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Free to Friends of Ness Gardens

NESS, NESTON CHESHIRE CH64 4AY T 0845 030 4063 Email Website

The Gentian


The Newsletter for the Friends of Ness Gardens ISSUE 231 SPRING 2013


Headline News

Contents ISSUE 231 SPRING 2013

Headline News ............................................................................................... 1 Paul Cook on a decade at Ness .......................... 2-3 Botanische re-invented......................................4-5 Involving Children in the Gardens ........................... 6 Our Wonderful Volunteers! ........................................... 7-9 Rhododendrons ......................................................................... 12-14 National Garden Scheme ..................................................... 15 Gardening Tips - Andy Lambie ................................... 16 Friends’ News ................................................................................... 18-19 What’s On at Ness .............................................................. 20-23

Editorial Board: Helen Watters, Kevin Reid, Paul Cook, Fiona Harrison, Tracey Crich. Design: Big Drum Communications. Printed on recycled paper by C3 Imaging, Liverpool. Cover picture: Yellow flowered Primula florindae with multicoloured candelabra primulas in the Rock Garden. The Friends of Ness Gardens is a registered charity No 511294. Views expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of Ness Botanic Gardens or the Friends of Ness Gardens. Material for the next issue should reach the editor by 15 June; email University of Liverpool, Ness Botanic Gardens Tel 0845 030 4063 Website: Email:

Gardeners’ Question Time returns! Welcome to the Spring 2013 issue of The Gentian! We hope you are enjoying the new style of your magazine – but it’s not just the style that’s changed, we are also building up the content to give you a good read. I am sure you will sense the fun enjoyed by the youngsters during the February Woodland Wonder Week – we are all looking forward with great excitement to the May half-term ‘Wildlife Week’.

Following the outstanding success of BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time Summer Garden Party last year, we are delighted to announce that BBC Radio 4 have made the unprecedented move of holding the GQT Summer Garden Party again at Ness - on Saturday 7 September 2013. Said a spokesperson for the programme: “The response from the audience was incredible and the deputy controller of Radio 4 was full of

praise”. Director Kevin Reid is delighted with the news: “ We are thrilled that GQT is returning to Ness again this year! The GQT day last year was a landmark for Ness; the celebrities were full of praise for the Gardens and I have never seen so many smiling faces. GQT loved us - and we loved them! Don’t miss your ticket for the 2013 re-visit - and follow us on the Ness Gardens website, Facebook and Twitter!”

And as Spring arrives we bring you a feature from Tim Baxter on the Rhododendrons at Ness. Come along and take a look... and while you are here, try the new ‘Tree Trail’ – a self-guided walk looking at 22 trees of special interest to Ness. Also in this issue we sadly say goodbye to Lorna Harper who, after putting a fantastic effort into the Friends’ membership system, is moving to a new post at Jodrell Bank. And we send off gardener, Steve Miller and cleaner, Jan Scarffe with thanks for all the hard work they have put into Ness and best wishes for their respective retirements. Finally, can I remind you we would love to be able to keep you up-to-date promptly with what’s going on at Ness. To do this we need your email addresses – do send them in to Fiona Harrison

487 Bus service comes to Ness Great news for Ness and the environment! Arriva has extended the 487 Neston-Liverpool service to Ness Gardens. The service runs every 30 minutes from 9.01am to 17.31 Monday to Saturday (the 488 Sunday / Bank Holiday service remains unchanged). For more travel details see the Gardens’ website. Picture perfect Andrew Loudon, a keen photographer, has a month-by-month photographic guide to the delights of Ness Gardens. With the closure of the Webshots photosharing website, the guide has been transferred to Flickr. Go to: sets then click on the album UK: Ness Gardens, Wirral.

Sunday brunch, anyone? The Garden Kitchen is offering a delicious all day Brunch (9.30am-3.30pm) and Roast Dinner (12noon-3.30pm) every Sunday. The brunch (price £4 - £8) features eggs benedict, old smokey (toast, scrambled eggs, streaky bacon) and pancakes & maple syrup. The roast dinner (price £7 - £8) includes a main (chicken, pork, gammon or beef) and all the trimmings. Vegetarian options are always available. So come along for a hearty brunch or Sunday lunch and a refreshing walk around the Gardens.

Spring 2013


and look good. Our visitors want to see a well cared for garden and take away ideas for their own spaces. The Potager was designed to do that in spadefuls! A high quality alpine house display at its centre surrounded by a mix of vegetable and flowers give a very different atmosphere to the larger landscape settings of our main plant collections.

Paul Cook... on 10 years at Ness


orticulture is the profession that gives the greatest job satisfaction and is the role that stressed professionals would choose if the salaries were higher. I chose to work in gardens after seeing an article about two Kew students and how they were able to combine the practical aspects of gardening with the science of botany and horticulture. After following those students and spending three years at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on the Kew Diploma course I returned to the northwest to teach at Reaseheath College before starting a garden design and landscaping business. The opportunity to take over as Head Gardener from Tom Acton at Arley Hall came in 1994 and I spent eight years working in one of the finest gardens in the country with a dedicated team of four gardeners. Ness pulled me away from Arley in 2002 to take on the role of Curator from Peter Cunnington. This role has, as the survey says, given me great job satisfaction. My first day at Ness was on the first of February 2002. I arrived, somewhat nervously, with ideas and plans for the future of the Gardens and hoped to work with staff, Friends and volunteers to continue the Gardens’ development. The first year was a gradual bedding in process, listening to many views and opinions on Ness, meeting people and getting used to the University’s systems. It became clear that Ness Gardens had many challenges ahead to preserve its status as a ‘good garden’.

and other features due to major changes within the University. The Pingo waterfall

Ness had been home to the School of Biological Sciences but in 2004 moves began to relocate back to Liverpool and allow Ness to be managed under a different University regime. Negotiations resulted in a plan to develop the Gardens on a more commercial footing, build a new visitor centre and, when complete, appoint a Director to secure the future of Ness. Working through this disruptive stage was

made easier thanks to a core group of staff and volunteers who carried on regardless of the constant builders’ interruptions. By 2006 the Horsfall Rushby Visitor Centre was complete, and the bulk of the clearing work was over. It was time to start building a new future for Ness.

