Gardens go Tropical! (April 2011)

An audience of over forty attended the tropical themed second meeting of the Cannington Horticultural Group in April, at Bridgwater College's Walled Gardens of Cannington. The horticultural lecture focussed on tropical plants, and in the floristry practical session, attendees learnt how to plait palm leaves.

Neil Bain helping the group plait palm leaves

Nigel Cox, lecturer for the Royal Horticultural Society and also Horticulture programmes at Bridgwater College, shared his expertise about tropical plants with the members of the group, who were also given a tour of the gardens including the impressive glasshouses, which contain several different climatic areas associated with tropical plants.

The Arid Zone houses numerous cacti and succulents including Mammillaria bombycina, Mammillaria lindsayi and Mammillaria parkinsonii, while the Mediterranean Climate Zone is home to a different range of plants including Thamnochortus insignis, a huge grass that appears to support coco-crisp-like seedheads. Among the plants in the Wet Temperate Zone, the contrast of the lush green needles of Araucaria heterophylla against the large silvery down-like leaves of the Cussonia paniculata ‘Sinciata' were admired. In the humid Tropical Zone the group made their way through the growth of the Musa sp, Tillsandia sp and the bright flora of the Pavonia x gledhillii.

After the Garden tour, Neil Bain, the only male Master Florist in the UK, performed a demonstration on leaf manipulation and the group member were able to plait a Kentia Palm (since it was the day before Palm Sunday). Fronds from each side of the palm were tugged, plaited and locked into place to form a dynamic French pleat that manipulated the palm into what resembled a prehistoric form. The plaited palm was tied together with a vibrant orange Gerbera (Gerbera sp ‘Harvest') and a few strands of Xerophyllum tenax – and looked stunning!

“The group were buzzing with enthusiasm and fun was had by all. It is wonderful to see so many people interested in what can be grown, how it grows and its many uses. It is even more of a privilege to be able to share the resources and wealth of knowledge that we have within the community.” — Neil Bain

The Cannington Horticultural Group is a new group formed to share knowledge, information and ideas on horticulture and floristry using the facilities and expertise at Bridgwater College's Cannington Centre. The next meeting will be Saturday 21 May from 11am with free practical workshops on horticulture in the borders and how to make a bow and gift wrap flowers. The group is open to all ages. For further details, please contact Chris Hill at The Walled Gardens on 01278 655042.