Flowers for Christmas with Roma Berridge

Xmas Flowers

The turnout for Roma’s demonstration on the 21st November was amazing considering what a filthy night it was and she certainly put us in the mood for the up-coming festive season.

Roma is an Area Demonstrator for the National Association of Flower Arranging Societies (NAFAS). Her fascination with all things floral must have begun at an early age as her first job after leaving school at 15 was in a florists in Nottingham.

She reminisced about her days spent in derry boots, ankle deep in cut-off foliage, discarded flowers and sopping moss with cuts and blisters on her hands from manhandling wires and frames. Sounds grim doesn’t it? But then, when you look at the fabulous arrangements at the end of all that toil you have to applaud the skill and hard, physical, work that goes into them.

Roma entertained us as she manipulated greenery and flowers into the most astonishing shapes. She told us of her favourite foliage plants such as Cryptomeria and Elaeagnus together with Golden King holly and Fatshedera (a cross between Fatsia and ivy). Apparently, greenery like ivy will keep fresh for up to three weeks if stored in a black bag in a shady corner at the bottom of your garden.

Roma was very familiar with the village of Cropwell Bishop having spent some of her adult life on the parcel delivery team for Royal Mail. We may have wondered why her parcels were delivered to the back doors – well, it was so that she could have a good look at what shrubs etc. we were growing so that she could come back and beg some “trimmings” for her floral creations!

However, for me, her most impressive trick was the way she wove split phormium leaves into snake-like runners which she attached to the ends of the foam blocks – the effect was to almost double the length of the finished product without using too many precious blooms.

She also told us of a nifty trick for extending the life of floppy roses. Apparently, the shorter you cut a rose, the longer it will last. So, if your long stemmed roses get a touch of the droops, lay them down flat, wrap their heads in paper, make a cut between leaf nodes to the desired length then immerse the stems in some boiling water about an inch deep. Wait for five minutes then top up with flower food and leave for a few hours by which time they should have taken up all the water and be back to almost pristine condition.

Her other tip was don’t buy red or white roses at Christmas if you want to make a decorative spray – they are way too expensive. Better to go for orange or bronze blooms which will look just as effective and be half the price.

At the end of a truly fascinating evening three lucky members each won one of Roma’s creations in the raffle. Wonder if they (or any of the rest of the audience) will attempt to recreate the finished article!

Margaret Paul

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The Story of a Growing Business


At the monthly meetings of the Gardening Club we regularly enjoy excellent presentations by a wide range of experts. They tell us about the plants they discover, plant, grow and sell and sometimes include personal details about their trials along the way.

I suppose it is human nature to crave more details of their path through life:
  • how circumstances affected their decisions,
  • the opportunities they grasped at,
  • did they realise at the time which decisions would be life changing?
  • was success more often a case of good fortune rather than astute planning ?
  • how did the business affect family life?
  • their dreams for the future?

Well, last night’s presentation to 40 members at the Old School gave us an insight into the life of a family business that has grown from a few cuttings in the back garden to a successful business. Robert Potterton and his wife Jackie own Pottertons Nursery at Nettleton near Caistor in Lincolnshire and Robert was there to tell us all about it.

The business was started by his father and a friend 45 years ago. It started as a part time business in a poly tunnel in their back garden in Grimsby. Over the years, it was extended into a small field at Nettleton. At that time Robert worked for Ross Foods in Grimsby and it was only as an afterthought that he joined the business with his father.

How he managed to convince his new wife that buying a 7 acre field next to his father’s few acres would be a good idea was not revealed, but Jackie was clearly a tough character. They lived in a caravan in that field for 18 months while their house was built beside it. Thankfully that was before their two girls were born.

After seeing lots of pictures of increasing numbers of plants filling the poly tunnels and glass frames, you could easily get the impression that running a business is child’s play. But then Robert paused to tell us that all the plants in the previous picture had been destroyed; that over half the plants in the Nursery had been killed during a six-week period.

The winter of 2010 killed the tree fern in my back garden. I remember how the cold spell just continued week after week without temperatures going above freezing. Imagine what it was like near the east coast of Lincolnshire. There were temperatures of minus 18 degrees C, heavy snow crushed the poly tunnels and the family was cut off from the outside world for 5 days.

The family learnt lessons from the experience and battled on and today the business continues to grow.

Will the girls eventually get involved with the business—it is too early to say. Meanwhile Robert and Jackie concentrate on growing from seed and cuttings a massive range of alpine plants. He has travelled to New Zealand, Europe, Canada and China to see plants in their natural habitat and to collect specimens. Sadly, Robert predicts that Brexit will result in a 15% loss in earnings.

We also heard the story of the 11yr old boy who developed their first website and so developed an interest in IT. Now, 16 years later, he employs 50 people in his business in London.

A fascinating story and, from what I hear, there is every chance that the Gardening Club will be organising a trip to Pottertons Nursery on their open day next year. Keep a look out for details.

Tony Jarrow

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Plant Revelations!

There was no need for a slide projector and screen at the Gardening Club Talk this evening.

