Today I went to the inaugural meeting of the HPS Shade and Woodland Group which conveniently for me was held near Tewkesbury where I go for my monthly HPS meetings and in addition to this the talk was by one of our committee members, Keith Ferguson with a visit in the afternoon to his and his wife, Lorna’s, garden. The meeting was attended by some 80 people at a rough guess which isn’t bad for the inaugural meeting of a national group.
Keith’s talk on Trilliums and other US woodlanders was fascinating and I learnt lots, how much I will remember remains to be seen. I did learn that it was a myth that trilliums need acidic soil, there are one or two which do, but generally this isn’t the case. I still think trilliums are a bit tricky, I have a couple and only one flowers and in 5 years it has only bulked up to two flowers! I think I need to start mulching more with leaf mould etc. I overheard Keith telling someone that they mulch extensively in November so that seems to be the answer – worth a go anyway.
After lunch we drove 20 minutes to the Ferguson’s home which is set down a narrow country road within sight of May Hill – a very pretty part of the world. They have lived here nearly 20 years and worked hard to develop the garden. Both Keith and Lorna are botanists and are real plants people. Whenever there is a tricksy shrub that needs identifying at our group meetings it is them we look to and inevitably they know or can make a knowledgeable guess.
I frequently visit gardens generally on my own, sometimes with a friend or two but this, and a visit with some of the same group last week, are the most enjoyable garden visits I have had for some time. I think the secret lies in visiting with such knowledgeable plants people who are generous with their knowledge and not in a stuffy or superior way. We had a laugh and it is wonderful to hear a real hum of people talking about plants and indulging in their passion. One half of the garden, in front of the house is more formal and is very bright being home to lots of wonderful colourful perennials and also the vegetable garden. The other half of the garden (which altogether is around 2.5 acres) is the newer garden which is devoted to shade loving plants. Here were clumps of trilliums which make my tiny specimen look even more pathetic. I enjoyed the planting style here as everything intermingles giving a wild appearance albeit managed. I suspect William Robinson would have approved. So many new plants to discover and learn about and at the same time familiar plants to see afresh and covert. I was particularly taken with the Papaver orientale ‘May Queen’ which I have been promised a bit of, although it comes with a warning of being a thug!
There were also plants that I doubt I will ever grow such as this Berberis jamesiana which Sally Gregson and I were completely bewitched by. It is hard to propagate and given its size I suspect this is something I wouldn’t be able to grow unless I moved but still it is something to aspire to.
Whilst the reason for the visit was due to the HPS Shade and Woodland Group meeting what I really took away from the Ferguson’s garden was a wonderful demonstration of ‘right plant right place’. Being botanists they understand what conditions each plant needs and the plants repay this care and attention by growing incredibly well. It was a lovely afternoon.