Wednesday 1st February 2017


Speaker:  Hilary Thomas, Garden Designer and former lecturer at Capel Manor

As usual, no meeting was held during the month of January.  More than 50 members attended February’s meeting to hear Hilary Thomas who is an Author, former Lecturer in Garden Design at Capel Manor Horticultural College and a Tutor for an online gardening school.  Her well illustrated and inspirational talk, entitled ‘Planting a Garden for All Year Round Interest’, emphasised the need for structure, particularly in Winter, as well as the choice of plants that offered a long season of interest.  At the close of the meeting members were advised of dates of the Summer Outings :  June – Outing to Beeches Nursery and Flower Meadow; July – Visit to Ousden House, Newmarket; August – Visit to Marks Hall including tour of garden/arboretum


Wednesday 1st March 2017

SPRING PARTY & QUIZ with a selection of Cheeses, Biscuits & Wine

More than 40 members enjoyed wine and canapés at the Spring Party and Quiz on 1st March.  The winning team ‘Ladies Who Munch’, (Catherine Cocks, Sally Hopkins, Cali Holberry & Rosemary Day) won by quite a margin, with the Daffodils runners-up. Third place was hotly contested by the Ickleton Hellybores, Duncan’s Angels & the Wendeners.  Thank you, Pauline, for the excellent mind stretching, garden inspired, quiz questions!


Wednesday 5th April 2017

AGM & PLANT SALE with Tea & Cake

The Annual General Meeting in April was, as always, well attended.  In her report, Chair, Pauline Gale noted the consistently high attendance of members at each monthly meeting, due, she felt to the quality of speakers booked and the wide variety of subjects – and thanked Cali for arranging the programme.  Members are able look forward to further excellent speakers and outings in the forthcoming year.

Pauline thanked all members of the committee for their help and support.  There are currently vacancies on the committee, and Pauline asked members to contact her if interesting in joining.  The Treasurer reflected that it had been several years without an increase in annual subscriptions, and reported that the committee had agreed an increase to £10 per person from April 2017.  He thanked Sally for the monthly raffles – providing a welcome income.  Duncan Gates announced the winner of the Best Bloom Competition – Tina Thorn; Runners Up – Rosemary Day, Ann Piper and Gill Gates.  Eddie Hatfield gave an update on the recently planted Community Orchard in Great Chesterford. Following the close of the meeting members enjoyed refreshments and the opportunity to purchase a wide variety of plants and shrubs.



Wednesday 3rd May 2017

Paul Herrington, the speaker booked for the May meeting cancelled as a result of ill health. Instead members held an impromptu Gardeners’ Question Time.  Questions ranged from Ideas for Swiftly maturing crops for the Pre School Allotment Raised Beds, to knowing the reason for the lack of fruits on Citrus plantsRainwater was recommended for potted plants in ericaceous soil, and the need to re-assess the position of shrubs that are slow to thrive.  There were a large number of Spring Flower entries for the monthly completion – the winner was Anne Tozer with a particularly lovely White and Red Striated Tulip.  Following refreshments and an excellent raffle, Pauline reminded members of the Bi-Annual Show on Saturday 9th September to be held at the Community Centre, Great Chesterford.


June 2017

Entertaining, interesting and informative – author and broadcaster Geoff Hodge’s illustrated talk ‘Scented Plants & the Scented Garden’ at the June meeting was all three and more.  Plants are often chosen for being hardy, resistant to disease, or decorative – their scent is the least requested feature – yet the most appreciated, in every season of the year.  From Bulbs to Bedding, Climbing to Herbaceous – there were scented examples to suit all gardens and pockets. Together with his generous donations to the raffle Geoff will long be recalled as an exceptional and expert speaker.  The monthly competition was a Rose which attracted a range of colours and scents.










June Outing to Beeches Nursery, Ashdon


About 20 members of the Society enjoyed a beautiful warm and sunny evening visit to Beeches Nursery in Ashdon.  We were given an introductory talk by Alan Bidwell on the origins of the nursery and how it has developed since 1983, initially for bedding plants, and then with the involvement of Kevin, expanding the range of perennials, trees and shrubs.  A tour of the wildlife meadow resplendent with wildflowers, grasses and orchids (see pic of bee orchid) followed, after which members were able to enjoy tea and coffee served in the greenhouse and to browse among the enormous range of plants, some rare and special.  Our thanks to Alan and his team for their hospitality.