The subject was "Giant Perennials and Exotic Plants" and presenter, Michael Fisher of Beeston company, "Plant Revelations", had ample knowledge and live plants to make photographs unnecessary.

These plants may well be big and exotic looking but, apart from two or three, they were hardy enough to thrive in Cropwell gardens without the need for protection or a greenhouse.

He showed us a different approach to filling our garden. Instead of neat borders and perfect planting arrangements, Mike gave us a vision of tall grasses and bamboos, giant spreading leaves and unusual flowers that last until almost Christmas, was on offer.

Instead of marching around your garden searching for weeds, wouldn't it be far more fun to roam through a dense green 'jungle' where you lose track of time whilst looking through leaves, light and shadows? I think so and, by the way people were snapping up the plants on sale at the end, it looked like other did too.

Another enjoyable night out at the Old School

Tony Jarrow

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Keyworth Garden & Meadow

Gardening Club members Brenda and Malcolm Plant invited us to share their beautiful garden and meadow on Thursday evening 7th July. We also enjoyed wonderful homemade refreshments afterwards.

Judy Thomas

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The White House at Tollerton

This was a garden of wonderful surprises created over the last 12 years by Joan Dean (Mr Dean is allowed to cut the grass and clean the patio).

Around each twist and curve was another "room' : a fairy grotto, the mad hatters tea party,gorilla in the jungle, a japanese inspired scene, a stumpery and a sea side beach house.

The garden is full of herbaceous plants of interest - just look at the colour of that pink poppy,shrubs and trees. Wisteria, roses and honeysuckle covered the arches and pergolas. Mirrors, statues and multiple ornaments add fun and character to the garden with plenty of comfy reflective seating areas.

Finally we were treated to refreshments with Joan's fabulous cakes.

Thank you Muriel and Sue for arranging our visit and ensuring a warm balmy summer evening!

If you missed this evening, the garden is open on Sunday 3rd July 1.00 - 5.00 pm. Admission is £3.50 (a little extra for the delicious cakes).

The address is: 45 Melton Road and parking in front of the Post Office. Children would love this garden and they have free entry.

Judy Thomas

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Coach Trip to Lea Gardens

Although the weather forecast for Saturday (21st May) was less than promising, we set off to Lea Gardens near Matlock in a positive mood.

Lea Gardens

The garden was originally created by John Marsden-Smedley during the 1930’s on the site of an old millstone grit quarry and is famous for its spectacular Rhododendron and Azalea displays.

Lea Gardens

It has been lovingly restored, extended and cared for over the years since 1980 by the present owners Jon and Jenny Tye.

We were certainly not disappointed. At every turn an amazing array of blooms in an explosion of different colours and shapes delighted our eyes.

Lea Gardens

We followed enticing, hidden pathways lined with mossy stones, leading up and down the quarry with surprises around every corner.

The plants were at their peak of perfection and looked stunning.

Even the weather behaved, as we only had to dodge a couple of showers!

Lea Gardens

The well-stocked nursery proved irresistible to some and the cosy café was a welcome refuelling point. We enjoyed lovely views across the gardens from the café terrace with even a field mouse to entertain us on the bird feeder!

Lea Gardens

We agreed that it had been a truly wonderful day, thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Thank you to Muriel and Sue for making all the arrangements.

Glyn Greenwood

(Photos by members of Gardening Club)

'Bats of Nottinghamshire' with Michael Walker

Almost 40 people were at last night's Gardening Club meeting at the Old School. It started with our Annual General Meeting and Judy Thomas described the enjoyable successes of the past year and thanked the many helpers who made it all possible—all under the very able leadership of Judy.


Then is was time to discover what goes on in our gardens at night. Michael Walker of the Nottinghamshire Bat Group gave a fascinating presentation on bats.

Did you know that there are bats with a wing span of almost 2 metres? Not in this country though, and he spent much of the evening describing the nature and habits of the bats of Nottinghamshire—and there are many kinds, see the list in one of the slides below.

We were even treated to the sound that bats make (well, modified to much lower frequencies to make the audible to us). Some of us even signed up to having a 'bat detector' in our garden for a few days in the hope of finding if we have any little flying friends nearby.

A very enjoyable and educational presentation: there is much more to the Gardening Club than pretty flowers—and all for just £10 a year. Why not come along to the next meeting.

Tony Jarrow

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'A Camera in the Garden' with Richard Adams

Richard Adams lives in Oakham and now that he has retired he is able to devote all his spare time doing the things he enjoys most: travelling, photography, gardening, bird-watching, giving presentations .... to mention a few!

Camera in Garden

At last night's meeting of the Gardening Club at the Old School, he shared his enthusiasm for photography and how it has the power to enrich our lives.

Richard has taken many photographs of exotic places that he has visited with his wife, but he enchanted us with the images he captured in his own back garden. He has a top-of-the-range camera, but admitted that some of his photos were taken with a relatively cheap small camera.

Camera in Garden

He explained how he managed to capture the wonderful pictures that he diplayed but cheerfully confessed that we were seeing the best of the bunch: many more images were failures.

