The year started happily enough. We had a fine talk in February by Gillian Taylor about her ‘Greenhouse year’ and all the work she did moving plants and using her under cover space to best advantage although my heart did rather go out to her husband for all the work he had to do to keep up with her requests for more cold frames, staging and other constructions!


We followed that in March with our AGM and a very humorous lecture from Geoff Hawkins about ‘Growing Vegetables in Small Gardens’.


But that all came in the calm before the storm - or rather the storm before the calm - as we all went into national lockdown on March 23rd. The situation seemed so overwhelming at first with the advice that the more vulnerable of us should lock ourselves away for up to 12 weeks (little did we know….) that we cancelled any forward commitments and concentrated on getting our seeds, plants and compost delivered. Thanks to Mike Peacock for organising our discount at King’s Seeds again.


However, that is not the spirit of the East Meon Garden Club and in the words of Sheila van Dam of the windmill Theatre, “We never closed!”


The Committee pretty soon decided to purchase a subscription for ‘Zoom Pro’ allowing us to have as many participants for as long as we liked and organised a trial online conference to see how it would be received by our ‘tech-savvy’ members - of which there are many!


This ‘Open Forum’ proved such a success that we decided to organise an online meeting every month since. In May we had a discussion on plant propagation with lots of input from the Committee and the Members and in June the Chairman organised a video night using YouTube to show five gardens from around Britain. Although we severely stretched the broadband that evening with a few technical hiccups, the general feeling was that we’d tried to use the available technology to best effect and bring us views of gardens we could not visit.


This gave us the idea that if we’d had to cancel our Open Gardens weekend, then we could video them and show them at our next meeting. This proved a huge success  with some truly top quality videos being sent in by Linda Redpath and Libby Swayne (professionally produced I gather). Tony Swayne’s garden railway was also of note, but the Chairman taught himself to edit video files (having foolishly offered to do so) and many people sent in some very good footage. A most enjoyable evening!


Perhaps the most surprising event was the photo competition in August in place of our normal Annual Show. Two years ago there were only two photographs entered into the annual competition but this year we had 106 images from 22 entrants making it by far the most successful thing we’ve done this year and the best EMGC photographic competition ever. It was expertly judged by Richard Smith and the attendance to the Zoom meeting was correspondingly high.


Whilst there was some respite in the Coronavirus during the summer, Mary Chaplin kindly invited the Club to visit her garden at Little West End Farm on August 14th and many were really glad to take up her offer if not only to have the chance to meet friends and socialize!


In fact there was such an appetite to get out and socialize again, Clare and George Bartlett opened the Court house garden and Mary and Andy Hales did the same for Park Farm House, all deftly arranged and Covid-safe by members of the Committee. In the light of where we are currently in the January ‘lockdown’ these memories remain as little beacons of colour in a pretty grey year.


Back to more sedate and esoteric topics in September with a truly knowledgeable talk by James Rothwell on ‘The History of Greenhouses and Potting Sheds’. Beautiful shapes, beautiful buildings and a goodly dollop of the history of the science of growing things under glass.

Autumn saw us back to our original calendar, albeit via Zoom again with Ray Broughton’s October talk on Wall Shrubs and Climbers with so much information that it would have been useful to have a Classics degree to understand all the Latin!


We went slightly ‘off-piste’ in November with a full presentation from Gill Perkins, CEO of the Bumblebee Trust entitled ‘The Plight of the Bumblebee’ highlighting the pressure on bumblebees in our countryside. I believe we all learnt a great deal about these busy little creatures and how important they are to our gardens and food chain.


We finished the year with a light hearted talk by Richard Dampney entitled ‘From Hedgerow to Hangover’ describing the products, history and manufacturing of Dampney’s Remarkable Drinks and some of us took the opportunity to purchase a bottle (or three!) and a very jolly evening ensued!


So in summation, I believe your Club has in fact had a very good year. We have had regularly high attendance at our Zoom meetings, the largest ever entry to the photo competition, 21 garden videos were made and the membership has risen to over 120. Unfortunately income has not been high beyond the subscriptions received but there again expenditure has not been high either so the Club remains in a fair financial state too. Our thanks go to Tony Swayne for yet again agreeing to audit our accounts.


I’m proud to have been able to serve as your Chairman through this time, but the success of the Club is also due to the voluntary hard work put in by all the Committee. I would like to thank them for all their efforts and the work they do on your behalf.  Special thanks must go to Stewart (and Betty) Bussell who have decided to finally retire from being ‘head of the Expeditionary Force’ after the many years they have spent looking for and arranging such special gardens for us to visit during the summer months.

We look forward to another successful year in 2021 - whatever it brings!



David Lewin, Chairman, East Meon Garden Club, 07/01/2021