Meavy Garden Society Meetings 2014


Meavy Garden Society AGM 2014 held on 17th February 2014


Meavy Garden Society Meeting, 17 November 2014

Guest Speaker: Sarah Marsh, the proprietor of Coombe Trenchard

For this last meeting of the year Sarah Marsh, the proprietor of Coombe Trenchard, gave a talk about the house and garden.

The house was designed by Walter Savel for the Sperling Family in the Arts and Crafts manner in 1906, replacing a Georgian Rectory. The Sperlings lived there until 1952. As they were childless the house and estate were bought by a couple who also lived there for nearly half a century, maintaining the house in good order and changing nothing, but let the beautiful gardens return to the wild.

When Sarah bought the property in 2007 she was delighted to find an interior full of original Arts and Crafts features, such as doors, panelling and plaster ceilings of the highest order of craftsmanship. The interior hall also has a unique “disappearing wall”, which can be lowered into a void beneath, to create a larger space for entertaining. The only alteration required was the conversion of several dressing rooms into bathrooms, as the original house had none.

The grounds presented a greater challenge. It was far from clear that there had once been a water garden and that the tangle of Japanese Knotweed, Laurel and other shrubs had once been a woodland garden. Fortunately the original paths were traceable and eventually restored. The gardens have progressed far and the work continues. This year the floral terrace is being restored.

Coombe Trenchard hosts charity events and is open for the National Gardens Scheme and for group visits. It can host special events and is licensed for weddings.

The members of the Society were fascinated by Sarah’s talk, which was illustrated by both her own photographs, and pictures from the Edwardian heyday. I am sure that Coombe Trenchard will be the destination for a Society outing in the near future.

The Chairman’s next newsletter is due in January and on Monday 16th February 2015, starting at 7:00 pm in Meavy Parish Hall there will be the Annual General Meeting followed by a talk on Snowdrops by Mick Martin.


Meavy Garden Society Meeting, 15 September 2014

Guest Speaker: Dick Fulcher - Meconopsis and Complimentary Plants 

Chairman, Brenda Burt, began by commenting on the successful Summer Show in August and thanking all who had helped in the organising; also thanked Janet Jones for the most enjoyable visit to the Duchy Nursery and Pine Lodge Gardens at St Austell on September 10th.

Brenda then introduced Dick Fulcher, a former Head Gardener of Inverewe Gardens in Sutherland; also of Killerton near Exeter. A one-time lecturer at Bickton College, Dick is acknowledged as an expert on Meconopsis, the blue Himalayan poppies and was a member of the RHS Meconopsis Group which tried to sort out the muddled nomenclature and to award Awards of Garden Merit, of which there are many.

Dick still grows blue poppies in his garden at Eggesford but admits that they are a bit of a challenge in Southern England as they demand an acid soil, cool damp conditions and do not like summer temperatures above 25 degrees Centigrade. There are two main groups: those that do not set fertile seed, hence can only be propagated by division; and those that are fertile. Meconopsis Sheldonii is a well known form of the first group, especially its beautiful hybrid form Slieve Donard. This plant now called Lingholm, after the Lake District garden where it threw up a mutation with double chromosomes and did produce fertile seed, together with M. betonicifolia (which can be varied in colour), is one of the best known blue poppies.

Meconopsis are not all blue. There are some white forms that are lovely, but are Monocarpic and die back after flowering. There are also yellow flowered species such as M. chelidonifolia and M. integrifolir both of which hate full sun and are tricky to grow. M. Nepaulensis has beautiful golden-haired foliage and can be yellow, white or red.

Dick then introduced a number of shade-loving plants suitable for growing with Meconopsis, such as trilliums, erythroniums, hostas, Asiatic primulas and lilies.

Apart from the Welsh poppy - Meconopsis cambrica - which may soon be split off from the other species, all Meconopsis are plants from the high mountains of Nepal, India and China, where they grow on steep slopes with plenty of water but also excellent drainage. Nick was lucky to visit the Yunnan area of China where he saw them, with Asiatic primulas and other spectacular plants growing wild. He showed many superb photos of these, and indeed the whole talk was well illustrated by his own pictures. This talk was highly appreciated by an audience swollen by visitors, who also bought many of the plants & seeds Nick had brought.


