Category Archives: 2017

2 February 2017 – AGM & Group Fun Quiz

The Gardening Club’s 2017 AGM was held in FVH when the present Management Committee was re-elected. Thus the Chair and Vice Chair (Mary Duff and Sue Pinner) agreed to continue for another year as did Committee members Barry Jones, Jenny Brew, Michael Pollard, Joan Smith, Jill Vinton, Margaret Jackson and Bernard Meggitt. 

Thanks were given to Keith Evans and Sue Allsworth who retired after sterling work as Treasurer and Secretary  but never fear, Ken Allsworth was unanimously elected to keep the Allsworth flag flying – he joined Judy Murch (our new Treasurer) and Robin Cox as  new Committee members!

 Following the AGM we enjoyed another fun quiz with a record number of members present – over 50! Glen Link provided the questions in her usual unflappable way. Thank you Glen!

Mary Duff (Chair F&TGClub)

Posted in 2017 |

2 March 2017 – The Forgotten Gardens of Eaton Lodge – Claire Matthews

Have you heard of the forgotten gardens of Easton?  Following a fascinating evening with Claire Matthews, a member of Gardens of Easton Preservation Trust, club members were inspired to discover that this hidden gem of a garden is close – just 30 miles down the M11 at Dunmow, near Stansted.

With the use of slides, Claire took us on a wonderful historical journey into fortunes of Easton Lodge. The Estate dates to Tudor times when Queen Elizabeth I gifted a hunting lodge and a 23-acre deer park to Henry Maynard in recognition of his services to the crown. In 1847, the Elizabethan mansion he built burnt down and the house was rebuilt in Victorian Gothic style to designs by Thomas Hopper. However, it was when the estate was inherited by the immensely rich, Daisy, later Countess of Warwick, that the house enjoyed it’s “Downton Abbey” life style. Daisy, a noted beauty, was one of the great hostess of the day and her lavish weekend parties included guests such as Edward, Prince of Wales and his friends known as the Marlborough House Set.

In 1902, the Countess commissioned Harold Peto to create further gardens for Easton Lodge, a sunken Italian Garden, a croquet lawn with French styled pergolas, a lily pond surrounded by a balustrade with seats and curved stairs and a Japanese glade. Daisy died in 1938. A year later, the war office requisitioned the entire estate. Thousands of trees were destroyed in the deer park to create an airfield for 386th Bomber Group.

When the house was handed back to Daisy’s son Maynard Greville in 1950, it was pulled down except for the Jacobean west wing, now known as Warwick House. A silver birch wood was planted where the old house had been.

Bringing us up to date, we learnt that the Preservation Trust was established in 2003. Since then, volunteers and the owners of Warwick House have been painstakingly restoring the gardens to their former glory. Visitors travel great distances to see the snowdrops and there are more than 33 varieties of daffodils in the Lime Wood.  There is a tea room and Archive Building. Look on line for opening days  Thank you Claire for sharing the secrets of the Gardens with us!

Rosemary Jones

Posted in 2017 |

6 April 2017 – Getting to Grips with Pruning – Nigel Start

No excuses now for overgrown trees and shrubs to be spied in our members’ gardens.  Nigel Start brought a lifetime of experience and knowledge to our Club when he spoke to us about all aspects of pruning.  He reminded us of the basics of gardening before giving helpful details of how to prune a myriad of plants, large and small.

Choose your plants with care – remember that they never stop growing so rate of growth is vital especially in a small garden.  Just as important is your type of soil, the climate, the surrounding plants, behaviour of domesticated and wild animals  and so on….
Why prune anyway?  Well, you may need to control the overall size, you may wish to form a shape, encourage flowers, stimulate fruiting, promote beautiful leaves and colourful stems.  Do set yourself a pruning objective; hopefully this will stop you from cutting back branches at the wrong time just because they have grown too much without you noticing.  Pruning at the wrong time may result in a very sad plant or even its demise.

