Halesowen Gardeners’ Club held their monthly meeting on Monday May 10 in the Shenstone Theatre above the library.

Prior to the scheduled talk members were introduced to Michelle Clare, Lead Regeneration Officer, who gave an overview of the Halesowen in Bloom Scheme.

This year is seen as the pilot year for the scheme and Michelle informed of the initial work being carried out with local schools and organisations including putting trout back into the River Stour.

Further sponsorship is being sought and members were keen to get involved and share their knowledge of the area and ideas for potential sites for development.

Ms Clare has agreed to come back to the club later in the year with an update of the scheme and was thanked for her presentation. Our speakers for the evening were Daniel Fildes, Parks Development Manager and Phil Crowther, Head Gardener at Stevens Park, Wollescote, and the talk was on the Ceanothus Collection and the Rudbeckia and Echinacea Collections at the park.

Mr Fildes gave a brief history of the park which was presented to the people of Lye and Wollescote by Ernest Stevens in 1930.

A plan of Wollescote Hall and grounds from 1903 showed the location of the house and gardens which was later to become Stevens Park which is off the main Wollescote Road, Stourbridge.

The collection of ceanothus started in the 1980s when the then manager of the site went to California and was inspired by the number of ceanothus growing on the mountain sides in shallow dry conditions and thought that Stevens Park, with its sheltered walls and secure access, could be used to house a collection of these plants.

Sadly the severe winter has destroyed many plants and efforts are being made to try to replace as many of the collection as possible although some of the rarer forms are proving difficult to locate from other nurseries.

Propagation of ceanothus from soft wood, semi ripe cuttings taken between mid-July and the end of September is the usual method.

Mr Crowther exlained pruning is best carried out little and often and that the deciduous types respond well as they flower on new wood. Members were shown photographs of plants from the collection including Ceanothus arboreus ‘Thunder Cloud’ and ‘Ceanothus thyrsiflorus 'Snow Flurry’. Rudbeckia and Echinacea are members of the same plant family Asteraceae/Compositae.

Commonly known as 'Coneflower', echinacea comes from the Greek 'echinos' meaning hedgehog an illusion to the stiff scales of the central cone.

The plants are from North America and Stevens Park have some 20 varieties.

Rudbeckia 'Goldstrum' is the plant well known to gardeners but some such as ‘Golden Sun’ will reach up to eight feet tall according to Phil Crowther.

Stevens Park holds an open day at the end of August where visitors are welcome. Stevens Park is open during the week from 9.30am to 4.30pm.

The last meeting on Monday June 7 at 7.30pm in the Shenstone Theatre included the club plant sale.

The July meeting will be an evening visit to Hunters End Garden, Kinlet, Bewdley on July 5 and members are requested to inform Kath of their interest in attending Hunters End and to pay the £6 fee at our June meeting.

Visitors are welcome to attend any of our meetings in the Shenstone Theatre which are usually on the first Monday of the month.

For further information on our meetings please visit our web sitewww.communigate.co.uk/bc/viewall.phtml and follow the link to Halesowen Gardeners Club.