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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 233 WINTER 2013


Headline News

Contents ISSUE 233 WINTER 2013

Headline News ............................................................................................... 1 GQT remembered ........................................................................ 2-3 Where your money goes ................................................... 4-5 Autumn Half term .................................................................................. 6 News from the Gardens.............................................................. 7 Friends News ............................................................................................. 8-9 Grasslands research at Ness ............................... 10-13 Friends Sunday Lectures 2014 .................................... 14 News from the Director........................................................... 15 Notes for your gardens ................................................. 16-17 What’s On ............................................................................................ 18-19

Editorial Board: Helen Watters, Kevin Reid, Fiona Harrison, Tracey Crich. Design: Big Drum Communications. Printed on recycled paper by The Printroom UK, Liverpool. Cover picture: Crocus Lawn sycamores against the winter sky - © Jon Grimshaw, Big Drum Communications 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 22 February 2014. Email University of Liverpool, Ness Botanic Gardens Tel 0845 030 4063 Website: Email:

High profile achievements in the tourism awards!


NESS has reached the finals of the Marketing Cheshire Sustainable Tourism Award 2013!

Hundreds of people enjoyed another fantastic Gardeners’ Question Time Summer Party, I hope you were able to join us – if not there are lots of pictures in this issue of The Gentian. The Gardens were looking wonderful, thanks to the continuous efforts of the gardeners, both staff and volunteers. Since then there has been a magnificent show of autumn colour and even now with winter approaching there are many plants providing interest. Our feature article in this issue of The Gentian has been contributed by Dr Raj Whitlock of the University of Liverpool. It describes his research project at Ness; it is good to see the facility being used for academic purposes. Meanwhile, Christmas fast approaches. Look out for the Christmas Special weekend 1415 December and if you are short of ideas for presents then do visit the shop for some unusual quality gifts. Don’t forget too, Gift membership of the Friends of Ness Gardens gives months of enjoyment long after Christmas is over as well as supporting the Gardens. Fiona Harrison

The award will be made at a gala evening at Tatton Park on 28 November. This award has been designed to reward tourism businesses who can illustrate their excellence and commitment to sustainability best practice. The Ness Gardens submission described the multiple ways the venue and staff manage: • energy consumption • water use and waste • educational services • inclusion of a wide range of groups from

school age to elderly, students and retirees, volunteers and employees • encouraging wildlife... and • supporting the local economy. The benefits of being shortlisted or being a

winner in the Awards are extensive, in terms of business profile and in generating direct business and customer confidence. Marketing Cheshire want to recognise the huge commitment shown and by showcasing the business to help raise standards across the whole of Cheshire. Ness Gardens has also been raising its profile with the national tourist board, VisitEngland, accreditation scheme. This year’s ‘mystery shopper’ inspection has resulted in a ‘Very Good’ classification. Plans afoot for next season should raise us to the category of ‘Excellent’. This national Quality Assurance scheme involves checks on all aspects of the venue, including the reception area, telephone answering, the gardens, interpretation, information and visitor centre facilities.

Everyone should cherish their Friends at Christmas... Ness Botanic Gardens owes a huge debt to its Friends, and for most of you, Christmas time wouldn’t be the same without a walk around the Gardens! So once again we are opening to our Friends over the holiday as follows... • The Visitor Centre closes at 5pm on Monday 23 December until the New Year; the Gardens will be open to Friends of Ness Gardens on Christmas Eve and from 27 December (access via the Friends Gate in the main car park). Don’t forget to bring your membership card with you... and please note the toilets in the Gardens will be open. • As usual, the Gardens will be closed on Christmas Day & Boxing Day. • The Gardens re-open fully to all on 1 January with the traditional New Year’s Day all-day brunch available from The Garden Kitchen.


Winter 2013/2014


Gardeners’ Question Time Summer Garden Party

GQT at Ness: Radio 4’s biggest audience-attended show - again! D

escribed as a show “by gardeners for gardeners”, we could use a lot of big words to write about this year’s BBC Radio 4 Gardeners’ Question Time (GQT) Summer Garden Party. The event takes place every year and 2013 was the second consecutive year Ness have been the hosts. Once again, it was the biggest audienceattended event that the BBC Radio 4 have put on this year. The show was held in September when the Gardens look splendid, celebrating everything good about the popular radio show. We enjoyed watching the GQT presenters as they offered wise gardening advice on all sorts

of subjects. Bob Flowerdew (below, left) talked about raising chickens and his favourite garden tools, Matt Wilson (right, caught photographing the recording audience) discussed creating gardens that don’t shun wildlife or look like the contents of a washing machine – empty in the middle with all the plants squashed around the edges! Ness experts also contributed with their own demonstrations on budding and grafting and propagation techniques while others illustrated how to produce spectacular floral displays at this time

