Meavy Garden Society Meetings 2017


Meavy Garden Society AGM 2017 held on 20th February 2017


Meavy Garden Society Meeting, 20th November 2017

Paul Bartlett (Garden Manager, Stone Lane Gardens, Arboretum and Tree Nursery)
“Stone Lane Gardens: Its History and the Trees within It” 

As this was the last meeting of the year we began proceedings with festive drinks and nibbles provided by the committee.

Our chairman Annie Inman introduced the evening’s speaker, Paul Bartlett, the Garden Manager of Stone Lane Gardens near Chagford. He described Stone Lane as a very peaceful five acre water and woodland garden with lovely views. It was founded by Kenneth and June Ashburner and is now over 50 years old. She was an artist and sculptor and he was a garden designer and tree expert. Stone Lane was founded as a sculpture garden, perhaps the first in in the country, featuring a changing exhibition of works, mostly by local artists. It also has National Collections of Alder and Birch trees, the latter having acquired scientific status because of the amount and quality of the research which is carried on.

All the trees in the garden are natural species and sub-species, with no artificial hybrids, and originate from well over 100 different provenances around the world, with plantings in naturalistic groups. As well as the beauty of the foliage, birches are particularly noteworthy for their bark. Paul showed us many lovely photographs from the collection, starting with the paper-bark birch from Canada, used by Native Americans to build canoes: next came the famous white-barked birch Betula Jacquemontii. Paul then showed us a series of less common, mainly Asiatic, birches with stunning polished or peeling barks in deep reds, pink, bronze and even dark grey colours. He pointed out that the garden is open all the year, is well worth visiting in winter and is magical with hoar-frost or snow. As well as the birches there are over 30 types of Alders, some of which boast wonderful six-inch catkins in spring.

Paul concluded his talk with a number of fascinating pictures from some of his collecting expeditions to the eastern Himalayas and Caucasus in Georgia. He also emphasised the garden’s educational work which includes a link he has set up between Chagford Primary and a school in rural Georgia. After the deaths of the founders the garden has become a trust to preserve it for the future and to continue its high profile research work.

Paul’s association with the garden goes back over twenty years and his commitment, enthusiasm and knowledge shone through very clearly in this articulate, witty and well-presented lecture, which earned prolonged applause. Michael Inman gave a well-expressed and fitting vote of thanks.


Meavy Garden Society Meeting, 16th October 2017

Lea Bayly  “Gardening for the Honey Bee”

Our speaker this evening was local bee expert Lea Bayly who talked to us on the subject of “Gardening for the Honey Bee” However, she also gave us much fascinating information on the life and biology of honey bees as well.

Lea began by telling us that many people had difficulty in identifying honey bees. The native bee is dark in colour, quite hairy with four wings. There are also paler imported species like the Italian honey bee. Bumble bees are much fatter, even hairier and have bands of different colours. Wasps are smooth with contrasting bands of black and yellow; whilst hornets are brown and very much bigger. Various hover flies are excellent mimics of members of the bee family, but have only one pair of wings.

A fully active beehive consists of 50,000, and more, workers, which are sterile females, daughters of the queen. New queens are allowed to develop in special round cells and are fed richer food. The males, called drones, develop from deliberately un-fertilised eggs, exist only to mate with virgin queens and die or are killed by the workers shortly afterwards.

In May a new queen will emerge and the old queen will leave the hive with about half the workers to seek a new nest. The queen will alight on a site and the workers cluster around her, forming a swarm. This will usually be on a tree branch, although sometimes in very inappropriate places, maybe even a car bumper or a bicycle pedal; while scouts seek a suitable new nest site. Swarming bees are not aggressive and a beekeeper can easily box a swarm and introduce it into a new hive. Anyone who finds a swarm should get in touch with the British Bee Keepers Association without delay.

