Meavy Garden Society Meetings 2015


Meavy Garden Society AGM 2015 held on 16th February 2015


Meavy Garden Society Meeting, 16 November 2015

Devon Garden Birds since 1900 - Tony John

For their November meeting, members first enjoyed some ‘Christmas Refreshments’ kindly provided by Kay Moore and then enjoyed a very interesting and informative talk from Tony John on ‘Devon Garden Birds since 1900’.

Tony gave us tips on the feeding of garden birds saying that hygiene of bird feeders and also of bird baths is crucial and also that bird feeding stations should be moved periodically. Peanuts, fat balls, niger seed and sunflower seeds are all suitable. Cover for smaller birds, nearby, such as berberis is helpful and bird baths are very necessary for birds to bathe in and clean their feathers.

Some species had seen a definite decline and garden birds on the ‘red list’ as being of increasing conservation concern are Song Thrush, Starling, Spotted Flycatcher, House Sparrow, and Yellow Hammer. Gold finches have increased. In the 19th and early 20th century they had been trapped to be cage birds.

Changes in farming practices have contributed to the decline in numbers. Also threats such as cats, Sparrow hawks, Magpies, Jays, rats and diseases and slug pellets. Tony suggested that cats have a bell or ultra sound scarer fitted. Furthermore, tree diseases, a decline in conifer planting and cessation of coppicing have resulted in changes to the woodland bird population, and the increase in road traffic has had an effect.

Linnets and cuckoos have reduced in number although cuckoos have fared quite well on Dartmoor where they are hosted by the Meadow Pipit.

Tony gave us some tips for wildlife gardening, naming flowers and trees and shrubs which are attractive to garden birds. Those were Aubrietia, Lavender, Thyme, Sedum, Michaelmas Daisy, Hebe, Honeysuckle, Buddleia, Rowan, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Cotoneaster, Elder and Ivy. He suggested compost heaps, piles of dead wood and leaves and wild patches of nettles in our gardens. Use as few chemicals as possible and use peat free compost to preserve peatlands. Nest boxes should face East or Northeast for shelter and be four to nine feet off the ground.

We heard about various bird surveys and some that anyone can take part in such as the RSPB ‘birdwatch’.

Tony gave us much information. Questions were answered and Tony was thanked for his excellent talk by Dr. Mike Inman.

The first meeting in 2016 will be the AGM on Monday 15th February at 7.30pm followed by a talk on the Isles of Scilly given by a member. Refreshments will be available from 7pm. New members and visitors welcome. The ‘Spring Fun Show’ will be on Monday 14th March. Enquiries 01822 852672 and 01822 852984.


Meavy Garden Society Meeting, 19 October 2015

Plants of South Africa - Mark Wash, from Trecanna Nursery at Cargreen

Our Chairman Annie Inman began the meeting by announcing that a coffee and cake event by the Secretary Kay Moore, held at her house, had raised over £150 for society funds, and she thanked Kay for her generosity and hard work.

Annie then introduced the speaker, Mark Wash, from Trecanna Nursery at Cargreen. This was a very welcome return visit from Mark who began with a short introduction to the nursery and its work in various national shows, and in the breeding of new varieties of Crocosmia. Most of the plants stocked at Trecanna are natives of South Africa. Mark then gave a talk appropriately called “Plant Hunting in South Africa” relating his adventures.

The Western side of South Africa is lower, hotter and drier, and therefore furnishes few plants suitable for British gardens. However, the Eastern side of the country is dominated by the high ranges of the Drakensberg Mountains where plants are subjected to much more rain and freezing temperatures in their winters.

Mark’s tour began in the South where the country is lower lying and hot but still contains one or two species that will flourish here. While photographing plants he sometimes had uncomfortably close encounters with big game such as Rhino and Elephants, one of which consumed the whole plant he had just photographed. As they progressed the land grew ever higher and more spectacular, while plants familiar from our gardens such a Crocosmia, pokers and Galtonias appeared. Taking roads that varied from ruler-straight highways to frightening mountain tracks they journeyed through the independent kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland until close to South Africa’s northern border.

