May 2018 - Jack Wildgoss

What an entertaining and informative evening we had at the Mickleton Gardening Club meeting on May 16th! Jack Willgoss proved to be one of our best speakers (and youngest) to date. 

He described, with humour, how he and his wife, Laura, had dreamt of owning their own nursery after meeting at Wisley Horticultural College and marrying in 2006. After a series of formative adventures they bought the Bouts Viola business in 2011 and then set about finding a site for their collection. 

After some set-backs they were able to rent the traditional walled gardens of Millichope House in Shropshire.  These were derelict and contained some rare Georgian curvilinear glasshouses which were in a dreadful condition. With help from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Country Houses Association  the glasshouses were restored  and after 5 years the 2 acre site, with far reaching views of Brown Clee hill and beyond, was thriving. The couple make a point of sitting in different areas of the garden each evening to appreciate their work and to decide on any changes that may be needed. This is something we think all gardeners need to emulate!!

Jack went into great detail on the botanical background of perennial violas. He described the difference between them and pansies and explained the strengths and the differences between the many varieties. Some amusing anecdotes were given to help folk remember how some of the plants were named and he told us how to use the plants in the garden and after picking. In particular he recommended using viola cornutus beneath roses to hide their ‘ugly legs’ and help avoid black spot. 

We were given a list of 20 of Jack’s favourite violas with explanations as to why he had chosen them and whether they were scented or vigorous or best grown in pots. Number 1 on the list was viola Josie as it is vigorous, scented and has got large flowers.

The Club is now keen to go on a trip to the gardens and tea shop at Wildegoose Nursery in the near future. We hope it will be as good, if not better, than our successful trip to Chenies Manor in Buckinghamshire on May 10th!

April 2018 - Martin Hayes

There was a time when folk used to ‘take the car out for a Sunday afternoon drive’. This could entail following the ‘Blossom Trail’ around the Vale of Evesham at this time of year. In places this trail is still marked but, over the years , the traditional orchards began to be neglected as they were deemed unprofitable when produce could be brought in from abroad cheaply. Never mind that all sorts of methods are employed to ensure that out-of season or distantly sourced fruits appear on the shelves as ‘fresh’!!

On Wednesday, 18th April, we heard about cheering new trends from Martin Hayes of the Gloucestershire Orchard Trust (GOT). Once an itinerant harvester of fruit and veg. and now a renowned expert on our remaining traditional orchards; he makes a full-time living from orchard maintenance in a practical and consultative capacity. There is such a demand for his skills and knowledge that he can work for 7 days a week and doesn’t see himself retiring.

The Trust is a Charity and it has well over 100 members who have managed to raise funds to purchase some old orchards on the River Severn at Longney near Gloucester. These are open to the public and are not only a wonderful sight in Spring but they are also a source of collections of fruit and grafts. There are 7 interconnected orchards with Perry pears (which can live to 150 to 300 years!), Cider apples, Marjory Seedlings (plums), and new varieties from all over Britain as well as special Gloucestershire varieties.

One of the sections of the orchard is for people to come along and take cuttings from new branches to use as Grafts. (The ‘Mother Orchard’). So these trees don’t produce blossom and are funny shapes. In the past a mother would take grafts of her own fruit trees and grow new trees in order to give to her daughters when they married….so that they could start their own orchards. (What a novel idea for us to copy!!) This is one of the reasons why there are so many different varieties of fruit trees. There's now a very reliable semi vigorous root stock MM106 which allows everyone to have a fruit tree no matter how small their garden or rooftop and makes this process much easier to achieve.


Nowadays we can use DNA testing to establish if a tree is a new variety. Martin explained that some counties claimed varieties as special to their area and gave them local names. DNA testing has revealed that they are sometimes not as special as was thought!! They are identical to others around the country.

The Gloucestershire Orchard Trust does not spray in its orchards and operates manual weeding; including the grazing of animals. Lottery funding helps pay for training new experts in orchard maintenance and their expertise is being sought all over the country. To help keep the momentum going, and to spread knowledge, the experts work with school children and raise money by selling apple juice called 'Trust Juice’.  (This gets sold out as it is seasonally produced ). Martin donated his Speaker’s fee to the Trust….Its a cheering thought that perhaps the ‘Blossom Trail’ may be revived and, with weather like we have had this Spring, will be a sight to cheer our jaded eyes!

