House Plants

Geoff Hodge is a freelance garden writer and product tester. 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. As a gardening product tester, he had numerous items to add to our raffle, all of which were snapped up...
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Jerusalem Botanic Garden Lecture

After a career in the City in insurance, Neil Miller made a complete change in life and became a gardener, joining the staff of Hever Castle in Kent in 2002. Remarkably quickly he became the head gardener there, a post he has held since 2006. He has strong links with Jerusalem Botanic Garden, a 38-acre site in the heart of Jerusalem. Open to all, it walks a delicate line in a politically-charged situation, but manages to attract visitors and volunteers from all communities. It has a unique collection of Mediterranean flora. November is the beginning of the growing season, March the end: the rest of the year is virtually rain-free. Neil leads a group...
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Soil Safari – Lecture 1 November 2017

Reading Gardeners’ speaker focused on the creatures that live in a square metre of garden soil. ‘Soil is not dirt,’ she told us, and gave a rundown of the millions of life-forms in our soil. On the surface are beetles and molluscs, below that earthworms (27 species in the UK), then arthropods, springtails, tardigrades, mites, nematodes, protozoa, and bacteria. The numbers of creatures in healthy soil are impressive: from dozens of earthworms near the surface, we move through the hundred thousands to teeming millions of bacteria a foot or so down. And then there are the funghi: 10,000 metres of fungal threads in every pound of soil. Lois’...
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Making and Keeping a Flower Garden

Malverleys, a large and beautiful private garden south of Newbury, has a gardening team of five. Over the last seven years they have transformed a Tom Stuart Smith-designed garden into something completely different for the new owners. The head gardener and designer, Mat Rees, came to tell us about that process of redevelopment, which has had its challenges. The outcome is a varied and imaginative show-stopper, heavily influenced by Mat’s seven years at Great Dixter working with Christopher Lloyd. Serious and articulate, Mat spoke with clarity and enthusiasm about this project. While satisfying the sometimes conflicting wishes of the owners, he has...
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The Art of Creative Pruning

Jake Hobson, whose business Niwaki is based in Dorset, told us his story: as a sculpture student he went to Japan and became fascinated with tree sculpting. After two years there he came back to England and eventually made his way in topiary, pruning trees shrubs and hedges, and importing high-quality pruning tools and accessories from Japan. Engaging and articulate, he showed a succession of lovely pictures demonstrating the art of tree pruning in England and Japan. He explained the landscape value of pruning trees, from the utilitarian to the most highly decorative. This was a great start to our new season of...
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