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Developing 3 new spaces – Part 2 – the new roof garden

The final new garden we developed early in 2017 was our second roof garden here at Avocet. To find out about our first green roof refer to my post called “Growing up! Making a green roof.” published back in April 2013.

This, our second roof garden, was created when we got rid of one of our garden sheds and moved a smaller one into its place. (see the post entitled “Three Sheds into Two will Go”)

We constructed a strong framework around the shed in timber so that the roof garden itself was putting no extra stress on the shed roof itself. We then added a new floor to the roof garden from strong floorboards which we waterproofed with two layers of roofing felt. In order to make it ready for the planting media we added a layer of weed membrane to allow for drainage and to retain the compost. We created a drainage channel filled with gravel. The final stage of preparation was adding a layer of light weight compost which was carefully leveled.

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Time to plant! It always seems strange planting when up a ladder!

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The green roof is the exciting finishing point in our shed project. The first phase of planting really made us feel as if we had completed our work with the three sheds, which had now been turned into two! The plants were a selection of grasses, Incinia rubra, a selection of Carex and Stipa tenuissima but more will follow soon. Flowering plants included a selection of small Sedums, Sedum tricolor, S. telephinium ss riprechtii “Hab Gray”, S. ewersii and S. cauticola Coca Cola plus two scented Violas, V. odorata sulphurea and V. odorata Konigin Charlotte, a low growing Sedum-like plant Chiastophyllum opositifolium and a variegated Trifolium, T. pratense “Susan Smith”.

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Job done!

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Another friend’s garden – Holly Cottage

We love visiting small gardens listed in the National Garden Scheme’s famous Yellow book but even more enjoyable is visiting the NGS gardens of friends. So as we drove along miles of narrow lanes winding their way in and out of the counties of  Shropshire, Powys and Montgomeryshire we couldn’t wait to arrive at Holly Cottage, the home of Allison and Martin. As we approached the gateway our anticipation levels rose steeply as we spotted beautiful brightly coloured plantings running along the drive banks. The planting here varied and flowed from meadow planting to prairie style plantings and other areas of Alison’s own style. What a beautiful way to welcome visitors with a garden that embraces you so warmly.

Alison met us at the end of the drive and took us up to her home and garden. We had to wait a bit longer to explore the drive side plantings.

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This is also a garden with wide spreading beautiful views affording vistas of farmland leading to distant hills.


Allison and Martin have built the garden to wrap around the house. The design is such that the garden surrounds the house and feels and looks as if it hugs the house. There is a beautiful link and bond between home and garden. Martin has built borders, walls and terraces in which Alison gardens with flair. A great team!

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Wildlife is welcomed into the garden.

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We started our tour of the garden in the courtyard behind the house where Allison is developing a collection of delicate Violas. Placed on shelving on a wall means that you can look these little beauties in the face and be engulfed by their scents. Such a clever idea!

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Moving around the side of the house we turned a corner to be greeted by more scent, but this time the scent came to us from shrubs, Philadelphia, Buddlejas, Rosa and more. There was also a richness of colour and texture. We wandered the narrow paths to study every beautiful plant and appreciate the way each plant worked with its neighbours.

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Through an archway beneath scented roses we moved into the little front garden enticed by the gentle bubbling sound of water.

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Exploring further steps took us around a series of raised beds holding herbs, cut flowers and nursery beds. Scent was evident here too, the warm relaxing scents of herbs. Soft coloured flowers burst from glaucous blues and grey of herb foliage. Temptation made us rub leaves between our fingers to savour the aromas and flavours.

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After a break for a chat enriched with tea and cakes, we excitedly wandered off towards the amazing borders clothing the two sides of the long drive.

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The simple and very common Moon Daisy is as beautiful as any rare tropical plant. Against a blue sky viewed from low down they present ethereal shapes, colours and patterns.

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To one side tall trees grew skyward from a native hedge and gravel paths invited us to discover the borders of meadowy prairie planting.

