Well, as we now know from a trawl through the CABAHS archive, our first Spring Show took place in April 1978, when the entries were recorded as “good considering the wintry conditions”. 45 years later, in 2023, our display has once again risen above the challenging weather and looked frankly fabulous!
Thank you to everyone who carried their exhibits into St Thomas’ Church hall, we had more entries than in the past few years, 73 in total, and everyone seemed to have a great evening. Our judge Mrs Norma Leslie said she had a hard time choosing the winners, listed below. Best in Show was awarded to Sharon’s “Perfect Pot of Pipits”, well deserved, and it was good to see so many entries in this class. The Wild Card class generated a lot of conversations around the range of entries, so that will be a fixture from now on. The short talk about past shows sparked some good ideas for future classes, such as one for Primroses and Auriculas and perhaps we can revive a “Domestic” class to add a baking angle to the evening (followed by some munching probably).
Easter bunnies arrived early this year at Charlton House & Gardens. On the Sunday before Easter, ten vegetable loving bunnies hid themselves along with their favourite vegetables in the flower beds of the Gardens and were ready to be found by young visitors to this joint CABAHS & RGHT event. The morning’s chilly weather did not seem to deter the children who all enthusiastically scoured the Old Pond Garden and the Peace Garden.
Once they had found all ten and identified each bunny’s favourite vegetable they were encouraged to sow some radish seeds as part of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Big Seed Sow https://www.rhs.org.uk/get-involved/big-seed-sow . They could also learn about ‘the Secret Life of the Pea’ and choose some seeds to take home with them. Some even made their own origami seed packets. Fingers crossed we have set some of our visitors on the joyous path to becoming a life-long gardener!
Thankfully the weather was kind: dry with even a spell or two of sunshine during the afternoon. The real live bunnies brought along by Juli were an extra special attraction! By 3 o’clock, around 180 trails had been completed with donations earning a sizeable sum for Charlton House & Gardens. Our Plant Sale also proved an attractive draw and took over £200.
Here is an update on what Jason and the Gardenauts have been getting up to in the gardens since my last post. Apologies it’s rather long, we’ve been doing lots!
December turned the gardens into a winter wonderland, and caused us to miss a few days volunteering, but gave some great photo opportunities. The prolonged cold period hit a few of the more tender shrubs quite hard and we lost some big favourites like the Teucrium.
January was about cutting back, the ivy in particular. The old walls cannot take the weight of the ivy so we are taking it off in stages and being careful of wildlife. Our efforts revealed the top of the doorway for the first time in some years!
We have removed the palms from the front lawn beds and the beds will be re-designed this summer. The Palms were planted as part of an annual bedding scheme years ago and never envisaged to get as tall as they have. The Tete-a Tete daffodils have all been lifted and will go in the woodland glade next year. The Summerhouse has had a good weed and tidy-up, as has the Mulberry. Snowdrops and Hellebores popped up in the OPG woodland side.
In February, we discovered our regular feline visitor is called Casper and he lives in Canberra Road but clearly considers the gardens his playground.
For those who haven’t visited, Beth Chatto’s Garden is a horticultural paradise located in Essex, England. In March, visitors can expect to see a range of unique features and highlights that make Beth Chatto’s Garden a must-see destination for anyone with an interest in gardening or nature.
One of the most striking things about Beth Chatto’s Garden in March is the abundance of early spring blooms. As winter fades and the weather begins to warm up, the garden comes alive with an array of colourful flowers and blossoms. The famous Gravel Garden is a great place to start exploring the garden. This innovative garden was created in the 1990s, and features plants that are adapted to dry conditions, making it an ideal spot for early bloomers like crocuses, daffodils, and tulips. Visitors can expect to see bright pops of colour as they stroll along the winding paths that wind through the garden.
In addition to the early spring blooms, March is also a great time to explore the woodland areas of Beth Chatto’s Garden. The woodland gardens are home to a wide range of plant species, including ferns, shrubs, and trees. Another highlight of Beth Chatto’s Garden in March is the chance to see the garden’s many rare and unusual plant species. Beth Chatto was a pioneer of ecological gardening and her garden is a testament to her commitment to sustainable practices. Visitors can expect to see a range of native and non-native plants that are perfectly suited to the local climate and soil conditions.
The Barbican Conservatory is a tropical and sub-tropical botanical glass-roofed garden located on the third floor of the Barbican. It’s an ideal place to visit during the winter months (and all-year round) but on 16th March we hit the jackpot and were thrilled to see Clivia plants in full flower – perfect timing, as it is this month’s Plant of the Month!
