Tilehurst Horticultural Association 

Talk Reviews 2015 / 2016

28th April 2016                 Brian Bedwell with Ken Tudgay 

Presentation of Flowers and Pot Plants for Show  

and Gardeners’ Question Time 

Our last talk of the season was given by Brian Bedwell, one of our judges for the Summer Show. His subject was preparing Flowers and Pot Plants for Showing, using last year’s Show Schedule as a guide.

Brian started by saying that a judge’s job is to look for reasons why not to give your entry top prize. So any entries not displayed in line with the Schedule will be marked NAS, not as schedule, and will not be judged. Brian also stated that when judging they are looking for perfection.

Brian went through the flower schedule as follows:

Sweet Peas: Ensure that the size of the bowl used is as per the Schedule. There should be four or more florets on each stem, the same number on each stem and the bottom floret as good as the top one. The stems should be straight.

Marigolds: This is a difficult class to judge as the marigolds range from French, to Tagetes, to Calendula, all colours, shapes and sizes. There should be no blemishes and again must adhere to what is stated in the Schedule.

Vase of Roses: Single flower on stem – single variety. Flower should be just starting to open, and there should be no side buds. The stem and leaves are also judged. The leaves should be shiny and bright. The same applies to mixed vases of roses.

Dahlias: The stem should be straight, the foliage green and bright. Any buds should be removed and the centre of the flower should be visible. The different types are difficult to judge against each other.

Vase of Flowers: The presentation should be balanced, a good shape and be able to be viewed in the round. The same goes for vases of Mixed Flowers.

Pot Plants: The inside diameter of the point should be 8” as this is a requirement of the schedule. Any bigger than this and the exhibit will be disqualified. The pot should be in good condition. Damaged pots loose points.

Foliage plants: should be healthy, bright green and a good tidy shape.

Flowering plants: should be in good condition with decorative value.

Fuschias / Pelargoniums / Geraniums: As the above re. pots. Should be in flower but will not be marked down if there are fewer flowers than other entries. Cut off the dead flowers, leaves etc.

Cactus / Succulents: Judged on quality for the variety. Leave the flowers on as this gives points. Also considered are condition, cultivation, and decorative value.

It is good fun entering classes in the Summer Show. A great deal of pleasure can be had in entering and winning, and if you do not win comparing your entries with others to see how to win next year.

The second half of the evening was Gardeners’ Question Time, our experts being Brian Bedwell and Ken Tudgay. A wide range of questions was raised covering asparagus, to kumquats to wood ash, and several other subjects in between.

A very informative and interesting evening and I am sure we all learnt a great deal.

31st March 2016              Stefan White 

Skulduggery in the Shrubbery

Our speaker for the penultimate talk of the season was Stefan White, who gave a talk entitled Skulduggery in the Shrubbery.   The talk covered the life of John Tradescant and his family, and the plants and items of interest that John Tradescant Snr. brought into England. 

John Tradescant Snr was born in 1570 and died in 1638.  He was head gardener to Royalty and apart from bringing plants home from very many locations overseas, he also collected artefacts some of which are at the Oxford Museum of Natural History, which is now known as The Ashmolean.  

John Snr worked for Lord Robert Cecil at Hatfield House, where he planted many trees, 
and there is a tribute to him at Hatfield.  He was also employed over the years by the Duke of Buckingham, Charles I, and the Oxford Physic Garden, now the Oxford Botanic Garden.   

He travelled widely under the patronage of his several employers, to the Low Countries, France, Russia, Barbary Coast, North Africa and America.  He brought back over 770 varieties, including 170 different varieties of fruit and 27 different roses. 

John Jnr was trained by his father but although an able gardener did not follow his father into plant collecting.  He managed the family home at Oatlands.  

The skulduggery occurred when Elias Ashmole offered to catalogue the artefacts and contents of The Arc, John Snr’s collection. He befriended John Jnr and over time claimed he was the one who had collected the various items and also the plants. He convinced the Oxford Museum of National History that he was the rightful owner and encouraged them to call the museum after him because of his benevolence.  The museum became known as The Ashmolean.  The Tradescant family’s contribution was overlooked for many years because of Elias Ashmole. 

The Tradescants lived at St. Mary’s, Lambeth, for some time and The Garden Museum has been established at St. Mary’s which is next door to Lambeth Palace.  It is well worth a visit. 

We gardeners owe a very great debt to John Tradescant Snr. for all the plants he brought back to England, many of which are still available to us today.

26th November 2015     Becca Flintham                       

    Ponds, Wetland Features and Water-Wise Gardening

Before becoming a professional conservationist, Becca Flintham studied Photography and worked as a freelance documentary photographer.  She now combines her work in environmental education with photography, together with singing workshops for groups of all ages and abilities, and writing, primarily on environmental topics.  

