Saturday, 23 January 2016

of clubs and societies

This afternoon I went to a gardening talk, by the person who looks after the collection of potted bulbs at Kew Gardens.  She didn't discuss the merits and demerits of any particular species or varieties, so I didn't come home with a notebook full of tantalising new names to try and track down to grow them myself, before discovering that they were either not in commerce, or that Kevock would charge me eighteen pounds for one bulb.  Instead, she took us through the practical details of how Kew protect their bulbs from the weather, potting and repotting, compost mixes, and seed sowing.

Some ideas transferred more readily to the home gardener than others.  I don't think I could lay my hands on a one tonne bag of loam, and I'm not sure I'd get a very helpful response from my local aggregates company if I rang asking for river sand with a mixture of particle sizes.  And I am not about to get a greenhouse with computer controlled supplementary lighting, heated to a minimum of four degrees.  At least I now know how to obtain fine grit, which is to take a bag of medium sized grit and sieve it.

I asked her afterwards about the best way to separate the congested clump of Crinum bulbs I've got in a pot, and discovered that there is no time of year when they don't have roots, but that I could chop the clump apart with a spade or saw it through without killing it.  Brought up on daffodils and tulips with their very definite dormant seasons, I am still adjusting to the idea that some bulbs are active twelve months of the year.  The last pot of Crinum I evicted to the open garden had a full pot of roots when I tipped it out, but I'd thought maybe there was some time of the year when it wouldn't have.  Not so.

The lecture was part of the Suffolk Plant Heritage series, and was well attended.  I didn't do a head count, but there must have been eighty or a hundred people there, including a smattering of under fifties.  It goes to show that people will turn out at weekends if a club is well organised with a good programme.  The unfortunate demise of the Sudbury gardening society even made the news section of the Amateur Gardening Magazine a couple of weeks back, after it ran out of members willing to serve on the committee.  The Chairman had been in post for eighteen years, and taken on additional roles as people died or left.  It was an RHS affiliated society, and an RHS spokesperson was quoted as saying that any loss of opportunities for people to garden was a pity.  What Amateur Gardening did not point out was that at least one of the village garden societies only a few miles outside Sudbury was going from strength to strength, ergo it was not that locals had gone off gardening.  The Boxford club, like Suffolk Plant Heritage, publishes the full year's planned events at the start of the year and gets good quality speakers, and indeed some of the same people are involved in running both groups.

I'd already heard on the local grapevine that the Sudbury club was on the rocks.  What Amateur Gardening and the RHS were both too polite to say is that eighteen years is too long for anybody to be chairman of their garden society, or any other club.  Committee members may start off with entirely good intentions, but long incumbencies breed complacency and an undue sense of ownership that makes it increasingly difficult for anybody else to take a meaningful role on the committee.  It's a depressing spiral I've seen more than once.  People step forward but don't stay in post for long, then positions remain unfilled while the old guard grumble that nowadays nobody will volunteer to help.  Club committees are like gardens, they benefit from regular pruning and feeding.

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