Meavy Garden Society Meeting, 21 July 2014

Guest Speaker: Mike Stephens - How to grow herbs for the kitchen

Brenda Burt opened the meeting by congratulating Kay Moore and her neighbours on a successful "Open Garden" Event in aid of St Lukes Hospice. She said St Lukes Hospice had done well because Martin and her, had raised £800.00 with their Golden Wedding Anniversary donations. Brenda report that the recent Flower Festival was also a great success and had raised £2,500.00. Well done to all involved.  

Brenda reminded members of our forth-coming outing in September. The cost is £17.50 per head and will be picking up from Dousland at 10.00. Members were asked to put their names down if they intended to go on the outing. Stephen Pine had donated some unwanted seed packets for members to take. The Summer Show was mentioned and Brenda asked for members to offer help with cake provision or help to set the hall up on the day before the show.  

Other outings were highlighted. The Tavistock forum are going to Rosemoor in September - see Dair Henderson. The Tavistock Ladies Gardening Group are going to Overbecks on the 19th and 20th August - all are welcome.  

The Meavy Oak Fair Committee had written to the Meavy Garden Society to express their thanks, particularly to David Winter, Janet Jones and Kay Moore for running the Plants Stall at the fair.  

Lastly, Brenda reminded members of the next meeting after the Summer Show, which will be on the 15th September. The speaker will be Dick Foulcher and the subject "Mecanopsis".


Mike Stephens - How to grow herbs for the kitchen

Mike began by informing the members that although he had brought some plants for sale, not all of them were edible. He said that there had been a case of a lady eating daffodil bulbs, but it was ok because she was due out of hospital in the spring! This poor joke was a good "ice breaker" to begin his talk.

Mike was a teacher but also was interested in painting and horticulture. He currently resides at St Ive, nr Liskard and said that in February he opens his garden under the NGS.

The Herbs: Each one is individual. Mike said Supermarket growing herbs are grown in "herb heaven" - a completely controlled greenhouse environment and then they go to "herb hell" - the Supermarket shelves! He explained that there are "Hot Climate" herbs and "Cool Climate" herbs. There is a general assumption that all herbs like Mediterranean conditions e.g. Thyme, Sage and Rosemary but herbs such as Mint, Chives and Parsley prefer cooler conditions.

Cool Climate Herbs


"I've killed my mint"! Mike explained this usually happens when it is grown in a pot and becomes root bound. He said it is a good idea to grow it in a pot but to sink the pot into the ground. This controls the spread. Mint is a native of damp pastures. Mike told us how to propagate the runners by cutting them into sections, placing the cuttings on top of fresh compost and give a good water. There are several kinds of mint - banana, grapefruit, apple and eucalyptus to name just a few. Mike said that they loose their individual fragrances if they roam together. Another way to propagate Mint is to place some stems in water, and these will root in about 2 weeks.

Mike likened Mint to a teenager - Grows quickly, Difficult to control, and Always hungry!


Will die on you as it is a Biennial. There are two types of Parsley - Curley leaved and Flat leaved. Curley is a great garnish but the Flat leaved is better to cook with.

Parsley likes a good rich soil, with lots of moisture and will take a good deal of shade. It takes several weeks to germinate (soaking the seeds in hot water can help) as they need warmth and moisture.

If you buy growing parsley - what are you buying? Seedlings! Mike said there are approx 50 seeds to each pot which can be split into sections and planted individually.


Chives are Perennial. Don't let them get short of water, they enjoy shade, they are not only ornamental but you can eat the flowers and add to salads. Chives can be grown from seed. Divide the clumps of established plants to make more. Garlic Chives have a mild garlic flavour.


This is an annual. The French regard it as indispensable! It has a mild aniseed flavour and is good to have with cream cheese.


This is an annual. It improves in the 2nd half of the year as it doesn't like the heat changes of spring. It goes to seed very quickly.

