Garden Visit: "The Harralds", Grove Rd , Gissing

Written by Judy Sims. Posted in Events Past

3rd September 2016

Janet Sleep welcomed us to her garden which it is always a treat to visit. It is some time since the Society visited and possibly not at this time of year so we were looking forward to the afternoon. With spots of rain in the air we had come prepared and set off to explore. The first glimpse of the sundial garden was of a carpet of autumn crocuses beneath  a Cornus alternifolia argentea .

Under Deodar tree revealed primulas in flower including Jack-in-the-Green, benefitting gratefully from the shade as were the cyclamen. 

We admired the red flowers of Campsis Madame Galen flowering on the end gable. On the nearby wall one of Janet’s cats was posing as the Cheshire cat, almost hidden by the pale yellow flowered Cestum parqui below .

There are a wide variety of fuchsias flowering throughout the garden large and small flowered and with a variety of leaf sizes, several interesting Agapanthus and a vivid collection of dahlias in the cutting garden.

Janet was thanked for letting us enjoy her garden and she informed us we had made a welcome contribution to Gissing church funds, a worthy cause and another highlight of the village.

Judy Sims

Summer Social: The Oaks, Brick Kiln Lane, Suffield

Written by Chris Davies. Posted in Events Past

20th August 2016

This year the event was held in Suffield, near North Walsham on 20th August. Because of concerns about the weather we had taken up our contingency plan of serving lunch in the very pretty little village hall, next to the field where we were parking the cars.

Members were greeted with a cup of tea or coffee, with time to exchange news with friends and acquaintances before sitting down for lunch, either in the gazebo or inside the hall. The weather was breezy but bright all day, except for one little flurry of rain just at the end.

Lunch had been provided by the committee. The highlights were Sue Thurman's wonderful raised pies and Andrew and Cathy Lawes' wonderful confection of chocolate and cream and black cherries. These had a supporting cast of quiches, ham, cheese, salads and pickles and bread rolls, followed by meringues with cream, cheese cakes, mousse and yet more cream. There was also a choice of the usual pale yellow, or the rarer pink elderflower cordial.

Members then walked round to Helen and Peter Burtenshaw's garden, ( or were driven by car, where required) where Len was selling raffle tickets and Colin was selling plants as fund-raisers.

Helen's garden absorbed members' interest as they examined rarities and novelties in the gravel garden, borders, pond and in the ferny shade. Their gasps were rewarded with a soft drink. A quiz had been arranged to see how many plants members could identify, or guess, listed alphabetically. These were marked on their return to the village hall for a last cup of tea or coffee. The plant nobody knew was Dietes bicolor, a not-very-hardy bulb!

A number of members made a point of thanking us for the day, and others wrote emails afterwards.

We were immensely lucky with the weather, and the arrangements were a good team effort, headed by Sarah and Barbra, new committee members this year. Well done to both of them.

Chris Davies

Coach Trip: Hyde Hall, Essex

Written by Chris Davies. Posted in Events Past

6th August 2016

With a couple more members than last year attending, the coach set off from Notcutts with our new driver, Steve, to Diss to pick up the remainder of our party. Those of us at the front of the coach, including Steve, were not quite sure where Diss bus station was, so we were looking out for members as we drove through. Suddenly we spotted someone who resembled Graham, so Steve pulled in and opened the door. The man got on, and he was a total stranger, but, fortunately, he wanted to go to the bus station, so we took him, in return for him telling us where to stop. The others were bemused by our arrival and an unknown man getting off the bus, but they all climbed aboard and settled for a very easy journey to Hyde Hall.

The weather was very warm indeed, and much better spent here than gardening. There were plenty of stalls selling interesting plants, enhanced by display squares in front of many of the stalls. I especially liked an arrangement that included a silvery purple Astelia 'Westland' and some very deep pink trumpet lilies. I bought a small Astelia and will buy some lily bulbs, and hope to live long enough to see a display as nice as theirs, in my own garden. There were also a number of stalls selling garden knick-knacks, as well as sundries and tools, and a semi- circle of food stalls, with an unusual array from hog-roast in a roll to Mediterranean street food. Having arrived around 11.00am and then leaving at 4.00pm, my friends and I found we had spent the whole day at the fair, so we are going to make another date to visit the garden.

Many thanks to Graham Boutell for organising a great day out.

Chris Davies

Garden Visit: Green Farmhouse, Shelland, Stowmarket

Written by Linda Hall. Posted in Events Past


Pictures by Graham Boutell and Colin Pusey

9th July 2016

Rosemary Roe welcomed us on arrival and gave a brief history of how the garden has developed.

The original field was full of bramble and fallen fruit trees so her farmer father helped to level and clear the land. To provide a windbreak she planted leylandii, which she later regretted, so as a Christmas present 15 years ago, her farmer brother removed the 53 trees! Rosemary apologised for any weeds and for the ground elder but said she maintains the garden herself with help from Doug, her gardener. We were informed that ground elder can be eaten! The green in front of the farm is a private green, one of only six in the country.

On retirement, Rosemary did a 5-day course on garden design which she found most beneficial so she started to develop a spring border. When the farm was sold 8 years ago she purchased a small parcel of land from the agent. On return from a visit to Highgrove she developed her own hexagon water feature to be viewed from her window. The garden borders are kidney-shaped or curved and billowing with herbaceous perennials, shrubs, roses and trees. Hidden paths meandered through the beds.

