Meeting on November 19th , 2018

Now that the days are getting shorter and we are putting our gardens to bed for the winter, we start to think of how we might change and develop our gardens in the Spring. Amanda Goody’s fascinating and  very well researched talk on Margery Fish gave us some inspiration as to how we might revamp our gardens for the New Year.

It was reassuring to learn that Margery only became a serious gardener when she was 60, after the death of her husband, Walter Fish, a former editor of the Daily Mail. Margery had not responded to her parents’ desire for help in the garden when she was a girl. She had attended secretarial college and focused on a career as a top secretary in London. When her husband decided that they should move out of London in the late 1930s, because he feared that they would not be safe if another war broke out, they found East Lambrook Manor in South Petherton, Somerset.

At first, it was Margery’s husband who controlled the development of the garden. He organized the clearing of heaps of rubbish that had been dumped in the garden of what was an empty property. Margery had to help with this task and go along with his master plan for structure and order. Amanda described Walter as a micromanager! Paths were constructed and trees planted. Margery gradually began to rebel and infiltrate her own taste. She acquired some clematis of her own choice in addition to those selected by her husband. She neglected the watering of his dahlias, which she hated, in favour of nurturing the cottage plants which were her passion. Walter was older than her and he gradually became less and less able to direct the gardening. After his death from a heart attack in 1947, Margery went through a period of grieving, when the garden got neglected. She did travel to America though, and got inspiration from the gardens she saw there, and the designers she met.

Eventually, when she was 60, Margery was back in England and she put all her energy into developing her garden. She was gardening until a week before her death in 1969, and her family remembers her going out to garden in her evening dress, so obsessed was she with her plants. Amanda was not suggesting that we copy this approach, but some of Margery’s other ideas are more transferable to our gardens! She loved snowdrops and cultivated over 200 varieties. She also liked other spring and late winter plants such as hellebores. Summer planting included aquilegias and astrantias. She wanted every space filled in the borders and even in the cracks and crevices in walls and paths.

Margery was very friendly and sociable, so she rapidly made good relations with the owners of nearby properties in Somerset like Brympton D’Evercy and Tintinhull as well as famous garden designers from further afield such as Christopher Lloyd at Great Dixter and Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst. Margery copied the use of silver, white and soft colours from Sissinghurst. By the end of the talk, we had plenty to inspire us in our gardens and several of us would like to visit East Lambrook Manor.

The next meeting of the History Society will be on Monday, January 21 st 2019, at 8.00pm in the Church Barn. Our speaker will be Dr Anne Daye who is an expert on historical dance. She will talk about Dance as an Entertainment 1750 – 1850, as before modern media, it would have been a popular entertainment in Biddenham. This should be a lively and interesting talk and may contain some practical elements! I hope you will be able to come. I will have the programme cards for 2019 -2020 available at this meeting.

Kathy Fricker

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