July 2017

Robin Carsberg was the speaker at the July meeting – a member of Essex Guild of Horticultural Judges.  He gave a fascinating illustrated insight into the sub tropical Abbey Garden on the Scilly Island of Tresco, created in the 19th century alongside the remains of a Benedictine Abbey founded in 964 AD.  Tresco is 30 miles off the coast of Cornwall and has an early Spring and extended Autumn climate. The Abbey Gardens contain thousands of plants, over 4 south-facing levels with Mediterranean climate plants such as towering palms, giant flame trees  and a vast number of succulents.   The Silver Tree is spectacular – when the sun shines and wind blows the tree appears to be covered in mirrors.  In the autumn the stunning colours of the seasonal foliage contrast with the proteas, aloes and camellias. During 1990 the island was hit by a storm which destroyed 800 trees over 4 hours – all of which have now been replanted.

It was spectacular weather in the first week of July during the visit to Ousden House in Newmarket. The house was originally the garage and stable block of the Hall, and the 8-acre garden includes thoughtfully planted  herbaceous borders, a rose garden, dovecote, courtyard and an elegant Victorian clock tower. There is an ornamental woodland garden, leading to a beech wood with a lake.  The Moat Garden was formerly a section of an 18th Century canal, previously filled in with the rubble of the demolished Hall – it is interesting to see that the yew trees that provide shelter for the garden are being shaped into a Cloud Hedge.



Excellent weather again in August, when16 members of the Society enjoyed an outing to Marks Hall Gardens & Arboretum near Coggleshall.  The visit coincided with Marks Hall’s Sculpture Exhibition of more than 300 pieces set throughout the landscape. Members were taken on a guided tour of some of the 200 acres of grounds, planted on a geographical theme, including a carp-filled lake, a magnificent 800 year old oak, and a collection of trees from the temperate regions of the world, such as Eucalyptus, Wollemi Pine and Monkey Puzzle.  An excellent lunch in the 15th century Essex Barn restaurant followed free time exploring of the grounds and the Walled Garden.


Great Chesterford & District Gardening Society 24th Flower & Produce Show on Saturday 9th September

More than 80 classes of colourful exhibits were on display at the Great Chesterford & District Gardening Society 24th Flower & Produce Show on Saturday 9th September, proving that the achievement of a perfect rose and impressive produce is possible, in spite of this year’s variable temperatures.

During the afternoon there were several Workshops – ‘Children’s Vegetable Animal ; ‘Identification of Apples & Pears’; ‘Planting a Pot for Winter’, plus a wide variety of healthy plants for sale.  These all proved very popular, as did ‘Afternoon Tea’ – a chance to catch up with friends & neighbours whilst enjoying a slice of home-made cake. The afternoon concluded with the Raffle – generously supported by local businesses – and presentation of Awards and Trophies.  A Special Award for the Committee choice of Best in Show was won by Catherine Cocks.  The award of a bouquet of Golden Roses was in memory of Cynthia Rule, who sadly died earlier this year.  Cynthia was a lifetime resident of Ickleton, a passionate gardener and long time member of the Garden Society.






At the October meeting, Andrew Sankey, Garden Designer, Lecturer and Specialist Nurseryman gave a comprehensive insight into Vita Sackville West’s garden at Sissinghurst which she designed together with her husband Harold Nicholson.  Sissinghurst Caste has its own history having been used both as a prison and poor house in earlier centuries.  When the couple purchased the Castle together with 400 acres in 1930, the garden did not exist but within 10 years they had created a garden worthy of being opened to the public.  Designed as separate rooms, enclosed by walls or hedges, the Rose, Herb and White Garden each have a different character of colour or theme. The White Garden is world renowned, consisting solely of white and cream flowers in agreement.  The Castle and Garden in the Weald of Kent have been cared for by the National Trust since the late 1960’s.

Following the illustrated talk, and excellent raffle, Pauline reminded members of Christmas Fair at Chesterford Community Centre on Saturday 25th November, where the Society’s planted winter bulbs will be on sale.

The winner of the Late Summer Flower Competition was a Dahlia.

November 2017

Over 50 members enjoyed a talk by Peter Jackson, Director of Scotsdales Garden Centre on Climbing and Wall Plants.  Both popular and more out-of-the-ordinary varieties such as Actinidia (more commonly known as Chinese Gooseberry or Kiwi) were featured, and very helpful tips regarding growing conditions and pruning were covered.  The flower of the month on the theme of Autumn Colour was won by a beautiful spray of Cotoneaster berries.


December 2017

At the Christmas meeting Richard Gant, Head Gardener at Madingley Hall spoke about the origins of the Plant Heritage Society which was set up as a charity in 1978. Rare and threatened cultivated plants need to be conserved, as some are decimated by disease or merely go out of fashion. Subsequently the National Collection was set up – a living library of a particular genus or group of plants.  450 collection holders conserve the 620 National Collections, many in Botanical Gardens, Nurseries and Individual Gardens.  The talk concluded with illustrations of plants saved from extinction and some plants currently being grown for their medicinal properties.

Following Sally’s Christmas Raffle, members enjoyed Mulled Wine and Festive refreshments.  As usual the Society will not meet during the month of January.