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This Gardening Group was started in May 2009 with the intention of visiting members and public gardens and discussing relevant topics.  

Typical topics discussed are
pros and cons of organic gardening, pest and weed control techniques, climate change, gardening for the credit crunch, etc.

Other discussion topics will be wine making, and techniques, such as bottling, freezing, etc that are successful for dealing with excess produce.

At each meeting members describe their current activities in the garden and discuss plants being grown, pests encountered, techniques and supplies used, and their successes and failures.

Members also share seeds, cuttings and coordinate the purchase of seeds and plants.
The December meeting was the non-Christmas get together at Judi's house. Judi talked about Charles Dowding and his approach to Organic Gardening.  He has adopted a no dig approach and uses cardboard and compost to suppress weeds and maintain soil condition and fertility.  He also uses double cropping by the use of fleece and polytunnels. With this approach and about half an acre of land he achieves £20000 worth of veg sales a year. More details can be found on his web site at
Judi also showed us a slide show entitled Joys of Winter with pictures taken during the winter months in her garden and elesewhere.
The meeting finished with a lunch provided by Judi with contributions from other members including Nick's homemade wine. We welcomed new member Paul and were impressed by Irene's floral display.
The November meeting at Jackie's consisted of a demonstration by Sheena of methods of propagation.  Sheena brought samples of various shrubs and plants and demonstrated the correct way of taking cuttings, root, stem, leaf, hardwood, depending on the type of plant.  We all took cuttings away to try for ourselves at home.  Sheena also brought a selection of the many books she has on gardening and plants.  Jackie provided refreshments as usual.  
Notes on Propagation by Sheena:

1.Herbaceous perennials
Most are easily propagated by division in Autumn or Spring.  Some, those with fleshy or roots or rhizomes, can be propagated by root cuttings in the Autumn and Winter    eg: Acanthus, Anemone japonica, Crambe , Dicentra,  Eryngium,  Hemerocallis , Papaver orientalis,  Phlox, Primula, Verbascum.

Prepare cuttings 2-3cm in length inserting them right side up, with tip level with surface of the compost, in gritty compost or vermiculite ,1- 2cm or so apart. Label and put in a frame or sheltered spot. Water in then leave over Winter, watering sparingly, but making sure they do not dry out if under glass. When shoots appear and are growing strongly, feed, then pot up only when well grown. Plant out the following spring.

Semi- mature cuttings can be taken from perennials that remain green above ground in Winter eg: Achillea, Artemisia, Dianthus, Geranium, Hyssop, Iberis, Linum, Veronica

Take cuttings 5-10cm long from the base of the plants in September. Insert in a suitable gritty compost. Place under glass. Pot up when growing strongly in spring.

Basal cuttings, ideally with a bit of root attached, can be carefully removed from the plant stool in spring and potted up individually or in groups in gritty compost.

2.Deciduous shrubs
Many well- known favourite shrubs can be propagated easily by taking hardwood cuttings at the end of October/early November eg: Buddleia, Caryopteris, Ceonothus, Forsythia, Kerria, Philadelphus,  Photinia, Rhododendron, Rosa, Spiraea, Sambucus,  Viburnum , Weigelia.

Some trees can also be propagated in this way: eg Acer, Eucryphia, Prunus, Salix.

Select strong woody shoots, these can be cut into 10-20cm long sections each with four buds. Either insert in boxes or large pots and place in a frame or take out a V-shaped slit in the ground and fill with gritty compost and firm the cuttings in with about 1/3 showing above ground, making sure the uppermost bud is above-ground. They will make well-grown plants by the following Autumn when they can be planted into final position in the garden.

Evergreen hardwood shrub cuttings
eg Aucuba, Berberis, Box, Garrya, Ilex, Myrtle, Lavandula, Skimmia, Sage, Viburnum.

