Talk of the Month

Friday, 10th September, 7.30pm: Camellias talk by Jeremy Wilson.

Whats On in September

Saturday, 11th September from 1pm: Kilmington Village Show including Celebration of your gardening achievements (in the Hall).

If you are cautious about days out, you need not look far to find a beautiful garden to visit. Burrow Farm Gardens is practically on the doorstep and is open to visitors every day. With 13 acres to explore it is the perfect day out. Check out the website for more information:

What to do in the garden this month

  • Keep your Camellias and Rhododendrons well-watered at this time of year to ensure that next year’s buds develop well.
  • Trim lavender after flowering to keep them compact.
  • As your Penstemon flowers fade, cut them back to just above a bud to encourage more flowers.
  • Complete summer pruning of Wisteria after flowering by removing all the whippy side shoots from the main branch framework to about 20cm from their base (about five leaves from the main stem).
  • Cut back herbs now to encourage a new flush of tasty leaves you can harvest.

Christmas greenery, straight from the garden

What could be more lovely than stepping out on a cold and frosty morning to pick home-grown Christmas greenery, straight from the garden? Graham Rice offers some expert plant suggestions.

It used to be that the only option for holiday greenery in the home was the Christmas tree, along with holly and ivy. Now everything’s changed, and very definitely for the better.

Today an increasing range of attractive evergreen alternatives for decorative foliage is available to use in wreaths, in table decorations and in long-lasting seasonal arrangements. And the great thing about so many of these alternatives is that you can grow them yourself at home. Here are ten options.

Numbers at the end of each entry refer to plant height and RHS hardiness rating.


Winter heathers

More lime-tolerant than other heathers, winter heathers come in a range of foliage colours and with reddish, pink or white flowers. There are more varieties of Erica carnea, but E. × darleyensis is taller, with longer stems that intertwine better into wreaths. ‘White Perfection’ AGM has clusters of white winter flowers like the first snowflakes. 45cm (18in), H5.

Sharply shaped

Each individual dark green leaf of Euonymus fortunei ‘Wolong Ghost’ AGM is shaped like a dagger and features a ghostly white band along the midrib with spidery white veins. Carried on extending shoots which make good ground cover, ‘Wolong Ghost’ will also climb, clinging by aerial roots. The long branches are ideal to weave into wreaths. 30cm (12in), H5.

Edged in gold

The densely packed, upright growth of Euonymus japonicus ‘Ovatus Aureus’ AGM is a rich and shining green with the edge of every glossy leaf irregularly coloured in gold, brightest on the younger growth. Plant in a sunny situation to promote the best colour. Not the most vigorous, but creates sunny sparks in Christmas wreaths. 1.2m (4ft), H5.

Fresh and bright

The rounded foliage of Griselinia littoralis AGM has such a clean and shining look, noticeably paler and glossier than holly with its deep green colouring, that blending the two is a very effective approach. 3m (10ft), H5. ‘Variegata’ AGM features the addition of creamy or pale yellowish margins to the foliage although the plants are less vigorous and slightly less hardy, growing to 1.8m (6ft), H4.

Colourful ivy

You might have pulled some wild ivy from a fence or a tree trunk to help fill out your Christmas greenery, and it works well. But, like wild holly, the leaves are very dark. Variegated kinds, such as Hedera helix ‘Ceridwen’ AGM with its bold, three pointed leaves with bright yellow margins are far more colourful. Sometimes even the whole leaf is bright yellow. 2m (6½ft), H5.

Winter blues

The blue needles of this dwarf form of the Colorado spruce (Picea pungens (Glauca Group) ‘Hoopsii’) AGM make a bright, refreshing change from darker shades, bringing a lift of light to wreaths and table centrepieces. Avoid the dense dwarf varieties such as ‘Globosa’; they just don’t produce enough growth, and don’t expect your ‘Hoopsii’ to look elegant if you cut off branches every Christmas so plant in an out-of-the-way spot. 2.5m (8ft), H7.

Holly with a difference

The few holly varieties without spines are often recommended, for obvious reasons, but Ilex aquifolium ‘Ferox Argentea’ AGM goes the other way. Exceptionally spiny, even with spines growing out of the blades of the leaves, ‘Ferox Argentea’ has purple stems, creamy edges to the leaves and a mass of spines. Intriguing and effective, but no berries. Height up to 8m (26ft), but can be pruned to keep it much smaller. H6.

White Christmas pine

Planting a pine for Christmas greenery may be a surprising idea, but one with such beautiful long needles – reaching 15cm (6in) in length – is a very useful addition to our palette of seasonal decorations. The Weymouth or white pine, Pinus strobus, grows strongly (though it dislikes limy soil). Cutting boughs for Christmas is not going to improve its shape so choose its planting site carefully. 5m (16ft), H7.