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What a beautiful afternoon we enjoyed in Allison and Martin’s garden. We came home with gifts of plants grown from seed by Alison in the greenhouse designed and made by Martin.

The garden at Holly Cottage

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Pauline and Derek’s Woodland Garden

This is the third post in my series of post about gardens of friends. In this post I shall share with you a visit Jude “The Undergardener” and I made with a couple of other Hardy Plant Society friends to the woodland garden of fellow members, Pauline and Derek. It was a wet, dull day when we set out but as we approached the village of Loggerheads things were looking a little more optimistic. Just outside the village we found “Broomside” where Derek greeted us as we got out of the car. Quickly passing through the front garden to get out of the rain gave us clues as to what to expect. We couldn’t wait to see more!

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Pauline had prepared the coffee and tempting biscuits so that took priority. When we were ready for a guided wander the weather turned back to heavy rain so we donned rainwear and carried on regardless. We are after all “Hardy Planters” so mustn’t be put off by the weather, whatever it throws at us.

These general garden views show the richness of its planting and give a hint of the inviting atmosphere.

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Despite the rain the light was good for photographing foliage plants. With contrast reduced textures were highlighted. Woodlaand plants seem to possess a richness in texture and colour in their foliage.

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The late spring blossom on the trees and shrubs and the flowers on perennials were still a delight and somehow even more welcome on such a dull day.

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This garden is full of special plants but these three stood out even among such quality planting. Purple cones, purple Trillium flowers and a creamy Paeony.


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After enjoying the woodland section of the garden we stepped up a few steps, one of which was the root of a tree, to find the veggie patch.

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Derek had an impressive collection of mints. We enjoyed their varied scents. This one, with its long slightly glaucous leaves was I think was Mentha buddleifolia, one I had never seen before. Indeed I wasn’t aware of its existence.

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After exploring the paths winding through the vegetable garden we found a colourful mixed border along the side of the house. Here colourful Euphorbias added extra brightness to more rich planting.

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Pauline has discovered a novel, attractive and effective way of labeling her plants. She writes their names on pebbles which are then placed at their base. She also advised us on the best pen to use and gifted one to us. We shall certainly be trying it out!

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We had a most enjoyable day even better for having defied the elements. It is good to share the gardens of friends and even better when you do so with other friends. Hardy Plant Society members are often a knowledgeable breed  so we can always learn something from them and discover plants new to us. Pauline and Derek’s garden with its woodland atmosphere afforded us a refreshing change after working hard for a few days in our own South facing exposed garden.

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Hide that ugly pipe!

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. Recently we saw on a television gardening programme some covers to fix over drain pipes so that you can plant climbing plants to hide the ugly plastic pipe.

So we sent for a pair and then went off to the Antique Centre at nearby Church Stretton in search of an interesting galvanised container suitable for growing some climbing plants in. Success! We found an old cannister hidden in a pile of miscellaneous objects from an old bakers shop. Baking tins, a till, the manager’s desk, enamel signs, and a miscellany of galvanised containers!

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We were so pleased with ourselves that we treated ourselves to a coffee at a great coffee house across the road, Ginger Green. They make excellent coffee and an amazing array of cakes! As you see from the pics below they pride themselves in the look of the coffee too! 10 out of 10 for presentation.

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When the climbing frames arrived we fixed them up, put the galvanised cannister in place and drove off to the Derwen Garden Centre near to Welshpool. We came away with a clematis, a climbing patio rose and two thymes perfect for planting up our new planter which waited patiently at home. We were also tempted to a Calyanthus a flowering shrub we had been seeking for a long while.

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We must now sit back and wait for the summer when we shall find out if our planting works and if the plants will climb the frames and hide the ugly pipe.