Wirral cooks, l-r: Anju Chandna, Malcolm Wilson, Masterchef winner Claire Lara and Bake-off quarter finalist Yasmin Limbert

of year. The BBC GQT and Ness experts alike worked very hard to entertain their guests alongside the fabulous food demonstrators baking sour dough bread, and creating delicious Indian street food, cakes and treats. The specialist plant fair and a range of tours for the public to get a glimpse of everything great about Ness also went down well! The two recorded shows are still available online: b039rwct


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for the Summer Garden Party show; b03b2zbf for the Ness Gardens show. The volunteers at Ness helped the staff team to prepare the Gardens for the big visit and to staff the actual event in a host of capacities – thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make it a memorable day. If you fancy getting involved at Ness in a volunteer capacity, please get in touch!

Wildlife Friends’ Week! Projects Helen Watters

We make your money go a long, long way! Many of you will know that 80% of your annual subscription fee goes straight to the Gardens to support their day-to-day activities, but have you wondered what happens to the remaining 20%?


f the fifth portion of your subscriptions which is retained by the Friends, a small percentage supports the running of the Society; postage, stationery and production of The Gentian three times a year are the main costs. The remainder of subscription fees and any additional donations and legacies are allocated to a range of projects either requested from the Gardens through a regular ‘Wish List’ submitted at Committee meetings or to support a variety of marketing initiatives. Some of the projects supported are large and

The Pine Wood

Trail booklet. Behindthe-scenes we are also supporting the gardeners by providing funds for a propagation house, developing composting facilities and a range of much needed equipment. For our visitors we have regularly provided funds to assist in accessing more areas of the Gardens, especially those with mobility issues and if any of you have made use of either the The motorised scooters keep the Gardens within reach wheelchairs or, more recently, the mobility of many scooters, many of these have been paid for sustaining their long-term interest in Ness by the Friends; a new one was purchased Gardens. just in time for Gardeners’ Question Time in September. And the future? Through the I hope you agree that your annual subscription banner of the Ken Hulme Student Bursary we fee is put to good use have been able to support across a wide range of horticultural students projects and the importance training at Ness. We have of your continued also recently agreed funding membership. Ness Gardens for a Learning Officer is what the Friends have post to develop work with helped to develop over the schools and groups, helping past 50+ years... and we to make the Gardens more Above: Horticultural student Rachel reworking have much more to do. accessible to our younger the Ness Botanische planting last winter. Below: The Making Waves Garden visitors and, hopefully, THANK YOU!

highly visible such as the new development of the Terraces or the footpath through the old Herb Garden, but many are there to quietly ensure the work of the Gardens continues - and at times may go unnoticed. A full list of projects supported since the Society was established in 1962 is available for anyone who would like to see it. Not everything requested by the Gardens is agreed, so how does your Committee decide which projects merit support?

The new Terraces 4

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A key focus for the Friends is the continuing development of specific areas of the Gardens as well as supporting elements within the Visitor Centre such as the Information Screens and, more recently, producing the Tree

Winter 2013/2014


Education at Ness

News from the Gardens Tim Baxter, Botanist

Creeping toads + tree fairies + scarecrows = one very jolly autumn! October half-term saw Ness entering into the spirit of Autumn and Hallowe’en with two family trails - the Scarecrow Trail and the Autumn Colour Family Trail - both for families with children aged 3 to 12 years. These were a mixture of spotting things around the Garden, collecting things and gaining a little knowledge about the wonderful plants at Ness: all in order to have family fun and appreciate the fantastic autumn colours. Our visitors loved the scarecrows! In the Hulme Room Creeping Toad, an amazing story-teller and craft workshop presenter, captured the imagination of children with his tales about

woodland folk and giants. He also made pop-up books and lanterns using plastic pop bottles, tissue paper and treasures from the Garden. The lanterns are lit by battery operated tea lights ... very beautiful. While elsewhere, children made leaf masks and crowns also using all sorts of lovely seasonal things found in the Gardens. Later in the week saw a chance to explore Hallowe’en activities making witches, ghosts and spider’s webs. Check out the website for February Halfterm and ‘Spring into Ness!!’


