Herb Society President’s Day with Toby Buckland

A warm welcome to herb enthusiasts at Powderham

Members and their guests were invited to visit Toby Buckland at his nursery at Powderham Castle in Devon on Sat 5th Sept.

Herbs, Hedgerows & History

welcome powderham

The Herb Society was offered a warm welcome at Powderham

Recently retired Chairman Barbara Depledge attended the day entitled “Herbs, Hedgerows and History” and sent the following report:

“The day was attended by members living both locally in Devon and others from London, Macclesfield, Leek and the Midlands.
The day started with an upbeat and informal talk from Toby in the marquee on hedgerow and coastal plants found in Devon and also covering some of Toby’s favourite herbs, trees and grasses.
Our group was really amazed by the incredible extent of Toby’s knowledge – he talked for two hours without any notes. Herb Society members had lots of questions so the meeting was very interactive.

Toby Buckland speaks about herbs

Toby is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable speaker

We then had a delicious lunch in the Orangery Restaurant which presented a great networking opportunity for the group.
After lunch the group enjoyed a talk from Jan Greenland, Herb Society Fellow, on herbs from the Ice Age to the present day. Jan covered many aspects of food history and drew the whole talk to a conclusion talking about a very popular herbal beverage today…..Bombay Sapphire gin! Toby presented Jan with a herbal posy following her talk.

Jan herb posy

Toby with speaker Jan Greenland who is a Herb Society Fellow

Our final session was a tour around one of the stock plant areas of Toby’s nursery. Warm September sun shone for us as we enjoyed lots of interesting discussion with Toby on growing and cultivation tips for a wide variety of unusual edibles, shrubs perennials and the most amazing sunflowers.

toby nursery tour

Everyone who attended would like to thank Toby for hosting a really enjoyable day

All agreed it was a thoroughly enjoyable day and we would like to thank Toby so much for hosting the day. Our President is working hard to help raise the profile of the Herb Society and this has already been reflected in increasing membership numbers.
To finish the day members took away A Herb Society jute bag with gifts of soap and herbal tea.
For Toby his gift bag contained bubbly, chocolates and a herbal posy for Lisa Buckland.
Thanks Toby for a brilliant day!”

toby nursery

nursery herb stand

Fresh herb plants for sale at Powderham

Sounds like it was a fab day out – it’s great to have such a hospitable President.

Thank you Peter Depledge for the photos.

Herb Society AGM

The next event in our calendar is our AGM and members event on Sat 26th Sept at Garden Organic, Ryton near Coventry. Highlights will be another chance to meet Toby Buckland, a tour of the herb garden at Garden Organic followed by Toby cutting the first sod on the site of the new herb garden.

Full details can be found on page 8 of the September edition of Herbs magazine, or email Lynne in the office at info@herbsociety.org.uk.

Devon Herb Society

Devon residents with an interest in herbs may like to know that a new local group affiliated to the Herb Society has started in the area. Find out more at their new website:
Devon Herb Society


Bowood House Garden Festival

Emphasis on Herbs at Bowood

Last weekend was Bowood House garden festival in Wiltshire. It is one of two garden festivals organised by Herb Society President Toby Buckland, the other one being Powderham in Devon. Bowood is a grade I listed Georgian country house with interiors by Robert Adam and gardens designed by Capability Brown. The large event boasted over a hundred stalls, and speakers including James Wong, Anne Swithinbank and Roy Lancaster.

bowood house

Plant stalls in front of Bowood House, Wiltshire

The Herb Society stand

peter depledge bowood toby barbara

L-R Volunteer Carrie Pakenham,  Chairman Barbara Depledge and President Toby Buckland. Photo courtesy Peter Depledge.

herb society stand bowood

The Herb Society stand

The Herb Society stall was very well attended, thanks to Toby’s cheerful and persistent promotion throughout the weekend! As well as membership information and herbal expertise, toiletries by Littlecote and our friends at Cooks Lane Herbs were available to buy, as well as Elizabethan potpourri and lavender bags from Daisy Gifts Ltd.

The stall was run by Barbara and Peter Depledge, who would like to thank volunteers Kathryn Flegg and her daughter Ellen, Janet Turner, Liz Tomlin and Carrie Pakenham for all their hard work over the weekend.

The Herb Society would like to welcome all the new members who joined at the show and received our new welcome pack. We look forward to meeting you again soon!

Herbs in the Speakers Marquee

Inside the speakers marquee, Toby gave a very interesting talk on herbs, kindly plugging Herb Society membership in the process. He followed Jim Buttress (BBC Big Allotment Challenge judge) onto the stage.

preparing for talk

L-R: Toby preparing for his talk; Jim Buttress signing autographs

toby promoting herb society

Toby kindly promoting the Herb Society before his talk

I learned many things in Toby’s talk – nuggets such as: fennel gives off a hormone deterring other plants; Stephenson’s Rocket was named after the herb; add sweet cicely when cooking rhubarb to reduce the amount of sugar needed; use hairy mint in your mojito; herbs flavour intensify when you reduce watering; grow sunflowers to break up clay soil, and finally – how not to confuse parsley with hemlock!

