Winter 2019

A Peaceful and Happy Christmas


A Successful New Year

It’s that time of year when we gardeners do a bit of looking back and a lot of looking forward.  Looking back at all the things that didn’t go so well but hopefully to lots of things that were successful.. and looking forward to how we will plan things in the garden in the new year. Do try something new; a different variety of flowers, a new shrub or new veg.  How about some purple carrots this year?  I shall be sharing one of my successes later in the newsletter although my end of year report will always say ‘Could do better’!

Coming up

Tuesday 28th January           Ben Richards – Growing beer

Ben is all things beer.  He is an accredited beer sommelier and gives talks and arranges tastings to a  broad spectrum of organisations.  At the beginning of 2017 he started a project to see if he could grow everything on an allotment to make a beer.  He will be telling us about how this worked out and where it has led.  When he spoke at Musbury Gardening Club at the end of 2018 a number of the members thought it was the best talk of the year so I’m really looking forward to Ben’s visit.

Tuesday 25th February         Julian Sutton – 12 Exciting Perennials – Position, Propagation and                                                                       Provenance

Julian, with his wife Sarah, runs Desirable Plants in Totnes.  The nursery is not open to the public but you can get an email list of available plants which is distributed twice a year.  He has lectured all over the country and his talks are always highly informative and stimulating.  Roy Lancaster was full of praise for Julian’s talk at the HPS AGM in 2017 at Petroc College, Tiverton.  At this visit Julian will be presenting a completely new talk.

Tuesday 31st              Claire Hart – Vegetable Growing  

Claire is the founder of Grassroot PR which is based at Donyatt, Ilminster.  As well as a PR expert, she is also an agriculturalist who combines her love of growing with a passion for countryside topics, including grow your own and how to grow giant veg.

Grassroots advertise their speakers (the other is Katherine Crouch) as interesting, stimulating and fun so we can expect a lively talk.

Book Review

25 years of Chelsea – Rosy Hardy

At £5 you could call this book a stocking filler for Christmas.  The danger is that once you start reading it you will forget to cook the Christmas dinner.  This is a most engaging book that takes the reader from the beginning of Rosy’s gardening career to 2016 after many gold medals at Chelsea.  In 1988 Rosy went to the car boot sale at Ascot Race Course (Ed: a place I frequented often when we lived a few miles down the road) after clearing out the garage.  There she saw stalls selling plants and so she went back home, dug up the garden and sold plants at the car boot sale.  From there Hardy Cottage Garden Plants was born.  Although the book presents Rosy’s experiences of Hardy’s at Chelsea over 25 years, it also contains plant recommendations for different conditions (dry areas, shade, etc.), and demonstrates different colour combinations, not to mention some historical reminders as Do you remember?   Rosy says she can tell what year a photo was taken by her hair style!  This is a self-produced book so you can only buy it from the nursery website ( for £5 + £1.95 p&p.

PS.  Roy Lancaster has visited specialist nurseries around the country over the last 25 years for the RHS The Garden magazine.  In the September edition he described his very first visit in 1994, which was to Rosy Hardy’s nursery, and is where he was for his final visit this year.

The thoughtful gardener – Jinny Blom (2017)

This is not a Christmas stocking book by any means but a book for the serious gardener.  Jinny Blom is also a Chelsea Gold winner and well-known garden designer with her design studio situated in London.  However, she has designed dozens of gardens, not only in the UK, but in countries from America to Kenya and beyond.  She studied drama and theatre design and then trained as a psychotherapist.  In her 30s she joined Dan Pearson before setting up her own design business.  She has a highly structured approach to gardening, not in hard landscaping but in her detailed and careful approach to each project.  She carries out a lot of study of the area and its history around the garden.  It is amazing how much time and effort she spends in getting to know the area – its geology, history, landscape and views.  With all the background knowledge she then moves on to the backbone or structure of the garden – walls, hedges, etc.  To find out more you need to read this book which describes her approach to designing any garden.  She comes across as a highly intelligent person with her own unique intellectual approach to garden design.  There are six chapters to the book and each is split into smaller sections spread over 256 pages with many colour photographs to illustrate each point.  At the end of every chapter she provides a case study but be warned, Blom works on a large canvas.  The estate she worked at in the Scottish Highlands was 52,000 acres but as she said in an interview, her approach translates to any garden however small.  She has some lovely quotes worth noting.  For example, she starts chapter 5 with ‘And so to plants, the subject that makes bosoms heave and hearts swell.’  These quotes relieve the detailed nature of the design approach she describes.   Having said that, this is no book for the person with a casual interest in gardening; but for the gardener and horticulturalist who is prepared to have their approach to garden design severely challenged.

