Contributed by Ginny Oakes

On March 28, 2017

Mega March Meeting

Our March meeting was MEGA! We asked you to come and join us to celebrate the spring. And come you did, and celebrate we did! There were plants everywhere – plants to buy, plants in the display, plants in photographs, plants in paintings and a talk about, you guessed it, plants! Even the drive to the meeting was full of plants with the trees and hedgerows beginning to green up and bloom, and daffodils planted in many places along the way – not quite Wordsworth’s ‘host of golden daffodils’ but lovely, nonetheless.   The nurseries stalls were laden with all sorts of spring goodies and some plants for later in the year. They were all doing a brisk trade and, hopefully, everybody went home with a treasure or two.
One of the plant stalls
Preparing the plant display
Lots of plants to look at and discuss
The display was amazing. Thank you to everyone who contributed. See more information below. Similarly, the photographic competition was well supported with members exhibiting some beautiful images. There will be a post devoted to the winning entries. We had a surprise addition to our programme – a display of stunning botanical paintings. Inspired by a photograph of seed heads of Pelargonium quinquelobatum in our competition a few years ago, Helen Ayers, a botanical artist from Canterbury, researched plants in the Geraniaceae and then painted various members of that family, Erodium, Geranium and Pelargonium. She entered them in an RHS competition and was awarded a Silver Medal. It was these beautiful watercolours that she brought to show us and our visitors. Thank you very much, Helen, we really enjoyed seeing them.
A hall packed with expectant members and visitors
Fergus Garrett chatting with our chairman, Malliet Patrick
After a delicious lunch we were ready for the long-anticipated talk by Fergus Garrett from Great Dixter. We had been looking forward to listening to Fergus again and we weren’t disappointed. He told us about the original ideas and decisions that were taken to convert the Rose Garden, designed by Lutyens, into the Exotic Garden, and its development over the ensuing years into the fabulous garden we see today. We were enthralled by his knowledge and expertise and by the amazing presentation. Thank you very much, Fergus.
Arundo donax
Canna, banana, Cyperus papyrus and grasses
Throughout the day members and visitors were able to enjoy the display of beautiful plants from members’ gardens.
The genus Narcissus was, of course, well represented. One member brought some pots of miniatures, N. bulbocodium nivalis, N. ‘Oxford Gold’ (a bulbocodium selection), N. jonquilla and N. cordubensis, all of which she said need a good baking in the summer, and N. triandrus triandrus, which needs to be kept barely damp in the summer. It is obviously a difficult task to keep them happy and flowering but what lovely flowers they produce if you are successful. Another member brought several stems of each of six varieties and I’ve picked out this one because of its perfection and absolute symmetry – quite a stunner. A few stems of N. ‘February Gold’ managed to hang on into March and we also had a vase of the white-flowered N. ‘Jenny’.
Narcissus ‘Oxford Gold’
Narcissus triandrus triandrus
Narcissus eystettensis
Narcissus eystettensis is a most unusual double daffodil, its common name referring to Queen Anne of Austria. E.A. Bowles, in his book A Handbook of Narcissus, published in 1934, writes “N. eystettensis or Queen Anne’s Double Daffodil is another plant of mysterious origin. It stands alone in possessing several remarkable characters. These are, the absence of perianth tube and corona; the arrangement of the perianth segments in six opposite whorls, succeeding segments being placed exactly above one below to form a perfect star of six points; and the pale creamy-yellow colouring of the whole flower.” After many historical references he reaches a conclusion, “So it seems likely that Queen Anne’s Daffodil may be a garden hybrid of the sixteenth century with triandrus as one parent and some double flowered form for the other.” So we had on our display a daffodil thought to have been in cultivation for more than 400 years – amazing!
Ribes cultivar – name unknown
Salix onusta
Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’
We also had shrubs. There was Azara microphylla with its tiny, yellowish flowers giving off a scent of vanilla and another perfumed shrub, Edgeworthia chrysantha, again with yellowish flowers in a tightly packed spherical head. Salix onusta was exhibited to show its catkins and Buddleja loricata for its evergreen leaves, dark on the upper, much paler on the lower surface, which give the shrub a silver appearance. It comes from southern Africa and flowers earlier than davidii cultivars. There were two cornus, grown for their coloured stems. The first had no name but was described as ‘very, very red’! The second was Cornus ‘Winter Beauty’, which has great winter colour in red and yellow, is a strong grower and makes a nicely-shaped bush. Just coming into flower were two ribes cultivars. The pale pink one was much admired but, unfortunately, its name is unknown – worth looking out for, though. The other one, Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’, was selected for its white flowers in early spring and blue-black berries in summer. Introduced in 1986 by University of British Columbia Botanical Garden, Canada, it has received an AGM from the RHS and is considered one of the best white flowering currants. Correas seem to be growing in popularity – we’ve had several on our displays recently and this time had two beautiful specimens. Correa ‘Marian’s Marvel’, with red and yellow flowers, has been blooming continuously since last November and grows to five feet if not pruned. Correa nummularifolia, with yellow flowers, was just coming into flower and is dwarf, growing to one foot and spreading. Correas come from Australia, they have the common name of Australian fuchsia, but we were told that these two are hardy to at least -7ºC. Seeing these plants on  our displays has certainly sparked my interest and I’ll be looking into them. Watch this space!
Primula allionii ‘Pink Aire’
Primula ‘High Point’
Anemonella thalictroides ‘Betty Blake’
We also had some front-of-border plants and others suitable for growing in pots. Pulsatilla halleri joined Primula allionii ‘Beatrice Wooster’, P. a. ‘Pink Aire’ and P. ‘High Point’. This last one has deep purple flowers and a delightful white-edged variegation to the leaves. A little more common but delightful nonetheless were primroses in yellow and pink varieties and deep blue Anemone blanda. Ipheions are not often mentioned when spring flowering plants are considered but they are a worthwhile addition to the garden and we had two lovely examples. Ipheion uniflorum ‘Wisley Blue’ is a selected form with lilac-blue flowers and I. ‘Alberto Castillo’ is a real stunner with larger flowers in pure white. I will finish with, perhaps, the smallest flower in the display – Anemonella thalictroides ‘Betty Blake’. This plant, bred in the USA, has tiny double flowers in pale green above thalictrum-like foliage and prefers moist soil in part shade where it will grow 15 cm high and 30cm wide – a little gem, which certainly attracted a lot of attention. Anything that gives us the opportunity to discuss plants is always welcome so thank you to everyone who contributed plants and came and offered comments.






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