Saturday, 15 December 2012

Wrap Up Warm

The following information is by James Hartley, Director, English Garden Group, an up-market garden centre in Valbonne.  Interesting topics I thought for our group.  I've put his tips in 4 topics:
  1. Direct or "radiation frost".
  2. Winter protection fleece.
  3. Ease off on fertilisers.
  4. Frame to  protect climbers.
Direct or "radiation frost":

Direct or "radiation frost" is always a danger when the skies are clear, with the warmth remaining on the land's surface after a sunny winter day being rapidly leaked away by radiation into the clear night sky.  This effect is so dangerous due to the sheer speed with which the heat is lost:   in many cases the temperature of the leaves of the plants will actually drop below the ambient air temperature as heat radiates away.  As if this wasn't bad enough, the effect is compounded as the sun bursts out the next morning, rapidly defrosting the leaves and in the process, bursting the cell walls within the leaves.

Winter protection fleece:

If the plants are too large or if it isn't practical to move them, then you have to bring the cover to the plants, and this involves large quantities of winter protection fleece.  Winter protection fleece is a breathable fabric that helps to create a small microclimate in the canopy of your plant, keeping the temperature of the leaves several degrees above the ambient temperature, in particular under conditions that could lead to the reverse.  The word "breathable" is crucial:  never ever use plastic directly over plants as this allows moisture build up and rotting to start in the leaves and outer branches.  The membrane sheets provide the protection required against heat radiating away and wind stripping the warmth from the leaves, whilst allowing moisture to permeate out and away each day.

In extreme cases even evergreens and other hardy plants can be affected when the soil becomes frozen and the morning is particularly warm.  Roots then find it impossible to lift moisture up to the plant and the plant can die from drought.

Ease off on fertilisers:

Fresh tender leaves are far more susceptible to frost damage than leaves that have been on the plant a while and have had time to harden off.  To this end - make sure you ease off on the use of fertilisers containing high levels of nitrogen towards the end of the year as these will push plants into extended vigorous growth - leaving you with foliage that is badly unprepared for the ravages of a cold winter.  If you are keen to keep your plants well fed, then opt for balanced feeds later in the season, or better still, feeds with elevated levels of potassium.

Frame to protect climbers:

Attaching fleece to a climber on a wall to stay up for an entire winter can be difficult to do effectively.  This problem however can be solved elegantly with a couple of slats of wood.  The strips of wood in question should be light, no more than about five or ten centimeters wide and a couple of centimeters thick, and should be as long as is required to be mounted vertically on the wall to match the height of the climbing plant you are trying to cover.  Drill two or three holes (top, bottom and centre) in the strip, and hold the strip up to the wall on either side of the climber and mark the wall in position of the holes. The wall can then be drilled and fitted with  plugs to take screws.  In this way you can screw the wood batons to the wall and use the wood to staple up the fleece.  Starting on one side the fleece can be drawn over the plant, stapled on the other side and drawn back across in the same way a couple of times, stapling on each side, to create a protective layer that is both effective and reliably attached.  Once winter is over, the fleece can be removed, and the wood strips taken down simply by removing the screws, allowing them to be stored and reused the following year.

A word of advice:  be sure to drill the holes identically in each of the wood batons to avoid having to figure out in which position and in which orientation each piece of wood goes the following year.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Bumblebees and Honeybees

The bees that most people can easily recognise and identify are bumblebees and honey bees.


Bumblebees [Bombus terrestris] are related to honeybees [Apis].

Bumblebees, which we think of as very furry black and yellow striped creatures with pollen sacks on their legs, also live in colonies, feed on nectar and gather pollen to feed their young.  They also produce small amounts of honey.

They are mostly found in higher latitudes and / or high altitudes and there are around 250 known species in the Bombus genus.

They form colonies, although these are much smaller than honey bees, and are usually underground or in mounds of grasses.  They don’t usually keep the colony from one season to the next and it is a queen that has overwintered that will start the construction of a new nest in the Spring.

Bumblebees will visit patches of flowers up to 1-2 kilometres away from their colony and will continue to visit for a long as they continue to find both nectar and pollen.  Some species can leave a scent mark on a flower which deters other bumblebees from visiting whilst the scent marks lasts.  Apparently they also differentiate between rewarding and unrewarding flowers !