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Goldstone Hall – a hotel garden

Not many hotels open their gardens to the public but Goldstone Hall near Market Drayton north of Shrewsbury is an exception to the rule. When we visited the garden on one of its National Garden Scheme open days we were surprised by the sheer volume of the productive garden which sat neatly alongside the beautiful herbaceous borders and rose gardens.

We were here with our Hardy Planters hats on again considering the garden for a possible HPS Shropshire branch day out.

The double herbaceous borders are tiered and this gives them greater depth, gaining a dimension of height. The soil was so well looked after with masses of organic matter in evidence that every plant glowed with health. The wildlife liked it too!

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The richness of the soil has made the white epilobium grow huge and collapse under its own weight.

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The rose garden was unusual in that the planting was restricted to just three roses Rhapsody in Blue, Iceberg, Tickled Pink and Silver Wedding. This gave it a very romantic look and I imagine the look was chosen to reflect one of the hotel’s specialities, as a wedding venue.

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There were some wonderful trees in the grounds and many had enticing seats in their shadow.

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Long herb walks surrounded two sides of the huge veg and fruit garden. The scents emanating from these herbs was intense in the humidity, especially the helicrysum and thymes. We enjoyed rubbing the leaves of the many varieties of mints.

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The productive garden was divided up into several well-protected sections.

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So, we came away thinking we may have found another suitable venue for a HPS garden visit.

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Jessamine Cottage – a country garden

Jessamine is a garden with atmosphere. Peaceful. Gentle. Enticing.

The beautiful sign with the name carved into a stunning block of slate sets the scene and it fits beautifully into the Shropshire countryside. It is another wonderful place to visit within a half hour drive of our home.

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The owners greeted us upon arrival and we had tea and Bakewell tart sat on the balcony of the cabin that serves as teashop and ticket office. This is a “his and hers garden” nurtured by just the owners. The husband half of the team took a break alongside us on the balcony and relished a huge mug of coffee. He looked as if he deserves it and he told us that he was in the middle of sorting an overgrown bed alongside the pool. It was a hot day and he needed his break.

The view from the tea balcony is of wildflower meadows carpeting the ground beneath an avenue of lime. Beyond these limes colourful borders glow with rich yellows. The meadows were alive with bees, butterflies and hoverflies, which is a delight and a relief at the same time as this year so far has been so difficult for these beautiful and essential creatures. They are our greatest garden allies and we just could not garden without their help as pollinators, pest controllers and the providers of joy for us.

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Suitably refreshed and genned up on the history of the garden we headed for the hot coloured border which again was full of blooms which support insect life. It seems we home in on the warmth of these flowers just as our gardening allies do.

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The meadow moved gently in the breeze and the subtle rustling drew us closer to see what was in flower. Some colour was provided by the grasses themselves especially the delicate yellow seedheads  seen in the photo below.

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We were particularly taken by this simple white rose with its simplicity of flower and pure rose scent. Just the scent a rose should have!

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A hedgerow bordered the meadow and avenue garden and hid the rest of the garden from our view but carefully cut gaps in the hedge enticed us through where we were to discover a rose garden and a small arboretum. Mrs Greenbench was particularly taken with the roses climbing up poles, so we are considering the idea as a useful addition to our garden at “Avocet”.

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There were a lot of well positioned seats dotted around the garden in shade and in the open – a seat for every occasion!

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Beyond the arboretum and at the furthest and lowest part of the garden was a shady garden and close by a pool, both providing respite on this warmest of days.

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But there was still more to come as back beyond the teashop was a very productive fruit and veg garden and to get to it we passed a bed of marjorams in all shades of purple from almost white to deep purple. But they were magnets for bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Sweet Peas added a further dimension, scent and they graced the cross over point of the  grass paths that divided the productive garden into sections.

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We ended our warm afternoon visit to this exquisite garden nestled at the bottom of Wenlock Edge back in the tea shop where we considered if Jessamine Cottage would make a suitable visit for the Shropshire Branch of the Hardy Plant Society. Jude and I have been given the task of organising the visits and speakers for this organisation for the next three years so we are beginning to look at gardens we visit with a more critical eye.

