Scroll down to see Hortitalk meetings from previous months


Wednesday 22nd November

Our latest Zoom session when members can discuss anything to do with plants and gardens.

This month there were two themes:

  1. Your tools of the trade‘.
    Any gardening equipment you simply couldn’t be without?
  2. Any colour in your garden at the moment?
    Perhaps some surprises from your garden.



Wednesday 25th October

Chairman, Mike Kingsford, started off this first of a new series of Zoom sessions for members to discuss anything horticultural with a selection of the photos sent in by members on the theme ‘Reflecting on the Summer’.

Rosemary H sent her photo capturing the beauty of Sheffield Park
In 2021 Carol had a camellia flowering unexpectedly early in December. Now the same camellia is in flower mid-October!

The foliage at Winkworth Arboretum is only just beginning to turn but, nevertheless, shows a lovely contrast of colours in Angela’s photo.

Sue took us back to June’s garden visit coach outing with pictures of West Green House gardens and further back to May with the clematis in her own garden, which still has some flower.

Linda’s new garden is still looking excellent one year on after planting.
One of her containers looked very good in May, with the lily standing out. However, that lily was growing in a smaller pot inserted into the container, so that when the lily finished flowering, it could be replaced by a dahlia, in a similar pot, to keep the container looking good until the frosts.
Another of her containers was centred around dahlia ‘Abigail’.
Hoheria: an evergreen tree with white flowers.
Duranta erecta (Golden Dewdrop), evergreen – from her holiday in Sicily.

Lesley’s Sasanqua Camellia is in flower now – it needs sun.
She had also taken a photo of the wild poppies blooming in Lavant.

Rosemary C’s courtyard garden was looking very good in June.
We are used to Clivia as a tender evergreen, to be brought indoors for the winter; it was impressive to see it growing in abundance in Rosemary’s niece’s garden in its native South Africa.

Roger introduced the National Trust garden at Mottistone on the Isle of White. Its long double border, shown mid-July is all the more impressive in that it is not watered after establishment, relying on well prepared soil which is completely covered by the planting. There are many other parts of this large garden, with a wide variety of planting and a vegetable plot. The rose gardens look particularly good in June.

Peter’s potted nerines’ only care is one feed in spring. Otherwise, they are just hidden away until they are brought into a prominent position when they start to flower. Others testified to nerines coping very well with almost total neglect when planted out in the soil.
Other photos of his garden included Salvia ‘Black and Blue’, growing very well, to 6 ft tall – S. ‘Amistad’ also flourishes there.

Stella’s Ipomoea ‘Heavenly Blue’ goes well with Miscanthus ‘Zebrinus’ and gaura.
Her rose ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ reminded lots of us of its lovely fragrance.

Mike has just harvested his damsons, which he offered to members.
He will have medlars available in November

He closed the meeting by encouraging all members to attend the AGM; this year there will be a special celebration.


Wednesday 22nd March

Although it was planned that this Hortitalk would be looking forward to summer, the weather has conspired to delay and prolong the flowering period of many spring flowers and this provided the subjects for the photos that members had sent in.

One that did look ahead was Sue’s photo taken in her garden last May featuring the tulips that are her favourite flowers for that time of year.

There were also photos of magnolias with promises of imminent flowering. The one that Ali’s garden “borrows” from her neighbour is almost there (the fan plant against the fence is a yellow tree peony).
Mike’s photos of his magnolia taken over the past few days only showed the buds remaining tightly furled. I will only take a few warm days for them to open and hopefully there will not be a frost to turn then brown.

Mike also showed the glorious blossom of his 3 year old fan-trained apricot, with the protection against the worst of the elements that he has erected.

Peter showed photos of their garden: a range of spring flowers with many different hellebore as well as a daphne and heather, an important source of pollen and nectar for pollinators in the early part of the year.
Many members garden on alkaline soils, but there are some heathers that can tolerate this: more information.

For some years Roger had had a cowslip very slowly bulking up. Then a couple of years ago he planted some primroses in the same area. Now instead of a cowslip he has a false oxlip – a hybrid between cowslip and primrose. The habit is almost that of a cowslip but the petals of the flowers are shaped more like those of a primrose. Also, the flowers do not all hang in one direction from the stem, as cowslip flowers do and as do those of the true oxlip, Primula eleator, which is only found in restricted areas of East Anglia. So beware planting primroses too close to your cowslips.

Sue still has some small packs of a few seeds each of 4 threatened heritage varieties from Franchi: Borlotti beans, spinach, cardoon and outdoor tomatoes. Any member who is interested should contact her. She will be bringing any seeds that are left to the April meeting.

Lesley gave an up-date on Garden Visits.
It is encouraging that 26 people have already signed up for the coach outing on 22ndJune – 8 more will be needed to make the trip viable.

Mike asked for any ideas for helping in the community on the Coronation Bank Holiday, 7th June, as suggested by the King.

He also reminded everyone of the Annual Flower Show on Sunday 14th May, asking for surplus seedlings and plants to be prepared for donation to the members’ plants tables – this year these may be located in a marquee, as room was very tight at last year’s record breaking Plant Sale.


Wednesday 22nd February

We started with members’ photos on the theme of celebrating spring.

It was good to see that the River Lavant was back in its banks at West Dean.

There were a couple of suggestions for essential plants for someone starting a new garden. Mike proposed a tree peony. His gives spectacular flowers, albeit only for a few weeks, but it requires very little work.
Another suggestion was salvias, participially the red ones, such as ‘Hot Lips’, as they give a profusion of flowers from early summer through to the first frosts.

Sue has received the seeds of 4 threatened heritage varieties: Borlotti beans, spinach, cardoon and tomato. She will be bringing small packs of a few seeds each to the March meeting for any member who are interested.

Spring Flower Competition: Mike used the photo of his violas to remind everyone that there is just two weeks to go and to check the changes to a couple of classes in the schedule. The Hall will open at 6.15 pm for members to bring their entries, which must all be staged ready for judging by 7.00 pm. It is proposed that this year tea will then be taken, in advance of the talk at 7.30 pm.

Garden visits

Bishop’s Palace Gardens: a guided walk with Brian Hopkins is available on Monday 22nd May (and also Wednesday 24th May if there is enough interest, as the maximum group size is 12).

Apuldram Roses: Thursday 8th June, 2.00 pm – talk, tour and tea, £11 each. If the weather is bad, this could be arranged for following week (although this might clash with preparations for the plant stall at Lavant Village Fete). The talk will be a different one from that given at the February meeting. Maximum group size is 20, although two groups could be arranged.

National Collection of Salvias, Boarhunt near Fareham: Thursday 19th September – arrival 2.00-2.15 pm (self-drive). £5 each including tea. This is a private garden, not a commercial undertaking.

Lesley has also been doing a lot of research on possible coach outings. Great Dixter was rejected because of the limited time allowed in the gardens compared with the long coach journey. Bramdean House and, particularly, West Green House could be possibilities, with more details to follow.


Wednesday 25th January

The first Hortitalk of 2023 looked forward to the spring,  members plans for the new season and ways in which we could help each other with them.
As usual we started with current photos from members, one of whom joined in from holiday in Stellenbosch, South Africa, whence her photo of the Lotus lily.

Lesley’s photo showed the flooding on West Dean Garden’s dry garden – it will be interesting to see what longer term effects this might have.

Unlike its better known climbing relatives, winter-flowering honeysuckle Lonicera fragrantissima is not a climber but a shrub. It reliably produces a mass of tine white flowers even in the coldest winter. As the name would suggest, they are fragrant – this is best appreciated if there is a little warmth.

The flower of the Knautia macedonica taken just a few days earlier in the very cold spell is very strange. A clump in a very exposed situation had come into bloom now, when it does not normally start flowering until summer or earliest late spring. With deadheading it continues to produce its scabious-like flowers throughout the summer, but is prone to powdery mildew in dry spells.

The winter aconite brings a splash of bright colour in winter and does not require any maintenance.

Read more

Mike encouraged members to enter the Spring Flower Competition being held immediately prior to the March meeting on Wednesday 8th March. The schedule is available on the website and contains two changes:

  • Traditionally there have been separate classes for pansies and violas. Due to the low number of entries, these two have now been merged into one class, either pansies or violas. Make sure slugs are kept at bay – Mike keeps his under cover.
  • A new class has been introduced: a flowering bulb (any type except daffodil/narcissus).

Mike showed his Daphne buolua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ – very fragrant at this time of year.
Another member reported a problem with her Daphne aureomarginata – leaf spot causing leaf fall.

