Surrey Horticultural Federation History

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; they 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 Guild of Judges and Lecturers, which continues to this day.  Former Secretary, Jack Morris (who sadly died in 2015) was one of the original members of both the Surrey Guild of Judges and Lecturers and the SHF.  Another council member from the early 1980’s was Brian Deaville, who was our Vice President and Quizmaster (sadly Brian died in 2019).

In 1986, there were 60 affiliated member clubs.  In the 1980s, the SHF held three shows a year, the first Inter-Federation Quiz, and a Gardens of Greeting competition.  This competition was held in Brighton, which horticultural societies had to design a garden and plant it – in 1987, the 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 the Principal of Merrist Wood College) had become the SHF President,  he continued in this position until 1998, when our current President, Mrs. Daphne Foulsham took over.

In 2001, following a change of direction at Merrist Wood College, they were unable to offer the SHF the facilities for holding meetings and shows; it was suggested the SHF meetings and shows should 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 who still work for the SHF Council – Janet Arm (who became Secretary in 2004) and Roy and Pam Lomax, and with others they started to regroup.

Since 2005, the Council has organised events, hosting the following top speakers (who are often too expensive for individual clubs to consider) and garden visits:

Spring Talks

  • 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
  • 2019 Nick Bailey – Revive Your Garden

Autumn Talks

  • 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 in the future.

Summer Garden and Nursery Visits

    • 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, spectacular borders and vegetables.
    • 2016 Barnett Hill, Wonersh – visit to the hotel’s summer gardens.
    • 2017 Greenhills House, Tilford – a fantastic private garden that opened especially for our members.
    • 2018 Shalford House, Kingsley Green – set in a wooded valley, with a wild meadow, streams, and a lake.
    • 2019 Shamley Wood House Garden – a beautiful private garden with fantastic views.  Again, another exclusive opening for our members.

The SHF Newsletter is now published quarterly.  It’s full of information about events organised by the SHF and details of meetings, talks, and shows, held by organisations that are members of the SHF, along with other items which may be of interest to our members.  Since the demise of the inter-club shows, the cups and trophies are lent out to 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, Banstead Horticultural Society suggested that the SHF should consider creating a website.  Surrey Horticultural Federation Committee and Council member, Beth Otway runs our website.

Over the past few years the SHF membership has slowly climbed again, and we now have around 100 organisations across Surrey and the bordering counties who have joined the SHF.  We hope that our new website will encourage more clubs to join us.