Take cuttings either in late Autumn or early Spring. Select strong shoots. Trim just below a node. Several cuttings can be taken from a single shoot. Trim any large leaves by half to reduce loss of moisture. Insert in gritty compost and treat in the same way as deciduous cuttings. Spring cuttings will respond very well with bottom heat and will form strong plants very quickly. Pot on as soon as they are growing strongly and plant out in autumn or the following Spring.

Take heel or stem cuttings  10-15cm in length in late summer/early Autumn.  Strip the lower foliage and insert in pots of gritty compost. Water and place in a  frame.

Can be successful with many shrubs and trees eg: Chaenomeles, Cotinus, Daphne, Dianthus, Euonymus, Lonicera, Rhododendron, Wisteria.

Take a low supple branch in Autumn, Winter or early spring.  Strip a section of bark about 1cm long or using a sharp instrument make a cut through 1/3 through the stem. Pin the stem into the ground with a wire peg, adding in a mixture of peat and grit around the wound. Mark with a stick. Leave for at least a year, sometimes two then sever the layer from the parent plant and then after a further 4-6 weeks lift carefully and replant in final place.

The meeting in September was at Jackie's and was taken up by a very interesting talk by Sheena on propagating.  Sheena had brought samples of a number of different shrubs and showed us how to take cuttings of the various types of plants and what to do with them to ensure succeful propagation.  These included shoot, root, leaf and hardwood cuttings.  Most of the members took away samples to try in their own gardens.  Sheena also brought a selection of her extensive collection of gardening books.
We also discussed future meetings and agreed some of the dates.
In August we went to Judi's and spent most of the meeting digging through her collection of HPS seeds due to be dumped if not wanted.  Most of the members present found a number of promising prospects to try.  Judi explained how the HPS seed collection and distribution works.  After tea and cakes we explored Judi's garden which she admits is a work in progress but certainly looks very different from when she first moved into the property.  We also discussed future meetings and activities, see side panel for details.
In July we went to Bont Dolgadfan to visit Sheena's 'new' house and garden.  First we visited another garden, the Old Vicarage,  in the village, arranged by Sheena, and this was a lovely, established garden that the owners have been working on for fourty years.  And it shows, there is lots of variety, mature trees, ponds, terracing and even productive fruit and veg production.  Everything has been done to encourage wildlife.  We spent a couple of hours there being shown around by the owners.  
We then went to Sheena's and had tea and delicious cakes while Sheena showed us slides of scented plants.  We then toured her garden and she would be the first to admit that it is a work in progress.  Apart from the borders around the house most of the land consists of a steep sided dingle with a small stream running down it.  We look forward to a return visit, probably in a few years time to see progress made.  

The June meeting was a combined one with the Walking Group to Hurdley Hall gardens then Roundton Hill for the walkers. This is our third visit to Hurdley and each time we are impressed by the gardens and the changes that take place.  We particularly love the borders, the orchards, ponds, magnificent wildflower meadow and the veg plot.  As on previous occasions we were also impressed by the quality of the home made cakes and scones.

