Helping hand for green fingers
PUBLISHED: 12:02 20 January 2015 | UPDATED: 12:02 20 January 2015
The start of a new gardening year is the perfect time to join a horticultural club and nurture your green-fingered skills (or lack of). Philippa Pearson selects some of the best in Herts
Hertfordshire Group of the Hardy Plant Society meets for talks and events at Wheathampstead Memorial Hall from October to April. Speakers come from across the country with advice, insights and workshops on the wide range of hardy plants, all followed by tea and homemade cakes. There is also a stall where members swap plants, so it’s a great opportunity to pick up something unusual for your garden – tried and tested by others.
Society members have gardening skills of all levels, so even if you are new to the field, you won’t be on your own, while if you are an accomplished gardener, you’ll always find something new and interesting. During the summer, monthly meetings transform into outings with the chance to visit gardens and nurseries in the county and further afield, plus there’s a seedling swap and grand plant sale.
Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire Plant Heritage Group meets regularly at Verulamium Roman Museum in St Albans with a thriving programme of talks, garden visits and plant sales throughout the year. Previously known as the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens, the group is a horticultural knight in shining armour helping to preserve and conserve our cultivated plants. Its National Plant Collection scheme is a ‘living plant library’ composed of hundreds of plant collections in Britain and abroad, each one dedicated to a specific genus and each one very different. The Herts and Beds group offers a good range of talks, social events and outings, as well as two plant sales a year – a positive way for rare and unknown plants to find their way back into gardens. Plant collections held in Hertfordshire include salix at Rothamsted Research, rosa at the Royal National Rose Society, akebia in a private garden, chrysanthemums and irises at allotments and taxodium at the Beale Arboretum.
Hertfordshire Group of the Alpine Gardening Society meets monthly from September to June at Homewood Road United Reformed Church Hall, St Albans, hosting a series of talks from specialist nurserymen, plant hunters and travellers from the society’s list of experts. There are visits to members’ gardens and lots of opportunities to discuss plants and gardening. Members grow plants from seed from the national society’s distribution scheme and propagate species to sell at plant sales. The group also puts on a popular and competitive show each March when members bring in their prized plants for a show bench – each judged for quality and uniqueness. Small, but with big impact, alpine plants have their horticultural roots in (yes, you guessed it) alpine regions, as well as arid wastes, icy tundra and seashore cliffs. Wherever their provenance, these fascinating plants adapt easily in our own gardens.
Lea Valley Orchid Society was formed by a group of orchid lovers in Ware and membership is now drawn from a wide area including Hertfordshire, Essex, London and Bedfordshire. The group meets for 11 months of the year with a programme of topics from general orchid culture to in-depth lectures on specialist genus. A yearly auction offers the chance to acquire orchids at very reasonable prices. The endless variety and fascination of orchid flowers is unsurpassed in horticulture: some are like dancing butterflies; others resemble hovering moths or delicate spiders and many gardeners find that once they start collecting it is difficult not to be gripped by orchid fever. Members have a wide range of experience, from those just starting to grow orchids on a windowsill to acknowledged experts with international reputations. So definitely the gardening group if you are interested in these stunning plants. The society is involved in organising many orchid displays, including international events, and has been awarded several Royal Horticultural Society medals. Meetings take place at Waterford Village Hall, two miles north of Hertford.
Mid Herts Bonsai Club promotes the art of bonsai with members of all skill levels meeting and sharing expertise. Bonsai is a literal translation from the Japanese for ‘planted in a container’ and carries on the ancient Oriental tradition of cultivating miniature plants.
The club’s programme at Welwyn GC includes workshops, speakers and social evenings with members encouraged to bring along their bonsai to be displayed as well as enter themed competitions ultimately leading to the club’s prized Rose Bowl Trophy and Royal Horticultural Society Banksian Medal.
A monthly raffle includes Bonsai pots, cuttings, tools and books, with the proceeds helping to fund club activities. The club has a library of Bonsai books and instructional video tapes that are available on free loan to members.