Our Recent Past

Our Visits Secretary enjoys her first visit since they were all cancelled last year because of Covid.

This visit, as all the others this summer, was by private car. Given the regulations and guidelines around larger groups in enclosed spaces we decided that visits by coach were not Covid safe.

Reading Gardeners:  AGM 2021

The AGM was held electronically for the second year running.

The number of votes cast for the resolutions was 27. All the votes were in favour of the resolutions.

Chairman’s Report

Ian Fowler

I am writing this in the shadow of the recent death of Ian Fowler, our erstwhile Chairman, Secretary, Trustee, and longstanding faithful servant of Reading Gardeners’ Club. He will be much missed: a gentleman of the old school, an encourager, generous with his time and knowledge.  We shall miss him, and our thoughts go to Barbara and their family.

Last year’s programme

The last year has been difficult for Reading Gardeners as for so many others.  We lost almost our whole summer programme, and moved our winter talks programme  online.  Our only summer visit to survive was the plant sale and social, where Sarah Pajwani hosted us in her beautiful garden. In its own terms it was a success, but sadly only for a few members. Special thanks to Valerie and Hazel, who had all the work of organising our outings, only to have to cancel all but one.

The winter programme of talks did take place, but only online, on Zoom.  Less appealing than physical meetings in many ways, nevertheless it gave the club a focus and allowed us to keep going in some form. We had some pretty good speakers too, and from far-flung places.  We took advantage of being online by welcoming speakers from Devon and Scotland and the USA, without the need for travel.  To pick one memorable talk: Jim Jermyn, the head gardener at Branklyn Garden in Perth, Scotland, gave a tour of his alpine garden and told some lovely anecdotes.

Forthcoming events

Looking to the future: for this summer, Valerie has produced a programme of visits by car: perhaps next year we can resume coach trips.  And we have plans for a winter programme of talks, which will be a mix of live and zoom events.  Even if the covid situation isn’t entirely sorted out by the autumn, at least half our planned talks will go ahead. The first event is planned for Thursday 30th September, and please keep alternate Thursday evenings free from then on.

As we move through another spring, with the best of the year in prospect, let’s hope we can enjoy all those stimulating gardening events which we missed last year. My thanks to all the committee members who have been so supportive in keeping Reading Gardeners going in trying times. I look forward to seeing you soon.  Happy gardening, and best wishes,

Alex Siddall

Chair, Reading Gardeners

Emerging from Covid

This time last year we had to cancel ur summer visits. With the fall in Covid infections and for many of us having had our 2 jabs the 2021 Summer Visit programme is underway. At the relief and joy of being released some of our visits are fully booked or have a strong level of support. The programme can be found in the events section. Plans for the summer social and plant fair will be published later. In the meantime get your cuttings and plants potted up for sale.

The 2020/21 winter programme as planned had to be cancelled. But with marvellous initiative and lots of phone calls and learning about Zoom Alex our Winter Programme Secretary delivered and amazing series of lectures with speakers from around the UK and in one case from the USA. This opened our eyes to the potential of using Zoom to widen the range of speakers. So the Committee has decided for the 2021/22 programme to have a mix of Zoom and live lectures. We will start with a live lecture on the 30th September followed 2 weeks later with a Zoom lecture. Then turn and turn about we will have  live – Zoom -live-  Zoom etc.

Winter Programme Changing to Thursday Evenings 

For many many years Reading Gardeners have held their winter speaker programme on a Wednesday evening. Starting in October 2020 our winter programme meetings will move from Wednesday evenings to Thursday evenings.

Caversham Primary School Hall became unavailable and we hired Emmer Green Primary School Hall for the 2019/20 winter programme.  Emmer Green is expensive and is not ideal. A search for an alternative venue available on a Wednesday proved fruitless. Consequently, we undertook a venue search based on either a Tuesday or Thursday evening. Caversham Heights Methodist Church Hall is available on a Thursday and meets our requirements – size, parking, projection screen, refreshment facilities etc. It is significantly cheaper than Emmer Green Primary.

A consultation with members showed that the change was acceptable to the majority. Inevitably some people cannot come on Thursdays (3 respondents to the consultation) however some members can come on Thursdays but could not come on a Wednesday (2). A few members have other commitments on some Thursday evenings but not all Thursdays.

Your committee decided that the best choice was to move from Emmer Green Primary to Caversham Methodist Hall and change the meeting day from Wednesday to a Thursday. This change will happen in October 2020 at the start of the 2020/21 winter programmeWe will continue to meet at Emmer Green Primary for the rest of this winter’s programme (2019/20), except on the 19th February 2020 when the meeting will be at St Peter’s Church Hall, Earley.

March 2018



We welcome Jill Dawe, Mrs. P. Lowndes,   Mr J. Watson, Brian Uttley, and  Ms Jenny Burns to our ranks. We trust you get a great deal of pleasure – socially and horticulturally – from your membership.

In Memoriam

It is with deep regret that I report the death of Miss Pat Lewis, who was a long-time member of Reading Gardeners and had served on the Committee and as Chairman. Three members attended her funeral at the West Berkshire Crematorium on the 28th February.


Marmalade Triumph

The 2018 Dalemain Marmalade Competition was held last weekend, 17th/18th March. Jonathan Cooke not only won the Seville Orange category but his 8 further entries into other classes all achieved the gold standard. With nearly 2000 entries only 55 were awarded the gold standard.

