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Matthew Biggs, our special guest speaker for the 40th Anniversary Meeting (5/4/07) 

Matthew Biggs, the renowned gardening author and TV / radio personality joined in the 40th anniversary celebration of the Ilkley Gardeners' Association last Thursday and made it an event to remember.  He had travelled all day to arrive in Ilkley but was still able to enthral his large audience of over 100 with his enthusiastic story-telling.

He has been a TV presenter on "Garden Club" and "Grass Roots" as well as a regular on Gardeners' Question Time on radio.  This work has taken him all around the UK and his talk was entitled "The Back Gardens of Britain."  He showed slides of gardens all over the UK, from the Channel Islands to Scotland, and told stories about the gardens he saw and the gardeners who toiled in them.  He explained how privileged he felt to be made welcome by all these people who were so dedicated to their gardens and did his best to share his own passion for plants and their beauty with his audience.  Rarely has the Association welcomed such an inspiring speaker.

He showed slides of flowers, vegetables, small gardens and large gardens, all of which had one thing in common: they were all the results of the labour of a remarkable individual.  One woman grew only the rarest plants, travelling all over the UK to find them.  Another man grew only gourds.  Matthew described how he has come to believe that gardens often reflect the personality of their gardeners, be they flamboyant or staid.  He has also found that some people, almost invariably men, become obsessed with one garden feature, often the lawn or the hedge, illustrating this with a picture of a hedge trimmed to look like a castle.  It was a fascinating talk delivered with vivacity and suited the event perfectly.

Before his talk started, the Association members celebrated 40 years of success.  There was a remarkable cake fantastically decorated by Sarah Joynson with a garden scene including 3D daffodils.  Cava or juice was enjoyed by all and a great deal of effort was put into the event by members of the committee.  Historical archive material was on display, showing how things used to be, and many members reminisced as the conversation flowed.

Matthew Biggs and the Chairman (distracted from the floor!) cutting the Ruby Anniversary Cake.

After his talk finished Matthew kindly answered questions form the floor and also signed copies of his many books, including two only recently published.  He obviously enjoyed his visit as much as the Association members did.  Perhaps he should be booked for the 50th anniversary in 2017!

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