On 20th September CHAPS members and guests enjoyed the first in an autumn series of talks to be held at Quinnettes.
About 40 people were present to hear about “ Autumn Herbaceous Perennials” from renowned plantswoman Rosie Hardy, ably supported by her husband Rob, who was delighted to be introduced as Rob as he is usually “Mr Rosie Hardy!”. Rob began by telling us a bit about their nursery: Hardy’s Garden Plants”, near Whitchurch, on a 3 acre hillside site where they grow 12 – 1300 perennials which are treated “tough”.
www.hardysplants.co.uk for more information.
Rosie’s interest in plants began when she completed a Commercial Growing course in 1988 specialising in rhubarb!. This quickly progressed to perennials, then to small shows and thence to Hampton Court flower show and Chelsea where she has won a staggering 23 Gold medals.
Rosie then took over, and from behind a delightful jungle of inviting and exciting looking plants which they had brought along, told us about all of them from a new Salvia “Kisses and Wishes” – Mary Berry’s favourite plant at Chelsea this year apparently – through beautiful 5 ft airy grasses to Sedum (which have irritatingly had their name changed to Hylotelephium just to confuse us all). They are of course still the same autumn flowering plant beloved of pollinators and excellent for our dry, sandy soil. There was plenty of inspiration and many purchases were made. Altogether a very happy and informative evening was had by all.
Our next talk about Winkworth Arboretum, near Godalming, is on
Thursday 18th October at 8pm at Quinnettes and all are welcome.
On 15 February CHAPS members were treated to an excellent talk and entertainment by Paolo Arrigo of Franchi Seeds. We were taken through a brief history of seeds learning that the UK had native seeds for cabbage, lettuce, beans and parsnips which were then added to by the Romans. Parsnips are a peculiarly British vegetable. Emperor Tiberius loved parsnips and took seeds to Germany and had them grown there and delivered to him on mainland Europe. Even now you will find it difficult to buy parsnips outside the UK.
Vegetable growing in the UK became important during the Boer War when the lack of health and fitness in the soldiers became apparent. This was reinforced during WWI when the government realised that something had to be done about food production to stave off starvation. During WWII there was Dig for Victory and the Ministry of Food providing recipes to help people cook nutritious meals. Vegetables were the only foodstuff not rationed. In 1954 food rationing ended and this spelled the beginning of the end for allotments – things have now changed and there are long waiting lists for allotments.
Before WWII there were 40 British suppliers of vegetable seeds. Now there are none. China is the biggest supplier of seeds. As seeds sold in the UK are not produced here many seeds readily available are not appropriate for our climate. Franchi Seeds are all produced in Italy where the alpine climate means a lot of Italian seed varieties are very hardy and suited to UK weather.
The messages we left with were:
• Check the seed packets for country of origin and consider that country’s climate in relation to ours
• Store seeds in a cool dry place and plant them before the expiry date
• Many vegetables need frost or cool conditions so be sure to plant at the most appropriate time
Paolo had brought along his 90-year-old accordion beginning and ending the talk with a very enjoyable musical section.
The 18th October saw our second autumn talk given in Quinnettes barn by Dr Peter Herring about Winkworth Arboretum – its trees and history.
Dr Herring has been a volunteer at Winkworth – the National Trust’s only arboretum – for many years and was a fund of information as well as showing some beautiful colour photographs.
Winkworth is the result of one man’s vision and passion – Dr Wilfred Fox – who bought the wooded valley and its two lakes in 1937 to use as a canvas for planting trees to “paint a picture”. Fox was Chairman of The Roads Beautifying Association and for 15 years, together with such well-known horticultural giants as Hillyer and Nottcutt, used Winkworth to experiment with different tree species and planting styles.
Fox had served in WW1 and in 1939, aged 63, he went to France with 2 ambulances to give his medical skills to the war effort, returning from Dunkirk.
Meanwhile at Winkworth, plantations were cleared for the war effort and Canadian troops practised dinghy exercises on the lakes.
After the war Fox began planting in earnest with help from Harold Hillyer and Madeleine Spitter using native trees but with plenty of space for more “exotic” choices between – eg the famous Azalea Glade (now stepped).
In 1952 Fox gave 65 acres of the arboretum to the National Trust and a further 35 acres in 1957 to be run by a Management Committee chaired by Fox and with members from the National Trust and The Royal Horticultural Society represented.
However money was short and more paid ground staff were required as the trees grew and so entrance charges were started. This proved very unpopular locally as over many decades the public had enjoyed free access to what was fondly known as “Dr Fox’s Woods”. Indeed several of us at the talk could remember being taken as children and swimming in the lake!! Dr Fox died in 1962 aged 87 and is buried in Eashing cemetery. He has left a wonderful legacy and the arboretum is a delight to visit at any time of year but undoubtedly spring and autumn are the best and preferably in the morning as the site faces east: to be recommended.
On Thursday 18 January CHAPS members were treated to a very enjoyable slide show by Myra Johnson on the Flora and Fauna of Costa Rica following a trip she and her husband took there in 2016.
Costa Rica is not a large country representing only 0.01% of the earth’s surface. It is 300 miles from north to south, 175 miles east to west at the widest point, has an area of 20,000 square miles, with a coastline of 800 miles. It has four mountain ranges and volcanoes. However, it supports more than 5% of the earth’s biodiversity with one million or more plant and animal species and 10% of the world’s butterfly species and bird species.
It was colonised by the Spanish from 1506 following Columbus stepping ashore in 1491. It became an independent country in 1821 and declared neutrality in 1948 and as such has no army.
By the late 1960s, after decades of deforestation and dwindling animal populations, appreciation began to develop that something precious was being lost. This was followed by a tourism boom in the 1980s with a government committed to environmental protection.
Today, Costa Rica is a world leader in ecotourism with protected regions grouped into 11 regional units in a National System of Conservation. There is active co-operation between international and national NGOs, local businesses and government organisations. As a result, ecotourism is protecting the country’s national treasures and provides economic opportunities to rural areas where sustainable development protects landscapes from destructive agricultural practices.
The biomes or life zones in Costa Rica are made up of:
Lowland Rainforest (tropical moist forest or jungle) which comprises a layered ecosystem with niche microenvironments and microclimates. It is typified by tall trees, lianas, creeping vines, huge buttresses, epiphytes, heliconias, orchids, walking palms and is found in the Caribbean lowlands, Pacific slopes in the south, Osa Peninsula. Generally the soil is thin as the leaf litter decomposes rapidly and rainfall leaches the soil. Trees are genetically coded for growth when large trees fall opening a space.
Montane/Cloud forest (1000-2000m) which is often enshrouded in clouds. The trees have broader leaves with huge oaks laden with red bromeliads and other epiphytes and mosses towering above an understory of bamboos and ferns.
Tropical Dry Forest which is made up of deciduous trees which do not form a closed canopy. This is found in north-west of the country.
Mangroves are found mainly on the Pacific and the northern Caribbean coasts. The tree species have aerial roots to allow them to survive in soil inundated with salt water. These trees stabilise the area against tides and storm surges. The root system offers protection to wildlife against predators and also a vital nesting and nursery site for birds and marine life
Coral reefs can be found on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts.
Myra’s trip started and ended in San Jose. Firstly they went to the east coast to Tortuguero and Cahuita. The trip then crossed the country through Turrialba, La Marta and Savegre to Sierpe, Drake Bay and Corcovado in the South West.
Myra had a wonderful set of photographs of birds, animals, spiders, snakes, cayman and monkeys as well as many pictures of the flowers and vegetation. The only things we were missing to bring a wonderful trip fully to life was the associated noises and the smells.