Open Garden in Spain

On my recent visit to Spain, I visited Cortijo Opazo which is part of the Open Garden programme in the Alpujarras – a lovely unspoiled area in southern Spain where we’ve been going for over 20 years.  It is purported to have the cleanest air in Europe and fantastic walking.   A British couple bought the derelict property about 15 years ago and run it as a holiday rental.  Over the years they have converted the ancient terraces into garden rooms each with a different theme – local plants, English garden, vegetables (including the broadbeans below which were very much in season!), chickens, etc.  A lovely visit!  Photos below.


Gardening advice – prune clematis now…

We talked about including some relevant topical advice on the website and our first tip comes from Tigger on clematis.

Jayne’s garden, Mortimer Road

Before March comes storming in next week, time to prune your clematis. There really isn’t a mystery about what to do. If you know when the clematis flowers, you will know how to prune it. 

If it flowers early (the Montanas etc), if you were to cut it back now,  it won’t have time to grow and flower, so only prune delicately after flowering – these  clematis are called Class 1.

It if flowers May/June (many of the big flowering types), it has a couple of months to grow, so find some good buds about waist high and chop. Class 2.

If it flowers later, it has all spring to grow, so cut it to two feet – the shoots will come out of the ground and you can trim it later.  

Give them all a good feed – if you can use bone meal without the fox population going berserk, great – if not, try and drill holes near the roots and pour in slow release fertiliser.  Add a good water and a good mulch – anything up to 6 inches round the stems. Make sure the new growth is not waving about in the wind – tie-in gently until well established.

Wonderful wildflowers! Jennifer Benyon will show us how to grow and care for them

If you missed this really practical and inspiring talk by Jennifer Benyon don’t despair. We’ve put links here to her well researched suppliers of wildflower seed mixes – Pictorial Meadows and Meadow Mania.

If you want inspiration both the websites mentioned have lots of images and you can see wildflower planting in London Fields, the Olympic Park and on the canal by Victoria Park.


A private view of two National Garden Scheme gardens

As the drizzle set in around 6pm on referendum day our little group gathered at St Peters to be conveyed, in a variety of member’s cars, to the top of a hill in Highgate with views over London. Barbara Barnett had arranged this private viewing of two gardens and few of us knew what to expect. The first of the two gardens was Southwood Lodge where we were taken round by Sue Whittington. The garden was beautiful and full of special plants, even in the drizzle we were captivated by the variety. I for one had house and greenhouse envy! The hosts were very kind and Sue was a generous and patient guide – answering all of our questions easily and demonstrating her deep knowledge and love of gardening.

The second garden, 2 Millfield Place was on a different scale altogether. Southwood Lodge was not small but it curled around the house and down the hill forming ‘rooms’ which made the spaces intimate. The garden at Millfield House was expansive and seemed more like parkland, a grand open space which would have had fine views on a brighter evening. Huge borders, beautiful trees, a tennis court and private seated areas all perfectly tended. The garden was another gem but the real treat was learning about Peter Lloyd’s and his association with Plant Heritage and the conservation of rare plants through national collections.

John Little’s Home

Those of you who came to the meeting in May will remember John Little, who kindly invited the Club to visit his home in Essex.  Four of us went yesterday and were  blown away by his eco-friendly garden filled with amazing ideas.  He and his partner also entertained us royally with a two hour tour of the garden which is filled with wildflower meadows, bug hotels, natural hedges, ponds and green roof bicycle sheds and shelters which he makes on site. His principle is not to remove rubble, rubbish or building materials but to use them to create the garden.  He also uses inexpensive building materials such as the mesh that goes in concrete and perforated sheet metal.   He is a mine of information on wildflowers and insects.  They then gave us a lovely lunch.    Here are some of the highlights.

Plant pots from wire mesh, sand (for sand nesting insects) and piping on the inside.
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Bike Sheds John Little makes on-site with green roofs and insect havens. Many have gone to council estates in Wales.


Wildflower drifts.
The mounds were constructed out of concrete rubble.
John Little shows us how he constructed hedges out of twigs and garden rubbish to create insect and bird havens with trees and bramble starting to grow on the inside.


Back view of John Little’s house with a green roof.
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A green roof pergola


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An office/classroom constructed from two shipping containers wood clad with green roof.


Making an advent wreath

If you missed last night’s monthly meeting you missed a wonderful and pine-scented demonstration of wreath making by local florists Anna Day and Ellie Jauncey of The Flower Appreciation Society. We sipped mulled wine and nibbled mince-pies as they made two beautiful wreaths from a selection of evergreens including fir, bay, rosemary and ivy as well as dried poppy seed heads. We also had a chance to look through their beautiful book which is now top of everyone’s christmas wish list. Here are a few pics: