Corsham Gardeners Society

Our Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

A Victorian Christmas by Maureen Hinton

December 2016

Maureen Hinton gave a talk on a “Victorian Christmas”. She had brought along a selection of items from her collection ranging from Victorian crackers to a (very delicate) serviette. She had some interesting observations on the way Christmas was celebrated by the Victorians and today. They did not put up any decorations until Christmas Eve and always took them down on 12th night. The tree lighting would have with been candles and there were some interesting holders ( there were more house fires in those days).

She went on to demonstrate how to make several types of decoration all of which had a base of greenery ranging from Box, Holly, Rosemary, Myrtle, Juniper, Laurel. She has a wide variety of shrubs in the garden and uses most of them.

She started with a table decoration with greenery, Chrysanths and Carnations. Then went on to an elaborate hanging arrangement with candles and mistletoe. Followed by a “Shovel”, much more decorative than it sounds, as it’s meant to hang on a door or wall. A Basket with poinsettia and pine cones. (It’s best to soak the cones in warm salty water and dry them to get rid of any wildlife, which can be a nuisance around the house).

She finished up with a posy and showed us two wreaths that she’d made previously. Maureen punctuated her talk with anecdotes and hints, at one talk she’d given, a City flat dweller, on hearing that marigolds were a good companion plant for vegetables in pots, could not understand how washing up gloves were used. A fascinating and informative talk; we look forward to seeing her again. We finished off the evening with a buffet supper with mince pies etc. A very good evening. Mrs Anne Garraway won the table competition, against strong competition, with a lovely decoration. 

Lacock Abbey by Sue Carter

March 2017

We had a full house to listen to Sue Carter the Head gardener at Lacock Abbey for the past 14 years. Sue talked about the History of the Gardens from foundation of the Abbey in 1229 by Ela Countess of Salisbury to the present. Whilst it was an Abbey the gardens were mainly for growing food and herbs. After the reformation, the Abbey was bought by Sir William Sharington who made many changes to the house and garden. One of these was to reroute the main road away from the house! Over the next few hundred years the gardens were gradually altered by different owners and Sue showed and compared several old plans of the gardens to illustrate some changes. Capability Brown redesigned the original formal gardens although the changes were on a smaller scale than as happened to many other grand gardens and estates. The Talbot family took over the estate in the 19th century and continued to improve and develop the gardens. Sue showed us some interesting photographs of some of the older features which were being restored and some beautiful pictures of the present gardens noted for the displays of Crocuses and Snowdrops in the Spring. The Crocuses have spread from a few corms planted in the 19th century, one variation to be seen is 'Pickwick'. A very interesting and informative talk on a local landmark. We have asked Sue to speak again next year. The table competition winner was Jennie Maggs for her “Spring colour from the garden” entry. Next meeting 4 April when Mrs Jill Hazell will talk about Gladioli. 

Hidden Gardens of Bath by Helen Hugesden

May 2017

Our speaker was Helen Hugesden on the “Hidden Gardens of Bath”. She has made a passion for Gardens and an interest in other people’s gardens, into a commercial success. She takes parties of interested people, both from the UK and abroad, around gardens in Bath which are not usually open to the public. She explained that she discovers these hidden gems by walking around the back ways and lanes of Bath and peeking through gates and over hedges. Most owners when approached are quite happy to show other gardeners around and many offer a cream tea as well. She showed us pictures of many lovely gardens ranging from the very small to several acres. All of which had their special features. Her views of Bath taken from the gardens were also spectacular. A very interesting and informative talk.

Visit to Great Chalfield Manor

June 2017

We shared cars for the visit and the weather was sunny with some cloud so not too warm. Patsy Floyd who has lived at the Manor for over thirty years and has made it her life’s work to improve and develop the Garden showed us round. The garden was lovely and in many respects at its peak. Most of the Roses were in bloom, including one on the North (no sun) side of the house, as were the borders. We first of all walked round the formal part of the gardens, where Patsy pointed out many plants of interest. We then walked along the woodland area on the other side of the Moat. It was a really worthwhile, enjoyable and educational visit. Mrs Floyd will be giving us talk about the gardens on Tuesday 2 August. In the photos the hardy white climber is “Bennet’s Seedling”, The pink climber is “ Blushing Rose” and the showy Yellow Orange rose is “ Lady Emma Hamilton” all are scented especially Lady Emma.

