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Feature - Liz Wells, chairman of the East Anglian Gardens Group ANL-150206-082334009
Feature - Liz Wells, chairman of the East Anglian Gardens Group ANL-150206-082334009

The garden that winds its way through an acre of land behind Liz Wells’ home is building to a crescendo of late spring colour.

Delphiniums, aquilegeas and early roses are blooming and – for now at least – she has won the battle against rampaging ground elder.

Among the huge variety of plants in her lovingly-tended borders are blowsy, beautiful tree peonies she grew from seed.

And rarities like a dainty iris with ghostly blue-grey flowers mingle with cottage garden favourites against a backdrop of mature trees.

Like all the other gardeners preparing to welcome visitors to Boxford’s open gardens day on Sunday, Liz is working hard to get everything in tip-top condition.

The chairman of the East Anglian Gardens Group is joining in the event for the first time.

She and her musician husband Jeff have lived in their 500 year-old house in nearby Groton for almost five years.

“It was the garden that sold it to me. I could never live without a garden,” says Liz.

“When we moved in it had obviously once been much loved but had become rather neglected.

“I’ve been working on it ever since. The basics of a good garden were there, but I’m still making changes.”

She has just planted up a winter garden for all-year-round interest and her next project is a woodland area.

“At this time of the year I more or less spend all day, every day out here.

“I haven’t opened it to the public before because I kept thinking no, it isn’t ready. But in the end you can’t keep saying that.”

She has just returned from a trip to Ireland to see the famous wildflowers of the Burren in County Clare.

Visiting the renowned landscape with its natural limestone pavements was a long-time ambition.

“It has unique flora with plants like gentians and orchids growing in cracks in the pavements,” says Liz. “It’s the only thing that would get me away from the garden in May,”

But it also meant two weeks when her plot was free to go its own way at the height of the weed season.

“I’ve got a lot of catching up to do,” she says, pouncing on a rogue sow thistle.

More than 20 gardens in Boxford, Groton and Edwardstone will be open from 11am to 5pm on Sunday to raise money for St Mary’s Church, Boxford.

Refreshments will be available in Boxford village hall, plants and cakes will be on sale, and the church tower will be open.

A £5 ticket will admit visitors to all the gardens and a free shuttle bus service will run from Boxford village centre.

“People love open gardens,” says Liz. “It’s a very English thing.”

She used to be Suffolk organiser for the National Gardens Scheme under which owners of beautiful gardens throughout the country open them for charity.

Her connection with the East Anglian Gardens Group – a meeting point for all keen gardeners, amateur and professional – goes back 18 years.

“I’ve always been passionate about gardening. I grew up in that sort of environment.

“My father gardened until he was 94, and my grandmother till she was 100. She got a new fork for her 98th birthday.

“I know I’m a bit fanatical about it. I also write a blog called The Blooming Garden.”

Her children have inherited her love of plants. Daughter Anna, a clinical psychologist, is doing a diploma course at horticultural college. Photographer son John also adores gardening.

But husband Jeff has not caught the bug, although he helps with grass cutting and has constructed raised beds for vegetables.

“He’s not a gardener, and I’m glad about that. I don’t know how two people can work together on a garden. I need to do it my way, I don’t want opinions,” says Liz.

The East Anglian Gardens Group started more than 40 years ago as an exclusive society devoted to irises.

Its founders were renowned plantswoman Jenny Robinson who lived in Boxford, and famous artist and iris breeder Sir Cedric Morris whose home was in Hadleigh.

Now it has developed into a group of people with a much broader interest in gardening. Gone are the days when the committee vetted applicants to ensure they knew enough.

“We are always looking for enthusiastic new members,” says Liz.

Each monthly meeting at Hitcham village hall has an expert speaker, with writer Anna Pavord and garden historian Dr Twigs Way lined up for next year.

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