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We have changed to Thursdays

Winter 2021

After a very long time we have finally started to meet again face to face.  It is a very odd situation when, at some other meetings I’ve had, you wouldn’t know that there was a pandemic whereas at others social distancing, open doors and windows, and masks are strictly adhered to.  Being at risk myself I can quite understand members’ hesitation in meeting face to face, nevertheless we have had over 20 members/visitors at each of our meetings.  We do have sanitisers at the entrance, and the back fire doors and the side entrance door are open to have a flow through of air.  Chairs are spaced out as much as possible and now the rules have changed we will have to wear masks on entering and moving around the hall.  So far I haven’t heard of any members catching Covid or flu following our meetings.  Even though we haven’t been meeting, we have two new members since the summer and another two who should be at the January meeting.  We’re expanding even without meeting – sort of!  So I wish you a very Happy Christmas and much hope for an enjoyable New Year.

Upcoming meetings

Thursday 27th January Ben Candlin       

                                    Wildlife Friendly Gardening

Ben runs Adventurous plants, a small mail order company specialising in Aroids, especially Arisaema.  If you don’t know what aroids are Arum lilies  and Zantedeschia are examples.  He is currently setting up his own nursery.  Ben has previously spoken to us about these plants.  His talk this time explores a range of plants and gardening ideas that benefit our native wildlife, from bees and pollinators to butterflies and frogs.

Thursday 24th February – Claire Hart        Square metre gardening

Modern houses have smaller and smaller gardens as developers try and cram as many homes as possible into an area.  Also we may downsize but still want to grow most of the things we had in a larger garden.  Perhaps Claire will solve these problems for us as she shrinks the garden down to a one metre square.

Thursday 31st March – Saul Walker            Stonelands House

Saul is head gardener at Stonelands in Dawlish.  The house was built in 1817 by John Nash and is Grade II listed.  The 10 acre grounds around the house were originally laid out by Humphrey Repton when it was part of the much larger Luscombe estate.  Saul produces the weekly podcast, Talking Heads, with Lucy Chamberlain with whom he also acts as plants expert at BBC Gardeners’ World Live.  He is also on the RHS Tender Ornamental Plant committee.

Past meetings

September  – Scented plants – Mike Wheeler 

The chairman gave a fairly comprehensive list of scented plants and introduced a few that members might not have thought of or seen.  The problem with some scented plants, like snowdrops, is that they don’t have a very strong smell and you will only be aware of the scent if you crawl around your garden on hands and knees or you cut flowers and bring them indoors. To extend their vase life condition them by putting the ends of the stalk in boiling water for a few seconds. If you weren’t there you will have to ask another member what they thought of it.

November – W J Godfrey – April Marjoram 

April gave us a fascinating account of the life of this Exmouth horticulturalist.  Born in 1858 in Ottery St Mary he moved to Exmouth in the early 1880s.  Of course few of us had heard of him before and it shows that you can be very great in your day but so often forgotten by later generations.  April revealed his outstanding achievements as a horticulturalist, business man and a community supporter.  One gets the impression that he was a fairly pushy individual not afraid of self promotion.   He gained a number of awards and accolades and introduced a number of new plants particularly chrysanthemums, pelargoniums and dianthus.  Sadly, post-war, his business had a downturn and in 1926 he was bankrupt.  He died in 1927 of a sudden cardiac arrest.  Your can read a lot more about W J Godfrey in April’s book W J Godfrey (1858-1927), Exmouth Horticulturalist £7. Contact her ataprilmarjoram@btinternet.com.

December – AGM, Quiz and bring and share buffet. 

From the feedback I have had this seemed to be a very successful meeting.  The papers for the AGM were sent out before the meeting with copies at the meeting for those not online.  I will attach the papers to this newsletter for those who didn’t receive them..

Our finances are a lot healthier than they were.  We have the equivalent of a year’s running costs of about £1500 in the current account.  The committee regard this as our emergency fund and hope we can raise this amount next year particulaly if we have another successful plant sale.  It was suggested our membership fees were too low compared to ther groups.  After discussion, there was a majority decision that we could increase membership fees to £25 for 2023 if we found income was significantly lower than expenditure.  Hopefully this will not be necessary. 

The committee was re-elected unchanged. 

We had a very successful buffet and we are all grateful to Isabel for recruiting people who generously provided food.  We are also grateful for her organisation of the teas, coffees and cake over a number of years.  Now she can have a rest as Mavis Miller and Ann Waller take over the responsibilies for the refreshments.

Between the AGM and the buffet I presented an illustated quiz. 

A Weekend Break

At one of our meetings Terry Darville drew our attention to a special garden weekend  From Saturday 11th June to Monday 13th June organised by Hemmings Holidays.  This trip leaves from Exmouth so is very convenient.  Details can be found in their brochure or online at www.hemmingscoaches.co.uk.  In brief on Saturday the coach goes to Tewkesbury before going to the Smokies Park hotel in Oldham.  The next day is spent at RHS Bridgewater.  Monday on the way home the coach stops at the David Austin Rose Gardens.  Arrival home is late afternoon or early evening.  2 nights dinner, bed and breakfact.  Toal cost £195; insurance £19

In the News

I heard this morning that a doctor thought that most people didn’t eat enough protein.  Well in Iceland seeds from genetically modified barley are being collected from which a substance called a growth factor is collected.  The growth factor is used in a process that produces meat in the laboratory.  The argument for this is that the world will not be able to feed itself from normal agriculture and this process uses less land, less energy and has less harmful waste.  Of course, small scale production is a long way from feeding the world and it is very early days. 

