I went this afternoon on the garden society's last garden visit of the year. Places on the visit were limited to twenty, mainly because the garden is not very big, and possibly also (having seen it) because parking in the lanes nearby is pretty limited. A clipboard was going round at the dahlia visit for interested people to put their names down for the grand draw for places, lucky winners to be announced at the next garden club meeting. I wasn't at the last talk, but assumed the friendly and energetic visits organiser would email if I'd won a golden ticket. She didn't, so I assumed I hadn't got lucky this time and rubbed the visit out of my diary.
When I saw her at last Saturday's Plant Heritage meeting she cheerfully said You are coming on Friday, aren't you? I said that sadly I hadn't drawn a place and she said No, they hadn't had to do the draw as they hadn't had more than twenty members apply, probably because a lot of them had seen the garden before. perhaps she had better email the other people who'd put their names on the list to let them know. I thought that would be a good idea, but it just goes to show the value of cheerful conversation. If she hadn't happened to mention it I would have spent the afternoon clipping my yew, and would have missed out on a really good garden tour.
Missed out fairly terminally, it turns out, because the owners have decided to stop opening to groups. One of their specialities is snowdrops, and after one garden club visit they discovered that a clump of a rare named form was missing. That is deeply depressing. I mean, it is depressing when people damage or nick things at all, but especially when they have got access to a private garden through their membership of a society, when you would hope people would know and be able to trust each other. So we were on the last group visit ever, unless the owners change their minds and relent.
It was a cottage garden near Lavenham, not huge though not tiny, on a south facing slope and what looked like stiff soil, though that can always be overcome for small and precious bulbs with raised beds and added grit. Fairly sheltered, south facing slope but near the bottom of the hill so cold air tends to roll downhill and settle in the garden. They have lost some things during the winter that have survived with us. Lavenham is significantly further inland than here and I'd guess winters are on average slightly colder.
The owners aim to make it a three hundred and sixty five days of the year garden, which is as gardens should be. On the last day of September after a very wet June and three extremely dry months there were asters, all varieties with small and dainty flowers, many colchicums, some true autumn flowering crocus, the last of the Amaryllis and Nerine, lots and lots of cyclamen (much better than mine), some tender salvias in pots (all varieties I grow here so I awarded myself one point for plant connoisseurship), some cheerful annuals though our host did apologise (needlessly in my view) for the brashness of the Tibouchina (tall and orange, and the other annual I asked about was grown from seed supplied by Derry Watkins' Special Plants Nursery, none of your Thompson and Morgan came-free-with-a-magazine happenstance).
The owners were very knowledgeable and very kind, answering questions, offering advice without the slightest hint of patronising, and scooping seed into tiny envelopes for those who asked or simply looked wistful. After being given tea and a very nice piece of home made sponge cake I found myself looking on while our hostess scooped seed of the uncommon and expensive Tulipa sprengeri into an envelope for me, and then marched off to fetch a long handled trowel with which she dug up half a dozen bulbs. The seeds she suggested scattering now where I want them to flower, and I am under instructions to see how the bulbs compare with the ones I have just bought. They don't look anything like them, and I know the ones she gave me must be the true thing, because I saw them being dug up by an expert right in front of me.