March 2018 - Mark Draper

Many folk dream of creating ‘just one more garden’ but finances, family, jobs and sometimes age prevent the realization of the dream. At the March meeting we listened to a man whose job is to draw and physically create Show gardens and gardens for private clients. He lives the dream! 

His name is Mark Draper and his Show gardens at Chelsea, Malvern and for the Garden Design industry awards have won his company, Graduate Gardeners Ltd., multiple Gold Medals and ‘Best in Show’ awards.

He took us through the complete design process to the final days of judging; when he and his team celebrated their win at the 2014 Malvern Spring Show and won the Best in Show award.

The creation process started when his family were watching ‘Strictly’ in January....He prefers to be away from the stresses of the office for this part of the process! It was to be a wild flower garden that mixed seamlessly with a more formal, modern garden with a still pool; punctuated with gently dripping water.

By mid-May the open landscape of the exposed plot that had been allocated to the company at the Showground had undergone a stunning transformation. It was surrounded by hawthorn hedges and shaded by birch trees which screened the plot from the rest of the Showground and allowed the Malvern Hills to seem part of the visual background. A rusty, reclaimed gate (we forgot to ask him where he obtained this!!) drew the eye through the garden and co-ordinated with the steel beams above the pond and walk-way areas.

The garden contained over 1,500 plants with easily recognizable plants such as brunnera and camassia all in blues and pastel shades. Most of the plants remained in their pots and were packed in at about 40 or 50 to a sq. meter. It was a neatly contrived scene to encourage us to carry-on dreaming!

This year’s design is already on the drawing board and is more modern and structural. It will feature garden lighting which will enable the company to take evening photographs for their advertising material...some of which appears regularly in the first pages of the Cotswold Life magazine. It is no wonder that the company has employees who have been with it for more than 30 of its 48  years in existence!

Many of us are now more tempted than ever to visit this year’s Malvern Show!

Mark kindly donated his Speaker’s fee to ‘Children in Need’.

February 2018 - Glyn Jones

In the cold of a bleak midwinter night  Mickleton Gardening Club‘s meeting in the King George’s Hall was full of members, warmth, laughter and the joy of learning.

Our Speaker was Glyn Jones, Head Gardener of the five Shakespeare properties. A fellow villager; Glyn’s talk was as good as his previous ones and we were proud to have him supporting the village. He donated his Speaker fee to the Young Gardener’s Club which is run by Ann and Barry Metcalfe on the village allotments; the oldest allotments in the country. 

Glyn has brought his unwavering enthusiasm to the job that he has now held for two years. He is aiming to turn the Shakespeare Gardens into Gardens of National Importance by the end of his eventual tenure and has made a rapid and incredibly well thought-out start to the task.

In Ann Hathaway’s Garden he is trying to re-create the planting that was influenced by Ella Willmott so that the colours are like a sweet shop with vibrant pockets of colour which give a romantic atmosphere.

There is a very large acreage of woodland around Ann Hathaway’s cottage and wildlife is encouraged here. 30 hedgehogs have been released; with special hedgehog ‘houses’ for them to hibernate in. Also the Trust has created a small outdoor theatre for use by visiting schools and where educational woodland days can take place.

At the Birthplace Glyn has set out first to improve the soil and to get rid of ‘thugs’ like golden rod  and crocosmia. Then he wants to make the most of every part of the garden; like the zone between two statues of Asian poets where he can grow Himalayan plants. Planting some of the 32,000 bulbs here and across the other gardens has given a ‘zing’ to the sites! Many of them are purple and yellow tulips to reflect the ‘Shakespeare colours’.

Hall’s Croft itself is in need of serious renovation and so the gardens will be completely renovated too when the site is closed to the public.The aim is to make a medicinal garden; growing plants that would have been used by physicians in Shakespeare’s time.

Mary Arden’s farm has wildflower areas and plants and fruit trees which represent the Tudor period. They are used in the restaurant along with meat from animals reared on the farm.

Glyn explained the symbolism and relevance of most of the ‘artificial’ features which make-up the first part of the garden where Shakespeare had the only courtyard garden known in Stratford at the time. The knot garden has been restored and replanted and looked so good that Prince Charles went straight back to Highgrove after his visit and ordered the grubbing-up and re-planting of his own knot garden!

We learnt all sorts of things as Glyn led us through the gardens. One of the more memorable ones was that male urine poured on holes that foxes dig in lawns will deter them!! Wonders!