The extraordinary dances by which bees, in pitch darkness on the vertical plane of the comb, relay information about the whereabouts and quality of food sources are now well known. They also need to collect not just nectar but pollen, to build the comb, and water for many purposes.

Bees have their favourite flowers, above all dandelions in spring. If they are in bloom under fruit trees honey bees will ignore the blossoms and go to the dandelions. In gardening it is important to cover as many months as possible by planting bulbs and camellias for spring and trying also to cover the June gap. They prefer simple undeveloped flowers rather than highly-bred doubles which are usually infertile. Bees love Michaelmas Daisies, Nasturtiums and wild flowers such a nettles, brambles and, later in the year, ivy. Don’t omit plants in tubs and pots or trailing down walls and try to plant flowers in clumps.

This was an excellently presented and illustrated talk and the large audience showed their interest in the many questions and prolonged applause.


Meavy Garden Society Meeting, 18th September 2017

Mark Walsh  “The History of the Tulip”

Brenda Burt, deputy chairman opened the meeting and welcomed 41 members. She said that the Summer Show had been very successful and congratulated all members who had won trophies and gave commiserations to those who hadn’t won. Brenda reported that the recent outing to Abbotsbury Sub-tropical gardens was enjoyed by 27 members and friends. All who went, really enjoyed the visit and found that the journey wasn’t too arduous. She gave thanks to Janet Jones for organising the outing. She then introduced the speaker for the evening who was Mark Walsh of Trecanna Nursery, who was talking about “The History of the Tulip”. Mark began by telling the audience that Trecanna Nursery was established about 20 years ago along the Cornish banks of the Tamar and that although they are no longer open to the public, they do mail orders. Trecanna specialise in bulbs from South Africa such as Crocosmia and take a pride in growing varieties that do not spread too much but produce different colour flowers such as primrose yellow and deep wine reds (hybrids). Mark also said that they try to visit shows such as Hampton Court, Tatton Park and Taunton where they have been award Gold for their displays. They also produce “gifts for gardeners” which has been very successful.

The History of the Tulip

Mark began by saying that the Tulip bulb is the most popular bulb around the world and that Holland produces 2 billion per year for export. It is thought that tulips originated on the southern edge of Europe, the Northern Coast of Africa and the Middle East. There were Hot spots in the far East – The Tienshan Mountains where there was poor soil quality – cold for most of the year, bone dry in the summer and it warms up in the Spring when the snow melts, which is ideal growing conditions for the tulip. As man travelled the world, instead of spices, he saw tulips and marvelled at the silky sheen of the petals (and the mystery within – as the tulip slowly opens it reveals a star shaped centre).

Mark displayed the Tulip colour wheel - showing the range of colours from yellows, orange, reds, pinks, purples and blues which make them very versatile to mix with other plants.

Back to the history! In the mid-15th century, in England, King Henry VI was on the throne. The War of the Roses were from 1455 – 1485. Meanwhile on the other side of the world, the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Mehmed II, was trading with Europe and China. Tulips began appearing in drawings and on fabrics. Although the Sultan was a blood thirsty war lord, he had a soft side and wanted the tulip.

The 16th century – Suleiman the Magnificent 1520 - 1566. People were passionate about gardening and wanted lots of colour. The Empire expanded and extended to the Middle East and Africa, modern day Russia and Morocco. The Sultans wanted tulips. In 1574 Sultan Selim II had a shopping list for 50,000 tulips for the Imperial Gardens at Constantinople, 300,000 tulips for the Palace Gardens at Kefe! Despite the large volume of bulbs, the tulip was well respected and used wisely.

