MPG member and website manager Sharon Horder recently became deputy head gardener at Wadham College, Oxford, a promotion from her role on the garden team at Merton College. Both gardens are moving from formal, classic English styles to embrace more contemporary, sustainable options, with gravel gardens using dry-tolerant plants and Mediterranean species such as Dianthus carthusianorum, Euphorbia characias, Thymus vulgaris and Salvia sp. Sharon completed the Professional Gardeners’ Guild three-year traineeship in 2020. There are now seven MPG members in five Oxford colleges and at the Botanic Garden.
Droughts and floods
RHS Hyde Hall offers suggestions for drought-resistant plants and water conservation in an article in the Guardian of 1 August, as well as advice to avoid excessive run-off during deluges. The RHS has teamed up with Cranfield University to encourage conservation of mains water, for example not watering lawns, installing water butts and using watering cans on individual plants rather than hoses. Floods can be mitigated by using porous surfaces on drives and terraces. Horticulturist Susie Curtis, a member of MPG, looks after Hyde Hall’s dry garden which features Tulbaghia violacea, Triteleia, Bulbine frutescens, Eschscholzia californica, Zauschneria californica (pictured), lavenders and rosemaries.
Double win for MPG’s UK summer tour garden
Members visited Marwood Hill Garden, Devon, at the end of June as part of the annual UK summer gardens tour. The garden has this week won both an RHS gold medal and the best Plant Heritage exhibit at Hampton Court Palace. Marwood holds four National Collections, including the prize-winning collection of Astilbe, which they started in 1990 and contains over 200 different species and cultivars. The display of plume-like upright plants is captured here by John Fielding. The UK gardens tour also included other outstanding gardens and a guided wild-flower walk on the sand dune reserve of Braunton Burrows, home to many rare plants and animals.
Puya alpestris flowers for first time at Kew
This mountain puya (Puya alpestris) is in bloom for the first time at RBG Kew. Native to the Chilean Andes, it is a relative of the pineapple plant and some of them flower only once in their lifetime. Its blue nectar-filled flowers attract insects and birds but its leaves are lined with spines. Thank you to Angela Fenhalls for telling us about this.
Competing for the wow factor
A begonia bred by MPG management committee member John Fielding is one of seven finalist in the annual FleuroStar contest in the Netherlands and Germany which ends this week. Begonia rex SpaceStar Maia is a versatile compact indoor and outdoor plant suitable for containers, hanging baskets and bedding with appeal to retailers because of its relatively long shelf life. An attraction for growers is that it can be grown in energy-saving cooler temperatures. It is now being bred and marketed by Beekenhamp Plants, Maasdijk, Westland, Netherlands.
Alpines supplier closing down
The Perthshire family firm Pitcairn Alpines has been rearing bulbs, some rare, since opening in 1985 as a wholesaler but is closing in preparation for the retirement of the owners. Last online orders from their web shop will be 1 August 2022. Crocus chrysanthus ‘Herald’, shown here, is already out of stock but bargains remain. Buyers can expect to wait a few years for small bulbs to mature and flower. Click here for website.