AGM & Plant & Prejudice

Don’t forget to arrive early for the AGM at 7pm on Thursday 25 January!

It will be followed by a talk by Dr Andrew Ward, of Norwell Nursery, near Newark, discussing how we tend to dismiss or mentally disregard some plants, treating them with undeserved prejudices.

Andrew trained as a Plant Breeder and started Norwell Nurseries and Gardens 22 years ago with his wife Helen. He lectures widely throughout the country undertaking approximately 50 talks a year. He has been asked to give keynote talks at prestigious events such as The Hardy Plant Society Autumn Weekends and National Annual General Meetings as well as regular monthly meetings to regional Hardy Plant Societies, regional NCCPG groups, local gardening groups, florist groups and WI’s. He is often booked over two years in advance of the talk.

The garden at Norwell holds over 2,500 different varieties of plant and has featured in many magazines including Country Living, Country Life, Landscaper magazine and Gardens Illustrated. It has been been included since 2013 in the highly prestigious publication Great Gardens to Visit. It is renowned for colour from spring but especially in the autumn when an NCCPG National Plant Collection of Hardy Chrysanthemums can be seen.



Snowdrop Garden Open

A local snowdrop garden is to open for the first time next month.

Well Cottage, 20 High St., Little Bytham, Lincs NG33 4QX, the garden of Jackie and Pete Murray, will open on Thursday 15th Feb from 10am–2pm.

Former members of SLGS (Jackie used to be our secretary, many moons ago), they are great enthusiasts for alpines and have a splendid collection of snowdrops, which do surprisingly well in their steeply sloping south-facing garden. You may well know Jackie from the talks on alpines she has given us in the past, or those she has done at Easton Walled Garden during their Snowdrop Weeks.

The Murrays ask you to be aware that their garden paths are narrow and uneven, with many steps, and may be slippery.

Collectors’ snowdrops will be on sale.

Please note that there is no parking on site and parking is difficult in the narrow village street, as the garden is quite close to a road junction. There will be, however, plenty of car parking available at Rasell’s Nurseries, a short walk away in Station Road, Little Bytham (NG33 4RA), which has a superb tea room and will also have snowdrops for sale.

Programme for 2018

I hope you’ll agree that once again we’ve put together a fascinating, well-balanced programme of talks for next year (and many thanks yet again to Sharron, who, as our programme secretary, researches and sorts out most of the details for us).

Dr. Andrew Ward of Norwell Nursery near Newark will return to discuss ‘”Plant and Prejudice” and how some plants suffer unjustly. Another speaker with local connections is Joe Whitehead, who started out at Burghley, before training at Wisley, then moving to two large and prestigious gardens in Norfolk, who will be telling us the secrets of how he learned his craft and what goes on “Over the Garden Wall”.

Formerly on Bob Brown’s team at Cotswold Garden Flowers, Mandie Potter has now gone freelance. For her talk “Hey Good Looking” she will bring plants from Bob’s nursery and her own garden to discuss what’s looking good now – and sell some afterwards.

We will have a local garden visit to the Blatherwycke Estate near Peterborough and a coach outing to a venue yet to be finalised.

Brought up in Italy, garden designer and lecturer Laura de Beden has some strong – and possibly provocative – ideas on art and architecture, colour and form and their influence in the garden: “Redesign Your Borders: a focus on plants and colour”. Finally, knowledgeable broadcaster and enthusiastic gardener Doug Stewart winds up the year for us with an inspiring look at “Winter Thrillers”, demonstrating that ‘with scent, stems and stunning colour, a winter garden can have it all.’

  • To download a pdf of the detailed programme, along with a tear-off slip to join or re-join the society, click this link.



Looking forward to Bunny Guinness

I am looking forward to this month’s meeting on Thursday 23rd November at 7.30 when we will be welcoming well-known garden designer, writer and broadcaster Bunny Guinness to Folkingham Village Hall. Her subject is “Transforming Your Garden”. Bunny lives not far from us, in Cambridgeshire, so as a near neighbour she is well accustomed to the growing conditions in our local area.

