21 May 2013

May 2013 meeting.

This months speaker was Debbie Hart, from Writtle College. Her subject this time was "summer hanging baskets". As well as being a teacher at the college she is a trained florist and this came through in her talk and the photos she showed us. First of all she showed photographic examples of good and bad hanging baskets, also  suitable and unsuitable sites to put them. They need to be in proportion to their surroundings to be properly appreciated. For example, a large arch would need a really full and flowing basket with lots of trailing plants, foliage as well as flowers to give it the required length as well as the width to follow the lines of the archway. Some unusual types of baskets were also shown, notably, one with succulents all around it. This had been achieved by inverting one basket over another, so forming a complete circle. Mind you, I bet watering was difficult, it is a good job they do not require much. She showed us ideas for winter baskets as well, which was good.

When the photos were finished she started the main demonstration of the evening, actually making a hanging basket. She showed us various types of basket and liners, also different soil types, and passed samples round so we could feel the difference in the weight and texture, discussing the pros and cons of each.

After deciding on a wire basket and moss to line it, she supported the basket on a large plant pot and  mixed the compost with water retaining granules, also known as "Swellgel". The moss needs to be thick so that a finger cannot be pushed through, also come to over the top of the basket to hide the wire and provide support to any plants that are trailing over. I learned this the hard way, when several of my fuchsias snapped when I had not padded it enough.  Next came a circle of plastic to provide a reservoir to stop all the  water from draining away. A small amount of compost was added, followed by the trailing plants. These were wrapped in plastic prior to being pushed through from the inside out, so the rootball is not damaged. Any leaf damage can be mended, not so the roots. Fuchsias should be pinched out above the third lot of leaves to make a bushier plant with more flowers.  More compost was added then the top plants were put in and extra compost was put between the plants. A colour scheme needs to be decided on at the start. Debbie had red, yellow and purple at the bottom, and repeated by the top plants. An upright fuchsia in the middle and trailing plants all around made a nicely balanced basket, although it did look a bit sad by the time it had finished, but it will quickly recover.

Debbie planting up her basket.
 When it was finished she added fertiliser tablets to the compost to feed all the plants. This generated a discussion on the different types and merits of fertilisers amongst her and the members.
A rather sorry looking basket.
When it was finished Debbie donated it to the raffle and it was won by Jeanette, who takes the subs at the back of the hall. She also said that any plants she had over could be purchased for 50p per plant, a good bargain for those who got to the front quickly in the interval.
Debbie answering questions at the end of the meeting.
It was a most interesting and informative evening, enjoyed by us all.

11 May 2013

Update on Ginna's wildlife allotment.

You may remember, just over a  year ago I visited Ginna's wildlife garden (see older posts to view. Click on the button at the bottom right of the posts) and promised to re-visit to see how it has progressed. This I did last week. Things have certainly matured . In the centre there is now an official orchard, meaning there are more than 6 fruit trees. These were all in bloom and looked terrific. Last year the trees they did have had hardly any blossom on them at all. Gina is just hoping the bees do their job to pollinate them, but there is a serious lack of them around. Two notable blossom  trees are the crab apple "Everest" and a red blossomed apple whose apples are completely red all the way through, called "Red Love"
The orchard in bloom.

Blossom of crab apple "Everest".

The red leaves and blossom of "Red Love"

The various habitats to attract the insects and birds are still there, together with the rain water pool for them all to drink from, a small pond for the foxes to enjoy is there too. Gina is rather disappointed that no frogs have decided to take up residence yet, but hopes they will come in time. They found their first hedgehog buried under a compost heap in the allotment next door and moved him or her into their custom made hedgehog home. Apparently, nobody told it about this des. res. when hibernation time came.
I was really interested to see how the slow worms were doing, their habitat has been well used and there are quite a few different coloured ones.