Meanwhile in Europe, Carolus Clusius (1526-1609) who was born in Arras (now France but was in the Spanish Netherlands). He studied at the University of Montpelier. In 1560, he became a Tutor and Agent to a banking family. In 1573, he was appointed Prefect to the Imperial Garden in Vienna by Maximillian II. In 1593, he was appointed Professor at the University of Leiden and Prefect to the new botanical gardens. This is when plants started to be labelled ad catalogued. He was seeking new plants and had contact with Diplomat Ogier Gislain de Busbecq and consequently to Suleimen the Magnificent. Ogier brought Tulips back for his friend. He started to plant, sketch and observe them. He noticed that the shapes were different to the ancient engravings which was typically “Tulip Acuminata whose petals were about 4” long. Tulip “Ballerina” is a lily flower Tulip and he was puzzled by the colour changes in some of them. This was the colour break virus caused by insects such as greenfly and this gradually weakened the plant.

By the 17th century Tulips were highly fashionable in Europe. The Botanic garden was established in Oxford in 1621. From 1634 – 1637 Tulipmania was happening and it was the Dutch Golden Age of the Tulips, which could fetch enormous prices. For example – for one single bulb of the Tulip Viceroy, the following items were demanded in exchange:

The list went on and Brueghel the Younger who was a Satirist, portrayed the people flocking to buy the Tulips as monkeys and almost immediately the market crashed from the winter of 1636 – February 1637. People had lost homes, lives and livelihoods in their pursuit of the Tulip.

During the 18th and 19th century, 2,400 varieties were listed at Margrave Gardens. In Constantinople 1718 – 1730 under the Tulip era of the Ottoman Empire, the impact was influencing gardens, Architecture, clothing and design.

In the 20th century, the Ottoman Empire came to an end in 1922. Darwin Hybrids were introduced in 1943. Today, Dutch growers export over 2 billion bulbs to 80 different countries.

The Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society was formed in 1835 for Tulip enthusiasts and breeders. They still exist today and Mark has attended some of their meetings, where tulips were displayed in brown beer bottles. Some of the original tulips (Lac Van Rijn 1620) and (Absalon1780) are still in production today.

Tulip Classifications – 5,000 – 6,000 varieties

(Tulipa “Little Beauty, Turkestanica - white flower with a yellow centre, Cynthia AGN -The Lady Tulip Tulipa Clusiana, Peppermint Stick, The Wild Tulip (Tulipa Sylvestris) Tulipa Acuminata)

Mark then gave tips on growing Tulips:

Mark then said that as everyone was frustrated about having to wait to plant their tulips, he would give us recommendations of things we can plant now!

Members were keen to purchase some of the lovely bulbs that Mark had brought with him. Brenda thanked Mark for such an interesting and at times, amusing talk and said how much we had all learned about tulips.


Meavy Garden Society Meeting, 17th July 2017

Elizabeth Holman “Rejuvenating a Tired Garden”

The Society Chair, Annie Inman, opened the meeting by thanking David Stratford for hosting our garden visit and social evening; the dismal weather had not prevented this being a very enjoyable occasion. She also thanked the Society members who ran the plant stall at Meavy Oak Fair, raising over £300.

The speaker for the evening was Elizabeth Holman, a noted horticulturalist and garden designer, from Exeter, whose topic was “Rejuvenating a Tired Garden”. Elizabeth identified seven common problem areas in a tired garden.

The first was Overplanting. People fail to realise how big a plant is likely to grow, so that the border becomes hopelessly overcrowded. You need to look at the details on the label when buying. Allied to this was point number two: Lack of Light. Some heavily shaded areas are unsuitable for many plants and a careful choice must be made. If shrubs are overgrown they should be replaced or pruned back to let in air and light.

Pure Neglect was the third point – people let their gardens, or parts of them, just go. You need to keep on top of difficult areas. Problem four was Boredom with an Unexciting Garden. One needs to think positively to inject new life.

Problem number five, and one which Elizabeth particularly emphasized was Lack of Nutrition in the Soil. You need to feed, feed, and feed the plants or you will have no success. Use a granulated fertilizer when planting, then mulch around and use liquid feed regularly during growth. Point six was Right plant wrong place. Avoid introducing plants which, within a few years, outgrow their situation, e.g. at the edge of a path.