Hot Climate Herbs


This is most difficult to grow. It likes warmth (hates the cold). The seedlings may not be successful until later in the season. They don't like being cold at night. They hate the wet so water in the morning, so they are not sitting in the wet all night. Pick above the shoots - pinch out the tips to create bushier plants. Basil roots easily from cuttings - will root within 2 weeks in the summer. There are different types of Basil - Greek (lasts well, easy to grow) and exotic Cinnamon Basil.


What is a herb? Mike said it is anything which humans find useful - i.e. for kitchen or medicinal use. Plant in John Inns No 3 compost. Bay benefits from being somewhat pot bound. Don't water too much, protect from severe frost. Slow growing.


This is an annual. This plant's mission is to produce seeds and consequently tends to bolt within the first half of the year. The key is to keep picking. If protected it is possible to keep it through the winter.


This is a perennial. It seeds itself so to prevent this, cut off the flower heads. Bronze Fennel is a lovely ornamental plant but can be used in the same way as fennel. Florence fennel is a vegetable.


All oreganos are Marjoram's but not all Marjoram's are Oregano!! Oregano is the Italian word for Wild Marjoram.


If you loose it - it's probably not the cold but the wet that has killed it. Rosemary tends to get leggy after a number of years. Keep it bushy by trimming, when cutting for the kitchen, think about pruning for shape. After a while they will need to be replaced. Take soft wood cuttings ( wood which is ripening). Root in gritted compost or root in water ( it will send out roots)


Grey Sage can grow quickly from seeds. Prune in Spring as they tend to get woody quickly.

Purple or Variegated Sage can be propagated from cuttings taken now, grown in gritted compost. You can try piling earth or Compost in the centre of a woody plant, leave for a few months, buried stems will form roots, which can then be potted up.


There are two kinds. French, which is tender and needs greenhouse protection. It can be propagated from runners. Russian, is very hardy and easily grown from seed. Mike said that when you buy Tarragon from a garden centre, what you see, is not necessarily what you get. French and Russian look similar but taste wise, cooks dismiss the Russian tarragon.


Likes it dry, limey, alkaline soil, grows naturally on cliffs. It doesn't like our Devon soil which tends to be acidic and it doesn't like our wet Devon weather. It likes to be well drained, so raised beds are a good idea.

Propagation can be from seeds (common thyme) cuttings, division or mound layering.

Mike said that "Time" had defeated us!



Meavy Garden Society Meeting, June 2014

Martin Pope asks members: “Am I a Plantaholic?”, 

Opening the June meeting Chairman, Brenda Burt, regretted to inform members of the deaths of Doris Potter and Clair Gibbs, both stalwart supporters and contributors over many years.

“Am I a Plantaholic?”, Martin Pope from Plympton, asked members. From his interesting and entertaining talk the answer would seem to be “yes!”

Martin’s gardening life started in the London area where, aged ten, he developed a love of Lupins, under the influence of Grandparents. At fourteen, he moved to Bracknell and for many years concentrated on Chrysanthemums but on taking early retirement to Plympton, discovered that he could grow a much wider range of plants. He gave up on Chrysanthemums when they succumbed to rust in the mild winters and turned to Fuchsias and Dahlias, as something that the deer in his neighbourhood do not seem to like. He was an enthusiastic fruit and veg grower for a while but eventually deterred by frequent attacks from pests and diseases, now concentrates on Regal Pelargoniums. By growing many varieties together in his greenhouse, relying on the bees to undertake the pollination, then saving the seed and choosing the best resulting plants he has developed a number of new Pelargoniums.

Named after members of his family, including a budgie, some are now internationally known, however he receives no money from them. Explaining how some plants may have beautiful flowers but their growth pattern or foliage be unsatisfactory, and illustrating his talk with examples of his best plants and pictures of the vast array of flowers and shrubs in his garden Martin convinced us that he is indeed a ‘Plantaholic’. Members were most pleased to purchase some of his plants.

Also during the meeting, Annie Inman, on behalf of all members, presented Brenda and her husband, another Martin, with a wonderful bunch of golden and yellow flowers to mark their Golden Wedding Anniversary.

