Author Archives: Marion Jay

Crossword Winner

Those of you who couldn’t make it to the Christmas Party on 5th December may be interested to know that the winner of the Autumn Newsletter Prize Crossword competition was Margaret Bardell (see solution at the end of this article).  Although attendance numbers for the party were down on last year’s, members enjoyed listening to Stefan White’s story of the Tradescants, and tucked into a delicious spread afterwards.

We look forward to seeing you in early January for what should be a very informative talk on snowdrops by Richard Ayres, former Head Gardener at Anglesey Abbey near Cambridge.

Happy Christmas to you all, and here’s to a bountiful 2016!




2  Squaw stirs up no drama (7) 1  Sam bewildered Latin male (3)
5  Went crazy, living in pond (4) 2  Bergamot has a nocturnal pollinator (4)
8  Chivvies old horses (4) 3  Rubs a genie up the wrong way and receives vegetables (10)
9  Arranged little onion (3) 4  Almost a princess, so pink (8)
10  National floral society initially prune fabulously and rearrange (1,1,1) 5  Yellow Book charity selects tops of new green shoots (1,1,1)
11  Slice carnivorous pitcher plant to a spade’s depth (4) 6  Sixth sense a slander, right, when formally trained (8)
12  Mrs Winder, the Greek goddess of youth? (4) 7  Common arum from giant Greek family (5)
14  Retrieves rent covering terrace excavator (6) 8  Tobacco tonic spilt on first class return to eastern China (9)
15  Lad goes to Georgia to find individual aquatic organism (4) 13  Hard surface given to snap, shattering (6,5)
17  Disorientated footballer has orange skin (4) 16  Spartan very soft, immersed in beer (5)
19   Stereoscopic vision required to find nominal Latin suffix (2) 17  Poet becomes designer of Iford Manor gardens (4)
20  River flowing to North Dakota coast leads to king water skimmer (4,6) 18  Aristocratic chick whose house is on fire (8)
21  The way one walks, perhaps, or the way one walks in? (4) 22  Accountant places bet on green (4)
23  Main Christmas evergreen from dune dweller (3,5) 23  Student union removed light source (3)
27  Frantically retracing elevated landscape (9) 24  Smell identification: damp (5)
29  Widen bed to accommodate morning glory! (8) 25  Hardy companion plant? (6)
30  Storks bill two-thirds worn away by ageless aeonium (7) 26  Play, in cabaret item at first, various prickly characters (5)
28  Set ones teeth on sharp stones (4)

Next Member Meeting & AGM on Saturday November 7th

The Herts HPS Annual General Meeting will be held this Saturday, 7th November, at 2pm, to be followed by our own member’s talk;  Judy Barker will be telling us all about ‘Hardy Border Chrysanthemums’. Judy is a member of the Trials Committee at Wisley.  She has three allotments, which together hold a Plant Heritage National Collection of Korean, Rubellum and hardy spray chrysanthemums.  After a short talk explaining why these plants are hardy when other chrysanthemums aren’t, and giving tips on cultivation, Judy will take questions from the floor.

Don’t forget to bring your copy of the Autumn Newsletter, which contains details of the AGM agenda.

So far, we have only received two entries for the Crossword Competition in the Autumn Newsletter.  If you’re a keen cruciverbalist, don’t hesitate to send in your entry – there’s a whole ten pounds at stake here!

HPS at the RHS Shows

With exhibitors at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show finally learning the results of the judging, Annie Godfrey of Daisy Roots Nursery, a Herts HPS ex-Chairman and long standing member, won a Silver Gilt for her vibrant exhibit of drought tolerant plants.  You can watch a short video from the BBC, of Annie being interviewed by Nicki Chapman on the mid-afternoon programme on Tuesday, by clicking on the links below.  Congratulations from all of us, Annie! For the video interview, the links below will download the video, pick the format which suits your computer. Depending on your internet connection you may want to make a cup of tea whilst these download to your computer.

Annie got a 2nd interview with Carol Klein also:

Kent HPS also did well at the Chelsea Flower Show, taking home a Silver Gilt for their Grand Pavilion exhibit ‘Over the Garden Gate’.  Their design represented a typical hardy planter’s plot, with a diverse range of interesting plants for both sun and shade, and an emphasis on the propagation and swapping of surplus plants. For more information click here. In other news, The Hardy Plant Society won a Gold Medal at the RHS Malvern Spring Show with an exhibition entitled ‘Shade and Woodland Plants’, incorporating an information board on the activities of the HPS.  For more details, and an absolutely sumptuous plant list, click on the link here. Marion Jay.