The Gentian

Bulley tree lost to Honey Fungus


here are a few trees that still survive at Ness from the time Arthur Bulley built his family home on the site of a local picnic spot. Sadly, one of these has recently had to be felled.

The large sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus, was over 100 years old and was growing at the top edge of the Pingo, part of a line of trees that marked the southern edge of Bulley’s garden. It had been declining for many years, and started to lose branches as it became more rotten. It has more recently showed obvious signs of Honey Fungus, Armillaria mellea, with the distinctive bootlace fungus visible beneath the rotten bark. Although the tree has had its branches removed, the large stump will remain in place to provide a valuable deadwood habitat for wildlife. In Britain over 2000 species of fungi and invertebrate depend on deadwood, many of which depend on the large dead logs and tree stumps found in old parklands.

New Rhododendrons in the Pine Wood Ness has some exciting new Rhododendrons for the Pine Wood. The first group is from Colin Mugridge who has been crossing particular Rhododendrons to get exciting new cultivars. The Phyllis Reece technique is slow and starts by transferring pollen from one plant onto the flowers of another and carefully collecting and growing the seed. After 6-8 years, the plants start to flower and can then be assessed for their merit. Each seedling is different so many will be of little merit. Several clones have already been selected as being excellent plants and have been named. ‘Phyllis Reece’ and ‘Welsh Gold’ are just two of these. The second group to be planted Welsh Gold originate from Dunge Valley gardens, managed by David and Liz Ketley who have been plant hunting to the wilds of Nepal to collect species Rhododendrons and other plants.

A Living Legacy Help secure the future of Ness Botanic Gardens... When you are thinking about making a will, please consider 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.

Winter 2013/2014


Friends News

Gift Membership Offer GARDENS like Ness are a rare delight - so why not show your loved ones you care by giving them the gift of membership this festive season? They will be able to enjoy the beautiful and diverse gardens all year round safe in the knowledge that they are helping secure its future. Help us keep in contact Every good deed deserves PLEASE ensure we have your a reward! As a “thank you” up-to-date email and telephone for making your nearest contact details (preferably and dearest Friends of Ness mobile) so that we may contact Gardens you will receive you in the future. If you think we a £5 voucher to be spent might not have them please send in the Ness Gardens shop to before 31 March 2014. making sure you clearly state Offer ends 31 December your membership number. 2013.

Direct Debit Payments

Access to Reciprocal Gardens

AS mentioned in the summer The Gentian, we have had some issues implementing the new administration system, both within the software programme as well as having the ‘man power’ to undertake the office work. However, at the time of writing, we are very close to a resolution in being able to collect the large number of outstanding Direct Debits and hope to be taking payments from the October renewals onwards.

OUR new membership cards do not have an expiry date as they are expected to be permanent - not replaced year-on-year. However, should you wish to visit one of our reciprocal gardens offering free entry, e.g. Kew, you must take your membership renewal or receipt letter as proof of current membership.

For those members whose renewal was due between February and September 2013 but did not take place due to the system errors (there were some successful exceptions especially those in April and May), we will be writing to you over the next couple of months to request payment before we take the money from your account. This has been a frustrating and disappointing situation for everyone and we would like to thank everyone for their patience over the last few months; there has been no impact on your membership benefits. 8

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We realise this is not ideal and are looking at other ways to make this situation easier, perhaps via a tear off slip on your letter.

Tom Allen THE family of the late Tom Allen of Chester has generously donated his collection of gardening reference books to Ness Botanic Gardens for the use of students and the public. Tom started his horticultural career at Wisley in 1946 and fulfilled many roles, including being an RHS Alpine Judge. He was a Friend of Ness for many years and through his numerous contacts, he was able to acquire a substantial amount of sandstone which was used widely around the Gardens.

Annual General Meeting notification Notice is given that the next Annual General Meeting for the Friends of Ness Gardens will take place at 10:30am on Saturday 12 April 2014 in the Lecture Theatre in the Horsfall Rushby Visitor Centre at Ness Botanic Gardens. Any Motions for discussion at the AGM need to be submitted to the Secretary no later than Monday 3 March 2014.

The main business of the meeting will be to review the Annual Report and Financial Statement of the Society 1 August 2012 - 31 October 2013 (revised financial year end of the Society). Papers for the AGM will be available by early February 2014 at the Gardens or by requesting copies through friendsofnessgardens@

This year, in accordance with the Constitution, there are two Ordinary Committee positions up for re-election as well as two co-optive places. If you would like to be considered for any of these positions, nominations need to be received by the Secretary no later than Friday 28 March 2014.

