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The Willow Garden Project in Fleetwood impress the crowds at RHS Tatton

PUBLISHED: 00:00 26 September 2018

Part of the display by Willow Garden Project in Euston Park

Part of the display by Willow Garden Project in Euston Park

Linda Viney

When it was announced The Willow Garden Project in Fleetwood was to be the recipient of BBC North West Garden created for The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Tatton Flower Show, there were cheers all round.

Secretary Karen Laird) and founder Pamela Laird  with volunteersSecretary Karen Laird) and founder Pamela Laird with volunteers

‘We chose Willow Garden as it is a life enhancing, positive project and really does make an impact on the community, which is exactly what we were looking for,’ declared weather presenter Dianne Oxberry.

The founder of the growing community garden Pamela Laird added: ‘It’s not often the adults we support would get a chance to go to The RHS Tatton Flower Show to experience working on a show garden with a professional designer. We were so excited and had a fantastic time. We certainly realised the hard work that goes into creating such a garden.’

Now dismantled, the plants have arrived in Fleetwood along with the paving and parts of the pergola, so work has started on the area where it will be installed.

I went along to the show to see the completed garden at RHS Tatton and met the designer, Janine Crimmins, who is no stranger to winning Gold Medals. Almost 20 years ago she designed the BBC North West Garden so it was familiar ground.

Her garden featured a wealth of iconic North West elements including a mosaic of the Manchester Bee. The entrance paving was engraved with Tony Walsh’s poem “Up ’ere” and led to gravel which runs alongside herbaceous borders where bees were taking nectar. Behind the rear wall large boulders were interspersed with ferns, long grasses and silver birch to reflect the wild landscape beyond the formality of the garden.

I then went along to the garden’s final destination in Fleetwood to see the work of The Willow Garden Project which is primarily for people with various disabilities and mental health needs – people who will benefit from gardening and horticulture. I was immediately struck by the camaraderie between everyone involved in this registered charity.

There is always a waiting list as the project is becoming well-respected in the area as word spreads. It is also used by other charities such as Macmillan.

Pamela, who is trained in horticulture, has worked hard ensuring the garden, sub-let from the local cricket club for 20 years on a peppercorn rent, benefits all members of the community. Her aim is to promote healthy eating with everything grown from seed or cuttings. Not everyone is into vegetables – flower borders feature with shrubs mixing in with the flowers while a sensory garden is planted for fragrance and texture.

A monolith water feature adds to the tranquillity. It is here that those who suffer from anxiety also find out being active can promote their well-being by boosting confidence and esteem.

The attendees were busy potting up strawberry runners ready for next year under the protection of a gazebo, but the plan is to utilise the pergola and use this instead.

Inside two poly tunnels, peppers, chilies and cucumbers were growing well and harvested onions were drying. I walked through a living willow arch and, when trimmed, branches are used to make wreaths and willow weaving. This opened up to an area with a summerhouse and at the far end a raised formal half-moon pond. The back wall was painted blue and decorated with mosaic fish all made on site, as was the mermaid keeping watch. A “storyteller’s chair” named after Pam’s grandmother ‘Nanna Joyce’ is surrounded with wooden stools. The main workshop is the place for tea and chat as well as learning new craft skills, many of which can be seen around the garden. They are assisted by a band of volunteers who are vital to the project’s survival. They have been fortunate in having had some Lottery funding as well as support from national and local businesses. The site is and they deservedly won an “Outstanding” in the Neighbourhood category of the North West Britain in Bloom.

When Pam suggested I went to Euston Park to see the thousand poppies they had installed to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the ending of the First World War, I hadn’t appreciated they had been made using plastic bottles. This was certainly a worthwhile trip. They were asked to take this spectacular display to Lytham for the 1940s Weekend and were delighted to be able to spread the word about the Willow Garden Project.

For more information or if you would like to book a place at a session contact Pamela 07807 743800. The designer for the BBC North West Garden can be contacted at 07813 277449 or email

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