The first meeting of the Gardeners Association for 2012 took a different format from our usual “outside” speakers; four of our own members, Peter Carter, Allan Bocci, Colin Willis and Jeremy Arthern entertained us with slides and anecdotes drawn from their own gardens – three in Biddenham and one in Box End.
Peter was first up. He and Eloise have gardened in Days Lane since March 2007. They have a corner plot with garden on three sides. The garden was already mature when they moved in but they have created four separate seating areas so that they can enjoy the views of the garden at different times during the day and at different times of the year. A sunny spot in the Spring and a shady arbour for the heat of the summer. The garden consists mainly of shrubs which provide seasonal interest, additional seasonal colour is provided by the plants in pots. Peter spoke of the challenges – mainly in the form of a large garage which he tries to screen and of the successes – an espalier Bramley apple tree trained against the house wall which produced 30 odd apples in its first year. Of particular interest was an old seat inscribed “Clara Street” which was discovered in the garden when he and Eloise moved in – this seat has been well documented in Biddenham history – it was known in Biddenham when the first evacuees arrived during the Second World War.
In contrast Allan and his wife Gillian have gardened for 40 years in Box End and Allan told us that his garden hasn’t changed much during that time. As well as showing us photos of the garden through the seasons Allan also showed historic photos of 20-30 years ago when the long hedges which border each side of the garden comprised a large number of elm trees – but Dutch Elm Disease took its toll and the hedges now consist mainly of hawthorn and hazel but with the odd elm sapling still springing up. Allan told us that he is a particular fan of trees and has planted many in his very long garden, apple trees and birches, but sadly the elm copse at the bottom of the garden is no more.
After tea and Val and Ann’s delicious cakes, we moved on to something completely different – Colin and Marie’s garden in Deep Spinney which they created from scratch 15 years ago when they moved into a new house. Colin told us that he abandoned the idea of a cottage garden as he felt that during some periods in the year it might be rather bare. He decided, therefore, to create a formal Italian style garden with statues, arches, arbours, a pond with fountain, a small pagoda and a conservatory. The garden has matured well and with the hanging baskets and pots is a mass of colour; an automatic watering system in both front and back gardens is a great help.
Jeremy and Susan garden in Darlow Drive and their garden is known to many members as it has been open to the public on various Red Cross Open Garden Days. Jeremy explained that their garden has developed from the “football pitch” which served a useful purpose when their children were young. In 1992 they commissioned a professional garden designer to draw up a design for their back garden and provide them with a planting plan – Jeremy and Susan then undertook the making of the garden themselves. The main part of the garden consists of gently curved borders around a flowing lawn with a patio area and tadpole shaped pond. A stream flows into the pond from a raised rockery of limestone. The trees were planted first and Jeremy and Susan have gradually added a vegetable and fruit garden, a couple of greenhouses, a secret garden and a statue of “April” as well as a wealth of plants and shrubs. Ten years later they asked the same designer to help them plan their front garden – this is more formal with a pattern of blocks of differing heights topped with slate. Jeremy showed some lovely winter slides highlighting the importance of leaving grasses to provide winter structure.
The four gardens were all very different, in terms of size, shape, aspect and planting but their owners were all enthusiastic and I noted one common factor – the importance of the “borrowed” landscape beyond the garden boundary – Peter and Eloise’s lovely view of the mature trees in Day’s Lane, Allan and Gillian’s original fields, now the ski park, Colin and Marie’s neighbour’s shrubs which are a good foil for their arbours and Jeremy and Susan’s neighbours’ Cupressus trees which have recently been felled to provide extra light for the Arthern’s vegetable patch. Many thanks to all four contributors who put in such a lot of time and hard work to provide us with a very entertaining evening.
Come and hear Jeremy again at our next meeting on Tuesday 21st February when he will be advising us on how to grow vegetables.
Linda Truscott, January 2012