More and more gardeners are opening up their plots for good causes

PUBLISHED: 14:37 02 January 2013 | UPDATED: 22:36 20 February 2013

More and more gardeners are opening up their plots for good causes

More and more gardeners are opening up their plots for good causes

More and more gardeners are opening up their plots for good causes. Linda Viney visits one near Wigan

During the summer many gardeners beaver away making their gardens pristine for an open day, whether for the National Garden Scheme or, like Sheila Tonge, for another good cause Bolton Hospice. The delicious teas many provided with home made cakes and strawberries and cream seem a long way back as we sit huddled with our hot chocolate.

Skirting the Leeds Liverpool Canal before driving through Wigan Golf Club to open countryside in Haigh, you arrive at Sheilas garden, peaceful and secluded. On one side, it is surrounded by trees lining the canal, where occasional laughter can be heard from the passing narrow boats.

Sheila and her husband Peter live in one of a pair of houses joined by a 17th century arch, once part of the farm for for Arley Hall, now the Golf Club. When the canal was built in the 19th century the farm was reduced in size. Their garden covers about three acres with woodland and large lawns as well as flower beds and, having been part of a farm, the ground is quite fertile.

Sheila studied at horticultural college and also attended the Constance Spry school for flower arranging, giving an artistic flare when it came to creating her own garden. When she finished at college she came back and worked for Wigan Council as floral decorator to make the town more beautiful.

It did seem an unlikely job but I loved it, she said. I became Chair of Bolton Hospice for seven years and on the board of Help the Hospices for four but retired last year. This year as part of the hospices Open Garden Appeal I was persuaded to open mine, which in one way made sure I kept on top of the weeding!

As you cant guarantee the weather nine gazebos were set up on the lawn but as it turned out it was good insurance as the weather was kind. She went round the garden picking flowers to put in glass pots and tankards on the tables to make it look welcoming. While the men set up the gazebos the ladies took over the kitchen making strawberry teas. Stalls were also set up to raise funds for the hospice.

I had great fun but a lot of hard work creating the garden and this was in addition to renovating the house, she told me. The borders have been created with flower arranging in mind as I am in charge of the flowers at Rivington Church.

The borders are full of perennials which benefit from being cut as they then produce more flowers. Foliage comes from the mixed shrubs many flank the driveway to the property. Vegetable growing takes place in raised beds.

Steps lead up from the lawn to the large conservatory and numerous pots filled with plants from pelargoniums to agapanthus surround the York stone patio. The conservatory is also home to a collection of somewhat exotic looking house plants as it has special glass and under-floor heating means the temperature can remain constant all year. The spectacular Aeoniums in pots came from Tresco Gardens on Scilly, but have to be brought into the conservatory for protection once the weather turns cool.

She became associated with the hospice movement when her first husband, who was Danish, suffered from motor neurone disease.

Following his death she spent 14 years running his recycling business. A beautiful Danish sundial stands in the centre of the lawn as a reminder.
Whilst Sheila looks after the plants her husband Peter, like many men, is responsible for the lawn and the whirr of his sit-on mower is the only thing that disturbs the peace.

Gardens are a place of friendship and when she celebrated a special birthday this year she didnt want presents but as friends and family kept asking she created a plant list at Barton Grange Garden Centre for them to choose a present if they wished.

I now have a garden of memories and friendship and have created a border that I can associate with the people who have given me the plants, she said.

For more information about the hospice go to

Latest from the Lancashire Life