Some garden areas had become dominated by large evergreen shelter belts, mainly consisting of Leyland cypress, (× Cuprocyparis leylandii). Chainsaws were sharpened and felling began to clear spaces - allowing light and moisture back into the ground, and to reveal those views of the Dee estuary.

The natural beauty of Ness lends itself to the major collections we have of Sorbus, birch, rhododendrons, camellias, heathers and alpine plants. In our 64 acres we have a lot of plants but not all were easy to reach and not all were labelled. Making the collections accessible, physically and intellectually was, and is still, a priority. New pathways have been built and more are planned, plants have been propagated and planted out and that also continues. Partnerships have been formed between staff, volunteers, colleges and nurseries to make this happen. Funding has been provided by the Friends of Ness Gardens to support this vital part of our role as a Botanic Garden.

The loss of these domineering hulks was an easy decision but it was harder to see the gradual decline of our glasshouse collections

Secondary to this is that Ness has to inspire gardeners, be maintained to a high standard

The strength of Ness is its site. The rock, slopes, water and views that drew Arthur Bulley are still the Garden’s heart. I want visitors to walk into Ness and feel that they are in a special place.


It would also provide an area for Ness students to learn their trade: there is a lot to learn in planning and cultivating an intensive productive garden.

The Gentian

The Alpine House in the Potager

Ness has always had a fine balancing act to make between the academic research and botanical side of our work and the aesthetics of a garden as a visitor attraction. I see my role as supporting the Garden’s aspirations to be both a beautiful space and a garden to inspire. I am only too aware that not everything has succeeded and resources have been squeezed, which is always uncomfortable. What has been consistent is the support of staff, volunteers and the Friends of Ness Gardens to keep pushing for improvements and maintain Ness as a garden for science and pleasure. “It will make you jolly to see people going round your garden; if you mix with them unbeknownst, you will hear some very nice things.” Arthur Kilpin Bulley - Radio Broadcast 1934 I am always happy, as our founder was, to hear nice things about our work at Ness and The Gentian has accounts of the many projects such as the Pingo, the Making Waves garden, RHS gold medal winning gardens, Ness Holt Azaleas propagation, and many others - all made possible through the Ness team’s efforts over the past decade. We will be completing work on the Terraces over the next few months. Then next year our major project will be renovation of the Potting Sheds. Keep an eye out for updates on this.

The Potting Sheds... awaiting 2014

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‘This garden has been in place for two years now and the planting had matured to the point that the original design intent of the garden had been largely lost, and the central Primula bulleyana pollen grain sculpture obscured from view. The plan of the garden is based on the structure of a plant stem seen under a 4

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Botanische re-invented microscope, with groups of cells represented by groups of plants, and with the circular rings arrangement of the beds representing the layers found in a plant stem.

Photo: Mike Turner

Rachel Saunders has taken a one-year placement at Ness to gain practical experience following a full-time college course. This post is sponsored by the Historic and Botanic Gardens Bursary Scheme and partly funded by the Friends of Ness Gardens. Rachel is with us until August and takes great inspiration from the history of the Gardens and especially Arthur Bulley’s vision in founding them over 150 years ago and his remarkable generosity in opening them to the public. Here she tells us about her first project revitalising Ness Botanische, otherwise known as the Chris Beardshaw Garden.

Some form of evergreen planting will also be introduced to give year round structure, and the grass seating mound will be replaced with tiered hedging instead to ease maintenance.

I started by looking at the successes and failures in the planting to inform future changes, and also at whether or not to reinforce, reinterpret or abandon the original design ideas in the redesign and redevelopment of the garden. Some plants had simply grown too bulky or tall for the space, with others being crowded out and even disappearing. Some of the grasses looked untidy and there was a lack of long seasonal interest in the planting.

Rachel is tackling the lack of Winter interest

work better with a slightly different palette of plants so I am reinterpreting the original design ideas by modifying the planting to increase seasonal interest and to refocus the garden on the central sculpture.

Rachel’s planning is over and the hard work begins

I studied the original plans and plants for the garden here at Ness and compared them with photos and descriptions of the original show garden at the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show 2009. I then noted the plants found in the garden as we cleared most of them into a holding bed to see which had survived and those missing. I concluded that the design idea was and is a good one. However, the style of planting could

Some work is still to be done to relocate plants out of Ness Botanische to other parts of the gardens, and I have not yet come up with my plant list for those going back in so I still have plenty of work to do to complete the project on the ground. I hope to be able to update you on my progress in future editions of The Gentian.’

The fully stocked holding bed

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Woodland Wonder Week The latest family fun event during February Half-Term was a big success - even on the coldest of days, folk wrapped up in woollies and turned up keen to have some fun... The variety of February Half -Term activities in the Visitor Centre and the Garden proved very popular with children aged 2 to 13.

Learning Centre, ran an Ipad Tree Trail that used QR Codes (quick response bar code) to find out about the fascinating trees at Ness.

The Woodland Wonder Game Trail combined treasure hunt and trail with visitors collecting counters (pine cone, leaf twig, a magic stone from the treasure chest...) and searching for woodland facts placed around the Garden. On leaving, they took their board game home.

Children of all ages, but particularly the tiny tots, loved the Magical Woodland Colouring Den.

