March 29, 2020

Usually I write the Spring Newsletter about two weeks before the Spring Show but there is nothing usual about this year. I am sorry to say that this newsletter is a kind of substitute for the Spring Show that as you know has had to be cancelled along with our talks and the Plant Sale.


Every year I comment on the trials and tribulations we gardeners suffer at the hands of the weather, but who could have imagined that would all pale into insignificance in the face of this dreadful virus. So having torn up my first draft of the newsletter I am hoping to bring a little cheer and some gardening tips in this new version.


Firstly, returning to the talks that were due to be held in March and April. We have managed to come to an arrangement with George Lockwood and he will now give his talk “Acers for Small Gardens” on 22nd October, assuming that we have all been released from quarantine! There is still a question mark over the Russell Bowes talk “The Devil’s Garden” as we are still in negotiation with him. If we cannot reschedule this particular talk we will find another speaker. As yet we do not know whether the Wisley trip in July will be able to take place but any information will be emailed to you. Despite originally saying that parks and gardens would remain open the National Trust, Kew and the RHS have all closed until further notice. Perhaps now is the time to take a serious look at our own gardens or peep over the fence at next door!


On a positive note, the sun is shining, the birds are nest building and blossom is fluttering in the breeze. Hopefully we can at least get outside and begin work preparing our gardens for the summer. Who knows we may have to spend more time than usual in them. The winter has been mild so many herbaceous plants are showing new shoots. Now is the time to cut off all dead stems from last year and give them a little fertiliser. I find blood, fish and bone very good except of course for acid loving plants. We have been told that we need to exercise whilst self-isolating and a good way to have a vigorous workout is to aerate and scarify the lawn. It’s good for the stomach muscles and biceps if you use a spring tine rake! I expect that some of you have already started seed sowing. As going to the super market has become more difficult we may need some fresh homegrown food. Yes, I know that it takes time for veg. to be ready to harvest but who knows how long this virus is going to hang around; it may be tomato harvesting time before it disappears. The quickest money saving crops are salad leaves. I grow wild rocket and lamb’s lettuce over Winter in my unheated greenhouse and have now also sowed a quick-growing salad leaf mix from my Thompson and Morgan order. It has germinated quickly and so far looks interesting with green and purple leaf varieties. I will let you know how successful it is. Radishes are good to sow between rows of other veg. and like cool weather.


If you are one of the unlucky people who do not have a garden you can garden indoors; there are some fabulous houseplants on sale now. They were a popular feature back in the 1970’s and I spent several years in a student flat with a cascading spider plant and an enormous Swiss Cheese plant, Monstera Deliciosa. Fortunately some houseplants are now available in supermarkets, often in attractive ceramic pots, so if you do have to go there buy a colourful foliage plant or a succulent such as Kalanchoe to brighten up your home. If you think you don’t have green fingers don’t worry the internet is an amazing place to find advice. You could start with the RHS website www.rhs.org and go to the advice section. Other good sites are www.bbc.co.uk gardening and also www.goodhousekeeping.com If you would like a demonstration on potting, propagating or general care http://www.youtube.com has dozens of videos. Most are by amateur but madly enthusiastic people, many American, who cannot wait to share their tips and ideas. I do not use the term “madly” lightly as some are quite o.t.t. and very amusing as well as being very helpful. Don’t be tempted to put houseplants on an outside balcony until at least the beginning of May. Herbs grown on the kitchen windowsill are another option to green your indoor space.


Our options for outings are now restricted but we could use this time to prepare for future shows by doing some painting or taking photographs in our own gardens. Subjects are in the handbook and will be used for next year’s spring and summer shows. How about trying to find a positive angle on the virus lockdown with a set of four photographs on the theme “Happy Days”. Painters could find “Nature’s Patterns” without leaving home and I think my old garden furniture is practically “Vintage”! I hope there are some ideas here to help you cope with the isolation. There is still hope that the Autumn Show on 12th September and the visit to Chenies Manor on the 13th can still go ahead.


National Gardens Scheme, the organisation that arranges for private gardens to open to the public have issued the following: - Although they have had to stop opening gardens for the foreseeable future their website is very active with virtual tours, practical gardening information and articles by experienced gardeners. www.ngs.org.uk. Sign up to their emails for lots of interesting reading and don’t forget to donate! In the meantime, stay safe and happy gardening!


Doreen Woods