A pond with a seat, facing the setting sun over the open countryside, had a bed of extremely large and well-kept hostas with no sign of slug damage. Ligularia “The Rocket” positively zoomed skyward.

The stumpery was lush with ferns, honeysuckle and Hydrangea arborescens “Annabelle”. The courtyard had containers of pelargoniums and the gravel garden was suitably planted with Mediterranean style plants. There was also a newly planted meadow and a small vegetable area.

I particularly liked the idea of attaching a piece of guttering to a wall a couple of feet off the ground which was planted up with various house leeks - most novel.

Doug, who is passionate about hostas, had many planted in containers and there was the added bonus of some to buy. He had a few I did not know. A tip he gave on the healthy state of the hostas by the pond was to give a generous mulch to them just as the spikes begin to burst forth from the ground. This feeds the plants and also deters any molluscs. He feeds the container hostas well and also uses a liquid deterrent for small molluscs to douse the plants and stop the leaves being eaten.

We were also able to visit the local church, King Charles the Martyr, which had a little bellcote and Georgian interior, luckily hardly touched by the Victorians. The dedication to King Charles I is one of only five in England. The barrel organ, still in use and dating from 1810, is the only remaining one in Suffolk. An unusual feature in the church were the complete set of box pews with matching triple-decker pulpit with reading desk and clerk’s pew. Doug was overheard telling someone about the church and referred to the pews as pigsties!

The beautiful hot sunny afternoon ended with delicious home-made cakes and a very welcome cup of tea.

Linda Hall 

Group Holiday to Wales: Of Dragons and Elephants

Written by Chris Davies. Posted in Events Past


Pictures by Colin Pusey  

26th June - 29th June 2016

Since we had already claimed that last year's was the best ever holiday that John and Brenda had arranged, I was wondering how they would follow that.Members who went will have no doubts. We might wonder how good it could have been if it hadn't rained on us most days, but I think we will soon forget that, especially as the photographs don't look as though they were taken in the rain, apart from people's clothing and umbrellas.

Leaving from Notcutts, we had a different driver, Steve, as Alisdair has really, really retired from overnight trips! We wondered how much Steve had told him about us.It rained on the journey. We had a sandwich lunch in a big marquee, then looked at the garden, Dyffrin, near Cardiff in the sunshine (most of the time).It rained again as we drove to the hotel, and Steve dropped us at the door, after exhibiting some of his driving manoevres. ( There were several examples, during the holiday, some of which raised a round of applause.)

Rooms were good, food was good and staff friendly and helpful.

Monday dawned dry, to our surprise and stayed so for our visit to a garden that had something for almost everybody. It was a water garden, with operating, though small, water-wheel, filling a bucket chain that carried the water up a home-made stone tower, where it filled a cistern which then poured out of the mouths of two home-carved stone creatures' mouths. There was also a huge and fascinating cuckoo clock, with accompanying bird song, all water-powered, and an igloo- shaped building made of up-ended wine bottles, sealed between ribs of masonry. Inside was a reflective pool which picked up the colours of the bottles with the light shining through them. Alone, one would find it enchanting. There were ferns growing around the back of the pool, which added to the ambience. Several members suggested this was a dangerous garden for me to see. After a quick coffee, and having ransacked the little nursery we rushed on to Hergest Croft, lunch, a gallop round the garden, full of wonderful trees and an educational kitchen garden - gooseberries and currants grown on espalier wires at waist- and head-height, avoiding the need to bend whilst picking. Here again, was a wonderful little plant sales area, offering an excellent selection of home- grown trees, plus grafted Acers, and many other plants. John had been unable to resist taking us to the Red Kite Feeding Centre, since it was quite close, and we had to leave to get there at the appropriate time. It was more interesting than we might have supposed. We had to wait a while in one of the long hides overlooking the feeding area. The Kites were huge, and we were able to compare them with Buzzards and the many Rooks that came in to scavenge, although these were far outnumbered by the Kites. Hitchcock had nothing on these!

On Tuesday morning there were some long faces after the football results, but we visited Glansevern Garden, where an enthusiastic young woman told us about its features and encouraged us to enjoy it. There were lovely borders, a woodland walk with interesting specimen trees and shrubs, a path to the River Severn, a folly, a huge bronze hare, nearly as big as Graham and a grotto under a hill, crossed by a decrepit set of steps, which resulted in Helen calling to me, "Are you alright? Don't drop your iPad."

We moved onto Powis Castle, arriving in the rain, and divided into two sittings for lunch. The impressive terraces were still worth seeing in the rain, and we had the house to see as well. It was here, that, in conversation with another member and a steward, she asked if the little red soft- toy dragons were for sale in the shop. Steward didn't know, but our member explained that she had wanted a dragon for a grandchild and, unable to find a pattern,  she'd bought an elephant pattern, and started from there!

On the return trip, Wednesday morning, we stopped at Birmingham Botanic Gardens, again in light drizzle. It has a sensible tearoom, giving a view across a large part of the gardens. A brisk trot round the peripheral path, past the cottage and it's garden, round the pond and rock gardens, through the butterfly house and aviary, not to mention the rose garden, Palm house, and hard to find Bonsai exhibition, brought us back to the cafe, shop and plants for sale. Steve kindly brought the coach to the door of the building, and we left a little earlier than planned, since rain had stopped play, and arrived in Norwich in good time.

Thanks again, John and Brenda for your time and energy in arranging yet another holiday for us. It is much appreciated.

Brilliant holiday! What rain?

Chris Davies