News & Events – Visiting Gardens 2

Our currently planned schedule for 2019 can be downloaded here –

2019 Schedule

24th October 2019 – Physic Garden

A group of thirteen, intrepid and unsuperstitious, explorers travelled to Chelsea to visit its eponymous ‘Physic Garden’.

Hidden behind high brick walls and occupying a large block running from Royal Hospital Road down to the Thames Embankment, this four acres of prime London real estate is the oldest botanical garden in London (and, nationally,  second only to Oxford).  Breaching the walls initially presented some difficulty as we were shunted between the various gates but, as ever, Ruth eventually prevailed and we escaped the drizzle to enjoy coffee and buns (one must, of course, support local produce).
We joined our guide, Claire, under darkening skies, to learn a little of the history.
Founded in 1673, the garden was originally planted with (supposedly) medicinal plants by the apothecaries.  Many contain substances that are now the basis of modern drugs and, indeed, new plant-based medicines are still being discovered and researched.  Some are still used in modern  herbal medicine.  Some, alas, appear to have no demonstrable benefit.  A few are much worse!
The garden’s future was established in 1712, when Sir Hans Sloane (later famous for his ‘rangers’) purchased the manor of Chelsea and formally established the garden with an annual rent of £5, still paid to his descendants today.  Sloane was a successful society doctor who made his fortune by treating rich malaria patients with ‘Jesuit’s bark’ (now known to include quinine) and introducing ‘milk chocolate’ to England.
Claire took us on a detailed tour of the gardens, whose beds are systematically distributed by plant family.  We started at the 1773 Grade 2 listed, rock-garden which is based upon  chunks of volcanic rock used as ships’ ballast on one of Joseph Banks’ famous expeditions. At each stop, she volunteered more information about ‘this plant…and that plant’.  Even the ever-strengthening rain did not dampen her enthusiasm and her pharmaceutical knowledge seemed boundless.
We learned how a seventeenth century lady might hope to improve her figure (or not ! No wonderbra back then) and the origin of some modern cancer drugs.  And endless stuff in-between.   We were shown what plants were used in foreign lands, too (the garden has a favourable micro-climate that, for instance, allows a grapefruit tree to grow outside all-year-round).
Sadly, we also learned a lot about the effectiveness of our waterproofs and shoes as we walked through an hour of torrential rain.  But that’s the fun of garden visiting and I’m sure lots of us will return as soon as the forecast is more friendly.
A lovely garden and a lovely guide.  There’s lots more info on its website.
Thank you Ruth for organising it (and at least you know what to get Peter for Christmas).
Richard Lytheer

3 April 2019 – Compton Ash Garden Faversham Kent

1 March 2019 – Meadowcroft Garden Centre and Nursery

On 1st March the group made a visit to Meadowcroft Garden Centre and the nursery run by the Smith family, near South Woodham Ferrers. The nursery was a fascinating place to visit as we were taken on a tour through their production area. The plants are produced in vast quantities using plastic cell seed trays loaded on to huge metal benches which can be slid around on rollers. This allows them to be quickly and easily transferred to different areas of the site on rails. Some of the processes are done by machines – filling the trays with compost, sowing the seed, topping off and watering. The trays are kept warm and humid initially until germination has taken place and are then moved into a cooler greenhouse. The length of time spent in each area depends on the type of plant being grown. Later, we saw robotic machines used to transplant the tiny plants into bigger trays for growing on. 

The nursery hold a pansy and viola festival and were growing 550 different varieties from seed suppliers from all around the world.

The nursery sell their plants in the Meadowcroft Garden Centre and to 200 other independent garden centres in the south east.

We returned to the Garden Centre for lunch.

(photos by Richard Lytheer and Sue Sullivan)

14 February 2019 – Great Easton Lodge Gardens 

29 January 2019

A group of us got along to visit Lambeth Palace Gardens and Museum before we headed off to the Sky Gardens also in London.  A few photos from the visit can be seen below:

Great Warley



On 10th September we had a very interesting visit to Horkesley Hall Gardens near Colchester. We were shown around by the gardener Glen who was so proud of the very old trees, some over a hundred years old. We were taken through the stables first and then down to the kitchen garden. On the way we passed the menage which had a white horse in it. We were accompanied by the two house dogs who had the freedom of the vast garden approx 2 acres which was lovely to see as they ran ahead several times jumping into the ditch just like naughty children.

We then walked along the walled garden and on down to the lake which was large and very pretty. As we looked back up the hill we had a super view of the house and terrace (where later we were served lunch by the housekeeper). Throughout the garden there were jumps made of old tree trunks for the riders from the house to to exercise their horses (in total there were eight horses).

There were themes throughout the garden, one to commemorate the Queen’s last special anniversary with a hedge trimmed like a vast crown and even orange flowers to depict Prince Harry’s ginger hair!

All in all we had a very pleasant visit. Written by Wendy Andrews.

Please have a look at the pictures of this visit supplied by Sue Sullivan, Richard Lytheer and Ruth Lancashire.