Dedication the key to the transformation of a Chester-le-Street garden
PUBLISHED: 11:38 11 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:37 20 February 2013
This garden in Chester-le-Street was transformed from an overgrown plot by decades of dedication, as Linda Viney reports
A journey into a love of gardening began when, as a small child, Allwyn Middleton cut a small patch of grass on her parents farm with a pair of scissors. They eventually decided they should buy her a lawn mower but the seed was sown for a lifetimes passion which has resulted in the delightful garden Allwyn has created over the last 40 years.
Allwyn has come a long way since her early attempts but she still strives for precision and neatness, although she uses shears to keep the edges neat now, rather than scissors.
A former art student, Allwyn still paints beautiful landscapes which can be seen on the walls in her house. She used her artistic eye to run a craft business with husband David and now puts her talent to use in the garden with the blending of colours and flowing lines.
They moved into their house in Chester-le-Street in the early 1970s and it was the plot that took their eye. It was knee deep in grass, Allwyn recalled. It had a few old pear and apple trees which we took out as well as a dividing path, this gave me a blank canvas to work with.
The garden wasnt designed but has evolved over the years and as the flower borders have got bigger, the lawn has got smaller, though she thinks it is time to stop now otherwise there wont be any lawn left. She has a vast collection of plants and but is now very strict with herself and wont buy a plant unless she knows where she is going to put it.
Allwyn buys plants to remind her of people, places and things. Most plants are labeled not with the name of the plant but where or who it has come from. She is selective in choosing a plant both in colour of flowers and leaves and is wary of sending away for plants after once receiving a poppy which should have been pink but turned out orange.
She lets the plants seed themselves, and those like her favourite violas will often cross creating a new variety. Allwyn explained: Seeds often seem to know where they will look good themselves, Honesty thrives but once the seed heads have formed they are removed otherwise it soon takes over.
Allwyn and David love to watch wildlife and there are numerous bird stations round the garden but although the couple live beside a busy road, wild rabbits have caused problems for them this year and vulnerable plants have been protected with glass cloches. She has a greenhouse which is crammed so full of plants there is barely room for her.
A water feature adds tranquility andthere is all year round interest with evergreens of various shades, structure and foliage not forgetting the flowers which start early in the year with snowdrops.
Very much a keen plantswoman she has many unusual perennials, grasses and shrubs with a bonus on open days when she sells the plants she has either propagated or grown from seed gathered from her garden.
There is a cool courtyard garden and here she has grouped heucheras in pots an idea picked up from a garden she visited. The small front garden belies what lies beyond the side entrance, as it certainly has the wow factor.
She takes particular care on her garden ensuring weeds dont have space to grow and it is a challenge for one of her regular visitors who every year tries to catch her out by hunting for a weed. It is rare he finds one, she laughed. There are weeds, but by filling with plants they are invisible.