March 2020


Now showing

Winter-Irises-4©Geoff Wilkinson / ©Denise Rooney

Marian Temple of the Wanstead Community Gardeners tells the stories behind two blooming stars of Wanstead and how these horticultural happenings came
to be

Garrya elliptica: now in catkin flower around Wanstead Station.
A few years ago, someone said to me: “It’s a pity about the Garrya elliptica at the station. We never see the catkins.” My ears pricked up. I had only just found out about Garrya elliptica a few weeks previously when I’d seen them at Anglesey Abbey’s winter garden and been transfixed by the curtains of hanging catkins. Did we really have such things skulking around Wanstead Station and not performing? Yes, we did! Lots of them but the contractors pruned them every autumn, cutting off the developing catkins. Of course, we never saw them.

We contacted the Redbridge Council department to get the time of pruning changed with mixed results, sometimes a show and sometimes nothing. This year, the Garrya elliptica were not pruned at all and we have the resulting curtains of hanging catkins.

In future, we’ll try and get them pruned in April as soon as the catkins finish so we should have them every year. They are just too good to miss and definitely worth conversations with the right people on the council to get it sorted.

Winter irises: four clumps against the buttresses of Wanstead United Reformed Church.
These originate from Algeria and Syria and grow wild on the hillsides in winter, not wanting to be roasted in summer. To succeed, they need exactly the right conditions: year-round full sun, poor dry stony soil and preferably against a wall, which reflects heat. The church has all this. Since the church was renovated and English Heritage was involved, only plants of the same era as the church building can be planted there.

Luckily, it turns out our irises were introduced into this country by ravaging Victorian plant hunters. Perfect! The clump in my garden, which has sourced so many of the Wanstead winter irises in our community patches, was planted by my mother over 60 years ago and it’s still going strong. Plants often outlive us.

The four church clumps were planted by lovely Don Stevens, a church member, and me in 2015. We’d dug out my mother’s compacted clump, hacked it apart and took four pieces to the church where we removed the shingle, cut a slit in the underlying plastic sheet and slid the rhizomes in. Winter irises famously do not like to be moved, so I was surprised when they flowered the first October. Yes, they obviously thought they were in the right place too! They have expanded and flowered from October to March every year since then. A real Wanstead delight. Sadly, Don died the following year, but the smiling winter irises are a fitting legacy to him.


New plans for large-scale music festivals on Wanstead Flats


The City of London Corporation is considering new proposals to host large-scale events at Wanstead Flats, Warlies Park and Chingford Plain.

A similar plan was ditched last year following a community campaign and fears over the Flats’ fragile habitat, which is home to ground-nesting skylarks. “These proposals will be discussed by members at the Epping Forest and Commons Committee in March and a decision made in due course,” said a spokesperson.

Income from any events would be used to help maintain Epping Forest.


Celebrate local wild flowers with the Aldersbrook Horticultural Society


Local wild flowers will be the subject of this month’s Aldersbrook Horticultural Society meeting.

My talk will explain how historical records give clues about the native flowers that grew in the Wanstead area and their uses… I will suggest reasons why many wild flowers are under threat and how careful management of wild flower areas should be able to enhance local biodiversity,” said Tricia Moxey, whose presentation will take place at Aldersbrook Bowls Club on 10 March from 7.30pm (visitors: £5).



Aspiring to learn: local rugby club’s successful apprenticeship fair

IMG_8797The event was supported by the Mayor of Redbridge

As part of last month’s National Apprenticeship Week, Eton Manor RFC hosted an apprenticeship and training fair, one of the first social and business partnered events of its kind in the borough.

“With the help of local, national and global businesses, aspiring apprentices were introduced to a debt-free alternative to university and were able to discuss their career ambitions with future employers…” said event organiser Helen Gascoigne from training provider Aspire to Learn.

The fair is set to return next year.


Fill a bag with kindness at the library for International Women’s Day


In celebration of International Women’s Day on 8 March, Redbridge Libraries will be working with local homeless organisations to supply their service users with much-needed support.

From 2 to 7 March, Wanstead Library will join the rest of the borough in becoming a donation point for items for the homeless community. Residents are encouraged to ‘fill a bag with kindness’ and bring in toothpaste, shower gel, soap, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, tissues, plasters, sanitary towels or tampons.