The cold, damp and gloomy weather of March and the beginning of April had thankfully disappeared and we enjoyed a dry and fine day for our visit to two wonderful but very different gardens in Enfield. Myddleton House is the former home of E.H. Bowles, the famous gardener, and is a lovely, natural and informal garden. Most of us took a short, guided tour and we were delighted by the masses of spring flowers. The alpine meadow and the rockery carpeted in the dazzling blue of thousands of scilla were beautiful. After two hours and a coffee, we boarded the coach again for a very short journey round the corner to Capel Manor Gardens. Capel Manor is London’s Horticultural College and it was buzzing with students just returned from their Easter break. The large site was full of the most interesting and stunning show gardens and at this time of the year, fabulous displays of spring flowers including many different varieties of daffodils and narcissi and beautiful tulips in dazzling colours. There was so much to see, not only the gardens but also lakes, a maze, an amphitheatre and an animal park with meerkats, alpacas, birds and small animals. Luckily there were plenty of seats, a large restaurant and a well-stocked garden shop to help us revive our flagging energy levels. A fantastic day rounded off with a trouble-free journey to return to Princes Risborough by 5.00pm.
We welcomed local nurseryman, Billy Stott, to our March meeting. Billy gave us a very interesting talk about the nurseries, farms and gardens both in the UK and abroad that he visited as part of his studies for a Degree in Commercial Horticulture. It was fascinating and illuminating to learn how plants were raised on a large commercial scale and how robots and machines could do the seed sowing, potting, feeding and watering of thousands of plants in a very short space of time. Members had the opportunity to buy spring plants including snowdrops from Billy and shrubs that he had raised in his newly opened nursery in Stokenchurch. We wish him lots of luck with his new venture.
The speaker at our February meeting was Paul Patton, plant pathologist, writer and broadcaster, who gave a very interesting and dynamic talk “Growing for the Kitchen”. Paul’s enthusiasm and knowledge came through in his marvellous presentation which touched on cultivation of vegetables, soft and hard fruits and herbs as well as other aspects of gardening. He even gave advice on how to make preservatives, jams, chutneys and jellies. A quick quiz at the end (with prizes) made sure that we listened carefully! A wonderful talk and we hope that Paul will return next year to enthral us again.
At our very well-attended January meeting (52 people), we welcomed Rob Jacobs, the garden manager at Waterperry Gardens who gave us an interesting talk on Waterperry’s herbaceous borders together with lots of hints for our own gardens. Rob also gave us an insight into the philosophy of the famous Beatrix Havergill in the days of Waterperry Horticultural College of which she was the founder. A lively discussion with social tea and chat followed Rob’s talk and we were very pleased to welcome some new members.
In November, we returned to the Carrington Room for the start of our Winter programme and were treated to an informative and entertaining talk by Amanda Ruse called “Greening for Christmas”. Amanda told us about how many of the traditions of Christmas stretch back to pre-Roman times and how plants have always been a part of these customs. With a series of props, which included a model fireplace , she explained the origins and meanings of the plants associated with Christmas both in the past and in our lives today. Interspersing her talk with hilarious, interactive parlour games, Amanda managed to ease us into the run-up to the festive season in a most enjoyable way.
On October 16th, we visited RHS Garden Wisley to see the Autumn colours. We were not disappointed; the trees and shrubs were golden and russet and the flower borders were still magnificent with grasses and beautiful Autumn-flowering plants. Wisley is lovely at any time of the year and richly deserves the award of the nation’s favourite garden. The morning was fine and misty but in the afternoon we experienced the eeriest phenomenon of a red sun and dark skies caused but a storm over Ireland bringing sand from the Sahara. However, this did not spoil what was a very enjoyable day.
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!