Picnic celebrates Thetford’s RHS Hampton Court Flower Show success
Jubilant residents enjoyed a celebratory picnic to mark how their community came together to help build a showgarden depicting the story of their town - and beat some of the country’s finest gardeners to a top prize in the process.
Jane Varanand, Maggie Findlay, Anne Short and Marilyn Barrett started their ambitious project with just one aim - to respond to what they felt as a “negative attitude” about Thetford and set the record straight.
Yet after enlisting the help of garden designer Luke Heydon and the support of the whole Thetford community - from donations from residents to materials such as true Breckland soil to produce the garden - the project exceeded all expectations when it was awarded a silver gilt at this year’s RHS Hampton Court Flower Show.
On Sunday the four ladies - who called themselves the Monday Morning Club, as that was the day of the week when they first met about the project - held a picnic at The Forgotten Garden, in Ford Street, Thetford, to thank their supporters and put up boards displaying the names of everyone who backed the bid.
Mrs Varanand said afterwards: “Everything this afternoon summed up people’s opinions. They were as jubilant for us as they were before. It is still very much in people’s minds because it was such an achievement.
“It wasn’t just four ladies - the whole of Thetford was involved. It was such a community thing and everyone has the right to feel very much a part of it.
“It just goes to show what people can do when they put their minds to it and what they can achieve. The sky is the limit.”
After coming up with the concept, the Monday Morning Club created what they called The Flintknapper’s Garden, which depicted the town’s most famous figures - including Thomas Paine, the political theorist, and Captain Mainwaring, of Dad’s Army, which was filmed nearby.
But with no commercial backing, it relied on the support of Thetford residents and business to sponsor the project and supply materials, with poppies grown by the local allotment society and plants cultivated by nearby growers.
Many of the plants could be found in the Breckland landscape, while others reflected the town’s immigrant populations and came from suppliers such as Howard Nurseries in Wortham, Robin Tacchi Plants in Garboldisham and Sandy Lane Nursery in Wattisfield.
Flintwork is widely used in and around Thetford, so many parts of the garden - including the path - were made from the material, with wild cornfield flowers mixed with rye, wheat and wild oats, showing the area’s productive man-made landscape.
The Charles Burrell Works business that once supplied steam-powered engines throughout the world was depicted using an iron wheel.
One of the main sponsors was Barchester Healthcare, which runs the Ford Place Nursing Home where Sunday’s event took place.
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