Science presenter Rob Wix excited the audience with interactive sessions on woodland products. Plenty of keen volunteers joined him to help demonstrate the strength of bamboo, the stretchiness of rubber, how trees take up water - and much more - in his Woodland Wonder Show. The Hulme Room buzzed with Woodland Craft drop-in sessions as little ones made stick picture frames, dream catchers, cone animals, hobby horses and puppet theatres as well as trying out water divining. Becky Ford and her volunteer helpers gave advice about crafts while Rose Froud demonstrated to young film-makers how to write a story board, capture video footage of their puppet characters and use the puppet theatre as a film set. The Learning Lighthouse City 6

The Gentian

A Gallery of Tree Images taken by Tim Baxter, Ness’s resident botanist, and others was on display in the Centre alongside screens showing woodland information designed by Andy Lambie. So what’s coming up for youngsters next? EASTER •Two garden trails will run over the Easter holiday - the everpopular Easter Egg Hunt and ‘Don’t Count your Chickens’, a CSI-style trail where families (best for 6-13 yrs) have to fathom out who stole Henrietta chicken. MAY HALF TERM (Sat 25 May – Sun 2 June) • Wildlife Week! Another week-long event melding entertainment and education with trails for various audiences (guided and selfrun), shows, talks, drop-in sessions, displays and demonstrations. See the What’s On guide at the back of The Gentian for full details. Keep a look out on the Ness Gardens website, Facebook and Twitter pages for more details closer to the time!!

Making it happen: Volunteering at Ness Gardens Tracey Crich, Friend & Volunteer Week in, week out, they are as busy - and as essential - as bees. Where would Ness be without its wonderful army of committed volunteers? As you know, Ness Gardens is a wonderful place to spend quality time... But it only survives through the support provided by the hard work and passion of its huge volunteer force. From early beginnings and up to the present day, a band of willing volunteers help out in a multitude of ways at Ness Gardens, some coming several times a week and although their relative skills and experience are important, their energy and enthusiasm count just as much! Some might think that volunteering at Ness is all about gardening and it is true that a lot of our volunteers form the Garden volunteers Summer 2012: Warwick Hampson directing Kate, backbone of the weeding teams.

Mary Flanagan, Penny Jennings, Helen Farnell, Sue Emmett and Barbara

Pat Johnson is very happy with her role Allsop as a volunteer in the Gardens: “We are a very mixed bunch – some just love gardening and some have come into the Gardens after completing courses at Ness - but we all get on very well together. I have made a lot of very good friends there.” She continues, “Our Monday group works mainly in the Rock

Volunteers at their summer “thank you” party 2012

Garden, under the watchful but kindly eye of Fred - he is always appreciative of our efforts. Mainly the efforts consist of weeding or cutting back but time passes quickly.” And asked what she loves best about volunteering at Ness, Pat says “It is lovely to walk around the Muscling out a juniper bush! Gardens and think ‘I planted those’ or ‘we weeded that’. I especially like Little Overdale wood in the spring, where we have planted and transplanted hundreds of snowdrops over the years.” But there’s a whole host of other activities in

Spring 2013


Membership update... Our wonderful army of Volunteers... welcoming presence for visitors who can answer questions, assist with orientation and give information about the Gardens and specific events as required. If you are interested, speak to one of our staff.

Paul Cook with stalwart volunteer Beryl Ross

which people can get involved at Ness. For example, our army of Visitor Centre volunteers help with visitor enquiries and with weddings and all the events we do for our visitors and Friends through the year.

A strong team of garden guides share their love of Ness with others and enjoy nothing more than to take new visitors on a tour of discovery. They vary considerably in their experience and skills and thus can give different slants to the tours. Beryl Ross, one of our octogenarian garden guide volunteers, is convinced that “showing off the Gardens to our visitors is the best job going”. She firmly believes that “the opportunity to work in an environment which Ness provides is a delight for anyone interested in gardening and working with such a grand team of helpful gardeners is a real tonic”.

Christine Scrutton, long time As a Botanical Garden, Ness has volunteer with experience in a strong tradition in academic the shop, office and admissions study and a team of volunteers remarks that “whatever the undertake important work in weather, you can have an the Herbarium where the Ness ongoing relationship with plant database is maintained, regular visitors who are labels are prepared and seeds Harriet Joy, Liz Young and Eve Elliott always very friendly”. are carefully collected, She is also involved in prepared and labelled “ Ness has a small army of over 220 other volunteering but correctly. Others prepare volunteers who by giving their time and enjoys Ness because botanical specimens from expertise are a vital ingredient in the daily “volunteering here around the world to be life and health of the Gardens. doesn’t carry any catalogued and stored in baggage or worries the Liverpool University It is no exaggeration to say that without with you. I do the best Herbarium. the passionate commitment of volunteers job I can and then go at Ness across 50 years, the Gardens Ness plays a vital role in home and forget about would look very different. educating school children everything – but in a up to key stage two. good way”. Our wonderful volunteers continue to Through the schools’ be part of the bedrock of Ness - a highly Currently Ness is programme children valued team whose enthusiasm, skills, and looking for a number of get involved in pond fresh perspective all play an important friendly, outgoing people dipping, studying minipart in the Gardens achieving long term who can become beasts and comparing sustainability. ” ‘Meet and Greet’ a range of habitats such volunteers to provide as woodland, ponds, Kevin Reid, Director of Ness a helpful, friendly and grassland and meadow 8

The Gentian

and are being amazed by Ness’ collection of weird and wonderful plants from around the world. Volunteers assist the team during half term and summer themed events. All the regularly contributing volunteers (minimum of 50 hours of service to Ness a year) are given free entry to the Gardens – and when issued with their volunteer card can bring a friend along too! Volunteers also receive 20% discount in our

shop, plant sales and cafe. So if you are interested in volunteering opportunities at Ness Gardens, keep a close eye on our notice boards and the website as vacancies crop up all the time - and come and have a chat with one of our staff team who will be happy to give you more details of our current needs.

