Group Leaders: Irene Lewis
Telephone: 01777 707109
Meetings: 3rd Thursday @ 2-4pm (Oct - Mar only, Nov & Dec meeting times changed)
Venue: The Well Retford (Winter Meetings only Oct-Mar).
             Details of Summer outings/visits in Newsletter
             Please refer to the AGM notice for further details

The Winter meetings are held at the Well, Retford, in the main Hall on the 3rd Thursday of the month (Except December). This date is usually brought forward for the December meeting so please check on the programme below.

There is an annual membership fee of £10.00 and a monthly attendance charge of 50p. You will be given a raffle ticket for a prize of a £10.00 Gardening Voucher. 

Please see below for Meeting and Visit Reports.


UPDATE 14th April 2021

Retford U3A have received details of the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) for 2021 and the Gardens that are open in our area. Further details can be obtained from the links below :-

HERE    and      HERE      and      HERE





Thursday April 16th

AM - Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire

PM – Coton Manor, Northants , 15mins away from Kelmarsh £27 HHA members free


Thursday 21st May

AM - Wentworth Woodhouse, near Rotherham.

Garden Tour, and Soup and Sandwich lunch included £29.80 £25 for NT members

Please note this does not include access to the house.

PM – Wentworth Garden Centre in the village of Wentworth. Free time to browse village, plant sales, shop and tea rooms.


Thursday 18th June

Sledmere House, near Driffield, Yorkshire

The day will include coffee/ tea on arrival, tour of Garden and House, access to woodland walks, free flow access to tea rooms, short walk to church £24.50


Thursday 30th July

Wollerton Old Hall gardens – Market Drayton - longer journey

To arrive by 12noon when gardens open – probably leave 4.30pm - gardens only as private house

Free flow café / tea shop – no picnicking, plant sales £17 HHA free


Saturday 19th September – most likely date

Harrogate Autumn Flower Show at Newby Hall – access to house available

More details to follow as tickets not available until March 2020


We will start taking bookings and money for the first two visits at our January meeting on Thursday 16th January 2020 when Jeanette Merrilion will be speaking about The Brighter side of Winter – foliage , bark and berries.

As usual cheques made out to Retford U3A please





Our winter season begins on Thursday 17th October at 2pm with our AGM, review of the year (in words and pictures!) and joining meeting. Our annual fee is £10, which covers the cost of the hall, refreshments and speakers. Memberships can be paid at our Gardening meetings and at the General meetings until December.

Our speaker dates for this season are as follows:–

17th October – AGM and Membership £10plant swap

14th November – Don Witton, holder of the national collection of Euphorbia - Herbaceous Perennials and Borders – a short evolution of the English herbaceous border starting in Victorian England to the present day.

12th December – GARDENING QUIZ and FESTIVE REFRESHMENTS – upstairs in Community suite – please sign up to give us an indication of numbers


16th January – Jeanette Merilion, RHS registered horticultural speaker and garden designer The Brighter Side of Winter a wide variety of foliage, bark and berries in the winter garden to keep it interesting and give the feeling of warmth.

20th February – Neil Timm, from The Fern Nursery – Astride the Garden Fence – wild flowers in the garden, garden escapees in the wild and some that belong in both worlds.

19th March – Liz Webster from Garden Blooms Nursery, Fishlake, grower and exhibitor of British Perennial Plants – The Delights and Disasters of running a Nursery! 

Please note the earlier dates in Nov / Dec

Details of speakers, your ideas for places to visit and lots, lots more will be revealed on the 17th October when we look forward to welcoming members old and new.

There will be a plant swap stall as last year, but please take your plant home if it’s not snapped up!

Please don’t hesitate to contact us on the number above if you would like any further information.



Gardening News - November 2019 


Following the AGM in October, on the 14th November members enjoyed an entertaining and informative talk by Don Witton on the Evolution of the English herbaceous border. His talk, and the very dull wet day, were brightened by his lovely photographs of many well-known borders.

Our next meeting will be on 12th December, which will take the form of a light hearted Gardening Quiz and festive refreshments.

We would like to have a rough idea of numbers so please sign the list at the General Meeting, or get in touch via email or phone.

May we remind anyone who would like to join the group that we would appreciate it if you would do so before Christmas, either on December 12th or at a General Meeting.

Irene and co. 


Visits in 2019

April - RHS Harlow Carr

May -  Elton Hall near Peterborough

June -  Arley Hall Flower Festival in Cheshire

July -  Thornbridge Hall in Derbyshire

September -  Brightwater Gardens and Pottertons Alpine Nursery, both in LIncolnshire.

We also managed a local visit in August to Morton Nurseries at Babworth.


These two photos were taken on our visit to RHS Harlow Carr in April 2019



PROGRAMME 2018-19  


18th October         AGM


8th November       Chris Priestly on Growing Sweet Peas


6th December        Lucy from Branching Out Florist - Christmas Flowers

A week earlier than usual due to Christmas committments of the Well. 