Mark showed us spectacular pictures of the plants they saw and the stunning scenery they went through, including thousands of Red-Hot Pokers in flower, in boggy conditions that they are said not to favour; thereby illustrating the importance of seeing plants in their native environment. However he emphasised that they were there to see and photograph only, not to remove plants, for which you have to order seed through approved permitted channels.

Mark talked vividly and with a great deal of humour and was soundly applauded at the end.

For the final meeting of 2015 Tony John will explain the data recorded about Devon Garden Birds since 1900. Proceedings begin with tea and chat at 7:00 pm in Meavy Parish Hall on Monday 16th November, and visitors are very welcome.


Meavy Garden Society Meeting, 21 September 2015

‘Structure in the Garden’ - Clare Woodbine from Pinsla Garden near Bodmin

Our speaker this evening was Clare Woodbine from Pinsla Garden near Bodmin, whose topic on this very welcome return visit was ‘Structure in the Garden’.

Illustrating her talk with her own excellent photos from as far afield as California and Paris as well her own and other West Country gardens, Clare showed vividly how structure enhances the effect of the plants in a garden.

Paths are important, whether they are simply short grass mown through a meadow, gravel or the beautiful textures of various types of laid stone or bricks. Walls and steps can be very effective, especially if built from local vernacular materials. Fences can be built in many creative designs. Seating areas from wooden pergolas to stone benches also add variety. Trees and shrubs can be pruned to various shapes. The lower branches can be removed to enhance the light, trees can be cloud- pruned or clipped in formal shapes which may contrast with natural foliage elsewhere. Water features in the form of natural or formal ponds, streams or rills, benefit wildlife as well as adding charm to the scene. Pieces of sculpture, terracotta plaques and ceramic tiles on walls all add beauty.

The audience was certainly inspired by her talk and pictures, especially as many of her ideas were very practical on a small scale with recycled materials. Clare also brought with her a selection of beautiful plants from her nursery, many of which were snapped up by members. The vote of thanks by Mary Helby amply summed up an excellent evening.

The next meeting of the Society will be on Monday 19th October at 7.30pm when Mark Wash from Trecanna Nursery will talk on ‘Plant hunting in South Africa’. He will bring plants and bulbs for sale. Refreshments will be served from 7pm. Visitors very welcome.


Meavy Garden Society Meeting, 20 July 2015

Devon Wild Plants - Paul Rendell

A report from Kay Moore

Paul began by saying that Wild Plants (or weeds) are basically a flower in the wrong place! He then showed a number of slides of the Wild Plants found in Devon that he had photographed over his years of working and walking in Devon. He had wonderful knowledge on each plants and gave lots of interesting facts about how they were used in days gone by to treat various ailments.

There were too many to mention them all, but here are few.

Paul talked about many more of our wild plants and included a story about when he was a young boy, he saw some bog plants in a marshy area of the moor. He dismissed the danger and attempted to cross over it, finding that he was up to his shoulders in the bog and it took him a very long time to pull himself out. A lesson learned the hard way!

Martin Burt thanked Paul on behalf of the Society for such an interesting talk.


A report from Martin Burt

Our speaker this evening was the well-known authority on many aspects of Dartmoor Paul Rendell whose topic was the “The Flora of Devon”

Some of the plants Paul showed us were unfamiliar and rare such as the insectivorous large-leaved Butterwort, found in only a few locations on Dartmoor, and the very rare oblong-leaved version of the Sundew, whilst others were familiar and ubiquitous such as the Bluebell (once used as a source for glue) or the Whortleberry. The white Bogbean lives in ponds, and Bog Cotton indicates very wet ground, but the seeds of Rosebay Willow Herb are spread along roads by the traffic. Dodder is a parasite covering Heather or Gorse with a tracery of thin stems. Wild Daffodils are quite short and hedge banks are often rich in wild Strawberries. Wild Thyme is the food plant for the caterpillars of the re-introduced Large Blue Butterfly. A spreading introduction from the Pacific coast of America is the small pretty Pink Purslane, found in damp woodland.

