Kent Alpine Gardener's Diary
This entry: 23 September 2015 by Tim Ingram
Lady Margaret Fitzwalter
In February 2014 I wrote this piece about the Snowdrop and Hellebore day held by the Kent Hardy Plant Society at Goodnestone Park Garden, near to Canterbury in Kent:
Sadly Lady Margaret Fitzwalter, who was the driving force behind the garden, has recently passed away. This is a tribute to her that I have been asked to write for the Newsletter of the Kent HPS.
Gardeners in Kent, especially members of the Hardy Plant and Alpine Garden Societies, have had such a long connection with Lady Margaret Fitzwalter and her Garden at Goodnestone Park, near to Canterbury, that there will be a great sadness at her passing. Those nursery-people amongst us will feel this more than most, having stood out in all weathers at Plant Sales and Shows and come to know Margaret and the garden well. For very many years she had close relationships with various nurseries and gardens in Kent, including Peter Moore at Tile Barn - where she was evacuated during the 2nd World War - Elizabeth Strangman and Graham Gough at Washfield Nursery and Marchants, and Mary Dawes at Mount Ephraim.
Margaret’s close association with the HPS in Kent has been valuable both for the Society and for Goodnestone and her generosity led to our Flower Show and Plant Fairs being held there many times, in particular the regular ‘Snowdrop and Hellebore Extravaganza’, held in February each year since 2002. This event came about through informal discussion between Margaret, Graham Gough (who coined the description ‘Extravaganza’) and myself (as Treasurer of the Kent HPS) and is proof that gardeners will come out in numbers in the coldest days of winter, given a fine garden and warm welcome.
In the first year we combined the Plant Sale with a talk from Graham on ‘A Nurseryman’s Lot’ at nearby Lower Hardres Village Hall. The following year Val Bourne spoke on snowdrops in the Tea room at Goodnestone. From then on we have had a succession of notable speakers in the newly converted lecture room, from David Stephens on ‘Crocus’, Janine Doulton on ‘Narcissus’, Rod Leeds on ‘Winter and Spring Bulbs’, to Katie Price from Kew on ‘Spring Beauties from the Forest Floor’ - all highlighting the way that snowdrops and hellebores presage what is to come in the garden. Margaret herself was keen to develop and emulate the snowdrop gardens in more central parts of the country, and the drifts of bulbs have grown year by year.
On the tenth anniversary Sue Robinson made a Snowdrop Cake to present to Margaret on behalf of the Society, an example of the great esteem in which she was held by us all. She was always intimately involved with all the events held at Goodnestone, regardless of the weather, right up until this year. Personally I remember sitting in the kitchen and dining room next to the imposing portico of Goodnestone, sharing soup and talking about plants and nurseries, and admiring pictures by the youngest members of her family all around the room, and coming away with a potful of homemade marmalade! She was a good friend to have, a very good gardener, and a great supporter of the Hardy Plant Society in Kent, and will be sadly missed.
There will be many others outside the AGS and HPS who knew Margaret well and a wider view of her life and accomplishments is given here: