In 1976 Mr. Peter Stotter from Merrist Wood College, with the close collaboration of Mr. John Brasier (the Principal) had the idea of forming a Federation of Surrey gardening and horticultural clubs to further link the college with the community. By 1978 there were 44 member societies, and they had held five successful lectures and the first Annual Show, which had attracted entries from 15 clubs. In 1981 Mr. Brasier became the first President.
A close liaison was formed with the Surrey Judges and Lecturers Guild, and this continues to this day, with former Secretary Jack Morris (who sadly died in 2015) being one of the original members of both this group and the SHF. Another council member from the early 1980’s was Brian Deaville, who is now our Vice President and Quizmaster.
In 1986 there were 60 affiliated member clubs, three shows a year in which member clubs could compete, the first Inter-Federation Quiz, and a Gardens of Greeting competition at Brighton in which horticultural societies had to design and garden and plant it – in 1987 Surrey Horticultural Federation won second place with a design by the late Ron Watts M.B.E.
By 1989 there were 83 member clubs and John Riddle (then Principal of Merrist Wood) had become the President, and he continued in this position until 1998 when our current President, Mrs. Daphne Foulsham took over. In 2001 with a change of direction at Merrist Wood they were unable to offer the SHF the facilities for holding meetings and shows, and it was suggested this was moved to Fairlands Hall. However, without Merrist Wood’s backing it became harder to get shows and council members and by 2003 the SHF was on the point of folding. At the AGM that year a new Chairperson (the late Joan Sones) volunteered, together with three others still on the Council, Janet Arm (who became Secretary in 2004) and Roy and Pam Lomax, and with others they started to regroup.
Since then the Council has organised the following top speakers (often too expensive for individual clubs) and visits:
- 2005 Bob Brown – Hardy Plants
- 2006 RHS Lecture: Tim Miles – Glorious Gardens of Cornwall
- 2007 Stephan Buczacki – An afternoon with …..
- 2008 Medwyn Williams – Gold Medal Vegetables
- 2009 Fergus Garrett – Great Dixter
- 2010 Andy McIndoe – Losing the Plot
- 2011 Pippa Greenwood – Looks good, tastes Great
- 2012 Steve Brookes – Garden Hints
- 2013 Henry Oakley – Orchid Hunting in Peru
- 2014 Roy Lancaster – My Garden
- 2015 Chris Beardshaw – The English Garden.
- 2016 Tom Hart-Dyke – From Captivity to a Castle
- 2017 Jekka McVicar – Herbs for All Reasons
- 2018 Tony Kirkham – Trees, A Cut Above The Rest
- 2004 Stephen Lacey – Landscape Design
- 2005 Michael Austen – Fruit at Brogdale
- 2006 Tim Walker – Oxford Botanic Garden
- 2007 Steve Bradley – Bug eat Bug
- 2008 Mike Watts – Chelsea Physic Garden
- 2009 Mike Clift – IPPS Visit to Australia
- 2010 Ray Broughton – Gardens of the South of England
- 2011 Joanne Everson – Kew trip to New Zealand
- 2012 Neil Miller – Hever Castle
In 2013 the SHF went over to a joint AGM and Quiz instead of two talks, which has brought more teams competing in the Quiz. The winning team used to compete against the Hampshire Federation and perhaps this could be revived.
- 2004 Wisley Visit – Dahlias trials
- 2005 Wisley Visit – Sweet Pea trials
- 2006 Wisley – Mini Lectures and Trials on 5 subjects
- 2007 Wisley Visit – Delphinium and Vegetable Trials
- 2008 Wisley Visit – Fuchsia Triphylla trials.
- 2009 Vale End President – Daphne Foulsham’s Garden visit
- 2009 Wisley – Autumn Orchard visit
- 2010 Redleaf Nursery – A look at commercial tree production.
- 2011 Snowdenham House – A beautiful garden visit.
- 2012 Woodlark Nurseries – Bedding plant nursery.
- 2013 Norney Wood – A visit to this reconstructed Gertrude Jekyll garden.
- 2014 Millais Nurseries – Chelsea Gold Medallist Rhododendron Nursery
- 2015 Hampton Estate – Garden visit, borders and vegetables.
- 2016 Barnett Hill, Wonersh
- 2017 Greenhills House, Tilford
The Newsletter is now published quarterly, with details of the next events organised by the SHF and other items which may be of interest to the member clubs, together with dates of their own club talks and shows. Since the demise of the inter-club shows, the cups and trophies are lent out to some member clubs, and bikini vases and black tablecloths can be borrowed from the Secretary.
The Federation attends the Specialist Society meeting annually at RHS Wisley, and has a full list of specialist society contacts which is available to club members on request.
In 2000 there was a first suggestion from Banstead club that the SHF should consider a website, but until now it has been difficult to find a person to run it as unless it is continually updated it loses its ability to communicate well .
Over the past few years the membership has slowly climbed again, and is now up to nearly 100 member clubs across Surrey and bordering counties, and we hope with this new website more clubs will be encouraged to join.