Hampstead Garden Suburb in North-West London was founded by Mrs (later Dame) Henrietta Barnett in May 1907. Just two years later Hampstead Garden Suburb Horticultural Society came into existence on 20 May 1909, as the very first society on the Suburb and the only one to survive to the present day more or less in its original form. Shows were held in the Institute Hall, at Garden Suburb School and the Clubhouse, Willifield Way (destroyed by bombs). Since the Second World War, most shows and some larger lectures have been held at the Free Church Hall, Northway, with smaller meetings, plant sales and lectures at Fellowship House, Willifield Way (the site of the old Clubhouse).
|In late November Mrs Henrietta Barnett issues an invitation to discuss matters to do with the ‘Horticultural Association’.
|On 20 May a meeting is held at The Institute to discuss the Objects and Rules of the Horticultural Society, having as its purpose the promotion of interest in horticultural matters. A group of interested residents meets with Mrs Barnett to form a committee of 11 members and three officers. Membership costs one shilling.
|On Wednesday 18 August Miss Kate Hall, ‘creator of a beautiful and famous Municipal Garden,’ judges a Suburb gardens competition.
|On August Bank Holiday the first ever Flower Show is held in a marquee on Central Square.
|On 4 September in the same year the first Autumn Show is held at the Institute, Central Square.
|From 1910 there are three shows a year and, for some time, there is a fourth show of spring bulbs.
|Annual show schedules are delivered to each of the 750 houses on the Suburb.
|Mrs Barnett opens the Autumn Show. There is a background musical programme from 3-8pm.
|Domestic economy classes (cooking, baking and preserves of the kind still in existence today) are introduced for the first time.
|On August Bank Holiday a new class for ‘an arranged floral exhibit’ is brought in. The winning exhibit consists of roses, clarkia, phlox and godetia.
|The Suburb Allotments Association is formed. It survives for one year on its own and then amalgamates with the Horticultural Society. It is now administered by the Residents Association.
|Two classes for beekeepers are introduced but there are no entries. In 1923 there are two entries and after this there are successful honey classes for many years.
|In the early 1920s, the number of classes for children increases.
|This is the year of The Suburb’s ‘coming of age’ celebrations and the Horticultural Society organises a Suburb Gardens competition. The Society is described by a local paper as ‘one of the largest, if not the largest, in Great Britain, with 1200 members.’
|On the 30th anniversary of its foundation, the Society introduces the use of its own containers (bowls, vases, etc). Until then, competitors have provided their own.
|No shows are held during the Second World War.
|A very slim Handbook is produced after the war, but by 1947 things are back to normal. The Handbooks begin to have colourful covers, using various reproductions and artists, including top commercial artist Donald Oliver and, later, Len Potiphar.
|The 100th Flower Show is held in the Free Church Hall in the presence of the Mayor of Hendon and other civic dignitaries.
|There are special exhibits to celebrate the coronation of HM The Queen.
|On the occasion of The Suburb’s Jubilee, the Lord Mayor of London and the Mayors of Hendon and Finchley visit the Flower Show held in the Henrietta Barnett Junior School Hall (Bigwood House).
|BBC Gardeners’ Question Time visits the Society for the first time.
|For the Society’s 50th anniversary, the Autumn Show is opened by local resident and cartoonist Gerard Hoffnung and the Mayor and Mayoress of Hendon, Stephen and Mary Graves. The Mayor also happens to be the Society’s President. The Jubilee Trophy and Jubilee Medals are awarded for the first time.
|Members’ gardens are opened to the public.
|Although there are special features at the Shows to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Society, no precise details are known.
|At the June Show local resident and actor Gabriel Woolf presents a special prize for an iced cake to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and presents the children’s prizes for special Silver Jubilee classes. There is music by members of Barnet Schools Brass Band and a display of country dancing.
|Due to a catastrophic fire in the Free Church Hall, the Society is forced to hold its June Show in the Institute Hall and the July and September Shows at Bigwood House.
