Pett Gardening Club meets every month (usually on the 2nd Tuesday). During the summer months visits are held to gardens around Kent and East Sussex, and in the Autumn and Winter months talks are held in Pett Village Hall. It is a friendly club, with members always willing to share knowledge. At times social events are held, including the Gardening Club’s famous Christmas Party!

To find out more, contact Bob Harris; 01424 815151;


                                                    Gardening Club Schedule for 2018

Tue 9 January AGM Village Hall ~ 19:00
Kitchen Garden James Mellors Village Hall ~ 19:30
Tue 13 February Permaculture, Forest Foraging Anna Locke Village Hall ~ 19:30
Tue 13 March Sussex Botany Jacqueline Rose Village Hall ~ 19:30
Tue 10 April Plant Sale Village Hall ~ 19:00
Bohemia Walled Garden Association Mary Dawson  & Christine Mbaye Village Hall ~ 19:30
Tue 8 May Pashley Manor Tulip Festival Visit ~ 13:30
Tue 12 June Herstmonceux Castle Gardens Visit ~ 14:00
Tue 10 July Pett Open Gardens Members Visit  ~ 19:00
Tue 14 August Wakehurst Kew Visit ~ 13:00
Tue 11 September Members Evening Members Village Hall ~ 19:30
Tue 9 October Photography Art Robin Hutt Village Hall ~ 19:30
Tue 13 November Parks and Gardens of Flanders Melanie Gibson-Barton Village Hall ~ 19:30
 Fri 14 December Christmas Party: Cancelled


Gardening Club Report – June Meeting – by Sandy Andrews

On a chilly overcast June day the garden club gathered outside Herstmonceux Castle, unsure what to expect.

What followed was a delightful afternoon spent rambling around beautiful gardens under the expert guidance of Head Gardener Jackie, assisted by Tom, one of her team. We heard about the fascinating history of the castle, how this impressive, red-brick, mid-fifteenth century family home, the largest private residence in England at the time, was restored from ivy covered ruins first by Colonel Claude Lowther in 1910 and later, in 1933, by Sir Paul Latham. It is surrounded by 600 acres of land. In 1946 it became home to the Royal Greenwich Observatory then in 1993 the castle was purchased by Drs Alfred and Isabel Bader who donated to it to Queen’s University of Canada for use as a centre of international education.

The castle faces south and here two arms of a moat are flooded. The western approach is lined with sweet chestnuts, some of which are three hundred years old, gnarled and twisted survivors of the original chestnut walk. The north facade has a dry moat and faces a huge walled garden which, in Elizabethan times, would have grown vegetables, herbs and contained an orchard. In the early 1900s when the walls were restored, the fashion was for herbaceous planting, hence the giant borders that are still there today, their depth allowing for generous clumps of flowers that give swathes of colour throughout the summer into Autumn. I noted a lovely orange eremurus near some blue delphiniums, a grouping of frothy pinkish tiarella with bronze heuchera, and beds of feathery cosmos.

Croquet was once played on the lawn, most famously by Stephen Hawking, in 1961, when he was a student. At the top, a flight of steps leads to a rose garden where seven sundials are displayed amongst the beds. Other sculptures are placed throughout the gardens. Beyond the wall, in typical Wealden style, is a series of smaller garden rooms divided by hedges. The first is named for Shakespeare and is planted with some of the trees, shrubs and flowers that are found in his work. Sheltered to one side by yew and on another by fragrant elaeagnus, it formerly held a swimming pool but is now used for Classes. The next is dedicated to butterflies, with rectangular beds full of nepeta, lavender, honeysuckle, kniphofia, geranium and perovskia. The central focal point here is a delicate metal arbour, with four surprisingly comfortable tractor seats beneath it. A shadier planting of azaleas and rhododendrons leads to a paved area of sunny raised beds, where clipped buxus and medicinal and culinary herbs are grown. From here a short walk takes you to the magic garden, past a hedgerow over which a couple of acers glow vividly crimson, But once you are inside the grove and their leaves are overhead they become green with only a hint of red and in their shade foxgloves and ferns thrive. Outside the wall, to the north east, a path mown through a wildflower meadow leads to a folly which has a lovely small walled garden and steps up to a deck that overlooks a lake. There are a further 300 acres of dog-friendly walkable woodland.

Next event: Tuesday July 10, Pett Gardening Club’s open gardens. Details to follow.

Gardening Club Report – May Meeting – by Sandy Andrews

On a very warm day at the beginning of May the Pett Garden Club visited the Tulip Festival at Pashley Manor.