My Plant of the Year

Occasionally one buys a plant that far exceeds expectations.  For me this year it is Gaura or it was until they decided to call it Oenothera, just like Evening Primrose.  I shall stick to Gaura.  I tried to find a comprehsive discussion about the different forms of this plant.  In my garden I have two forms, a very loose form with long flower stems and two varieties of a more bush like form.  The different websites seem to talk about only one form, either loose or bush.

The form on the left is very similar to Gaura lindheimeri ‘Siskiyou Pink’ and Gl‘Gaudi Red’ in my garden.  Both are clump forming and grow to about 0.5m.  The flowers are borne close  to and along the stem,.  They are planted at each end of my raised bed overlooking the vegetable garden.

The other form shown below is more untidy with the flowers borne at the end of long stalks.  The common name of Gaura is Wandflower and one type is called Whirling Butterflies because the flowers waft back and forth on the long stems and look like butterflies around the plant. 

Both forms are easy to grow and as prairie flowers are better in the open in full sun.  They can be grown from seed or from soft wood cuttings in the spring.  You can expect to see some for sale in the near future if my cuttings take.

Worth a visit!

Recently the English Garden magazine held a competition to find the public’s favourite gardens both in their region and nationally. I know a number of members have visited Burrow Farm Gardens near Axminster and it was one of the winners.

Here is the organisers’ report:

Burrow Farm Gardens – Public Garden Winner  

The winner of our new category for gardens that are usually open to the public, but choose to donate their takings from a particular day (or days) to the National Garden Scheme, is Burrow Farm Gardens in Devon.  Located between Axminster and Honiton, this garden has been lovingly developed by Mary Benger on land surrounding Burrow Farm, where her husband John used to keep a dairy herd.  The couple moved here in 1959 and Mary immediately set about transforming parts of the land into garden, starting with an old Roman clay quarry that couldn’t be farmed.  The brambles colonising it were cleared and it is now the Woodland Garden, carpeted by bluebells in spring.  Slowly the garden increased in size, and by the mid-1970s it comprised four acres, this being the point at which it first opened for the National Garden Scheme.
After John retired from dairy farming in the 1980s, the expansion continued: courtyard and terrace gardens were created around a new house that replaced the farm’s original bungalow; a pergola walk was added; and the Millennium Garden was planted up.  Now stretching across 13 acres, and including diverse areas such as the Azalea Glade, the Anniversary Garden (planted with naturalistic perennials and grasses in 2010 to celebrate Mary and John’s 50 years at the farm), and wildflower meadows, the garden nonetheless retains an intimate, family feel.  Mary’s son Tony Benger now runs his landscaping business from Burrow Farm, and grandson Michael helps run the garden. 

You can visit Burrow Farm at any time (check website) but on Sunday 3rd July the HPS Devon Group will be holding their annual Plant Fair with about 24 different nurseries present.

The winner of the south west region was Little Ash Bungalow, near Honiton, the home of Helen Brown.  Helen is a keen plants woman and loves collecting plants, especially unusual ones.  Her garden is open for the NGS next year on 2nd June and 14th August.

This Month’s Recipe


You will need:

– 2 balls ginger in syrup            ) available in a jar

– 2 tbs of the ginger syrup         ) at Tesco

– 3 garlic cloves,

– 3 tbs dark soy sauce,

– finely‑grated zest of ½ orange,

– freshly squeezed juice of one orange (about 125ml),

either ½ long red chilli, finely sliced, or 2-3tbs sweet chilli sauce.

– 2 – 4 x 125-150g salmon fillets, skin on,

– freshly ground black pepper.


1)Finely slice the ginger balls, then cut into matchsticks.
2)Place the sliced ginger in a bowl with 2tbs ginger syrup, finely sliced or chopped garlic, soy sauce, orange zest and juice, and either chilli or chilli sauce.
3)Put the salmon in this marinade mixture, turn until well coated and skin side up.
Cover and chill for 30 minutes.
Pre‑heat oven to 220C – Fan 200C – Gas 7.
4)Line a small baking tray with baking parchment.
Scrape bits and pieces of the marinade off the salmon and place on the tray skin side down.
Season with black pepper and bake for 12-15 minutes.
5)Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.
Pour the marinade into a small non‑stick saucepan.  Boil gently for approx. 6 minutes until the sauce has reduced.
6)Put the salmon on to warm plates, carefully removing the skin as you go.
Spoon the hot sauce over the salmon.
7)Serve with new potatoes, and stir‑fried veg. or broccoli spears or a salad.

Any remaining marinade sauce can be refrigerated, and is very good with sausages !

(with thanks to the Hairy Bikers recipe book)

              Heather White.

Comments, contributions and complaints to the editor

Mike Wheeler, The Old Dairy, Old Bystock Drive, Bystock, Exmouth, EX8 5EQ. Email: mjad@the2wheelers.plus.com