All are welcome to attend our meeting. By just attending Meavy Parish Hall on July 21st at 7:00 pm you may be assured of a warm welcome and to be entertained by Mike Stephens explaining “How to Grow Herbs for the Kitchen”.


Meavy Garden Society Meeting, May 2014

Celia Steven and ‘The story of the Bramley Apple’

Our regular monthly meeting in May welcomed Celia Steven of Buckland Monachorum to tell “The Story of the Bramley Apple.” She is well qualified as the great-granddaughter of Henry Merryweather of Southwell in Nottinghamshire, the first to grow the Bramley commercially. The parent tree was grown in the 19th century by Mary Anne Brailsford, who planted three pips in a pot; one grew and was planted out in her garden. By the time it fruited the house and garden were the property of a Mr Bramley. The fruit soon developed a local reputation and grafts were given away, including to the Rector. A basket of his apples came to the attention of seventeen years old Henry Merryweather, who was shown the original tree and obtaining more grafts he set out in the nursery business. He was able to develop the apple’s reputation and the fruit began to win prizes in local shows, until in 1883 national renown was achieved at an RHS show in London. From then on, Bramleys became widely planted; some old orchards have been found in the West Country, even as close as Widecombe.

During the two world wars, many orchards were grubbed out to make room for cereals, and when Britain joined the European Common Market in 1973, the Commissioners threatened not to recognise the Bramley. Continental Europe, in general, has no specific culinary or cooking apples and the Commissioners did not know how to categorize the Bramley.

Celia has been very active locally including starting a community orchard at Buckland and working with the National Trust at Cotehele. Realising the need for the Bramley’s formal recognition, she led a strenuous press campaign to pressure government ministers, which recently culminated in the planting of a Bramley tree by Princess Anne as part of the bi-centenary celebrations and the listing of Bramley as a named ingredient when used commercially. The original tree remains growing strongly in Southwell, genetic material has been taken by Nottingham University to preserve the true strain, and several trees are growing in the University grounds.

Surprisingly, the Bramley is much prized and grown in Japan, a delegation visited Southwell and Celia was invited to Japan to see their trees and the fruit in use. In Japan, the apple is a symbol of peace and the Bramley will play an important role this autumn in Plymouth to celebrate 400 years of trading between Japan and England. This fascinating talk revealed many unexpected aspects of a familiar apple possibly taken too much for granted.

Meanwhile, Joice Reith and Stephen Pine collected more society funds by selling plants donated by members.

The next meeting will start at 7-00 pm in Meavy Parish Hall on Monday June 16th when Martin Pope will discuss “Am I a Plantaholic?”.


Meavy Garden Society Meeting held on 7th April 2014

To get the evening of to a good start there was a "Guess the Number of Sweets in a Jar" competition. Ticket prices were 40p per guess or 3 guesses for £1.00. The event raised £12.40 for the Society Funds and Kay Moore announce the winner at the end of the evening. This was Dair Henderson who guessed the closest at 326 jelly beans ( the actual number being 335) so she went home with a jar full of jelly beans!

Brenda welcomed the members to the evening and updated them on a few things. She reminded them of the planned car share outing to Andrew's Corner on 14th May and asked anyone interested on going to email Janet Jones or if they didn't have email to let her know, so that car sharing seats could be organised. She also informed the members that the Summer Show Schedule was now ready and available. She pointed out a few important changes and told them about our new exciting categories. The first one being a "Container of Poppies" in line with the 100 year anniversary of the first world war and the second category being a "Tankard of garden flowers" which is being sponsored by the Royal Oak Pub and the Landlord will be presenting the lucky winner with a bottle of wine. Brenda had to rush away for another commitment and handed over to Kay. She mentioned the new garden festival being organised by Tony Buckland at Powderham Castle on Friday and Saturday (2nd and 3rd May). Tickets are only £5.00 each and it should be a good day out. She asked anyone who was interested in going to let her know. She also informed members about the updating of the website which is in progress and asked for any reflections on what influenced them to become gardeners, and for poems relating to gardening or nature to be sent in. She said she would be willing to type up any of these if members didn't have access to a computer. Also, photograph's of their gardens, flowers, shrubs, insects, birds or vegetable would also be welcome.