The pheasant is presiding over part of Mike’s vegetable plot – the annual weeds will soon be removed before a thick layer of mulch is applied as an essential part of Mike’s no dig approach.
This photo also shows the corrugated sheet protecting potatoes – He has been growing potatoes for some years in bags of compost in a trench in the ground, as recommended by Barry Newman in his talk to the Society a few years ago, The Modern Kitchen Garden.
One advantage is that after the haulms have been removed, the potatoes can be left in the sacks for months until they are needed, provided they are protected from the elements, particularly the rain. Roger has also been growing potatoes successfully this way for several years and has just taken the potatoes out of the last two bags in excellent condition.
Also, all the potatoes remain in the bag, meaning that there are no potatoes left in the ground to sprout up and get in the way of other crops in future years.
Growing potatoes in bags on the patio is often promoted, but too much heat inhibits potato production – this is avoided by sinking the bags in the ground.

Mike has been getting his compost for some years from the Woodhorn Group at Tangmere, which has a retail sales site at

Brian Hopkins was thanked for his very interesting presentation on the Bishop’s Palace Gardens at the last meeting. There was interest in a guided walk of the Gardens, which Lesley will try to arrange.
Marilyn showed the green Chichester City Tree Trail booklet, devised by, among others, Brian Hopkins and Geoff King and also Rod Stern who many members may remember. This gives details of many trees around the City, including the Bishop’s Palace Gardens, and should be available from the tourist information centre at the Novium

Frank reminded anyone with ‘Red Alert’ tomato seeds harvested from last year that they should be sowing them now. He already sowed his in a heated propagator and the seedlings are now growing well

A report of a large yellowish slug with black spots was identified as a leopard slug. Leopard slugs are apparently quite good in the garden as they will eat other types of slugs and prefer rotting material, including compost heaps.

Recycling pots – it was reported that West Dean Gardens are still accepting used garden pots for recycling.

There was interest in sharing seeds. Sue undertook to choose some seeds from the endangered heritage varieties in Franchi Seeds range and to share these – see Margaret’s email for more details. Members are invited to share any surplus seed they may have by bringing them to the sales table at one of our meetings.

The Hampshire Potato Day which used to offer a very wide range of varieties that could be purchased by the tuber is no more. It used to be held in Whitchurch (not Bishop’s Waltham) and was stopped in the coronavirus lockdown; then, due to ill health of the organisers, it was decided not to restart it. There seems to be no replacement, as the site referred people to something similar in Oxfordshire, but with a smaller range of varieties, all pre-packed in 20 kg bags.

The three subjects for the Annual Flower Show photographic classes have now been decided and published on the website:

  • ‘Reflections’,
  • ‘Celebration’ and
  • ‘Caught in the Act’.

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Wednesday 23rd November 2022

The Christmas edition of Hortitalk, our informal Zoom meetings for members to discuss anything horticultural started with a tricky festive picture quiz. We then looked at how Linda had transformed her soulless new-build fenced grass into a well planned low-maintenance garden with attractive planting.

The first of the members’ photos showed a superb example of the Cup & saucer vine Cobaea scandens that really flourished in our unusual summer.

Sue showed some photos from her recent visit to her daughter in Perth, Western Australia, with plants that might have felt at home in Lavant this summer, but would not survive the winter.

As well as her early flowering camellia, Lesley’s photos showed her penstemon ‘Purple Bedder’ that had done particularly well this year in spite of the difficult conditions.

Barbara had returned from a break away to find her Ensete banana in flower for the first time. This is not expected to develop as the plant is left outside for the winter, just sheltered by being tucked up against a wall.

The evergreen clematis cirrhosa covers a large oil tank – it is very vigorous and would climb much higher given some support. Without any pruning or attention it flowers prolifically from late autumn. In dull cold weather the flowers close up and some can even be browned by frost, but the flowers open up again in less harsh parts of the winter.

The crab apple, inherited some 40 years ago, is always full of blossom in the spring and the fruit set is always good, but this year it was exceptional. It’s sister tree had so much fruit that some quite substantial branches were broken.

The lemon tree ‘Lisbon’ had fruited well this year, benefitting from being outside for the long hot summer, only very recently having been brought into the conservatory for the winter. Then scale insects are always a problem, but they were successfully combatted last winter using nematodes as well as spraying with SB Plant Invigorator.

Mike has had another fine crop of medlars from his two seven year old trees Mespilus germanica, which seem to be immune to pests and diseases. He has a large quantity of medlars, which he offered to members.