Events Past

Reports of previous HPS Norfolk and Suffolk Group events, as told by our members.

Indoor Meeting: Talk by John Massey 'Autumn into Winter'

Written by Chris Davies. Posted in Events Past

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11th November 2017

John gave us a wonderful, beautifully illustrated talk, strewn with his own gentle humour and a great deal of information and ideas.
John used the development and planting in his own garden to illustrate his talk.
He said that when the trees were leafless was a good time to assess their shape and required pruning. This was a time to take hard decisions, like when it was time for a tree or shrub to be removed because it was no longer enhancing the garden.He liked to juxtapose natural shapes with topiary, and trimmed holly.

Coloured bark, of silver Betula and Cornus, were complimented by evergreens, such as black- leaved Ophiopogon, Hellebores and various bulbs from late Autumn, ( Colchicums), through Winter (Galanthus).
He recommended keeping deadheads to show the effect of frost, and cutting them back when they became battered, and keeping view- lines clear, especially when use could be made of ‘borrowed landscape’.

Grasses should not be cut back until new growth comes through, and Hydrangeas should be treated with care to protect next year’s buds from frost.
Berries added to the Winter decoration, although many do not last for long. They attract birds, in his case, a flock of Waxwings, which extends interest in the garden. John recommended crab apple, Malus ‘Indian Magic’, whose fruits last well.

He said he likes to create little pictures within the garden, noting the use of evergreen ferns with snowdrops in his stumpery, and large pots, planted with Winter foliage and bulbs, with the addition of dry honesty seed pods and similar decorative items.
The first shrub to bloom after Christmas is Hammamelis, although young, newly planted specimens can be killed by frost before they are established.

John pointed out that the Japanese climate is more similar to ours than the American climate, and this could be used as a guide when choosing plants. Cloud pruning was another way of keeping shrubs under control, whilst maintaining an interesting shape.
Moving onto Spring, John said he used their idea, where gardens tend to be very small, of using the borrowed landscape as background and repeating related plants in places in order to link the garden and background.

He showed us a drift of white Fritillaria meleagris, which he said had all been brought to this part of the garden by the squirrels.
Early Alpine plants were mentioned, and then John’s recent obsession with Hepaticas. He recommended removing old leaves just before the flowers open.

He closed with a series of pictures of beautiful Hepaticas set to the background music of a Chopin Nocturne.
This was very moving as we had only recently heard of the sudden death of John’s young Head Gardener, at the age of 27, and John had mentioned his loss and shown some pictures of them together, with his family, during the talk.

Chris Davies 

Indoor Meeting: Talk by John Summerfield 'Pride in the Fall'

Written by Janet Stevens. Posted in Events Past

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14th October 2017

This talk, held on a most summery day, concerned as you might guess all things autumn. It was billed as being a talk by John but after his introduction Gail took over the reins to guide us through their ideas on how to get the best in terms of structure and colour in the autumn garden.

John’s introduction gave a few words on their horticultural history. The arrival of a B and Q store close to their bedding plant nursery put an end to that business and in 1984 they turned their talents to establishing Westshores Nursery in N. Lincolnshire specialising in  ornamental grasses and scented pelargoniums. He went on to explain that he was the builder cum maintenance person while Gail was the plant expert and botany teacher.

Gail started by talking about first flowering dates and the effects of climate change on these. She went on to give us illustrated examples of what she considered to be the “Skeleton” of an autumn garden, i.e. trees and shrubs. Amongst others she recommended  species we all know such as the Japanese acers and prunus for leaf colour; spindleberry, pyracanthus, sorbus, berberis and cotoneaster for their berries. Less common (to me anyway) were eleutherococcus sieboldianus with its large black fruits resembling giant blackberries and decaisnea fargesii bearing fat blue finger-like fruits also known as Dead Man’s fingers. Her top recommendation was Abelia x grandiflora with its small glossy oval leaves and clusters of pale pink, slightly fragrant flowers lasting well into autumn.

The next selection of plants Gail called “Long term stayers” and these included grasses, verbena and asters. John interrupted the talk here to tell us about a remedy for mildew on asters meant to be a trade secret. It involved mixing up a spray solution of 1 part milk to 10 parts water. Casein, found in milk is the active ingredient for inhibiting the formation of mildew apparently. Gail added that some of the newer varieties of aster were more resistant to mildew. Other plants recommended were rudbeckias, heleniums, kniphofias, euphorbias and some of the ferns.

The third selection consisted of the plants Gail called “visitors”.  These included half- hardy perennials such as fuschias and dahlias and especially salvia “Amistad” with its display of unusually deep purple flowers with almost-black calyces and stems lasting from summer through to autumn. This salvia is also extremely popular with bees and makes an excellent cut flower.  Late flowering hanging baskets were easy way to add some interest and colour in the autumn.

Finally we were given advice on extending the season : making sure plants were healthy, dead heading except where seed and flower heads were to be kept for interest, and mulching were all top tips. The “Chelsea chop” was mentioned as a way of extending the season, late flowering plants also being beneficial to insects. Use of evergreens/conifers and autumn bulbs were seen as useful additions to the autumn garden.

By Janet Stevens.