Bumble bees are important pollinators of both crops and wildflowers.  People are increasingly using bumblebees as pollinators, especially for plant species that others cannot pollinate, using a technique known as ‘buzz pollination’

Certain plants hang on to their pollen more firmly in their anthers, which are typically tubular with an opening at only one end and the pollen inside is smooth and firmly attached.

Some species of solitary bees and bumblebees use this method – also called sonication – where the bee grabs onto the flower and moves its flight muscles rapidly, which causes the flower and anthers to vibrate, dislodging the pollen.  8% of flowers in the world are primarily pollinated by buzz pollination and the following are those that are more efficiently pollinated :
  • Many members of the Solanaceae family, including many species of the genus Solanum
  • tomatoes
  • potatoes
  • aubergines or eggplants
  • Some members of the genus Vaccinium
  • cranberries & blueberries
  • Senna
Other plants are
  • Arctostaphylos – manzanitas
  • Dianella – Flax lily
  • all Dodecatheon – shooting stars
  • Heliamphora
  • Hibbertia

So, the reason for engaging the use of bumblebees is to pollinate, particularly, greenhouse-grown tomatoes and aubergines, which require pollinating to produce any fruit.  Apparently, pollination used to take place by using electric vibrators (!) – one brand name was ‘Electric Bee’ – but using bumblebees was found to be far more cost effective than human labour and cut out the inevitable breakages of plants within the confined space of the greenhouse.

In Australia there are no native bumblebees and they have suffered a number of widely publicised environmental disasters, caused by introduced species that have escaped.  Research is being carried out to see whether the native Blue Banded Bees can be used for the task, but this is meeting lobbying by bumble bee importers who seem to prefer to disregard this risk and any ‘home-grown’ solution !

The agricultural use for bumblebees is, however, limited to pollination as bumblebees do not overwinter the entire colony and so are not obliged to stockpile honey for food.  So they are not useful as honey producers.


Honey bees, of which there are seven recognised species, but with a total of 44 subspecies in the Apis genus, would appear to have a centre of origin in South and South East Asia.

The European or Western honeybee [Apis mellifera], which seems to have originated in eastern tropical Africa and spread to northern Europe and Asia, is the most commonly domesticated species and has the distinction of being the third insect to have its genome mapped – 28 October 2006.

The name was given to them by Carl Linnaeus in 1758 and the mellifera part comes from the Latin : melli meaning ‘honey’ and ferre meaning ‘to bear’ – so, ‘honey-bearing bee’.  However, he realised that they do not bear honey, but nectar and later tried to correct this to Apis mellifica [‘honey-making bee’] in a later publication.  According to the rules of synonymy – which is the scientific nomenclature or name – the older name has precedence.

Apis mellifera is not a native to the Americas and were taken there by colonists, although there were other native species that were kept and traded by the indigenous peoples.  The colonists also introduced the dark bee [Apis mellifera mellifera] and later the Italian bee [Apis mellifera ligustica] and others.  Many of the crops that depend on honeybees for pollination have also been imported since colonial times.

Again, to anyone reading this who has a greater in-depth knowledge of bees, this is only meant to give an outline of how bees work and how a hive functions – there is so much fascinating detail that I have been obliged to leave out, otherwise I would be producing an Encylopaedia-Britannica-length post !

Honey bees live in very organised colonies averaging between 40 000 to 80 000 bees in a healthy hive in mid-Summer.

There is one Queen to the colony – she is the only fertile female and lays the eggs from which all the other bees are produced.  She mates with the Drones.

The Drones are male bees, which represent approximately 10% of the hive colony.  Their principal function is to mate with the Queen, after which they die.  They have very strong wings and in some species they use these to regulate the temperature of the hive.  At the beginning of the Winter, when they have outlived their usefulness, the Workers bite their wings off and kick them out of the hive to die of cold and starvation, since they are unable to forage, produce honey or take care or themselves (!)  They have no stinger or ovipositor.

Worker bees are infertile females.  They clean and maintain the hive, raise the young and feed them on royal jelly, guard the hive, forage for nectar and pollen and produce the wax, from special glands, that is used to make the comb and seal the cells.