All the pruning in the world will not do any good unless the cuts are made correctly.  Make sure that you have best quality tools with sharp blades that will make clean cuts that heal  quickly whether they are secateurs, loppers or even a bow saw.  Make life easier for yourself by cutting suckers back to base, cutting out all dead or diseased wood, taking out twiggy, spindly growth. Remove branches which are growing inwards towards the main stem.  On budding branches always cut an inch or so beyond a bud, leaving the bud on the branch.  Make several cuts on a large heavy branch on top and underneath to avoid tearing the bark.  Never leave a jagged edge.  Get professional help if in any doubt!

Nigel then described the right pruning times for a large number of plants – too many to mention here.  A good rule of thumb is to prune after flowering and avoid severe frost!  One useful tip was to prune evergreen  shrubs in April/May – not in winter.  Another piece of advice was to be brave especially with roses  – they will benefit from  pruning to the lowest bud(!)  Of course you must water the plant immediately after pruning.
There are many helpful books which will assist you with particular plants – do invest in one before you prune that precious plant!

Posted in 2017 |

4 May 2017 – Make Your Garden Count – David Hack

Make your Garden Count” What did you do on the 28th and 29th of Jan 2017.  Well done if you joined in the RSPB’s Great Big Garden Birdwatch?  But, you might consider gathering information about the birds in your garden on a more regularly basis, as advocated by David Hack our speaker in May.

David is a key ambassador for the Suffolk branch of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and a renowned speaker on the importance of domestic gardens for wildlife.  He explained that the 15,000 UK members run the Garden Birdwatch (GBW) scheme which is the largest ‘citizen science’ project of its type in the world.  GBW members keep simple records of the birds and other wildlife which visit their gardens.  Records are analysed by BTO scientists and results are published in leading scientific journals.  The data collected is invaluable for wildlife conservation.  Material is often used by TV programmes such as BBC’s Spring Watch.  Using photos and bird song recordings from his own suburban Suffolk garden, David described the rewards of observing many birds ranging from the common blackbird to the rarer siskin.  He provided interesting information about bred populations, particularly those in decline. To this end we can help, because increasing pressure on countryside has led to many bird species using gardens for all or part of the year.  UK gardens comprise around 10% of the total land area.  David said the increasing importance of domestic gardens as a habitat for birds and other forms of wildlife cannot be overemphasised.   According to statistics, between 40% to 50% of British households provide food for birds in their gardens and its big business (approximately £200M pa).  There are many varieties of bird food available but David’s all season favourite are the sunflower hearts.  He suggested that having several small well-made squirrel proof metal feeders dotted around the garden and positioned in unexposed areas close to hedges and bushes would get the best results.

To find out more about Bird Watch, visit or write to BTO, The nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IO24 2PU.  Becoming a member costs £17 and you receive an informative starter pack. Then bearing in mind that quality rather than quantity counts, the time you would spent on the GBW is up to you

Posted in 2017 |

1 June – Winning Ways on the Show Bench – Robin Carsberg –- No Show Speaker!

Oh dear – a few minutes before the start of our meeting and no speaker! Panic? No, not at all – just a few concerned Committee members deciding how to deal with this unexpected, unwanted situation.   We need not have worried as there followed an impromptu, interesting meeting with contributions from the floor.

 Of course we dwelt on gardening matters and here was an opportunity for Barry Jones, our Show Co-ordinator to speak in depth about the September Show.  Jenny Brew, our horticultural adviser (how apt is this title!) reminded us again of how to care for our fuchsia plants which would eventually be entered in their special Show Class.

 Our plant stall was full of interesting plants – penstemon, bamboo, young bean plants from Robin Cox to mention just a few.  Jill Vinton brought a tray full of nerines, (Guernsey lilies) beautifully tied in neat bundles.  We were told to plant them, in full sun, snugly in a pot of good soil/compost with grit or gravel to ensure good drainage so that a beautiful show would be assured in late summer.

 Shirley Wittering told us about her recent discovery of the tree bumblebee or Bombus hypnorum,,as Bernard Meggitt kindly informed us. This is a species of bumblebee common in the European continent and parts of Asia. Since the start of the twenty-first century, it has spread to the United Kingdom. These bumblebees prefer habitats that others do not, allowing them to pollinate flowers in areas that many other species do not get to.  Shirley has rescued many from her landing window and bath(!) They are usually docile and no threat to other bees.  So do look out for the tree bumblebee with its gingery thorax and white tail.  They nest in bird boxes and holes in trees and even mouse holes in lawns!  Bernard also told us to look out for the bullocks if we went in search of the Thriplow orchids!  The things we talk about at Gardening Club!

