Category Archives: News 2013

Chrysanthemums with Judy Barker on Radio 4

Today (April 8th) at 11am, Radio 4 aired a programme on Chrysanthemums which featured one of our members, Judy Barker. The programme is available to listen on iPlayer here.

The BBC description of the show is this:

Gorgeous, medicinal and edible, Chrysanthemums come with whole worlds in their blossoms. Jools Gilson pursues these remarkable plants from her Grandad’s garden in the 1930s to the latest National Chrysanthemum Show in Stafford. Along the way, she visits championship grower Ivor Mace’s greenhouse in the Rhondda Valley and sips chrysanthemum tea ceremoniously in London.

What is it that drives people to tend their chrysanthemums as if they were newborn babies? And what is the connection between these floral shenanigans and the chrysanthemums used as ancient Chinese herbal remedies for calming itchy eyes and lowering blood pressure?

Jools returns to her roots, to ask her aunties how her Grandfather found time to grow something just because it was beautiful – between factory shifts, growing vegetables and trapping rabbits to feed his ten children.

What blossoms is a story of survival, and the pursuit of perfection.

2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,900 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

2013 Christmas Party with Fergus Garrett

Members Garden | Heather Osborne

Members Garden Appearance in Hertfordshire Life (The De Baat’s)

October Hertfordshire Life

October Hertfordshire Life

In this months October edition of Hertfordshire Life is a feature on Adrian and Clare De Baat’s garden in Digswell Road WGC. The photos are by Adrian himself. The De Baat’s garden is next open on Sunday October 20th between 2 and 5pm; details can be seen at the NGS page or at Adriaan’s own garden website.

Visiting Marina Christopher at Phoenix Perennials, September 2013

After a week’s holiday in a cottage nestled in the dunes of Whitesand Bay at the very tip of Cornwall, I was keen to drop into Phoenix Perennials, near Alton in Hampshire, on the long drive home.  Some weeks before, I had been trying to get hold of Persicaria ‘Dikke Floskes’, a particularly rich coloured, fluffy-flowered variety.  The plant’s breeder, Chris Ghyselen, was attending a plant fair at Sussex Prairies in early September but I couldn’t make it and Marina Christopher offered to pick up a couple of plants for me.

The nursery is open to the public by appointment, and Marina told us to hoot outside the gates when we arrived.  The huge iron gates swung open and we drove in to find a plant sales area which looked more like a colourful wild garden, filled with tall, elegant perennials and transparent grasses.  Sarah, Marina’s assistant, greeted us and then Marina herself appeared with a wheelbarrow of Sedum ewersii.  She gave me a catalogue and I went off to explore.

Phoenix Perennials is on high ground in a frost pocket, with a heavy clay soil and a high water table.  Conditions for plants are tough and if they can survive here, they can probably survive almost anywhere in the UK.  Marina has a background in ecology and wildlife is her main consideration when selecting plants for the nursery.  She shuns chemicals and is keen to promote all pollinators, not just bees but wasps, beetles and flies, too. In the eleven years since Phoenix Perennials was set up, she has identified thirty species of butterfly visiting the nursery.  This year alone has brought 24 species, including the migrant Clouded Yellow and Painted Lady.  While we were chatting amongst the sanguisorbas, Marina spotted a hummingbird hawkmoth darting and hovering nearby.  It was the first time I’d ever seen one, an unforgettable sight.

Marina is an expert on propagation and runs courses at the nursery.  She told me that over the years, 16 nurserymen have attended the course, with a view to growing better quality plants from their own stock.  Marina’s own cuttings mix consists of 70% horticultural grit, 30% loam.  All rooted plants are raised in loam-based compost with 20% grit, which retains moisture well and has a crumbly texture.  As a result, Phoenix Perennials doesn’t provide a mail-order service; the heavy compost tends to fall apart in transit and plants end up damaged.  However, Marina is known for the quality of her plants, and the nursery supplies Hortus Loci, Crocus and top garden designers for displays at the Chelsea Flower Show each year.

As I wandered about, I was accompanied by the nursery’s resident cat, Smokey, a Korat.  This lithe, silver-grey, velvet-coated breed is revered in its home country, Thailand, and she was keen to be friends.  According to Marina, Korats are believed to bring a good harvest, which seemed appropriate under the circumstances.

At present, there is no website for Phoenix Perennials, but details are available on the RHS Nursery Finder.  A new website should be launched in the near future.


What I bought

  • Gillenia stipulata – Flowers later than G. trifoliata.  White, starry flowers in July.
  • Origanum ‘Marchant’s Seedling’ – Raised by Graham Gough of Marchant’s Hardy Plants; a darker-flowered version of O. ‘Rosenkuppel’, vigorous and robust.  A magnet for butterflies.
  • Setaria macrostachya –  An annual/biennial grass with pink-tinged foliage and heads, not unlike Pennisetum.  I found this growing in the plant sales area, self-seeded into the gravel.  Marina kindly offered to pull a few up for me; I shall save the seed for next year.
  • Succisa pratensis – ‘Devil’s Bit Scabious’, an indigenous plant, beautiful purple-blue pincushion flowers borne in profusion on wiry 4ft stems.  Likes some moisture in the soil.
  • Verbena ‘Lavender Spires’ – A Phoenix-raised hybrid from seed of V. macdougalii.  Although sterile, it is attractive to bees.  Resembles V. hastata but flowers for much longer.

Marion Jay

Marina Christopher will be coming to speak at the Herts HPS in October 2014.

The English Garden Magazine Features a Members Garden

Last summer, shortly after our NGS opening in July, we were visited by Marianne Majerus who photographed the garden in the afternoon light. Marianne showed the photos to The English Garden magazine and the result is a feature in the September issue, including the front page (see below).  In all good newsagents now!

Marion Jay & Bill Hodgson

84 Valley Road

84 Valley Road

Issue 49: Spring 2013 | Hardy Plant Society Hertfordshire Group

For readers who aren’t Herts HPS members, the previous Newsletter from the Spring is now freely available, follow the link below.

Issue 49: Spring 2013 | Hardy Plant Society Hertfordshire Group.

Autumn 2013 Newsletter Now Available (Issue 50)

The autumn 2013 newsletter is now on the website in PDF format, go to: . You will need the password to access the latest issue. The previous newsletter from Spring 2013 is now open for public access and can also be accessed via the link above. The Editor is always keen to hear feedback and suggestions so please send Marion an email or leave comments on the website, or click the “like” button if you feel inclined.

Echinacea 'Green Envy'

Echinacea ‘Green Envy’

Hampton Court Flower Show | 2013