Event Reports 2023

Visit to Post Box Cottage, West Bagbourough

On a glorious June day, twenty members enjoyed the delights of this beautiful garden on the slopes of the Quantock hills with far reaching views to Combe Florey and beyond. Martin and Jill have created this lovely garden over the last eighteen years and it is stacked full of perennials, many quite unusual, roses, climbers, shrubs and trees and also a wildlife pond. There are lots of seating areas where one can relax and admire the views and the colourful and interesting planting.

To end the afternoon, we were served with delicious teas - it was just so lovely there that it was hard to leave. Our thanks to Martin and Jill for making us so welcome and so inspired.

Lavender - the Forgotten Herb

The gardening group enjoyed an entertaining and interesting talk from Barry and Carole Hamblin all about lavender. After briefly explaining the history of lavender and how it became established in this country, Barry proceeded to tell us how he and Carole bought what used to be a field for growing strawberries and turned it into a lavender field.

They grew several varieties of lavender, each with its different properties. ‘Little Lady’ and ‘Blue Rider’ are low growing varieties but they crop twice a year and are ideal for making lavender bags. ‘Blue Purple’ retains its colour well and is suited for use in winter decorations as is ‘Twinkle Purple’ although not as hardy. ‘Munstead’ is ideal for culinary uses - Carole has produced a variety of products including ‘Orange and Lavender Marmalade’. Try ham with lavender and also  with lamb rather than rosemary.  (One important tip -use lavender sparingly in cooking so as not to overdo the taste!) “Hidcote’ is an excellent variety for edging pathways as in Victorian gardens. It is also useful for oil as is ‘Folgate’, ‘Maillette’ and ‘Imperial Gem’.

Lavender repels most insects so it is a good companion plant with roses as it deters aphids and slugs don’t like it either!

Most of the lavender Carole and Barry grow is used for oil. The plants are put into a still with a separate base containing water, the water is boiled, steam rises which extracts the oil and when it all condenses, the liquid separates with water at the bottom and oil at the top.

Finally, lavender has lots of medicinal purposes from antiseptic qualities, inhaling to relieve cold symptoms, healing burns and even helping jet lag!!

And when the day is done and you want a little tipple, Thatchers Cider use Carole and Barry’s lavender in some of their brews. Enjoy!!

Cornish Seascapes Gardens

The March meeting encouraged us all to think of the coming spring as Richard Harvey took us through a whistle stop tour of 11 Cornish gardens, with many photos of the wonderful azaleas and rhododendrons for which that area is so well known.

Most of the gardens he spoke about are situated on the south coast in sheltered positions away from the prevailing winds. From the lovingly created Pinetum Gardens in St Austell with its 10 individually themed garden rooms, to the sculptures of Tremenheere where the gardens overlook St Michael’s Mount, to the subtropical Italianate garden of Lamorran - and many more.  No doubt the road to Cornwall will be driven by many Sampford Brett residents later this year!

A World Under our Feet

On February 1st, the first meeting of the 2023 season took place with Sally Nex explaining all about ‘A World Under our Feet’.

In particular, Sally promotes sustainable gardening techniques and began her talk explaining that our garden soil underpins everything we do in the garden yet more is known about the soil on the moon than the soil beneath our feet!

The main three layers below us are the underlying rock which is the parent material and governs everything above; on top of that is the subsoil where roots and anchoring minerals are to be found and, finally, the topsoil consisting of organic matter and carbon.

Although the type of soil can vary in a small area, here in Sampford Brett we tend to have sandy soil which is slightly acidic. It is also very good for drainage but the downside is that nutrients leach out so a lot of mulching is required.

Another interesting fact is that in a teaspoon of garden soil, there are two metres of fungal strands so important to the health of our plants and which can be easily damaged when digging - hence Sally’s strong preference for the ‘no-dig’ practice of gardening.

The talk ended with some hints about composting. Ideally a good compost should be 50% green and 50% brown waste and it is a good idea to compost leaves separately as they rot down at different speeds. The more frequently compost material is turned, the quicker compost will be made. An effective mulch can be bought from local council recycling centres - Sally has used a great deal of it on her garden!

As we prepare for a new year of growing in the garden, this was a well timed talk inspiring us all to get out there, to mulch and to sow!

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