Category Archives: 2018

1 November 2018 – Ten Thousand Lakes of Minnesota and their plants – Andrew Sankey

Members have been asking for a talk on all aspects of garden ponds for literally years and as one of my ‘hats’ is Programme Secretary, I have been trying to find a suitable speaker for ages. A year or so ago I found a speaker and triumphantly added his talk to our 2018 programme – November to be precise. Yes you have guessed it, things didn’t turn out as expected and a week or so before the talk, I was e-mailed with apologies that he was not well enough to honour his commitment! What to do? Certainly I would not find another pond expert so I turned to Andrew Sankey, a good friend of the Club who has given us many excellent, entertaining talks and sought his advice! A true gentleman Andrew immediately offered his services. He could not manage a talk on ‘ponds’ but how about a talk on “The ten thousand lakes of Minnesota”? I had no option but to accept. I need not have worried as Andrew’s talk was both informative and humorous.

An all-rounder, Andrew has been a well-respected garden designer for many years, a former Chair of the Cottage Garden Society and a lecturer on all aspects of horticulture – except ponds!

His connection with Minnesota commenced with a visit to his Lincolnshire ‘open’ garden by a group of Minnesota ladies who fell in love with his cottage garden and probably his charm! He was invited to America to lecture to gardening groups about all things English and ‘cottagey’ – if there is such a word! He immediately accepted their invitation and there followed many years of visits across the Atlantic.

We heard about this fascinating part of America which only has five months of summer. All plants die in September unless they are buried in really deep pits and covered with earth until the following May. He only ever found two garden ponds! (Keep up, remember the start of this story). These were drained every ‘autumn’ and the fish lived in tanks deep below the houses in sturdily protected basements until the summer, when they could swim freely again. The rivers freeze over , ice palaces are built on them, fishing takes place after deep holes have been drilled down and down into the ice. Until recently second homes were built actually on the ice – each with its own street number!

Two asides interested me, sorry – nothing to do with ponds. Firstly did you know that F Scott Fitzgerald was born in Minnesota? Secondly and of much more interest to our gardening and non- gardening readers – Minnesota has a course for would-be garden designers who achieve a Master Gardener qualification. This is equivalent to an RHS qualification which ensures that people who offer their services as super gardeners are really knowledgeable. Wish that we had some way of checking the credentials of the many people who claim to be gardeners/designers etc in this country before we let them loose on our beloved gardens!

Mary Duff, Chair

Posted in 2018 |

6 December 2018 – Christmas Decorations with a Hungarian Theme – Zsuzsa Serer

Yes, I know – by the time you read this, it will be way past Christmas and New Year.  Nevertheless, I am going to tell you about a Hungarian Christmas as delightfully related by Zsuzsa, our charming December speaker.  You will see the reason for this if you persevere and read my article!

The Christmas and the gift-giving season starts relatively early compared to other cultures. The Santa-like figure, or Hungarian version of Saint Nicholas (Mikulás), traditionally visits the homes of Hungarian children on the night of December 5th, the eve of Saint Nicholas Feast Day, 6th December.  Hungarian children traditionally place a boot on their windowsill waiting for Mikulás to come by and fill it with treats.  There are also little red bags of chocolates, nuts, satsumas, special sweets and even a bunch of yellow sticks for naughty children as a warning to change their ways!  During Advent, the Advent wreath is prepared and candles added weekly as in the UK.  Zsuzsa showed us how to make such a wreath with a few willing Club helpers.  Christmas Eve, in Hungary, is a very important day when the tree is erected and decorated before Jesus and his angels (usually someone dressed as Santa these days!) bring presents and place them under the tree.  Only after a Christmas family lunch, are the presents opened!

Why am I telling you this?  Well, Zsuzsa is determined to ensure that her children, born and brought up in rural Essex, know about Hungarian Christmas traditions, which have persisted for centuries in her native land.  For instance, every year she requests her grandmother to send the special little red bags and bonbons for their boots and Zsuzsa does her best to replicate the festive season of her own youth, growing up as she did in Hungary.

Let us hope that whilst appreciating our diverse multi-cultural society, modern families still do their best to retain the special magic of Christmas and continue traditions which they remember from their youth, wherever they were born.

Mary Duff – Chair

Posted in 2018 |
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