Biggleswade and District Gardening Club

At the beginning of the meeting members were very sorry to learn of the death of Rosemary Cooper after a long illness. She and her husband Derek moved to Norfolk a few years ago but had always kept in touch with the club and its events and had been most s

At the beginning of the meeting members were very sorry to learn of the death of Rosemary Cooper after a long illness. She and her husband Derek moved to Norfolk a few years ago but had always kept in touch with the club and its events and had been most supportive.

The speaker at the meeting was Neale Holmes-Smith from Welwyn Garden City who had trained at the Edinburgh Botanic Garden and been in horticultural education, lecturing at Oaklands College for many years. Now partly retired, he has turned to landscape gardening and showed some interesting slides of his transformation of other peoples gardens. His subject was Decorative Foliage Plants and his talk showed that it is perfectly possible to produce a colourful addition to your house with no flowers in sight. We tend to plant wallflowers in the autumn but have to wait five years for flowers, whereas if you choose the right plant, you will have constant and changing effects right through the winter. A minor revolution has happened at Hyde Hall in Essex now run by the Royal Horticultural Society where part of the property has been planted up with bananas, cannas, phormuims and castor oil plants - very few flowers between them. There is now a vogue for gravel gardens and they can be very effective when there is great space but Neale is a great advocate of grass, it sets off other plants, lends a feeling of tranquillity and is, of course, foliage. There are alternatives to grass, such as variegated elder that is fully hardy and very colourful, but really needs a bed to itself. The section of hedges provided some interesting ideas if you cannot have yew. A beech hedge will keep its leaves through the winter and at Audley End there are enormous banks of cloud-cut box. The garden of Adrian Bloom at Foggy Bottom is now out of favour, although at one time his choice of heathers and conifers was enormously popular. All the colours may be found in leaves and stems with yellows being particularly well catered for the elders, hops, privet, rubus, hazel, valerians and hardy geranium Ann Folkard which is like sunshine all year round. The competition for a posy of variegated leaves was won by Tony Gray, Pauline Thompson was second and Colin Buxton was third. The club enjoyed a visit to Roger Harvey's garden plants nursery near Bury St Edmunds recently with a two hour stop in this pretty town. Another trip is booked for May 14 to Chris Grey-Wilson in Norfolk. The next meeting is on March 15 when Mark Williams talks on Organic Gardening, next month there will be news on the Spring Show on April


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