Was Jessamine Cottage a possibility? Yes, most definitely. It is on the list!

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BAC evening out.

A new nursery that has opened this year on the outskirts of Shrewsbury, emailed Jude, the Undergardener recently inviting members of our allotment community to visit them one evening after closing time for a tour of the nursery.

So earlier this week 20 of us arrived in the car park of “Love Plants” and gathered together anticipating an enjoyable evening talking plants. They have a very classy sign!

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Susan spotted an interesting plant before she even reached the door. There were so many treats inside. Although we primarily went for a tour behind the scenes most of us were tempted by a few specimens each. Mrs Greenbench, the Undergardener managed to fill a trolley with Hemerocalis, Achillea and Echinacea.

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Tim, the Plants Manager, gave us a quick talk about how the garden centre came about. We were delighted to know that plants were supplied by our favourite nurseries, The dingle and The Derwen, both near Welshpool and part of the same company. The Dingle is a pure nursery and its partner The Derwen more of a small garden centre. With these  three outlets close by we have access to plenty of quality plants.

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All the perennials were laid out in alphabetical order and they were impressive specimens. Likewise the shrubs. The first area visitors find is an area featuring plants currently in flower or with good foliage colour.

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There is a good selection of seeds, herbs and fruit and veg plants.

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The nursery is sited within a caravan sales centre and even between the caravans meadows have been sown. Topiary specimens impressed as did the new shade area.

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Before leaving I spoke to Tim about the possibility of a joint venture where Love Plants could sponsor a new garden within our communal gardens back at BAC and the three linked plant centres supplying the plants. This looks like being an exciting project. Watch this space!

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A cottage garden with a difference.

We visited my sister, Penny and her husband, Tony this week and enjoyed a lazy afternoon sat on the terrace under a large awning escaping the afternoon sun as the temperature rose well into the 30’s again. From their front garden, situated beneath Bredon Hill in Gloucestershire, you would believe that a traditional cottage garden awaited you around the back but prepare to be surprised.

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The front is a gravel drive and turning point with neatly mown grass areas and gravel gardens, featuring a beautiful stone birdbath.

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Move around the back and a wide inviting paved terrace greets you, and the pervading warm scents of herbs emphasises the feeling of welcome. The aroma of coffee brewing and comfy seating under the awning made us feel so welcome. This is good garden design!

Sit and enjoy your brew and wide steps constructed of recycled railway sleepers infilled with gravel entice you deeper into the garden through a lovely Japanese influenced archway

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The archway sets the scene of what is to come, or at least in part. But relaxing over coffee and cake afforded us the opportunity to spot little details and elements of decoration and humour. An over-sized ceramic hand acts as a bird feeder, a terra-cotta green man watches us from the nearby fence and a recycled wood burner too large for the house has become a garden heater.

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Up the wide steps and through the black wooden archway is a cool shaded garden based on the principles of Japanese garden design. A buddha, a Koi pool,

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The atmosphere here is so powerful, there is a feeling of calm and peacefulness. Again – good garden design. The play of light and shade, cool and warm, changes as you walk through from section to section. The planned tea house should add another rich element to the garden.

Glimpses through the boughs of the tree provide clues to what lies beyond, a little productive patch, with fruit trees and raised veg plots. The tomatoes, picked from the vine and eaten while still warmed by the sun were delicious, sweet but with just the right amount of a hint of acidity.

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The male and female components of this pine were present at the same time, the cones seemingly glued direct to the trunk and the female flowers wrapped around the stem near the final whorl of leaves. A fascinating little tree.

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When you retrace your steps back through a garden it is amazing how you find new surprises awaiting you. The light hits things from different directions and puts the spotlight on objects and surfaces that failed to catch my eye before.

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The harsh mid-summer light added depth to shadows and textures emphasised.