The Minutes from the last AGM are also available through the same routes as above or can be viewed on the Friends’ section of the Gardens website.

Seasoned radio and TV presenter, writer, RHS speaker and panellist on BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time, Matthew Biggs presents...

The Lobb Brothers – Plant Hunters ‘Extraordinaire’ Sunday 9 March, 2.30 – 4pm Working for Veitch’s Nursery in the 19th century, they brought back seeds and plants from the Americas and Far East. They were responsible for introducing many plants including the ‘Monkey Puzzle’ tree and many orchids to the UK. Friends £6; non-members £8 - inc refreshments. Tickets from Ness Gardens Visitor Centre.

Refreshments will be available after the AGM, providing an opportunity to meet Committee members and fellow Friends.

New Year’s Day 2014 at

The Garden Kitchen, Ness Botanic Gardens

11.00am – 3.00pm

Book Now to Enjoy our Delicious New Year’s Day Dishes:

Hearty Brunch Eggs Benedict Salmon Surprise Old Smokey New Years Roast Winter Warmers

Pre booking is encouraged as we cannot guarantee a table on the day.

To book or enquire please call: 0151 353 1573 or 0161 273 3469

or visit

Winter 2013/2014


Grasslands Research Dr Raj Whitlock

The crucial research into the threat to our national grasslands Dr Raj Whitlock, of the University of Liverpool, is working with Ness to discover if plant genes can adapt to keep pace with global climate change...


limatic factors are amongst the most important in determining where we find plants, since species are often adapted to particular climates. We now know that during the 20th century most of Europe experienced a temperature rise of around 0.8 °C, attributable

in large part to greenhouse gas emissions. Over the coming century we expect a further rise of between approximately 1 and 4 °C. The key question for our native species is how (or whether) they can cope with this environmental challenge... Adaptation to climate change Understanding the ability of plant species to resist climate change is important for several reasons. First, native plants make up part of our natural heritage. Second, plant-dominated ecosystems provide humans with important products e.g: • drinking water, • grassland for cows • pollinator services for fruit crops •carbon storage in peat bogs.

Festuca ovina

If plant species are affected adversely by climate change, this may impact on the sustainability of the ecosystem services that we currently enjoy. Biologists tend to think of three main “coping strategies” that can allow plants and animals to survive in new environments: • Migration: Species can migrate to find their optimal conditions for growth and reproduction; for example, some species of butterflies have been able to expand their ranges to keep pace with climatic change.

AS part of the University of Liverpool, Ness Botanic Gardens provides a resource for research programmes across the University. Ness is now home to The Grassland Adaptation and Resistance to Climate Change (Grassland-ARCC) project run by Dr Raj Whitlock, an ecological geneticist who combines experimental, molecular and field approaches to understand the structure of plant communities, their responses to environmental change and their genetic structures. 10 The Gentian

• Acquired characteristics: Individuals can modify the timing of their lifecycle, or other characteristics, to stay in tune with the climate. Changes in the bud burst times of an individual tree across years that vary in spring conditions provide a neat example of this. • Evolutionary changes: The final, Darwinian, coping strategy involves the genetic diversity found within plant populations. Some individual plants simply possess “the right genes”, conferring characteristics that allow survival and reproduction under the changed climate. LEFT: The experimental site at Ness Gardens. The six wooden “bays” in the foreground house the clonal archives of plant material collected from BCCIL. The six bays behind contain the experimental microcosm communities.

Winter 2013/2014 11

Grasslands Research Cont’d

H You can follow Raj’s work ambient), and increased precipitation (achieved by supplementary watering). I have collected individuals of six species of perennial plants from the grassland plots at BCCIL (Festuca ovina, Lotus corniculatus, Koeleria macrantha, Carex panicea, Sanguisorba minor and Potentilla erecta).

A typical microcosm community containing Lotus corniculatus, Carex caryophyllea, Campanula rotundifolia and Anthoxanthum odoratum

These traits, and the genes that control them, are passed on to subsequent generations. The Project My research at Ness Botanic Gardens began in 2011 and focuses on the responses of British species-rich meadows and grasslands to climate change. These grasslands can be found in the limestone dales of northern England and in the chalk downlands of southern England. I am seeking to understand whether populations of grassland plants will be able to evolve in response to anticipated climate change, enhancing their ability to persist in situ. I am also interested in what these adaptive responses might mean for the coexistence of different plant species within their communities, and the integrity of grassland ecosystems.

