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Despite the warnings of adverse weather, a fair number of people attended our Monday 26th February 2018 meeting which featured Keith Abel describing A Year in Our Garden with the aid of a set of slides illustrating various points of interest throughout the year. Keith grows vegetables and a few late chrysanthemums while Janet, the other half of 'Our' garden, grows early chrysanthemums. Both are championship level growers and exhibitors in their own right and have won many trophies and awards in their chosen fields of expertise. Celery is one of Keith's specialist subjects and his celery often feature in the NVS exhibition stands at Harrogate Shows.Keith told us about the history of their garden in Leconfield which has been reduced in size following the loss of part of their neighbour's land which, unfortunately, they now no longer have access to for cultivation purposes, although they do share an allotment elsewhere. This means that their garden facilities are highly compact and growing cycles have to be carefully project-managed throughout the year in order to accommodate the demands and requirements of their many exhibition varieties of vegetables and chrysanthemums. Such is their dedication that even holidays have to be fitted in carefully around key dates in their growing and showing calendar, as well as the availability of an assistant to carry out the watering duties during their absence!

The information provided was extensive but some key points to emerge from this talk included the following. The fungicide Cheshunt Compound is no longer available to purchase but Sigma was said to be obtainable through the National Chrysanthemum Society. Celery need lots of water to grow properly and potatoes need to be kept moist throughout their tuber formation in order to achieve and retain smooth skins. Onions should not be overwatered, especially close to harvest time, otherwise split bulb skins will result and damage the chances of success on the showbench. Footpowder containing fungicide is potentially more useful than basic talcum powder for dressing onion skins during the ripening process. Young leek seedlings, especially those removed from seedheads, often exhibit a distinct bend which can be straightened by wrapping foam pipe lag tubing around the barrel and tying tightly for a week or so. It is important that this is done early as this treatment is less successful with older plants. Keith aims to obtain 18" (45cm) of blanch by mid-May in order to obtain exhibition quality leeks for showing in September.

When watering plants in the greenhouse, try to use water that is of the same ambient temperature. Repeated use of overcool water may shock the plants, affect their growth rate and, in the case of leeks and onions, may even cause bolting. Growing Tagetes alongside plants in the greenhouse helps to deter pests and also provides an extra bit of colour. Provado is the insecticide of choice to use on ripening chrysanthemum buds and using clothes pegs to attach bloom bags to chrysanthemum stems is easier than string or wire ties




After the AGM held on 29th January 2018, Anne Augustyns told us that she fell in love with gladioli when she visited Harrogate Show for the first time, just a few years ago, and now grows 350 plants on her allotment. Anne has managed to win five cups and trophies at local Yorkshire Shows with her gladioli so far, although she claims to be a mere novice! She sows her corms in April/May staggered at two week intervals and plans to have blooms ready for her first Shows in July. The ground is rotavated and given a light dressing of growmore fertiliser. Corms are then sown 3" - 4" deep and 6" apart with rows spaced at 12" intervals. The plants are staked from the beginning in order to keep the stems growing upright in the open windy conditions experienced on her allotment site. She uses a commercial taping machine and aims to tie a band beneath the first bud leaves although one of her favourite varieties Rotary does not really need staking, in her experience. She does not grow under cover but is currently investigating how best to build some protective framework in the future as she recognises that perfect blooms can easily be destroyed by wind and rain. She does not spray or use any form of pesticides since she has not experienced any thrip damage to her blooms, so far. Anne has tried growing a few gladioli in containers under cover but found that the resulting blooms were rather stunted and of insufficient Show quality.

Anne buys quality corms of recognised provenance from Great Western Gladiolus rather than cheap, shop-bought and mass-produced varieties. Her favourite varieties are Esta Bonita, Bonfire, Rotary, Amsterdam, Careless, Cream Perfection and Flevo. Some varieties such as Amsterdam retain their vigour for several years but, generally, she likes to buy new stock each year, preferring medium-sized corms rather than the largest available size. After blooming, her corms are lifted in September/October. She snaps the stalk off rather than letting them die back naturally and then allows the lifted corms to dry off in a cool greenhouse.

Generally, for showing purposes, Anne looks for stems that exhibit a third of blooms fully open, a third half-open and a third in bud, borne on straight spikes. She will cut 20 stems from which to select the best six for staging on each Show day which is the reason why she needs to grow so many plants each year. She used to cut her stems on the morning of the Show but now cuts them two or three days ahead and keeps them cool and dark and in buckets of water in her garage. Stems are cut on the slant, rather than straight across, in order to maximise the surface area available for water take-up. Anne's normal and easily recognised method of transport to the Shows is a small, two-seater yellow sports car. In view of the somewhat restricted storage space available, she has designed special corrugated sheet trays to accommodate and transport her stems which are laid flat in the bottom of each channel with the cut end of each stem enclosed in a small plastic bag of water.

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