We were guided by the Head Gardener, Keith Boylett, who has worked there for 23 years, and who gave us a brief history of the estate before showing us round the tulip displays. The house, on the borders of Kent and East Sussex, dates from 1550 and is a Grade1 listed timber-framed building that was extended in 1720, giving it two handsome facades. It is a private family home. The eleven-acre garden is open to the public. The Festival is held in late April and early May each year. Over 40,000 tulip bulbs are planted and at the end of the festival they are lifted and given away. In typical Wealden style the garden is divided into different rooms and the tulips are displayed, in a variety of colour-themes, throughout them. Old walls, hedges, and espaliered pear trees enclose the spaces, providing warmth and shelter. Keith told us they plant the bulbs four inches deep to make them easier to lift but advised us to plant them six inches deep at home, if we intended to leave them in the ground.

He said the switchback of unseasonably cold and hot days had caused problems in the spring garden. The cold especially, had delayed flowering, resulting in many plants blossoming at the same time rather than in succession, and for a shorter period than usual. The hot spells had not helped as spring flowers in our climate do not cope well with high temperatures. Nevertheless there were tulips to be seen, the deep red groups seeming to survive the difficult weather conditions best. There were cool plantings of cream, yellows and whites, warmer borders of pink and white, and orange and yellows, through to fiery shows of orange, reds and purples. They included double forms and single lily-shaped blooms. Lawns and fields provided a vivid emerald backdrop and the wisteria, on the rear facade of the house by the café terrace, was fully out and fragrant. Sculptures provided additional interest in every part of the garden and on such a warm day, the elegant swimming pool looked inviting.

Next visit: June 12 at 2.00pm, Herstmonceux Castle Gardens. Details to follow.


Gardening Club Report – April Meeting – by Sandy Andrews

In April, The Garden Club’s talk was given by Mary Dawson and Christine Mbaye of the Bohemia Walled Garden Association. This Victorian garden is in the heart of Summerfields Wood, a nature reserve off Bohemia Road, and is the subject of an extensive restoration project run by volunteers. Within the wider woodland there is an ice house and a Roman style bath, both grade 2 listed. I first visited the wood with a writer’s group, shortly after I moved here. We were contributing site-specific poems, which would then be displayed in the relevant part of the wood, for a Coastal Currents event. This first trip was for us to explore the areas we wanted to write about. The walled garden was a new project then. I’m not sure we were even allowed inside. I remember its general state of dilapidation, the heras fencing, and thinking it looked like a project that was doomed to fail. Originally, the garden was part of the estate that belonged to Bohemia House, owned by the Brisco family from 1831 to 1901. Sadly, in 1972, the Borough Council demolished the house and the garden became an overgrown ruin. During the great storm of 1987 part of its wall were smashed by uprooted trees. In 2008, in an attempt to save it, the BHWG was formed and the land leased to them by the council. What they have achieved in that time is little short of a miracle. Tasked with restoring the garden for use by the local community, in 2010 the first vegetables and other plants were put in and by 2011 the garden was unrecognisable with a lawn laid and flower beds established. Now, where impenetrable brambles and saplings grew, along with nettles and ivy, there are colourful borders around the perimeter, an educational area, a shelter, a willow arbour, a tool shed, individual plots of variable size to hire, a lawn and a waterless toilet. They worked hard to obtain the grants that made it all possible, and run events for schools and families as part of their remit. The garden has charitable status and costs about £1500 a year to run. A grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund was awarded in 2016 to provide improved access and signage, and for the clearing and rebuilding of the missing wall. If you would like to pay them a visit the garden is open from 10.00 to 12.00 most Wednesdays and Sundays, from March to November, and there are four fund raising events during that time. The open day, linked with Hastings Chelsea Fringe, is on May 20 from 11.00 to 1.00. The Victorian themed heritage open day, linked to Marianne North, a Victorian biologist and botanical painter from Hastings, is on September 16 from 11.00 to 3.00. The celebration day Heritage Lottery Fund, featuring traditional skills, is on October 21 from 11.00 to 3.00, and pumpkin carving and pumpkin soup day is on October 28 from 11.00 to 1.00.