Members’ Open Garden – The Abbots House

On a bright afternoon last Sunday a small group of Herts HPS members gathered to visit Sue and Peter Tomson’s garden at The Abbot’s House in Abbot’s Langley. It was a real treat to explore the large garden, with myriad paths leading to many different areas, each with their own distinct character and atmosphere. Tall trees shelter the garden from cutting winds and appear to have created a kind of microclimate. It was noticeable that a lot of the plants were advanced compared to those in our own gardens, and several borderline-hardy specimens seemed to be entirely untouched by frost damage; three large Abutilon ‘Suntense’ shrubs were smothered in large, papery, soft-lilac blooms and the stems of an exuberant Grevillea rosemarinifolia were adorned with bunches of exotic, claw-like, rich red flowers. The borders contained many unusual plants and both Sue and Peter were put to the test as visitors asked for names of rare and interesting subjects.

Mown paths led visitors through areas left to grow as wild meadow, filled with Queen Anne’s Lace, bluebells, buttercups and dusky-pink sorrel. Beyond a long Rosa rugosa hedge was an area arranged with specimen shrubs and trees, the grass between them studded with masses of nodding cowslips. Cornus kousa displayed its large white flowers with aplomb; the layers of Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’, the Wedding Cake Tree, were enhanced by its flat, horizontal, greenish-white flowerheads, and the exquisite, pale pink flowers of a small quince tree held the promise of a bumper harvest to come.

There were lessons to be learned in shade planting from the Tomsons’ garden. Under the superb Snowdrop Tree (in full flower), grew a small thicket of Smilacina racemosa, its frothy white flowers pumping out scent all around, and a chirpy outcrop of bright blue Omphalodes cappavocica ‘Cherry Ingram’. Nearby, under a shady brick wall where the soil was dry, a mauve-blue Iris confusa was blooming like mad.

At the bottom of the garden, in another area left to grow as wild meadow, stood the beehives. The bees were lively that afternoon, and one breakaway swarm had grouped in a nearby tree, clinging to one another and creating a sort of ‘beard’ hanging from the branches. As we watched, the beard suddenly split and fell into two parts. Quite an extraordinary thing to witness. Apparently, swarming like this implies that the hive has a robust colony. In moving out, the queen is looking for new accommodation and back in the hive a new queen will be chosen. It is vital that the breakaway swarm is captured and rehoused in a hive as soon as possible. Peter went off to phone the bee keeper.

Tea, cake and biscuits were served near the house, where the Tomsons’ conservatory boasted a beautiful Mandevilla boliviensis, its velvety red trumpets strongly contrasted against glossy green foliage. It was a lovely afternoon for all who attended, and our thanks go to the Tomsons for their warm hospitality and remarkable memory for plant names!

Marion Jay

The next Herts HPS Members’ Open Garden event will be held at the Deacons’ in Old Knebworth on 7th June.  If you plan to attend, please email as we would like to have an idea of numbers beforehand.

Click on the photos to enlarge them, point your mouse to see the captions.

2015 Seedling Swap

Meeting Roundup | Brian Ellis from Avondale Nursery

Aquilegia Downy Mildew

A new plant scourge is spreading across the country from Wales to Eastern England and has been reportedly found on the Hertfordshire/Essex border.  Aquilegia Downy Mildew is a disfiguring, ultimately fatal fungal disease for which home gardeners have no known effective chemical control.  The most prudent course of action is to familiarise yourself with the visible symptoms and destroy any plants as soon as those symptoms appear.  The disease spreads via sporangia which shed spores onto nearby plants, so if diseased plants are ignored then others are rapidly infected.  Aquilegia Downy Mildew is not caught from downy mildew on other species of plants; the DNA is unique.

Symptoms include lighter, yellowy patches on the leaves; straight-edged shapes which are delineated by leaf veins, distinctly unlike those of intentionally variegated leaves.  Growth is weak, leaves brown off and stems may become distorted.  Flower buds are likely to be ‘blasted’.  There can also be secondary damage due to grazing slugs & snails, drawn in by the nutritious fungal material.  The toxins in Aquilegias normally repel gastropods so this is something to look out for.

As Aquilegias are present in so many British gardens, there is a real danger that this disease may become endemic.  For further information, visit the website at Touchwood Plants Nursery where National Collection holder Carrie Thomas has been liaising with the RHS to monitor the disease and raise awareness:

Marion Jay

Images taken from an article on the national HPS site on the same topic, click to view.

March 2015 Group Meeting| Round Up

Bob Brown | Group Meeting on Feb 7th

Issue 53 | Spring 2015 Newsletter

The new edition of the HHPS newsletter is now available to read and download on the site, particularly for those members who opted to receive the newsletter electronically.  This edition contains a wealth of articles on winter and spring colour in the garden, everything from snowdrops and hellebores to scented winter-flowering shrubs and the exuberant élan of Mathiasella bupleuroides!  Check out our exciting events programme, full of interesting speakers and opportunities to buy and swap plants.

Issue 53 Front

Download the PDF by clicking on the front cover above.