|In the 70th anniversary year of the Society, HM The Queen Mother visits several members’ gardens as patron of the London Gardens Society. She is presented with a 1979 Handbook and a painting by Show Secretary and well-known amateur painter Len Potiphar.
|The Society’s Shows return to the re-built Free Church Hall and the Society issues a special souvenir issue of its annual Handbook to mark the Queen Mother’s visit in the previous year.
|The Society participates in the special show to celebrate The Suburb’s 75th anniversary.
|Many special events are held to commemorate the Society’s 80th anniversary. The BBC Gardeners’ Question Time team pays a return visit to The Suburb for a recording on 4 January, which is broadcast on 29 January. The Society holds a tape recording of the transmission.
|The Mayor of Barnet opens the June Show and cuts a large iced cake.At the September Show the Free Church Minister, Rev Peter Barraclough, and John Marshall MP plant a Cheal’s Weeping Cherry tree in front of the Free Church Hall.
|Many residents bring apples from their gardens to the ‘Great Apple Hunt’ at the September Show for expert identification, in order to find out how many apple species exist on The Suburb, and also to attempt to establish how many of Dame Henrietta’s original apple trees survive to the present day.
|By invitation from the Common Ground organisation, The ‘Great Apple Hunt’ is recreated at Covent Garden at its very first Apple Day event in October (now an annual national event). It is also mentioned in the book on vanishing orchards published in the same year by Common Ground.
|The number of annual Flower Shows is reduced from three to two.
|On the 90th anniversary of the Society’s foundation, cakes are cut by the Rev. Tony Spring of the Free Church at the July Show and by the Vicar of St Jude’s, Alan Walker at the September Show.An exhibition showing the Society’s history is mounted at the September Show, opened by the Deputy Mayor and Mayoress, Cllr Jeremy Davies and his mother Marjorie Davies.
|The Horticultural Society mounts a small exhibition with other societies at the Free Church Hall as part of the Millennium Suburb Festival on 8 July. It holds its first annual Suburb in Bloom competition, first as part of Barnet in Bloom, and later independently.
|An enhanced annual programme is launched. Regular members’ newsletters are published. Local Suburb residents and TV personalities Jonathan Ross and his wife Jane Goldman accept the Society’s invitation to become joint Hon. Presidents. They make their first visit to open the Flower Show on 23 June. Broadcaster Bob Flowerdew gives the Autumn Lecture on 9 October. Former Show Secretary Len Potiphar reaches his 100th birthday. The Millennium Cup is presented for the first time to the winner of Suburb in Bloom.
|Jonathan Ross and Jane pay their second visit, this time to the September Show. Councillor John Marshall unveils a painting by the late Len Potiphar in The Orchard. There is a guided walk with open gardens in association with the Hampstead and Highgate Festival.
|Members’ gardens are now opened each year. The UK’s leading organic herb grower, Jekka McVicar, gives the Society’s Autumn Lecture.
|Members of the Society present four silver birch trees to the Balsall Heath Forum, Birmingham, 2003 winners of a Britain in Bloom award for transforming their area. Photography and homemade drinks classes are re-introduced into the Show schedules.
|The Society hosts its first ‘Fungus Walk’ on Hampstead Heath.
|A new Gardening Quiz is introduced to the programme in April. At the June Show joint Hon Presidents Jonathan Ross and Jane Goldman judge the first family scarecrow competition. Jacques Amand gives the Autumn Lecture on ‘Spring Bulbs’. In December 2006 the Society is awarded £3,000 in lottery funding from Awards for All England to cover the design, construction and installation of a raised commemorative flowerbed on Willifield Green to celebrate Hampstead Garden Suburb’s centenary in 2007.
|On 31 March a special Spring Show is put on at Fellowship House to celebrate the Suburb’s centenary (the first spring show in living memory).