Coach Trips Programme After 10 years, and arranging around 60 different outings, Lindsay Price has decided to stand down from organising the Friends Coach Trip programme at the end of this season. This is a popular element of the benefits of being a Friend of Ness Gardens, with many long standing and loyal ‘trippers’. If there is any member who would be interested in finding more about the possibility of taking on the organisation of the programme then please contact or

Back-breaking but well worthwhile - Fred Cullins at work

Want to lend a much-needed hand? Currently, the Friends could use a few hours of your time, even on a one-off basis. We would love to hear from anyone who can help with the following – please contact us at • Help attract and recruit new paying members – at special days at the Gardens and at external events such as Tatton Park Flower Show where volunteers can enjoy several hours of leisure time after their session. • Liaise with advertisers for The Gentian and

encourage businesses to advertise with us. • Packing The Gentian (three times a year) for mail out to the membership - bring a Friend, the more the merrier is certainly true in this case! • Help at the forthcoming Plant Sale on 6 May, particularly from green-fingered people who are able to grow seedlings and bring them along for sale on the day. If you want to be on a stall for a couple of hours, that is also very helpful.

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Friends of Ness Gardens Bring and Buy Plant Sale Bank Holiday Monday 6 May 2013 10am - 2pm at Ness Gardens We are looking forward to another successful Friends Plant Sales day on Monday 6 May, open to ALL! As well as trees and shrubs there will be perennials to cheer your garden after the cold winter months and it’s also the perfect time of year to come and choose plants for summer bedding. Of course - and most importantly - all the money we raise goes to the Friends of Ness Gardens to benefit the Gardens. If you are green-fingered and have plants to spare or have plants, or vegetables of any size or shape to donate to the Friends table, we would be very grateful as it certainly makes the day more interesting for plant lovers! Dovecote Nurseries will bring a wide range of colourful summer planting ideas and advice to share with you as will Peter Foley of Waddow Lodge Garden with his interesting plants and wealth of gardening wisdom - such as where, when and how to plant in every type of soil and location. Sion from Station House Nursery ( will bring his amazing collection of dahlias and expert knowledge. Feel free to look at their website and order plants for delivery on the day of the sale. If you have any ideas or would like to volunteer to help on a stall for an hour or more on the day between 8am and 2pm please call Olwen (tel no below). Any help would be most gratefully received and there will be refreshments throughout the day of course!

An encore is planned for Kew’s crowd-pleasing Tony Tony Kirkham is Head of Arboriculture and Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and he received the rapturous approval of a packed lecture theatre when he visited Ness in February to share his account of the making of the TV series ‘The Trees that made Britain’ . Feedback from the talk was so good Ness is looking to book Tony in for another lecture next season. Said Curator Paul Cook: “As people were leaving the lecture theatre I was repeatedly asked ‘when is he coming back?’, and heard many people say ‘my friend will be sorry she missed that talk!’ and more again saying ‘he really brought trees to life!’. The talk was truly excellent and Tony was such an interesting and engaging speaker. It was a privilege to hear him, and it is a priority to get him back to Ness just as soon as we can.”

Trio embark on capturing memories of Ness... Over the past six years Ness staff and volunteers have been working to gather information for the Ness Gardens archive. Keenly sought are pictures of Bulley’s Gardens, Bees Seeds and any first hand personal accounts from people who have known or worked at the Gardens.

The day is free to Friends of Ness Gardens.There will be a £1 donation requested from non-Friends. Olwen McLaughlin

Tony Kirkham - making trees an unmissable treat

0151 639 7199

Ed Hilditch, Peter Cunnington and Keith Vincent

With the help of volunteers - particularly Ed Hilditch of Burton and Neston History Society - an audio archive has been started to capture the memories. Peter Cunnington, former Curator of Ness, and Keith Vincent who, with his father Henry, worked at Ness, have been recounting their memories of the Gardens to be added to the archive. When the Potting Shed project is completed their stories will help bring life to the history of the Gardens.

The first batch of plants bought with funds from the Friends of Ness Gardens from Glendoick Gardens, Scotland have arrived and been planted. The Friends allocated money to help the regeneration of the Pine Wood and the old ‘Specimen Lawn’ area surrounding the Pieris Formosa var. forrestii. Tim Baxter and a group of volunteers have been working through the area, verifying names, pruning overgrown plants and selecting suitable replacements to reflect the Gardens’ history of introducing plants via the famous plant collectors such as George Forrest and Frank Kingdon Ward. Visit 10 The Gentian

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The Ness Rhododendrons Tim Baxter, Botanist at Ness

If you are looking for plants of interest, with vibrancy and variability of flower colour, few can better the genus Rhododendron...

responsible for introducing over 240 new species of Rhododendron into cultivation in the West. Ward collected further afield and is still one of the relatively few plantsmen to have collected in Tibet. Several plants found in the Gardens are thought to originate from collections by Forrest and Kingdon Ward. One of the best rhododendrons is a large R. decipiens (x hodconeri) in the Pine Wood that is thought to have been collected by Forrest himself. This species is a natural hybrid between two species found in Yunnan, R. hogsonii and R. falconeri.


his large genus of around 1,000 species has an amazing range of growth form and flower size, shape and colour. They flower through much of the year including in Winter (Rhododendron davuricum ‘Midwinter’ flowers over Christmas), but their main flowering season is Spring. Rhododendrons naturally grow in an amazing range of climates from the frozen north of Canada and Siberia, to the tropics of Papua New Guinea and Borneo. Rhododendrons vary in size from diminutive plants 30cm in height (e.g. R. forrestii) to dominant canopy trees 30m in height (e.g. R. arboreum, Pine Wood) and include both evergreen and deciduous species. Most of the tropical species (section Vireya) grow in the canopies of trees (epiphytes) and make beautiful house plants. Many new species have been discovered in recent years as areas such as Northern Vietnam and Indonesia continue to be explored by botanists.

An unknown Rhododendron in the Pine Wood 8 The Gentian Anniversary Edition 12

Historically Ness had around 800 different rhododendrons in the Gardens. Much of this diversity was due to Ken Hulme’s passion for the genus and more recent wild origin introductions by Dr Hugh McAllister.

Rhododendron davidsonianum

Getting to know the fabulous Ness Rhododendrons Several species previously only known from historic collections (e.g. R. elegantulum) are also now being re-discovered by modern day plant collectors.

with mixed success! Auditing and identifying the plants is a time-consuming process, but we have several local experts we call on regularly for help.