There are four distinct stages in the life cycle of a honey bee.

The queen, once mated with the drones starts to lay eggs from mid Winter onwards, in temperate climates.

After three days, the egg hatches into a larva and is fed ‘bee milk’ and ‘bee bread’ by the worker bees.  Then it spins a cocoon during days 4 to 9.

In the cocoon, the larva develops into a pupa with eyes, wings and legs.  This developments takes anywhere from 10 to 23 days.

The adult finally emerges from the cell in the comb by chewing its way out.  It metamorphoses into a fully grown bee from days 16 to 24, depending on the caste of bee.

The worker bees, that forage for nectar, have ultraviolet vision which allows her to see patterns on flower petals that draw them in.  The nectar is stored in her honey stomach until she reaches the hive where it is passed to others to store in the comb.  They also use their wings to fan the cells that contain nectar as this is 80% water and by fanning they help to evaporate the water, which means the honey remains in the cells.

They communicate through ‘dances’, but it is believed that they also rely on their olfactory senses once the foragers have been given directions from the waggle dances.

Worker bees have to forage approximately 5.5 million flowers to produce approximately a kilogramme of honey.

Worker bees’ stings are barbed but do not always detach on stinging and bumblebees do not have a barbed sting.  Even if honeybees do lose their sting, they do not necessarily die afterwards.  Most bees are non-aggressive and only sting to protect themselves or the hive, which is why bee keepers use puffs of smoke to calm the bees.

The buzzing sound a bee makes is not caused by the beating of their wings but it is a result of the bee vibrating its flight muscles.  Bumblebees have an especially pronounced buzz as they have to warm up their bodies before they fly when temperatures are low.

Saturday, 1 December 2012


Bees are flying insects, closely related to wasps and … ants.

They are adpated for feeding on nectar and pollen – nectar is an energy source and pollen is principally used as food for larvae.

The smallest bee is 2.1mm and is a stingless bee.  The largest is 39mm and is a leafcutter bee.

Bees either live in communities, where they perform different tasks, or they are solitary and do not produce wax or honey but are important pollinators of plants.

There are more than 20 000 species of bees divided into 7 or 9 recognised families.

Bees are found on every continent except Antartica.  2 500 species in Europe and between 950 to 1 000 in France.  In France, these are divided into 6 families with 15 sub-groups and more than 50 genuses.

  • Apis mellifera – European or Western honey bees
  • Xylocopa – carpenter bees – one of the largest in Europe
  • Andrena – sand bees – more than 150 species in France
  • Lasioglossum (Halicitidae) – mostly live in the ground
  • Megachile – leaf cutter bees
  • Bourdons – bumblebees

More than half of the bee species in France can be found in the Mediterranean area.

Other types of bees are : sweat bees, mason bees, polyster bees, squash bees, alkali bees, digger bees, cleptoparasitic bees, cuckoo bees and nocturnal bees …

About Bees – the History

Flowers and bees first live in 100 000 000 BC during the age of the dinosaurs.

In 20 000 000 BC honeybees and mammals emerged.

After the Ice Age, ancient people learned how to use smoke to calm bees.

Apiarists believe that the Egyptians were the first beekeepers.  They kept their bees in hives made of clay and mud.

The ancient Greeks studied new ways of raising and keeping bees.

Romans used melted beeswax and dye to paint pictures.

In the Middle Ages, beekeepers started using straw masks and hoods to protect them from bee stings.

Pilgrims brought the first honeybees to America.

There were honeybees in California by 1820.  Pioneers used boxes to trap bees – they followed the bee back to the hive and took the honey.

More recently, scientists have discovered the genes of a bee that lived 25 million years ago and bees have built a honeycomb in zero gravity on a Space Shuttle.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Dahlia imperialis

Even on gloomy day the Dahlia imperialis in Gerda's garden looks stunning.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Garden Group Meeting 20 November 2012

We had a very interesting and full afternoon with a presentation by Mavis on "the life span of the bee" and "what flowers to grow to encourage bees into the garden", followed by a visit to Henriette Rooymans' garden in Lorgues. 