Silver charmer

The combination of small, neat foliage, splashed with cream and held on slender but stiff shoots, plus a tolerance of pruning, makes Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Irene Paterson’ AGM an ideal shrub for garden use and for cutting for indoors. Its vigour held in check by this regular pruning, at this time of year the foliage often develops a pink tinge. 2.5m (8ft), H3.

Longest lasting evergreen

Ruscus aculeatus, butcher’s broom, is probably the evergreen that lasts longest when cut and still looks good, even without water, weeks after cutting. The variety ‘John Redmond’ AGM has the bonus of producing bright red berries and, unlike most other forms, without the need of an additional male plant. It’s also tough, resilient and will grow in dry shade. 75cm (30in), H5.

Did you know?


The Dahlia has been in Europe for over two hundred years. It came from Mexico to the Botanical Gardens in Madrid towards the end of the eighteenth century and was named by Abbe Cavanille in honour of Andreas Dahl, Swedish scientist-cum-environmentalist.

The initial named species imported into Europe were Dahlia pinnata, Dahlia rosea and Dahlia coccinea. The first dahlias grown outside of Madrid were single (open-centred) and multi-ray open centre flowered, but it was not long before the horticultural growers of the day discovered the Dahlia was a natural hybrid and when grown from seed, it readily changed its form and colour, so that today we have a range of Dahlia types that offer something to please everyone.

The first double flowered cultivars were called Show and Fancy types. The Show were self-coloured, ball like flowers, while the Fancy ones were multi-coloured. During the mid-1800’s, these show and fancy flowers attained cult status with gardeners, and several thousand different cultivars were recorded. Other forms followed, in 1829 the first Anemone-flowered dahlia appeared and then in 1850 the first Pompon were raised in Germany, and was named after the bobble on a French Sailor’s hat. The origin of the Cactus and Decorative type belongs to the arrival of “Juarrezii” according to the written records it was imported as a piece of tuber from Mexico in 1872 to Holland. M.Van de Berg of Uttrecht who had received this so-called species (actually a cultivar) from Mexico and released stock of the cultivar in 1874.

Subsequently “Juarrezii”, named after a President of Mexico, was introduced into the UK by W. Cullingford who would become Vice President of the National Dahlia Society. After 1880 Collarettes are the last form of dahlia to have been raised, they have their origin in France and are due to the sporting of dahlias at Jardin Botanique de Lyon at the end of the 19th century.

Today, there are cultivars in the form of the waterlily, the paeony, the orchid, the chrysanthemum and the anemone, to say nothing of the main formations like the decorative (flat, broad petals), the cactus and semi-cactus types (rolled, pointed petals) and the ball forms (globular flowers) that have as their smallest relative the popular Pompon Dahlias that beguile so many gardeners.

There is every colour and colour combination to choose from, except the elusive blue which is covered by the wide range of violet and mauve cultivars. Sizes range from the smallest types, called Topmix or Lilliput Dahlias to the giants that have blooms over a foot in diameter carried on powerful stems.

Today’s hybridisers are still seeking the true blue dahlia, as well as one with a scent, and one that is frost hardy.


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Don’t forget that if you have any gardening stories or photos to share with us, we would love to hear from you!

Bumblebee on lavender

The importance of bees is big news these days. Have you ever thought how important bees are? What did you have for breakfast today? Jam on toast? Fresh fruit? Dried fruit in your muesli or some grilled tomatoes with your fry-up? Maybe fruit juice or a coffee? All of this was brought to you by bees!

It’s tempting to think bees just provide us with honey – but in fact they’re behind much of the food we eat, including most fruit and vegetables. Bees are incredibly important – they pollinate plants in gardens, parks and the wider countryside, including more than three-quarters of the UK’s wildflowers. Bees are a sign of how healthy, or otherwise, our environment is.

As you are probably aware, numbers of bees are declining but we can all do our bit to improve matters. One of the easiest ways to make a difference is by providing valuable food for bees and other pollinating insects through the seasons. As well as planting flowers e.g. Rudbeckia (see above), think about herbs, fruit, vegetables, shrubs and trees – they can all provide nectar when they are in flower. Here are some ideas to make your space bee friendly.

No garden?
No problem. Plant herbs in a pot outside your front door or in a window box – bees will love them.

Fruity flavours
When soft fruits are in flower they are great for bees and they don’t have to take up huge amounts of space. Home-grown raspberries and strawberries are delicious too.

Drinking water
Leave a shallow dish of water for bees, especially in the warmer months. Fill it with pebbles so they have somewhere to land.


Happy gardening!

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