Monthly Meetings

‘Making the Most of What You Have’
Ben Pope

Wednesday 8th June, 7.30 pm
Lavant Memorial Hall

Ben is the head gardener of a private estate in West Sussex, maintaining the large garden to a very high standard, whilst growing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers, and was featured in a recent edition of Gardeners’ World.

RHS Master of Horticulture and member of the RHS Herbaceous Committee, Ben Teaches at West Dean College and the English Gardening School. Through his own company, The Working Garden, he is also starting the establishment of a sustainable market garden .

‘What Makes a Great Garden’
Annie Guilfoyle

Wednesday 13th April

The award-winning garden designer Annie Guilfoyle combines a successful consultancy, Creative Landscapes, with lecturing and writing on the subject. She has a long association with West Dean College, where she organises all the garden courses and teaches some of them; she also teaches garden design at Great Dixter. Internationally, Annie lectures and runs garden design courses in several Europe locations and in the USA.

Annie used her wealth of experience and knowledge to give an audience of over fifty a masterly overview of garden design (these sparse notes just cover a few points).

Architecture and landscape should influence the design.
Annie stressed the importance of focal points in the garden. A garden should offer a journey with some mystery, rather than displaying everything at the outset. This also helps to make small gardens look larger; an example would be paths that start off without, in fact, leading anywhere – just giving the impression of hidden areas even though there are none. Seating, and its location, is a significant factor in the design of a garden.

In the case of narrow gardens avoid the eye being taken immediately to the end of the garden – for instance, a feature that masks the very end or a patio adjacent to the house that could be offset at 45°.

Here are some of the gardens that Annie highlighted:

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For the best writing on garden design Annie recommended John Brookes.

‘Confessions of a Gardener’
Alan Sargent

Wednesday 9th March
Preceded by the Spring Flower Competition.

Over 50 members came to enjoy Alan’s engaging light-hearted talk. He recounted some of his experiences from the 60 or so RHS show gardens with which he had been associated as constructor or designer, giving us glimpses of some of the things that went on behind the curtains at Chelsea.

His many years of garden design and consultancy also provided a wealth of humorous stories with which he regaled the attentive audience.

* 50 Greys of Shade*
*Colin Moat*

Wednesday 9th February

held at Boxgrove Village Hall
due to temporary restraints on parking at Lavant Memorial Hall

Colin runs Pineview Plants, a specialist nursery offering a wide selection of shade loving plants plus many other perennials, a silver medalist at the 2015 & 2017 RHS London Spring Shows.

Colin gave a wide-ranging and well illustrated presentation of plants suited to shade and semi-shade; he helpfully provided a list of the
plants included in his talk.

Here are a few of his additional comments:

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Narcissus ‘Jenny tolerates shade, where its white petals stand out.

Cardiocrinum giganteum – a giant lily for semi-shade, planted in drifts at Wakehurst. After flowering, the bulb divides into small pieces and it can take 4-5 years to flower again.

Lilium martagon (Turk’s cap lily) – good impact in partial shade.

Arum italicum – love/hate plant – remove seed heads to stop it spreading.

Anenome nemorosa – its dainty flowers belie its strong root system that enables it to compete well with nettles and brambles.



G. magnificum

G. macrorrhizum – spreads and good weed suppressant, e.g. ‘Ingwersens variety’ & ‘Spessart’.

G. phaeum – a little more vigorous than macrorrhizum. e.g. ‘Samobor’.

G. nodosum: e.g. ‘Fielding’s Folly’, ‘Whiteleaf’.

Bergenia: Old varieties often look a mess. However, there are many newer varieties with clear coloured flower spikes held above the leaves, which can also provide colour, particularly in autumn.

Epimedium: for old varieties it is best to cut down foliage before flowering starts, otherwise the leaves can mask the flowers.
However, many new varieties have been introduced over the past 20 years that spread less and are more upright, with the flowers standing above the foliage.
E. grandiflorum has introduced a range of new colours.

Omphalodes – is less of a thug when planted in shade.

Brunnera: the most popular variety has been ‘Jack Frost’; however, ‘Looking Glass’ is a worthwhile alternative.

Pulmonaria: ‘Ice Ballet’ is a much better white form than ‘Bressingham White’, more perennial. ‘Blue Ensign’ is very good. Pulmonarias can be susceptible to mildew in dry weather – best to cut back affected plants, so they can regrow when conditions become more moist.

Heuchera. Heucherella, the cross with Tierella, produces much better flowers.

Lily of the Valley. Can be difficult to establish. Best moved in clumps, rather than individual plants.

