Chairman's Report   Autumn 2014

  I feel reflective.  I have been running through SOGS's activities for the past season and as usual they have been good, in fact very good, in actual fact, very, very good.  This is due to the team who cheerfully volunteer to organise the meetings, get speakers, send out emails, build flower show sets, compile newsletters, make cakes, open halls, put out chairs, book coaches, prompt the chairman when he has forgotten something, and etc. with more added etceteras.

SOGS has been at this peak of near perfection for more years than anyone can remember.  This is what is worrying me.  Climbing to the top is one thing; remaining there is another.  So, how do we remain there?  This is a conundrum.  It is one of those puzzles that there can be no correct answer to.  Such as: should I drink the damson wine or the apple wine, tonight?  What is the best jam, raspberry or strawberry?  Should you carry on reading this rubbish because this is five minutes of your life that you will never see again?

Even though there is no absolute answer the problem still has to be wrestled with; that is the nature of the human condition; it is the striving that is important, not just the achievement, which can only ever be temporary.  Before this gets too maudlin let us become a bit practical.

SOGS has evolved a formula which has worked exceedingly well for a long time, (there will be a prize for anyone who can articulate this formula,) do you think that it can continue to work?  Above, I mentioned ‘the team’ this implies that there is an elite group running Sogs who have all the answers and who, when they shout jump!  expect everyone to ask “how high?”.

This is NOT how I view SOGS, I have always assumed that every single member is one of the team.  Am I right to assume this?  Do you agree with me?

When SOGS is engaged in an event like potato day or the flower show or a plant fayre, it is not just for a select few to do the work, it is for the whole team (see above for definition of team) to contribute in a way that is appropriate to the individual. So, I invite, exhort, implore, plead, urge, appeal, conjure, crave, entreat, importune, solicit, supplicate, every member to consider that YOU ARE part of the team.


. . . _ _ _ . . .   SOS, Soggies!   . . . _ _ _ . . .

I am so grateful to Ann Bartles-Smith and David Simpson, who responded to my call for help after I broke my arm in mid-April. They kindly planted out my chitted potatoes for me.

I am grateful also for the splendid summer and late season we have had, which have meant that I have been able to catch up on the neglected gardening tasks once my arm was usable again.

 Advice to gardeners:

1. If you break an arm, do it at in autumn, not spring.

2. Unless you are ambidextrous, it is an excellent idea to practice now using your non-dominant arm/hand to do as many tasks as possible – you never know when you might break an arm.

3. Teeth are useful when trying to tie knots with one hand.

4. Don’t break an arm – or a leg!

M Byrne

 Our April and May visits were:

6th April: Visit with Friends of the Earth to Gethin’s Waste recycling Centre, Lower House Farm, Cardeston, to discover what happens to the garden waste collected by the council.

18th May: Visit to Crabapple Community, Berrington Hall.

Apley Walled Garden  - June

On the A442 south of Telford is Apley Farm Shop, situated in the old farm buildings, where a wonderful selection of fresh vegetables, fruit and herbs alongside cheeses and other delicacies are sold.  Meat from the estate and tenant farms alongside homemade pies and sausage rolls.  In addition there is a cafe.  This is where a selection of SOGs members met up with Phil Allen, the head gardener of the mysterious walled garden.  He took us on to the Apley estate and near to the hall, which is owned by Lord and Lady Hamilton although they don’t live there and instead the hall consists of rented apartments.

Lord Hamilton opened the farm shop in 2011 and Lady Hamilton started the Walled Garden project in August 2012.  The first seeds were sown in April 2013.  The family have done extensive research in to the history of this garden which predated 1775 but by now was lying derelict yet 100 years ago had employed 20 full time gardeners and was one of the first in the country to grow exotic fruits against heated walls.

We looked across from where we left our cars to see rather old rusty gates sporting a big ‘private’ sign behind which looked dark and mysterious.  The hedge was thick and protective.  So in we walked and we were quite shocked to see the dereliction before us although Phil assured us that it had been much worse 12 months before.  Outside the walls, trees had been slowly taking over.  He gave a rundown of what progress had been made clearing the overgrown garden enough to sow seeds, and restoration of the greenhouses and other related buildings.

In through a lovely old gate, kept firmly shut to keep the rabbits out we were led through to the inner garden where it was obvious that Phil had worked really hard to have fruit trees adorning the walls and rows and rows of vegetables all growing healthily away. He had built tunnels and fruit cages and cloches.