Lack of Colour was the final problem and relates to overall design. Ensure there are plants of different heights, of leaf colour and texture which will provide continuing interest outside of the flowering period.

Elizabeth illustrated her talk with a fascinating series of before, during and after, photos of her own work which showed how spectacular results can be achieved in only two or three years. This was an inspiring talk which provoked a number of questions from the sizeable audience. Stephen Pine gave the vote of thanks and there was enthusiastic applause for the speaker.


Meavy Garden Society Meeting, 19th June 2017

Julian Sutton  “Adventures with Fancy Foliage”

The meeting began with thanks to Kay Moore, Janet Jones and David Winter for organising and manning the plants stall at Meavy Oak Fair on behalf of the Society, thereby raising over £300 for the Fair proceeds. Thanks also to Champernowne nurseries for their generous donation of plants.

The speaker was Julian Sutton of Desirable Plants near Totnes. This was his third visit to Meavy and he again gave a truly excellent talk entitled “Adventures with Fancy Foliage”. He explained that this did not automatically mean the glaring contrast between white and green associated with many variegated plants, something he personally was not too keen on. He then took two native ferns, Polypodium vulgare, the common polypody of Dartmoor, and Polypodium cambricum, the Welsh species. He showed what beautiful leaf forms have developed naturally with many divisions, overlapping fronds and fascinating shapes.

Colour variation does not have to be white. Many varieties of Epimedium display beautiful blotches of red, especially on immature leaves. Colour variation is often silver. Well known here are the Pulmonarias: many of which have silver blotches or even entirely silver leaves. Arum italicum, the Italian relative of our Cuckoo Pint or Lords & Ladies, can have many types of beautiful silver patterning of the leaves. This silver is a common component of the leaves of Cyclamen coum and C. neapolitan.

Leaves with a pale midrib are often more interesting than plain green – a good example is Persicaria arffinis “Superba”. Red is a colour found on some leaves. Begonia grandis “Claret Jug” has red veining, whilst in Begonia “Red Undies” The whole underside of the leaf is red. The red autumn leaves of some Begonisias are attractive whilst some grasses display red colouring.

Apart from colour the spacing of the leaves of the can be of interest. In Penstemons the leaves are in opposite pairs; with Veronicastrums the leaves are in spectacular whirls, whilst the leaves of veiatrum specises produce a spiral.

This was a highly informative and well-presented talk , illustrated by Julian’s own slides and accompanied by a useful list of Latin names . The sizable audience was keen to show its appreciation and many purchased some of the unusual plants he had brought.

On Monday 17th July 2017 Elizabeth Holman will provide some tips on “Rejuvenating a Tired Garden”. The meeting commences at 7:00 pm with chat and light refreshments in Meavy Parish Hall.


Meavy Garden Society Meeting, 24th April 2017

Caroline Stone `Nerines`

On 24th April the society enjoyed a very interesting and informative talk from Caroline Stone who gardens near Launceston. Last year she had given an excellent talk to us on double primroses.

Caroline `got into` nerines by chance and she admitted to never doing things by half! She had somehow become the editor of the Nerine and Amaryllid Society Journal, had therefore learned more about nerines, had been given some and ended up with more and more! They suited her damp garden.

Nerines were introduced to this country just over 100 years ago. They are part of the Amaryllidaceae family, a genus of bulbs. Snowdrops and alliums are also part of that family. A Devonian called Athelstan Cornish-Bowden, who became Surveyor General of the Cape Province in South Africa and was responsible for much of the layout of Capetown, sent Nerine bowdenii back to The Royal Horticultural Society. It was awarded an AGM of the RHS in 1904 and the price then was three shillings and six pence per bulb. He came from Blackhall near Avonwick. There are bulbs in the garden there, probably originals.

There are about twenty different species of nerines.

Nerines are not now recorded in the Cape area. Nerine bowdenii subspecies wellsii can still be found in the Drakensberg Mountains.

