and early summer as they are prolific producers of largish seeds which have a good chance of ripening by late autumn without any special care. The characteristic of these is complex parentage. The classic ones, like the ever popular "Nelly Moser" were bred in the 2nd half of the 19th century in the first period after collectors in Asia brought large flowered species like c. patens and c. lanuginosa to Europe. This parentage means that seedlings will rarely, if ever, closely resemble the parent and any batch of seedlings may, within the large flowered hybrid pattern, produce quite a wide variety of flower colours and shapes and equally varied habits. I sowed a small handful of seeds from a "Nelly Moser" and a "Marie Boisselot" which I have growing side by side and in close proximity to a "Countess of Lovelace" (light bluish mauve double). Then I watched and waited and got really rather excited when flower buds appeared. Mostly, I had to wait until the second year, and for a few until the third year. Only one flowered in its first year. It was a pretty little thing of almost miniature habit with pointy periwinkle blue flowers and narrow leaves. But sadly, it was of a weak constitution and did not survive. The rest have been sturdier. The typical specimen has been white with pointed sepals and dark brownish red stamens and looks very like the well known "Miss Bateman" with which it shares a liking for shady places. Nice, but unexciting. More interesting ones have been in various shades of pink and light to mid mauve (a couple of them look rather like "Mrs Cholmondeley"). My favourites are a white suffused with pink veining, a light mauve with narrow slightly twisted petals and the sole double which is palest blue. The last, unfortunately, does not seem to be a very strong grower. I am sending Sue some pictures of these for the website. It would be nice to think my seedlings might take the clematis world by storm and make my fortune. In my dreams! One of the lessons of the exercise is that virtually any seedling I might produce, attractive as it might be to put in my own garden or give to a friend, is unlikely to be sufficiently different from others already in cultivation to find a market. I had the chance last spring to learn a little bit about commercial clematis hybridization and rearing techniques when I went to an RHS study day on climbers at Wisley which was jointly led by clematis expert Raymond Evison. His nursery in Guernsey breeds thousands of seedlings from carefully selected parent plants with the aim of filling gaps in the existing spectrum, finding some new stunners, and extending the market for clematis generally. The majority are simply thrown away long before they get to market. A new introduction does not just need to be different from the herd. It must be extensively tested for robustness, size, flowering habit etc. The ones which make it have to have a special something. The latest range are patio clematis about 4' high for growing in pots. Coming up, apparently, are clematis for house plants. I am not discouraged. I shall try more seedlings. I have begged seed of a white alpine and of non climbing c. "Durandii" and look forward to seeing what, if anything, they might produce.
Garden Centre of the Year 2006
Our congratulations go to Beryl and her team at the N1 Garden Centre for winning this prestigious award - the highest accolade any Garden Centre can achieve. Part of the citation they received reads " North One has placed excellence of customer service, product quality and visual presentation at the centre of its ethos, backed by staff who are both passionate and knowledgeable about gardening and keen to pass this on to their customers." N1 Garden Centre, 25 Englefield Road N1, www.n1gc.co.uk.
QUIZ: NAME THAT PLANT – Prize: £10 in garden vouchers
Congratulations to Eve Smith of Tufnell Park, the winner of the October quiz. The Garden Vouchers are on their way to her. The answer to this was: AZALEA, made up of : 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Ageratum - Fluffy blue annual popular in bedding schemes Zinnia - Bright coloured Mexican daisy Aloe Vera - The true kind will soothe sunburn or an insect bite Lathyrus odoratus - Sweet pea by its botanical name Erigeron (fleabane) - For deterring fleas Aspidistra - The biggest ……… in the world
For the New Year, the theme is trees, just five letters this time. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Graceful airy tree, some have decorative bark The English one was once a stately landscape feature Pungent small tree for a wild garden Conifer with aromatic wood Bad luck to bring the flowers indoors, and sacred to Irish fairies
The whole is a large and handsome tree, or can be clipped for tall hedging. Answers to: Alison Barlow, 1 Bingham Street, N1 2QQ, or email Alisonbarlow47@aol.com. By 28 February please. Remember that you need to name all the plants, not just that which makes up the final answer.
Beware the Garden Grabbers!