Particularly interesting were the herbal uses of many of the plants, normally by an infusion made with boiling water. Herb Robert was used to cure ear-ache, Lousewort to control head lice, and Tormentil to ease stomach pains. Sphagnum Moss staunches bleeding and in WWI was gathered on Dartmoor and sent to hospitals for treatment of wounds. Some Bedstraws were placed under pillows for the fragrance to induce sleep. Fungi include the aptly named Dead Man’s Fingers and the Stinkhorn.

Hay meadows have a wide variety of plants such as Eyebright, the parasitic Yellow Rattle, and Early Purple Orchids. There are many different Ferns but increasingly there are Ticks in the bracken which spread the very nasty Lyme disease.

Some plants are very invasive. Bracken has a huge framework of roots and spreads aggressively. Some non-native plants are a problem, noticeably the attractive Himalayan Balsam which takes over whole river banks, Japanese Knotweed which can even push up through concrete and invade houses, and Giant Hogweed which causes painful skin blisters.

This well illustrated talk was much appreciated by the audience.


Meavy Garden Society Meeting, 15 June 2015

The Scented Garden - Jeremy Wilson from the Scented Plants Nursery near Dartmouth

The speaker at the June meeting was Jeremy Wilson from the “Scented Plants” nursery near Dartmouth, whose topic unsurprisingly was “The Scented Garden”.

Jeremy pointed out that scent has been very important from earliest times, Myrrh and Coriander have been used for thousands of years. They can produce very subjective impressions on different people. However, scented flowers were developed by plants to attract pollinators; some can attract bees from over a kilometre. Flowers that have very strong perfume are often less spectacular in colour and shape than those that rely on colour.

Some plants also produce pheromones which can for example, attract insect predators to eat attacking aphids, while others have highly aromatic foliage or produce fetid smells like rotting meat to attract flies as the pollinators.

It is possible to have scented flowers in the garden at nearly all seasons. In January most shrubs have small flowers but a powerful scent. The various forms of Viburnham bodnantense, Christmas Box (Sarcococca), Witch Hazel (Hamamelis), and Winter Sweet (Chimonanthus praecox) are well known; but less so is Azara Microphylla, whose yellow flowers are powerfully vanilla scented in February.

As spring comes along there are the scented Clematis such as Montana and Armandii. Then bulbs take over with many scented Narcissi and even crocus.

Summer brings on the white jasmines, also the well-known roses and sweet peas, while good scent can come from the sweet pepper bush (Clethra alnifolia) with pink-tinged flowers in August. Better known is Abelia chinensis which covers its branches with scented white flowers.

Later in the year it is the turn of the Eleagnus to have strongly scented flowers and there are various forms of Mahonia with Lily-of-the- Valley scent. Jeremy could not mention every scented flower and tried to feature some less well known examples; illustrating with superb examples of his own pictures, and also brought a number of interesting reasonably priced, plants many of which were snapped up by members. A highly informative talk much appreciated by all present.

The meeting on 20th July will begin at 7:00 pm in Meavy Parish Hall. After refreshments and chat Paul Rendell will talk of Devon wild plants. August 8th brings the Society’s Summer Show to MPH from 1:00 pm when all are invited to judge the exhibits, and purchase refreshments and raffle tickets. Admission is only £1.00, there will be a plants stall, free parking behind the hall.  Across the green, lunches and evening meals may be purchased at The Royal Oak Inn.


Meavy Garden Society Meeting, 18 May 2015

The Italian Garden at Great Ambrook - Angela Dodd-Crompton

The Society has enjoyed a varied programme in May with three events – a very enjoyable social evening in a member`s garden, a coach outing to Otter Nurseries near Honiton and Forde Abbey in lovely weather and a lecture on The Italian Garden at Great Ambrook, Ipplepen, near Newton Abbot.

The speaker for this talk was Angela Dodd-Crompton who has done extensive research into this garden having become aware of its existence through her own local horticultural society.

