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Moe's Summer Newsletter

“By changing nothing, nothing changes”   Tony Robbins


One spring evening a group of like - minded gardeners got together in the Red Lion Inn, Market Street, Chorley, to talk about all things Chrysanthemum. They wished to form a society to celebrate the genus. By the end of the meeting the Chorley Garden and Horticultural Society was born. Its’ president was Mr H Rawcliffe J.P., the date was 5th May 1884. Their first annual show was held on Friday and Saturday November 21st and 22nd 1884. Different classes for entry were strictly adhered to with an Open Class for the local gentry who could afford full time gardeners, a Gentleman’s Class for those with enough capital to run heated greenhouses and an Amateurs Class. The entry fee for the show, a princely sum of 2s 6d (a day’s wages for the ‘working classes’) precluded them from entering. These people showed at the local flower shows organised by the local pub landlords! Over the years since our society was formed, the name has changed and so have a few other things! In our 140th anniversary year, you don’t have to be the Mayor, an Alderman or councillor to be a member. In 2024 we have a diverse membership and are a thriving society. From the original 24 members we now have 110. I am not aware that we have any J.P’s in our membership but I am sure many have other letters after their names! Having said that, letters or no letters, all are welcome. Significantly, women can now come along to our monthly meetings, be part of our committee and can enter any class they wish in our annual Flower Show! There is much to celebrate in our 140th Anniversary. All members are offered the opportunity to go on our subsidised trips to RHS Bridgewater on June 20th and Bridgemere Garden World, Nantwich on August 22nd. The latter is home to Bridgemere Show Gardens. Set in six acres of land there are fifteen stunning individual gardens to see. Eight are gold and silver medal award winning gardens from RHS Chelsea, Hampton Court and Tatton Flower Shows. In addition to the gardens there are shops and cafes to tempt and of course the ‘largest garden centre in Europe’ to peruse! The committee will be taking your bookings for these fabulous whole day excursions during the next few meetings so book your seats quickly! Our ‘celebratory day’ will be announced by our chairman shortly and is not to be missed!

In the meantime, there is much to do in our own gardens. We have had a cold and wet spring this year which has meant a late start for me but things are (literally) warming up as I write this newsletter. Poor germination again from seed from some suppliers has meant that I have had to take contingency measures to ensure I have enough plants for my needs. It is most upsetting to find that only half the seeds sown have germinated and one has to start buying in plants from the garden centres or nurseries. I will be writing to the seed company and vowing never to buy seed from them again! Other issues have distracted me and, after spending weeks painting trellis I was looking forward to seeing the results of my labours finally attached to the fence panels in the Mediterranean garden. When complete I can devote all of my energy to arranging the pots on the terrace. Ringing the changes each year using different plants keeps us gardeners on our toes so I will be including a few that I haven’t grown before or not grown for many years. It’s always good to make a bold statement and this year I’m using Cynara cardunculus to do it. This cardoon will grow up to 5 feet high. It produces a mound of arching deeply divided silvery grey leaves that are topped in late summer by stout grey woolly- stemmed, thistle-like purple flower heads that are beloved by bees and butterflies. I intend to skirt it with Gaura lindheimeri  ‘Siskiyou Pink’ which will form clouds of pink flowers that will infiltrate the spaces between the leaves. Other annuals will be added to the mix, including Verbena ‘Lollipop’ and bright red diascias. Other bright and trailing annuals e.g. Nemesia, Calibrochoa or pelargoniums could have been used to add additional colour around the base and over the side of the very large pot into which I intend to plant the cardoon. Using plenty of organic feed and good quality compost will ensure the arrangement achieves peak appearance. If you want to add large plants as great focal points in your garden why not try the following? Cannas - there are many to choose from including the striped Canna ‘Phaison’ and Canna ‘Tropicana’ or the very dark foliage plant Canna ‘Black Knight’ with its stand-out red flowers. These look very tropical with their large leaves. You do need to overwinter them in a cool greenhouse. The beautiful purple fountain grass Pennisetum rubrum will stop people in their tracks (if it is a good summer) Setaria Italica (red millet) is just as dark but very upright and will also make a real statement. Cordyline australis ‘Albertii’ or ‘Torbay dazzler’ will be more expensive but will both grow taller and more structural in a large pot for many years with the protection of a fleece bag in winter. Yuccas and Phormiums will also make a statement but won’t need protection as they are very hardy. Astelia chathamica ‘Silver Shadow’ with its superb silver blue- grey foliage is a lovely thing, easy to care for and surprisingly tolerant of shade. Ricinus communis, (the castor oil plant) can be grown from seed and will reach 4 – 5ft in a season. Soak the seeds in water overnight to aid germination but be careful when handling them as they are extremely poisonous. ‘Red Giant’ and ‘New Zealand Purple’ have fantastic coloured foliage and fabulous red seedpods that are seen in autumn. Any number of annuals can be used to enhance this showstopper. Looking so exotic in our gardens, and is hard to imagine that this plant is thought of as a weed in Madeira!  All these specimens require large pots and plenty of good quality compost with added fertilizer to get the best from them. Oh, and of course, regular watering!