 Barbara Pointon judged our competition – this time it was a vase of summer flowers.  Two excellent entries from Michael Pollard and Jane Dring received many admiring glances and much praise from everyone.  With a musician’s eye for composition, surprise elements and sheer exuberance Jane’s entry was chosen and Barbara described her reasons in a poetic, lyrical way.

So, the Committee need not have worried – a lovely evening came to an end with members chatting to friends old and new.

Posted in 2017 |

June(16–19th) 2017 – Gardening Club Visit to Derbyshire

Who knew that we would choose the hottest weekend of the year and possibly the warmest since 1976 to visit the gardens of Derbyshire!  Thankfully the coach was only two weeks old with superb air conditioning.  Thirty six villagers from Fowlmere and Thriplow with a few friends from other Gardening Clubs settled in their seats full of anticipation of a lovely time – they were not disappointed!  Read on…………

 First stop was Easton Walled Garden in Lincolnshire.  We had mixed thoughts about this visit – yes Lady Cholmeley would meet us and give an introductory talk but we were also given stern instructions to wear ‘shoes suitable for a walk in the country!’  We need not have worried, Lady Cholmeley introduced herself as Ursula, she was donned in gardener’s garb and later seen wandering the gardens with secateurs in her hand – a hands on ‘Lady’.  We loved the sweet pea beds, just coming into flower with such heavenly scent particularly  from old varieties, also the rose meadows with over 50 varieties, the cottage garden and of course the tea room!  Admirably Lady C had involved local people at every stage of the Garden’s redevelopment and now also provided jobs for some of the nearby village. 

Onward to Ridgewold Farm, a 2 acre rural garden set in the Leicestershire wolds’.  After a somewhat formal e-mail exchange with owners, Mr and Mrs Waterfall, we were delighted to find Robert and Ann to be a thoroughly charming couple who were more than keen to show off their garden.  There was much justification for this as not a plant was out of place – and so many of them, all behaving themselves!  We quickly found our pencils and scribbled down the names of the ones we admired. 

Robert, a former farmer, led us on a woodland walk crammed with trees of every variety, called up a herd of calves in an adjacent field with a whistle and described the main features of the garden whilst telling us amusing anecdotes as we walked.  Back on the lawn we enjoyed tea and so many cakes – Ann had excelled herself, such generous hosts. Reluctantly we left this little paradise and returned to the coach.

 Derbyshire at last – arriving at Mickleover Court Hotel we were met on the coach by the charming manager, given a welcome drink whilst booking in and made to feel very welcome then and throughout our stay..  Later some of our number enjoyed the spa and the swimming pool. The hotel was comfortable and superb breakfasts prepared us for every day!

 Day 2 and off we go to Renishaw – home to the Sitwell family for nearly 400 years. The famous literary trio, Edith, Osbert, and Sacheverell Sitwell were all patrons of the arts and played a significant part in the artistic and literary world at the beginning of the 20th century. Renishaw is still very much a family home which adds to its unique atmosphere. Unfortunately for us the family were at home (not that we saw hide nor hair of them) so we had to be content with one of the most important classical Italianate gardens in Britain!  Over 115 years ago Sir George Sitwell created the garden with its ornamental ponds, a spectacular fountain, secret garden rooms, classical statues, overflowing borders and long vistas, roses galore …… we loved this garden.

 A free afternoon to enjoy the delights of Bakewell with its attractive courtyards, its location on the River Wye, interesting shops and its parish church with 9th century crosses and Anglo-Saxon stonework.   Many of us escaped the continuing hot weather to enjoy Bakewell pudding in the Old Original Pudding Shop and others had a picnic of Bakewell Tart and lemonade in the shady well planted Community Gardens opposite.

 Sunday and we are on the road again.  Our first visit was to the Calver Alpine Centre – a massive scree with over 3.000 plants!  From a young age Dr. Furness had a great interest in Alpine plants and took years to make his unique Alpine garden containing plants not seen anywhere else in the world.  He lectures widely across the UK and the USA and shared some of his knowledge with us.  There was a fine collection of plants for us to purchase and quite a few made their way onto our coach.  A quick coffee stop at ‘The Eating House’ on Calver Bridge which also boasted that it was the home of the ‘Derbyshire Craft Centre’  and in truth some of our number enjoyed shopping, forgoing the coffee!