|In April, the new raised flowerbed is constructed on Willifield Green. Planted up by children from Year 2 of Garden Suburb Infants School and members. Designed by Stephen Crisp and unveiled on Wednesday 2 May by Jonathan Ross and Jane Goldman as part of the official Suburb Centenary opening festivities. Later awarded bronze medal from London Gardens Society and third prize and certificate of excellence from Barnet in Bloom.
|On 21 May a Henrietta Barnett rose is launched on Harkness Roses stand at Chelsea Flower Show with Horticultural Society members and Suburb resident Lord Robert Winston and Cleve West (gardening journalist and designer).
|In June members of committee participate in Suburb Centenary Pageant, as the first society on the Suburb and still in existence.
|A record 21 gardens and two allotment sites are opened to the public on 10 June.
|First Horticultural Society website is created.
|Centenary sub-committee set up to co-ordinate preparations for 100th anniversary celebrations in 2009.
|Second Spring Show held at Fellowship House on 15 March.
|Family Treasure Hunt held for first time on 18 May.
|Suburb Centenary commemorative flowerbed on Willifield Green re-designed by Stephen Crisp. Later wins Silver Medal from London Gardens Society and Third Prize from Barnet in Bloom.
|Jonathan Ross and Jane Goldman once again open the June Flower Show and judge the scarecrow competition, which has a record number of entries. More than 200 people visit the show.
|‘Gardening Buddy Scheme’ launched on 25 September: an informal advice service bringing together experienced gardening members and members with queries about their own gardens.
|The Mayor of Barnet, Councillor John Marshall, presents the prizes at the Annual General Meeting on 25 November to launch the Society’s Centenary year in 2009.
|20 May: Centenary of the foundation of Hampstead Garden Suburb Horticultural Society by Dame Henrietta Barnett and early residents.First meeting 1909 and cartoon (pdf)First Flower Show (pdf)
Many celebratory events: Centenary Spring Show with special exhibitions opened by Cllr John Marshall, Mayor of Barnet, Ruth Smith leads guided walk (the Edwardian Suburb), outing to Buckingham Palace, record numbers attend Specialist Nurseries Plant Sale and June Show (where Jonathan Ross and family again open the show and judge the scarecrow competition). Grand unveiling of centenary flowerbeds by Henry Kelly, who also opens Centenary Rose Festival in Fellowship House on 18 July, Almost 100 members and friends enjoy summer garden party with live music, again record numbers attend the Autumn Flower Show and Centenary Apple Hunt and, in the tradition of Dame Henrietta Barnett, a brass band (Grimsdyke Brass of Harrow) plays all afternoon in the Free Church Hall garden. Fergus Garrett of Great Dixter talks about Christopher Lloyd and Dixter in November. The Garden Buddy Scheme goes from strength to strength and membership creeps up to just short of 500, a record for recent years. After winning many prizes, the raised flowerbed on Willifield Green is dismantled and its contents auctioned off at the end of the year. At the 2009 AGM, the Karton Centenary Cup, presented by Erna and Harold Karton, is presented for the first time. Also at the AGM, the society’s bronze Jubilee medals are discontinued and replaced by silver Centenary medals.
|With no special anniversaries this year, the society enjoys its usual lectures, a Winter supper quiz evening, coach trips, the Plant Sale, Summer and Autumn Flower Shows, the Suburb in Bloom competition and the Scarecrow competition at the June show, judged as usual by Jonathan Ross and Jane Goldman.
|In January, the Society hosts a lecture jointly with Hampstead Authors Society for a talk on the history of the rose by local author, Jennifer Potter. In February, a packed Fellowship House sees another innovation – the Society’s first ever ‘Seed Swap’, backed up by a lecture and workshop on growing seeds. From now on a seed swap will be held every other year. A donation is made to Abbeyfield Residential Home in Erskine Hill and committee members’ assistance is given to improve the main flowerbed there. Many members open their gardens on 19 June in aid of the North London Hospice and the Society. This event is combined with a small rose festival and teas in Fellowship House. There are several enjoyable outings and more lectures, as well as two successful flower shows, with Grimsdyke Brass paying a return visit to the September show.