These individuals are maintained at Ness as clonal lines using vegetative propagation. My experiments at Ness aim to determine whether plant populations from BCCIL have evolved distinct characteristics that adapt them to their home climatic RIGHT: Lotus corniculatus and (inset) flower

ABOVE: Potentilla erecta

environments at Buxton. Along with colleagues at the University of Liverpool and at Ness, I am growing the plants in model plant communities called microcosms that represent simplified versions of the natural turf at Buxton. There are 1952 microcosms in the main experiment at Ness and they each contain several plant species growing together in natural rendzina soil. This design is intended to

through the Ness website – go to Gardens Research. Raj hopes to continue these studies for another couple of years. He will present his research at the Friends’ Sunday Lecture on 2 March 2014 – your chance to hear first-hand about research at Ness and to explore those burning questions about the impact of climate change. reveal whether climate-induced adaptive changes in one species could have knock-on effects on neighbouring species. The work at Ness has involved monitoring plants originating from BCCIL. Measurements of biomass production, leaf morphology, reproductive effort and timing and several other traits were collected in 2012 and 2013. This year we recorded the production and timing of more than 10,000 flower heads from four of the study species. All these data are currently under analysis, and the results from this investigation will provide a uniquely detailed picture of adaptive responses to climate change occurring within a natural plant community.

My project started at Buxton Climate Change Impacts Laboratory (BCCIL;, where researchers from the University of Sheffield and Syracuse University, USA have exposed a natural grassland to 20 years of simulated (experimental) climate change. Treatments applied annually at BCCIL include a two-month summer drought (imposed using RIGHT: Campanula rainfall shelters), winter rotundifolia in flower warming (3°C above during summer 2013

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Sanguisorba minor

Winter 2013/2014 13

Friends of Ness Gardens Sunday Lecture Series Winter – Spring 2014 John Tallis has trawled widely to find us new speakers and now presents a wide-ranging programme of lectures to keep Friends entertained through the Winter months. There is only one ‘familiar’ face and only one ‘pure’ horticultural topic. We hope you enjoy them. All the lectures are held on Sunday afternoon 2.30-4pm, in the Visitor Centre Lecture Theatre. They are free. 5 January ‘Butterflies, Dragons and Damsels of Shropshire’; Jim Almond An account of the lifestyle, characteristics and identification of the 60-plus species of these fascinating insects which occur in Shropshire. Jim Almond is a birder and wildlife photographer based in Shrewsbury. 19 January ‘John James Audubon’; Matthew Clough The Victoria Gallery & Museum of the University of Liverpool holds a unique collection of original works by the celebrated nature painter John James Audubon. This talk explores Audubon’s background in America, and explains how he came to Liverpool in an attempt to print his now world-famous book The Birds of America (1827 – 38). Matthew Clough is Director of the Victoria Gallery & Museum, Liverpool. 2 February ‘Monet’s Garden at Giverny’; Tom Deans An account of the painter Claude Monet’s famous garden, begun in 1883, restored in 1977, opened to the public in 1980, and now visited by more than 500,000 people each year. Tom Deans is a lecturer in horticulture at Reaseheath College, Cheshire.

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16 February ‘The Artistic Genius of Georg Dionysius Ehret’; John Edmondson G.D. Ehret was born in Germany in 1708, and became the leading botanical illustrator of his time. He was an associate of the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, and illustrated his Hortus Cliffortianus of 1737, but spent most of his career in England at the Chelsea Physic Garden. Earl of Bute and the Duchess of Portland. John Edmondson was formerly head of science at National Museums Liverpool, and is currently an honorary research associate at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 2 March ‘Growing away from the Sun: how will Plants cope with Climate Change?’; Raj Whitlock An account of current research at Ness seeking to understand the effects of climatic change on the genetic diversity of grassland communities. (see feature, Pages 10-13). Raj Whitlock is a Lecturer in the Institute of Integrative Biology at Liverpool University 16 March ‘On the Track of Yaks in Nepal’; Rachel Ormrod A 5-week journey from Kathmandu to the Tsum Valley on the Tibet border, via Ghap school, built by hand by locals for their children. Rachel Ormrod is Chairman of the Hoylake and District Gardening Society, an enthusiastic traveller and keen gardener.

News from the Director Kevin F H Reid Welcome!