17th January          Pam Tatum from Hall Farm. 'Last of the looming summer'



21st February         Jane Hufton from Flower Pod, a horticultural facility for people with learning




21st March             David Kesteven, Head Gardener at Renishaw Hall





Meeting and Visit Reports:




The Gardening Group final visit of this year was to Breezy Knees Gardens -The Flower Garden of Yorkshire - near York. For those of us who hadn't been before it was a delightful surprise. Started from scratch in 1999 on approx. 14 acres of arable land it has been transformed into 19 gardens of different specialities. The highlight for us was the September Garden with its reds, deep pinks of Sedums and yellow / oranges of Rudbeckia and Heleniums . We had plenty of time to wander amidst the conifers, rock and rose garden in passable weather until 1. 30 when the rain came down in earnest! However we were able to sample the delicious homemade refreshments in the cafe and some braved the elements to visit the nursery and stock up with perennials. After a unanimous decision we left 1/2 hr early as the weather seemed to have settled in for the worst.

However I am sure that many of us will want to return perhaps at a different time of the year when other plants are at their best. We have had some super trips this season and can now sit back and decide where to go next year. Never a dull moment ! 

Judy Ginn


On a glorious summer afternoon the group visited Easton Walled Gardens set in the Lincolnshire vales near Grantham . The gardens were reclaimed from years of neglect and ruin in 2001 by the Cholmeley family whose ancestors have run the estate since 1561. Ursula Cholmeley is the gardener whose inspiration has driven forward the changes which now include wildflower terraces,meadows,orchards and of course their famous sweet peas. Sadly these were not at their best due to the weather conditions, but the rest of the gardens amply made up for for this.
The parkland and views of an idyllic country setting with items such as a space garden and Giraffe sculpture kept us all interested with much camera snapping. Delicious home made refreshments were enjoyed in the relaxed atmosphere in the tea room or courtyard. We also took the opportunity to purchase plants and gifts as a mementoes of our visit. A truly delightful visit enjoyed by us all.



A group of 60 members travelled to Chatsworth House for the RHS show on a rather damp morning. It was the 1st time the show had been held there and it would be fair to say that the organisation to get in to the show left something to be desired. However once in the show, in the lovely surroundings beside the river Derwent, there was a lot to see admire and purchase.

The theme was Design Revolutionaries which linked to the pioneering work of Joseph Paxton who among other things was the Head Gardener at Chatsworth. He was the architect for the Great Conservatory built between 1836-41 (the model for the later Crystal Palace) There was a huge inflatable re-imaging of this housing an exhibition dedicated to Paxtons work. Either side of the Great Conservatory were the Floral Marques where nurseries created fantastic displays, sold plants and dispensed free advice regarding their specialities. It was very pleasing to see that Morton Nurseries near Babworth, run by Gill McMaster, had won a Silver Gilt award.

Outside in showground were the 8 very different Show Gardens, the 8 FreeForm installations that were experimental and innovative, designed to provoke a reaction and the Plant Village with lots of plants to tempt us.

The floral Palladian bridge was impressive, as were the examples of Well Dressing.  Members went into the theatres to watch the demonstrations, found a smart place to eat in the dry, tested out the food in one of the food courts, rested in deck chairs when the sun came out, or just browsed and bought a plant or two.

As always the coach was full not only with passengers but in the hold too. People will be busy for the next week or so.

May 2017 

Dean’s Garden Centre and the Yorkshire Arboretum.


On the best weather day of the week the group set off to Dean’s Garden Centre, a well established family run business in Stockton on the Forest near York. The plants both outside and under cover were all in tip top condition. The herbaceous perennials, vegetable plants,  spring and summer bedding are all raised from their nursery site. Quite a few trolleys full made their way back to the coach after lunch that was served in the delightful new café. This reopened in March following refurbishment. The weather was so nice that a few members made use of the outside seating areas. Some people managed to purchase unusual plants that were on their wish lists, also seeds, bulbs, planters and a basket planter for sweet peas. We could have spent the whole day there and it is well worth a return visit. 

After lunch the group travelled on to the Yorkshire Arboretum, located within the Castle Howard estate, North East of York. This 120 acre garden is set in a stunning landscape of park land and lakes and ponds. It is managed by a small team and an army of volunteers. Originally developed in the late 1970s this National collection of 6,000 trees, from all over the world, is added to each year. Many of the trees are very rare, being the only ones of a species in existence. There is a strong emphasis on education, for children and adults, and conservation/ propagation of the trees of course. 
Some of the group had chosen to participate in the guided walk lead by Neil, Senior member of the team. It was most informative about the trees and the development of the site. Others chose to follow one of the many trails. While all the trees were wonderful in their different shapes, hues of green, and varied barks, we also loved the swathes of blue Camassia along the edges of the walks. Refreshments and staff in the café were very good and the small shop provided more opportunities for retail therapy. 
Another great venue that deserves a return visit. A really lovely day out. 