The May meeting was a visit to two very different gardens near Shrewsbury.  The first was to Avocet which is a small garden divided into many different areas of interest.  The whole garden is planned to encourage wildlife of all sorts with bee, bird and insect homes scattered throut.  A very interesting and pleasant place to visit.  We went from there to Bowbrook Allotments which is a large community allotment with all the plots well kept and productive.  The areas around the site feature different aspects such as wild meadows, willows to aid solve water problems and a pond. Another very interesting place to visit, not surprisingly there is a waiting list for plots.  Thanks to the owners of both properties and to Judi for organising the day.
The meeting in May at Anne's started with a slide show of various gardens, including her own, Powis Castle, Portmeirion and others.  We talked about things to do in the garden this month, a busy month of seed sowing and preparation.  Judi told us about the Shropshire Hardy Plant Society's Spring Plant Fair, to be held at
the Bayston Hill Memorial Hall, Sunday 14th April, 12.00-15.00. Non members welcome.
The meeting in March was at Mike's and was well attended.  Mike showed pictures from a recent trip to Madeira which is a very lush island with a number of excellent formal gardens.  We also had a short quiz which proved to be too easy for these experienced gardeners.  Then, after a short review of activities in the garden for this month, we discussed possible garden visits for the summer.
The February meeting at Nick's mainly concentrated on plans for planting over the next couple of months.  We also taked about possible visits including Broadheath House, Presteigne and the Dower House, Shropshire.  The group also had a tour around the garden with very little happening at this time of year but we discussed possible pruning needed to shrubs and fruit trees.
In December we met at Judi's for a non-Christmas get together lunch.  We talked about what has been good and not-so-good in the garden this year.  We also started planning for next year and agreed that the format would remain with the host giving a short presentation of a subject of their choice then a general chat about activities in the garden followed by a tour of the host's garden.  
We plan to visit a number of open gardens this summer, with Llys Dinam, Windy Ridge, Gorsty House, Hurley Hall, Rock Mill and Cwm Weeg all being considered as suitable venues.  
Mike will contact members of the Newtown U3A to see if other people wish to join this garden group.
In October we met in Jackie's house.  Jackie showed us a collection of photographs of gardens that she has visited all around the world.  It was a very diverse group of stunning gardens.  Mike showed us photos taken at a recent visit to the Trebah Gardens in Cornwell.  This delightful garden has a well-established collection of plants in a lush, sheltered valley.  We also talked about jobs to be done this month and made the usual tour of the hosts' garden.
One of our members, Irene, did well in the Berriew Show and submitted a few photos or her  show entries:
Irene2  Irene3  Irene1

Irene4  Irene5  Irene6
Anne, one of our members, has produced a few notes about the effect of the unusual weather this year has had on the gardens. It has been much too hot for runner beans and tomatoes in the greenhouse and keeping plants watered sufficiently has been a challenge.  Anne has lost one tree to drought and notes that autumn coming early has causes plants such as Euonmyous Alatus to change colour early.  Trees have been dropping their leaves early to cope with the heat.  It has, however, been a good year for fruit trees and berries and Mediterranean plants such as herbs.
These are photos of some of the plants in Anne's garden this summer, Clematis, Japanese Anenomies, Paeonies, Rhododendrons and Rudbekia:

In September we met at Irene's house in Berriew.  Irene told us about a recent visit to Windy Ridge, Little Wenlock.  It sounds like a great place to put on our visit list for a group visit next spring.  She gave us copies of the list of plants at this garden and web site that provided the scupltures.  Irene told us about a report in 'The Garden' about the search for a biodegradeable alternative to foam for florists and flower arrangers.  The best currently available is Bio Floral Foam,  available from Smithers-Oasis.  A recent article in the Telegraph describes the transformation that Claire Austin has achieved on the pub in nearby Sarn.  She has re-opened this pub and, together with husband Ric Kenwood, is adding a restaurant, garden shop and plant centre featuring Claire's perennials.
The meeting continued with general discussions, sampling of Tony's famous scones and a tour of Irene's garden.  
In August we paid a visit to Winterbourne House and Garden. the  house and garden.  This is part of Birmingham University in Edgbaston and a small group of us went there by train and bus.  This Edwardian house was built for  John Nettlefold and  was furnished in the Arts and Crafts style, much of which is retained today.  The 7 acre gardens are now the University's Botanic Garden and is used for teaching and study.  It contains many specimen plants and trees and a number of well used greenhouses.  We all enjoyed the visit to this interesting and tranquil space in this busy city.
In July we had a combined event with the Walking Group and all visited Hurdley Hall, Churchstoke in the morning.  This lovely, diverse garden was spectacular with colourful borders, irises and wild flower meadows.  The raised veg plots, greenhouse and many fruit trees are in good shape too.  The woodland walk, while a little muddy, was also well worth a visit.  This was a return visit to this lovely location well kept by Simon and Simon.  
While the walkers and walking gardeners spent the afternoon going up the nearby Roundton Hill and Todleth Hill, the gardeners carried on to visit Argoed, an open garden run by Roger and Jane.  As usual refreshments were enjoyed here too.  
The May meeting was a visit to two very different gardens, Aulden Farm and Stockton Bury, both near Leominster.  Aulden Farm is a 3 acre garden developed over 20 years by Alun and Jill.  This enthusiastic couple have turned a bare field into a delightful garden full of hidden corners and very diverse areas.  It also includes a nursery and the National Collection of Siberian Iris, unfortunately not yet in bloom.
Stockton Bury is a four acre more formal garden, open to the public with a restaurant and plant sales.  It has a kitchen garden, an attractive water garden and an interesting garden museum.  For both visits the weather was excellent, always a help in enjoying gardens.
The April meeting comprised mainly of an illustrated talk on his recent trip to Machu Picchu in Peru.  Apart from the stunning scenery there were many interesting and exotic shrubs and flowers and we realised how little we know of the flora of South America.  We had some discussion on our various planned garden visits and agreed to open them to all.  The visit on July 9th has now been confirmed as Ceunnant.  We will try to recruit some new members for our dwindling group.  Finally we had a short discussion on an article by New Scientist investigating some common gardening myths.
At the March meeting Judi gave us a presentation about the Hardy Plant Society showing its history and current activities.  She also gave us a virtual tour of her garden showing before and after photos and describing the work she has done to recover this neglected, terraced garden.  Very impressive.
The future meetings and visits were all agreed apart from the change of date for the Hurdley Hall visit to June 4th.  The planned visits to Llandinam are not possible so Jackie will investigate visiting Ceunant or Cwm-Weeg.
We talked about the bee friendly initiative, see Bee friendly site:

There is a new initiative to plant Black Poplar plants in Newtown.  Details later.
At this meeting we planned future group meetings and visits as follow: 

