A year In a Cumbrian garden
Fifteen members of Asby WI met in the village hall for their monthly meeting when the speaker was Brenda Austin. Brenda’s theme was ‘A year In a Cumbrian garden’. In her talk she told how, 19 years ago, she had moved from Clifton in the Eden Valley to a 16th century house near Burneside which, at the time of the move, had an overgrown garden. This, to Brenda, was not a drawback as it meant she could indulge her love of gardening and create a garden of her own design.
Periodically reading extracts from the Wordsworths, Richard Mabey, Vita Sackville-West, John Evelyn, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Pliny and others, and with living plant visual aids, she explained how gradually she created a garden with plants and herbs that had culinary and medicinal uses, were particularly attractive to bees, and, in many instances, would have been found in gardens at the time her house was built. These last included goosefoot, sweet cicely, lovage and marigolds.
Her early-year plants included snowdrops, the lesser celandine (apparently Wordsworth’s favourite flower), pulmonaria and native daffodils (which sheep like to eat!). A number of the herbs had been brought into the UK by the Romans; nasturtiums were introduced from Peru in the mid-to-late 16th century; and Eleanor of Castille was responsible for bringing in the rose campion.
Brenda’s other emphasis in her garden is for native species many of which can be seen illustrated in the 15th century ‘Unicorn tapestries’ or mentioned in Shakespeare (‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in particular). These included heartsease, sweet woodruff (used on floors and in pillows, as well as an addition to wine), harebell and wild thyme. Her final plant on display was flax – which, as linen, goes towards another of Brenda’s hobbies – making Ruskin lace.
Carol Smith thanked the speaker for her interesting and informative talk which had also appealed to the members’ sense of smell as many of the examples were aromatic.
During the business meeting that followed refreshments provided by hostesses Carol Smith and Helen Cooper it was reported that the previous month’s meeting – an outing to Hexham – had been well supported and successful. Arrangements were made for the August meeting which is to be open to other WIs. At this Suzanne Herbert will demonstrate and talk about her ‘Bags for all Occasions’.
Raffle prizes were won by Jackie Lambert and Jackie Smart. The competition for a personally-taken photograph of a garden was won by Valerie Cooper with Pat Bevan second.