Rhododendrons are generally difficult to identify due to the huge range of natural variability within the genus and also within each species. Many species readily hybridise with one another, leading to great uncertainty in the naming of many plants. In addition, they have been the subject of many intentional crosses by plant breeders. There are currently an estimated 50,000 named cultivars in existence.

Ness has a rather special place in the history of rhododendrons in western horticulture. The founder of Ness, Arthur Kilpin Bulley, sponsored George Forrest and Frank Kingdon Ward to collect plants from western China. Forrest collected plants from western Yunnan and is

Identification of unknown plants is often very difficult, especially if it is a cultivar. At Ness we have been trying to identify the plants in the Gardens

The beautiful R. keysii, tucked away in the Specimen Lawn

Rhododendrons grow best in sheltered positions in light shade or full sun with plenty of moisture throughout the year. This is particularly true of the large-leaved species which originate from subtropical areas. The climate at Ness is somewhat challenging for many rhododendrons - our dry and windy weather has led to a decline in the number of plants which are able to grow in the gardens. Despite this, many small-leaved species and hybrids are able to cope with the conditions and continue to grow well. A few choice plants at Ness include members of the Triflora series such as the variable R. yunnanense and R. augustinii, and the vivid-pink flowers of R. davidsonianum. Ness has some lovely large specimens of R. rubiginosum which is one of the most drought tolerant species with a spectacular display of purplepink flowers in April. There are also some good

R. hunnewellianum in the Specimen Lawn

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A garden to suit every taste

The Ness Rhododendrons

Once again, the National Gardens Scheme is offering an unusual and eclectic mix of gardens, old and new, to suit every taste. The variable R. yunnanense occurs in western China and Burma. Many fine examples can be found in the Pine Wood...

examples of larger hybrids such as ‘Polar Bear’ (Pine Wood) which has highly scented white flowers in June, and the magnificent R. ‘Loderi King George’ (Specimen Lawn). Two excellent and very similar plants are ‘W.F.H.’ and ‘Mayday’ (Pine Wood and Specimen Lawn). Both have gorgeous foliage and brilliant red flowers. Some of the most special plants are the Ness Holt azaleas, named after villages in Wirral. Ness is continuing a long-term project to help restore and propagate these fantastic late-flowering plants. If anyone has one of the Ness Holt azaleas in their gardens please get in touch!

If you are interested in finding out more about rhododendrons, the North West and North Wales branch of the Rhododendron, Camellia and Magnolia Group of the RHS holds regular meetings at Ness - contact Ted Brabin (angela. for details. This year’s branch show will be held in the Bulley Room at Ness on 11-12th May. For information on any plant growing at Ness, email Tim Baxter (

Below: R. griersonianum in the Pine Wood - a lateflowering plant introduced by Forrest

During 2012, despite the dreadful summer, our visitors helped us to raise about £100,000 to donate to our charities, including MacMillan, Marie Curie, Help the Hospices and the Carers Trust.

Barrel Well Hill

Ness Gardens opened in March under the scheme. During the next few months, there are some exciting new additions, as well as some old friends opening for the public. Full details of all local NGS gardens are in the yellow booklet, available from Poulton Hall garden centres, nurseries, libraries and tourist information centres, or from the, which will also have pictures of many of the gardens opening. For further information, or if you are interested in having your garden considered for opening under the scheme, please contact John Hinde, County Organiser at, or any county team member in the booklet.

Local NGS diary dates Sun 7 April & Sun 16 June - Poulton Hall Sun 14 April - Saighton Grange Sat 27 April & Sat 15 June - Hatton House New this year. Sun 28 April & Sun 21 July - Abbeywood Gardens, Delamere Sun 5 May - Haughton Hall Sun 5 May, Mon 6 May & Sun 1 September - Mount Pleasant Sun 5 May - Willaston Village Gardens Sun 12, 19 May & 2 June - Tirley Garth Sat 8 June & Sun 9 June - Medlicot New this year. Sun 9 June - 28 Christchurch Road Sat 22 June & Sun 23 June - 150 Barrel Well Hill Sun 23 June - Tattenhall Hall Sun 30 June - Burton Village Gardens Sat 13 & Sun 14 July - Inglewood Sat 31 August - Chester Cathedral Gardens

Hatton House 10

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Get the best from your garden

choking hazard to fledglings). If you don’t have water in your garden add some! A pond with sloping sides is ideal, but at least provide - and keep filled - a bird bath.

Follow gardening tutor Andy Lambie’s advice!

Be confident with pruning Use sharp secateurs and cut back to an outward facing bud. Spring and early summer flowering plants should be pruned after flowering. Any mid-summer and autumn flowering plants can be pruned now.

Get on top of the weeding You don’t have to weed your entire garden in one go. Start at one end of a bed, do a section until you have had enough then start in the same place next time. Mulch weeded areas with 5cm of shredded bark. Be nice to your lawns Don’t cut your grass too short. Never remove more than one third of its height in the weekly mow or you will weaken it. Over time that means a struggling lawn. Mow on the highest setting until the end of April then reduce the mowing height to around 1.5 inches for the summer. and raise the cut in dry weather. After April take the grass box off and leave the clippings on the lawn to rot - helps retain moisture and provides a free nitrogen feed. Encourage more wildlife Keep feeding birds through spring (not whole peanuts - they are a

Add some seasonal colour Summer flowering containers can be planted up from April (protect from frost till mid May). Any peat-free multipurpose compost is fine. Don’t worry about watering Only plants in containers, hanging baskets or those recently planted or sown will definitely need watering Anything in open ground probably won’t. If in doubt, dig down three inches- if the soil is damp, don’t worry. And finally... If you want to change the planting in a border or two, do your planning now and during the summer. Autumn and the winter are the best time to actually make the changes.