Gardening Club Report – March Meeting – by June Harris

Our March speaker was Jacqueline Rose, who is a member of the Sussex Botanical Recording Society, whose main activity is the continuous recording of Sussex Flora over the centuries. The society has recently published a book based on these records, entitled ‘The Flora of Sussex”, which Jacqueline’s own recordings have contributed to. She showed us a series of excellent quality slides of Sussex wild plant discoveries, taken mostly by herself during her regular and repeat visits to known haunts over the last year or so. As all gardeners are aware, the conditions required for a plant to thrive are many and varied, from damp and shady to chalk downland, thin poor soil to the roots of trees, each, however, crucial to the establishment of each one, so Jacqueline’s visits encompass these differentiated environments where they exist locally. Some of the slides she showed us revealed the continuing presence of plants of particular interest to us in the Hastings area. One such is the “toothwort”, a parasitic plant, which grows on tree roots and has been recorded in Alexandra Park since the 19th century but is rare throughout Sussex. Near to Pett, on the site of the old Broomgrove Power Station in Ore, the rare lesser centaury has been recorded, along with other more common centauries. The “bird’s nest orchid”, which will be familiar to many locally, is present in Hastings Country Park, along with five other wild orchid species. A ground clearance programme is ongoing on the Firehills, to clear the rampant gorse and restore the lowland heathland to enable flora historically recorded there hopefully to re-establish. Recent visits have revealed signs that the heathland is developing well and showing promise, with heathers, dwarf gorse and common dodder all sighted. Visitors to Fairlight Churchyard in September can enjoy the pretty, scented white flowers of Himalayan Knotweed, which, although not native, has naturalised there, while at Camber Sands, sea holly, hitherto only recorded at the golf course, has now been spotted on the dunes, a new siting in this environment. Recordings of plants over the centuries show many changes in location of some plants, initial appearances of others and, sadly, many losses. An example would be the “goosefoot”, always rare in Sussex, but present in the Seven Sisters area, which is becoming increasingly scarce. Changes over time, including coastal development and changes in farming practice have combined to steadily reduce the overall number of species recorded, another documented ill-effect of human intervention and the industrialisation of the rural and coastal landscape we perhaps do not value enough.


Gardening Club Report – February Meeting – by June Harris

Our speaker this month was Anna Locke, who is a fully qualified permaculture designer and teacher. She runs regular workshops at Rock House, Hastings on various permaculture topics and also offers consultancy visits to individual clients or groups, to advise on how best to design plots using permaculture principles.

In a very informative talk she explained that “permaculture,” a contraction
of permanent agriculture, came about as a reaction against the “industrial”
methods of agriculture of the post war period, with its widespread use of pesticides and conversion to vast prairie-style monoculture. It is a solution based approach that goes beyond the more simplistic concept of the sustainability of agricultural practices, moving instead towards a more holistic and long-term approach towards ecological repair and regeneration using sound ethics and principles, not just in agriculture, but including, for example, solar power and wind farming.

Permaculture is not simply a quick-fix solution to improving one’s soil, but is a framework for a much more wide-ranging change in attitude to all aspects of our daily lives brought about through a re-engagement with nature. In practice it has a low impact on the environment, but helps us get the most out of our resources, the while improving yields through a greater understanding of the dynamics of nature. Anna went on to explain how we might apply the principles to our own gardens through appropriate design and management based on the concept of healthy soil = healthy plants = healthy people, an approach which, in the wider context, enables the regeneration of soil, which provides the groundwork for benefits to land, communities, the economy, and the wider environment.


Gardening Club Report – January Meeting– by Sandy Andrews

James Mellors, whom some of you will remember from our visit to Fairlight Hall, began the garden club’s New Year with a talk about kitchen gardens.

James was not always a gardener. He trained in Scotland and worked at Doddington Hall in Lincolnshire before moving to his present post at Fairlight. Both these places have large kitchen gardens run on organic principles, and offered James the opportunity to pursue one of his main horticultural interests: how to work a productive garden without using chemicals. Doddington has two acres, with glass houses. Left uncultivated after the war, it was redeveloped and reopened in 2007 with the help of a Lottery grant. Fairlight Hall’s entire estate is Soil Association Certified, and the walled kitchen garden is extensive. James talked to us about rotation, companion planting, green manure, sacrificial planting and the no-dig strategy, all of which reduce pollution, benefit the soil and encourage diversity by helping to preserve bees and other insects. These methods are also important for food sovereignty. This, James explained, is different from food security as it is a system that puts people and the environment at its heart, rather than the profits of the agrochemical industry.

Planting different vegetable groups in rotation helps to prevent disease and soil degradation, and is beneficial to soil microorganisms. Both Doddington and Fairlight practice a six year rotation. Planning helps gardeners to get as much out of the ground as possible before the condition of the soil declines. Some plants grow better together and can repel pests, help regulate water and rot, and increase productivity. Chives will get rid of carrot fly, for example. Companion planting is not straightforward. Some plants will have negative effects when placed next to others, but there are plenty of planting charts available online. James recommends the use of green manures. These are fast growing plants sown directly into bare soil. They help to suppress weeds and when turned back in, return nutrients to the soil and improve its structure. Examples are Phacelia, mustard and crimson clover. Some are highly colourful and decorative. Choose the right one for your needs and growing conditions.

The no-dig method is better for your back as well as the soil. Rather than repeatedly digging your plot you mulch! mulch! mulch! The method is based on pre-industrial farming techniques and does not damage worms or insects but protects life in the soil, including mycorrihiza. Weeds are not brought to the surface and the use of thick mulches increases moisture retention in the soil. Finally, sacrificial plants, as their name suggests, are those that are planted to attract pests away from the crops under cultivation. Many thanks to James for an enjoyable, and informative evening.