Society withers after 65 years of bloom in Gosport

Driftwood Festival organiser Paul Cobb  Picture: Malcolm Wells (142242-6774C)

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A GARDENING group has closed after not being able to find new members to take over its committee.

Gosport Horticultural Society closed after decades at the end of its final Ladies Section annual general meeting last week.

The seeds of the society were planted on January 20, 1947 when a number of gardening enthusiasts gathered in Gosport’s council chamber to formally establish the group.

A rapid growth in members soon led to its first summer show, held on July 4, 1947.

Brian Cullen, 86, former chairman of the society, said: ‘During the years we started with five shows a year and gradually over the years we got down to two.

‘And of course a lot of the growers who started then died off and lots of youngsters didn’t come through so it was left to a few of us that were getting older and in the end we couldn’t find enough people to make it viable.

‘But the ladies kept a section going and have been going for a year since.’

The Ladies Section had been established to find ways to generate cash to keep the society thriving, along with helping raise funds for both local and national charities, including donating money to Gosport War Memorial Hospital, The Rowans Hospice and a teak bench to the Falkland Garden.

And it was the Ladies Section that kept going after the main group stopped meeting in 1998.

June Cullen, 85, a former chairwoman of the Ladies Section said: ‘We used to have speakers and carried on with the strawberries and cream and that side of it.

‘Nobody’s willing to take it over, we used to raise money for the main society too.

‘We joined in 1956, 50 years ago, so it’s really sad actually, closing it up.

‘All our members are pretty ancient, our committee, we’re all over 80 except for the secretary.

‘For the last few years as our members were getting older we weren’t actually gardening, we used to have all sorts of talks.’

Invited speakers gave talks about native plants, including honey plants and sweetpeas but also gave talks about more exotic plants, including bonsai trees.

Mr and Mrs Cullen have collected the society’s history in one place with a scrapbook of press cuttings, which they hope to display at Gosport Discovery Centre.