Lily-sniffing parties in Suffolk

Not far from where I garden in Suffolk is the exquisite village of Boxford full of the honey-coloured wood-framed houses that the county is so famed for. One has just come on the market but for those in the know, it isn't the house that's the big draw but the garden. For this was the home of Jenny Robinson, veteran plantswoman, who died aged 94 years old last August.

I never met Jenny but her reputation as a great 'Gardening Woman' lives on. So I'm delighted to reproduce (with their permission) short memories of Jenny from the latest edition of the Plant Heritage Suffolk Group Journal (Spring 2011).


[Jenny Robinson] persuaded many of us to join Plant Heritage (then the NCCPG) having been a founder and President of the Suffolk Group and was unstinting in her gifts of plants to be sold for the cause. For many years, Jenny kept the National Collection of Muscari in her garden and had one named Muscari 'Jenny Robinson' which she discovered in Cyprus. Two other plants from her garden she gave to us for distributing amonst members, Narcissus 'Osborne's Grey' and Narcissus 'Jenny's Little Sister'.

Her garden was a triumph and was still being opened to the public right up to the spring before her death in August [2010], four days before her 94th birthday.



Jenny's garden at Chequers, Boxford, [was] featured in Alvide Lees-Milne and Rosemary Verey's book, An Englishwoman's Garden, published in 1980.

Lilies were among her plant passions, and she was a member of the RHS Lily Committee, then the Lily Group Committee from 1976-89. Many friends will remember being summoned to her 'Lily-sniffing Parties', held at short notice on the summer evening when she judged the lilies in her garden to be at their best.



If you'd like to find out more about Plant Heritage or the local Plant Heritage group in Suffolk, please click on the links. They will be running the bi-annual Plant Fair at Helmingham Hall in Suffolk on Sunday 29 May which attracts dozens of specialist nurseries to the grounds of the famous gardens created by Xa Tollemache at Helmingham.

Attitudes to women and gardening in Cyprus

Do men and women garden differently in other countries? It certainly seems so according to Patricia Jordan who now lives in Cyprus and runs the Garden Club of Cyprus.

Patricia, and her husband, Howard, moved to Cyprus in 2000. Patricia had had a long and illustrious involvement in gardening in Scotland. In 2000, she was awarded the 'Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother's Medal' by the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society for outstanding service to Scottish Horticulture. For many years she was involved with the NCCPG running newsletters and plant exchanges, as well as holding three national collections of hosta, ligularia and anthemis tinctoria.

Web Pix

But Patricia was in for a bit of a surprise when they moved to Cyprus and it wasn't only about re-adjusting to the hot summer weather. [The week Patricia wrote to me, they had had temperatures of 45.6C.] She found she was taking on some unexpected challenges not least attitudes to women and gardening.

'It was rather like going back to the beginning of your book [Gardening Women], writes Patricia.  'Women are there to tend herbs and men do the serious gardening.  In fact when I first set about gardening here no man would talk to me about fruit and nut trees, which were new to us, so we set about working it out for ourselves. Since then I have written three books about gardening here, so I think have broken through the barrier at last!  My first book, The Cyprus Garden, has been translated into Greek, but is on hold due to the financial situation at the moment.

'I am aided by my under-gardener,[husband Howard], she adds, 'whom I [still have to] refer Cypriot men to for tree advice!'

Our April front garden  

Front May

Banksia Rose
Passiflora caerula