On 16th January, Frances Freeman, a long-standing member of the Society, gave an excellent talk on 'Influential Women in English Gardens,' having been inspired by a U3A course she attended at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester. Starting with Queen Mary (1662-94) who promoted flowers for every season, Frances listed other significant women such as Eleanor Coade (1733-1821) who introduced artificial stone (known as coadestone) for use in the garden; Jane Lowden (1807-1850) who favoured naturalistic gardening; Ellen Willmott (1858-1934), well-known for distributing seeds of eryngium in people's gardens, now known as Miss Wilmott's Ghost; Marianne North (1830-1890) whose outstanding flower paintings can be seen at Kew Gardens today; Beatrix Havergill (1901-1980) who in 1932 founded Waterperry Horticultural School near Oxford for women only; Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962) who spent years creating the gardens at Sissinghurst, including the well-known White Garden; Elsie Wagg (1907-1944) who in 1926 came up with the idea of the National Gardens Scheme which has raised millions for Charities. In more recent times Beth Chatto (1923-2018) coined the phrase "Right plant in the right place" and her gravel garden in dry Essex particularly illustrates this. Closer to home, three generations of women from the same family have helped to create the Kiftsgate Gardens, and Christina Williams , daughter of the late Mrs Clare McLaren-Throckmorton, developed the gardens at Coughton Court over a period of 17 years. Lastly, Frances spoke warmly about the Society's founder Chairperson, Lallie Cox, who together with her husband, Andy, created Woodpeckers at Marlcliff, well-known for its diverse collection of snowdrops and for raising thousands of pounds over the years for NGS Charities. Interestingly, women now make up 40% of the workforce at National Trust gardens, 28% of Head Gardeners and the vast majority of volunteer gardeners. Almost predictably, Frances won the evening's competition for the best flowering stem, with Annette Haines 2nd, Paul Reeves, 3rd and Pam Smith 4th. At the next meeting on Thursday, 20th February, we welcome Rob Cole, whose talk 'Personal Touches' will describe the use of ornaments in the garden. Rob is a previous speaker and owner of a beautiful garden in Feckenham which the Society has visited. There will also be a Bring and Buy Sale. Visitors (£3.50 including refreshments) are very welcome at any of our meetings on the third Thursday of the month at 7.30 for 8.00pm in the Crawford Memorial Hall, Bidford. For further information please call 01789 268974 or go to www.bidfordgardens.com