THE YEAR 2016
Two of the outings linked to two of the Winter talks.
In the summer, members visited Dreamers’ Cottage, the home of ‘Garden and Wood’, subsequently Piers and Louise visited the club to give a talk on their enterprise. On both occasions, members drooled over their beautifully restored antique garden tools.
Later in the summer, members visited the Sir Harold Hillier Garden. The highlight was undoubtedly the double Centenary Borders, one of the longest flower borders in the world. This was complemented by a winter talk by Wolfgang Bopp, the garden’s director, describing the garden’s development and the numerous treasures to be seen.
Chiffchaffs garden near Gillingham in Dorset looked lovely, it was sad to learn of its forthcoming demise.
At Stourhead, everyone found something different to enjoy in this glorious landscape garden; some walked or rode around the lake or just lazed about. Most found time to linger over the plants on the sale benches.
Members enjoyed the tour of The Whichford Pottery and several were tempted to buy pots. At Kiftsgate, the emphasis was on plants. There was an impressive collection of tree peonies with spectacular flowers, colour coordinated in the well planted borders around the top terraces. The stunning, yellow and orange herbaceous border was outstanding.
Selborne near Alton is a half-acre cottage garden packed with a wide range of well grown plants flowering in abundance and overseen by a warm welcoming couple.
The grand garden at Dean House exemplified the magic of sweeping, manicured lawns, mixed borders, rose, pond and walled gardens and had the tidiest tool shed the Secretary had ever seen. The concluding question and answer session with the three gardeners was a particularly appreciated.
The fortunate few who braved the rain at the Worcester College Garden at Oxford were treated to a memorable tour led by the head gardener. He was justly proud of his herbaceous borders and was willing to discuss the plantings and offer growing tips.
The Buildings near Stockbridge, Hampshire, is best remembered for its appealing round gravel garden, abundant salvias for sale, which members were told in no uncertain matter were not to be planted until Spring, and the most notorious loo in the Test Valley.
The success of the Winter programme was down to Ros Heath, who with Committee input, planned the programme and to our new Winter Programme Secretary, Alex Siddall, who has overseen it. He endured his baptism of fire in November when the planned speaker cancelled at a few hours’ notice because her van had broken down. But our President, Michael Keith-Lucas, stepped into the breach with a fascinating talk on the Origins of Garden Plants. Members learnt that many plants that they think of as British had originated elsewhere in the world, even if centuries before.
Stephen Jury, one of the Association’s long standing Vice-Presidents, who guided members on a ‘Horticultural Travelogue’ through the Mediterranean area, highlighting familiar and unfamiliar plants. And he helped to provide a better understanding of the likely effects of Climate Change on gardening practices.
Paul Barney of Edulis Plants livened up some of our meetings by offering plants for sale and thus helping to satisfy the yearnings of the many plantaholics among the members.
The continuing success of the Christmas social depends on home grown talent and participation. No wonder, it is enjoyed so much.
In determining the favourite guest speakers this past season, it was probably a toss-up between Troy Scott Smith and Alan Street.
Troy Scott-Smith who had made his mark at the Courts Garden in Wiltshire, Bodnant in North Wales and is now injecting new ideas at Sissinghurst. His talk on evolving Sissinghurst demonstrated great sensitivity to the original concepts of Vita Sackville West and Harold Nicholson. He especially endeared himself to the audience by involving his young son.
Alan is a long-time favourite and again he did not disappoint. He appealed to both galanthophiles (snowdrop lovers) and, at risk of censure, also the more normal gardeners. He gave a well balanced mix of anecdotes, detail of snowdrops – types, planting both ‘au naturale’ and garden cultivated – and other spring bulbs in combination with snowdrops. Of course there were bulbs, in flower, to purchase.
Lia Leendertz gave a talk on ‘The History of Allotments’.
Stephen Lacey’s talk on “Scent in the Garden” reminded the audience of this important element in gardening so easily overlooked. This prompted members enough to buy his book.
Gill Franklin is another friend of the club; her knowledge of top fruit had in no way diminished, nor had her fluency.
When it came to enthusiasm, Nick Macer was the clear winner. His “Confessions of a Plant Freak” said it all and he continues to scour the world for the unusual.
The talk just on “Fritillaries” might have been tedious but Bob Wallis’s informative presentation was anything but.
During the past year, members had been engaged in three charitable activities.
The club had made its usual annual £100 donation to Perennial, the charity dedicated to helping people working in horticulture when they are in difficulty.
A one-off payment of £200 was made to the Ridgeline Trust, which is a small Reading charity running a therapeutic garden community project. Some of the money had already been spent on a much needed new hedge trimmer and a cordless strimmer. Details of their open days would be circulated at a later date so that those interested could have the chance to visit the garden.
The other venture has been the garden makeover at CIRDIC. Under the inspired direction of Ray Norton, our retiring Chairman, half a dozen Reading Gardeners had helped to replant the garden to Ray’s low maintenance designs to the delight of both the charity’s trustees and also several passer byes. This had not involved our club in any financial outlay.
The club’s first Photographic Competition was mounted in 2015. Those attending the Christmas social last December enjoyed seeing the results of the competitors’ efforts. The judges hope that more members will be inspired to have a go in 2016. The not too onerous competition entry rules were published in the March newsletter.
There are currently 129 members.