Trained as a landscape designer, with her own landscape architecture practice, she really knows her plants, and has plenty of practical experience, as anyone who’s heard her contributions to Gardeners’ Question Time on BBC Radio 4 will know. Not only that, but her first design for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, a ‘Wind in the Willows’ garden, in 1994, won a Gold medal. Of the nine gardens she has designed for Chelsea in total, six have won Gold!

If anyone can print out this poster*** and display it locally then we’d be most grateful. SLGS poster Bunny Guinness

***Please note that the previous version of the poster featured the old annual membership subscription rates!

Salutations from SLGS to Steve Edney – and vice versa

For this week’s meeting, the first of our autumn season, we welcome Steve Edney, whose talk is entitled

Succession Planting – a case study of the long border at Salutation

Steve Edney is Head Gardener at The Salutation, Sandwich, Kent. Set within the glorious medieval town of Sandwich, nestled on the banks of the River Stour, The Salutation Gardens are a plant lover’s paradise. Designed in 1912 by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, The Salutation, now a charming hotel and restaurant, is a true Lutyens masterpiece and the first 20th Century building to be granted Grade I listing.

Surrounding it, the 3.7-acre gardens, also designed by Lutyens, are divided into a series of symmetrical “rooms”, each with a different purpose, gathered around a unifying theme. The effect is one of endlessly unfolding space, with wonderful surprises presented around each corner. The planting style is a dynamic infusion of old and new. The gardens reveal themselves sequentially through the seasons, and are constantly developing as long-term projects and drawing-board concepts come dramatically to life.

This plant-driven design incorporates an eclectic mix of heirloom, rare and drought-tolerant plants used thoughtfully to create longer seasons of interest. Careful consideration is given to the unique challenges and opportunities presented by the gardens’ easterly location, soil type, rainfall and protection from wind behind 4 acres of walls.

Steve Edney

Head Gardener Steve Edney has been perfecting his art for 25 years. After studying at Hadlow College and Merrist Wood, he spent several years as a highly respected and regularly awarded private garden designer. In 2006, he joined The Salutation to helm its huge restoration project. A decade later, the gardens are recognised as amongst the finest in the country.

Steeped in the practical art of gardening, Steve uses direct observation to supplement his technical skills as a grower, breeder, horticulturist and arboriculturist. His drive for creativity and experimentation ensure the scope of his expertise continues to encompass new horizons.

He is a member of both the RHS Herbaceous Committee and its plant trial forum. He has chaired the RHS round table for Zinnia, and is working in conjunction with Fleuroselect in Europe. He contributes to numerous professional publications, and is a regular on the award-winning “Sunday Gardening” show on BBC Radio Kent. At the 2016 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Steve’s collaboration with Cayeux Iris received a Gold Medal in the floral marquee, something they hope to replicate in 2017.


NB if you can print out and display a poster for this event (despite the short notice) please do so: SLGS poster Steve Edney

Rutland HPS Plant Fair

The 2017 HPS Rutland Group Plant Fair

will be held on
Sunday May 28th
10-30am until 3-00pm

Fox Cottage, Cottesmore Road, Ashwell (near Oakham), LE15 7LJ
Admission is £2.00, accompanied children free
Refreshments will be available. Open to the public, free car parking

Full details including a map of the location are available on their website

The following stalls have booked for 2017

Bridge Farm Plants
Shade tolerant plants, Umbels, Irises, Hardy Geraniums,
Aconitums, Unusual Tender Perennials, Seasonal Bulbs

Diane Cole Hardy Plants
General herbaceous

Hostas, Ferns, and Perennials

General Herbaceous

Linda Scott Hardy Plants
Hardy Geraniums, range of hardy perennials

M & J Perennials
Unusual Hardy Perennials, including a large range of registered Hemerocallis

Monksilver Nursery
Bulbs, unusual plants, Variegated plants

Piecemeal Plants
Wide range of rare and unusual herbaceous perennials,
Small collection of flowering bulbs, half-hardy and tender plants

Puddle Plants
Hardy Plants, Shrubs

Rosie Bose
Rare and unusual herbaceous perennials

Small Beauties (Uppingham)
Sempervivums, Saxifragas, Sedums, planted gardens

Smart Plants
Alpines Herbaceous, Auriculas, Shrubs, Shade loving plants

S & N Plants
Alpines, Herbaceous perennials.

