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Speakers

May 2017 Speaker - David Standing

The May meeting boasted record attendance for a talk by David Standing from The Gilbert White House at Selborne where he is head gardener. David’s talk was on Cottage Gardens and he described what features are important to give Cottage Gardens their character. Their apparent disorder and sense of history are key, together with non-geometric shapes and mixed planting that come together to give their typical picturesque nature. David went on to tell us how we can create these same characteristics and the types of flower that are typically found in cottage gardens, so that any garden, even on a suburban housing estate can be given a sense of charm. His top 10 included primula, dianthus, bellis, hollyhocks and sunflowers all combined together with climbers such as Wisteria and old fashioned climbing roses.

April 2017 Speaker - Dr Nikki Gammans

Our April meeting was very well attended and included a talk from Dr Nikki Gammans entitled the Plight of the Bumblebee. Nikki works for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and leads the program to reintroduce the short-haired bumble into the UK. We were treated to an introduction to the three groups of bee, the solitary bees of which there are 230 types, the honeybee with one species across Europe and Bumblebees with 24 different species across the country ranging from the common buff-tailed bees to the quite rare Great Yellow Bumblebee. Nikki showed us something of the lifestyle and challenges faced by these different bees with a focus on Bumblebees and how they were declining over the last 10 years due to changes in farming techniques and loss of habitat. She also explained about her project to reintroduce the short-haired bumblebee which was classified as extinct in the UK. She went on to tell us which types of plant to grow to encourage pollinating insects, and how to create a wildflower meadow to encourage bees.

March 2017 Speaker - Cherrill Sands

Our speaker this month was Cherrill Sands who gave a talk on the Gardens of Surrey.  Cherrill is a freelance garden historian and after working as a guide at Painshill went on to study for a MA in Conservation and Landscapes, Parks & Gardens at the Architectural Association.  She is also the Chair of the Surrey Gardens Trust. 

 

Her talk should have been entitled “Historic Gardens of Surrey” as it included Albury, Painshill, Gatton Park, Titsey Place, Munstead Wood, Vann, Virginia Water, House of Fraser Roof Garden, Castle Garden, Great Fosters and of course Wisley. 

 

Albury was designed by John Evelyn in the 1600’s with an Italian influence and much of it can still be seen the garden will be open in October for autumn colour.  Painshill dates back to the early 1700’s and is a lovely example of a landscaped garden, it fell into decay after the war but a group of locals formed a charity trust and most of the original design has now been restored, it’s open year round.  Gatton Park, once a private house, at one time owned by J Colman (of mustard fame), it is now a school but the grounds designed by Capability Brown are very much like the original – opens the 1st Sunday of the month. 

 

Titsey Place garden and house open to the public with formal as well as landscape gardens plus a walled garden.  Virginia Water is free to visit, best in May, but the car park is £5.  There is a large lake and some very old and rare trees alongside Rhododendrons and Azaleas.  Great Fosters (nr Staines) is a hotel which dates back to the 1920’s and a great venue for a wedding.  That just leaves Wisley which was gifted to the RHS in 1902 – the most visited garden in Surrey.

 

The nearest gardens to Guildford, all of which are well worth a visit, are Munstead Wood, Vann, House of Fraser Roof Garden and Castle Garden. 


February 2017 Speaker - Dr Michael Keith-Lucas

Dr Michael Keith-Lucas a retired Senior Tutor in Plant Sciences at the University of Reading gave his talk “How Plants Solve Crime” and what a fascinating subject this proved to be.  After explaining how he had identified the grass pollen found in the nose of a Saxon buried centuries ago in Orkney proved that the subject had died in the summer this sparked his interest in how pollen could be used.  He explained the differences between windblown pollen and insect pollen and that as there are approximately 50 thousand of specks of pollen in one square centimetre in the air that we breath this is why so many people suffer from hay fever in the summer, due to the high concentration of grass pollen at that time of year  

 

He was asked to help identify where a recovered body was killed and as a result he has worked on several cases for the police.  After examining a canvas bag in which a semtex bomb had been found he could confirm that the bag had been left in June but that on further examination that the bag had also been left somewhere where there was heather, the police confirmed that the IRA very often hid things on heathland.  Another case was a burglary at a garden centre, where several Box plants had been stolen.  The suspect was detained and after it was proved that the pollen on his trousers could only have come from Box he pleaded guilty.  He also helped in the identification of where a female body found in a park in Bracknell had been by the pollen found on her shoes.  He has given several talks to the police on how important it is to retain a crime scene. 

 

Since retiring, he now helps beekeepers in finding out where their bees are gathering pollen.  Apparently rapeseed pollen doesn’t make very good honey and Lime tree pollen is toxic to bees.  The best honey would appear to come from urban hives where there more gardens with flowering plants. By testing the pollen in honey it is possible to tell where in the world that honey comes from.  Scientist are now looking to use DNA and have even fitted barcodes onto bees to see how far away they will go to collect pollen.  

 

A very entertaining and certainly educational evening. 



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