Sad to see you leave... Steve Miller joined Ness back in 2000 following a previous career in the banking industry. He spent his early days tending the herbaceous borders and in area garden maintenance. However, it is perhaps his work with the trees at Ness for which he has become best associated in recent years, opening up many of the former vistas within the Gardens and reinstating the commanding views over the River Dee for which Ness is famed. We wish Steve well on his second retirement. Jan Scarffe joined the cleaning team at Ness back in 2008, making sure that our buildings and facilities are clean ready for visitors, staff and volunteers. A real animal lover, Jan will be missed not least by ‘Rocky’ the rooster and our hens, for whom she would bring food and kitchen scraps on a daily basis.

A Living Legacy Help secure the future of Ness Botanic Gardens... When you are thinking about making a will, please conside leaving a legacy to the Friends of Ness Gardens, to help secure the long-term future of this lovely place with a gift which will continue to grow... If you would like to learn more about Ness Gardens, and how a legacy may be used, please call 0845 030 4063 and ask to speak to Kevin Reid. All discussions will be totally confidential.

We wish Jan well on her first retirement!

Specialist Plant Fairs "Every Plant Lover's Perfect Day Out"

We love our new shop

(And we think you will too)

• Now open following a complete re-design • Wonderful new ranges of quality stock at affordable prices • Unusual gifts, quirky knick-knacks & delicious treats • Books, Gardening, Children’s & Food sections • Stock sourced from local and national suppliers of quality, heritage products • The perfect place to find an original gift for even the trickiest recipient!

B OTA N I C G A R D E N S Ness Botanic Gardens, Ness, Neston, South Wirral CH64 4AY

Tel: 0845 030 4063

Mar 31-Apr 1 Dorothy Clive Garden, nr Bridgemere TF9 4EU 10am - 5pm 12 acre Garden & fair £3.00 Apr 14 Cholmondeley Castle Gardens Malpas SY14 8AH 11am - 5pm Gardens & fair £3.00 Apr 21 Bramall Hall near Stockport SK7 3NX 11am - 4.30pm 70 acre parkland free. Fair £1.00 Apr 27 Sugnall Hall Walled Garden nr Eccleshall ST21 6NF 10am - 4pm Garden & fair £1.00 Apr 28 Norton Priory, Runcorn WA7 1SX 10.30am - 3pm Free entry to fair May 5-6 Weston Park, Shifnal TF11 8LE 10am - 5pm Gardens, parkland & fair £2.50 May 19 Adlington Hall, Macclesfield SK10 4LF 10.30am - 4pm Historic gardens & fair £3.00 May 26 Consall Hall, Wetley Rocks, Staffs ST9 0AG 10am - 4pm 70 acre gardens & fair £2.00 May 27 Stonyford Cottage Gardens, Cuddington CW8 2TF 10am - 3pm Free entry to fair Jun 1-2 Hodnet Hall, Market Drayton TF9 3NN 10am - 5pm 60 acre garden & fair £3.00 Jun 23 Whittington Castle, Oswestry SY11 4DF 10am - 4pm £1 per car Jul 14 Ness Botanic Gardens, Neston, CH64 4AY, 10am-4pm Fair £1. Aug 4 Adlington Hall, Macclesfield SK10 4LF 10.30am - 4pm Historic gardens & fair £3.00 Aug 25-26 Dorothy Clive Garden, nr Bridgemere TF9 4EU 10am - 5pm 12 acre Garden & fair £3.00 Don’t miss all the FREE Half Term fun at Ness! WOODLAND WONDER WEEK is running till Sunday 24 February!

16 The Gentian

Winter 2012 17

Friends News

Pat Crooks It is with regret that we have to inform the membership of the sad loss of a former Chairman of the Friends, Pat Crooks (1983 – 1993 - elected to the Committee in 1981). Many of our long standing Friends will have known Pat who followed in the footsteps of her father Ronnie, a founder member of the Society when it was established in 1962 and a previous Chairman. Pat’s tenure as Chair was during a time of significant changes and challenges for the Gardens but she ensured the Friends continued to develop and provide significant financial support for an increasingly wide range of projects. Pat developed and, for many years, ran the Friends May Plant Sale and was a keen volunteer, in many different roles, at the Gardens. Following her retirement from the Committee in 1993 Pat continued her support of the Friends through holding the popular marmalade sales, helping to raise valuable funds for the Society. Pat was an Honorary Member of the Society whose support of the Gardens did not diminish despite significant ill-health over recent years.

Out and about this Summer? Don’t forget your Friends’ membership entitles you to free entry at other botanic gardens! Take the opportunity to visit The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, Wakehurst Place and Edinburgh (and its three satellite gardens) and the University of Oxford Botanic Gardens and the Birmingham Botanic Gardens. Check their websites to find out what’s on. 18 The Gentian

Membership news and developments New Membership System As of 1 February the Society’s long-awaited new administration system went live! Whilst the new system gets up to speed there will be the need to undertake a piggy back process; essentially running the old and new systems in tandem. This means a lot of additional work to double entry incoming subscriptions and we would very much appreciate your patience over the forthcoming weeks whilst we sort any niggles. Part of the new system was the launch of the new permanent membership cards which have started to roll out - and you might also have noticed the new look letterheads (we also have new membership forms – the changes just keep on coming!) All-in-all much has been happening behind the scenes over the past few months and we very much appreciate that, on occasions, errors may occur. If you have any membership queries then please contact or call the Gardens on 0845 030 4063. Family Subscription Yet another recent change has been the reintroduction of a Family subscription. Split into two options - Single: £35 (one adult) and Double: £55 (two adults), each category can bring up to three children aged five to 18 years (under fives are allowed free of charge) into the Gardens. Future plans will look at ways of encouraging the interest of our future generation of Friends – if you have any suggestions then please let us know.

There’s still time to adopt a tree in our 50th Anniversary woodland To mark the 50th anniversary of the Friends of Ness Gardens 50 trees were planted last November during National Tree Week. There are still a number of trees needing sponsorship, so whether you want to give a special birthday present or anniversary gift or mark your own special occasion, here is a great opportunity.