The aims of the garden are to provide fruit and vegetables for the shop, to produce old varieties of vegetables, to support local charities, to bring back in to use these historic kitchen gardens and to restore the old garden buildings.

This link takes you to the garden website where there are good pictures and information of opening and visiting times which you must do if you missed this visit.

Also see for pictures of the SOGs tour.

Sue Bosson

Arley Arboretum  -  July

Near Bridgnorth, and with just one letter to differentiate it from Apley, is Arley and its Arboretum, which we visited on the 13th of July. This was our members’ free outing by coach. We had the services of a guide, who introduced himself on our arrival and suggested that we use the café before taking the tour, so we enjoyed having our lunch and/or cake at the picnic tables on the lawn.

Our lively and amusing guide told us the history of the arboretum, see below. Then we did a comprehensive tour lasting over an hour. There are some very impressive trees, such as Cedar of Lebanon, Corsican Pine, Whitty Pear or Service Tree, Giant Redwood and a three hundred year old beech, which unfortunately is dying and will have to be drastically reduced. We could hear and see the steam trains at Arley Station on the Severn Valley Railway, and had lovely views from the woodland.

The gardens are delightful, particularly the Italian Garden with its formal planting, pleached limes and dramatic fountain. There is a maze, a magnolia garden, an ornamental grass garden, and a plant sales area.

M Byrne

From the Arley Arboretum website:

“One of the oldest and most spectacular Arboreta in Britain, is now open to the Public thanks to the Trustees of the R.D.Turner Charitable Trust.

The Arboretum was originally planned by Earl Mountnorris around 1800, and it is thanks to his botanical knowledge, discoveries, and foresight, that the Arboretum is as it is today. Although Arley became highly renowned for its exotic and rare tropical plants by the 1840's, it is the specimen trees that have stood the test of time, now being considered to be one of the country's finest tree collections.

In 1852 the Estate was purchased by Robert Woodward and remained in the possession of the Woodward family until it was acquired by Roger Turner, a midlands industrialist and philanthropist in 1959 at which time the Arboretum was in a state of neglect and many of the village properties required substantial renovation.

He set about the restoration of the Arboretum and Grade II listed Walled Gardens: modernised the properties and built 27 new houses, including Arley House, together with a Sports & Social Club, thereby creating a vibrant community. Roger Turner died in 1999 and left the entire Estate, in all 1600 acres, to his Charitable Trust which he had founded some 30 years earlier. 

The Trustees decided that the Arboretum was of sufficient importance for it to be extended and opened to the public with the Walled Gardens: a principal aim being to provide education for all age groups and in 2002 it was officially opened to the public by Lord Lichfield, who planted the Tilia (Tree No 257) to mark the occasion.”

Friday and Saturday 8th and 9th August Shrewsbury Flower Show  
(pictures soon)

SOGS visit Dave Chestermaster and Sue Stickland’s smallholding in Wales, 7th September

 Those with satnav, and those with a gift for map-reading, managed to find this idyllic smallholding tucked away near Newtown, mid-Wales. Maybe some are still searching, although no Soggies have been reported missing - yet. It was well worththe journey through the Welsh countryside, in summery weather with just a hint of autumn colour in trees and hedgerows.

The most pleasing feature of the site, to the male visitors and some of the females, would seem to be the sheds and outbuildings, with envious sighs of appreciation to be heard as old ones and newly constructed ones were discovered and admired.

Dave and Sue have mastered the technique of taming a hillside in the traditional Welsh manner so that it supports a beautiful garden as well as the expected extensive and productive vegetable beds, with watering problems being overcome by rainwater storage tanks and hoses. Birds and butterflies were finding it all to their liking, and apparently there are no problems with rabbits.

 There is a polytunnel and a greenhouse, and a flat enough area for a large, tree-sheltered pond, which looks really well-established although only a couple of years old. There are many apple, pear and plum trees, and one section of hillside is now devoted to a collection of unusual nut and fruit trees and shrubs, many of them unfamiliar, such as chokeberry and honeyberry. A local farmer grazes his sheep on part of the smallholding. These too were unfamiliar to many of us. They are Badger Face Welsh Mountain Sheep, so called because of the black stripe down their face and along their underside.

With so much to see amid beautiful countryside, and of course, cakes and chat, this was a most enjoyable visit. Thank you, Sue and Dave!

M Byrne

Visit to Two Members’ Gardens, 5th October

We had the pleasure of visiting two neighbouring but very different gardens in Shrewsbury, and were fortunate in enjoying ideal weather for the visit.