Back at Gerda's we had tea with mince pies.  The mince pies were delicious,  a big thank you to all the ladies who brought them along.  A thank you as well to Francoise who baked two speculaas dolls, typical Belgian & Dutch custom for this time of the year.

After tea Gabrielle explained very thoroughly the problems that bees face today.  She promised to do a blog on it.  For members who were not at the meeting it is a must to read.

Mavis gave me her presentation to put on the blog.  For all of our members who were not at the meeting I copied it.  It makes an interesting read:


I want to start by talking briefly about the life cycle of bees, before we go on to plants for bees.  There are 4 stages to a bee's development:

  • Egg
  • Larva     {This development from egg to adult takes 21 days}
  • Pupa
  • Adult

In any colony of bees, be it a hive or wild nest, there are 3 types of bees

  1. Queen - only one queen to a colony, other queens that develop are driven out.  Only the queen lays eggs and these are one to each wax cell.  A queen lives for 4-5 years.
  2. Drones - drones mate with the queen and die after fertlizing her or are expelled before winter.  Fertilized eggs become worker bees, unfertilized eggs become drones.
  3. Workers - worker bees are all females (some may think that's par for the course)!  The workers make the cells from wax and feed the larva.  Workers may live for a few weeks in summer or several months in warmer areas.  Wax is made by the worker bees who secrete it from 8 wax glands and construct the hexaganal cells for the eggs and grubs and later for storing honey and pollen.
Bees wax is an invaluable product found in many types of polish, candles, coating cheese, cosmetics, lip balm etc.
Propolis is another product from honey bees which is a resin they collect from tree buds, sap and other botanical sources and used to seal gaps in their hives.
For humans it has many uses in medicine and commercially.

Nectar is collected by bees from plant flowers.  The flower petals attract the bee with the promise of nectar, the sugary liquid found inside the flower carpel at the base of the petal.  This is collected and transported back to the hive or nest for food and energy for the larva and the colony (not to mention humans).

Honey is one of natures great health foods.  For humans it is a wonderful source of energy food combined with many health giving properties (another subject in its own right).
Honey producers often use monofloral production - that is nectar collected from one species of plant.  For this the producer may grow great areas of one plant for example lavender, place his hives in it or will take the hives by truck to an area with a dense concentration of one flowering plant - hence chestnut, clover, rosemary, pine, acacia honey or wild flower meadows for multi flavoured.  He can do this in rotation of different flowering times.

Pollen - as gardeners, pollen collection and dispersal is the most important part of a bees function.  As the bees enters a flower for nectar, the fur of its body brushes against the sex organ of the plant collecting the pollen of the male stamens or anthers.  It then deposits it on the female parts (carpel, containing ovaries) of another plant of the same species.  This is why it is good to have clumps of the same flower.

Pollination can only take place in the same species though cross pollination in the same species can create hybrids which are then sterile.
Bees also take pollen back to the hive which is stored in vacated cells and is another source of food for them (and can be bought for human consumption).  It is a little yellow dry grain, sprinkle on ones food - yoghurt, cereals etc.

Now we come to the part most interesting to us - plants that attract bees, wasps, hoverflies, butterflies and other insects for pollination.

The most vital part of a bees activities for humans is the fertilization of plants, carrying the pollen from one flower to another strengthens the gene pool of the plant of the same species.  It is important in creating fruit and seeds to feed us and other wild life like birds, mice, squirrels etc., especially in the winter.
Bees as pollinators are essential in food production - for fruit production and vegetables that flower - pulses, courgettes, melons etc.

So here are a few known facts about what bees like and don't like.
  1. They prefer uncomplicated flowers - that is singles rather than doubles - it has been noted they will go to single dahlias not multi petaled - the same with roses.
  2. They have good colour vision and have colour preferences.  These are blue, purple, violet, white and yellow.  Apparently they see red as black and are not attracted.  For this reason it is better to have a large group of a flower species favourable to them rather the odd one or two plants.
  3. They have scent sensors in their feet but are probably more attracted by colour.
  4. They are sun worshippers (welcome to the Provence!) and will go to a sunny patch of flowers rather than those in the shade.
  5. They need water to drink and gardens with mulches are not attractive to them as some solitary species nest in a hole in the soil.
It is good to choose plant common to our area and conditions,  different bees live in different climatic areas.