AGM change The Friends of Ness Gardens Annual General Meeting has been re-scheduled to take place on Saturday 21 April 2013 at 2pm in the Lecture Theatre of the Horsfall Rushby Visitor Centre, Ness Botanic Gardens. The meeting was previously scheduled for 19 January but had to be cancelled due to heavy snow. Come along, hear what’s going on, have your say, meet up with friends and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee afterwards. The minutes of last year’s AGM and the Annual Report for 2011-12 are available on the Ness website Friends’ pages.

We are asking for a minimum donation of £50 and all the proceeds will go to the Friends of Ness Gardens fund. Your contribution to the creation of this lasting legacy will be recorded in a commemorative book. If you would like to play a part in the celebrations by adopting a tree, please ask at the desk in the Visitor Centre, call 0845 030 4063 or email us at friendsofnessgardens@liv. Among the trees you can choose from are: • Bald Cypress, Birch, Chestnut, Chinese Mahogany, Flowering Cherry, Giant Redwood, Hornbeam, Japanese Snowbell, Keaki, Kentucky Coffeetree, Lime, Maple, Oak, Sweetgum, Witch Hazel, Yellowwood... and many more! Lorna Harper (seated, centre), our Membership and Accounts Administrator, is known to many of the Friends as coordinator of membership services - joining the team in 2011. She leaves us to take on a new role as Finance and Business Performance Manager at Jodrell Bank. Lorna has been instrumental in aiding the introduction of the Friends’ new membership system and we owe her our gratitude for undertaking this important and complex task. We wish Lorna every success in her new role. Interim arrangements are in place while recruitment is underway for her replacement.

Spring 2013 19

What’s On at Ness For booking courses, contact Ness on 0845 030 4063 unless otherwise stated.

Starting Thursday 18 April Introduction to Garden Design 9.30am-12noon (morning course) OR 6.30pm-9pm (evening course). Both courses are 10 weekly sessions £60 (£55 Friends of Ness)

EASTER HOLIDAY EVENTS Running Saturday 30 March - Sunday 12 April Children’s Easter Egg Hunt. 10am–5pm 50p to follow the trail and win a COURSES KEY small gift. Blue = Saturday Practical Don’t Count Your Chickens! 10am–5pm. Back by popular demand, our CSI-themed family trail returns! Garden admission applies.

Gardening Courses Brown = ‘Gardeners’ Delights’ (half day courses (2.5 hours) on a variety of topics)

Thursday 18 April 10.30am4.30pm Allotment Gardening Purple = One Day Courses Learn about techniques Red = Longer Courses for producing home grown vegetables. £45 per person to include light lunch and Garden entry. Contact Sue Parkinson Tel: 01270 613211 or email:

Green = Reaseheath Courses

Tuesday 2 April 10am12.30pm How Gardeners Can Save the Planet £10 (Friends of Ness £8)

Sunday 7 April 2-3pm Improve your flower photography Talk. Entry is FREE but places are limited and must be booked in advance at: http://improveyourflower photography.eventbrite. Saturday 13 April 10am-1pm Pruning Made Easy £12 (£10 Friends of Ness Gardens) Saturday 13 April - Sunday 14 April 10am–4pm Rhododendron Show See the array of different Rhododendron blooms on display in the Bulley Room.... Entry free Wednesday 17 April 7–9am ‘Up with the Lark’ and Breakfast with the RSPB. £10.50 – adults, £8.50 Friends of Ness and concessions. Limited numbers, so pre-booking is essential. 20 The Gentian

Starting Thursday 18 April 1-3.30pm Wildlife and the Gardener Thursday 6 weekly sessions £50 (£45 Friends of Ness)

Saturday 20 April 10am-1pm Plant Identification for Beginners £12 (£10 Friends of Ness) Sunday 21 April 10.30am-4.30pm Lovely lawns Expert tips and techniques for lawn care. £45 per person.

Thursday 25 April 10.30am-4.30pm Pruning Practical session. £45 per person to include light lunch and Garden entry. Contact Sue Parkinson Tel: 01270 613211 or email:

Bank Holiday Monday 6 May 10am–2pm. Friends of Ness Gardens Plant Sale Entry to Fair £1 for non-Friends of Ness Gardens. (Usual admission charges to the Gardens apply).

WILDLIFE WEEK! Saturday 25 May – Sunday 2 June 10am–5pm. A week of indoor and outdoor activities all about wildlife. Usual admission charges to the Gardens apply. All week: Wildlife Family Game Trail (with free trail leaflet) Monday 27 May Running between 11am – 3pm Interactive Wildlife Family Trek with Rob Rhys Bond. 50p charge for the trek. Tuesday 28 May A Bee in your Bonnet 11.30am & 2pm - Interactive Family Fun Show about the importance of pollinators. Free! Wednesday 29 May A Bee in your Bonnet 11.30am & 2pm - Interactive Family Fun Show about the importance of pollinators. Free! 11am – 3pm Hi -Tec Wild Trek trailer van in the Garden. Dr Richard Osmond, an environmental teacher with specialist IT skills, will be parking his Hi-Tech

Wild Trek mobile field ecology trailer in the Garden to help visitors spy into the microscopic world of pond creatures and other mini-beasts. Using video equipment, microscopes and computers you will get the chance to capture images of your discoveries. (Images can be printed for a small charge). Thursday 30 May 12pm – 3pm Wildlife drop-in craft sessions – Free entry. Friday 31 May 12pm – 3pm Wildlife drop-in craft sessions in the Hulme Room – Free entry. Running between 11am – 3pm Interactive Wildlife Family Trek with Rob Rhys Bond. 50p charge for the trek. 7.30pm – 10pm Bat talk and walk with the Cheshire Bat Group. Adults £8, Friends of Ness and concessions £6. For further details and updates on the HalfTerm programme, please check our website - and Twitter @Ness_Gardens