Becca opened her talk by stating that water gardens are hard work but that a garden with no water feature feels as though there is something missing.  Humans have an affinity with water, be it still water in a pond, moving water as in a river or lake, or tidal like the sea. Water in a garden is beneficial to health and has been used as a feature in gardens for hundreds of years.

Water features can be anything and any size, from a very small pond in a pot, to a very large sculpture.  Ponds attract wild life but need looking after to keep them looking good.  A pond can be as little as 30 cm deep but needs to be deeper if planning to stock the pond with fish.

Butyl rubber is the best liner as it is stronger than plastic but will not go brittle like plastic and can be cut to size.  Ensure that the pond is level when dug and line with old carpet, sand or even newspaper before lining.  The pond should be filled with rainwater as tape water is too harsh.  Plant with native wild plants plus some oxygenators and add fish 4/6 weeks after planting.  The pond will attract many insects, such as moths, butterflies, beetles and toads and frogs.  Keep the pond healthy by removing a quarter to one third of the planting each year and remove any leaves that drop into the pond.  Bog gardens are made in the same way but using soil instead of water. 

The way we use water is problematical.  Each person in the UK uses 160 litres a day. Embedded water, which includes manufacturing and all processes for food production etc., is 3500 litres per person per day.   We do currently have enough rainfall to cover our needs but it takes a long time for the water to be usable again when there is flooding etc.  We need to be much better at storing water so that we can use it during the summer and in gardening we can make a difference by watering the early morning or late evening, and making sure that the water reaches the roots and does not evaporate off the surface of the soil.  Drip feed irrigation and mulching helps to keep down the evaporation.

A new system of gardening called ‘Residential Rain Gardens’ is currently being talked about and there are many books and much information on the internet regarding the hows and whys of this system.  Rainwater harvesting needs many water butts and tanks to enable us to use water more efficiently.  


29th October 2015         Christie Leary                   Back to the Fuchsia

For our first talk of the season we welcomed back Christie Leary, who has previously given us a talk on Organic Gardening.   This time the topic was Fuchsias, for which Christie has a passion which started in 1970.  During this period Christie and her husband lived in Overdown Road, were members of the THA and had an allotment at the Oaktree Road site. 

During a visit to the Reading Horticultural Show at Kings Meadow in 1973, Christie saw a standard fuchsia, Curtain Call, and was immediately smitten.  Although at a cost of 12 guineas it was nearly as expensive as their monthly mortgage payment, Christie’s husband bought the plant for her as a surprise.  

They took the plant home, positioned it on a hot sunny patio, where it promptly dropped all its leaves and flowers. It was moved to a cooler place and recovered.  A Christmas present of 20 fuchsia cuttings also died.  Christie was one of the inaugural members of the Reading Fuchsia Society in 1975 and is now their longest serving member.

Fuchsias were named after botanist Leonhard Fuchs, who lived from 1501 – 1566.  The first import to the UK was brought here from South America by Captain Firth in 1798 and was housed in a greenhouse at Kew.  Mr James Lye, a nurseryman, obtained a plant, took cuttings and from the mid 1800 onwards various species were cultivated, eventually giving the very wide range of fuchsias available to gardeners today. 

James Lye 

Fuchsias do not come true to type if planted as seeds. The best way to propagate is by taking cuttings and this can been done without a greenhouse.  Move the plant into larger pots gradually, start with a yogurt pot, go onto a 3½” pot, then 5” and so on.  When potting on, put fresh compost in the larger pot, making a central hole with the smaller pot so that the plant can be dropped into the hole without disturbing the roots. Tap the pot to settle the plant in the compost.  

A standard is grown by pinching out the side shoots until the main stem is the height required, then pinch out the top shoot and three side shoots to grow a bush at the top of the stem.  A stake should be used from the beginning of this process.  Phyllis is a good standard.  Bush fuchsias can be shaped into cones or round bushes using the same method of pinching out to get the required shape.  The fuchsias will flower 6/10 weeks after you have stopped pinching out the side shoots. 

Hardy fuchsias should be planted out by mid-July at the latest.  Do not cut back over winter. Hard prune in spring, back to the lowest new green shoot. 

Fuchsias have many uses in the garden. Some varieties, such as Riccartonii, make a good
informal hedge.   Fuchsias can be used as bushes, in baskets, as standards and as hardy shrubs in the border.  If using for baskets, 5 plants of the same variety, will look very well in a 14” basket.  It is best not to grow fuchsias in mixed baskets as their requirements for water, heat, light etc. are different to the other plants usually used in baskets.  

Cut back fuchsia plants in winter and store in the greenhouse, watering them occasionally. Standards should be kept horizontal to allow the sap to reach the top of the stem, standing them upright when they start to re-sprout in early new year. 

Pests include white fly, green fly and vine weevil. 

A very interesting talk and I am sure most of us learnt something even if we have grown fuchsias for many years.   I hope my next year’s display will be all the better for all that I learnt during this talk. 

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