March 2017

On 6.4.17 the group enjoyed its first Garden visit of the year to Floral Media at Caunton, on a beautiful sunny spring afternoon. We were welcomed by the owners Steven and Paula Routledge with a cup of tea and biscuit in their charming events venue which is decorated in a relaxed country fashion. After a short talk on their 30 year history, we were taken on a tour of the delightful immaculate garden overlooking rolling countryside. We were able to ask for advice and were given tips with the opportunity to purchase plants before returning to the hall for a demonstration.
This was done by Steven, who doubles up as the Chef, on how to make a 3 tiered planter, and which soil and feeds to use. This was followed by refreshment and delicious cakes! 
We all agreed it was a super start to the season, so very relaxed and informal with perfect weather.
The garden is open for the N G S on Sunday 4th June and at £3.50 will be well worth a visit.

Judy Ginn

March 2017

March 2017 This was the last indoor meeting of the season and our speaker was Dr. Andrew Ward from Norwell Nurseries.  It was a much awaited return visit from Andrew and his topic was "A Year of Garden Colour".  He concentrated mainly on plants, shrubs and trees to provide colour, interest and scent in Autumn, Winter and Spring, but did include some for Summer.  There was a wealth of  information, so it was helpful that Andrew provided us with a list of plants used in his talk, many of which are available at Norwell Nurseries.  These ranged from the white bark of Betula utilis jaquemontii to the tiny Narcissus Golden Bells to the RHS Plant of the Centenary Geranium  Rozanne, accompanied by over fifty excellent slides which not only served to illustrate, but also to inspire.  All this was interspersed with advice on suitable conditions for growing and how to look after plants or which to put together for maximum effect.  We all picked out particular plants that would be suitable for our own gardens and there was something for everyone.  Andrew's particular favourite, if he could only have one plant, would be a Winter flowering honeysuckle Lonicera fragrantissima. It flowers from November, so you could have the smell of honeysuckle with your Christmas decorations.  We found out it was a shrub rather than a climber, but you could prune it and keep it against a wall.  If you want a plant with the "Wow factor" go for Iris chrysographes dark form, with flowers that hang like bats!  More general advice was to buy named plants for better flowering, particularly with regard to Erythroniums (or dogtooth violets). Andrew finished with colourful pictures of asters and chrysanthemums, including Aster "Little Carlow" which is not at all little!   Norwell is renowned for its Autumn garden and now has the National Collection of Hardy Chrysanthemums.  I am sure a lot of us will visit Norwell Nursery either during their normal opening times or during the NGS Open Gardens in May, June or October (see yellow booklet).  Andrew brought plants that people had pre-ordered and there were also plenty for people to buy on the day, which was very popular. This was an excellent way to finish our Winter season and we are now looking forward to our first visit to Floral Media on 6th April.

Yvonne Jones

February 2017

The speaker today was Stuart Dixon from Down to Earth talks. He provided a really good insight into the discovery and subsequent restoration of the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall. The property, originally owned by Willian Tremain, fell into neglect at the time of the First World War when so many of the gardeners went off to fight the war and sadly did not return. Time stood still for seven decades and the gardens were only rediscovered following the hurricane in 1990. Tim Smit, who had been involved in the creation of the Eden Project, set about with a team to restore – not conserve, the stone walls, glass houses, buildings and structures, formal and kitchen gardens and the lost valley.

Stuart showed pictures of how things looked when the gardens were first discovered - rather like a jungle, all overgrown with brambles, trees growing out of the roof of glass houses and general dereliction. The restoration team, many of whom are volunteers, placed an amazing and inspirational emphasis on using archive records, paying great attention to detail and using local craftsmen to replace buildings, glass houses and all their fittings to the exact specifications of the originals. As the gardens were revealed over time, the team went on a journey to uncover the horticultural traditions of the time. The gardens were planted with as close to the original planting schemes as possible. The buildings and structures reflected changing technologies that marked the advance of the Industrial Revolution. This started with Manure-heated pineapple pits in the 18th Century; followed by heated – flue walls in the glass houses, warmed by timber-fuelled stoves, then by steam and hot water systems. All were designed to provide heat for the greenhouse fruit and in particular pineapples on Christmas Day. Among the restored buildings were the Head Gardeners office, tool, potting and equipment sheds. All have been made to look as if the men had just left Helligan to go off to war.

All the ‘before’ pictures were followed by ‘after’ pictures showing how things looked following restoration. A remarkable project and an excellent talk enjoyed by all the group.

January 2017

The January meeting of the Garden Club was held at The Well with about 80 members attending. Liz Webster from ' Garden Blooms ' at Fishlake near Doncaster, gave us an interesting and informative talk on Plants And their Places. The photos of the plants were particularly clear and well labelled.  Her Nursery specialises in perennial plants which are mainly propagated on a 4 acre site acquired in 2009, which is also a licensed caravan park! Liz will be exhibiting at Chatsworth RHS flower show in June to which the group is going, but she will also host an open weekend in late spring to enable purchase of her perennial plants. A nice fairly local site to visit!

The program of visits for the summer is being finalised and will be available at the February meeting on Thursday 16th at The Well 2 pm.