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Notes from a New Member

Positively quivering with excitement, Howard writes of the pleasure and relief of finding he is 'not alone'.
Howard Hale, 43 Richard Road, Broom Valley, Rotherham, S. Yorkshire S60 2PQ, UK
Chamaerops No.30 Spring 1998

My love for tropical looking plants started several years ago, following numerous trips to the Mediterranean and beyond on my annual holidays, something I would imagine that has happened to a lot of EPS members. I would travel around these warm, sun-kissed places with my head in the air, constantly staring upwards at the palm trees and yuccas wondering how nice it would be to be able to grow some of these spiky beauties back home in South Yorkshire. Well, little did I know that with a bit of effort and knowledge as well as selecting the right plants, the exotic effect could be achieved.

I cannot claim to be an expert gardener or botanist, having no formal training or qualifications in these fields. Indeed I have trouble remembering all the Latin names for the collection of plants that I have acquired, although they are slowly sinking in However, I do not intend to write an article about a specific plant or group of plants, (I think I will leave that to the experts) or indeed about my garden, as proud as I am of it. No, I would like to tell the readers of Chamaerops about my experiences with the fine members of the society that I have had the privilege to meet.

Shortly after subscribing to the society I received my first magazine which contained the marvellous article about Richard Darlow's wonderful garden in Barnsley. I had seen this garden on television on ‘Gardeners World’ prior to this and had always wished to visit it especially since Barnsley is only a very short drive up the M1 motorway. So after a long and interesting conversation on the phone with Richard, l was all set to visit the following Saturday.

The visit was extremely inspiring and encouraged me to pursue even more my desire for an exotic looking garden. Richard is an exceptionally nice person and couldn’t do enough to make me feel welcome. I had hundreds of questions to ask him and he was only too pleased to answer them all with a great deal of enthusiasm. He also put me in touch with one or two other members, both locally and around the country, that have contacted since.

My first excursion was down to Chesterfield to visit Trevor Key’s national Yucca collection at Renishaw Hall. Again Trevor treated me like a long lost friend and took great pleasure in showing me around all of his collection, it was a day that I will always remember, set in the wonderful grounds of this stately home. Needless to say I came away from there with a small collection of my own which are all growing well In my own garden.

My next encounter with EPS members was on PALM SUNDAY the unbelievable day out at Greg Plenty’s and Richard Darlow’s gardens, which has been well documented in Chamaerops no. 22. This whole day was unbelievable and I, together with a large number of other visitors, didn’t want it to end. The people that I met there were all fantastic and because of the common interest that we all share we all got on very easily. I felt like a kid in a sweet shop wanting to join into every conversation and share even my limited information with others as well as listening intently to what was said by the more experienced amongst us. I personally gained a lot of knowledge and met a lot of new friends that day and I went home with every intention of meeting some of them again.

Indeed on my next journey I drove all the way down to Hampshire to visit a very knowledgeable and interesting man by the name of John Churcher John’s garden is like an Aladdin’s cave to the likes of myself, full of palms, yuccas, agaves, cactus and numerous other exotics, including a number of plants that I would have never thought possible to grow in the U.K. Talking to John was more informative than reading a dozen text books and after a very enlightening and very long day of being pampered and spoilt. I left with a 'bootfull' of goodies to take home with me.

Closer to home I quickly made friends with local members such as Roy Clarke from Doncaster and Dr. Simon Olpin from Sheffield. Both of whom have written articles in Chamaerops and have marvellous exotic gardens here in (‘sub tropical’) South Yorkshire.

The icing on the cake, so far, has been the magnificently organised trip to the ‘English Riviera’ with Richard Darlow and approximately 20 other members and partners. This get together was a holiday that I will never forget. Initially I was a little dubious about taking 5 days out of my limited annual holidays from work, to take my sceptical wife on a gardening holiday, which I must admit I thought would maybe turn out to be a “my Trachycarpus Is bigger than yours” competition. But this couldn’t have been further from the truth. Everyone without exception was terrific and we all got on like a house on fire.

The more experienced amongst the crew were only too pleased to share their knowledge with the rest of us and I for one came away with a much better understanding of how to grow, propagate and even protect these beautiful plants that we all love. The people themselves were from all walks of life varying from shop floor workers to company directors, there was even a very entertaining doctor, who along with his other half (also in the medical business) my wife and myself shared a few very pleasant evenings together with, indulging in beverages that I thought doctors frowned upon. The number of people that we met and made friends with are too many to name, but I must stress they were all absolutely marvellous, and undoubtedly a lot of long lasting friendships will have been made from this get together. It is nice to know that in this day of increasing crime and violence that there are still people like those I have had the good fortune to meet since I joined the European Palm Society, and I would like to thank all the marvellous members that I have met for being the way that they are and I would also like to say a big thank you to the society for making this all possible. THANK YOU!


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