Chairman’s Blog October 2014

Herbaceous border at Howick Hall

Our AGM and Autumn Lecture were on the 3rd October. Full Reports from the Treasurer and from me are on the website, and show a satisfactory financial position and report the projects currently in hand. We then had a lecture by Hal Moggeridge who is a respected and outstanding Landscape Designer with responsibility for the Welsh Botanic Gardens and the refurbishment of the garden at Blenheim Palace, among many other achievements. We are lucky to attract speakers of his calibre.

This really marked the end of summer, and is a time to look back on our success and failures in the garden this year. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the gardens we have visited. I was fortunate to be able to go to Northumberland where I visited the birthplace of Capability Brown and saw the Church where he was baptised and the school he attended in Cambo. Lots of work going on there in preparation for the visitors expected in 2016. We also visited the Garden at Alnwick, which is spectacular in its Grand Cascade, educative in the water features of the serpent garden and stunning in the ornamental garden, with its wealth of unusual as well as more common herbaceous plants.

I preferred the more relaxed atmosphere of Howick Hall near Craster (pictured above). The home of Earl Grey of tea fame, it is still occupied in part by the Howick family. Lady Howick’s private garden which was also open is stunning. The whole garden and grounds give an impression of permanence and with specific areas like the woodland garden make an enjoyable afternoon.

Planting a sapling in the GalapagosLater we visited the Galapagos Islands, hardly a garden in the European sense but with its own unique plants as well the birds and animals. Conservation is taken seriously and invasive introduced species have been removed to be replaced by native trees. We were taken to the site of cleared undergrowth to plant new native trees there. Good to see how the islanders are caring for their unique habitat.

Keep a watch out for our programme for next year. We will be having a Speaker in March and the AGM and Speaker will be in October. We plan to hold our Meetings on a Thursday in the light of concern expressed about the problems on the M4 on a Friday night. We hope to meet in Shaw House Newbury in March and at Purley Barn in October. We are also putting plans together for garden visits next summer.

Charles Elly

Chairman’s Blog April 2014

Osteospermums sc


Surfacing from a long wet, but not cold, winter, we now see Spring all around us. Gardens beckon us, either a workers or visitors. At our Spring Lecture, we heard and saw pictures of the glories of Gertrude Jekyll’s garden at Upton Grey, which we will be visiting in June. I also had the pleasure of attending the opening of an exhibition at Shaw House near Newbury at the end of March. The theme of the exhibition is the garden. Do go if you can; it is open until November. You will also see the work done by the Payback scheme workers to clear parts of the garden that have been covered by rubbish for decades.

 At Watlington House in Reading work has re-started after the interruption of poor weather and the need to vacate the garden for work by Thames Water. I missed the gardening day in April as I was in Spain, but work has started to clear the weeds to prepare for planting.

Spain is a couple of months ahead of us. Their winter was dry, with no rain in the South from Christmas until our visit! Fortunately only one day. Flowers from our high summer are in full bloom with osteospermum making a good show and hibiscus and bougainvillea flowering freely. It is surprising to see fruit on the almond trees, which flower in December/January. There is the wonderful scent of citrus blossom and oranges ready for picking at the same time.

Charles Elly



New Chairman’s First Blog

Rosa Maidens Blush sc

 The AGM of the Trust bade farewell to Dr Christina Hill Williams DL, our first Chairman and one of the Founders of the Berkshire Gardens Trust. The Members voted unanimously that she be appointed as a Vice President of the BGT. The Committee had elected me Chairman of the Trust; the other officers remain the same.

I was lucky as a child to spend time with my grandmother, who loved gardening. She had remarkable success in growing cuttings and some lovely roses in her garden in York. Fortunately I inherited her love if not her skill. It was therefore with great pleasure that I accepted Christina’s invitation to join the Committee when I retired in 2012.

Since then I have learned so much from my fellow Committee members about gardens their history and their importance to our environment and the enjoyment of our landscape. This has led me into research for the Gazetteer under the guidance and tuition of Ben Viljeon. The wonder of the internet leads to the beauty of the garden.

After a cold start this has been a good year for gardening, with later flowers and vegetables catching up and a wonderful season for fruits and berries. The autumn colours are lighting up these dull days, with gold and red leaves. Holly berries and cotoneaster give a brightness to the decaying plants in the garden.

As we plan the garden for next year, the BGT is looking ahead to Tim Richardson’s talk on the Chelsea Fringe – a motley selection of gardens, not the latest hairstyle! Then we have Rosamund Wallinger in the Spring, an opportunity to learn more about Gertrude Jekyll. There is also the little matter of planting Watlington House Garden when Gaila judges the time is right. Lots of help needed there. Then, hopefully, the garden can provide a refuge for the community to escape the noise and bustle of life in Reading.

The purpose of the Gazetteer is to provide an up-to-date record of Berkshire Gardens of historic or contemporary exceptional interest. This would help English Heritage in judging the effect of proposed major development projects. But they have to guard the sites of national importance, we are concerned also with local development which affects peoples’ enjoyment of their environment. So we need to be on guard for any applications which may affect important gardens. We will need the help of members in this work, but first we need to establish a reliable and informative list. Volunteers always welcome!

Come to learn, come to enjoy and come to make friends with garden lovers and historians of our heritage from around Berkshire. If you are not a member do join us.

Charles Elly

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