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Cynara cardunculus

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Ricis comunis "Red Giant"

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Pennisetum rubrum

I’ll be using a few other annuals I haven’t grown before too. One is Nigella (love in the mist) A tad smaller I hasten to add but just as eye catching! I do love the delicacy of their lovely flowers.  The variety I’m growing is the pale blue Miss Jekyll (named after the cottage gardener Gertrude Jekyll) but there are others I might try. Nigella papillosa ‘African Bride’ has showy white flowers and N. papillosa ‘Midnight’ stunning grey-blue flowers with blue- black stamens. It is one of the easiest flowers to grow from seed so it is excellent for a beginner. All are best sown direct in mid spring in full sun but I have tried them in a few pots. I will leave the seed heads on after flowering to seed around the garden in the hope that I will see them again next year. I have sown my favourite Cosmos varieties ( Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Antiquity’ and ‘Rubenza’) again this year but have included the new Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Candyfloss Pink Sunrise’. This looks like   Argyranthemum  ‘Grandaisy’ because it has a dark red inner circle to its flower. It is said to be a strong grower and quite high at 2ft. For the kitchen garden I have Calendula officinalis ‘Indian Prince’ but have sown a new choice Calendula officinalis ‘Apricot Beauty’. This marigold has strong sturdy stems and large flower heads that are pastel melon in colour. They darken to apricot at the petal edges (hence the name). ‘Indian Prince’ is much richer in colour. Which will look better I wonder? The Amaranthus varieties I wrote about in the spring newsletter have germinated very well and are growing on in the greenhouse, so is Nicotiana alata ‘Lime Green’.

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C "Rubenza"

Cosmos bipinnitus

C "Antiquity"

For the border, I am hoping Amaranthus caudatus ‘Fat Spike’ will look splendid with either Dahlia ‘Taratahi Ruby’ or ‘Don Hill’ and Verbena bonariensis. The former is a scarlet waterlily type, the latter a deep burgundy collarette. All at their best in late summer. It will be a while before any of the Amaranthus are big enough to go out into the garden. Efforts for the first couple of weeks of summer will be devoted to getting the dahlias and verbena in. I’ll put the supporting framework for the dahlias in at the same time. Supporting the peas that were sown in late May, uses a different method but is just as necessary and so is planting more carrots and Basil! Most late summer tasks relate to the upkeep of ornamental plants and crops i.e. watering, feeding, staking (tying in) and picking! However, there are a few more…..

  • Feed the fish if you have them in your pond

  • Buy floating plants to cover the surface of the water

  • Mow the lawn and keep neat to set off border perennials and shrubs to their best

  • Keep tying in clematis and other climbers onto trellis frames

  • Protect fruit from pigeons and other birds by netting, using shiny C.D’s hung in trees, planting white flowers, or try using a scarecrow. Keep small birds off crops by using GREEN string around the crop. Birds are less likely to take your fruit crop if you have a place in the garden where they can drink water.

  • Plant main crop potatoes if you haven’t done so yet.

  • Watch out for red lily beetle on lilies

  • Put out hanging baskets and keep well - watered

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Canna "Tropicana"

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Cordyline australis "Torbay Dazzler"

Our summer programme in our celebratory year offers some good speakers that will give us food for thought and inspire us to think about using plants we might not have chosen for our gardens. Extending the possibilities for developing exciting plant combinations is always a good thing! I am looking forward to hearing Keith Mcmanus talk about Fuchsias on June 18th and Jacqueline Iddon will be showing us ‘Fabulous Foliage and Fantastic Flowers’ on July 16th. You will no doubt be able to purchase some of those she will mention at Chorley Flower Show later in the month. Make a note in your diary for Friday 26th – Sunday 28th July. On August 20th Marguerite Hughes’ advice for picking ‘Plants to extend the Season’ will be very informative, particularly as many of us like to keep the show going in the garden as long as possible.

Whatever your ‘show’ looks like this season, enjoy your gardening!


Summer Terrace

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