Nothing new there—that's how we all learn, by making mistakes and learning from them. The wonderful thing about modern digital photography is that a 'failed shot' costs nothing, only the time and effort to learn and repeat.

Camera in Garden

Richard also showed how linking our best pictures in a presentation together with background music could greatly enhance the enjoyment of our photo collection. Following on from this he showed us his videos of Starling Murmerations taken at Barnsdale at Rutland Water—with background music of course.

Camera in Garden

A wonderful evening which left us thinking of the many things within our garden and way beyond.

To enjoy more of Richard's 'musical videos' go to:

Tony Jarrow

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'Happy Healthy Houseplants' with Geoff Hodge

Monday, 15th February

Anyone who has attended one of Geoff’s demonstrations in the past knows that they’re setting themselves up for a good telling off. Well, we didn’t have to wait long.

First of all we were admonished for waiting almost five years to invite him back and secondly we were practically accused of being plant murderers! Apparently UK homeowners are renowned for two things in the houseplant world. We have a reputation for buying the least number of plants and also for killing off the few that we do buy.

Geoff Hodge In other countries plants are used as features or accessories to interior design and are replaced as frequently as coffee table glossies. We in the UK expect too much. We invest in our plant and expect it to reward us with sublime foliage and exotic flowers for years. Well, according to Geoff, life’s just not like that. In fact, it’s an indoor jungle and our homes are completely unnatural habitats for most plants. The atmosphere is all wrong: the heat, light and humidity are totally rubbish and our precious plants get completely stressed out.

So, Geoff offered us a few tips to bear in mind before we head off to the Garden Centre. First of all, consider where you are going to place the plant and buy something suitable for the situation. Always check for pests and diseases. Make sure the root system is healthy – it’s better to buy something that is slightly pot-bound and to test this pick up the plant by the main stem, if it comes out of the pot intact and shows good root growth, that’s definitely one to take home. If the compost crumbles and drops off the plant isn’t ready yet. If you’re buying in autumn, winter or spring make sure that the plant is enclosed in a plant sleeve because a drafty journey home could herald a swift decline. A cold wind is worse than a cold temperature.

Place the plant in a light position away from the middle of the room and away from direct heat like a radiator or fire. Watering is crucial – more plants are killed by over-watering than anything else. Allow compost to dry out. You could test the soil with a probe but the most reliable method is to get a feel for your pot by weighing it in your hand. If it feels light it needs a drop of water but don’t saturate the compost as this gets rid of the air pockets. Plants need more water in spring and summer than in their dormancy.

Water from the top or bottom – it really doesn’t matter (except for plants growing from tubers like cyclamen which should be watered from the bottom to avoid rot). Don’t use water direct from the cold tap – it should always be at room temperature. Don’t use rain water either – even azaleas will tolerate ionized water (the stuff you use in your steam iron). Feed plants when they are actively growing (March to August). Liquids, powders, granules are all fine if diluted according to the instructions. Baby Bio is brilliant as it contains seaweed but remember 5 drops is all you need! You can even sprinkle those controlled release pellets on top of the compost in spring and they will feed the plant for the six months growing period.

Most plants benefit from increased humidity so use a hand mister occasionally or stand the pot on clay pebbles or even gravel.

Geoff Hodge Don’t lose heart if your plant loses a leaf or two – that’s only natural – so cut out the dead bits as close to the stem as possible and also remove spent flowers.

Repot your plants only when you have to and then put them into a pot which is just one size bigger. Spring is the best time to re-pot and never attempt to do it in autumn or winter. By the way, Geoff’s thinks leaf shine is rubbish and using milk to shine leaves is a definite no no!

Then, if you’ve followed all the above and your plant decides to succumb to mealy bug or red spider you will need to resort to a systemic pest killer such as Bug Clear. If the pest is in the compost (e.g. vine weevil) try the Bug Clear drench.

Finally, if your plants are all happy and healthy, don’t you dare go on holiday and leave them – if you must, make sure you use water reservoirs or, even better, leave your kindly foster-carers the above list of “do’s” and “don’ts”!

Maragret Paul

Cropwell Bishop Gardening Club

You don’t have to be an expert gardener or even have a garden to join the village Gardening Club! We meet every 3rd Monday of the month at 7.30pm at The Old School, Fern Road.

Guest speakers entertain with a variety of topics from Water Features to Garden Pests.

Demonstrations have included :- Planting Hanging Baskets, Pruning techniques, Christmas Foliage Decorations.

We also arrange visits to local gardens as well as trips further afield to places such as Westonbirt Arboretum, Harrogate Flower Show and Doddington Hall.

Future Meetings :

March 21st Richard Adams - theme: Garden Photography

April 18th Michael Walker, President of the Bat Preservation Group, Notts. Wildlife Trust

Annual subs of £10.00 will be collected at the April meeting. Visitors £2.00

Where else could you have an entertaining evening, a chance to chat to friends, a colourful monthly newsletter full of handy hints AND free refreshments? You would be certain of a warm and friendly welcome. We really hope to see you soon.

Glyn Greenwood (Membership)
Tel. 0115-989 9798