Caroline organised an expedition of three to South Africa; herself, as she is a good organiser!, the RHS chief scientist and the International Registrar for Nerines. Their aim was to look for nerines in the wild. On arrival at Port Elizabeth airport, the first wildlife they encountered were giraffes, warthogs and gazelles! They explored parts of Kwazulu Natal, and the Transkei and the Eastern Cape beyond Queensdale. They needed a security guard with them as these areas were not safe to travel in. The communities were poor and donkey carts still in use. It was difficult to get permission to go on to people`s land. There was some magnificent scenery and terrifying terrain for vehicles. Amongst those they found were Nerine bowdenii Weza Forest form growing in a Methodist minister`s garden. They did not find Nerine bowdenii growing in the wild but did see seven species altogether. However it sounded an exciting expedition.

In 1912 a herbarium specimen had described Nerine bowdenii as `prevalent` and in 1941 `plentiful`. Increased forestry and little respect for botanical life were factors which had probably caused such a large decline in nerines growing in the wild. Caroline showed pictures of several types of nerines.

Nerines should not be planted too deep. The top of the neck should just be showing. Although they have been commonly described as needing planting at the base of a wall that often is too dry a place especially if under the eaves of a house. Divide only very occasionally. Feeding is not usually necessary but if needed use a low potash feed such as thinly diluted tomorite.

Some RHS trials are finishing soon.

The Nerine and Amaryllid Society has 200 members. They have a huge stand at the Malvern Autumn Show. Bickham Cottage, Kenn near Exeter has a large collection which can be visited.

Questions were asked and Caroline was thanked for an excellent talk.

On 22nd April a group of members enjoyed a visit to Champernowne Nursery by kind invitation of Mr Peter Argles.

The next meeting of the Society will be on Monday 15th May when Mike Stephens will talk on `Alliums`, another part of the Amaryllid family! The meeting starts at 7.30pm with refreshments served from 7pm. New members and visitors always welcome.


Meavy Garden Society Meeting, 20th February 2017

The Garden House Story - Sue Allen, the Friends of the Garden House

After the conclusion of the AGM, a talk was given to the members on `The History of the Garden House` by Sue Allen, Honorary secretary of the Friends of the Garden House and former trustee, who confessed that she didn`t actually like gardening very much, but was passionate about gardens.

The garden was created by Lionel Fortescue, a former Head of classics at Eton College. When the Garden House come on the market in1945, he viewed it and bought it, correctly believing that’s its moist and mild situation and acid soil would suit his collection of rhododendrons. He and his wife developed the area around the house and the walled garden below, and realising they had created a garden of significance formed the Fortescue Garden Trust in 1961 with the aims of giving public access and enjoyment, leadership in horticultural innovation and excellence, and providing education and training. These are still its aims today.

The garden was blessed with several inspirational gardeners. In 1973 Keith Wiley took over and displayed great energy and vision in his planting. The area to the west of the formal gardens, that had been used as a commercial nursery, he developed in a more naturalistic style, creating a South African garden (now the summer garden), Quarry Garden, Cretan Cottage and Wildflower garden. When Keith moved on to create his own garden at Wildside down the road, Matt Bishop took over from 2003 – 2012. As a renowned authority on snowdrops, he introduced many new varieties and other spring bulbs. However his chief legacy was the design and completion of the arboretum on derelict ground to the east of the main garden. This was completed in time for the Golden Jubilee of the Trust in 2011 and provides a still developing space of tranquillity, rich in wildlife.

At the helm now is Nick Haworth who was head gardener at the National Trust property Greenway near Dartmouth. He apparently believes that there may have been almost too many new projects in recent years, and wants to settle down and garden the existing property to the highest possible standard of excellence.



Meavy Garden Society Meetings 2016

Meavy Garden Society Meetings 2015

Meavy Garden Society Meetings 2014