|Apart from all the usual annual activities, outings, etc., the Society organised its first-ever three-day excursion from 8-10 July – to six beautiful gardens in Norfolk and Suffolk. At the June Show, Hon President Jonathan Ross judged a highly suggesful children’s fancy dress competition (with the children dressed as flowers, fruit or vegetables), and an adults’ fancy hats competition on the same theme. At the September show, Grimsdyke Brass from Harrow paid a return visit to play in the garden of the Free Church Hall.
|A year with both historical highs and lows. On 11 June, three members, Diane Berger, Marjorie Harris and Yvonne Oliver, were honoured by a highly-successful and enjoyable visit to their gardens by HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, in his capacity as Patron of the London Gardens Society. Due to the terrible winter and late spring, the Summer Show in June was lacking in many of its usual entries, ie, very unusually, there was no soft fruit at all on display. However, by contrast, the Autumn Show in September had one of the best and largest displays ever, due to the warm summer, including five trugs full of beautiful vegetables and salads, which is a higher number than anyone can remember. As usual, Jonathan Ross judged the fancy dress and fancy hats competitions in June and Grimsdyke Brass entertained the crowd at the September Show. At the AGM held in November, Yvonne Oliver was elected as the society’s first Vice-Chairman, and was also very successful in the London Gardens Society small front and back gardens competitions.
|The Society maintained its membership levels at approximately 400, and had a good year, with a varied programme of events and good weather for gardening and growing. This meant that more people were able to enter all the classes in the shows, which were both successful in terms of numbers of entries and visitors. Jonathan Ross opened the show and judged the children’s fancy dress and adults’ fancy hats in June and Grimsdyke Brass paid another return visit to the September show. During the summer, children created miniature gardens and planted flowers at an event held at the Garden Suburb Community Library for the first time. The Society also welcomed Jim Buttress and friends for a well-attended Gardeners’ Question Time. This year, the majority of meetings were held in the small hall of the Free Church Hall in Northway during the period of refurbishment at its normal meeting place – Fellowship House. As in 2013, several members who were also members of the London Gardens Society did well in LGS competitions, with Diane Berger coming first and winning a cup in the best large back garden class.
|2015 was a busy year, with a Seed Swap, a trip to Wisley, a talk by Dennis Lynch from Sunshine Garden Centre, and a trip to Borde Hill and High Beeches. The very popular Plant Sale was followed by the June Show, the Suburb in Bloom Garden Competition and Suburb Open Gardens. July began with a three-day visit to the gardens of Shropshire and Cheshire, followed in August by a trip to Capel Manor and Daisy Roots Nursery. The September Show was followed by a talk on Biddulph Grange the following month by Russell Bowes. Between all these events Committee members found time to encourage future gardeners in local schools to grow flowers and vegetables in their school gardens. Bulb-planting and miniature garden workshops were held in Garden Suburb Community Library in the Market Place for enthusiastic primary school-aged children. Other activities included helping with the planning and planting in the new Fellowship House garden and the contribution of floral displays to the St Edwards’s Church Flower Festival. Membership again stood at approximately 400.
|This year the society trialled ‘first timer’ baking and preserving classes and classes for floral and ‘grow-your-own’ exhibits at both shows for those who had never entered competitions before. Unfortunately, they were not a success and the committee decided to discontinue the experiment in future years. To mark the 90th birthday of HM The Queen, the subject of the flower-arranging competition was ‘Happy Birthday your Majesty’, and those entering the children’s fancy dress competition in the Free Church Hall garden in June dressed up as royalty. Grimsdyke Brass played at the Autumn Show and the Millennium Cup for Suburb in Bloom was awarded to Marjorie Harris.
