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A Tale of Two Gardens – One gardener two gardens!

Our gardening  friend Nancy has two gardens – the only gardener we know who has two gardens. They are quite different gardens in the way they are designed but the quality of planting, the use of colour and above all the original and most effective use of foliage are features in both.

We visited both of Nancy’s gardens with the HPS Shrewsbury and South Mini-Group and we all met up at Nancy’s home. Next year Nancy will be opening her two gardens for the NGS for the first time ever so lots more people will be have the pleasure of visiting it.

Later we drove for ten minutes to her other garden, which unusually is a garden with no house. The garden at Elmfield Road in Shrewsbury is small but full of interest and inspiration. The little front garden is based on a central circle surrounded with foliage and flowering plants. It is entered via an archway with a clematis climbing up it.

A little cameo against a blue fence invited us into the back garden where we were welcomed by the sight of a beautiful garden.

Nancy has a wonderful way of building borders to take advantage of the heights and colours of plants and effectively even within such narrow border.

Foliage plays such an important part in the design of Nancy’s plantings and throughout her garden beautiful pairings are evident.

Now you can see just how beautiful a garden Nancy’s home garden is you may want to enjoy my next post which will feature her second garden, Esme’s Garden.

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Stone House Cottage Garden – rare plants and follies

A return visit to a garden that we have not seen for a few decades is a rare treat. We returned to Stone House Cottage Garden and Nursery as part of a day out with our Hardy Plant Society Shropshire Group friends. In the afternoon we followed up with a wander around Arley Arboretum, another place we have visited before. Both gardens open for the National Garden Scheme during the year too.

We were greeted by Stone House’s owner and gardener, Louisa Arthbutnot, who invited us to wander freely but saying she would be around to answer queries. We entered through a round tower and were soon reminded about what makes this such a special patch, interesting plants combined well and brick-built grottoes.

Entering the garden through the first folly we are given a choice of paths straight away, so enticing.

But we did not make a choice straight as we were attracted to the unusual selection of plants growing right alongside the back door of the entrance folly.

 

Brickwork and follies feature so strongly in the is cottage garden and enhance it in a unique way.

 

As we moved through the garden we discovered unusual shrubs with loose meadow-style planting beneath them.

 

But what makes this cottage garden stand out as being something rather special is its collection of rare and unusual plants and the way Louisa places plants in communities so effectively.

 

As we left the garden we all made for the nursery where many unusual plants were waiting to tempt us.

 

 

 

 

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A little village garden – Von’s garden.

We have lots of gardening friends with gardens of all types and sizes and in all sorts of locations. One of our most enjoyable garden related activities is to visit a garden belonging to a friend. On a wet dull day in mid-June we visited the village garden of friend Yvonne, more often called Von. It is a garden with a beautiful view across the Shropshire countryside and a garden that happily sits in its environment.

I hope you enjoy my photographs taken in poor light and drizzling rain but the plants shone through. A gravel path leads us alongside a delicately planted border with softly curved shapes. The spires of tall-growing foxgloves and delphiniums shine through the gloom matching the colours of geraniums that soften the path edges.

  

Centrally placed in the garden is a softly shaped pool surrounded by beautiful planting.

 

There are well-placed seats throughout the garden each with special views including some that look out of the garden across the surrounding countryside.

 

These seats are situated on a gravel patch which boasts a large boulder with a smaller partner, a terracotta pot housing a saxifrage alongside an alpine sink.

 

Von loves plants so much that every vertical surface is covered with plants, ceanothus, honeysuckle and ivy.

 

Reaching the bottom of the garden there is a native hedge decorated with soft pink dog roses. Looking back up towards the house we get a different view of the garden and notice a very productive veg patch with neat raised beds.

  

As with any garden the stars are the plants and here there are many of interesting specimen deserving of more than a glance.

  

  

Wildlife enjoys this garden too. While taking a shot of this white and purple-spotted foxglove a bee arrived and set about exploring each little glove. A great finish to our visit, which will definitely not be the last.