Polygonatum (Solomon’s Seal): The variety ‘Betberg’ has new leaves that are chocolate coloured.

Aquilegia: can be susceptible to downy mildew; any affected plants should be dug up and disposed of.

Lamium orvala – a tall deadnettle, standing to 18” high.


Corydalis – recommended in pots.

Actea – needs moisture.

Thalictrum – will not tolerate too much shade.

Rogersia – good new foliage; needs moisture.

Persicaria: variety ‘Red Dragon’ unusual for its red/brown foliage.

Silene fimbriata: a campion with frilly white petals.

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Beneficial Insects in the Garden

Andrew Halstead

Wednesday 12th January

Andrew is retired Principal Entomologist at the RHS and co-author of RHS Pests and Diseases with more than 40 years experience of garden pests and wildlife. Beekeeping is an additional interest.

He gave an excellent talk covering a wide range of beneficial insects, their life cycle and the way they help pollination or kill pests. Each came with clear photos to help recognition.

Andrew has kindly allowed his talk to be recorded, so members who were unable to join this meeting, or those who want to refresh their memories, can watch Andrew’s talk here.

Just click on the play icon below.

You will then have to type in the password, which has been sent directly to all members.


“Houseplants – Growing & Origins”
Paul Abbott

Wednesday 8th December

Paul trained  at Cambridge Botanics and RHS Wisley. After working as Senior Gardener at Highdown Gardens near Worthing, he is now Head Gardener at a local private garden.

Benefits of house plants:

  • Can remove harmful air contaminants;
  • Can help control humidity;
  • Take in carbon dioxide & give out oxygen;
  • Reduce absenteeism in offices.

Choosing & buying plants:

  • Garden centre – wide range of plants generally well looked after;
  • Florists – some stock plants now;
  • Markets – small range of plants;
  • Supermarkets – narrow range. Bulk. Lower prices.

What to grow where:

  • Get the temperature right;
  • Various conditions in different places;
  • Window sills – temperature fluctuates, as it does in bathrooms and kitchens;
  • Temperature is more even away from windows;
  • Heat rises;
  • Room aspect & amount of light;
  • Conservatories may offer more choice.

Paul then presented wide range of house plants, mentioning where they originate from and what conditions they prefer. To see these and the books and websites Paul recommended, click here:

Plant list & further information

Jackie Currie

Wednesday 13th October

Jackie holds the National Collection of Alliums, split between her garden and allotment. She gave an engaging and well illustrated talk that showed us that alliums can be more versatile in the garden.

There are over 1,000 species of allium worldwide, of which all but 2 come from the northern hemisphere. They come in a wide variety of sizes and leaf shapes.

Jackie described how, dissatisfied with the poor regrowth of some varieties, she had done a lot of basic research on the growing conditions required for each, tracing the conditions of the place where each originated and speaking to some of the few experts on growing alliums, particularly in Holland.
Growing Alliums in Holland

She concluded that the way to get alliums to flower after the first year could be split into three main ways to treat the plants after flowering:

  1. leave in ground and split every 3 years (as you would for most perennials);
  2. Divide every year (will not flower every year);
  3. Lift every year, dry and “bake” at 24-26°C (e.g. in a greenhouse) for 4 to 6 weeks before replanting.

It is important that any lifting of bulbs is done directly after flowering, as sometimes the bulbs will drop in the ground, making them difficult to find. Some will even track sideways.

Jackie described the main characteristics of a wide range of varieties to use in the garden for flower from March to September, as well as a couple to be avoided.

Details of alliums mentioned

“Wildflower Meadows”
Michael Joseph

Wednesday 8th September

Michael treated the large audience of our first monthly meeting in person for a year and a half to a really excellent talk .

Meadows, the traditional way of making hay to feed livestock in winter, covered large parts of the countryside in 1950; the overwhelming majority have since disappeared, replaced by more intensive pasture where wildflowers just cannot grow.

Michael detailed the benefits of meadows, including their contribution to biodiversity, not only with their wildflowers and the huge number of invertebrates that live in them, but also the larger animals and birds supported by the food chain with the meadow at its base.

Drawing on the experience of the half-acre meadow that he and his wife developed and the many others they have helped create, Michael covered the various aspects of growing and maintaining a wildflower meadow, including the pitfalls to be avoided.

He stressed that a wildflower meadow does not need a large area – someone had even created one in a wheelbarrow.