March 12th. Meeting at Judi’s, presentation on the Hardy Plant Society.
April 9th  Meeeting at Nick’s, presentation on Fauna of Peru.
May 23rd Visit to Aulden Farm morning, lunch and afternoon visit to Stockton Bury.  Judi to arrange.
June 11th.  Combined visit of Garden and Walking Groups to Hurdley Hall in the morning.  Mike to arrange.  Afternoon Walking Group will go up Roundton Hill, Garden group, lunch Bishops Castle, visit to Argoed House, Irene to arrange. 
July 9th.  Possible visits to Llandinam, Little House and Neuaddllwyd.  Judi to arrange.
August 13th.  Visit to Winterbourne House, Birmingham.  Nick to arrange, Mike to organise mini bus.
September 10th, meeting at Irene’s.
October 8th, meeting at Jackie’s.
November 12th, visit to see autumn colours.  Details to be arranged later, maybe Batsford.
Finally, Mike gave a short presentation about the Palmeton of Santa Cruz, Tenerife.
The December meeting was held at Judi's house in Newtown.  Judi provided us with a nice selection of lunch snacks, tea, biscuits and apple crumble.  Nick contributed some of his home made wine.  Judi also gave us a well illustrated talk on the plants of New Zealand following her recent trip there.
The November meeting was at Nick's and consisted of a wide ranging discussion, hints on activities for the month and some photos from Nick's recent visit to Peru.  Nick served an excellent lemon drizzle cake and we toured his garden.  Many flowers still flowering, notably the Michelmas Daisies and sweet peas.
The September meeting was at Irene's house in Berriew and was largely taken up by a presentation by Irene of flower arranging.  Irene had just won a number of awards at the Berriew show.  One arrangement came first in the 'My Favourite Container Class' and was awarded the cup for Best Arrangement in the Floral Class.  
The August meeting was a visit to Hurdley Hall in Churchstoke and the Hollies in Clun.  These are both excellent gardens to visit and quite different to each other.  Hurdley Hall is a 16th century house with 20 acres of land around it.  There are excellent borders, ponds, fruit trees, veg beds, etc around the house and large meadows, a stream and woodland adjacent, all extremely well kept.  The Hollies is a smaller property with the challenges of gardening at 1000 ft elevation, which they have mastered excellently.  They also have a stream and woodland with formal beds, fruit and veg and lots of ornamental grasses. Both properties have badger sets on their land.  Between the two visits we had an excellent lunch at The Maltings Cafe, Clun.  A good day out and no rain.
The June meeting was cancelled and the July meeting took the form of a garden visit to Copper Beeches in Gobowen and Gwynt Newydd in Pant.  In between these visits we had lunch in the restaurant in the Derwen College, Gobowen and a look around their gardens and garden centre. A good day out and the weather cooperated too.
gardenvisis 2017
We had a good meeting today (May 8th) at Sheila and Allan’s and welcomed 2 potential new members, Eileen Costello and Linda Davies.
We also discussed possible garden visits now that Judi has contacted the owners of one garden.
We are suggesting either Wednesday July 19th or Monday July 24th.   The idea is to visit Copper Beeches near Gobowen in the morning and nip next door to the Derwen College for lunch and a garden visit there in the afternoon. This visit would replace the normal July meeting. 
We also discussed Judi’s other suggestion of a visit to The Hollies, Clun.  We are thinking of going there instead of our normal August meeting on August 14th.
Please let me know asap if you want to come to either or both of these visits and, if so, which date in July you prefer.
There was no meeting in February and no notes for the March meeting but the meeting in April went well with a good attendance.  Seeds were exchanged and members reported on a recent Hardy Plant Society sale.  We also discussed the idea of making Newtown a Bee Friendly town.  We'll get more information on that.  Members described their current gardening activities, it seems as though we are all gearing up for the growing season.  We talked about making another group visit to open gardens this summer and Judi will  explore possibilties with some of her contacts.  
After the usual delicious tea and goodies we toured the Allen's very colourful and well organised garden.
The January meeting comprised a very interesting talk by Judi on the Hardy Plant Society.  Judi told us of the history, structure and activities and showed images of the various shows that they participate in.  There were lovely photos of plants and gardens to whet our appetities for the summer to come.  More information can be found at and on the Shropshire Group at
Judi also told us about the annual potato fest to be held on Saturday 4th February, 9 am - 3 pm at the Montford Parish Hall.  Details at
The December meeting at Mike and Paula's started with a viewing of part of the first section of the You Tube video presented by market gardener, Jean-Martin Fortier.  This French Canadian has made a very successful business on his small plot.  He presents his methods in a series of 16 videos, recorded during a day long presentation.  He shares a lot of good successful ideas in terms of crop rotation, pest control, organic gardening, and is of interest to any gardener.  The first video is at:
which has links to other sections.
We also viewed a video on apple tree pruning and discussed monthly garden activities.
The tea and coffee came with a couple of home made treats, including the ever popular Matrimonial Cake:

This is an odd name, because it is hardly a cake and there's no obvious connection with weddings.  The origins are lost to obscurity but was probably from the Arab world, since it is made of dates.  The contrast between the salt and sweet is also oriental.  It could probably be made with raisins or dried apricots too.

Crumb mix
1/2 c butter
1/3 c  sugar
1 1/3 c rolled (flaked) oats
, the quick cooking breakfast kind
1 c flour
generous pinch of salt.

3/4 c dried dates, pitted
3/4 c water
1/4 c brown sugar

Mix all crumb ingredients together.  Mix filling ingredients, mushing and breaking up dates or put them all together in the blender for a quick whizz. Spread about half the crumb mix in the bottom of a shallow baking pan, about 30 by 15 or 20 cm.  Spoon over the date mix and top with the rest of the crumb mix.  Bake in a moderate oven for 25 min.