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Gordon and Mona’s Place

We like to share with you the gardens owned by our fellow Shropshire gardeners and we especially sharing our visits to some excellent gardens created and looked after by fellow members of the Shropshire Group of the Hardy Plant Society. So here is a short series of three such gardens we enjoyed during 2016.

The first is owned by Gordon and Mona who also have a small nursery selling unusual plants. Gordon also gives garden talks to groups just as Jude and I do, so we have things in common. Gordon is a great lover of Salvias too, just like me, but unlike me he is very knowledgeable about them.

We followed roads leading us north-east from home towards a village known as Sheriffhales where we found the garden surrounding a house in the country. We loved the unusual entrance to the garden, passing through a narrow gateway in a holly hedge, which took us along a path to the back of the house and immediately we found ourselves immersed in the plants. It was like entering a secret garden, always a good start! Gates, hedges and pathways invited us seamlessly around the gardens surrounding Gordon and Mona’s home and comfy seats enticed us to sit a while and take in the scents and sounds of the garden. The movement of the many grasses and the bird song enriched the rest of the experience.

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Beautiful happy healthy plants growing upwards against a blue sky raise the spirits up with them.

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Gordon had previously introduced us to Commelinas, perhaps the most delicate and beautiful blue flower to be found in any garden. We now have some of Gordon’s seedling growing on nicely at home and it was good to meet them again.

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Let us now just share some of the individual plants and plant companions we enjoyed so much on this visit. Some of these plant combinations are so exciting bringing together unlikely colour partners, the sign of confident and knowledgeable gardeners.

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Salvias are Gordon’s true specialism and interest and here they are beautifully grown, sitting happily in mixed borders and flowering profusely.

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What a great afternoon visiting this lovely, gentle garden full of plant delights! Moments of magic appeared around every corner to add that little extra that raises a garden above the norm, as shown in my four pics below.

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John’s Garden – Ashwood Nurseries.

We have wanted to visit John’s Garden for a long time but have never been able to attend on any of his open days, so when we noticed that a private visit was planned for the Shropshire Group of the Hardy Plant Society we were determined to go along. It is always worth going on these garden visits which give the chance to share the experience with your friends and also share their joint expertise and interest.

John Massey is well known for breeding his own strains of Hellebores and more recently Hepaticas too. He is also an excellent speaker and he has spoken to our Shropshire HPS group several times.

As we wandered down the drive to his bungalow we stopped to admire this imaginatively clipped hedge like billowing clouds. Opposite this was a lawned area with a small collection of interesting trees and some crazy sheep sculptures grazing the grass.

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As we entered the main garden there was more smart pruning deserving a closer look, including this Pyrus salicifolia shaped into an umbrella.

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Let us take a quick look at a few photos of garden vistas, views which tempted us onwards.

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Sculpture featured strongly in John’s garden and here is a selection for you to enjoy.

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Some well-chosen and carefully placed sculptures adorned the area around a beautiful pool. The planting was intriguing too and called out for closer examination.

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A second much smaller water feature was surrounded by a collection of beautiful plants. The little fountain raised the water just a few inches before it dropped back creating gentle ripples and a relaxing sound.

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The area of garden around the back of the house was partly covered with a large pergola over paved areas. Imaginatively planted containers and plenty of seats made this a restful area inviting the visitor to sit and relax to enjoy the succulents and alpines. From the paved area a lawned areas sloped gently down to the canal, a lovely feature acting as the boundary to a garden.

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John and his garden team seem very good at putting plants together especially using foliage as the link pulling the design together.

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As in any good garden however good plant combinations and plant communities are, there are always individual specimens that draw the visiting gardener in for a closer look.

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We really enjoyed our leisurely walk around John’s Garden particularly  as we were accompanied by John himself, who was such a generous, knowledgeable and humorous guide. We were lucky to share this garden with the owner and chief gardener.

But I shall leave you with two surprises we had during our journey, a totally unexpected border, a newly built stumpery and a lovely close-up view of a frog on top of a topiary sphere!