Great Chalfield Manor Gardens by Robert and Patsy Floyd

August 2017

We had another full house for the talk on Great Chalfield by Robert and Patsy Floyd. They have lived at Chalfield for 32 years and the beauty of the gardens today is due to their hard work and inspired design. The gardens have featured in two National magazines this year. Robert outlined the history of the gardens and how they had been developed during their time. Patsy went on to show a series of beautiful photographs of the gardens accompanied by expert comments on plants and garden design; detailing some of the more spectacular plants, and also providing some gardening hints. She has great faith in the all-round benefits of well-rotted horse manure and finds that this is a major factor in them having relatively few problems with diseases and pests A really splendid and informative talk.

The Annual Corsham Flower Show 2017

August 2017

The Annual show in August was quite a success. There were more entries than last year. The Handicrafts & Art sections is becoming increasingly popular with entries exceeding those for other classes which is an interesting trend. It may be explained by the popularity of TV shows such as “The Bake Off” programmes and also that we have a knitting group at Corsham Centre of over 100 knitters. Many of the exhibits were too a very high standard and there were some amazing photographs. Of course, the veg and flowers are always brilliant and one exhibitor (Rodney) went on to win many prizes at the Frome show as well as the “Best in Show” cup for his veg. Visitors were slightly up on last year which is very encouraging. We have already booked the Corsham Campus for 2018 when we hope for continued success. If you are interested in exhibiting or attending there is a contact number on the website, similarly if you would be interested in joining the Corsham Gardener’s Society.

Meeting Sue Carter - History of the garden kitchen

March 2018

Sue has been the Head Gardener at Lacock Abbey for the past 15 years. Her subject was the “History of the Kitchen Garden” a subject on which she has had a special interest since she first started gardening. She gave fascinating details of past methods and trends in kitchen gardening. In the middle ages (edible) weeds were part of the crop in that they kept other weeds down and could also be eaten. (Who knows weeds may yet make a comeback!). The Edwardians loved Rhubarb and Sea Kale, both forced, which made them sweeter. From Georgian times the wealthy grew a wide variety of exotic fruit in their (Kitchen?) gardens and hothouses. An interesting and informative talk. Sue showed us photographs : including Chatsworth, Tatton Park, Trengwainton, Upton House, Versailles and of course Lacock Abbey.

Mr Peter Ingram  -  Hanging Baskets

April 2018

On 3rd April we had a new Speaker Mr Peter Ingram, who has recently moved from Bristol to set up the “Painted Tongues” Nursery at Bradford on Avon. Mr Ingram has 30 years’ experience as a Nursery man and specialises in Fuchsias. His talk on hanging baskets was interesting and informative talk, he demonstrated how to make up several sizes with different plants. He stressed the importance of not overfilling the baskets (or container as the methods are essentially the same) and of adequate watering. We learnt a lot both old and tried techniques and some new ones. Also, some developments in commercial composts. We hope to see him again.

John Tucker  -  The Life and Times of a Horticultural Show Judge

August 2018

John has given talks to the society several times and is much appreciated for his humorous and informative presentation. He has judged many local shows over the years and has been a Bath and Bloom judge since its inception. In judging gardens he has also got to know many of the lesser known areas of Bath including the allotments. The gardens range across the public and private, community and commercial and can vary from quite small to very large. The reactions of the gardeners, to the judges verdicts and comments vary from the very pleased to the less so! He mentioned some of the things which judges look for including impact, design, originality, care, etc. he had no preference for garden size and he found beauty in all. One of the best gardens he had seen around was a mobile home. John spoke about some aspects of judging flower shows which of course include a wide range of classes from flowers to home made wine. There have been many humorous moments including a judge, many years ago, who grew merrier as he tasted the different wines in the home brew class and a garden seat which collapsed as it was being judged.

Annual Flower Show 2018

August 2018

The show went well this year despite almost torrential rain for much of the day. The flowers were a delight as always with many really splendid blooms. The Handicrafts sections of the show goes from strength to strength with many high quality entries this year, and its becoming well known locally as Ii heard at the Bradford show recently. The veg and flowers entries were down slightly, probably due to the long dry spell (in contrast to the weather on Show Day!). It has been a difficult year for many vegetables which needed a lot of water and some just don't like the prolonged heat. But we're not complaining as some fruits benefited especially apples which although smaller tend to be sweeter. 

