To commence the April meeting of the Dawlish Garden Society, our speaker Jess Evans, chose the flower of the month “The Bride” or Pearl Bush (Exochorda macrantha) which was brought by member Eileen Lowry. The chocolate hippopotamus raffle prize was won by Celia Timms.
Awards were presented to the winners of last months Spring Flower Show with the overall winner, David Chattock, retaining the trophy for another year.
The Summer show programme – this year in full colour – which will be available from various locations in town was available on the night, fresh from the printers, members were asked to please support the local advertisers.
Jess is the Head Gardener at the National Trust property Knighthayes Court, a 260 acre estate of mixed woodland of which 30 acres are formal garden. William Burgess, of the Honiton Lace making family,  planned and laid out the original garden in conjunction with Edward Kemp in 1869. This is a woodland style garden of national significance, renowned for design, beauty and it’s botanical collection.
The garden has always has an innovative ethos, Burgess and Kemp maintaining a reputation for experimentation and being pioneers in horticulture. This was continued during the tenure of head gardener for 40 years, Michael Hickson, achieving the much valued Victoria Medal of Honour by the RHS.
Jess explained the current team of 8 gardeners which she heads and some 60 much appreciated volunteers try to continue the development of this special place. In the past there would have been 17 full time gardeners employed but these days the walled kitchen garden grows fruit and veg for the cafe and to sell to visitors. There is a 2 acre nursery which by the end of the year will be fed only by rainwater. She is ambitious for the future of the gardens which have over a hundred county, country and national champion trees in the grounds she said “ I love to climb trees for the spectacular views”.

There are collections of Coleus, Hydrangea, Heritage tomatoes and over 800 Rhodendron plants.
After questions from members, the Chairman thanked Jess for such an enthusiastic talk with everyone eager to visit Kinghtshayes Court very soon.
Next event is a Plant Sale and Raffle at the Strand Centre, Saturday May 19th 10-1. On Thursday May 31st the meeting is appropriately “Preparing for the local show “. All welcome £1 members £2 visitors to include refreshments and raffle.

Image from Knightshayes, National Trust Website