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Aiming for a year round garden – our garden in June – how our visitors saw us.

This year, 2014 will be the year we open our garden under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme, so we saw our garden details published in the famous Yellow Book. This is a landmark for any gardener in England and Wales, albeit a pleasing one and a worrying one. So many questions pour into your mind when you see the description of your garden in print.

I had to provide 9 photographs of our garden taken in previous years at the same time of year we are due to open. It was hard to choose shots that gave the right “feel”. We wanted to give a taste of what our plot is all about and these pictures give further ideas for the visitor after they have read the paragraph we presented to the NGS. Luckily I could look back into the archives of my blog. To check out the photos I selected go to the NGS website, http://www.ngs.org.uk, click on “find a garden” and type in Avocet where you are asked for a garden name.

We have also been asked by a couple of garden groups if they could visit. So the first of these we set for mid-June and we felt it would provide a practice run for the big day in August. The group were the Shrewsbury Mini-group of the Shropshire Hardy Plant Society, so we knew them already which made the day a bit less daunting. I took a series of photos in the morning of the day they were coming to give an idea of how they would see our little quarter acre of garden.

This post also serves as part of my series on “Aiming for a Year Round Garden” where I look around our garden to see if our aim to have interest throughout he year is working.

The first photos show how we welcome visitors as they find our gateway and look up the drive.

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Next we take a quick wander around the front garden to view the gravel garden (The Beth Chatto Garden), the stump circle and the driftwood circle, as well as the mixed borders around the lawn.

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We have worked hard this year to make the drive and the side of the house more welcoming using antique galvanised containers planted up with Dahlias and Calendulas and brightly coloured Pelargoniums are planted in the hanging baskets and other containers.

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The next “port of call” is the Shade Garden followed by the “Fern Garden” and then into the “Seaside Garden”. I always seem to follow a set pathway around the garden when taking photos but I have to admit that I designed the garden to give visitors choices and so have created a situation where no two people wandering around need to follow the same route. I want each section of the garden to be viewed and approached from several directions. So although I am trying in this post to show our garden from our visitors’ viewpoint it is in reality just my own personal route.

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And so to the back garden which has a different feel to it altogether as the individual garden compartments are all hidden in some way. It is a garden where you have to go looking – you cannot sit and look and take it all in in one go. Unlike the front, where from the seat under the arbor you can view most of the garden borders in one go, there are parts you can’t see so you are enticed to go to them for a close look.

In the back garden we find the water feature among Hostas and Toad Lilies on the end of the Shed Bed and from there you can look down the central path with arches draped with trained apple trees, roses and clematis. Another arch to the side of the main path affords glimpses of more borders.

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From the central path we can peer over the cloud pruned box hedge into these borders, which hopefully will entice the visitors to explore further.

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By turning right off the central path visitors find themselves between the Chicken Garden and the Secret Garden and after a mere half dozen steps must choose which one to look at first.

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Within the Secret Garden alongside a comfortable cream coloured seat visitors can enjoy our latest creation, the Alpine Throne.

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If however our visitors chose to go left at the central path they would find further choices, the Japanese Garden, the Wildlife Pond and Bog Garden to the right or the Long Border and Crescent Border to the left.

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Back closer to the house we can find the “Pollinators’ Border” complete with insect hotel, the Shed Scree Bed and the new Tropical Border.

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So there we have a quick tour of our garden in mid-June just as our first group of garden visitors saw us. We enjoyed the kind comments they left and felt it had been worthwhile, particularly when several said they would be back when we opened for the NGS in August.

The only downer was that the Bearded Iris had given us their best show ever, a true extravaganza for the three weeks or so prior to the visit. On the day just one bloom remained to show everyone what they had missed. Gardeners always say “You should have come last week.” and for us this may well have been true, at least where the Iris were concerned.

Our next big day is our NGS Open Day on the 3rd August so we are hoping we can maintain interest in the borders until then. A second mini-group of Shropshire Hardy Planters will be visitors a month after that so we will have to be “on our toes” for a while yet!

