Meeting Reports

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2018 Meetings


I write this at the start of Spring (according to the meteorological calendar), with freezing Winter weather to report on a garden society speaker whose focus was Autumn flowering plants.  Only Summer doesn’t get a look in! 

Graham Gough is the owner of Marchants Hardy Plants, one of the leading small nurseries in the country, where he propagates all the plants sold in the nursery.  The plants he sells, he also grows in his beautiful garden on the South Downs.  

Graham started his talk with sage advice.  Do not be tempted, in the Spring, to fill the flower border gaps with Summer flowering plants and then have little that flowers later in the year.  We were introduced to a long list of Autumn flowering plants accompanied by beautiful photos.  Graham has a sharp eye for colour and detail.  Yellow is surely yellow?  But no, we were asked to appreciate the beautiful clear quality of yellow in Helianthus salicifolius or the rich yellow glow of the more familiar Rudbekia Goldstürm. Dark flowers may be in fashion at the moment, but too dark, such as the navy blue agapanthus or dark hued hellebores and the flowers simply disappear in the border.  Blue, particularly a pale, china blue is a rare colour in the garden but agapanthus offers wonderful pale blues or the uncommon Amsonia has darker, Spode blue flowers.  

Graham drew particular attention to the form, foliage and texture of plants.  Kniphofia may have striking flowers, but its foliage is a disappointment.  Asters come in wonderful colours but they have ‘bare legs’ that need covering.  How plants combine and how one plant ‘registers’ in a border among others was often a point he raised.  Everyone who attended his talk appreciated his extensive knowledge, presented to us in a style that was engaging and entertaining.   

Sue Young
JANUARY - Anne Wareham: In Conversation

We started the new year with a change from the usual format of our meetings, when we welcomed Anne Wareham, ‘in conversation’ with garden society members. We talked about the creation of the garden on the four acres encircling Veddw House, which stands above Tintern on the other side of the Wye Valley. Anne and her husband, Charles, began work thirty years ago, with little gardening knowledge and a small budget. We also discussed Anne’s approach to garden making (as opposed to simply gardening) and her often intentionally provocative views on contemporary gardening, garden design and television gardening programmes! We ended with Anne sharing her view that much traditional gardening lore can be safely ignored and offering to share a remedy for box blight.

Much of the garden at Veddw was made on ancient grassland, some of it conserved as meadow. Anne has a particular interest in local history and the surrounding local landscape of smallholdings and has traced the former occupants of the house for over 200 years.  The locality is made up of small homesteads dotted about, rather than houses clustered into defined villages and on her website ( I found this from the Diocese of Llandaff in 1763, describing the cottages many of us now live in and their former occupants:

That population consists principally of small farmers, quarrymen, woodcutters and labourers, many of whom have reared their cottages amidst the woods, or upon the commons; and by great toil and perseverance, have cleared the ground from stones, furze and heath. These men hold their cottages and the small enclosures by which they are surrounded, of the Duke of Beaufort, as lord of the manor, at moderate rents, usually on life leases. Accustomed to scanty fare, inured to poverty, suffering occasionally from cold and hunger, and exposed to peculiar temptations, they have been accused of dishonest practices, and of those acts of petty fraud, which often prevail amidst such a population.  

Special thanks to Corinna Arnold, for her contribution to preparing and conducting the interview.

Sue Young