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Wildlife is welcome, encouraged and appreciated here too as shown by the presence of birdhouses. There is the constant hum and buzz of an ecologically sound space. Stay still and you will hear grass hoppers, bees and the yaffling of a Green Woodpecker, the constant chatter of Goldfinches and Linnets. Butterflies are abundant and entertain with their movement and colours. To prove the friendliness of the garden and the gardeners towards our wildlife a grass hopper landed on my back before alighting on the window behind me.

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However good the overall design of a garden is, in the end the little details can add another layer of interest. Penny and Tony have the knack of selecting interesting items that catch the eye just when you think you have discovered the essence of the garden.

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This is a great garden to spend an afternoon in, relax and catch up with our sister and brother-in-law. And they present a fine cup of coffee and most excellent lemon drizzle cake!

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Allotment Open Day 2013

Sunday July 14th was the day we opened our allotment community gardens for everyone to come and have a look at what we get up to, and to help raise money for charities under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme. We are proud to be part of this great scheme and we love seeing our lotties featured in their famous Yellow Book.

Visitors were greeted by committee members Di and Jill, who took the entry fees and gave out tickets, trail sheets, children’s quiz sheets and competition voting forms (more about that later).

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The allotmenteers had been busy the week prior to our opening mowing the grass, edging and weeding the communal borders and ensuring their own plots were looking at their best. And it did look good! As chairman I felt proud of what was achieved that week.

Bunting was hung from sheds and a pair of galvanised watering cans planted up with diascias and blue fescue grasses  decorated the entrance to the central grass pathway. We made sure all information signs were clear and visible.

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Some members even provided extra little sitting areas alongside their plots with shade over comfy seats. Phil and Doreen created an outdoor lounge. It looked brilliant and drew many admirers and many visitors stopped off for a rest and a chat.

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A popular part of our day is the tea shop which we create around our communal huts enhanced with gazebos and an assortment of tables and chairs all brought in for the day by lottie members. Sherlie, an allotmenteer and florist, added beautiful floral decorations to the centre of each table. Members bake all week prior to the event and the array of cakes is stunning and oh so tempting.

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A feature of our open days is the involvement of our visitors in selecting the winners of our annual site competitions. Each year we hold a scarecrow competition and the theme this year was occupations and as always our members’ imaginations ran wild. We were treated to the sight of a scarecrow undertaker, a pilot, a school crossing lady, a farm labourer, a lumberjack, a nurse, a doctor a tractor driver

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I had the rather over-ambitious idea that I could make a “Biggles the Pilot” scarecrow, which was quite a task and needed the help of gardening mate Pete to put it up on top of our central arbor. Pete is a good foot taller than me!

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We persuaded one of our newer members to open her shed for all to see as it has such a beautiful interior. We call it the “Chic Shed”. It is painted all white inside with a storage bench with padded seat on top, a lovely dresser and even colouring books, pencils and crayons etc for her granddaughter.

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Another competition this year was a new one and again we asked our visitors to choose the winners. It was for land art/sculpture and it proved to be very popular with lots of pieces for our guests to consider.

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Jude the Undergardener won this competition with her woven twisted willow.

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For the children on our site we held a competition where we asked them to plant up an item of footwear, and we saw colourful flowers grown in slippers, boots and wellies. In the pictures below they are shown lined up in front of the two mini-allotments grown for display in the town square later.

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As well as the tea shop we had a plants sale table where Jude, aka Mrs Greenbench or The Undergardener, sold plants she had raised from seeds and cuttings, both herbaceous perennials, herbs and vegetables. We had a display from Linton, one of Shropshire’s Master Composters who answered visitors’ queries concerning their composting.

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So just how successful was the day? We had lots of visitors many of whom stayed all day and obviously enjoyed their walk around, helping us choose our competition winners and indulging in the offerings of the tea shop and the plant stall. We raised £1065 to send in to the National Garden Scheme, a figure of which we are most proud.