Welcome to our two new Visitor Reception Assistants Samantha Wilson and Amy Jones who joined us on 1 October. Their roles are to drive Friends of Ness Gardens memberships, oversee bookings for events, deal with enquiries and deliveries and maintain the shop displays supported by the volunteer team and staff in the Visitor Centre and Office. This will help new and existing staff to focus on improving the visitor experience while easing the workload and improving the flow of operations day-today. Sam and Amy will primarily be based out in the Visitor Centre but will be working in the office as well. Both Amy and Sam are local and have been visiting Ness Gardens for many years. Amy is a Friend of Ness Gardens and has worked here for four years in the café in both administration and serving. Sam has a Masters degree in Art History and Curating and has experience of various cultural heritage roles with the Decorative Arts Centre in Liverpool, the Grosvenor Museum and tourist office in Chester.


Natalie Wharton has resigned from the post of Membership and Accounts Administrator. Tracey Crich has taken on the role until January while a replacement is recruited. Tracey has worked with staff at Ness Gardens on various projects over recent years and contributed enormously to the BBC GQT Summer Party event.


Recruitment of the Visitor Services and Commercial Operations Manager brought an excellent group of experienced candidates. We have offered the post to the successful candidate and anticipate that they will be in post by late November or early December. By contrast, the recruitment of the Gardens and Collections Manager has not attracted the same interest so we are re-advertising the post. In addition, recruitment for the new

Learning Coordinator and Bequest and Legacy Administrator posts is expected to begin shortly.

Revised Garden winter opening

This is still under discussion between senior management, staff and trade union representatives and no change will be implemented for 2013 while discussions continue. However, we will be moving to introduce six-day garden opening from 1 March 2014. We will pass on full details for next year once consultation has been completed.

Potting Shed & Glasshouses Project

We have appointed a professional bid consultant, Emma Clarke, to lead our submission to the Heritage Lottery Fund for up to 80% grant aid towards the development of the Potting Sheds and new glasshouses. The project is expected to cost about £1.5 million. If we are successful with our bid in June 2014, we will see a further 12 months of project development ahead of the new facilities being completed in the summer of 2015. This is a very exciting opportunity for Ness to share the story of Arthur Bulley, George Forrest and others. Critically the new facilities will enable the exploration of our extensive plant collection and archive materials, provide new classroom, exhibition and demonstration spaces and give the Garden much-needed wet weather provision.

Retail update

Reduction in leisure spending and squeezing of profit margins due to increased costs and competition continue to cause headaches in our retail operations. Consequently, with regret, it is necessary to withdraw the blanket discount of 10% in the gift shop and plant sales for Friends from 1 January 2014. However, the good news is that we will be offering exclusive special events throughout 2014 for Friends, to reward ongoing membership loyalty. So make the most of the current discount for purchases in the run up to Christmas.

Winter 2013/2014 15

Notes for your Garden Andy Lambie

Things to do now... • Plant up winter and spring containers using spring bulbs, smaller herbaceous plants and winter bedding such as wallflowers and cyclamen.

Andy Lambie Protect alpines from the wet, if you have not done so already. • Put out bird feeders and clean out nesting boxes, birds will need them for roosts.

• Continue to keep lawns, paths, driveways and low growing plants clear of leaves. Anywhere else, leaves can be left if you wish.

Jobs for the winter...

• Finish planting new herbaceous perennials, and divide any overgrown or tired looking clumps of perennials.

• Pruning of many deciduous trees, shrubs and hedges can be done from now throughout the dormant season. It is easier to see what you are doing when the branches have no leaves.

• After leaf fall, you could have a go at taking hardwood cuttings of ornamental shrubs and soft fruit such as Cornus, Hydrangea, currants, and gooseberries. • Start planting trees and shrubs including fruit (the tree planting season started on 23 November with National Tree Week). • Reduce watering and stop feeding houseplants; aim to keep them just damp

• Weed and cover vacant vegetable beds with a weed proof membrane (not plastic or carpet).

• Prune apples, pears, quinces and medlars. Vines, gooseberries, blueberries and currants should also be pruned by February. • Sow seeds that need frost to germinate (such as native tree and shrub seeds, and alpine plants). Do this before the end of January. • In mid to late February, cut back ornamental grasses and other perennials left for winter interest.

Hamamelis (also known as witch hazels) are a group of winter and early flowering shrubs consisting of three species from North America (H. virginiana, H. ovalis, and H. vernalis), and one each in Japan (H. japonica) and China (H. mollis). The name, Hamamelis, means ‘together with fruit’; this refers to the shrub’s habit of having flowers together with the maturing fruit from the previous year (the fruit or seed capsule splits explosively at maturity with enough force to send seeds up to a distance of around 10 metres). The common name witch hazel comes from the Old English wice, meaning ‘pliant’ or

• Dig new beds as the weather allows. Don’t work on them when it’s very wet.