More Herb Stalls

herb stalls bowood

Clockwise from top left: Jeanette, Malcolm, Kirsty

I was pleased to meet Jeanette from Blackdown Hills Lavender who had a fabulous stand full of lavender bags and treats, and won a trophy for Best Hat in Show! It’s always a pleasure to catch up with Malcolm at Hooksgreen Herbs, who had a large stand full of very healthy looking herbs. It was lovely to meet Kirsty from Devonshire Lavenders and Herbs, who had an impressive range too, and had very much enjoyed exhibiting at Powderham a few weeks before.

herb growers

Elsewhere around the show

around bowood garden festival

Clockwise from top left: fab willow sculpture by Clare and Alec Turner at In Clover; plant a pot with the kids; me enjoying a glass of Buckland’s fizz; sweet Williams for sale; flower stand by Sara and Saffron of myflowerpatch.co.uk and bath-flowers.com; strawberries and clotted cream

herbs garden festival

Herbs dominate the stage at Bowood House garden festival

Thanks Toby for a great show!

Wanaka lavender farm

Visiting a lavender farm in New Zealand

It was great to be able to visit one of the most Southerly lavender farms in the World on my holidays!

wanaka lavender farm sign

Lavender growing conditions

Wanaka lavender farm is on South Island New Zealand, about an hour from Queenstown, in an alpine area known for its cold winters and hot dry summers (although it was raining the day we visited!). This area replicates lavender’s native environment in Europe, where it prefers to grow at altitude in mountainous areas surrounding the Mediterranean. The lavender also appreciates the free-draining poor soil in the Wanaka area.

lavender herbs growing at wanaka lavender

I enjoyed meeting Tim who was happy to let me photograph his gardens and shop. Lavender is in his blood – his parents have been running Kaikoura Lavender (towards the N.E. of the island) for the last twenty years.

rows of lavender

Tim has been working to expand Wanaka Lavender over the last couple of years, with the nursery and shop opening recently.

dried lavender bunches

Dried lavender bunches hanging in the coffee shop

Lavender products

The oil is distilled an hour down the road, with a choice of Grosso which is commonly used in fragrance, or Angustifolia Pacific Blue for aromatherapy. They had a shop full of lovely products made with the oil, such as soaps, gels and lotions.

lavender essential oil aromatherapy

Herbs in the garden

I visited on the 6th March and had missed their harvest by about three weeks, but there was still plenty of colour in the garden. The garden benefited from some imaginative planting including native plants and grasses.

herbs at wanaka lavender farm

Standard rose surrounded by a wheel of thymes with mountain and low cloud behind.

thyme herb wanaka lavender

Thyme flowering in the herb garden

lavender and grasses

Grasses thriving in amongst the lavenders

It was good to meet you Tim!

If you would like to visit a lavender farm in the UK, there is a surprising amount of choice these days! I visited Isle of Wight Lavender last summer, who hold a national collection.

Isle of Wight Lavender – a national collection

A herb grower on the Isle of Wight

Fragrant herbs growing in a lavender garden

I was on the Isle of Wight in August for a mini-break with my husband, so thought I’d pop in and have a look at the national collection of lavenders. It was lovely to meet Reuben, whose family has been on the island for hundreds of years, and running the farm since 1927. The farm diversified when Reuben’s mother became interested in growing dried flowers. They started growing lavender and looked into extracting the oil, which is now used in a range of toiletries and cosmetics sold in their shop.isle of wight lavender

lavender gardenReuben grows well over 100 varieties of lavender for the national collection, which is monitored by Plant Heritage. He was telling us how he had suffered with the weather over the last year, even on his sloping site where the well-drained soil resembles the natural environment of lavenders, which originate in mountainous regions around the Meditteranean. His lavender garden was beautiful, with many Lavandula x Intermedia and Lavandula Stoechas varieties still in flower late into the season. These herbs were attracting the bees by the dozen!

bee white lavender

lavender national collectionWhen we arrived the garden was in the process of being improved by the addition of arches, scented roses and visitor-proof labelling. It is very important for varieties in a national collection to be clearly labelled, so it can act as a reference for future growers, but try telling this to garden visitors such as toddlers and over-enthusiastic shoppers!

green lavender flowers

isle of wight lavender garden

Isle of Wight Lavender is open free of charge, and has a shop and tea-room.

Herb Day at Hooksgreen

Local Herb Society Meetings

One of the great benefits of becoming a member of the Herb Society is the opportunity to meet like-minded people locally and join in with events.

A few weeks ago, such an event took place for the Northwest Herb Group at Hooksgreen Herbs (Stone, Staffordshire) led by Herb Society Treasurer Malcolm Dickson and his son Thomas.

Malcolm was pleased that the Spring weather was kind on the day. After a welcoming coffee, he made a presentation on “Showing and Growing Herbs” which gave everyone an idea of what Hooksgreen Herbs’ main activities were during a busy show year.

propagating herbs from cuttings

The members were then split into two groups and Thomas demonstrated sowing seed while Malcolm showed the other group how to take cuttings and split mint and oregano. Everyone had a chance to fill a tray with a variety of species which they took home. After a lunch break the groups swapped around.

propagating herbs from seed

Malcolm was pleased to report “The youngest member of the group Ronan was keen to source the herbs he had listed prior to his visit and was able to fill his tray with cuttings and seed.” We think Malcolm should be proud of his ability to inspire new generations, not only within his own family, but from outside it too.

young members welcome Some of Malcolm’s propagation methods were surprising, and he says “Some of the group were amazed to see the use of an old wood saw to split the large pots of mint and oregano, but the resulting four pots illustrated the need to slit and proliferate.”  The day was rounded off with tea and cakes and a quiz by Susie Dickson.

See more photos of the day on our facebook page at Facebook.com/herbsocietyuk

Local herb group information is available to members inside the Herbs journal and via our website at herbsociety.org.uk

The Dickson family sell their herbs online and through shows, winning a well-deserved RHS Silver Gilt Medal at the 2013 Chelsea Flower Show. Find out about their 2014 stand