Our first meeting of the 2016/17 season was truly fascinating. Sophie Leguil, the Plant Heritage Plant Conservation Officer, travelled all the way from her home in northern France to talk to us about the history of plant conservation, why it’s important and what’s happening to promote it throughout the rest of the world.
Frankie is a dab hand at growing tender and exotic plants and has managed to pack a wonderful range into a small garden. It truly is an inspiration to the rest of us as to what can be achieved.
I’ve been a Plant Heritage member for a few years now but have never had the nerve to enter the Plant Exchange before.
The move to the indoor sports hall at Kirkley Hall has proved to be a huge success. Not only do we get to set up the day before, but we can stay warm and dry whatever the weather. This year was once again a very respectable turnout despite the wet, grey and miserable day.
Saturday 14 May 2016
Ray gave an entertaining and informative talk based on recent visits to this area. He and Joyce like to combine relaxation and absorbing local life with plant hunting, and his talk was interspersed with beautiful photos of the stunning scenery and landscape, sunsets over the lakes, local people going about their lives – as well as architecture and historic ruins.
On Saturday 9th April 2016, Martin Fish came to talk to us about judging for the RHS. I mistakenly thought it was going to be about judging for the RHS In Bloom competition, but it wasn’t – it was about judging at the RHS shows – Chelsea, Tatton Park, Harrogate and so on.
Martin has been a professional gardener since leaving school, when he was apprenticed to the local Parks department. After his apprenticeship finished he did a spell in College and soon became head gardener at Rufford Abbey, which he left to start his own nursery. After 20 years of running his nursery he branched out into lecturing, writing and local radio, and was soon invited to be President and then Director of the Harrogate Flower Show, which kept him occupied for eight years.
Although he had shown at RHS shows himself when he ran his nursery, it was at Harrogate where his relationship with the RHS really began. He now regularly judges show gardens and nursery marquees at any RHS show in the country.
Many years ago, judging at RHS shows was riddled with nepotism with the prizes being won by the judges’ friends rather than on merit. Because of this, several years ago the RHS made a concerted effort to make judging fair, open and honest.
Strict criteria are applied to every decision made, and each judge goes through rigorous training to gain their accreditation – which also has to be renewed every three years.
Awards given range from ‘no award’ through bronze, silver, silver gilt, all the way up to gold, but unfortunately no medals are awarded any more, just certificates (though they do come with a small cash award too).
Judging is always done before the Show opens. In the case of Chelsea, that means at 7am on Monday morning!
Judging criteria for nursery marquees includes things such as
- are the chosen plants relevant to the display?
- what is the overall quality of the display?
- how much effort has been put in to the display?
For the show gardens, there are nine criteria:
- realisation of the client’s brief
- ambition (atmosphere, flair, impact)
- overall impression
- design layout
- 3d design
- quality of construction
- planting design
- plant associations
- planting (quality, health and density)
Judging is done in groups of 4-6 judges, and each decision they make is voted on. There are also three moderators per show, who are there to make sure that judging between the different groups of judges is consistent.
The standard of entries is so high that even the tiniest flaw, such as a wrongly labelled plant, or too many buds and not enough flowers, can mean the difference between a Gold and a ‘no award’.
Or ‘Mushrooms and toadstools – the deadly and delightful’. SPOILER ALERT! – we never actually found out how to tell the deadly from the delightful. You really just have to know your mushrooms.
This was an odd time of year for a talk about fungi, since most of them fruit in the autumn, but Gordon had managed to find one which was in fruit – the scarlet elfcup (pictured), which actually used to be a rare mushroom but can now be found fairly commonly in Northumberland.
At the January meeting of PHNE we were entertained by a talk on ‘The Beautiful Bearded Irises of Cayeux’ by John Tait.
John is a local boy, but used to live in France, near the nursery of the iris supplier Cayeux, near Orléans. The Cayeux family have been hybridising and propagating bearded irises since 1892 and are now into their fourth generation of iris enthusiasts.
It’s always fascinating (and either inspiring or dispiriting depending on one’s age and the current state of one’s garden) to see how an impressive garden developed from virgin territory. Mark Robson came to our Christmas meeting (on our only snowy day so far), and in a well-structured, helpfully illustrated and often humorous talk, revealed the development of Bide-a-Wee from a cottage on a bare, nettle- and whinbush-strewn site grazed by cattle in 1976 to the “proper garden” we now know by 1996. (Mark is of course one of the two Centaurea National Collection holders.)
Every year we think we’ve had the best summer trip ever, and every year we seem to rise to new heights, which only goes to prove that we live in a country of exceptional gardens – and have exceptional trip organisers. Thank you Maggie Duguid of HPS for taking the lead this year, and Irene Bosomworth for her input. The preparation involves time and effort, strong admin skills, and occasional attacks of the jitters until the event is well under way.