Stamford Exotics
Exotics, Alpines

Swines Meadow Farm Nursery
Rare unusual Ferns, Hostas, shrubs, bamboos

Whispering Trees
Herbaceous perennials, Paeony, Lilies

Danger! Aquilegia downy mildew alert

During the last couple of weeks I have spent many many backbreaking hours spread over several heartbreaking days digging up and burning every aquilegia (one of my favourite cottage garden plants at this time of year), just as they were coming into flower in my garden. Why? It had gradually dawned on me that they had aquilegia downy mildew.

Aquilegia with aquilegia downy mildew

Aquilegia with aquilegia downy mildew

Aquilegia leaf with aquilegia downy mildew

At first I had thought I was getting some interesting new seedlings; small silvery-leaved plants were appearing. Then I spotted some rather more lime-green or golden plants, and some with rather nice, subtle variegation. As I have never had variegated aquilegia cultivars in the garden before I realised it was too much of a coincidence that this should all be happening at once and thought back to a report from a couple of years back of a new disease outbreak wiping out the National Plant Collection of Aquilegia. I looked through their website and there were photographs resembling all my “interesting new seedlings”: actually showing various stages of the disease.

Aquilegia leaves with downy mildewThen the silver plants started to twist and collapse, and some variegated ones, on closer inspection, were a bit more ugly and extreme, especially the lowest rosette of leaves. There was also a lot of purple mottling.

Other plants just didn’t look quite right: the leaves were narrower and more wedge-shaped than usual. Then the flowers, when they started to appear, often looked rather bleached at the tips of the petals and occasionally twisted or deformed. Sadly, the plants have all had to go, even the few that at first I had thought looked relatively healthy.

Although related to other downy mildews, this horrible disease seems to be specific to aquilegias (columbines, granny’s bonnets) and has only been identified in the last few years. Nobody knows where it has come from: it doesn’t seem to have been imported from abroad (unlike so many new pests and diseases). But it has spread around the country like wildfire. It seems there is no effective chemical control: systemic fungicides are not recommended by the RHS advice pages. Burning, or deep burial in the vegetable plot are their only suggested options (but I would have thought that the danger of accidentally unearthing the festering corpses would be too great in the latter case).

Judging by the number of plants that I had to dig up, the disease had been with me for some time (one year at least, probably two), and now that I know the symptoms I have started to notice it in many other places. Most notably a well-known Grantham DIY emporium, which was selling packs of clearly diseased plants (but member of staff took two packs, immediately looked up the RHS page on his smartphone and promised to report the problem to the head buyer), and a Grantham garden centre (where the staff member seemed vaguely interested but hadn’t bothered to remove their spectacularly diseased display plant from show a couple of hours later).

Aquilegias with downy mildew in DIY outlet Aquilegias with downy mildew in DIY outlet

I suspect this is the problem: the small plants on sale at the DIY outlet must already have had the disease when they were sent out from the nursery that raised them. The large plant at the garden centre was probably also sent out from a central supplier. It only takes one or two such suppliers to send out sickly plants to chains of retailers and independent outlets around the country to spread a disease in no time. And even though this downy mildew is specific to aquilegias, I suspect that its resting spores, which are released into the soil (and hence the wider environment) from the rotting leaves, can probably be passed around in pots of other plants that have stood near to the infected aquilegias. I only hope I’m not guilty of innocently spreading it to any other gardens that I have visited or donated plants to before realising that I had the disease here.

Do I sound paranoid? I am. My wife has just come home from visiting a friend a couple of villages away, who had just said to her, as she left, “Isn’t it dry? Look at my aquilegias!” She broke the news as gently as she could…

(PS It wasn’t us who had passed on the mildew to them! We haven’t been to their garden, nor they to ours, in the last couple of years at least.)

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