Brenda had informed the members that the proposed production of a calendar for the society had been put on hold this year as the outlay was beyond means at present and therefore Kay had offered to attempt some fund raising, with the plan of getting the calendar produced and ready for 2016. She informed them that she will be trying to do fund raising events at the meetings and will also be trialling some "Car Boot Sales" with Mike Ashton and asked for any donations to be given to her or Mike. Mike also made a request for Aluminium (tins or tin foil). He stressed that it must be clean and dry and to check that it is aluminium to use a fridge magnet - if it sticks, it's tin, not aluminium.

Joice Reeth informed members that on the day that Annie Inman has her open garden on 17th May in aid of "Save the Children", Joice and Rob will be doing their plant sales. She also said that she will be selling bags of compost, horticultural grit and decorative grit and orders could be placed for any of these.

The speaker for the evening was made welcome and introduced.

"The historic Daffodils of the Tamar Valley" By Dr Frances Howard.

The talk began with Kirsty Winter reading the poem "A Host of Golden Daffodils" by William Wordsworth to set the mood for the talk.  (See below for the poem 'A Host of Golden Daffodils')

Frances began by telling members a little of her background. Her husband David, was born and bought up in Weir Cottage, Weir Quay and when they were courting she used to travel from London, where she was training at Great Ormand Street to become a paediatrician , to Weir Quay.  She visited at Easter and noticed so many daffodils in the hedge rows and because of her enquiring nature began to wonder "why such diversity"?  She then showed a photograph of a field of daffodils in which Sheepstor could be seen in the background.

Frances explained that D'Affodil originally were flowers that carpeted the underworld. Narcissus is the Latin name for all daffodils. She told a story of Narcissus and Echo (a slide showed a painting by Claude in 1664) Echo faded away into the trees and the legend says that Narcissus was very vain and spent a lot of time looking at his reflection in the water and consequently he fell into the water and drowned and there grew Narcissus - the lilies of the underworld.

1. N.Pseudo Narcissus - these are the early daffodils, with thin, fine petals.

2. John Parkinson 1656, author of Paradisi in sole had two theories:

Post Ice age - mountain ranges

Distribution close to sites of old monasteries. The monks used to use them for medicinal purposes, and the flowers escaped into the wild.

Frances showed the members various daffodils that she had brought with her and as she explained the history of each flower she passed them round for people to inspect and smell.


1 MAXIMUS SUPERBUS - early March

Growing in England before 1576, so seen by Sir Francis Drake! Ancestor of most big yellow trumpets. Note that the petals are twisted, as are the blue green leaves.

2 KING ALFRED - End of March / April

Son of Maximus in 1899. Wider petals, still twisted, but overlap at base. The "Gold Standard" daffodil. Horizontal or looking up big golden trumpets.

3 EMPEROR - March

Introduced in 1865. Vivid yellow trumpet, paler petals which are not twisted and overlap at the base. Lasts well in vases, so very important in local flower trade and was sent up to London by railway.


4. PRINCEPS -early March

Very old - pre 1830, son of the "Lent Lily". Self seeds. Long, slender twisted sulphur white petals and long primrose yellow trumpet. Smells rubbery!

5 SIR WATKIN - March

Found by a Devon mining engineer in 1810 who took it to Wales. Whole flower often leans forward with wavey greenish petals, just overlapping.

6 LENT LILY - March

N.pseudonarcissus (n.lobularis) native? Growing wild before 1570. This one was the "host of golden daffodils" (Wordsworth). Only 8" (20cms). Flowers slightly nodding, thin twisted slightly paler petals which do not open much from line of trumpet.


7 EMPRESS - March but later than Emperor

1869 from Spanish n.bicolor, so short but pure white petals which overlap and large yellow trumpet. Sent up to London by railway and market boat "Empress" to Plymouth

8 FORTUNE -early Feb - March

1915 / 1923 Post 1st World war, so thick overlapping bright yellow petals and strong orange cup. Cup fades in sunlight. Son of Sir Watkin & Hospodar, which is also in hedges but starry yellow petals and later in March

9 BATH'S FLAME - Very early Feb

1906. Very similar to Brilliancy (Mar) & Barrii Conspicious (March / April). All have thin floppy yellowish petals and small red rimmed cup from their Poeticus parents. All last well in vases so important in local trade until after 2nd world war.


