Lancashire Life 2012 Garden of the Year in association with Bents Garden and Home

PUBLISHED: 15:07 22 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:25 20 February 2013

Pupils tend the raised beds

Pupils tend the raised beds

We reveal the winners in our great gardening competition, sponsored by Bents Garden and Home.

Its that time when we sit down in front of the fire and start to plan what we are going to do with the garden when spring makes it welcome return.

And here to give you some inspiration are the winners of the Lancashire Life Garden of the Year competition, sponsored by Bents Garden and Home at Glazebury, near Warrington.

Our competition was in two sections domestic garden and school garden with Bents, celebrating 75 years in business, providing each winner with a prize of 1,000 of vouchers to spend in their stunning store.

Editor Roger Borrell said: The volume of entries really took us by surprise. We thought there might be quite a few from schools because gardening, food production and the environment are now such popular classroom topics.

But both categories seemed to strike a chord with readers and it became a much harder and longer process.

Although we could only have two winner, we hope to be able to feature many in the gardening section of Lancashire Life over the coming months.

Matthew Bent, managing director of Bents and a judge in the competition, added: The standard of entries was very high. Its a great tribute to the skill and ingenuity of people in this region.

School Garden of the Year:
Westhead Lathom St James Primary

When you ask head teacher Alison Albion to describe how her pupils reacted to the news they had won School Garden of the Year, she jumps up and down on the spot, waves her arms in the air and whoops.

But when they found out the value of the prize, she adds, there was such a sharp intake of breath that you could almost feel the walls of the school being sucked it.

Having 1,000 to spend at Bents Garden and Homes Centre at Glazebury means they will be debating long and hard about what to buy. One thing we have decided, says Alison. We want something that will be a lasting reminder of our win.

If ever a group of children deserved a break it is Westhead Lathom St James Primary. What it lacks in size there are just over 60 pupils it more than makes up for in spirit. When Lynda Tither became a classroom assistant just over three years ago she took on responsibility for the school gardening club. The adjoining field seemed ideal but the lay-out meant they had to have the plot on the side furthest from the school.

Then we realised the allotment was 1200 metres from the nearest tap, says Lynda. During a hot summer this obstacle became particularly apparent.

To save the plants they had worked so hard to grow, the children armed themselves with anything that would hold water and formed a human chain from the tap to the allotment.
In the face of this adversity we managed a bumber crop of potatoes, beetroot, lettuce, radishes broad beans and peas.

The following year, a local farmer came to their aid by providing two large water containers. With water on tap, the club went from strength to strength. During the winter, they tried peppers and garlic and made chutney in cookery classes. Then, disaster struck. They returned to school last September to find their gardening shed had been vandalised. All the tools had been destroyed and the shed overturned and set alight.

But when the community in Westhead heard what had happened they rallied around. The local pub, the Prince Albert, donated the cash from its quiz nights, the local Soroptimists International branch helped out along with parents, such as Paul Kenyon, a former pupils, who organised physical help with colleagues at the Co-op Bank and Talktalk. The community wrapped us in their arms, says Alison. It was quite something.

The children wrotes a poem about their experience. It concludes:
At first we were all so upset
For all our work was wrecked and yet
Once the village heard our plight
They came to help and put things right
So, slowly now we start anew
Weve plenty still to fix and do
Well don our wellies, choose a chore
And make our garden bloom once more

Lynda says: Winning this competition really does mean a lot to the children. Its tremendous that something so good came from what seemed a disaster.

Garden of the Year:
Tracey Ingham, Milnthorpe

Tracey Ingham admits she is no gardening expert. But what she does know, she largely learned from her mother at the garden in their family home in Bamber Bridge.

And when Tracey and her partner Justin set up home at Milnthorpe, she realised she would need to use every ounce of that knowledge to restore the garden.

It had once been well-loved, she says. However, it had been left to go wild for several years, meaning the thugs of the garden the wild geraniums, hostas and self-seeding saplings had taken over.

Keen to encourage more wildlife to our small plot while trying to reduce our reliance on food sourced from long distances away, we decided to focus on developing the garden in three ways.

We wanted to make a herb garden from the back yard, make a veg plot from under-used land at the side of the house and dedicate the front garden to flowers and plants that not only look and smell good but which particularly support bees, insects and butterflies.

Tracey, who work for Cumbria County Council, has used just about every inch in what she admits is a compact space. From having nothing edible in the garden, she now grows more than 25 types of herb, 20-plus varieties of veg and they are even trying some fruit.

Interestingly for a northern climate, our fig, kiwi and grape vine have fruited well, she says. The toughest task for Tracey and Justin was digging out the front garden by hand. This meant removing two 15ft palms and several conifers to let light onto the patch.

Colour schemes were secondary to choosing plants which would attract butterflies and bees.
Matthew Bent, managing director of Bents Garden and Home, was really impressed with Traceys approach to planting, especially the way she had combine veg with flowers. It really demonstrates what you can create at home, he said.

Its a garden that combines normal plants with the more exotic, gives year-round colour and it has become a haven for wildlife. Well done to her.

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