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October 2013

Miss Ellen Willmott
 This month we held the club's AGM

Anne was re-appointed as Chairman

Kathy was re-appointed as Treasurer

Cath was re-appointed as Secretary

The AGM was followed by a short talk - given by Anne - about Miss Ellen Willmott of Warley Place.

Here are some of the highlights;

Ellen took the horticultural world by storm. She joined the Royal Horticultural Society, which demanded more than just paying a subscription in those days, she broached the male preserve of the Narcissus Committee and proceeded to win four consecutive Gold Medals for her daffodils, which were her first great passion. At Warley they flowered in yellow, cream and white rivers, drifts and seas, all across the vast lawns and under the trees.
For Queen Victoria's Jubilee, when the RHS instituted the Victoria Medal of Honour, its highest award, for 60 horticultural greats, Gertrude Jekyll and Ellen were listed with 58 men: Miss Jekyll graciously dubbed Ellen "the greatest of all living women gardeners".
Unlike Jekyll, Ellen was not interested in garden design, though she could plant as "artistically" as anyone, but she had amassed a phenomenal knowledge of plants. She presented Kew with a collection of 15,000 sheets of herbarium specimens of European natives, and it is said that she grew over 100,000 different species and cultivars of trees, shrubs and flowering plants at Warley, which was spoken of in the same breath of awe as Kew or Edinburgh's Botanics.
Other ghosts survive in the willmottiae and warleyensis hybrids of shrubs, narcissus, primula, roses and tulips that fill our gardens. One plant above all, more appropriately named than any, is the tall, elegant form of sea holly, with silvery-blue thistly heads, each with a translucent silver and exceedingly prickly ruff, Eryngium giganteum, unofficially known as `Miss Willmott's Ghost'.