 Our next stop was Chatsworth. Dr. Furness (from the Alpine Centre) insisted on boarding our coach at the point of departure to enthuse about Chatsworth, giving us tips on how to look at every feature with ‘new eyes’ as nothing is as it seems.  For instance the huge boulders which make up the rockeries were brought in under Joseph Paxton’s instructions in the early nineteenth century. The immense challenge of moving them and the way in which they fit into their surroundings, looking as though they occur naturally in the landscape is simply miraculous.

 However there was so much to see that I am not going to begin to describe every detail of the house, the gardens etc. in the hope that readers will make that journey themselves one day, if they have not already done so!  Instead I must mention a very special exhibition which took years to put together.  ‘House Style’ explored five centuries of fashion and adornment at Chatsworth.  We saw fashion through the ages by following 16th century Bess of Hardwick, 18th century Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire and 20th century Adele Astaire – sister and dancing partner of Fred!  Layering art history, fashion, archival material, design and textiles, the exhibition is organised by theme. Highlights include exceptional couture designed by Jean Phillipe Worth and Christian Dior, together with influential contemporary garments from designers such as Gucci, Helmut Lang, Margiela, Vivienne Westwood, Erdem, Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane and Vetements.  Interestingly some really old styles still endure today as witnessed by some of Galliano’s dresses.

 If you like fashion, book your ticket today!  Such an exhibition may not be staged again in our lifetime.

 Our last day began with a visit to Haddon Hall – probably my favorite garden of the whole trip.  Set in the heart of the Peak district National Park and located overlooking the River Wye, parts of the house date from the 12th century, there are jewel-like Elizabethan terraced gardens and  beautiful views of countryside on all sides.  Few gardens still exist of which all the main features – steps, paving, balustrading – are over three hundred years old.  The framework of the garden is ancient but the planting is modern!  Roses and Clematis on the walls surround new planting schemes by renowned garden designer, Arne Maynard. Since 2012, an Elizabethan knot garden has been developed on the Bowling Green Terrace; defined by Germander (Teucrium), Lavender and Rosemary, it displays plants popular 400 years ago. Borders bloom with medicinal and dye plants, and fragrant lavender, attracting bees and butterflies. The large herbaceous borders provide a backdrop of lush colour throughout the season. It is no wonder that film makers love the house and gardens and many films have been recorded here such as Jane Eyre (three versions!), Elizabeth, Pride and Prejudice and The other Boleyn girl.

 Our last stop was  at Calke Abbey – quite a change from anything we had seen over the last few days.  Here was an English country house in decline.  The National Trust made the bold decision to carry out a massive amount of remedial work but no restoration work. So the interiors are as they were found in 1985 so the decay has been halted but not reversed.  Before the National Trust’s work everything had remained untouched since the 1880’s.  There were mixed views about this property especially as the gardens were “modern” and set away from the house.  Time did not permit us to walk through the surrounding park so we missed ‘the wonderful landscape of graceful old oaks and chestnuts, in whose shade fat white sheep graze the meadows.’  So, the jury is out …….. go and look for yourself.

 Mickleover Court Hotel – farewell!

 One last meal with our sociable group and the very last trip to be organized by Mary Duff, the current Chair of the Gardening Club.  For more than ten years the Club had enjoyed annual  weekend breaks organized by Mary, covering the length and breadth of the country including trips to Kent, Devon, Cotswolds, North Wales, the Lake District, Dumfries and Galloway, to name but a few.   Unbeknown to Mary a farewell drink had been organized – such a surprise  as was a card continuing many signatures and messages of thanks, a lovely shopping bag from Chatsworth and if that wasn’t enough – a voucher towards the cost of a meal at Cambridge’s Michelin Star restaurant!

 What a lovely note to finish my last report!