Spring 2013 21

Thursday 2 May 10.30am-4.30pm Organic veg growing Learn about the fundamentals of organic vegetable growing. £45 per person. Contact Sue Parkinson Tel: 01270 613211 or email: suepa@ Tuesday 7 May 10am-12.30pm Bee-friendly Gardens £10 (£8 Friends of Ness) Thursday 9th May 10.30am-4.30pm Planting Summer baskets £45 per person. Contact Sue Parkinson Tel: 01270 613211 or email: Friday 10 May 9.30am-4pm Camera confidence A fun, practical photography workshop for beginners £65 no concessions. Contact Art In The Garden to book: 07800 847729 or email : Thursday 16 May 10.30am-4.30pm Designing and planting a Summer border £45 per person to include light lunch and Garden entry. Contact Sue Parkinson Tel: 01270 613211 or email:

Tuesday 4 June 10am-4pm Coloured pencil £40 (no concessions). Ness School of Botanical Artists. Contact Vickie Marsh on 01978 758243 or email:

Sunday 2 June 9.30am-4.30pm Herbal Medicine Day with Jesper Launder £45 per person 22 The Gentian

Saturday 20 July 10am-1pm Identifying Trees £12 (£10 Friends of Ness Gardens)

Tuesday 4 June 10am-12.30pm Essential Gardening Jobs for the Summer £10 (£8 Friends of Ness Gardens) Saturday 8 June 1-3pm World Environment Day (19th anniversary) Come and take part in our annual celebration of this special day. Ceremony in the Bulley Room and the stalls in the Bulley Courtyard - free access to both. (Usual admission applies for Gardens-based activities). Saturday 8 June 10am-1pm Gardening in Containers £12 (£10 Friends of Ness Gardens) Saturday 15 June 10am-1pm Wildflowers & Meadows £12 (£10 Friends of Ness Gardens) Sunday 16 June 10am-5pm Father’s Day. All dads get in free to the Gardens. To book a table for lunch call the Garden Kitchen cafe on 0151 353 1573. Friday 21 June 9.30am–4.30pm Garden Photography Workshop £85. No concessions Contact Art In The Garden to book: 07800 847729 or email :

Saturday 18 May 10am-1pm Exploring the Plant Kingdom An exciting look at plant diversity. £12 (£10 Friends of Ness)

Bring a picnic, low back seating and wear suitable clothing and footwear... This event will only be cancelled in the event of a hurricane! Tickets £12.50 adults; £6.50 child.

Tuesday 2 July 10am-12.30pm Herbaceous Borders £10 (£8 Friends of Ness Gardens)

Plants that Bite Back! £10 (£8 Friends of Ness Gardens) Bring a picnic, low back seating and wear suitable clothing and footwear... This event will only be cancelled in the event of a hurricane! Tickets £12.50 adults; £6.50 child. Monday 15 July 10am-4pm Plant Hunters’ Fair Entry to the Fair is just £1 (redeemable against entry into the Gardens).

Tuesday 30 July 10am-4pm Children’s Fun Day The children have been on holiday for a week and Ness comes to the rescue with fun-packed treats including pony rides, falcon display, crèche, crafts, painting and colouring, family trail, story time, circus tricks. Most activities are free. Usual admission charges to the Gardens apply.

Wednesday 17 July Illyria Theatre’s The Mikado Gates open 6pm, performance starts 7pm.

Saturday 10 August 10am-1pm Summer Propagation Saturday £12 (£10 Friends of Ness Gardens)


“The Late Night Garden Kitchen” We look forward to welcoming you to Ness Botanic Gardens on the first Wednesday Evening of every month to enjoy this exclusive dinner event. You will have the opportunity to dine from a delicious threecourse choice menu, choose wines from our recommended list and benefit from good company whilst sat at tables laid with crisp white linen and tea lights.

Saturday 13 July 10am-1pm Pests, Diseases & Weeds £12 (£10 Friends of Ness Gardens)

Opening Night: WEDNESDAY 3 APRIL 2013

Sunday 14 July Illyria Theatre’s Babe The Sheep-Pig by Dick King-Smith (adapted by David Wood) Gates open 5.30pm, performance starts 6.30pm.

Reservations necessary, to book call: 0161 273 3469 and ask for Ella who will be delighted to assist you.

3 Courses with Coffee only £19.75 per person

Spring 2013 23

Caldy open gardens On the afternoon of Sunday 23 June some of Caldy’s gardening enthusiasts are again opening their gardens to the public. About a dozen gardens will be open and the afternoon includes tea and cakes, Pimms and soft drinks and a raffle. Some gardens are opening for the first time. Ticket details are available at www. Proceeds are for North West Cancer Research.

F. MORREY & SON (Est. 1910)


Full Shrub Range

Garden Shop

8.30 am — 5.00 pm DAILY CLOSED SUNDAY

Catalogue on Request


Tel: Kelsall 01829 751342

the Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinics, Podiatry and Massage Clinics in Bromborough, Hoylake, Birkenhead, Ellesmere Port and Liverpool 10%

discount for Friends of Ness. No waiting list.

0844 415 4895

Sunday 12th May 2013 10 am - 5pm Discover around 20 gardens of every size and type in OxtonVillage,Wirral. Plant sales and advice, art and crafts, live music, poetry, shops, restaurants, pubs, children’s activities and much more. Bring your friends and family for a great day out. Tickets £6 in advance or £8 on the day. Under-18s free. free Free car parking and programme. Tickets in advance (from 5th April)  online at (no booking fee)  Ness Botanic Gardens (0845 0304063)  Linghams bookshop, Heswall (0151 342 7290)  Dobbies GardenWorld Liverpool (0151 728 3070)  shops in OxtonVillage Tickets on the day Tic  free car park (Storeton Road, Oxton, CH43 5TW)  ticket sales points in OxtonVillage For further details see or ring 07963 248 268. Shortlisted forWirral Tourism Event of theYear 2012 and 2013

24 The Gentian

Gentian Spring 2013  

Friends of Ness Gardens news letter

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