The October meeting at Judi's started with a pub quiz on gardening.  Most of the questions answered successfully by the members.  A discussion on things to do this month were less contentious than usual.  People talked about problems with tomatoes and successes with colourful flowers for this time of year.  Anne told us about the Derwen College near Oswestry being a good place to go for wildflower and other plants.  It also has a good cafe, worth a visit.   Mike mentioned a really good site for information about wildflower gardening:  It was agreed that if new people wanted to join the group we would accept them although it might be difficult to have meetings in some of the members' houses.  Judi served brownies and flapjacks with tea and coffee.   The meeting ended with a tour of Judi's challenging, very steep garden.
The September meeting at Irene's house in Berriew started with the good news that Irene had won a prize and cup in the recent Berriew garden competition.  Well done Irene!
We discussed the NGS gardens that we have visited during the last couple of months and everyone agreed that they had enjoyed this and we will plan to visit more gardens next spring/summer.  We talked about the possibility of getting involved with a garden show in Newtown next year.  The group felt that it was an idea worth exploring, probably led by other interested groups.  This led to a discussion of the use of open spaces soon to be transferred from Powys County Council to the Newtown Town Council.  The group wish to be kept informed about this interesting project.  Paula told the group about her success in using branches of herbs, such as rosemary, alongside brassicas to deter cabbage white butterflies.  It has been highly successful as has been the use of nematodes to control slugs.  Unfortunately, these nematodes do not control snails.   Judi raised the question of the use of wood ash and was told that it is an important source of phosphates, good for encouraging flowering.  
After tea and coffee with scones ets baked by Tony, we toured the well kept garden and admired the many flowers and shrubs.
Following our successful NGS garden visit in July we visited another garden in August.  This was Castell y Gwynt near Montgomery.  It is a delightful place with formal gardens around the house, productive veg plot and many acres of wildflower meadows and woodland.  It is in a very elevated position so somewhat exposed but also means it has magnificent views. The owners, John and Jacqui, served up delicious homemade cakes with tea and coffee. Most of the group enjoyed lunch at the Dragon in Montgomery afterwards.
Castell y Gwynt
The group at Castell y Gwynt, 8th August, 2016.
In July 10 of us visited two very different open gardens.  The first was Holly Cottage near Wentnor.  This is a delightul garden, well thought out and organised with lots of variety.  They have a woodland, very productive veg garden/allotment with a poly tunnel and formal gardens with a pond and rockery.  The visit was enjoyed by all and most of us went to the local pub, the Crown, and had an enjoyable meal there.  In the afternoon we visited a very different property, Shoothill House at Ford.  This is a victorian house set in extensive grounds largely set to lawns, meadows and woodland with a large pond.  The formal gardens are next to the house and in the walled garden which contains an orangery/greenhouse looking sadly in need of TLC.  Cake and tea was served on the terrace in the sunshine.  
The June meeting at Nick's was well attended and we had quite a discussion about NGS gardens to visit.  In the end we decided on Holly Cottage in the morning and Shoothill House in the afternoon.  We will share cars and take packed lunches.  Judi sends weekly emails to various people listing open gardens and will now include our gardening group on the circulation.  We have heard about someone who rescues hedgehogs and is always looking for good homes for them.  Several of our members would love to provide such a sanctuary and we will find out the requirements and availability.  After tea and cakes, baked by Sally, the members toured Nick's garden and were impressed by the progress he has made in the limited time he has been there.

 Meetings normally held:
Second Monday of month starting at 10 am.

Next meeting:

No meeting in January.

February 10th at Nick's house, Abermule.
Also in February Sheena will organise a visit to see snowdrops, date will depend on when the snowdrops are at their best.

March 9th will be at Anne's house, Tregynon.

April 6th will be at Sheena'a house, Bontdolgadfan.



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