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Wild Colours at the Dorothy Clive Garden

We visited the Dorothy Clive Garden recently with a few fellow Hardy Plant members. This garden is famous for its spring planting in the section called The Dingle – Rhododendrons and Azaleas in the wildest colour combination possible. These aren’t our favourite shrubs but we do enjoy going to this garden to see them once in a while.

Just look at these pics! From the moment we arrived at the cottage the borders on either side of the doorway were alive with colour.

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I know I said we are not the biggest fans of these flowers but Jude the Undergardener was impressed with this one. She was impressed by the gentle colours and contrasting spots.

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I however was taken with this bright orange beauty! Certainly nothing subtle here – I simply love orange in the garden and this flower and bud is so rich.

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In the next post I shall look at the rest of the garden where things are a little calmer and kinder to the eye.

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A Woodland Garden Retreat

So here we are back on our August garden visit day with the Shropshire branch of the Hardy Plant Society. I left you as we were on our way to a woodland garden created by two of our kindred hardy planters, Joe and Wendy.

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Members had been asked to bring along some finger foods and some plants they had propagated themselves. The food was to become a tasty spread for all to enjoy – we know the hardy planters make mighty good picnics. The plants stocked a plant stall to help raise funds for the society. The picnic and the plants were tempting and looked really impressive. We were tempted into indulging in both, enjoying homemade cakes and bakes, freshly picked salad crops and peaches. Most members returned for refills at least once! We took home too many plants as well, being drawn to a deep orange crocosmia, a white flowering phlox, and a couple of plants new to us.

This combination of photos appealed to me – can you spot why?

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But, I digress, the main purpose of the afternoon was to revel in the delights of this woodland garden in Penley, a little village in north Shropshire. Joe and Wendy have created a garden that invites the gardener’s feet to follow paths around corners and through arches to discover secrets and special plantings around every corner. Joe is one of those gardeners who can name any plant presented to him and just as we expected there were labels everywhere and we will admit to needing them. There were so many plants we didn’t recognise. Joe comes to our rescue on our group outings whenever the name of a plant alludes us or we come across a new discovery.

The final pic in the next set is a plant we have only seen a couple of times before and it is a real beauty – the only yellow flowered weigela.

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Joe’s real speciality is hydrangeas and we found them throughout the 4 acre garden. Here are a few the last pic is of a new variety called “Chocolate”, named after the colour of its leaves.

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Right in the depth of the woodland we came across an opening that contained a delightful surprise, a pool with boardwalk surrounds. Grasses softened the wood and chain sculpture while splashes of colour were provided by the deep blues of agapanthus.

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But this lovely garden was far more than trees and shrubs as Joe and Wendy have found space for some fine plantings of perennials.

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We were really pleased to find this stunning plant which features in the next batch of photos. We thought it as a rudbeckia but with its deep red stems, beautiful dark foliage and such delicate flowers we didn’t know which one, but what we did know was that we needed one for our garden, imagining how well it would sit in our hot border. So I took a couple of photos and went to seek out Joe who I confidently felt would proffer its name without even having to think about it, but when I showed him the photos on the back screen of the Nikon he referred me to Wendy as she was better at the non-woody members of their garden. So off to find Wendy who looked at the photos and also looked blankly, her memory having failed her. But being organised she had a planting list for each border and we soon discovered that it wasn’t a Rudbeckia at all, it was a Heliopsis “Summer Nights”. So it is down to us now to seek it out for our hot border.

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So there we have it, a great day out in a great garden with lots of friends to share it with.

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A garden to make you smile.

On a blustery, heavily overcast day last weekend we visited two gardens on a day out with our friends from the Shropshire Branch of the Hardy Plant Society. Bumping down a narrow south Cheshire lane that twisted and turned a little too much for comfort, found us at “The Rowans”, a one acre garden loosely based on an Italianate theme. The elements reminiscent of the Italian styled gardens appeared in the structured garden rooms and the use of ornament especially sculpture, but I felt the theme of happiness was much more in evidence.