See the labels! What an achievement!!

Winter Programme 2017/18

The winter programme is approaching the end. Since the last Newsletter we have had some cracking good and captivating lectures.

On the 29th November Geoff Hodge, a freelance garden writer and product tester, regaled us on house plants. He studied botany at Reading University, under our president, Michael Keith-Lucas. His ebullient style, no-nonsense delivery, and humour, made for a great evening’s entertainment. He covered all aspects of buying and caring for houseplants, such as how to choose, feed, water, position, prune, propagate, repot and display plants. Although starting with the basics, it quickly became obvious that his knowledge was deep and wide, his advice succinct and practical, and his enthusiasm contagious. He regularly told us how we could kill house plants and by inference how to keep them alive and prosper. As a gardening product tester, he had numerous items to add to our raffle, all of which were snapped up with glee. Another speaker we wouldn’t mind hearing again one day!

Following on last year’s wonderful talk on ‘Blackthorn in Spring’, Jon took us on a guided tour of the garden in Summer and Autumn. He photographs showed us a succession of beautiful pictures of plants in these two seasons. Many of these plants are from former nursery stock, once common 30 years ago, now rarely offered. Others have been bred by the owners or have freely naturalised. Amongst many stunning images, one of a grassy bank covered in orchids which, undisturbed for 30 years, have hybridised freely, which will surely remain in the mind’s eye for a long time. We look forward to hearing Jon again next year talking about Wildside, another unusual garden.

Valentine’s Day saw a change of venue, a one off. On a cold and stormy Valentines Day night, and in a different hall, you’d be forgiven for thinking turnout would be low. Regardless, about 40 people came to hear a talk from Alan Power, head gardener at the National Trust’s landmark garden of Stourhead. Alan is a great enthusiast, articulate and knowledgeable. He’s been at Stourhead 22 years and knows it intimately, living on the property. One of the things he loves about being head gardener is walking round the garden from time to time with Henry Hoare, as the head gardener did with the original owner, also Henry Hoare, in the 1740s. He displayed the depth of his knowledge of the history of Stourhead, and how he wants to protect and promote its legacy into the future. We left pleased and grateful for his talk.

The 28th February saw the start of the ‘Beast from the East’ and to great disappointment it was judged wise to cancel the meeting. Thus we missed the popular speaker Ray Broughton. We hope to have him visit in the 2018/19 programme.

Poets Corner

Despite the recent weather our poet who has been hiding her talent offers these thoughts:-


Like the gentle touch of a butterfly
The breeze caresses the leafs;
A change from the winds of winter,
That tore through the sleeping trees.

The perfume of Daphne and Violets
Play hide-n-seek on the breeze;
A change from the musty aroma
Of damp and decaying leaves.

The song of the birds serenading
The coming light of dawn;
Replace the silence and greyness
Of the long, dark winter’s morn.

Whatever your view of the seasons
There is nothing that can compare,
To the joy and hope that follows
The feeling of Spring in the air.
Whatever your view of the seasons

LVJ 1990’s

Photographic Competition

As gardeners we are always looking forward. Reading Gardeners is no different. Take you camera with you, snap that winning photo and enter into the Photographic Competition at the end of the year. There are three categories –

  1. Garden views to include garden features, planting and plant combinations;
  2. Close ups of a plant or plants; and
  3. General  that could include landscape scenery, wild life, human interest and garden art

A letter from Cally

We all come to gardening by different routes – our parents, an instinctive love of plants, buying a house with a garden and wondering what to do with it, friends’ passion for gardening,  books …

“To anyone who loves gardening, and more particularly to the newest devotees:

I have always loved gardening since I was knee-high to a grasshopper and I should like to recommend two gardening books that I hold dearly:

‘Gardening In The Shade’ by Margery Fish, and ‘The Well-tempered Garden’ by Christopher Lloyd.

I first read them in the mid-1980s and in my mid-thirties.  I shall always be grateful to a friend who shared my passion for gardening, and introduced me to these gardening advocates – a constant source of encouragement and enlightenment – Best gardening buddy ever.”

A Plant Profile – Pachyphragma macrophyllum

A member of the Brassicaceae family, Pacyphragma is an evergreen or semi-evergreen perennial from the Caucusus and the woods of North Eastern Turkey. It has veined large rounded dark green leaves which look good throughout the year. The many spikes of 4 petalled white flowers appear in March/April followed by the new leaves. It provides spring colour associating well with spring bulbs and pulmonaria. The veins and stems take on a purple tint during the winter.

This tough fully hardy plant is for full or part shade. It is particularly valuable, when established, as it will thrive in dry shade. Planted under trees or shrubs it overlapping leaves provide good ground cover. It will seed around.

Height is 20/40 cm with a spread of 45/60 cm.

Rewarding Opportunity for Gardening Volunteers

Prospect Park NHS Hospital are inviting volunteers to help maintain and develop the garden of the hospital’s therapy centre. The therapy centre offers patients sessions of crafts, yoga and other interests and has an attached garden. Volunteers would work at times when the centre was not in use. The hospital, located in Reading, is run by Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust which has a well developed volunteering scheme.

Volunteers would work in the garden and also  help the staff with their knowledge of gardening for use in therapy.

Contact: Emma Davies, Therapy Manager,  Prospect Park Hospital,

Tel: 0118 960 5168   Email: emma.davies@berkshire.nhs.uk