Mary Duff  – Chair Fowlmere & Thriplow Gardening Club – 21 June 2017



Posted in 2017 |

July 2017 – Summer Soiree at The Dove House – Rosemary & Barry Jones

On July 6th, 2017, Rosemary and Barry Jones were delighted to welcome around 50 Club members to a Soiree in their garden at The Dove House, Rectory Lane, Fowlmere.

The Dove House really was a house for doves back in the seventeenth century.  Over the years, it has been altered and extended by its many owners.  The house sits on 0.6 acre with gardens that can be seen from every window.  When Rosemary and Barry moved in three years ago, they realized that the 100 trees on the property needed management.  In particular, the back garden was like a small wood dominated by a yew tree close to the house.  With permission from the Tree Conservation Officer, work was carried out on 43 trees.  Seven large ones, including the yew, were felled.  Tidying up the resulting ‘lumber yard’ and digging out the roots of the yew took many months.  Once the back garden was cleared, 16 trees were reinstated as a cordon of fruit trees with 5 more planted in the orchard at the front.  With turf only laid a week before the Soiree leaving some unfinished paths and ‘wild life’ areas, the Joneses hoped guests would recognize that the garden was a work in progress!

After a few worrying drops of rain, the weather was kind on the night.  Armed with welcoming drinks, Club members were invited to wander round the garden.  There were raffle tickets to buy, a plant stall to peruse and a single rose competition to view (won by Angela Rimmer).  Most took part in Barry’s quiz which naturally was about “trees” with a few eponymous film titles thrown in, which after a tie-break was won by John and Angela Rimmer. Those who ventured into the back garden saw the newly established vegetable patch with its raised beds and the recently acquired bees and hive in the far corner.  Later buffet food was served from the marquee. There was a convivial atmosphere as people relaxed at small tables arranged in the orchard and around the pond appreciating the last of the setting summer sun.

Towards the end of the evening, Club members wished Sue Pinner, a very happy “special” birthday and Mary Duff thanked the hosts and everyone for coming and making it such an enjoyable occasion.

Rosemary and Barry found hosting the event a real pleasure. They thank Mary Duff, Jill Vinton and Jane Dring for their invaluable assistance planning the evening and for their contributions to the buffet and raffle. Their grateful thanks also go to Robin Dring for arranging and collecting the tables and chairs from the school; to Mel Vinton and Ken Allsworth for their help with the marquee and the bunting and to Jenny Brew for running the plant stall. It was a real team effort!

Rosemary Jones


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3 August  2017  –  Plant Histories  –  Andrew Sankey

What a talk!  We knew that our speaker would be good as he had visited us before but Andrew Sankey really surpassed himself this time! A talk on ‘Plant Histories’ was not at all inspiring but the title belied the content. We heard about the introduction to the UK of various plants over the centuries.  Facts, even dates, were delivered in an interesting and entertaining way.  We even enjoyed the gentle quiz designed to inform but still amuse.

Andrew reminded us that we don’t know how lucky we are to live in this country.  Thanks to the Gulf Stream and our climate – warm and wet – we can grow plants from across the globe.  He cited as an example of a place NOT to live if you like gardening – Minnesota!  Here there are only a few months of gardening weather with ground frost 4 feet deep and snow up to 8 feet deep making October to April no-go months for gardening!

 Back to the UK and Mediaeval times when the monks were the gardening experts, everything was called a herb and ideas were exchanged across the continent through Latin.  Not until the Tudors were gardens created – think of Elizabethan knot gardens ……… but the first ones were full of not herbs but vegetables and flowers – turnips, leeks, primroses,…..

 We were reminded that probably the first plant hunter, John Tradescant was associated with Hatfield House and was sent by Robert Cecil to find new plants in the Low Countries, Virginia and elsewhere.  (Read about him in Phillippa Gregory’s novel ‘Earthly Joys.’) Over the years plant hunters introduced many new varieties – runner beans from South America, marigolds (tagetes) from Mexico, poppies from the Alps….

Andrew whizzed through the centuries describing the escapades of the plant hunters – too many to describe here but I can’t resist telling you about Robert Fortune, employed by the (now) RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) to ‘steal’ tea plants from China.  Dressed as a mandarin with suitable hair pieces (!) he was successful!  The resulting seedlings made their way to Assam and then to Darjeeling!  Read Sarah Rose’s book “For All The Tea In China” which describes his James Bond-like mission.

