CHEQS Gardening Club

The April visit was to The Old Rectory at Farnborough near Wantage. The fore- cast for thundery showers was correct. Many members drove through a heavy hail- storm on the way there, but then the weather cleared up and we were able to go round a wonderful garden in warm sunshine. This was a four-acre garden divided into sheltered ‘rooms’ with spectacular views over the Berkshire Downs. The owner and enthusiastic gardener Mrs Caroline Todhunter welcomed the forty two members on a large lawn next to a very pretty flowering cherry and then we were free to explore. The garden was a peaceful setting for the 1749 Rectory, once the home of the poet John Betjaman.

The garden is at 800 feet and very windy, but with the advantage that frost rolls down the hill. Many of the woodland areas were under-planted with drifts of daffodils, anemone blanda, blue scilla and white and blue bells amongst other spring plants. There was a stunning collection of magnolia, including a huge magnolia grandiflora grown as a tree rather than, as more usually seen, grown against a wall.

There were many unusual hellebores including one that was almost black. The sheltered boule garden had some lovely orange tulips and a swathe of bright blue scilla bifolia. There were also many tree peonies just coming into leaf with the promise of flowers later in the year. The path to the bog garden was almost hidden by the wild garlic, and the arboretum and the secret garden were explored with enthusiasm.

Many members took the opportunity to visit the church and see the beautiful brightly coloured stained glass window designed by John Piper in memory of his friend John Betjeman. This visit had all the elements the members enjoy – a lovely garden with lots of unusual plants, warm sunny weather and delicious tea and cake!

The May plant sale and supper is always an enjoyable social evening. It was well attended, but the weather was not on our side. Rain and drizzle all day continued into the evening and we were fortunate that the kitchen was large enough for members to talk and to eat the really delicious “bring a plate” supper. The plant sale and the raffle added to Club funds and members enjoyed walking round Liz’s beautiful garden even in inclement weather. At least we all agreed that our gardens would benefit from the steady rain!

Sometimes, unfortunately, there have to be changes to the published programme. Please can members note that, through no fault of the committee, the visit to Daylesford has had to be postponed until next year. We are very grateful to Chips Mann for giving us the opportunity to visit her lovely garden in June. The September joint visit has also had to be changed at the owners’ request. We will now be visiting the award winning garden at Bourton House and having a cream tea.


Author: eastleach