(Amazon: Hardcover £20.13; Kindle £15.83) Cheaper new versions at about £15 are available on the Amazon secondhand book page.

How does your garden grow?

I hope you can look back and see things in the garden you are really pleased with.  Perhaps a new shrub has come on really well or you have had a bumper crop of veg, or fruit because you have managed to keep up with the feeding and watering, or you have managed to get a border looking stunning.  I thought I would share with you one thing I am chuffed with this year.

For a few years now I have intended to make a barrier around the carrot rows to stop carrot root fly.  Initially I thought my raised beds were high enough (20in) to keep off the fly but no such luck.  I love fresh carrots off the plot.  They taste so different from shop bought ones. A little more work was required especially as Ann always complained at having to carefully cut out all the infected bits.  The picture shows the rough and ready screen of enviromesh I put round 3 rows of carrots.  It was taken in October so it’s been bashed about by wind and rain and is now looking a little battered.  I partially thinned out the carrots at the beginning of the season and they have since been left apart from watering in the hot dry spell.  The carrots are still growing and as the bigger carrots have been removed so the smaller ones have come on.  The barrier also keeps that area warmer and free from frost.  At the time of writing I haven’t checked them but I’m pretty sure they will be fine and I could keep them in the ground.  I would run the risk of small black slug damage and there is a little of that on some carrots.  It is possible to pull the carrots up and store them either in damp sand in the shed or even in a potato bag which I have done in the past.  So being very pleased with the carrots this year I will repeat the exercise in future.

AGM -brief review

There was a good turn-out of members.  We were all sad at Peter Fry’s death. He had served the club for many years as treasurer.  His wife Jill took over until the AGM for which I am very grateful.  The club made a loss of £60 but the hall fee of £315 was still to be paid.  There was a lot of discussion of how we might increase our funds and there was general agreement that an increase of membership fee, which hadn’t changed for 6 years, from £15 to £20 in 2021 would be acceptable.  Also, more effort could be put into having plant stalls at various events.  Many thanks to Martin White for taking on the role of treasurer.  A brave man. All the current committee were re-elected.  No-one came forward to act as programme secretary or publicity officer.

Committee: Mike Wheeler – chairman           Gerry Creed – secretary          Martin White – treasurer

Heather White – plants           Isobel Brown – Catering         Noel Allen       Ann Waller 

The short Gardeners Question Time went well with several submitted questions.

What flowers to grow on a north-facing, very cold, windy, tiny garden –Try euphorbia, mahonia, astrantia, pulmonaria, epimedium, hostas, ferns.  Hardy shrubs to give shelter – viburnum, Japanese quince, camellia.

What is the best soil improver not using peat or manure– Own compost, worm compost, leaf mould.  (Well-rotted manure is not smelly)

Do you apply compost in winter  – best time is early autumn while soil is warm and damp but can apply any time.  Don’t rake up leaves off flower beds as they act as a mulch, give protection to plants and will rot down.

Clay is said to be ‘good’ soil.  How can it be made to be workable? – tons of compost and grit over many years.  Alternatively used raised beds.

 Will Sedum takesmense ‘Atlantis’ survive outside in the winter? -This is the RHS plant of the year and the RHS says it is fully hardy.  As it is so new to the market I would put a layer of straw or fern leaves over the top.

Can you recommend local (SW) eating apples and pears?– This wasn’t well covered as we all got diverted and it was almost time to eat.  We didn’t come up with any pear varieties other than Conference, Concorde, Doyenne du comice and Beth, none of which were from the SW.  For apples you need to remember that a tree will need a pollinator and you have to consider if it is going to be an early, mid or late winter apple variety.  Here I suggest some SW varieties.  Early – Beauty of Bath, Ben’s Red, Devonshire Quarrenden; Mid – Taunton Cross, Tidicombe Seedling; Late- Cornish aromatic, Pig’s nose.  There are some local orchards that have been set up to grow SW varieties – Rosemoor, Dartmouth Community Orchard with 50 varieities of heritage apples and the NT Cotehele’s Mother Orchard planted eleven years ago with over 300 trees  and 125 different  heritage varieties of apple tree including the Cornish Honeypinnick, Limberlimb, Pig’s Nose and Lemon Pippin.  It is worthwhile visiting these orchards during fruiting time to see how they perform.  Remember a lot of varieties went out of fashion because newer varieities cropped better, were more disease resistant or produced a more consistent shape of apple.

