Garden Visitors (Friend or Foe)

Speaker: Kay Ashby
Date: 26th September

Kay Ashby

Kay Ashby


Our Show Manager, Geoff Tanton introduced Kay Ashby as a speaker who supported Perennial, The Gardeners’ Royal Benevolent Society, a gardening charity which has provided for gardeners and horticulturalist who needed help and support since 1839. Kay herself is a retired doctor and lives in West Marden.

She has had an interest in gardening from an early age. She has two acres of cottage style garden with woodland, vegetables, soft fruit and a small wild flower meadow. Kay told us that an Annual Dinner became the charity’s focus for fundraising and for a hundred years it continued to operate both as a pension fund subscribed by employees, typically head gardeners and as a charity drawing donations from the great and the good, royalty and aristocracy owning big gardens employing large staffs.

In 1852 Charles Dickens became one of the first of numerous “celebrities” who have added their weight to the task of attracting support. His powerful speech drew attention to the circumstances of the gardener at the end of his working life: “…His gains are not great and knows gold and silver more as being the colours of fruit and flowers than by their presence in his pockets. He is subjected to that kind of labour which renders him peculiarly liable to infirmity and when old age comes upon him, the gardener is, of all men perhaps, best able to appreciate the benefits of the Institution…” as time passed, they began to help people from other branches of horticulture, parks, horticultural trades which were growing in importance. In the 21st Century new needs are responded to, and new solutions to old and new problems found.

Kay stressed that the fee for her talk went to Perennial and not to her. We then launched into a light hearted 50 question quiz to find out how much we knew about our garden visitors and whether they were beneficial or not. For example, would you welcome a hover fly? What acid does a stinging nettle contain? Is a Colorado beetle striped or spotted? How many legs has a woodlice have?

After much fun and incredulity, two small prizes were awarded and we left with a little more knowledge than we came with.

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