Click this button for more detailed notes on this talk:
Wildflower meadows

If you couldn’t make the meeting, this very good video, shot in Michael’s own wildflower meadow, covers many aspects of his talk. It is well worthwhile watching, even if you were at the talk:

Wildflower meadow video

“Italy from Seed to Plate”
Paolo Arrigo

Wednesday 14th July

Paolo, MD of Franchi Seeds (UK), Slow Food UK “Person of the Year 2019” and multiple RHS Medal winner, treated us to an enjoyable tour of Italy’s regional vegetable varieties with an insight into the seeds business.
If you could not make the meeting or if you want to recap anything, you can watch another airing of Paolo’s talk on YouTube by clicking here:
“Italy from Seed to Plate”

The coronavirus lockdown created a massive surge in home growing of vegetables, comparable with that of the two world wars. Many seeds ran out as demand reached unimaginable levels: seed just cannot be produced at short notice.

Most of the large seed sellers do not produce their own seed. Franchi does, and specialises in heritage seeds, including endangered varieties.

Will Italian seeds grow here?
Only half the seeds sold in the UK are produced here anyway, the rest grown in countries around the globe, the largest single supplier being China.
There are basically two Italies: the Mediterranean one most people immediately think of, and the Alpine one, which is by far the larger: the Alps and Dolomites across the north of the country and the Apennines stretching all the way down the centre.
Franchi is located in Bergamo at the foothills of the Alps.

The vegetables and varieties that Paolo covered can all be found in the
Franchi Seed Catalogue
Here are just some of his comments:

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Tomatoes –
San Marzano
: thin skinned and fleshy – used for tinning;
Principe Borghese: the variety used for sun-drying;
Cuor di Bue (Ox Heart): large, fleshy, from the region of Liguria.
Spinach – to avoid bolting, grow spinach in the spring, Swiss chard in the summer and spinach again in the autumn.
Lamb’s lettuce, also known as corn salad and mâche, is hardy and can be cropped throughout the year, just needing some protection (a layer of fleece) in the coldest weather.
Fennel: sow June/July/August for autumn harvest to avoid bolting.
Borlotti beans: grown for fully grown beans – more practical to preserve them by freezing rather than drying.
Courgette: pick the male flower in the morning (not the one on the end of the courgette) for cooking, either stuffed or just fried in a light tempura batter.

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“Growing Old Fashioned Flowers”
David Standing

Wednesday 9th June, 7.30 pm on Zoom

David was Head Gardener at Gilbert White’s house in Selbourne, where he spent well over 30 years. Initially he had been engaged as one man, two days a week, to cover 30 acres.

Subsequently David devoted a great deal of time and effort trying to develop the gardens into something that pioneering naturalist Gilbert White would have been growing in the eighteenth century.

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Although there were no planting plans, David was able to track down numerous plants from references in Gilbert White’s writings. This was a very time consuming exercise before the advent of the internet

Even in the case of many plants that sound familiar, those that we grow today are more highly bred versions of the plants that Gilbert White would have known. Other plants have simply gone out of fashion, such as Kiss Me over the Garden Gate (Persicaria orientalis) and Jack-in-the-Green primulas. So even having identified the right plants, finding seed to grow them was often problematic. David recommended Chiltern Seeds as offering a wide range of difficult-to-find seeds.

Recreating gardens that Gilbert White would have recognised was the work of many years. David took it in stages: annuals, then herbaceous perennials, then shrubs and also herbs, all very much on a trial & error basis. For instance, rosebay willowherb really thrived, but this prolific self-seeder threatened to take over and had to be removed, not without difficulty.

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David had also provided in advance a comprehensive plant list, which made his presentation easier to follow.

“The Rock Garden at Wisley”
Trevor Wiltshire

Wednesday 12th May

An excellent talk based on Trevor’s 13 years as Superintendent of the rock garden at RHS Wisley.
He showed some of its history and development, including views into the ingenious engineering literally hidden within, particularly the planning and execution of the new Japanese-inspired waterfall, a focal point of the rock garden.

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Trevor’s engineering background were essential to this major project, which included building a new temporary road to bring a giant crane to the heart of the rock garden to put 3-4 tonne blocks of sandstone in position. He had managed to find these in Skelmersdale, to match the existing stone of the rock garden, as the original quarry in East Grinstead had long since closed.

His presentation covered not only the rock garden itself but the ponds and channels at its base, as well as the alpine houses, covering both display and propagation: deep sand plunge beds to provide the best environment for the alpines in their terracotta pots; external walls built of tufa to provide a natural setting for the plants.

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Trevor had provided a plant list – a great help in following his descriptions of the plants and how to grow them.

He has a passion for cyclamen, for which he is international registrar; he has also written his own extensive review of the species:
“Cyclamen, by Trevor Wiltshire”.

For those interested in taking this further he recommended
The Cyclamen Society

and also the website