With all the pressures on green spaces in or near urban areas, the Government's policy of encouraging development on "brownfield" sites must surely be a good thing. And so it is where it is derelict former industrial sites or similar. But the definition of "brownfield" seems to have been drawn too wide as it also includes gardens. There are many locations where desirably located Victorian or early 20th century houses with large gardens, usually in perfectly good condition, are being demolished to make way for small developments of "luxury" flats. When this is done almost all of the grounds not actually built on is likely to be paved over for car parking with resultant loss of green space, wildlife habitat, and capacity for soaking up rainfall. I haven't noticed any of this "garden grabbing" going on in Islington. Despite new blocks of ever more expensive flats going up on every available space, all the sites I have seen do seem to be genuinely brownfield. I suspect it is more from lack of opportunity than lack of developer will. Our large gardened Victorian villas are generally in conservation areas and there are few 20's or 30's houses on large sites as the borough was already built up by then. But the phenomenon did strike my rather forcibly last spring when I tried and failed to find and buy a small house with a large garden in the Midlands. Such things used to be available, but I discovered the developers had beaten me to it and, when houses formerly on large sites were up for sale, another house or houses had already been built in the garden or the price was inflated because planning permission for another house had been obtained. The Guardian had a good article on garden grabbing on December. They have given us permission to reproduce it and, as it is too long to put in the newsletter, you can find it on the website www.islingtongardeners.org.uk. The article focuses on the efforts of MP's in Sevenoaks and Newcastle to get the planning rules which encourage it changed. Write to one of our local MP's if you would like them to support these efforts. And if you spot any planning applications in Islington which look like garden grabbing, make sure you put your objections in.
Two for the Price of One?
I bought a pot chrysanthemum at the supermarket the other day. An impulse buy. I can't resist healthy gift plants marked down to a fraction of their original price in the aftermath of Christmas or Mothering Sunday. Since it cost me no more than a small bunch of cut flowers and should grace the windowsill for considerably longer, I shall count it very good value if it survives for a month. Naturally, I hope I can keep it thriving and flowering for very much longer and even eventually be able to put it out into the garden. But I do recognise that flowering pot plants, especially "pot mums" treated with dwarfing chemicals, are an example of horticultural planned obsolescence. When I looked closely at the pot, I noticed that it is also an example of that frequent supermarket plant phenomenon of multiple plants in one pot. I counted no less than eight rooted cuttings. Why do they do this? Is it uncovenanted generosity on the part of Mr Tesco and colleagues? Hardly. The reason has to be economics. In other words, cuttings material is cheap and nursery time is costly. At the top end of the scale, a single largish shrub in a 30cm or bigger pot will have a hefty price tag because someone has been caring for it for 2 or 3 years and possibly clipping and training it if it is a shaped box or bay. My "pot mum" is right down at the bottom end, the product of an industrial nursery and practically raised on a conveyor belt. It is probably allowed no more than a couple of months from putting in the cuttings to putting it out on the shelf. Even with optimum conditions and assiduous pinching out, you just can't produce a nice plump bushy single stemmed chrysanthemum in flower to that kind of timescale. But you can get the same shelf appeal effect with a whole handful of cuttings already in bud stuck together in the same pot. Does it matter to the buyer? Not in the slightest. These are usually short life items partway between cut flowers and a proper plant. And occasionally you might get a real bargain like the attractive foliage "house plant" I saw made up of a dozen or more rooted cuttings of one of the low growing variegated evergreen euonymus japonica. Harden them off and you have enough plants to set out a large area of tough and attractive ground cover.
Events for Gardeners January to March
Ecology Centre Events
These events are all free unless stated otherwise. More details in Islington Greenspace and Leisure Events Booklet available from the Ecology Centre 191 Drayton Park N5 tel 7354 5162 or on the Islington Council website (enter "Greenspace diary" in the search box to find it). For event bookings ring 7527 7262. The last edition of the diary went up to 31 December and the new season for events will not start until March, so look out for the next edition when it becomes available.
Islington Gardeners Spring Lecture: Anthony Noel on "Great Little Gardens" 27 March, 7.30pm at St James' Hall. See his website www.anthonynoel.com for more information about this lecturer Islington Archaeology and History Society: January lecture by garden historian Russell Bowes entitled "The Devil's Garden". 17 January, 8.00pm at Islington town hall. For details of current lectures by NCCPG, Garden History Society, RHS and the London Parks & Gardens Trust visit their websites or call for details. They can be found on: London Parks & Gardens Trust: www.londongardenstrust.org.uk tel 7839 3969. Monthly Monday lectures at Georgian Group Rooms, 6 Fitzroy Square. They also do guided walks and have leaflets for diy walks. RHS: www.rhs.org.uk tel 08456 121253 or see insert in The Garden magazine. Garden History Society: 70 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6EJ, tel 7490 2974, www.gardenhistorysociety.org NCCPG: www.nccpg.com tel 01483 211465. De Beauvoir Gardeners Lectures in the crypt of St Peter's Church, De Beauvoir Road, call Malena 7241 4691 Jenny Raworth Garden Days 2007. Special visits for small groups to private gardens. Call 020 8892 3713 Or visit www.raworthgarden.com or email email@example.com for a brochure
Next Newsletter – early January – last date for copy 20th March to Alison Barlow, 1 Bingham Street N1 2QQ or firstname.lastname@example.org