A full coach load of Gardening Group members set off at 8.45am to visit Longstock Water Gardens near Stockbridge in Hampshire. The weather was glorious and after a trouble-free journey, we arrived at Longstock in good time. The Water Gardens were the creation of John Lewis and are owned and managed by the John Lewis Partnership. They are only opened to the public on Charity Sundays and to groups by appointment, so we felt privileged to have the gardens to ourselves which was wonderful. The gardens were absolutely fabulous with the most beautiful plantings around several lakes which had been created from a diversion of the clear, chalk stream, the River Test. Small bridges linked the lakes and crossed the stream creating interest and superb views at every turn. Peace and tranquillity – we could have stayed all day listening to the birds and watching the changing reflections on the water. All too soon we had to leave and drove a short way to the Longstock Nurseries. Here we had lunch at the pleasant restaurant and farm shop , and could walk around the extensively stocked nurseries. Although by now it was very hot, sunny and humid, many of us visited the lovely herbaceous border and the national collections of Clematis and Buddleia. After a minor scrape with a fence, the coach carried us safely back to Risborough at the end of a very enjoyable day.
Wow! It was hot! Thank you to all those who braved the heatwave on the hottest day of the year (so far) to visit 7 superb gardens for the Open Gardens round Risborough event. The gardens looked wonderful, full of colour, scent and beautiful planting and many thanks to those members who kindly opened their gardens for us to visit. Welcome teas and cakes in the shade of the trees and by the running millstream, were waiting for the weary travellers at Park Mill. Thank you also to those who donated plants for the Plant Sale which was stocked with a wide range of plants raised by members. A truly lovely afternoon, even if it was rather warm!
Instead of our usual meeting on a Monday, we took the opportunity to go to the final day, Sunday, of the RHS Spring Plant Festival at Malvern. It had rained overnight, but 50 members met at 8.30am eager and excited to be going to the show.. After a very smooth and trouble-free coach journey, we arrived at the Malvern show ground and went our different ways into the Festival. We had a glorious day, perfect sunny weather and surrounded by beautiful plants and gardens. The large floral marquee was superb with fantastic displays of flowers tempting us to buy. The show gardens both by professional designers and local schoolchildren were lovely and not too pretentious or beyond the average gardeners’ reach. The sheds and marquees of floral art, food and wine, crafts and gifts were outstanding as were the many cafes and restaurants where we could rest and recuperate. At 4.00pm we gathered by the coach clutching our treasured purchases, to start our journey home, tired but very happy after a splendid “Grand Day Out”.
Hoss muck, (horse manure) liquid fish (exactly that!) and Remin (volcanic rock dust) were all introduced to us by Mick Poultney as a means of making our plants grow better. What an interesting and highly entertaining talk he gave the 52 attendees on how to make compost in 3 months. Our normal ideas were brushed aside as Mick told us not use the aerated and heat method of composting making, but to encourage the compost worms to do the job for us. Nearly all types of waste paper, card, and food were all to be chopped up and added as well as lots of water and some natural additives so that the population of worms would thrive. In his inimitable Black Country style, Mick gave us lots of advice which we could follow to make the best compost ever! A great number of questions at the end, kept the interest going well after the normal speaker’s time and together with a sale of some of Mick’s unusual products and a raffle we just managed to finish by 4.00pm!
February is usually a gloomy grey month, but our monthly meeting this year took place on a very unseasonably warm and sunny day. So it was great to see over 50 members at the meeting in the Carrington Room. It was planned as an informal gathering so that people had a chance to meet, socialise and talk. We first watched a programme from the series “The Secret History of the British Garden” with Monty Don which featured the landscape garden revolution of the 18th century and the influence of William Kent and Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. One of the gardens we visited last year, Rousham House in Oxfordshire, had a prominent place in the programme as did the lady of the house who had taken us round the house. We then enjoyed a high tea of sandwiches and home-made cakes (made by members of the GG committee) and lots of chatting, which rounded off a very enjoyable and relaxed afternoon.
The January afternoon weather was dreary, grey and cold so a perfect time to hear about beautiful herbaceous borders. Over 50 people gathered in the Carrington Room to hear Wisley-trained John Negus, an RHS listed speaker, give his talk on “Borders of Distinction”. With humour and many anecdotes, John shared with us his expertise and lifelong knowledge of plants and gardening in a beautifully illustrated presentation. Lots of fun especially when we were subjected to a final quick fire quiz with prizes. John was very generous in giving gardening advice during tea and we all felt uplifted and ready for Spring, catching his passion and enthusiasm for gardening, wildlife and the great outdoors.
It was Christmas party time again and we welcomed over 40 people from both the Gardening and Walking Groups to an afternoon enjoying each other’s company and meeting new friends. We were treated to another of Doreen’s famous picture quizzes- this time testing our knowledge of historic houses – and a short, quirky quiz on things that could be found in the garden. We then sat down to enjoy a wonderful selection of finger food, each plate having been donated by a guest, This was accompanied with free -flowing wine and soft drinks ably served by Martin our expert wine waiter. Thanks to everyone who helped to make this a lovely afternoon full of warmth and friendship.
Our October visit to Westonbirt Arboretum was blessed with lovely Autumn weather and glorious leaf colours. The maples were stunning with their reds, oranges and yellows, rivalling the bright colours of the Japanese cherries and other trees. The new aerial walkway through the treetops gave us the sense of being at one with the beauty around us. In fact, several of us felt like hugging these wonderful trees. It was warm enough to sit outside the restaurant to eat our lunch as we were bathed in the Autumn sunlight. A lovely day in the Cotswolds enjoying our beautiful countryside.
We like to try out different things in the Gardening Group and so at our August meeting we held our first ever Treasure Hunt. People mostly in pairs, set off from the Carrington Room with a list of questions to answer as they walked across Wades Park to the art display, then to Church Lane and through St Mary’s churchyard and back to the Community Centre. A great deal of fun was had trying to spot the answers and everyone had a great time in the glorious summer weather. There were prizes of plants and spring bulbs for the winners and a superb strawberry cream tea for everyone. Bulbs and scones (many thanks to the bakers) were sold to raise funds and a request came from members that we have another treasure hunt in the future!
Our July visit to Rousham House and Gardens, near Lower Heyford, was blessed with sunny weather. We arrived by car and most of us had a guided tour of the house with the owner. Both the house and gardens were designed by William Kent the first English landscape gardener who has influenced our gardens ever since the 17th century. The house was full of William Kent designed rooms with wonderful furniture and fireplaces and many portraits of the Dormer family who have owned the house since it was built in the 1600’s. The gardens were beautifully relaxed with a long border, parterre, dovecote, peacocks and vistas to follies and statues. Rousham is the only William Kent garden that has remained unchanged since it was designed and is completely uncommercial, so no tea room or gift shop. A lovely afternoon in a house and garden full of history.