10 VAN SION - Feb / March

The "great double daffodil" of a Flemish man living in London 1620, before the Great Fire. A double pseudonarcissus so strong and persistent in hedgerows. Sometimes has double petaloids neatly within the trumpet or explodes as a shaggy powderpuff.

11 EGGS & YOLK - Feb/ March

n.incomparabilis. Naturally double form of Bath's Flame so earlier than Butter & Eggs. look carefully at clumps and you can see how some are more double than others.

12 TAMAR DOUBLE WHITE - Very late May

"Whitsun Lily" the double pheasants' eye found in Clamoak Farm hedge by Septimus Jackson in 1880's. Very strongly scented and long vase life so sent up to London in special blue tissue lined boxes. But reverts to pheasants' eye so getting rare. so please do not pick!


13 ICE FOLLIES Feb / March

A sturdy and strong grower from Holland. 1953, Imported after the war but put into the hedgerows after shipping out by rail ended in 1969. The white petals with large spreading frilly medium trumpet which opens primrose yellow and ages to a creamy white

14 ACTAEA -March

Pre 1927. The 'earliest' poeticus, with a wonderful scent and lasts well so planted a lot locally. White spreading petals and a very shallow corona, greenish yellow at the base then saffron yellow with a scarlet rim.

15 PHEASANTS EYE - April / May

n.poeticus recurvus.  Pre 1900. Snow white petals swept back from a tiny yellow cup edged in red. Father of most flat white narcissi with reflexed petals. Fragrant.

You can tell if the daffodil is very old (pre 1st World War) as the petals are thin and twisted. After about 1890, the petals overlap at the base.

Tamar daffodils, as they were so early, were sent to Covent Garden, London from 1865 via the river and the rail. The railway came through Bere Alston in 1890, so the trade expanded rapidly.

In the 2nd World war, the daffodils had to be replaced by vegetables, so were lifted and thrown into the hedgerows where they grow today. Although some of the fields were replanted after 1945 with newer varieties such as Ice follies, Carlton and Magnificence, the trade declined in the 1960's and only local shops and people are now supplied.

The above information was written by Dr Frances Howard FLS & David Pearce, Weir Quay - 2014 . This information was on sale to raise money for St Lukes Hospice.

Frances said the key points to take home with us were:-

Buy to preserve the heritage of the daffodils

If the daffodils are drooping because of heavy rain, it is best to pick them and enjoy them because the energy they need to lift their heads up after the rain, depletes the bulbs of energy and you will have a poor display the following year.

Dead head after flowering but leave the stalk

Don't dig them up each year - just give them a good feed - potato fertiliser is ideal. Blood and fishbone is ok but note that it can attract foxes or badgers who will dig up the bulbs. Wood ash can be used but it washes out quickly.

To conclude, Frances showed some slides of her with Carol Klein! She had a surprise by being asked to talk to Carol, who came to see Frances and interviewed her for the programme "The Great Garden Revival which is due to be televised at Easter. Frances jokingly said she will probably only be on for about a minute but definitely one to watch!

Frances was thanked for a very interesting and informative talk.


A Host of Golden Daffodils

by William Wordsworth


daffodilsI wandered lonely as a cloudThat floats on high o'ver vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd,A host, of golden daffodils;Beside the lake, beneath the trees,Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.


Continuous as the stars that shineAnd twinkle on the milky way,They stretched in never-ending lineAlong the margin of a bay;Ten thousand saw I at a glance,Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.


daffodilThe waves beside them danced; but theyOut-did the sparkling waves in glee: A poet could not but be gay,In such jocund company:I gazed...and gazed...but little thoughtWhat wealth the show to me had brought.


For oft, when on my couch I lieIn vacant or in pensive mood,They flash upon that inward eyeWhich is the bliss of solitude;And then my heart with pleasure fills,And dances with the daffodils.