• Bubble wrap greenhouses and check heaters work.

• Order seed catalogues for next year. Save egg boxes as they will come in handy for potato chitting in February. Source your seed potatoes for next year.

• Bring inside any tender plants and bulbs.

• DON’T forget about the weeds!

over the winter months.

The indispensible witch hazel

Do as we say (not as we do..!)


he herbaceous borders at Ness were last redesigned and planted over two winters in 2006. Text books and most horticultural lecturers will tell you that to maintain a border, herbaceous plants need to be lifted and divided every 3-5 years depending on how vigorous they are. So, going by that measure, we are a bit overdue. But this winter will see the start of an overhaul of the borders; reducing some of the clumps, taking out some unsuccessful plants and no doubt adding a few more. Just like you do in your gardens, but probably on a bigger scale. The results will be on display from the summer...

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Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ Pic: P. Kay

‘bendable’ and hazel because the plant in leaf bears a resemblance to hazel, although it is not related. From a gardener’s perspective... H. virginiana flowers from September to November but you don’t see the flowers that much as they get obscured by the leaves which turn a rather nice yellow. The other species flower from January through to March on bare stems and it is these, together with cultivated varieties of a cross between H. japonica and H. mollis (H x intermedia), that are used to provide winter interest. It is worth checking before buying as many have good scent and fabulous autumn colour too. It would take too long to mention all the varieties we grow at Ness but they are planted throughout the Gardens. It is well worth exploring this January and February. Two, of particular note, are a nice specimen of Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ (good scent and autumn colour) which lives at the top of the main drive (on the right hand side before the gates to the car park) and the fabulous Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ which can be found in the Water Gardens. All Hamamelis are easy to grow with no real care and attention needed so long as they are planted somewhere they like; sunny or part shade avoiding excessively wet or very well drained soils. They rarely suffer from pest and disease with no pruning required. Other than that, make sure you can provide enough space (sizes vary depending on variety so check but somewhere between 3m to 8m).

Winter 2013/2014 17

What’s On at Ness...

Sunday 1 December 2.30pm-4pm Friends of Ness Gardens Sunday Lecture: See advert, page 14. FREE.

Sunday 19 January 2.30pm-4pm Friends of Ness Gardens Sunday Lecture: See advert, page 14. FREE.

Tuesday 3 December 10am-12.30pm Essential Gardening Jobs for Winter. £8 Friends, £10 nonmembers.

Saturday 1 February 10am-3.30pm Flowers for a romantic spring wedding £99.

Saturday 14 December – Sunday 15 December Christmas Weekend! see panel. New Years Day Bring in the New Year with a walk at Ness! … Then tuck into an all-day brunch. Gardens open 10am-4pm; brunch served 11am-3pm. Sunday 5 January 2.30pm-4pm Friends of Ness Gardens Sunday Lecture: See advert, page 14. FREE. Thursday 9 January 9.30am-12noon Organic Gardening (6 weeks) £45 Friends, £55 non-members. 1-3.30pm Pests, Diseases & Weeds (6 Weeks) £45 Friends, £55 non-members. Saturday 11 January 2.30-4pm Lecture: “The Gardens of Umbria and Lazio”. Photographic tour by Mike Reddington. FREE.

tmas hratisNess!


Saturday 14 & Sunday 15 December, 11am-3pm

CHRISTMAS STOCKING HUNT! Find the stockings hidden round the Gardens then tell Santa what the secret word is to receive an early present! (£2.50 incl Garden admission, meeting Father Christmas and gift) CHRISTMAS CRAFTS FOR THE FAMILY Create Christmas table decorations, make a wreath, solve our wordsearch and make cards... plus colouring fun! (£1.50 per child) WILLOW SCULPTURE DEMONSTRATIONS 12noon-3pm Meet local artist Jane Foddy and her willow creatures, great and small (Garden admission applies) FESTIVE GIFT SHOP... Perfect presents - for even the trickiest recipient!

18 The Gentian

Saturday 15 February 1-3pm Guided Snowdrop Walk Guided tour around the 60 different varieties of snowdrops in the Gardens. A limited selection will be available from Plants Sales. (Garden admission applies)

Saturday 15 February – Sunday 23 February 10am-5pm Spring into Ness! Half-term activity week. See website for details. Sunday 16 February 2.30pm-4pm Friends of Ness Gardens Sunday Lecture: See advert, page 14. FREE. Wednesday 19 February, 1-3pm Guided Snowdrop Walk See above.