So what plants

I will start with what some consider the best 5 plants for bees which are important and easy to find:

Echium vulgare (Vipers Bugloss).  Borago officinalis (Borage) - related, both blue and grow in the wild here.  The Bugloss flowers April - July, Borage April - September.

Lavender especially Lavandula angustifolia flowers June - August.  Lavandula  x intermedia, Salvias, Sunflower family.

Sedums spectabilis (Ice Plant) plus smaller varieties, large group, many wild, flowers in September also Aster (Michaelmas daisies).

Mahonia, Elaeagnus, Hellebores, Hedera (Ivy) and Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary) - winter flowering.

Crocus, Narcissus and Daphnes - early spring.

Bees in our area only sleep when it is very cold and are often quite weak in late winter so winter flowering plants are important.  Saskia did us a good list of these at a previous meeting.  It is a good idea to plant at least 2 varieties of plant for each season of the year so that there is a continuous food supply.

There are many herbs that bees love like wild thyme, rosemary, sage, dill, fennel etc. all of which grow wild in our area so are very little work in our herb garden.  For those who have the space and the right kind of terrain a patch of wild flowers is a wonderful idea.

Hope this has given you some ideas and enthusiasm.



We continued the afternoon with a visit to Henriette Rooymans' garden in Lorgues.  Henriette is a garden designer.  She re-designed Gerda's garden.  We were first introduced to her when she led us around Gerda's garden a few months ago and explained to us the reasons behind the design and choice of plants.  Her own garden is only two years old.  She is not quite finished yet, but it is absolutely amazing what she managed to create in such a short time.

When they started building the house, they were told that quite a thick layer of soil would have to be removed to be able to lay the foundations.  All the soil that was removed was placed in front of the house, together with a layer of top soil it formed an ideal condition for plants to grow.

Henriette works in large blocks of plants (small to medium in height) with in between shrubs, trees, bamboos and grasses.  There were several olive trees already on the plot which have been incorporated into the garden.  A lot of the plants are very suited to the area,  lavender, rosemary, thyme, salvias and olive trees.

Among the various trees are two Prunus subhirtella "Pendula", their leaves turn an orangy-red in autumn.  A lot of the shrub have greyish tones, but then as an contrast there are green leaved shrubs like Ceanothus and Pittosporum tobira.

She has a large collection of Bamboos.  I asked her if she would not mind to write out the names of the different Bamboos, Grasses and Acers.  The following is her list:

Pleioblastus variegates: ground cover bamboo with yellow/green leaf.

Pleioblastus auricomus
Phyllostachys Nigra (black stem)

Phyllostachys aureacaulis vivax (yellow stem (culm) with green stripes (sulcus)
Phyllostachys aureum (rough yellow culm)
Phyllostachys bornyensis (spotted culm)
Pylostachys holochrysa (orange culm)
Phylostachys castellionis inversa (green culm with yellow sulcus)

Phylostachys castellionis (yellow culm with green sulcus)
Phylostachys nidularia (thickening at the nodes)

Pennisetum alopecuroides “Hameln (requires more water than the more common Pennisetum, makes new shoots around the plant, does not like direct sunlight)

Pennisetum alopecuroides
Calamagrostis Karl Foerster (even by storm and heavy rain the stem stay upright)

Panicum virgatum "Rotstrahlbusch"
Miscanthus "kleiner Silberspinne"

Miscanthus "Krater"
Miscanthus “zebrinus"
Carex morrowii "Ice dance"
Festuca glauca "intense blue"

There were two wonderful Acers in the garden.  Acer palmatum "Sango Kako" with red branches and bright green leaves near the entrance:

Acer palmatum atropurpureum (red leaves).
Henriette mentioned that the ordinary Acer palmatum grows well in our area.  Even other Acers will cope as long as they get sufficient water and are not planted in a spot where they get the midday sun.

Another very pretty Cotoneaster with dropping branches is Cotoneater lacteus.  Apparently very suitable for hanging over a wall.

