A request for more pocket money set a Formby gardener on a life-long passion for plants

PUBLISHED: 12:16 05 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:18 20 February 2013

A request for more pocket money set a Formby gardener on a life-long passion for plants

A request for more pocket money set a Formby gardener on a life-long passion for plants

A request for more pocket money set this Formby gardener on a life-long passion for plants. Linda Viney reportslocal

It wasnt the answer young Peter Thornton expected when he asked his father for a rise in his pocket money. As they returned home from watching a rugby match, his father pointed to a poster left over from the war. It bore the legend: Dig for Victory. He handed the lad 12/6d for the first years rent for an allotment.

At the tender age of 12 and armed only with a small spade, it was the start of a journey for Peter who knew absolutely nothing about gardening. Decades later his corner plot in Formby is an immaculate display of colour to brighten even the gloomiest of days.

During his early months on the allotment there were many Poles who had come to England post-war and they took Peter under their wing and started him off growing vegetables and flowers. He soon adopted the Polish style of gardening which was very regimented as they had been brought up to make use of every bit of land they had. This is noticeable even to this day as Peter mows the lawn every two days in season creating wonderful tramlines. He uses a 28-year-old Webbs Witch push-mower which has a roller and he says was one of his best buys.

Listening to him mow harks back to the days when Sundays were only disturbed by the whirr of such blades.

The retired financier has won many local garden competitions and now is only allowed to enter for the back or the front garden but not both.

Nothing gives him more pleasure than people stopping to admire the garden. He and his wife, Anne, chose the house for the garden and, after he had laid the turf, a landscape gardener helped with the design.

However, he felt it was too square so he started creating curves. The lawn sets off the borders and not only is it mown every two days, but also edged as you would only see at the large show gardens at The Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show, cut with sharp shears. I even talk to the grass, he admits with a glint in his eye.

Not only is there a blaze of colour but at least 40 shades of green from the foliage and conifers. The cannas have been grown from seed and are kept from one year to the next by mimicing how they would thrive in their natural habitat. He never lets the corms go dormant, he puts fresh soil in the pot and cuts them down to a stump before protecting with bubble wrap and moving them into the greenhouse. As they are in 12-inch pots and there are 60 of them, this is no easy task.

Geraniums and begonias have done really well this year. He keeps the begonias for one year then throws them out and makes sure there is plenty of fertilser in the hanging baskets when he plants them up. He has found coco shell has proved a great deterrent to slugs.

The whole garden canvas is very orchestrated and makes a wonderful picture. Moving round the side through the gate the garden has a different look as grasses have been incorporated to give a gentler, more tranquil feel as they sway in the breeze.

There are seated areas and fewer vivid colours, but it is still cared for and meticulously laid out with clipped box set in gravel. This stands to attention flanking a curved lawn - again with an immaculate clipped edge - and setts prevent the gravel straying. One nice feature is an ornamental giraffe which looks as though it is about to eat the leaves of a tree. This was a birthday present to Peter from his wife. I fell in love with it when I was visiting a garden centre, laughed Anne. But I couldnt justify buying it. Then I had a brainwave - it was Peters birthday coming up and I knew he would like it.

Peters greenhouse is always a hive of activity and it is here all the bedding is kept and grown, and it is somewhere for him to go when the weather is bad. As we look out on the gloomy November days what lovely memories we have of the cheerfulness of this special garden. Peter has opened his garden for 20 years for a heart charity and for the last three years for the National Garden Scheme.

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