David and Susan Simpson’s garden is extremely productive, and we admired the large, unblemished turnips, brassicas, prolific tomatoes, peas still to be picked and the various fruits including medlars. All this in a pleasant, ordered, but slightly wild at the edges setting, which marries the utilitarian to the picturesque. (How’s that for a bit of gardening purple prose?) While a number of us were ambling about and admiring, a work party was hard at it dealing with a huge amount of apples, cutting them up, feeding them into the press and extracting streams of amber-coloured liquid. Well done, Freya, Henry, Heather, Wendy and anyone else who was involved in this task.

Ann had been a little apprehensive about how much there would be to see in her garden at this late time of the season, but there was no need to worry. Her garden is so designed as to have interest through the seasons, with structures such as the apple arch, an obelisk, shaped raised beds with bamboo edging, insect shelters, and sculpted hens and rooster. There was still plenty of colour and texture from ornamental grass, seed heads and late blooms, and various ‘sitooteries’ from which to sit (yes, sit outside in October!) and enjoy. A sitootery, by the way, is the Scottish word for a sitting area in the garden.

Need I mention the cakes? Yes, of course – there were delicious cakes, as usual, and despite our being Soggies, there were no soggy bottoms.

Thank you, Ann, Susan and David.

M Byrne

 Cuttings etc ...................................................................

Daily Telegraph, 29.3.2012  (Hopefully not out of date!)

Fighting the advance of Japanese Knotweed with sustainable natural control.  Psyllid beetle (first released in 2010 and sighted at several sites in 2012), has now been joined by a leaf spot fungus, specific to the knotweed, which is being deployed to help combat it.

 D.T. 25.5.2013  Sarah Raven writes about companion planting: spring onions planted between rows of carrots are ineffectual. The best method is to have a screen of enviromesh or fleece three feet high around the bed.

To deter aphids from broad beans, summer savory works in conjunction with pinching out the tips of the plants.

If you have plenty of room, smokers’ tobacco, Nicotiana tabacum, planted around brassicas protects them from cabbage white butterflies. In a smaller space, hyssop or artemesia repel them.

Tomato plants next to or among asparagus repel the asparagus beetle.

 D.T. 4.2.2014 Researchers from Oxford University have studies figures going back 25 years, and found that organic farms support 34 per cent more plant and animal species than conventional ones. The incidence of pollinators species was 50 per cent higher.

D.T. 21.9.2014

‘War and Gardening’: I never knew that in World War 1 some soldiers grew flowers and vegetables near the trenches and in internment camps. They used spent shells as flower pots. Soldiers imprisoned in Ruhleben Camp formed a horticultural society, and sent letters to Kew Gardens requesting information. They grew climbing flowers to hide the barbed wire. An exhibition at the Garden Museum in London, until January 5th 2015, shows photographs and pressed flowers sent home in letters.

 D.T. 21. 6. 2014 A tip from Helen Yemm in her regular gardening column: To control duckweed in her pond, she tackles it in winter when it stops growing, and then as soon as she sees any reappear she removes it. To keep the pond clear of algae and blanket weed, she threw in a bunch of watercress three years ago, which has now established itself and does the job.

 From an online forum called “I decided last fall to try spraying a little sea salt on my small 400 sq ft back yard.  I put 1 tablespoon in a gallon of water and sprayed it on the ground as a fertilizer.  I did it again this spring.  I've had the fewest slugs since I've been at this location in Portland, Oregon and it's been the rainiest spring we've had in a long time”. 

D.T. 3.5.2014 Allotment and garden soils far healthier than those on arable farms. Ken Thompson writes about new research reported in the Journal of Applied Ecology: arable soils were found to be compacted, lifeless and low in organic matter, whereas allotment soils were more open, more fertile and higher in organic matter, because of the application of compost and manure. Gardens and allotments produce yields four to eleven times greater than conventional agricultural crops.

D.T. 19.10.2014 Chef Raymond Blanc is scathing about Pink Lady, Jazz and Gala. He says Brits are addicted to sugar, and that these varieties of apple have been bred for colour, shape, resistance to disease, and above all for sweetness. He says, ”For any great taste, you need contradictions, a mix of sweet, sour, acid, bitter or salty”. He says apples with more acidity are more flavoursome, and that fruit grown here rather than in the antipodes means better taste, better texture, better colour and better nutrients. 


For tarts: Captain Kidd.

For tatins: Devonshire Quarrenden.

For baking: Chivers Delight.

For juicing: Egremont Russet.

Best all rounder: Cox’s Orange Pippin.

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