This is the second largest conservatory in London (Kew gardens’ Temperate House being the largest). Opened in 1984, the walkways and terraces have been designed to encourage visitors to wander the pathways and along the walkways in order to explore and experience an urban jungle and to observe the characteristic form of every plant. Amongst the tropical planting, various exotic palms stand out and the handsome foliage of Monstera deliciosa (swiss cheese house-plant as we know it) is there to be admired. The majestically tall weeping fig tree emphasises the height of the conservatory and frames everything around it. Wide, arching stems of the handsome tree fern and the striking tree, Araucaria heterophylla (which we rested under), plus unusual climbers and shrubs including yuccas and cordylines, are amongst the 1500 plant species on show for the public to appreciate.
I have never visited the Botanical Garden at Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, but the gardens have recently become the subject of some controversy with factions divided over the way in which the gardens are currently being managed (or not). The significance of the garden lies in its situation in a micro-climate which makes it ‘the hottest garden in England’ and the previous head gardener gained a reputation for bringing in plants from far flung regions. From its foundation in 1970 until it was sold to an American businessman, John Curtis in 2012, the garden was publicly owned, and run by the Isle of Wight council, but as the council struggled with significant financial losses the garden was sold.
Over the course of the next few years a number of visitors noted what they described as a decline in the gardens – weeds were appearing and there seemed to be a general feeling that it was no longer being managed properly. John Curtis defended the garden arguing that the methods being used supported gardening in a time of climate change. Unlike a typical botanic garden, plants are no longer labelled which the current head gardener, Chris Kidd describes as creating an ‘immersive experience’ and the idea is to garden with nature.
With opinions sharply divided on both sides, ultimately, much seems to depend on what one describes as a ‘natural garden’ and the nature of a ‘botanic garden’. What is wild gardening, or gardening with nature? How natural is a natural garden? Ventnor’s dilemma seems to embody much of current horticultural conversation.
On Saturday 11th February Jean and I spent a very pleasant day at RHS Wisley. This was the last day of the Iris and Cyclamen Show held in the Hilltop event hall.
The displays were beautiful. So uplifting to see so many spring colours after a long, cold winter. We were amazed at the variety in size and pattern of cyclamen leaves, all in perfect condition of course.
The Iris Fields of Hall Road, Wenhaston IP19 9HF were selling small pots of irises to which we both succumbed!
Ruth Cornett, the owner of the Eltham Gatehouse situated adjacent to the historic Eltham Palace and part of its history, gave an excellent and informative account of how she has renovated the Gatehouse garden which along with the house was neglected and semi-derelict when she and her husband bought it in 1998. Having previously lived in a North London flat and from a rural Irish background, she was desperate to have a house and garden and set about renovating and restoring the garden in 2015. Ruth showed us pictures of before and after.
Eltham Palace is a medieval house with a long history. At one time a Bishop’s Palace and a Tudor hunting lodge, it was bought by members of the American Courtauld family in 1933. They renovated the Palace and added an Art Deco extension, then handing it over to the Royal Army Educational Corps in 1945. Its head resided in the Gatehouse. When the army left in 1992 the Gatehouse was left empty and the garden was abandoned.
Our February meeting on Monday 20th, comprised our AGM, with the usual election of officers and presentation of the Annual Report, followed by a talk by Ruth Cornett on the work she has done on her Eltham Palace Gatehouse garden and her passion for roses.
Show Table Winners 2022 The Show Table cup is presented to the member who has garnered the most points on the monthly Show Table, over the past year. We have not been able to present the cup for the previous two years due to Covid, so we are delighted to be able to revive this tradition that has been running since 1955! This year, we had Joint Winners, namely Annie and Terry. Second place went to Pat K and Third to Anastasia. Well done all.
For the coming year, we have introduced an additional award, “Best on the Table” given to the best display each month. This time it was Sian’s turn, with her wonderful aromatic display of Mimosa.
In a previous life when I worked for garden charity Thrive*, I was involved in replanting the Old English Garden in Battersea Park and last week I and a former colleague went back to see how it is looking now, some 10 years later.
Although it has a similar feel and look to the Old Pond Garden, it is only walled on one side, but it does still have a large pond in the middle, which is full of water lilies in the summer – spot the heron !
Much of the funding was provided by Jo Malone London (JML) and many of the plants are those used in their fragrances including lilies, rhubarb, pomegranate, jasmine and, of course, roses. Some replanting has been done in the intervening period and it continues to be well maintained and supported by JML, volunteers and Thrive gardeners.