Rodney and Terry Cundict proved fierce competition in the fruit and vegetable sections. They have both done well this year at the Gillingham and Shaftesbury, and Frome Show (Rodney has accumulated 21 first prizes at these major shows). The giant Marrow was a very close-run thing. The Nick and Annette Mason cup was also won by Rodne. Overall the standard was very high indeed.

The teas bar was busy all afternoon, especially the home-made cakes made by Mrs Plummer (aged 94), and the delicious chocolate cookies made by Sue. The show was held in the sportshall, which allowed access from the car park which made life easier for the exhibitors, as some had a lot of entries. However overall attendance was down on last year probably due to the awful weather. 

The Show is entirely run by volunteers and we would like to thank them for all their help. We would also like to thank our Sponsors:

AJM Engineering, Mrs Nancy Burrowes, Mr & Mrs Robert Floyd, Mr Paul Fry, Sir James and Lady Venetia Fuller, Hong Kong House, Lavender Lodge Bistro, Mr Ben Preddy, Mr & Mrs Mason, Penny's Cottage Maintenance, Mike Speed, Mr Barry Tasker, Ultrawarm, Whitehall Garden Centre and Anonymous. 

CGS Meeting

2nd July 2019

We had an excellent talk on "Gardening for Bees" by Richard Ricketts. The talk covered the life-cycle of many different species of Bees - there are 27 species of Bees in the UK including honey bees. Richard gave an informative and very topical talk. This ranged from "cuckoo" bumble bees (yes they lay their eggs in other bees' nests) to honey bees. Bees are a threatened species at the moment, as are many insects, the main reason is due to the increase in insecticides in farming, horticulture and our own gardens. He showed us a picture of a fruit tree being pollinated by hand in China because there were no insects. He suggested we avoid the use of insecticides in our gardens and leave a wild patch for insects. He gave a very long list of suitable garden plants and suggested single blossom rather than the double varieties were more friendly to insects. Honeysuckle, Ivy, Buddleia, Lavender, Catmint, Scabeous, Foxgloves, Thyme (and most herbs) were some of a long list of plants to attract insects. An interesting and thought provoking talk. We hope to have Richard back next year!


6th August 2019

Mr Peter Holloway gave a talk on Fuchsia species and unusual hybrids. This informative talk was accompanied by slides, many taken by the author, of a wide variety of Fuchsia. Fuchsia originate mainly in Central and Southern America, although some are from New Zealand and Polynesia. Some of the NZ varieties even have blue pollen! Fuchsia don't like very hot sun, their native environment is warm, moist and generally shaded. They have a few problems (Vine Weed, Greenfly), Gall Mite is an invasive mite is spreading from the south coast northwards. There is only one yellow fuchsia and the longest blossom is "Rubi Grandiflora" although many Fuchsia have long blossoms. Their main pollinator in the wild are Humming Birds. Pete gave us some useful tops - a soapy wash can get rid of Whitefly but don't use washing up liquid, instead use a product called Stergene (1-2 drops to a gallon). Also, Vitamin C in powder form is a very good rooting powder (50mg in 4 fl.Oz water). An interesting talk and very well illustrated. 

Christmas Decorations

Dec 2019

Mrs Maureen Hinton gave us her 4th talk on making Christmas decorations. The talks have been on a similar (Festive) theme but each has been quite different she has a wealth of knowledge on the craft and history of these. She grows many of the foliage plants in her own garden but as usual she had a lot of other material including some fresh flowers. She interspaced the demonstration with various anecdotes and tips. Slightly bend stems to cut them; add lemonade to flower water; blow into centre of carnation to bring them out. The photos below are the decorations she produced on the night. Wall decorations, gift boxes and table decoration all done on the night. These were on sale afterwards at cost.

Climate Change A Personal View Richard Cripps

Jan 2020

Richard who has given us several talks on gardening and horticultural subjects gave a talk on Climate Change. He was of the view that the major cause was a result of man’s impact on the environment. He quoted the reasons and policies of many major UK environmental and Wildlife organisations in support of this. RSPB, Wildlife trusts, DEFRA the environmental Agency, the Met Office and others. With Climate Change many wildlife habitats could change relatively quickly and many species would be unable to adapt in the time available. The weather patterns may change with massive changes to humans and wildlife. The effects would be largely negative, and sometimes catastrophic, for wildlife although there may be some short-term benefits. His talk was informative and convincing and was laced with anecdotes from his long experience in horticulture. There were many questions and supporting comments. These eventually ran out of time. An interesting and informative talk, although his feelings for corrective action by governments were not optimistic