One of the slow worm habitats.
Here are several of the inhabitants:

Trying to escape the light.
A stripey one.
A smaller one.
The birds were singing and flying around, the nesting boxes were much in evidence. They love this gorse bush, it's colour shone through the grasses.
Beautiful gorse bush.
Gina, her friends Marion and Peter, spend hours tending this allotment. I hope the wildlife appreciate it.  It is a lovely calm oasis in the middle of Dagenham.
Gina and Marion doing the weeding.
Here is an over-view of the allotments:
The front of the allotments. Gina's is at the right, far end.
At this time of year there is a lot of weeding to be done, here is Gina, on her knees, doing just that:
Gina, next to the rain water pool.
There was a lovely clump of rhubarb which needed thinning out, so I came away with some juicy sticks to stew with my cooking apples, it was very tasty.

3 May 2013

April 2013 meeting.

This months speaker was Kevin Tooher, talking about Sustainability. He is a tutor at Hadlow College, Kent and had the t-shirt on to prove it.  I'm afraid I can't illustrate this to you,  as his talk was so interesting, I forgot to take a photo! I do apologise. He judges for several gardening organisations as well as lecturing and giving talks to clubs such as ours. Before that he was a policeman.
He gave us several ideas on recycling and lots of practical tips. For example, stored water absorbs heat during the day and gives it out during the night, therefore, if you could acquire a container and leave it in a greenhouse, it could actually stop everything getting frosted. He advised us to feed the garden about now, to replace the nutrients lost because of the excessive rain last year. The use of water buts, composting, wormeries, using Tiger worms for preference, was also discussed. He told us not to add citrus peels or anything acidic to them, as the worms  don't like it. When using the compost bins, save the vegetation to go into the bin in an old compost bag hidden away somewhere and add it to the bin in one go, instead of in dribs and drabs. That way the composting action is much increased, it heats up quicker, destroying weeds and sterilising everything  faster and more efficiently. He showed us examples of Green roofs and walls, which are becoming more common. When planting a meadow he advised using a plant called Yellow Rattle to reduce the fertility of the grass to allow the flowers to flourish. He had hoped that we had wi-fi, but we don't, in order to see a video clip called "The Urban Gorilla" on U-Tube, so if you have Internet access, check it out, it is supposed to be good. 

While on the subject of the Internet and recycling, there is a site called FREECYCLE (Google it), where you can register and either ask for things, or offer things for free. No money changes hands, it is just to stop things going to landfill. You remember the saying, that one man's trash is another man's treasure?  This is the perfect example. I have used it several times.

It was a busy evening, as the fuchsias for the competition were being sold. This year the variety is "Ballerina Dreams". Peter had printed a sheet with hints and tips for everyone, with the usual prompt to bring it back "dead or alive, but preferably alive", in August for the judging.

Gwen & David Bendall selling me my fuchsia plant.

The raffle was picked as usual during the interval, where we all enjoyed our tea or coffee and a biscuit. Here are two of the lucky winners discussing their prizes.

Yvonne Heavey and Irene Frost, two of the lucky winners.

During the interval, Betty, one of the members, gave us the recommendation of a reliable trader, this time it is for a female painter and decorator. Her name is Julie. She did some decorating for Betty, who was very impressed. She charges by the day and works very hard. Her contact details are:  
J.R. Plastering. Telephone: 0788 626 4435

After the interval, Kevin did a question and answer session, covering a lot of queries from the members. It was a thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining and informative evening. We all enjoyed it.

2 May 2013

Spectacular blossom. By Hilda.

I have been meaning to photograph these trees for several years, but never had my camera with me when they were in bloom. However, on my way back from photographing Ginna's wildlife allotment for the blog (to follow soon), with my camera still around my neck, I took the opportunity, parked the car and walked back to do the deed.  They are just at the top of my road in the grounds of Manor Junior School, Sandringham Road, Barking. If you want to see them "in the flesh", hurry down, because they don't last long before they get blown away.

Beautiful cherry blossom.

In the grounds of Manor Junior School.

Sandringham Road, Barking.

A close up of the blossom.

And two more.