The recent high winds and rain held off and the sun came out while members drifted into several groups to visit various parts of the garden.
Elsebeth and her late husband have gardened there for over 25 years and the now mature orchards, carpeted beneath with wild alyssum and other small flowering plants, were laden with citrus trees and avocadoes.
Elsebeth is a dedicated gardener who, she told us, smuggled cuttings from the vanilla plant flown across continents before before arriving in her conservatory. They grew so well that they had to be found a new home. So last year she imported an aluminium greenhouse from Denmark in which to house these delicate plants. So far the plants in the greenhouse are learning to settle into their new environment but the mother plant in the conservatory has, at last, produced bean pods. When these pods begin to flower they need to be hand-pollinated - and there are only 12 hours in which to do so with special tools (in Elsebeth's case dentists' tools). In the wild the plants are pollinated by the Melipona bee. The plant was first discovered by conquistador Herman Cortes in 1520 but attempts at propagating the plant failed until, in 1841 a slave, Edmond Albias, who lived on the French island of Reunion, discovered the method of hand pollination. Due to these labour-intensive methods vanilla is the second most expensive plant in the world after saffron.
After the tour we all enjoyed tea, coffee and Elsebeth's home made cakes in the conservatory and also had the chance to tour her beautiful and interesting antique filled house.
I think all members left the meeting impressed and inspired by both Elsebeth and her surroundings.
We we were pleased to welcome two new members, Louise and Doug. ...................... won the raffle prize.
Thanks too to Chris and Linda who brought produce from their garden and to Gill Jordan and Brian Kirk who brought along some plants for the plant sale.