Andrew’s talk was littered with snippets of information – for instance, did you know that the ‘honesty’ plant, ‘lunaria’ was so named because of its moon shaped seeds which helped those with hints of madness – the ‘lunatics’.

By the way – don’t blame your neighbours for the ground elder which appears in your garden!  It is all the fault of the Romans who brought it to the UK to use as a delicious salad leaf.

Mary Duff  (Chair Fowlmere & Thriplow Gardening Cl



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15 September 2017 – Annual Show: Flowers, Crafts & Produce – Fowlmere & Thriplow Gardening Club

Visitors to the Fowlmere and Thriplow Gardening Club’s Annual Show held in Fowlmere Village Hall this year, were treated to a hall packed with first class display of horticultural, home produce and handicraft exhibits at the Club’s flagship annual event.

Without exception the flowers and foliage whether individually cut, bunched, arranged, indoors or out, large or small, standing in bikinis or in pots all looked beautiful. There were apples galore and notwithstanding that, all the fruit looked ready to eat, even the bunch of grapes.  The vegetable tables seemed to be buckling under the weight of produce and there were some eye-wateringly large onions, leeks and carrots. The displays of, and aroma from, homemade cakes, biscuits and jams would have graced the show stands of the Great British Bake Off.  The variety of craftwork was exquisite. The photographs were numerous, clever and artistic.

So many exhibits had been provided from the children of the two villages that display boards had to be borrowed and a separate room set aside to show them.


All the judges, ably assisted by the club stewards, did a splendid job determining class and section winners not an easy task. At the presentation ceremony, Chair Mary Duff, welcomed the Club’s visitors, commented on the high number of entries and thanked the show coordinator Barry Jones, the show group and everybody involved in organising and helping. She said, it was one of the best shows in recent memory.  Mary then introduced Sir Graham Wynne, who started by congratulating all the exhibitors on the quality and variety of their exhibits.

He then presented the Royal Horticultural Society’s prestigious Banksian medal to Julie Kitson. Other awards were presented to Hilary Arthur, Jenny Brew, Jane Cameron, Jane Dring, Margaret Jackson, Rosemary Jones, Barry Jones, Rowena Lee, Joan Smith, David Warboys, and Harold Webb.  Alex Kovaios, and Matthew Van Wyk, won the trophies in the Children’s Section.

The well supported tombola, garden stall and raffle added to the success of the show which closed with its traditional auction of produce. The auctioneer Barry Jones, concluded by saying, a great afternoon was had by all thanks to the great teamwork of the Show Group!

Barry Jones – Show Co-ordinator


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5 October 2017 – Anglesey Abbey Gardens – Richard Ayres

Two very different speakers have entertained us at our last couple of meetings.  Firstly, we enjoyed hearing a master of his trade – Richard Ayres, former Head Gardener of Anglesey Abbey, where he worked for over 40 years as did his father before him and now his son is following the tradition as a gardener there too.  Do visit Anglesey Abbey, as the Winter Walk with especially the silver birches, should look its best now.  Richard brought some beautiful pictures of the many flowerbeds he had created over the years which showed very effective plant associations, for instance try planting geraniums to grow through Monarda.  Then there is Galega offinalis – Goats Rue, an informal plant which looks best scrambling through low branches of shrubs which support the foliage and allows the stems of lavender and mini-sweet pea flowers to space themselves out and make a good display.  This is a tall plant which is good at the end of a border.

A tip for those of us who occasionally open our gardens (!) – you always need a talking point to get visitors interested in your garden.  For instance, Richard suggested planting Salvia Turkestanica – a spectacular sun-loving biennial with pale pink bracts and lavender flowers which grows to over a metre high which was introduced to this country by the Crusaders.  So, where is the point of interest, I hear you say – well it is also called House-maid’s armpit. Perhaps not a plant for our genteel villages after all!

Other plants worth a space in your garden include the blue geranium Rozanne, tolerant of most conditions apart from waterlogged sites (remember them?). Deadhead regularly to prolong the flowering period.  This provides excellent ground cover at the front of borders.

However, I am not a gardening correspondent per se so I must curb my enthusiasm.

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