At our first meeting of the new year three of our members, George Derbyshire, Ann Ebbs and Linda Truscott spoke on the subject of ’my Garden’. The meeting was well attended in spite of the icy conditions and the weather proved the value of having a ‘home grown’ evening in January when a visiting speaker might have had problems reaching us.
It turned out that each of the gardens described came from a successive stage in the expansion of the village beyond it’s historic core. Ann’s house in Days Lane was built by the army for occupation by officers working at the Kempston Barracks. Linda’s house in Ison Close dates from the early eighties and George’s in Deep Spinney from 1992.
George spoke about two separate areas in his garden. The garden benefits from the stone wall built by the developers at the entrance to Deep Spinney and George has used this as the backdrop to the first feature he described.
Initially the wall became overgrown by ivy and shrubs but after a lot of work, more like archaeology than gardening, the beauty of the wall was revealed. George’s initial inspiration was to develop a knot garden and he grew on a number of box plants for this purpose. But as the plants grew George’s ambition faded and the end result was a ring of box encircling a Mirabel plum tree set in stone chippings recovered from the wall. The tree was a reminder of a happy holiday in France. The other area that George spoke about is in his back garden. This was a problem area of wet clay with a slope and an unsightly view of a fence. George landscaped the area with paving and steps and built a bench on it. He then filled the lower area with a hosta collection in pots (and no slug bitten holes) and put ferns, grasses and a black bamboo in the upper part. The whole area was given a focal point with a stone sculpture to distract attention from the fence. The result was certainly very attractive.
Ann put her garden into the context of aerial photographs of the Days Lane and Biddenham Turn parts of the village before the development of Darlow Drive, Elgar Close and Ison Close. When Ann and Richard bought the house in 1960 they inherited a garden planted with the regulation army issue of one cooking apple, one eating apple, one plum and a cherry. The garden at front and rear is primarily lawn and evergreen shrubs with brighter colour provided by annuals in the borders and containers. Ann has grown wisteria on both sides of the front door together with a white clematis Montana and there is more wisteria in the back garden.
The garden makes significant features of materials salvaged from other places. There is an area of paving using Victorian tiles, the patio is ornamented with heavy stone balls taken on from Ann’s parents’ house in Darlow Drive and the patio is lit by a rescued lamp post. One border of flourishing shrubs illustrated the improved growing conditions that can be created by cutting plants back and improving the level of light.
Linda entitled her talk “The Ups and Downs” of my garden, and she illustrated the see-saw of gardening with the disasters and triumphs that she had experienced in converting her garden from the one she acquired to the lovely place that it is today. She started off with a very clear idea of what she wanted from her garden and her talk illustrated her success in meeting her aims. In everything she has done there is the overriding aim to make the garden a haven for wildlife and a notable feature of the garden is the preponderance of single flowers, rather than the often more showy doubles, because these are more attractive to pollinating insects. Linda has also planned her garden with careful attention to dense planting and shelter areas near the pond so that, birds, animals and insects can find protection. In the planning and construction of the pond by her twelve year old son she showed us how his youthful love of gardening has grown into a professional career as a landscape designer. Another triumph in the history of the garden was Linda’s purchase of a beautiful Gabriel Ash Plant house which she acquired at the Malvern show. A disaster also associated with the plant house was the fall of a neighbour’s conifer which nearly brought it to a premature end. As with George’s garden Linda illustrated how the interest of a garden is enhanced by the plants being associated with special places and treasured memories.
Next meeting: 19 February, when Caroline Holmes will talk about “The Poison Garden at Alnwick”