There were signs scattered throughout the garden to inform and delight.

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Humour was potently presented in ornament and statuary. Animals dominated!

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But not all the entertaining was performed by animals – there were lots of varied bits and pieces to find amongst the plantings and hanging from the branches of trees.

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The planting was not of rare or desirable plants but quite ordinary plants well grown and well put together.

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We particularly liked the dense planting in an old wheelbarrow and a miniature pool in a blue glazed pot. Oh, and of course we enjoyed seeing how someone else grows their veggies!

We enjoyed a refreshing cup of tea or two before leaving and left with a promise of some seeds of two plants we liked. The kindness of gardeners shows no bounds.

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We then took off back down the bumpy lanes to find our afternoon treat, a woodland garden that is the province of two of our Hardy Plant Society friends. So in my next posting you should find us there enjoying a tasty Hardy Plant Society lunch.

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Allotment Open Day 2013

Sunday July 14th was the day we opened our allotment community gardens for everyone to come and have a look at what we get up to, and to help raise money for charities under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme. We are proud to be part of this great scheme and we love seeing our lotties featured in their famous Yellow Book.

Visitors were greeted by committee members Di and Jill, who took the entry fees and gave out tickets, trail sheets, children’s quiz sheets and competition voting forms (more about that later).

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The allotmenteers had been busy the week prior to our opening mowing the grass, edging and weeding the communal borders and ensuring their own plots were looking at their best. And it did look good! As chairman I felt proud of what was achieved that week.

Bunting was hung from sheds and a pair of galvanised watering cans planted up with diascias and blue fescue grasses  decorated the entrance to the central grass pathway. We made sure all information signs were clear and visible.

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Some members even provided extra little sitting areas alongside their plots with shade over comfy seats. Phil and Doreen created an outdoor lounge. It looked brilliant and drew many admirers and many visitors stopped off for a rest and a chat.

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A popular part of our day is the tea shop which we create around our communal huts enhanced with gazebos and an assortment of tables and chairs all brought in for the day by lottie members. Sherlie, an allotmenteer and florist, added beautiful floral decorations to the centre of each table. Members bake all week prior to the event and the array of cakes is stunning and oh so tempting.

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A feature of our open days is the involvement of our visitors in selecting the winners of our annual site competitions. Each year we hold a scarecrow competition and the theme this year was occupations and as always our members’ imaginations ran wild. We were treated to the sight of a scarecrow undertaker, a pilot, a school crossing lady, a farm labourer, a lumberjack, a nurse, a doctor a tractor driver

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I had the rather over-ambitious idea that I could make a “Biggles the Pilot” scarecrow, which was quite a task and needed the help of gardening mate Pete to put it up on top of our central arbor. Pete is a good foot taller than me!

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We persuaded one of our newer members to open her shed for all to see as it has such a beautiful interior. We call it the “Chic Shed”. It is painted all white inside with a storage bench with padded seat on top, a lovely dresser and even colouring books, pencils and crayons etc for her granddaughter.

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Another competition this year was a new one and again we asked our visitors to choose the winners. It was for land art/sculpture and it proved to be very popular with lots of pieces for our guests to consider.

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Jude the Undergardener won this competition with her woven twisted willow.

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For the children on our site we held a competition where we asked them to plant up an item of footwear, and we saw colourful flowers grown in slippers, boots and wellies. In the pictures below they are shown lined up in front of the two mini-allotments grown for display in the town square later.

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As well as the tea shop we had a plants sale table where Jude, aka Mrs Greenbench or The Undergardener, sold plants she had raised from seeds and cuttings, both herbaceous perennials, herbs and vegetables. We had a display from Linton, one of Shropshire’s Master Composters who answered visitors’ queries concerning their composting.

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So just how successful was the day? We had lots of visitors many of whom stayed all day and obviously enjoyed their walk around, helping us choose our competition winners and indulging in the offerings of the tea shop and the plant stall. We raised £1065 to send in to the National Garden Scheme, a figure of which we are most proud.