Photos: Gerda, Web & Saskia

Saturday, 20 October 2012

How to frost proof terracotta pots

As promised Sue's article on the protection of terracotta pots.



Your terracotta pots are not frost-proof?   Your terracotta pots were sold to you as frost-proof and turn out to be susceptible to frost?

Small pots can, of course, be easily moved into the shelter of a covered terrace or a light-filled garage or a greenhouse.   But what about those gigantic pots which, once filled with earth, are destined to remain rooted forever to their allotted spot?

Here’s how to protect your pots which can be as tender and in need of TLC as your frost-sensitive plants.

My remedy is to cover the outside of the pot with a loose tube of double-layer bubble-wrap with straw inserted between the bubble-wrap and pot plus an outer layer of bruyere to hide the unsightly plastic.


bubble-wrap (enough to go around the pot and overlap to fasten with stitching)
straw (enough to stuff between bubble-wrap and pot)
bruyere (enough to go around the pot+bubble-wrap & overlap to fasten with 
secateurs (to cut bruyere to size)
wire-cutters (to cut bruyere wire)
needle with wide “eye”
thick thread (used double) or fine string (to sew bubble-wrap and bruyere)
fat string/cord (to tie bubble-wrap around pot)

1.  Cut two lengths of bubble-wrap 30cm higher than the pot and long enough to go around the pot to overlap for stitching and to allow a fist of straw to be inserted.   Bubble-wrap is obtainable in 10m rolls from a removal company (Brusseau, 33 ave de l'Europe, ZAC St. Hermentaire, Draguignan) or DIY stores such as Leroy Merlin, Bricoman, Castorama (telephone first to check availability of “papier bulles”);  straw is found in the co-operative agricoles.

2.   With double thickness of thread or single length of fine string, tack the two layers of bubble-wrap together and join the two sides together.

3.   Slip over the pot and tuck up bottom 15 cm (this prevents straw touching damp ground)

4.   Stuff straw between bubble-wrap and pot and tie cord around top of pot and fold top 15cm of b-wrap over edge of pot (to prevent water penetration to straw)

5.   Cut bruyere with secateurs to exact height of pot to cover b-wrap and long enough to overlap for seam allowance plus extra 2.5cm.   Remove 2.5cm of bruyere  and twist each metal.

6.   Using fine string and large stitches, over-sew/hem the edges together.


Friday, 19 October 2012

A serial killer in our garden : Paysandisia archon

This pest native to South America, Uruguay, Paraguay, central Argentina has been accidentally introduced to Europe in the 90’s. It can be found in Spain, Italie. In France all the departments of PACA (Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur and Languedoc Roussillon are affected; now it is spreading to South West of France. 

 The scientific name for this moth is Paysandisia archon it belongs to the family Castniidae (Lepidoptera), most members of which live in South America where it is not consider as a pest. The adult is a beautiful moth, with a large wingspan of 9–11 cm. The fore-wings are olive brown-colored and the hind-wings are brightly colored with red, black and white The antennae are clubbed. Females are a little larger than the male. The eggs are laid separately; they are oblong (5 mm long), cream-colored and with longitudinal ribs. Just after hatching, the larva is pink-colored and less than 1 cm long, but turns white as it grows. It reaches 6–7 cm at the end of its development, looking a bit like a grub. 

The observations suggest that the moth has a long cycle of development. The adults are observed from June to September. They are active during the day. All stages of development, from egg to chrysalis have been recorded at the same time, in July. The egg is laid at the basis of the leaf on the stem or in the terminal bud. The larva bores a gallery through the stem or through the young leaves causing characteristic damage. When several larvae bore simultaneously in the stem, the palm becomes weak and can even die. Except for the period when the adults are flying, it is difficult to detect the presence of the pest; at the larval stage the only sign may be the presence of plugs of debris, like sawdust, visible at the outermost extremity of the gallery. The larva turns into a chrysalis, protected by a cocoon made with palm fibers inside the gallery. At the very end of its development, the chrysalis frees itself from the cocoon at the outermost extremity of the gallery, and a new adult moth is born after tearing this envelope. The remains of the chrysalis are often attached to the exit hole of the gallery for a while. 