Thursday 20 February, 9am–5pm Snowdrop and Winter Garden Photography Small-group photography workshop with Michael Turner from Art in the Garden £90; Friends can claim £10 discount (call 0161 428 6749 and quote code Ness 14/10).

GUIDED WINTER WALK 10am & 2pm Discover seed heads, stems & plants for best winter interest with plant expert Andy Lambie (Garden admission applies)

Sunday 12 January 12noon-4pm Funky Sunflower Wedding Fair Access to the Garden is free to prospective couples. Free entry to the show.

Sunday 2 February 2.30pm-4pm Friends of Ness Gardens Sunday Lecture: See advert, page 14. FREE.

Sunday 23 February 1-3pm Guided Snowdrop Walk

- plant collectors extrordinaire. Friends £6; nonmembers £8 inc refreshments.

See above.

Friday 14 March 10am-4pm Willow Sculpture Chickens & Ducks £60 including materials. To book, call 01625 539229.

Wednesday 26 February 10am-3pm RHS Level 2 Certificate in Horticulture (30 weeks) £620. Thursday 27 February 9.30am-12noon OR 6.30-9pm Grow Your Own Fruit & Veg (6 Weeks) £45 Friends, £55 non-members. 1-3.30pm Propagation (6 Weeks) £45 Friends, £55 nonmembers. Saturday 1 March 10am-5pm NGS Open Day - Today’s entrance fees are donated to the National Garden Scheme.

Sunday 16 March 2.30pm-4pm Friends of Ness Gardens Sunday Lecture: See advert, page 14. FREE.

Saturday 22 March 10am-1pm Willow Sculpture - Hearts & COURSES KEY Dragonflies £30 including materials. Green = One Day Courses Purple = Longer Courses

For booking courses and events, call Ness on 0845 030 4063 unless otherwise stated. For further information go to:

Sunday 2 March 2.30-4pm Friends of Ness Gardens Sunday Lecture: How will plants cope with climate change?” (See feature, pages 10-13) FREE.

Wednesday 5 March 10am-12.30pm Gardeners’ Calendar, March & April. £8 Friends, £10 others. Thursday 6 March 2.30-4pm Water, Wildlife, Wellbeing, Beauty and Biodiversity RHS Growing for Success Talk with Nigel Dunnett. £4 Friends & RHS members, £5 others. 6-10pm Star Party Join the Liverpool Astronomical Society to take a look at what’s in our skies. Talk ‘A Tour of the Night Sky’ then telescope demonstrations in the Gardens. If weather is poor, extra talks will be held instead. £12 inc refreshments. Sunday 9 March 2.304pm The Lobb Brothers A talk by Matthew Biggs on the Lobb brothers

2.30-4pm Lecture: “Castle Howard: the restoration of a woodland garden.” John Grimshaw. FREE. Saturday 29 March 10am-1pm Mothers and Daughters Floristry £35 Mother’s free

10am-4pm Willow Sculpture - Chickens & Ducks £60 including materials. To book, call 01625 539229. Sunday 30 March Mothers’ Day 10am-5pm Mums Go Free! Free Garden entry for all Mums. 10am-4pm Plant Hunters Fair Entry to Fair £1, redeemable on Garden entry. Wednesday 2 April 10am-12.30pm Pruning Made Easy £8 Friends, £10 nonmembers. Saturday 5 April 7-9am RSPB Up With the Lark & Breakfast Spring walk with the RSPB, then a full English breakfast in The Garden Kitchen £8.50 Friends, £10.50 non-members. Saturday 5 April – Sunday 27 April 10am-5pm. Easter Egg Hunt in the Garden! Gardens admission applies, plus £1 for the trail.

Winter 2013/2014 19


The Gentian welcomes advertisements. If you would like to advertise your company, contact the Editor for details of technical requirements for copy and rates. Special rates offered for repeat advertisements.

F. MORREY & SON (Est. 1910)


Full Shrub Range



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

Garden Shop

8.30 am — 5.00 pm DAILY CLOSED SUNDAY

Catalogue on Request



Tel: Kelsall 01829 751342

Christmas at The Garden Kitchen Monday 18th November – Sunday 22nd December

Join us for Festive Dining!

Bookings available now!

Contact The Garden Kitchen on 0151 353 1573 or Mosaic Hospitality direct on 0161 273 3469 / 20 The Gentian

Gentian winter 2013  

Friends of Ness Gardens newsletter/magazine.