|In 2017 the National Gardens Scheme celebrated 90 years of opening private gardens across England & Wales for charity, and as part of the celebrations, Hampstead Garden Suburb Horticultural Society opened some of its most beautiful gardens for the NGS as a group for the first time on Sunday 25th June. As well as opening the garden gates of nine private gardens and one of the numerous allotment sites, there were home-made teas at Fellowship House and two professional nurseries sold seasonal plants in the garden. There was a treasure trail for children, and a raffle for the grown-ups! Maps were provided to guide visitors to the Open Gardens via the Suburb’s roads, twittens and woods. £5585 was raised for the NGS, the highest total for a London group opening in 2017.
|For the first time, the Horticultural Society organised a Grow Potatoes in a Bag Competition, which proved very popular. In February over 80 adults and children collected seed potatoes and growing bags, planted them at the end of March, nurtured them and many brought their sacks of potatoes to the June Flower Show to be emptied out, counted and weighed. Children’s prizes for the heaviest crop and the heaviest single potato were awarded to Sebastien Eames, aged three. Adult first prize for the largest crop went to Anthony Hewstone, and the heaviest potato prize was won by Jane Herbert. The cake recipes for the June and September shows were Lemon Drizzle Cake and Wholemeal Apple and Orange and the Suburb in Bloom best garden Competition was won by Diane Berger.
|In March a Seed Swap was followed by a talk on ‘The root to Mental Health : why gardening is good for you’ by Dr Jennifer Wakelyn, in conversation with Hort Soc Chair Dr Chris Page and followed by a very lively discussion. There was a Quiz Night in April and a Plant Sale in May. Members visited Aldham Open Gardens in Essex in early June and the Summer Flower Show was held on 15 June, with a small exhibition to celebrate the Society’s 110th anniversary. Gardens of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight were the destinations for the now-annual three-day residential trip. As part of the 110th anniversary commemoration, it was decided to emulate 2017’s successful decision to open members’ gardens and one allotment on 7 July as a group for the National Garden Scheme. Organised by Caroline Broome,£9,000 was raised for the NGS charities, through entry tickets, teas, sales of plants in individual gardens, fees from the two professional nurseries who sold plants at Fellowship House and donations. Grimsdyke Brass played again in the garden of the Free Church Hall at the September show and a talk on bee-keeping by Pat Morgan brought a larger audience than usual to the AGM and Prizegiving in November. At the AGM the Chairman announced that Jonathan Ross and Jane Goldman had stood down as Hort Soc Hon Presidents and had been replaced by Stephen Crisp, Head of Horticulture for the United States Embassy in London where he has worked since 1987.
|Like all other clubs and societies, the Horticultural Society’s activities were curtailed by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, in June the Flower Show which had been scheduled, including a ‘grow a potato in a bag competition’ was held virtually, with entrants weighing and photographing their own potatoes to find the heaviest crop and the largest number grown from one potato instead of bringing them up to the hall. Because we were one of the first societies to successfully try out a virtual show, it was featured in the Royal Horticultural Society’s e-newsletter, published nationally. The September show was also a virtual one, but there was a greater variety of classes and entries. At the virtual AGM in November, the usual cups and medals were not awarded for the first time since the second world war, and it was decided that most of the activities that had been planned for 2020 would be held over till 2021. Paid-up members would also get their 2021 membership free.
|Covid-19 curtailed the Horticultural Society’s programme again, so that most activities were held on Zoom. The Handbook was not published for the first time since the second world war, but the committee did manage to put on two virtual shows in June and September, and several talks attracted members and non-members when viewed from home. Just before the Omicron variant of Covid struck in the Autumn, members did attend a talk by Philip Colman of Finchley Nurseries at Fellowship House, and were delighted to be together again. However, by November it was decided that the planned AGM would have to be a virtual one again. The usual cups and medals were again not awarded for only the second time since the second world war. No charge was made for Membership in 2021.