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TheVillage Gardening

Talent in the garden

Posted on May 20 2012 at 2:29:37 0 comments

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Britain may have talent, but Alvechurch has gardens, writes David Morgan.

It’s a shame there isn’t a version of Britain’s Got Talent for gardeners. If there was, residents of Alvechurch would surely reach the finals, and to prove it, keen gardeners in the village are throwing open their garden gates to invite the general public in.

Between 1 and 6pm on June 10, there will be 10 gardens open under the National Gardens Scheme (NGS), including cottage-style gardens, sloping gardens, a professionally landscaped terraced garden, gardens with water features, fruit and vegetable gardens and even a meadow. 

One thing that should be in abundance is colour, with herbaceous beds, plants in pots, shrubs, and at least one rockery. There will also be plenty of ideas for budding gardeners and the garden owners will be on hand to answer questions. There will also be refreshments served at the Baptist Church and at Rectory Cottage.

Rectory Cottage is an impressive one-acre plot in Old Rectory Lane with a large expanse of riverside garden, which has recently been enhanced to include a new waterfall and a bridge over a large pond.

It is perhaps not surprising that with such a large area of water, ducks, moorhens, coots, herons and even occasional kingfishers are attracted to the area, and one duck, nicknamed Doris by garden owner Celia Hitch, has been using a hanging basket as her nest for more than five years and has managed to successfully hatch numerous ducklings, despite the eight-foot drop from the hanging basket to the floor beneath!

Rectory Cottage also has colourful flower beds, a “secret garden” and a grassed woodland area with established trees, paths and borders stocked with rhododendrons, vibernum, acers and camellias.

There is a pebbled area with bullrushes, candelabra primulas, iris and other water-loving plants and also a walled courtyard garden with pergolas, roses and selections of pots with flowering plants and hostas. It is here that the refreshments are served to the accompaniment of chirruping budgerigars from a small aviary.

This house has changed over the years from being virtually derelict with no recognisable garden to a comfortable home with a thriving bed and breakfast business and a garden to be proud of.

Across the road from Rectory Cottage is The Barn, owned by Sian and Mark Kenkree who are some of the newcomers – this is their first year opening for the NGS. They are using this 12-month period to review their garden, which is mainly lawn with some established beds, in the different seasons before they decide whether to make any changes. Their aim is to emulate their neighbour Celia and her garden, but they admit that there is a long way for them to go to achieve that aim!

Another keen gardener opening for the first time in Alvechurch is Jill Green at Tudor Cottage. She has a well-established garden with mature trees and shrubs plus an allotment area complete with a chicken coop, a pond that attracts wildlife and a redundant pig sty that has been converted into a log store.

Not far away in Bear Hill, with a gate into Church Walk, is The Shrubbery, the home of Chris and Stephanie Miall which, unusually, at least for Alvechurch, boasts two Canadian Redwood (Wellingtonia) trees. Before you get out your tape measures, Stephanie admits that these trees are “small by Californian redwood standards, nevertheless quite impressive for Alvechurch.”

The Shrubbery is a large and secluded plot of more than two acres with gardens on all sides of the house, as well as a small area of woodland, and a field that is slowly being developed as an orchard. The gardens include informal cottage-style flowerbeds and formal lawns.

What is also impressive is the growing collection of sculptures in the garden, many of which have been made in metal, wood or stone by Chris himself.

Nearby, Kevin Baker’s garden in Tranter Avenue is in total contrast, at least size-wise, to the two acres of The Shrubbery, being a mere 100- by 40-foot plot, but it has been designed and landscaped by Kevin himself since moving there in 2004.

When he arrived it was very bare with mainly turf, apart from one mature magnolia. He has added borders with a wide range of bulbs, shrubs and perennials, a greenhouse and a vegetable plot in a very traditional style.

There are other gardens in Callow Hill Road, Scarfield Hill and Swan Street to visit, providing an eclectic mix of styles and designs – and together they are great value for money (combined admission is £5).

The only drawback is that it may be quite a rush to do justice to all 10 gardens in the time they are open and enjoy some refreshments as well – and of course you will need transport to travel between some of them.

Whatever style of garden you like, Alvechurch gardens have lots to offer in June – but if you fail to make the opening, or can’t get round all 10 in the time available, don’t panic… they will all be open again on July 15.


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