 The damage is observed at different levels of the tree: leaves, rachis and top of the stem. Once hatched, the larva bores towards the heart of the palm and if several larvae are present on the same tree, this can lead to the death of the palm. Big palms can survive if they are not too severely attacked, but small ones or plants in the nursery or in containers are very exposed to attack. 

 How to treat it 
If the trees are too far gone they have to be destroy them by burning. 
 You can put a special kind of glue on your trees as a preventative measure (it kills the larvae). 
Also there are natural predators, such as the nematode worm.

Bibliographie :

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Garden Group Meeting, 16 October 2012

We now have a permanent home for our garden group meetings.  As we were growing in numbers, it became more and more difficult to find a house large enough to fit us all.  Gerda kindly offered her home to us.  It suits I think everyone.

Today was a special meeting as not only were we having our regular meeting, we were celebrating the 89th birthday of one of our members, Anneke, we sang Happy Birthday in Dutch, French and English for her.   The birthday cakes were made by Françoise.

Sue brought along a guest, Rens Korting, who is trained florist and used to make the flower arrangements for the Apollo Hotel in Amsterdam.

Rens showed us how she made the flower arrangement that was presented to Anneke, and gave us some useful tips:

  • Oasis should never be forced to absorb water, it should soak up the water by itself.
  • When you want to use a flower with a semi-hard stem, first make a hole with a small stick into the oasis, leave the stick in and as you put in the flower, you remove the stick.
  • Some leaves do not have strong enough stalks to put into the oasis, in that case you use flower arrangement wire (thin one), put it into and out of the leaf close to the central nerve, pull it through so you have a bit of the wire sticking out, twist it together with the rest of the wire, and voilà you have a strong leaf to put into the oase.

  • The same can be done with a flower, push the wire through the base of the flower, again twist the two ends of the wire together. cut it to the right length and push it into the oasis.
  • If you use a flower made up of small florets and you want the florets closer together,  push the wire through the florets, again twist the two ends of wire together ready to be put into the oasis.
  • With pine cones it is the same thing, one end of the wire is circled around the scales of the pine cone and meets up with the rest of the wire, again it is twisted together, ready to be put into the oasis. 

Elisabeth gave an interesting presentation on the larvae of a moth introduced from south America into southern Europe that is decimating the palm trees on the Mediterranean coast and now inland as well.  More info will be be posted on the blog by Elisabeth.

Sue covered  "Jobs for the month".   Special mention was made of how to protect your pots from frost. More on this subject will be posted on the blog.

The last item of the day was "what flowers in autumn".  Members were asked to bring with them cuttings of  plants that were still flowering in their gardens.  We had quite a selection.   I've arranged the plant names by colour:

White:  Bellis perennis (Common Daisy), Choisya ternata, Potentilla fruticosa "Abbotswood", Solanum jasminoides (Climber).

Pink:  Abelia x grandiflora, Cosmos, Hibiscus syriacus "Lavender Chiffon",  Lagerstroemia (deep pink), Nerium oleander, Salvia greggii "Lipstick"(Coral pink), Salvia x jamensis "Raspberry Royal",  Sedum spectabile (Ice Plant).

Blue/Purple:  Aster novai-belgii "Chequers",  several other Asters, Buddleja davidii "Empire Blue", Ceratostigma plumbaginoides,  Perovskia, a creeping rosemary from Corsica, Salvia farinacea, Salvia "Indigo Spires".

Yellow: Buddleja x weyeriana 'Sungold' a cross between B. davidii x B. globosa, not Buddleja madagascariensis that we saw in the Hanbury gardens, Bupleurum fruticosum, Coreopsis, Helianthus, Potentilla fruticosa "Elizabeth"?, Sternbergia lutea (Yellow Autumn Crocus.

Orange:  Calendula officinalis (Marigold), Echeveria "Topsy Turvy", Gaillardia, Pyrancantha berries (Firethorn). Rose (yellow-orange), Tropaeolum (Nasturtium), Zinnia.

Red:  Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, Roses in several shades of red, Salvia microphylla, Salvia microphylla "Hot Lips".

The grey conifer used by Rens in the flower arrangement is I think Cupressus arizonica var. glabra.

Photos:  Gerda


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