The garden of four acres had been made between 1909 and 1912 at Great Ambrook by Arthur Smith Graham, a publisher, who retired early to Great Ambrook from Italy. In the second half of the 20th century it had become so completely overgrown that it had disappeared from sight or knowledge. More recent owners who had bought Great Ambrook in the 1980`s had started to uncover the garden from 1988.

Angela told us that Arthur Smith Graham had been said to be a recluse but on discovering the remains of the tennis court, Angela questioned this. Why would a recluse want a tennis court? It was a recreational garden with two pools for swimming, one being octagonal, a dell, walks (400 yards of crazy paved paths of white Portland stone), pergolas, a raised terrace and sun-bathing area and curved stone benches. One of the earliest examples of re-inforced concrete being used for some of the construction. Smith had been a great plant lover; plants had been everywhere – climbing plants on every possible surface and lots of colour. There was a summer house and hothouse. Evidence of cucumbers, lilies, grapes and palms and the Crimson Glory vine being grown amongst other plants.

Angela concluded that the architect/designer had been Thomas Henry Lyon who lived locally but had been the first director of the Cambridge School of Architecture who had remodelled Sidney Sussex College chapel at Cambridge. The builder was Lewis Bearne who also worked at Castle Drogo.

Angela had pieced together the evidence she gleaned from the garden in her research to make a fascinating talk about this `sleeping beauty`. The house and garden at Great Ambrook is apparently currently for sale and not open to the public.

The next meeting will be on Monday 15th June at 7.30pm ( refreshments from 7pm) in Meavy Parish Hall when the speaker, Jeremy Wilson will talk on `The Scented Garden`.


Meavy Garden Society Meeting, 20 April 2015

Guest Speaker: Julian Sutton from ‘Desirable Plants’ near Totnes 

The Society enjoyed an excellent and informative talk entitled `Hellebores and their Friends`. The talk was a return visit to the Society by Julian Sutton from `Desirable Plants` near Totnes. Julian told us that in our choice of garden plants we often neglect our European flora but Hellebores are very firmly European. They are members of the Buttercup family. There are two groups - `caulescent` which has long lived stems above ground and `acaulescent` which has short lived flower stems and leaf stems straight from the ground. Julian gave us a tour through the different species ending with Hellebore orientalis which come from the Black Sea coast of Turkey and are the most garden- worthy type. They are tolerant of different climates, wet or dry, are evergreen and come in a range of colours, pinks, purples, greens, whites, yellows – endless variations – spotted and blotched. The audience agreed that the Christmas rose, Hellebore niger was difficult to grow although Julian said that there are some hybrids which are much easier.

A few Hellebore specialists were mentioned including the late Elizabeth Strangman who spotted and collected an early double hellebore from a rubbish dump in Serbia. This was the start of `doubles`.

Julian talked about the diseases which affect hellebores - Black Spot – a fungal problem. To minimise this, cut all the leaves off in mid-winter - he suggested, perhaps, something to do while the Christmas turkey is in the oven! And Black Death - a virus – dig up and destroy. And do not put on the compost heap!

Hints on propagation were given. Collect and sow fresh seed, cover with grit, leave outside and seedlings will germinate in January. Pot up for a year, then plant out. Plants can also be divided but a pick axe might be needed for large clumps! He encourages members to `have a go` at making their own crosses by hand pollinating their favourite plants.

He listed as Hellebore `friends` many delightful late winter and early Spring plants such as pulmonaria, primroses, wood anemones, bergenias, scillas, snowdrops and cyclamen and for later - phlox and Solomon`s seal. Julian’s talked was enhanced by beautiful photographs and interjected with humour.

At the next meeting on Monday 18th May (starting with refreshments at 7pm followed by the meeting at 7.30pm), Angela Dodd – Crompton will talk about the Italian Garden at Great Ambrook, Ipplepen, near Newton Abbot dating from 1909 which she has researched extensively. A garden history talk. Visitors always welcome.



Meavy Garden Society Meetings 2014