After the GQT we had an excellent buffet arranged by Isobel.  Thank you to all who contributed.

Past meetings

Peter Cantrill – Plants for Autumn

What a brilliant time we had.  Once again Peter wooed us with his horticultural knowledge, able to hold our attention with a wide variety of plants and not a PowerPoint slide in sight.  If we arrived at the meeting short of ideas of plants to have in our garden at this time of year, we certainly went away with a whole range of ideas.  Not only ideas but with most of the plants that Peter brought with him and described.  One of the plants he described was an Amarine and some of mine are still flowering although they are looking a little sad now after the winds and then the frost.  Grow them against a sheltered south facing wall and they will flower for weeks.

Dr Todd Gray – Elizabethan gardens in Devon

Todd gave us a fascinating account of a variety of gardens in Devon.  It was amazing to see how styles change.  We still have the opportunity to seeing how Elizabethan gardens were laid out so many years ago and it is interesting to compare these gardens with the modern styles of today.  Of course, the garden designers of today are working on a much smaller canvas.  Many of us bought at least one of the many books Todd has written and at reduced prices too.


No meeting in December 2019 or January 2020                                                                                                                                                           

Anyone who attended the last meeting on Hardy Exotic Plants could not fail to be amazed by not only George’s enthusiasm for his subject but also the transformation of the Methodist Hall into a wonderland of Exotic plants.  It resembled a small section of the Eden Project with a fully-grown Tree Fern surrounded by many exhibits of large palms together with smaller plants, several of which found a home in Lympstone!

Ed: The above talk was given by Urban and Rural Plants who have an exotic plant nursery at Matford roundabout and now the plant nursery at Powderham which they bought from Toby Buckland.  George Douglas, on the right in the white shirt, joined them this year.  Urban and Rural supplied Exmouth in Bloom with the plants for the roundabout at the end of Marine Way and for the large flowerbed opposite.  I shall certainly be asking George to give a talk to EGC in 2021.


Our new style of advertising is by email, in windows and underneath the Railway Arch. This eliminates the use of laminated posters.

Our next meeting is not until 7.30pm on Tuesday 18 February 2020 returning to our usual venue of the Function Room at the Village Hall. The talk entitled ‘Gardening in Small Spaces’ is by the renowned Garden Designer Sue Fisher.  Open to everyone £3 on the door including refreshments.

Tickets are already selling well for Alys Fowler’s talk on the afternoon of Saturday 7 March 2020 entitled ‘A Modern Herbal’ – easy to grow and process herbs for wellbeing.   A very topical subject as we are all looking for natural ways to be healthier.  Many of you will remember Alys from her time on Gardener’s World with Toby Buckland.  Tickets can be obtained for £8 from Suki on 01395 269989 or email

Lympstone Garden Club leaflets can be picked up at our events, local garden centres, outside Lympstone village hall and at various local outlets – also look online on the Garden Club page of the village website  Should you want to receive the latest information by email please send you name and email address to

For the Diary

February 18th – Sue Fisher – Gardening in small spaces Lympstone Village Hall 7.30pm £3

March 7th – Sidmouth Daffodil Day, speaker Nick Bailey.  10am to 3pm

March 7th – Alys Fowler – A Modern Herbal

                      Lympstone Garden Club, Village Hall, 2.30pm £8.  Tickets from Suki Commin 01395                 269989. Advance booking only. (See report from Lympstone Garden Club)

March 7th – Derry Watkins – New plant introductions from around the world

                        Hardy Plant Society, 2.30pm.  all welcome

April 17th – 19th – RHS Flower Show Cardiff

                        Tickets on sale now.

May 1st and 2nd May – Toby’s Flower Festival Powderham 10am 

                        Tickets are on sale now at £9

All contributions and complains to the editor, Mike Wheeler at