My Garden – 2024

At the first meeting at the beginning of the year, it is usual that the talk is given by a member of the Association about their garden and on this occasion we were fortunate in having two speakers, Gilly Cowan and Caroline Hay Davison, talking about and describing their own, quite different, gardens in Biddenham. 

Gilly Cowan gave the first talk about her large garden on Main Road. She started with an interesting history of the various gardens which she and her husband had had before coming to this village in 2015. They had started in Milton Keynes, in a new corporation house which had nothing in the garden except a tree given to all new properties by the then Milton Keynes Development Corporation; they laid a lawn and a path; they then moved to Marston Morteyne to a house where there were a lot of willow trees which made it difficult to grow plants. They then moved to 41 Main Road, Biddenham where they lived in the early 1980s for two years, the garden there had a vast number of stinging nettles and other undesirable plants which they endeavoured to control until they moved to Woburn Sands to a house which had wall to wall lawns which they enjoyed developing. They then left Bedfordshire to live in Germany for four years, having been transferred there by an employer. The house they rented there was built on a slope, and had lots of snow in the winter. They then went to Essex followed by a beautiful property in Kent which had three acres of grass which they shared with a large population of rabbits who spent their waking times consuming any plants which Gilly introduced. They built a patio there and proved to their satisfaction that sedums were rabbit proof; they bred and kept chickens, the kind that roost in trees, kept Aylesbury ducks and turkeys. 

In 2015 they came to live again in Biddenham, to their current property, which when they arrived had a garden mainly of lawns; they instructed a garden designer friend to design
a suitable garden, and started gradually to plant the borders. A large quantity of clematis appeared during their first year there, but in July 2016 there was still plenty of grass. They constructed a wild life pond. By 2019 the garden was looking more mature with Exochorda “The Bride”, lovely deep blue Agapanthus, Peonies, Choisya tenata “White Dazzler”, winter Jasmine, Sedums and Heucheras (Sedums from cuttings), Dahlias, Melianthus Major (which dislikes the cold, but does revive), 21 Clematis were planted which helped to  hide fences. During the Covid lockdown they invested in two hens which apart from providing eggs ate the garden slugs. They have a white squirrel which visits from time to time. 

Other plants include Lupin “Masterpiece”, a Red hot poker which is yellow, Phuopsis pershore plum, Acanthus spinosa, Cotinus smoke bush, Guelder rose, Kowhai tree (the New Zealand National tree) which died in a cold winter, Magnolias, 7 Cherry trees (Prunus Burgundy Royal), a Crab apple tree which has beautiful blossom and later in the year lovely apples, Ceanothus, Arbutus unedo “Atlantic”, Eriobotrya Japonica (Loquat tree), Prunus Serula (Tibetan cherry tree), Prunus “Pink Perfection”, Acer rubrum, Euphorbias and Alliums (purple and lime green contrasts) Roses, Pennisetum grass (fluffy and pretty), Salvia Amistad. 

They have regular visits from two mallard ducks and on one occasion a sparrow hawk which perched on the garden bench and posed for a photograph for twenty minutes. 

All these plants, shrubs, trees and animal visitors were copiously illustrated by photographs. Last summer on the garden open day for the Red Cross, the garden was one of those open to the public. The weather on the day itself was glorious, but had not been so in the days and weeks before, so the garden was not quite as good as it would have been a week later (though the visitors would not have realised this – the writer was one of the visitors).

Gilly’s talk was followed by Caroline’s talk about her garden at Pipet Cottage, one of the row of cottages at the corner of Days Lane and Main Road. 

Caroline had been living in Turvey about 24 years ago which she was loath to leave but was obliged to leave as the landlord required possession. She eventually decided to buy Pipet cottage, which has a small, north facing garden which, when she arrived was unloved. It had timber fencing all round. During the first winter there was snow and her first six months was spent in getting the cottage into better order. One feature then, which remains now, was the butler’s sink which appears in a number of Caroline’s photographs. The salient features in the garden were an ugly concrete path and some rocks. There was a cherry tree but that unfortunately developed a blight, dripped black glue, and had to be removed. In one of the houses to the west, there were three large fir trees which cast large shadows. In her words, the whole place was a bit bleak. There were three drain covers in the garden and the soakaway for the row of cottages. Thatched properties do not have roof gutters, so any rain on the roof drips into the garden. The cottage did however benefit from the remains of the Post Office row privy (!). The garden was therefore quite a challenge. Caroline started by laying grass, and planting Jasmine and Hollyhocks. The neighbours fortunately decided to remove the fir trees much to the garden’s relief. She was able to move the garden’s boundary (officially)  and had a pond constructed which has loads of tadpoles and fish. A red brick path was laid. In the spring, Hellebores predominate, in the summer, Box tree, Roses, Peonies, Campanula, Hollyhocks, and in the autumn Phlox, Hydrangeas, Purple thistles (the birds and bees love these). 

On the Red Cross open day her garden was very much on show, and the butler’s sink was still in place. Roses and Delphiniums were out. A large number of visitors came.  

Vegetables, such as Tomatoes, Courgettes, Chillies and Pumpkins are grown with considerable success. 

Non human visitors include ordinary toads, midwife toads (very small and the male toad carries the offspring) and butterflies. 

Caroline has achieved very great success with her garden despite all difficulties, and both her talk and Gilly Cowan’s were very well received.

There was a large turn out for the first talks of the year 2024 and the event, chaired by Linda Truscott, was an undoubted success for the members and visitors. Although yearly membership is to be encouraged for financial security, those who cannot commit to a monthly visit on the third Tuesday in the month (except August) at 7.30 pm at the village hall are very welcome as visitors as and when they can come, for a fee of £5 which includes the talk, a raffle, tea/coffee and a selection of cakes. 

Charles Duchenne

This entry was posted in My Garden, Talks, Winter. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *